song2.htmlTEXTStMlm7>Xl Song with Broken Music--Part Two

Song with Broken Music
Part Two
by Jacynthe Demorae

Denise swam up through murky layers of conciousness. Waking took more effort than usual. It would be so nice, so peaceful, to rest here.

Like she had aboard the transport, watching the air supply indicators dim and flicker...

The last layer between herself and the waking world tore like an old cobweb. She jerked awake, gasping, half-surprised to find herself breathing good air. Her heart hammered in time to an annoying electronic cheeping sound--no, wait, she realized. The beeping echoed her heartbeat, but that made no sense unless--

A dark-skinned man appeared in her field of vision. He looked up at something above her head, then smiled down at her.

"Welcome back, Ms. Laramie. I'm Dr. Franklin."

Denise frowned. "Did I go somewhere?" Her voice sounded thick and heavy, as if she were trying to talk through a mouthful of mud. She had a hazy memory, of being someplace new, of something...something different.

"You collapsed during the ceremony," Dr. Franklin said gently.

She opened her mouth to ask 'what ceremony?' then froze. The Minbari. The speeches. The scent of the lamp oil, and the weight of the crystal shell in her hands. Her stupid, stupid outburst. And the searing pain that had overwhelmed her.

"Ohhhh," she groaned, covering her eyes. She felt her face heat, heard the change in the tones of the monitoring equipment.

"I...don't usually go to those things," she said at last, not looking at him.

"I gathered that." Franklin sounded dryly amused. "They're all talking about your story. I don't think we've had a Treaty commemoration close in quite that fashion before. Can you sit up?"

She pushed herself upright with caution, expecting the razor blades to cut into her again. She felt nothing, not even a lingering twinge. Wondering, she pressed a hand to her belly, half-surprised to touch her own flesh. The pain had become such a close companion, surely it absence meant some physical removal as well.

"You had a good-sized hole in your stomach," Franklin said, anticipating her next question. "We patched it up, but you'll need to take better care of yourself. Just because parts are a little more easily replaced now doesn't mean it's a good idea to skip proper medical care. It's less traumatic to catch these problems early."

How much just for the lecture? she wondered sourly. Damn, but she didn't want to think about how much this was going to cost her.

"With proper care, you shouldn't have any further problems. I'm going to put you on a restricted diet for the time being, and maintenance regime of antibiotics."

Denise shrugged a shoulder in acquiescence.

"How long have you been sitting on that story?" the doctor asked, switching subjects.

She studied the deck plates as if they were a technical manual. "A while," she admitted.

"I thought so," he said. "Now, ulcers aren't caused by stress, but they're not helped by it, either. Have you considered talking to a counselor?"

Denise jerked her head up, glaring at him. "Talk? There was no time for talk. Do you know how many people my age and younger were orphaned by the time the Minbari war ended? How many lost everything? Shelter and food came first--and those of us who were in our teens were just cut loose when we turned legal. And then...the Minbari became our good friends. One doesn't say bad things about good friends."

She could hear the acid in her own words, feel them burn all the way through.

"The war is over," Franklin reminded her. "The Minbari want peace."

"And before, they wanted us dead," she spat. "I don't know about you, doctor, but I was taught that backpedaling is the first defense of liars and con artists."

Franklin studied her for a moment. "I'm not here to critique your political stance," he said at last, "or fine-tune your emotional state. I treat the sick and the wounded. And as your physician, I'm advising you to get treatment for that emotional wound you're carrying, before it festers and kills you."

Denise gritted her teeth and swallowed back the angry words. She'd had long practice doing it. Nobody wanted to hear anything bad about the Minbari, these days. Franklin gazed at her for a long moment, then looked away.

"Use one anti-biotic patch a day, and when you finish, come back here and we'll see where go from there." He offered her a strip of medipatches. Denise looked at them.

"I can't afford a full sheet," she said, hating the admission.

She probably couldn't afford any of the procedures he'd done so far. She could arrange a payment schedule, but she'd have to work extra hours, maybe get a second job. Her finances were vapor-thin. Any more strain, and she'd be on the downward spiral to the hardscrabble life of Down Below--and whatever was worse than that.

"Your expenses are being taken care of," Franklin told her.

Denise stared. "By who?"

Franklin shrugged, paying more attention to a readout than he probably needed to. "I'm not at liberty to say, but everything's taken care of."

Frowning, Denise accepted the patches and put them in her pocket. Who would be paying her fees? And why?

"So...if you start to feel pain or begin vomiting, come back at once. Eat a lot of small meals--try to keep something in your stomach."

Denise grimaced. "Generous servings of bland."

The doctor laughed. He looked nice when he laughed, she thought. She didn't usually notice things like that, these days. He sobered, and that added years to his face.

"I'm serious Ms. Laramie. Any pain, come straight here. Don't try to self-medicate, and don't put it off."

She nodded and stood up. Even standing felt different, without even the ghost of the pain in her stomach. She couldn't remember being without it.

"A copy of the dosage information has already been sent to your Babcomm account. If you have any questions--"

"I'll call," she finished. After I find out who's footing my medical bills.

[tbc]  2thing, not even a lingering twinge. Wondering, she pressed a hand to her belly, half-surprised to touch her own flesh. The pain had become such a close companion, surely it absence meant some physical removal as well.