Read Eternity Row Online

Authors: S. L. Viehl

Tags: #Women Physicians, #Fiction, #Science Fiction, #Life on Other Planets, #General, #Science Fiction; American, #American, #Adventure, #Speculative Fiction

Eternity Row

BOOK: Eternity Row
9.94Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

For my sister, Kimberly Anne, who knows all about making peace, and has walked in beauty every day of her life. I’m so proud of you. I love you. Stay with us, sweetheart.

PART ONE Contentions


… and [I] will abstain from every voluntary art of mischief and corruption, and further from the seduction of females or males, bond or free… -Hippocrates (460?-377? B.C.)

Hippocrates must have never gotten the wife in the family way, I thought as I felt something tickle my foot. Or he definitely would have covered baby-sitting in the oath.

“Okay.” I gazed around my operating table. “Who forgot to secure the door panel?”

That startled the sapphire-skinned Jorenian nurse manning the prep tray beside me. “Your pardon, Healer?” Although her eyes were solid white-no pupils or irises-she wasn’t blind.

Neither was I. I pointed down.

Everyone looked down.

A fold of white surgical linen twitched, then someone small and unauthorized giggled.

The whole team tried to keep their blue faces straight, but if there weren’t big grins under every mask in the room, I was a Hsktskt.

Serving as a thoracic surgeon on board the star vessel
, crewed by my adopted Jorenian family, HouseClan Torin, was never dull. Squilyp, my boss and the ship’s primary physician/surgeon, had alternated shifts with me and two senior residents so he could devote more time to training the junior residents and interns on staff.

And usually, that wasn’t a problem. Usually.

Stuff like this
happened to my boss, of course. If the Omorr had been attending, the patient would already be cut open and the procedure half done. That was because Squilyp was still a bachelor and didn’t have to deal with inquisitive progeny sneaking in during his operations.

For me, it was the third time that week.

“Marel.” I crouched down and flipped up my eye lens to stop my cortgear from recording. “Come out of there.”

Another fold moved. “Doan see me. I dibisibow.”

I sincerely hoped not. “I have to work now, baby. You can be invisible for me later.”

A perfectly perceptible blond head popped out from under the linen. Like me, she was small, Terran, and used to getting her own way. “Be dibisibow

I heard a suspicious, choking sound, and whipped up my head. My team became instantly preoccupied with studying the upper deck.

“This is surgery, people, not day care.” I lifted the edge of the drape. “Marel, come out of there.

She crawled out, stood up, and tried to see over the edge of the table. “Who dad? I see, Mama?” She stretched up her arms. “Me up!”

“No touching.” Her small, eager hands were the reason I’d had all the laser rigs raised another foot off the deck. I stripped off my gloves, then pointed to the door panel. “Out.”

She planted herself and gave me The Pout. “No, sday.”

The Pout usually preceded The Tantrum, so I saved time and everyone’s eardrums by picking her up. That ruined my scrub, but she’d already contaminated the entire field. Which reminded me-how had she gotten in here before we’d activated that? By riding on the bottom of the patient’s gurney?

“Deactivate sterile field.” The bioelectrical bubble enclosing us abruptly vanished. To the team, I said, “Repeat patient prep and give me five minutes.”

Marel abandoned The Tantrum and resorted to The Wriggle. Fine blond hair flew in my face, scented with a floral cleanser that always reminded me of Terran vanilla. “Me down!”

“Not a chance, kid.” I’d gotten over being afraid I’d drop and break her, but I still kept a firm grip. She was really good at The Wriggle. “What happened to Daddy? Did you conk him over the head with something?”

Mentioning her favorite Terran male turned her into The Dictator. “See Daddy! You dake me, Mama!”

“Oh, we’re going to see Daddy, all right.” Among the other things I intended to do to my husband. “He should have picked you up from school two hours ago.”

She folded her little arms. “Daddy did.”

“Yeah, but he lost you again.” I didn’t have to use a console to find Duncan. The cortical-optical receiver/transmitter-cortgear-I wore was the latest medical tech-wear from Joren. It not only recorded everything I did, but could transmit that to any console on the ship. Very handy, if I wanted to watch an appendectomy from the comfort of my own quarters, but Squilyp was using them mainly as a teaching device. I flipped the lens down and relayed to my quarters.

No answer.

At my second signal, an austere, masculine Omorr face appeared on the inner surface of the lens, an inch from my eye. Handsome, if one preferred males of the tall, pink, and alien variety.

“Yes, Doctor, what…”-my boss’s dark eyes rounded as I looked at Marel, then the shrouded patient and surgical team behind us-“oh, no. Not again.”

Marel giggled and waved at my face.

“Again.” I adjusted my daughter’s weight on my hip. Though I considered Squilyp partially responsible-after all, he
saved Marel after I miscarried by transferring her to an embryonic chamber-he wasn’t on after-school duty today. “Where’s the guy who did this to me?”

My alien colleague’s prehensile gildrells undulated like a long beard of white snakes. “I’ll find him.”

“Find him fast, Squil. My bilateral hernia can’t wait all day.”

I removed my cortgear, then carried my daughter out of surgery and sat her down on an exam table. The ward nurses, all of whom were my daughter’s personal slaves, wisely stayed away. “Now, Madam, you and I are going to have a little talk.”

She tried The Adorable Smile, which displayed all nine of her seed-sized teeth. “Dawk domorrow?”

“Today.” I stripped off my mask and surgical gown and tossed them into a nearby disposal bin. “You promised me you wouldn’t sneak into surgery anymore, remember?”

Marel nodded slowly.

One of the new Jorenian residents hovered nearby, but he could wait. “What happens when you break a promise?”

“Can pway with ’Sawa.” Tears welled up in her big blue eyes. Fasala Torin, the ClanDaughter of Salo, Chief Operational Officer and Darea, the Head of Administration, was Marel’s unofficial big sister. “For a week.”

“That’s right.” Being doused with hydrochloric acid would have been easier than watching her cry, but one glimmer of sympathy and she’d mow me down. “You can’t be in surgery when I’m operating on someone. It could make my patient very sick.”


That was her favorite word these days. The runner-up was “No.”

“Because.” I tapped the end of her nose. “You bring germs in with you. We’ve talked about that, too, so don’t claim amnesia.”

The resident caught my eye again-one of the new guys, since I couldn’t place him. Like ninety-nine percent of the crew, he was over six feet tall, blue skinned, and black haired. Young, too-not a single line or wrinkle marred his handsome face, and no age strands of purple in his long, tidy queue. A modest, silver pictoglyph symbolizing something important and Jorenian hung attached to the side of his vocollar. His immaculate tunic fitted him like he’d been born with it on.

He was also definitely watching us. Why?


Distracted by Marel’s echo of my thoughts, I almost grinned. Almost. “The amnesia? Because you haven’t figured out how to properly fake the symptoms yet.”

Behind her, a door panel opened, and a lean, fair-haired Terran male in plain black garments strode in. The ship’s linguist wasn’t as tall as the new resident, nor half as bulky, but he moved with a silent, ominous efficiency that made felines look gimpy. An equally lean, one-legged Omorr male followed in his wake, displaying his own rather odd elegance of movement. If you could call all that bouncing my boss did elegant.

“Okay. Here comes the cavalry.”

Marel turned to see two of the three males she adored most on the ship, then knuckled her eyes and spontaneously burst into tears. “Daddy… Uncwip…”

The Heartbroken Sobs had a killer effect-both men looked like she’d hit them over the head with a sledgehammer. My one-man fan club, on the other hand, seemed even more fascinated, and took a couple of steps closer.

The dangerous-looking guy in black was the first to crumble, and had Marel in his arms before I could blink. “It will be well,
.” To me, my husband said, “How did she get in there this time?”

I took a moment to appreciate the picture of tough, battle-scarred Duncan Reever holding our delicate little daughter. “I haven’t a clue. She was hiding under the table, a foot from the enviro intake vents.” I had nightmares about Marel’s fingers getting caught in them, but that wasn’t bothering me. The guy now standing just behind my husband was.

“Excuse me,” I said to the curious resident, “do you need something?”

“Not directly. Your pardon, ClanCousin, I only wished to inquire about the patient in surgery.”

was what most of the Jorenian crew called me, but we’d all served together for a long time. This guy, however, was brand new, and his familiarity bugged me. “‘Healer’ will do fine. So will the patient. Why don’t you get back to work now?”

He inclined his head and returned to the nurses’ station. By then my daughter had worked herself up pretty well, and had both of her slaves trying in vain to calm her down.

“Hush, child, no one is angry with you,” Squilyp said, rubbing her back with one of his spade-shaped membranes and a few stray gildrells. He’d come a long way from the guy who had nearly gotten killed after suggesting a half-dead child be disciplined more stringently to prevent future injuries. “We are only concerned with your safety.”

Marel hiccuped through a sob. “Why?”

“Don’t start that again,” I told her.

“Senior Healer, perhaps you could erect some type of barrier outside the entrances to the surgical suites,” Reever suggested.

“I’ve tried several.” The Omorr sounded a little annoyed. “They’ve never even slowed her down.”

“Well, think of a solution,
. I can’t keep stopping in the middle of cutting because she’s sneakier than all the grown-ups on the ship.” Marel’s sobs dwindled, and I stroked the back of her blond head. “Sweetie, you go with Daddy now. I’ll see you tonight.”

Reever covered my hand with his for a moment, then carried our daughter out of Medical.

“I’ll stay and assist,” Squilyp muttered as he stomped over to the cleansing unit with me.

I felt like I’d traded one kid for another. “I think I can be trusted to invert a couple of hernial sacs without perforating the patient’s bowel.”

That got me a scowl. “Don’t be touchy.”

“You first.”

“I am not… I apologize.” He stuck his membranes under the sterilizer. “Allow me to assist, if you would.”

“It’s your show, boss.” What had put his face in a mesh? “I just work here.”

BOOK: Eternity Row
9.94Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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