Chapter 35

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Colonel Young, of the Aurigan Space Patrol Command Centre, waited impatiently in the corridor for Dr Yoshida to come out and give him permission to talk to her patient. There was lots of information he needed from him, important information. It seemed like an hour had passed before she finally came out, "You can see him now, Colonel, but only for a few minutes. He still tires easily, in fact I wouldn't let you see him at all if you hadn't assured me it was urgent." She frowned warningly at him.

Colonel Young gave her a warm, placating smile. "I appreciate that, doctor." He went into the room, pausing for an instant to take in the plasfoam bandage obscuring half the patient's head. It gave him an uncanny look, like that old holomovie he had seen, called 'The Invisible Man'.

"How are you feeling, Captain? It's Colonel Young, here," he added hastily, suddenly aware that the man on the bed couldn't see him.

"I've been better, Colonel," came the wry answer. "What did you want to see me about? I'm afraid I don't remember anything about the incident that brought me here, if that's what you're after."

"Nothing?" Colonel Young asked, careful not to sound disappointed. "What's the last thing you do remember, Captain?"

The man on the bed frowned, "Being thirsty? I remember waking up and being really thirsty ...?" His voice trailed off. Was that what the Colonel meant? Surely that couldn't be important?

"I mean before that, before the shooting."

Colonel Young studied the man in front of him as he screwed his face up in concentration, his hand twisting the sheet between his fingers.

"Nothing! I don't remember anything before that, not a single thing!" He sounded frightened. "What's happened to me?"

"Calm down," the Colonel spoke soothingly. "Let's take this one step at a time. What's your name and date of birth? Let's start with that."

"It's Captain," the man answered in a rush of relief. He knew that, at least.

Colonel Young waited expectantly. Finally, he asked rather edgily, "Yes, but what's the rest of it? Captain ...?"

There was another long silence.

"That's all I know, that's what Dr Yoshida called me." The voice sounded frightened again.

"But you do remember me?"

"Ah. Well the name sounds familiar, sir," he lied. "Perhaps I'll recognise you when I get these bandages off." If only he could see, maybe it would all come back to him. It was terrifying lying here in the dark, no sight, no memory, totally dependent on people he didn't know.

XXX

Chief Medic Johansson listened to Private Lee's request and went in search of the transfer form, muttering crossly under his breath. "There's a reason that oms aren't encouraged to join P112 ships you know. They didn't just make Rule 158 up to be difficult, Private!"

Lee kept his mouth shut and waited patiently for Johansson to complete his part of the form. Finally he handed it to him.

"Captain Almeida will need to sign this. Bring it back to me afterwards and I'll send it off for you. Try and stay out of trouble on your next ship, will you?"

"Yes, sir." He didn't think he'd caused any trouble on this one but it wasn't worth defending himself.

Lee took the form straight to the bridge, there was no point in delay. He found Lieutenant Stewart there instead of the Captain.

"I was hoping to see the Captain, sir. Is he in his quarters?"

Stewart turned to him apologetically. "Sorry, Lee, the Captain's down on Capella for the rest of the day." He noticed the tense way the young man was standing, clutching a piece of paper. "Can I help?"

"I don't think so, sir, I need the Captain's signature."

The Lieutenant frowned at him for a moment, he could only think of one procedure which required a real piece of paper, a transfer under Rule 158. He called out to the Second Lieutenant. "Wilson? You're in charge. I'm just going to have a word with Private Lee. I'll be in my quarters."

Lee followed the tall figure of the First Lieutenant, at least he was likely to understand, he knew he was an om like himself.

Stewart ushered him in to the small office which doubled as a sitting room when he was off duty. "Have a seat, Lee, and tell me about it," he invited.

"It's Private Lang, sir," he burst out as soon as he was seated. "I don't think we can work together anymore. I was there when he got the news about his father and I- I think he blames me somehow. In any case, he avoids me, all the time. He won't even talk to me, so I'm putting in for a transfer. I like working on the Qatar, sir, I've found it very friendly, but it's the only thing I can think of."

"I'm sorry to hear that, Lee. Captain Lang's death has been difficult, for all of us." He ran a hand over his face, covering the momentary twist of pain. Lee remembered hearing that he and the Captain had been close friends, best friends even, at one stage.

"Max is grieving, but I don't know why you should be forced off the ship because of it. Let me think a moment. How would you like a rotation to the local patrol on Capella for a month? I know Captain Almeida has received a request from Captain Martinez on behalf of one of his officers, considering a transfer to the space patrol. I could arrange a temporary swap between the two of you."

Lee's face brightened, "Would you, sir? That would be excellent!" A month apart would help clear their heads. Maybe after a month Max would be ready to talk to him again.

He wanted the cheeky boy back, not the unsmiling, guilt-ridden man he had become.

"I'll get right on it. I don't see that we need to wait for the Captain, let me just call Captain Martinez now."

Lee waited hopefully as the Lieutenant spoke to someone in the patrol office on Capella.

"It seems Captain Martinez is unavailable for some reason, but Lieutenant Garcia has given us his approval. You can go ahead and pack your bags, you're on the next shuttle." He smiled at the young Asian man, hoping it would work out for him. For an instant Lee reminded him of his own lover, Michael Banner, so young and eager and hopeful. He wished his own transfer could be arranged as quickly as this one, he really missed Michael.

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