Thursday, November 5, 2015

July 29

Tep commed me first thing this morning to come in and talk to him. I sat in his office, a small utilitarian space, as we conferred about Anrel’s situation.

“I’ve gone over and over the surgery for correcting Anrel’s heart valve defect,” Tep said. “And I’m confident that using the Soln hive’s  procedure will work. Best of all, using the nanobots will mean there is little danger to her.”

“You think it’s worth the bit of risk that is present then?” I asked.

He nodded. “Correcting the defect will get her off the machines. We can start to wean her from Isolation within a couple of days.” He smiled, his lean face handsome with the expression. I could tell he was excited by the opportunity.

I was hopeful to see him so confident that this would put Anrel back on the path to health. “You see no real harm coming from this?”

Tep shook his long ponytail back. “Shalia, there is always a chance of something going wrong. But the odds of that in this particular case are negligible. With the Soln’s expertise and the knowledge I've gained studying Anrel, I am sure that this is the route we should take.”

I trust Tep. The man has yet to let me down. I know he would never take anything to do with my baby’s welfare lightly. For him to be that secure means it’s as sure a thing as it will ever get.

That didn’t stop my heart from speeding into overdrive as I said, “Okay. Set it up and do it.”

“I thought you might say that, so I’ve scheduled the procedure for this afternoon,” Tep said. “Get your group together for emotional support.”

“But you more or less said I have nothing to worry about,” I teased in a weak voice.

“I know you, young lady. Besides, what mother wouldn’t be nervous over her baby having surgery?” Tep gave me his gentlest smile. “She will be all right, Shalia. I swear it to you on my and all my ancestors’ honor.”

I had to hug him. He’d saved Anrel from the It despite horrific odds. He could handle this as well.

I still paced as long as my strength would allow me to during the surgery as I waited in a small consultation room in Medical. Betra made sure to be there for me. Oses was on duty, but we were to com him as soon as we knew Anrel had come through all right. Candy and Nobek Ama were there, as was Katrina. Her beau Dr. Ret stuck his head in from time to time to see how we were and to re-assure us that the procedure seemed to be going fine.

To distract myself when I got too tired to walk the floor any longer, I sat next to Katrina with Candy on the other side of me. The two women held my hands, lending me the support I needed so badly. After apologizing for not keeping up on what I knew to be important to Katrina, I asked her about her family.

She smiled, the expression grateful but a little too wan for my liking. “They had hoped to go to Mercy Colony, but it’s already getting crowded. They may end up taking residence on a planet Joshada offered for Earther use that is within their system. My kids are also considering going to a moon located within the Galactic Council’s space.”

“Both of those would put them within a few days’ travel to Kalquor,” I noted. That seemed to be pretty good news.

Katrina surprised me by looking glum. “I know.”

It was Candy who cleared up the mystery. “Katrina has a couple of concerns. Now that she knows her family is alive, she is considering going to the colony they choose to be close to them.”

“Oh.” I saw the ramifications. “So that would mean not staying with Clan Wotref.”

Katrina bit her lip. “They’re in space most of the time anyway. However they have talked of retiring in a couple of years.”

“You could stay near your family until then,” I said. “If that’s what you want.”

“It could be an option,” Katrina said. “The thing is, I haven’t told my children I’m involved with a clan yet. They don’t even know I’m heading for Kalquor. They assumed I was heading for an Earther colony, and I didn’t correct them.”

I blinked at that. Then I got a bad feeling.

“You don’t think they’ll approve,” I guessed.

Katrina hunched a little. “My son, while not a fanatic, is a believer in the Church. He thinks sex outside of marriage is a sin. He also has no love for Kalquorians, whom he says humans should not breed with because it is not God’s plan.”

“Oh boy,” I breathed.

She nodded. “Matthew did not support executions for those who had extramarital sex. He thought the idea of Kalquorians being actual demons from Hell was preposterous. But the beliefs he does hold, he is committed to. I don’t know how he’ll react when he finds out I am seeing and considering joining Wotref’s clan.”

I thought it over. Katrina is a strong woman, one who faces up to challenges and lives her life as she sees fit. Yet I could understand her concerns when it came to her son. Would he reject her when he found out she was in love with Kalquorians? That she’d been planning on spending her life with them?

She’d not only lose him. She’d lose her grandchildren as well.

“When are you going to tell Matthew and your daughter?” I asked.

“I did, in a way,” Katrina said, her smile wry with no humor at all. “The day after we were out of range of instant communication. I sent them a message telling them I was on my way to the Empire and that I have a relationship with a clan. I told them, but I took the coward’s way out in my manner of doing so.”

“So now you have to wait for them to receive the message and then for their return message to reach you,” I said. “Jeez Katrina, I’d think the delay would drive me crazier than getting it over with.”

“You’d be right,” she said, shaking her head at herself. “My one consolation is that I’ve given them a chance to absorb the news and get over the shock before they have to reply.”

Candy gave her an encouraging look. “You believe your daughter will be more open to the idea,” she said.

Katrina shrugged. “She’s my oldest, from my first marriage. I’m pretty sure she has an inkling as to how much I enjoy men. I’m not so sure how she’ll take me running off with Kalquorians.” She sighed. “I don’t know how any of this is going to work out.”

My heart ached for Katrina. She’d just gotten her family back. Was she going to lose them again already?

Whatever Betra and Ama thought of the situation, they kept their opinions to themselves. Smart guys.

Our spirits lifted when Tep and Ret both came in, beaming smiles that made us cheer before Tep spoke the first word. “Anrel is doing fine. The procedure went without a hitch, and the defect is repaired.”

I got a lot of congratulatory hugs and kisses from Candy and Katrina. “Thank you, thank you,” I blubbered to Tep in the meantime, crying the happiest of tears. “Can I see her?”

“In a few minutes. But you must sit very quietly and not disturb Anrel for a couple of hours while we monitor her for signs of distress,” he told me.

I was shocked to see that the surgery had only lasted an hour and a half. It felt like I’d been waiting for a year to hear Anrel was okay. While I waited to go into Isolation, I commed Oses to let him know his niece was doing well.

“I knew she’d be fine,” he rumbled over my unit, sounding pleased ... and to my ears, relieved.

When I got into Isolation I found Anrel sleeping in her incubator. She wore her little monitor vest, which was hooked directly into the medical computer system. Tep showed me the tiny bruise where he’d made the incision for the nanobots to access her internal organs, now sealed shut. Other than that, there was not a single sign she’d been operated on. The doctor assured me that all the tiny nanobots were accounted for, none left inside.

Her color was good, and she seemed to rest comfortably. When she woke three hours later, her feet kicked, her arms swung, and she shoved her fist in her tiny rosebud mouth.

My little warrior is back.


  1. So happy that Anrel is okay. Wonder how Katrina's family is going to take to her koining a clan.

  2. Anrel has a warrior's spirit. She'll be in a real bed and Shalia's rooms before you know it. Oses is going to get to hold his niece and make all the promises a smitten Uncle can make. Betra can "adjust" clothes until they fit and hold her until she sleeps. For some reason after the first 24 hours I don't think Shalia is going to have any real alone time with her daughter.