Dark. Head hurts. Need to scratch my feet. Why does my tongue taste like bird poop?
“How bad is it, Bones?”
“As bad as it gets, Jim. That blast did a lot of damage to his lower legs. I had to take some off, but he’ll live.”
Voices. Who . . .? Why can’t I see?
“What about his eyes? Can he still see?”
“Now how the hell do I know? Damn it, Jim! I’m a doctor, not a . . . damn it! He’s got those weird extra eyelids. Flash just took his eyebrows off. Guess we can remove those bandages now.”
Bones? Jim? Eyebrows???
“Anyhow, his Vulcan physiology is a lot different from ours. For all I know, he’ll just grow new legs. If he doesn’t, he’ll be the shortest Vulcan in Star Fleet! Probably won’t improve his disposition any!”
“Can he hear us?”
“Hell if I know! Spock! Wake up! Spock!”
“Commander? Can you hear me?”
New voice. Uhura?
“Lieutenant Commander Canfield! I’m Doctor Collins. Can you hear me?”
Canfield? Sounds familiar. And why is she shouting?
“I think he’s coming out of it, General.”
“Jasper! Shake it off, man!”
“Wuh . . .muhfuh . . .er”
“What? Did he just say . . .?”
“They say a lot of things when they come out of anesthesia. They’re quite disoriented. I treated a young lieutenant once . . .”
“Sp . . . sp . . . Spock.”
“Spock? What the hell’s a spock?”
“Spock’s a who, sir, not a what. Well, technically, maybe he is a what. And a who. He’s a Vulcan . . . or was; not exactly human, but . . .”
“What in hell are you talking about, Collins? Jasper!”
“Not . . . Jasper . . . Spock . . . I think. Live long and . . .”
“What the hell’s he doing with his hand? Jasper! Snap out of it!”
Canfield’s eyes fluttered open, and he squinted at General Larkin’s face hovering inches from his own.
“Someone . . . needs a mint.”
“What? Oh, sorry. I . . .”
“Gen . . . General Larkin? Sir?”
Smiling broadly, Larkin sat back and patted Canfield on the shoulder.
“That’s my boy! Welcome back, son. Thought we might lose you.”
“What happened to Bones? Ah . . . oh, never mind.”
His eyes slowly focused, taking in his surroundings, the two officers by his bed, and the tent over his legs.
“Why am I in a hospital room?”
General Larkin leaned back, glanced at the doctor, and took a deep breath.
“Well, son, as to that, um, maybe we should leave the explanations until you’ve had a chance to rest up a bit.”
“I’m rested enough, sir. Feel like I’ve been asleep for a couple of days.”
“Weeks, actually. You’ve had a, uh, small accident. Well, not exactly small.”
“What kind of accident?”
“Do you remember anything about your last simulator run? Anything before you woke up here?”
Canfield thought for a moment. Even before his military training, his mind had always been clear and focused, and he never forgot anything. A photographic memory and total recall were a great combination, and had helped put him at the top of every class he’d ever taken at the Academy. But now that he thought about it, there was a hole, something missing, an elusive something that skittered away each time his mind reached for it. Like trying to catch smoke in your hand.
“I remember heading to the main simulator building, then . . . that’s it. Nothing until I heard Bones, thought I heard . . . Nothing until I heard you. Sir.”
Larkin took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
“Well, long story short, the simulator experienced a catastrophic failure . . . with you in it. Full suit, pressurized. By the time they got it shut down, the damage was done. Your legs . . .”
Larkin paused, and looked over at the doctor for help. Doctor Collins sat on the edge of Canfield’s bed and took one of his hands in hers.
“The explosion and heat caused severe damage to you legs from the knee down. Nerves, muscle, pretty much everything was fused. I’m afraid we couldn’t save much. “
“Then how come I can feel my feet? They itch like crazy.”
“Phantom sensation, Commander. Your mind expects to feel them where they’ve always been.”
Canfield slowly lifted the sheet, silently looking down for a minute at what wasn’t, then lay back staring at the ceiling.
“Great! Just fucking great! What about transplants?”
“That’s always an option, but even with a perfect match, there’s a strong possibility they won’t function nearly as well as your natural legs.”
Canfield closed his eyes for a moment, then turned to look at General Larkin. Space flight had been his dream all his life. He was afraid he knew the answer before he asked the question.