Chapter 3. Dreams and Nightmares
Crossposted from the Short Fic Weekly Challenge thread, prompt (Un)Invited Guests.
"No, no, there's some juice left in him. Or rather, we can add some."
I had finally wriggled out of Mama's grip, drawn by my father's screams. I made it up the stairs and paused in the doorway, briefly, staring at my beaten, blaster-scorched father and the two Imperials standing over him. They were touring the town just because they could and they just dropped in on us to have a good time. The bigger one reached down with a syringe and injected Da with something or other. The littler one hauled him up to up to his knees, then kicked him down again. Da stiffened, arched, seemed to revive a little as the shot took effect, and that's when I finally got over my fear and charged.
In my memory the bigger Imperial just laughed and backhanded me, hard enough to knock me out until long after they were gone and my father was dead. In dreams, though, that moment of watching the Imperial's kick connect kept playing slow, every fresh raging injury showing clear on Da's pale skin.
I woke up to the sound of somebody pounding on the door to my quarters. I coughed painfully on my way to answer.
Jorgan and Sergeant Imperial were standing out there. "Sir," said Jorgan. "I know it's standard, but she insisted on checking." He jerked a thumb at Dorne and stepped aside.
She was carrying a little case. "You were shouting, sir. Are you all right?"
"Yeah," I said, my voice low and gravelly. "I'm fine."
"If you prefer, I have a sedative available." She opened the case and pulled out a syringe.
That just snapped something. "YOU DON'T PUT NEEDLES IN ME!" I bellowed. "Get back, stay away, and put in some motherloving earplugs if I'm bothering you!"
Jorgan shrugged at Dorne and padded away. Dorne shrank back, quickly hid the syringe, and stammered "Y-yes, sir. I'm sorry, sir." I turned right around and went back to bed rather than stand there fighting the urge to do something I would regret.
I slept dreamlessly after that, but woke up feeling raw-eyed and unrested. I showered, got dressed, went to the mess for breakfast. Jorgan was doing something at the counter. Dorne came in a couple of minutes later.
"Sergeant," I said by way of greeting.
"Leftenant," she said.
I hated her being there, being on my ship and in my life at all, but since she was, something was bugging me and I had to set it right. Even if I wasn't counting professional concerns, I wasn't raised to menace women half my size. "I'm sorry about last night. I was out of line."
She looked down at her rations. "It's all right, sir. I understand you weren't yourself."
"Obviously when we're out there in the line of fire, or medical attention has to happen, do what you need to."
"Yes, sir. Sir," she continued – dammit, woman, leave well enough alone – "there are resources established under Regulation 529-B to provide for counseling and other treatment for trauma incurred in the line of duty."
"Oh?" I said. "They gonna fix up things that happened seventeen years ago?"
She stared at me. She could do the math. I wasn't a soldier in the line of duty then, no more than any kid in an occupation zone is.
"It was a guy with an accent a lot like yours waving needles at the time."
Her brow scrunched up. She was prettier, I thought irrelevantly, when she smiled. Not that I had seen much of that in the week of her work here. "There's a reason I left, sir," she said, quietly, steadily.
That stopped me cold. Why hadn't I thought of it earlier? She was only here because she had walked out on them.
Did that change anything? Could it, really? Or did defectors take the rottenness with them? The mere fact that she had chosen to leave didn't make anything much easier just then. Still...
"I was out of line again, wasn't I," I said glumly.
"Yes, sir," volunteered Jorgan.
"Would you stop that?" I asked him.
"Yes, sir. As soon as you stop being wrong." He grinned maliciously at me.
I decided to ignore him. "I apologize, Dorne. I'm…just gonna go be elsewhere now."
I walked off feeling more or less like I'd done the right thing by trying to be civil. But until I could get over thinking of Dorne as an Imp – and how could I get over it, the way she talked? – I could not possibly feel right about having her in my home.