Chapter Twenty Seven

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"Alright," Herdis said. "Here is the situation."

They were gathered in the entrance area, by the medical table on which Jaquan still lay.

"He is out of danger, I am confident of that. But much of the connecting tissue is burned through. I can keep the arm alive for now, but he can't use it at all."

Gaylen looked at his friend, lying there with tubes poking out of his flesh and reeking of medical solutions. Although Herdis had cleaned him and applied skin patches Gaylen could swear he still smelled the burns. The man was heavily medicated, but his eyes were open and he blinked slowly.

"I can't fix it," she went on. "I'm not trained for that kind of detailed surgery, and I don't have the equipment anyway. If he is to keep the arm he needs a first-rate hospital. And I don't really know how many of those there are out here."

"I... really would like to keep the arm," Jaquan slurred weakly.

Gaylen nodded severely. The man was already short one limb.

"Well," Kiris said wearily. "I would also like for you to keep it."

"Why Kiris," Jaquan replied and managed a faint smile. "I am only just learning that you can like things at all."

She gave him a bit of a smile in return.

"How long can you keep the arm from going necrotic?" Gaylen asked.

"As long as my supplies last," Herdis replied. "Six days. I don't dare cut his dozes to extend it any further than that. This..." she waved at the medical station, "... isn't an ER."

"Six days," Kiris repeated. She turned to Gaylen. "Is there a quality hospital we can reach in that time?"

"Equal to core-ward worlds?" Gaylen asked slowly. He thought the question over, yet again. He'd already consulted his mental map, as well as some actual ones. He couldn't think of a route that worked within that time frame. And certainly not one that could bring them back on track in time.

"Are we still doing the run?" Herdis asked, observing him.

"I think we are," Kiris said.

Gaylen didn't turn to face her.

"Six days... it just doesn't work," Gaylen said. "And there is the Blue Strike issue."

"Will they be expecting us to turn around, though?" Herdis said. "If they know what we're transporting, won't they know what our destination is? It seems it would be easier for them to rush on ahead and try to ambush us."

"Not... necessarily," Gaylen said thoughtfully.

It depended on whatever was in that damned cylinder. If it was just some absurdly valuable item, then that could be destined anywhere. It if was information, then they probably did know about the target location.

"Look..." Herdis said after a few seconds of silence. "Your friend is hurt. I realise you have some important delivery to make, but-"

"If I don't finish this delivery we will be in far bigger trouble than we already are," Gaylen said. "Not you lot, but me and Jaquan."

"Probably right," Jaquan mumbled in a half-delirious fashion.

No one said anything right away. The room was tense. Or maybe it was just him.

"What?" Bers then said. "Deliver what?"

"I have no idea," Gaylen said, and now turned to face Kiris. "And that's the truth. But we have an option. An option named Kelan Unn Ter."

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