A hammer smashed against my skull, or at least that’s how my head felt. I slowly opened my eyes to see a white ceiling above me and several beds along the far wall. Turning my head, there were more beds on each side of me. But that action was a mistake, the assault of a thousand exploding bombs pounded my skull. I raised my hands to block out the light, waiting for the pain to subside.
“Squiry?” came a voice next to me.
“Pardon?” I responded.
“Nu squiry?” they replied.
Still not understanding, I peeked through my fingers at the voice. Did I hit my head that hard? Looking down at me were two large emerald eyes surrounded by blue scales. A Sidian? Sitting bolt upright, I instantly regretted my reaction, my head exploded along with my stomach. Thankfully, the Sidian had pre-empted my response and quickly passed me an emesis bag, avoiding catastrophe. The last thing I remember was being on my ship, Evanescent, discussing meeting terms with the Adax when they suddenly fired. I don’t remember anything after that.
When I was done, the Sidian disposed of my bag. I watched as her blue scales shimmered as she passed under the lights. I had never met a Sidian before but had learnt about them through my training at ICIE.
There is much information on many species within the database at the International College of Intergalactic Enterprises encompassing their culture, medical details, and language. However, the data is limited on the Sidians but we do know they are a peaceful species who put a lot of resources into exploration and scientific discovery, rarely venturing into Earth’s sector of space. Two years ago, I completed my training at ICIE, specialising in Diplomatic Relations. Being fresh-faced and bright-eyed, I joined the Evanescent eager to improve relations between species, and possibly even help to end wars. I had learnt that many planets desired peace, but they have trouble obtaining it, which is where I come in, helping them to work out their issues, determining compromises, and taking that tentative step forward into a better future. However, some species such as the Adax are particularly aggressive, claiming all they encounter in the name of their Emperor, often resulting in death and destruction.
Under the mentorship of Earth’s most experienced negotiator, Lieutenant Killian Porter, I was assisting in negotiations between the Adax and the Menae but things didn’t go as planned with the Adax firing upon us. And now it appears I have ended up in a bed in the medical ward of a Sidian ship, unable to speak their language, or they, mine.
Returning to my bedside, the Sidian asked, “Nu squiry?” tapping the side of her head.
I gingerly nodded, guessing she was asking about the pain in my head.
She produced a small cylindrical device from her pocket and reached towards me but I instinctively pulled away. Pausing, she touched my head with her finger and said, “Nusu squiry.” I figured, well, they hadn’t killed me yet, so why wait till now? So I nodded consent and allowed her to touch it to my neck, instantly feeling a small sting, confirming I had just been injected. With what, I didn’t know but I guessed I would find out soon enough.
Replacing the device in her pocket, she pointed to symbols written on her uniform and said, “Aimaeth.”
Was that her name, her position or her profession? I had no idea. Repeating “Aimaeth,” I then pointed to myself and said, “Mayson.”
“Maee-son,” she repeated.
I nodded. Rubbing my head, I asked, “What happened?” Looking at my surroundings, I continued, “Where am I? Is this a Sidian ship?”
“Sidian, aich,” she confirmed, nodding.
She passed me a cup holding a clear fluid and tapping her lips with her long blue fingers, I took the cup and sniffed. “Dhalve,” she said. I sipped tentatively and realising it was water, I gulped the rest down quickly. “More dhalve?” I asked, holding the cup out.
She refilled it from the jug next to my bed and I again guzzled it down. Finished, I passed it back and she placed it on the table. Suddenly noticing my head wasn’t trying to kill me anymore, I again asked, “What happened? Where is everyone, my crew?”
The next few words from her I couldn’t understand, but she gently pushed me back to a lying position shaking her head. Did this mean they were all dead? Or did she just not want me to talk any longer? Wanting to find out, I opened my mouth to speak when a wave of dizziness washed over me, drowning my enthusiasm.
She placed her finger across her lips signifying no more talk, and considering how I was feeling, I decided my questions could wait. Not knowing if she’d drugged me or if this was something else, I closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep.
I awoke to Aimaeth talking to another crew member. Although more solidly built, the distinct green tinge to the scales behind his ears indicated he was male. Standing a little taller than she, he wore the same pale blue uniform but had red braiding around his sleeves where hers was blue. The extra gold leaf adorned on his shoulders appeared to signify he was superior in rank. They seemed to be deep in discussion when she noticed me sit up again.
They broke off their conversation and approached me with Aimaeth introducing us. “Forsaght Klerig, Maee-son,” she said, indicating each of us with her hand.
“Forsaght Klerig, pleased to meet you,” I said, wondering which word meant what. Offering my hand, he hesitated before slowly extending his in the same manner, apparently unaccustomed to my greeting. I took his hand and shook it noticing his look of consternation. He said something in reply, I only guessed he was echoing my greeting.
He asked me a question, at least I guessed it was with the upward inflexion towards the end, and when I didn’t reply in the manner he was expecting, he then turned and spoke to Aimaeth.
“Excuse me,” I interjected, “Where’s my ship? My crew? Why am I here?” wishing they could understand.
They both looked at me quizzically, and then Aimaeth asked something of Klerig to which he nodded. She fetched a tablet, touched the screen several times then handed it to me. The screen filled with the image of Evanescent, the Menaen ship Anchusa, and the Adax’s Skaakix sitting bow to bow. But then Skaakix suddenly fired on Evanescent, obliterating almost all the forward sections of the ship. Another strike and Evanescent was no longer in existence. Then Anchusa fired upon Skaakix with what seemed to inflict insignificant damage, and then Anchusa suffered the same fate as Evanescent.
Not able to speak, I stared at the monitor in disbelief, my mind devoid of thought. Aimaeth placed a hand on my shoulder and touching the symbols on the screen, replayed the image but from a different view. This time I saw the three ships off in the distance. The image grew larger and larger and as soon as the first torpedo struck, a beam shot out from above the camera’s view, reaching out to the bridge on Evanescent then cease as the second torpedo struck. A moment later, the beam shot towards the stern of Anchusa as the bow disintegrated under torpedo strike, only to cease as the ship did. Then the image of the Skaakix receded into the background along with the scattering particles of Evanescent and Anchusa.
I handed the monitor back to Aimaeth, still in disbelief. “The Adax destroyed both ships?” I asked. Without waiting for an answer, I continued, “The crews, what happened to them?”
Again, they discussed something between them before Aimaeth brought over a wheelchair and said, “Vrel,” indicating for me to sit.
Tossing aside my bedding, I went to stand as they both offered their assistance. I was gratefully accepted as my legs gave way as soon as I stood. Helping me into the chair, Aimaeth then wheeled me with Klerig leading us out of Medical.
The corridor was spacious, much more so than on Evanescent, and softly lit. The walls were a pale green and the flooring a dark grey. As we moved down the corridor, crew members slowed to stare before continuing on their way. I figured they were as used to seeing a human as I was to seeing them. It wasn’t long before Klerig stopped at a door, touched the control panel and waited for us to pass through. Entering through a second door, I guessed I was in a morgue.
My heart sank. I didn’t want to look but I needed to know. Klerig opened the draw closest to me, a body lying under a sheet. He stood back allowing me to pull back the sheet when I was ready, revealing the face of Commander Kai Chavez, Evanescent’s first officer. There were burns on the left side of his face, and as I revealed his chest, burns covered both his arms and his torso. I couldn't lift the sheet any further.
Klerig opened a second drawer. This time it was Lieutenant Jeffries, the pilot. His skin too was scorched and I flinched when I saw he was also missing his left arm. The third drawer contained Killian, the man the fleet had pinned their hopes on to establish relations with the Adax. The next three drawers contained crew from the Anchusa. I didn’t recognise any of them. The final drawer revealed my Captain, Felix Montgomery. He had sent us into neutral territory to offer assistance to the Adax and Menae but was killed for his efforts.
Burning with rage, I looked up at Klerig saying, “Why are they here, in the morgue? Wasn’t there anything you could have done for them? You saved me, why not them?” Klerig didn’t respond. “If they were still alive when you bought them on board, why are they dead now?” Raising my voice, I continued, “Did you Sidians stuff up somehow? Did you just let them die?” It didn’t matter that Klerig couldn’t understand. Gripping the chair, I raised myself to Klerig’s height. “Why am I the only one alive? Why didn’t you save at least one?” Aimaeth tried to sit me back down but I shrugged her off. I continued, “You should have left me there! You should have left all of us there! What gives you the right to decide who lives and who dies?”
I collapsed back into my chair.
Klerig opened a small drawer and with eyes filled with apology, he handed me the ID tags of my four crewmates.
Pointing to the door, I said, “Take me back.”
I heard Klerig close the drawers behind me as Aimaeth wheeled me out of the morgue. Clambering back into bed, I clutched the tags of my fallen crewmates, wishing I was with them.
Later, I’d accepted the Sidians were not at fault. They did save one and it was me. I didn’t know why I was the one who’d survived, if anyone was to make it through this, it should have been the captain or even Killian.
Aimaeth approached and I apologised for my recent outburst. She just looked at me blankly. I asked her, “Where are we going? I need to get home, to Earth.”
She looked at me quizzically so I feigned writing. Bringing me her tablet and a stylus, she opened a blank page and I drew Earth’s solar system, with an arrow pointing to Earth. “Earth, my home,” I said, pointing to myself and then to the drawing.
“Urrrth,” she repeated.
“Yes, my planet, my home.”
She took the tablet and brought up a display of stars. “Sidia,” she said, pointing to one. Zooming in on the image, I saw it was not unlike Earth, a green and blue planet but ringed, fourth from its sun.
I knew roughly where the Sidian system lay, so taking the tablet from her, I zoomed out enough to encompass both the Sidian and Earth systems. I then showed her where Earth was compared to Sidia, realising it would take at least two weeks to return home, assuming I was within the Sidian system.
“Where are we now?” I asked, indicating both of us and then pointing to various points on the image. I wasn’t sure if she would understand.
Thankfully she got it. Zooming out further, she pointed to an area of space away from both our systems, completely in the wrong direction from Earth.
“What? Why are we here? Why aren’t you taking me back home, back to Earth?” I asked.
She looked puzzled.
“I have to go here!” I said, adamantly pointing to Earth, “Not here,” shaking my head.
She replied in a long string of Sidian, with me not having a clue what she was saying. Frustrated, I put the tablet on the bed, flung back the bedding and swung my legs off the side.
“Nusu! Nusu! Nusu!” she said, trying to push my back into bed. Pushing her hand away, I stood, took one small step and came crashing to the floor. “Maee-son!” she cried, trying to help me up.
Again, I pushed her away, shouting, “And why the bloody hell don’t my legs work?” Pulling myself up by the bed frame, I turned and sat on the edge of the bed. Taking a breath, I asked, “My legs,” pointing to them. “What’s wrong with them?”
She stood there, silent.
Again, I asked but this time more calmly, “What’s wrong with my legs, Aimaeth?”
Taking the tablet, she opened my file, displaying images of my body. The first one showed my head, the skin scorched and large contusion on the side of my forehead. No wonder my head hurt! I touched my face but there didn’t seem to be any injury. No signs of a burn, no pain, no scars. “But, how?” I asked, completely confounded. Aimaeth then displayed the next image. Again, more burns, but with a massive bruise across the lower portion of my back, as if something had fallen on me. The next was even scarier. The image of my spine revealed several shattered vertebrae along with severe internal bleeding.
“Oh... shit.” Feeling my back, there wasn’t a bandage, no sutures, nothing. It didn’t even feel bruised. Dropping the tablet beside me, I looked down at my legs and wriggled my feet asking, “But, I don’t understand. I should be paralysed.” How she’d fixed me, or why I wasn’t in pain, I couldn’t grasp. Nothing on Earth could do this.
“Maee-son…” Struggling for words, she simply patted me on the shoulder and smiled.
I would have loved an explanation, but somehow knew I would be all right. I figured I just needed time to get my legs working again. She picked up the tablet and I laid back down wishing we could communicate better.
Over the coming days, Aimaeth began a series of treatments and exercises. She showed me how the neural stimulator worked with its flickering blue light, waking up my legs. They tingled as it was being applied, but then ceased when she stopped. Afterwards, there would be a brief increase in my ability to bear weight, but unfortunately, it was only temporary. Aimaeth gave me a tablet with which I spent most of my time studying the Sidian language.
Practising on Aimaeth, I soon learnt a few basic phrases and taught her some Terran, the global language of Earth. It wasn’t long before I learnt that the Sidians had encountered our three ships while they were en route to explore one of the outlying systems in their sector. Continuing their journey after retrieving us, it would now be months before I could return home.
Aimaeth later took me to a room adjoining the one I was in and showed me their regrowth generator. She explained that I had been placed within the device which healed my bones, skin and other tissues. She then went on to explain that the others they’d rescued were past the point of regeneration and there was nothing they could do. My injuries were not as severe, which is why I survived.
Later, when I was able to manoeuvre from the bed to the chair myself, I was given my own quarters, not far from Medical. Aimaeth came and visited me every day to give me treatments, and my legs slowly regained their function. I was free to move about the ship, with some restrictions. I developed confidence in my speech, although there were plenty of slip-ups, much to the amusement of the Sidians.
The Sidians explained that this wasn’t the first time they had saved people from the Adax. Knowing what the Adax were like, the Sidians do what they can to help without putting themselves in danger. During a conflict, the Sidians render assistance by teleporting any survivors off a ship should it appear fatal for them to remain. Using shielding technology which hides them from other ship’s sensors, they are able to approach, transport and escape undetected.
Six months later, we commenced our journey to Earth. I considered what it would mean for the Sidians’ first contact with Earth, and vice versa, and after describing our culture as much as I could, they realised we were not too dissimilar, encouraging me to commence diplomatic discussions with them. We realised we had much to offer each other with technology, scientific exploration and the arts.
Upon reaching Earth a year after Evanescent had been destroyed, it was with sadness knowing I would no longer be living with these Sidians. However, discussions between Captain Klerig and the Terran Council would commence, and I knew it wouldn’t be long before we would be seeing a lot more of each other.