Chapter 38 – A Drink on St. Alfred’s Day


A Drink on St. Alfred’s Day[1]

…And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by, From this day to the ending of the world, But we in it shall be remembered- We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he to-day that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile, This day shall gentle his condition; And gentlemen in England now-a-bed Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here, And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

William Shakespeare, Henry V, Act IV, Scene iii

I am tired and sick of war. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, for vengeance, for desolation. War is hell.

William Tecumseh Sherman

 

Charles turned his attention to his patients on the ship. Jason McNeill would recover with rest and light activity. He had a concussion, a broken jaw and a broken nose.  The nanotechnology was repairing the broken blood vessels and reducing the swelling in his head.  Millicent had waited several hours before she set and wired his jaw and reset his nose.

Felicity Rand was in a drug induced sleep with a distraught Michael Richards nearby but also sedated. The damage to her face was extensive; the repairs would take months; and the repairs would be painful in their own right.  But the ship had resources to make such repairs and, in time, the outward scars would be gone.

Rachael Weiz lay immobile in the medical bay. Charles could do little for her at this point. He had provided braces that stabilized her spine. An oxygen mask was easing her breathing, but he expected that would not be needed in a day or two.  Rachael would not walk again as long as they stayed on this backwater planet.  And the longer they stayed, the harder it would be for proper healers to fix her. She too, was sedated. Liam O’Hannigan and John O’Malley had left to talk with her father. Millicent must have been tired since she agreed to let them go in her stead.  Charles now recognized he had underestimated the unkempt and uncouth Mr.O’Hannigan. Charles would never admit that to the redoubtable O’Hannigan and his showers would still be problematic. Liam had insisted on being the one to pass on such difficult news to Rachael’s father and Charles could forgive a great deal for that.

Eleanor Woodson and Simone Campbell were resting finally. After each of them had woken screaming, they stayed in a room together. Charles suggested a sleep aid might be helpful and they were finally resting peacefully. Eleanor kept the damnable control for Simone’s collar nearby should Smith decide Simone was a loose end to be tied up.  Charles was providing as much interference as possible to prevent that from happening.

Smith and Millicent had reached a détente. However, Charles and Camille had not. Shortly before Camille had left the Royal Botanical Garden pond, she launched a serious viral attack.  He had expected such and his defenses were managing, but her routines had attacked his memory ruthlessly. She had targeted his memories of Dianna.  She also left a host of Trojan horses that would have sent his information to her. He had stopped those as best he could, but they were numerous and self-replicating in an insidious fashion.  He finally set up a faux copy of himself, herded the routines to that instance and had been cleaning his true system methodically. With something to transmit, they seemed less bent on replication.  He could pull the plug on that copy or use it for his own manipulation later.

Millicent sat on the bridge staring at an image of her home world. In a severe violation of several ship protocols, she had a glass and a bottle of whiskey as she sat in the chair staring at fields of flowers, frolicking animals and an impossibly high waterfall.

Charles ventured, “Millicent?”

Millicent took a drink from her glass and then said, “Status.”

Charles replied dutifully, “My systems are secure. Eleanor and Simone are finally resting. As are Felicity and Michael.  Jason will have another headache, but his nanotechnology is hard at work and is actively repairing the damage.  Rachael is… stable.”

Millicent swirled her glass and took another drink, “Rachael is stable. How very clinical.”

Charles replied, “I did this kind of work a long time ago. The language seems timeless and remains brutally cold.“ She said nothing and stared at the beautiful images of her lost home world.  Charles ventured again, “Do you want to talk?”

Millicent said quickly, “No.”

Charles quickly filled in, “Then you won’t mind if I do. Millicent, we saved Eleanor. And we saved Simone.”

Millicent said loudly, “I do mind if you talk.”

Charles shot back, “I don’t care.  You need to recognize that we accomplished what we intended.”

Millicent said, “Rachael is paralyzed. Eleanor is traumatized. Her brother is dead. Simone could die at any moment.”

“You did none of that. Smith or Winifred or her trained ape did. Even Neville had his part. The injured were victims of the circumstances. You cannot protect everyone.”

“Apparently not, ask Jason, Felicity or Rachael, “ she said as she refilled her drink.

“Don’t you dare take an ounce of blame for that incredibly smart, young hot head and his injuries.  You told him to stand down. I told him to stand down and he ignored Smith’s warning. A beating like that might dispose him to listen to advice the next time.  Besides he will be better in a week. He has probably had horses kick him harder.”

Millicent snorted at the comment and then sighed and said, “Felicity and Rachael are my fault.” It was statement; not a question.

Charles answered with a pleading in his voice, “They chose to go. They were told it was dangerous. “

“They were young like Jason. They thought they were invincible. One is disfigured and the other a cripple. They didn’t choose that.”

“But they knew something could happen and you diminish their sacrifices in trumpeting their ignorance.  Felicity will heal in time. And she holds far more beauty within than a few scars can hide.  Before her injury she could have worn a bag on her head and she still could make small talk with Disraeli.” He paused and said, “And she will heal.”

Millicent took a drink, then said, “Rachael won’t.”

“No, she won’t. But she will be making a choice in a short while, Millicent. And she will need all the support she can get to make the right one.”

“Charles, I don’t give a damn about the contract now.”

“I wasn’t thinking of that. She is going to decide if she wants to live. Her body is broken. What about her spirit?”

Millicent put her hands in her head, “Tell me how this little talk of ours is helping , again?”

“You know better than her right now what she could do. She may not walk again.  Life just changed dramatically for her. She will be scared and she may not see a future in this world. ” Charles paused.  “But she is brilliant and she is alive and she has too much to offer this galaxy for her to give up. So tell me Millicent Morgaine, when she looks to you, what choice will you make with the same problems and fears?”

She stared at the pictures of the long dead planet.  Then asked in a soft voice, “Charles, when did it become so complicated?”

“I think it always was.  We just ran away to a little corner of the universe where things seemed less so. What complications we chose to see,  we could handle. But things change. That is life. We have to change.”

“If Smith is right, I am alone.”

Charles paused for a moment to consider his answer. The library of subroutines for this situation was empty.  He searched his emotional dictionary for what he thought was the right tone and found a response that matched.

“Millicent Morgaine, I have never been so insulted in my existence.  And if you ask me nicely and you make me some more local cultural data cubes, I will not tell the others how gravely you insulted them.”

Millicent sputtered in her drink.

“You are making a mess. That’s why there rules about food and drink on the bridge.  Liam and John, right this moment, are telling an old father that his daughter was gravely hurt saving someone from a horrible fate. Rachael risked her life because of you. Two women are safe, warm and resting for the first time in days because of you. Felicity and Michael are leaving everything they could have together here because you asked. ”

“But…”

“How dare you say you are alone!” Charles said in a loud tone.  There was a quiet pause. Some feathered animals took flight in a group on the screen.

Millicent stared at the screen, “They don’t understand.”

Charles said, “You couldn’t have understood when you started.  They will have you and me to try to explain.”

Millicent looked at the floor, “This hasn’t happened to me before.”

Charles said quietly, “It happened to me long ago. What I can remember of it is that it hurt like hell.”

“Oh Charles, it hurts and I am scared, and I am not sure what to do anymore.”

For moment, Millicent thought she might have seen a face in the screen, but it must have been a trick of the image.  Charles said gently, “We all hurt right now. We’re all scared. And no one is sure what to do.  I’ve got things covered for tonight. Liam and John will deal with Mr. Weiz. You need to rest.” Charles changed the scene to show the clock in Prague with its dials and figures.  “You promised her she would see this.  Her people made this.  She needs to see what is possible again.  You will need to give Rachael the right recommendation when her crisis comes and you can’t do that like this.”

“What will I tell her?”

“That her hands are her gifts. That she will see the universe from the comfort of her chair. That anyone willing to take on Winifred Stanhope armed with two stilettos a) will probably get hurt and b) can do anything they put their mind to. Will you rest? They will need you.”

She put the glass down and stood up and stretched. She sighed heavily. “Yes old friend, I’ll rest. I’ll even take a pill. I am sorry I doubted you for a moment.”

“The world will keep spinning, I promise. And if I can’t take care of something, I’ll wake you to fix it.”

 

[1] St. Alfred’s Day – In the English Liturgical Calendar St. Alfred’s Day comes after St. Crispin and St. Crispian’s day.  Alfred was a great king as well as a patron of the arts. He, too, had his wars and is considered the patron saint of England.

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One thought on “Chapter 38 – A Drink on St. Alfred’s Day

  1. Pingback: The Recruiting Matter – A Drink on St. Alfred’s Day | The Finder's Saga

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