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Notes for #14, "Darkling". Kinda morbid in places, but eh, these things happen, ne? Some of it I may have uploaded before, but hrm, unsure.

Anyway. Remember that removal of one or both ears is one of the harshest punishments that can be meted out to a Kiravai, since the ears are a very important symbol of one's social status. Simply put, the more earrings ("Marks") you are wearing, the higher up the social ladder you are, so if you have nowhere TO wear earrings, you are incapable of gaining status. (Although if you lose an ear in an accident, there aren't that many facilities for reattaching them - general consensus is that if you were being stupid enough to do something that'd cause you to lose an ear, maybe you deserve it. :P)


     “Our good captain seems unable to keep a civil tongue in his head,” he said, softly. “And seems unable to respond with the good grace and obedience to his superiors one would expect from someone used to a command position. I have given him enough chances to improve his behaviour but he responds with gross insubordination and outright flagrant cheek. For the remainder of the voyage he will be confined to the brig, but any further idiocy and I may be forced to take more drastic measures to maintain shipwide obedience.”
     In spite of being well aware that he was already on shaky ground, Lii couldn’t help himself. He was boiling with anger – how dare this rich idiot wrest control of his vessel?! He had no training, lacked the intimate knowledge of how the crew worked best together, nothing – he was just loud and bossy. “You bought your way on board the ship whose command I earned through my own hard work, and you think that I will just stand by and let you take it all away from me?!

     It was only a very fractional motion, but Jiirai watched with a morbid satisfaction as Lii shied away from his former first officer and security team.

     “Remove his Marks,” Jiirai instructed, darkly, then added; “and his left ear.”
     Lii’s shock was obvious, this time – he startled away with a look of horror in his eyes. “No-… no, please!” he gabbed the words out without the slightest care about the impression he might be giving. “Not my ears, please-… Your point is excellently made, my good Dominae! I overstepped my margins and should not have talked back to you, I should not have undermined your authority and-”
     “If you are not silent, you little degenerate, I’ll instruct they take both of them,” Jiirai snapped. “You may be able to make a halfway dignified living as a servant with one ear, but with both gone you’ll find yourself in the Herd.”

     “I really should register my own protest,” the doctor observed, grimly. “Is such a harsh punishment really neces-”
     Jiirai turned his unflinching stare at the medic. “You would like to join him, doctor?” he asked, pleasantly. “It would be a shame to need to replace two members of the crew in one day-”
     The doctor flinched, visibly, and backed down. “No, my Dominae. I beg your pardon.”

     “I will not stand for disobedience,” Jiirai snapped. “You are not here to question my authority, you are here to do as you are damn well told! I will not accept flagrant insubordination – and treason! – because your ego is a little bruised! If you cannot stand to accept the orders of someone who outranks you, then you are clearly in the wrong profession!”

     Lii snivelled, bitterly, and wrinkled his nose in disgust. “You bought your rank, Jiirai,” he observed, grimly. “Being rich doesn’t make you a good commander.”
     Jiirai glared, and Lii flinched back from an imagined blow. “The only reason you’re keeping your other ear,” he snarled, “is because the doctor has left and I haven’t the time to waste in calling him back. You,” he turned his attention to the two officers. “Remove this little degenerate from my sight. I have some restructuring of the crew to do, now we have a vacant command position.”

     Lii was huddled in the corner of the room, on the thin mattress and wrapped convulsively tightly in his threadbare blanket, and flinched automatically away from the flood of light from the doorway.

     “How is he?” Ivy asked, from further down the hallway, checking the corridor was clear.
     Riiva shook his head, full aware she couldn’t see him from where she was. “Not looking well,” he confirmed her suspicions; Lii barely responded by shivering.

     Riiva offered his arms in encouragement. “Come on, lad, on your feet,” he coaxed, gently, and was reassured when Lii’s head swung ponderously and blindly his direction. “You can do that, can’t you?”

     Lii made a valiant, wooden effort and lurched partway to his feet, tottered bodily into the older male and subsided again, dragging both to their knees. In better light Riiva could see that the patchiness to his skin wasn’t just bruises, but rather great dark areas of differently coloured skin. Must be from that ‘accident’ in the lab, he must have been infected with one of the cosmetic viruses. He looked almost piebald, part of his skin still his natural pale, pewter silver, and the other parts an intense, dark copper, and by now half his feathers had fallen out, leaving him looking moth-eaten. And then of course there were the hallmarks of the foul infection itself, a sickening smear of yellow all down the cut surface of his ruined ear. The side of his face was swollen where the noxious bacteria had spread from the infected stump of cartilage and into the flesh of his face in a rampant cellulitis, and his skin had gone eczematous and flaky all over. He already danced a fine line between consciousness and coma.
     “He’s burning up,” Riiva observed, quietly, supporting the younger cob while Ivy returned from the main doorway. It wasn’t a very reassuring sight to see another handful of fine, downy feathers come loose from his scalp as Lii sank his exhausted head against his chest. “I thought you said you’d treated the infection?”
     “I thought I had,” Ivy agreed, darkly. “They must have misled me, again. Must have given me fakes. Sugar tablets.”
     “Well, I just hope we can get him to a friendly hospital before the infection spreads into the blood,” Riiva observed. “Come on, dear,” he directed his attention to Azure, who stood impotently in the doorway. “Give me a hand with him.”
     “What should I do?” she stepped forward, hesitantly.
     “Carry him,” Riiva glanced up, briefly. “I’m not strong enough. Doubt I’d have been strong enough as a youngster. Please, dear.”
     Azure stepped forwards, with a high, pecking, typically birdy stride, then obediently gathered Lii off the floor; he sagged like an old rag doll in her arms.

     The doctors looked a little shocked to see them walk in through the door, but quickly recovered their wits and directed them to a small side-room.

     They carefully cleaned up the stump of his left ear, having to remove another good strip of necrotic skin and cartilage in the process, then got him on fluids and took blood cultures so they could start an antibiotic.

     “They cut more of my ear off,” he observed, thinly, and he sounded like he was at breaking point, on the verge of sobbing. Two weeks ago he’d been a proud, efficient, noble captain in the Imperial fleet. Now he was a refugee, mutilated and brutalised by his own people, and for no better reason than a Dominae’s pique. Everything he had worked so hard to achieve had been blown away like a house of cards. “They should just let me die.”

     They’d given him a dose of some sort of painkiller, and at last he’d begun to look comfortable. His eyes were closed, his gasping breath had eased, and all the little lines of tension had eased out of his face. He looked placid, for once.

     …he looked a little too comfortable. Absently sleepy. He wasn’t responding to anything, any more. Azure leaned closer, suddenly anxious, and put her hand in front of his face; there was almost no movement of air in front of his nostrils, and when she seized his wrist the pulse was thready, struggling.
     “Doctor…?” she called, softly at first, then more urgently. “Doctor! Doctor, there’s a problem!”

     “He’s not breathing!” she pointed out. “What have you done to him?!”

     “You’re trying to kill him!” she accused, eyes flashing. “Because he’s Kiravai!”

     “I can’t apologise enough,” the doctor explained, miserably. “I always knew Kiravai had a rather delicate respiratory system, but I’d never contemplated that such a tiny dose of this particular medicine would stop his breathing altogether. We’ll have to find some other painkiller for him.”

     He shifted against the mattress, and winced. “…oohh… this-… this is-… azure, what-…” he gasped a difficult breath and groaned. “…why does it hurt again?”
     “They had to reverse the painkiller they gave you,” she replied, miserably. “It almost stopped you breathing.”
     He choked out a pained laugh. “…i bet i know-… know which one.”

     Azure was at his side with an almost religious devotion;

     For a grand total of three days, Lii had begun to look like he was making an improvement, responding well to the antibiotics. His confusion cleared, his eyes were brighter and he was even managing to hold a weak conversation.

     But wiping out the primary species of infectious bacteria had allowed a second more noxious strain to take hold. Suddenly finding it had no competition, the second species emerged from where it had lurked in poorly-perfused tissues and bloomed in a rampant septicaemia.

     He looked like a particularly unpleasant doll; his eyes were sunken and surrounded by dark circles, his limbs were gaunt, and almost every last tiny protective silicon proto-scale had flaked off his skin, leaving great areas raw and weeping. Almost every inch of his skin was wrapped in a fine polymeric skin substitute in an attempt to keep his bodily fluids inside him and maintain a little homostasis, but he was still slowly sinking.

     She sat by his bedside, talking about nothing when he was awake to listen, reciting passages from newspapers and magazines, and just being there for him while he dozed. He barely responded to her – he looked exhausted, and the mild sedation they were using to keep the pain down meant he slept a lot – but he seemed appreciative of her company.

     Azure hesitated; the heart monitor on the wall above had started ping-ing softly. She glanced up, and watched as the slightly irregular but fairly strong green line of his heartbeat turned erratic and misshapen.
     “…i'm not feeling well, azure…” he wheezed, softly. “…would you… would you get-…” There was a sharp, stabbing sensation deep in his chest,
     She was already at the doorway, bleating for help.

     Azure lurked in the doorway, watching silently as they worked. She listened to their words with a sinking sense of despair, trying (and failing) to believe that he was in good hands and that they knew what they were doing.
     “He’s throwing ectopics again. This isn’t working, we’re obviously not going to manage to get rate-control chemically. We’re going to have to get him on an implanted pacer-”
     “That’s a fairly invasive procedure for someone so weak, and we don’t exactly have an in-depth knowledge of Kiravai physiology here!”
     “If we don’t get a pacing line in he’s going to keep on crashing like this until we’ve cleared up the trucido infection, and these repeated bloodflow problems could end up being as damaging as the infection itself. Nurse, could you increase the oxygen? His sats are dropping again.

     “I would like an honest prognosis, doctor,” Ivy said, softly, pulling him away to one side. “I have never seen a Kiravai in such a bad condition, and I want to know if I’ll have to prepare Azure for the worst.”

     The doctor scratched his nose, awkwardly. “Well, we’re doing everything we possibly can for him,” he reassured, grimly. “But it’s not looking good. I’m so sorry.”
     “What will you need to save him?”
     “To be brutally honest? He needs a whole new heart.”
     Ivy felt her heart sink.
     “The trucido infection still hasn’t completely cleared up, even if we have it under control, now. There’s a number of small cardiac abscesses that are proving resistant to antibiotics, and if we leave them much longer they’ll become metastatic, but we can’t use any of the more potent antibiotics because they’d only exacerbate the hepatic and renal dysfunction he’s got from the infection,” the doctor sighed, looking genuinely unhappy at the situation, and spread his hands. “Even if we cleared up the trucido he’d have to remain on heart bypass indefinitely. What with the myocarditis, and the infection, the abscesses… there’s just not enough heart tissue left to keep him alive on its own.”

     Ivy gave him a grim look. “Riiva, I have a very big favour to ask of you,” she explained, softly.
     He looked up, and gave her a half-smile. “What sort of favour, Iivo?”
     “In your time as Shalyavei contact on Shuuva, did you happen to know of any surgeons sympathetic to the cause?”
     “Surgeons?” he echoed. “I can’t confess to knowing many doctors, let alone engineers that sophis-”
      Of course, the Kiravai used “Surgeon” to refer to Synthoid-specialist engineers as well. “Sorry, I mean biological surgeons,” she corrected herself, hastily. “Cardiac consultants, more specifically. And particularly those skilled in heart transplants.”
     He gave her a sombre look. “What are you angling towards, pet?”

     She sat down tiredly in the chair facing his desk, and sighed. “The only way Lii is going to survive this,” she explained, quietly, “is with a prosthetic transplant. They’ve got the infection under control, and he’s almost pain free, but the abscesses have destroyed so much heart tissue it just won’t be able to cope on its own if they try to take him off bypass. Not with a genetic workup, not with chemical assistance, nothing.”

     “I’ll see what I can find out,” Riiva promised, gently, covering her fingers. “I make no guarantees. Surgeons tend to be very blue-blood Imperials, but there may be some moderates on Daavi.

     Ivy paused in the doorway, and glanced backward to the older cob behind the desk. “We need them now, Riiva,” she reminded him, quietly. “As soon as they can possibly physically get here. If they’re much later, they’ll just be coming in time to perform the autopsy.”

     “You said you could fix him!” Azure turned on the medic with her hands curling into fists, and it was only Ivy’s fingers around her wrist that stopped her physically attacking him.

     Azure looked down on the placid features, and stroked his nose, helplessly. “They want to take you off this machine,” she said, faintly, crouching beside his bed and nudging his dark cheek with her nose. “They want to let you die peacefully.” She hesitated, and closed her fingers around his. “Is it wrong that I wish to keep you alive until they can fix you?” she asked. “Is it wrong that I do not want to contemplate life without you?”
     He was unresponsive – sleeping, or perhaps sedated. At least he looked vaguely comfortable.

     He was unable to eat, now – at least, unable to retain food in his stomach, he brought everything straight back up within a few minutes of eating – so now they had sited a feeding tube that bypassed his stomach altogether. At first glance, he looked more machine than Azure herself, covered in a tangle of tubes and drips and pacing wires. The heart bypass purred quietly beside his bed – it was an enormous machine for such a simple task, but unfortunately it was all they had, until they could find a competent surgeon capable of carrying out the transplant.
     The effort going into just keeping him alive was incredible, but it was steadily looking more and more hopeless. Riiva was doing his best to find someone, but time was getting short – especially when taking into account the time it’d need them to actually get there…

     “I’ll do it,” Azure asserted. “I’m a quick learner.”
     There was a ripple of subdued uproar – of don’t be ridiculous, of you have no surgical knowledge whatsoever and you can’t perform a heart transplant!

     Surgery had apparently gone well. There was a tiny silvery scar down the midline of his dark chest, and the oxygen mask was still gently secured in place, but he was off bypass and his new heart had dutifully taken up the slack.

     “…feel ill,” he croaked. “…chesturts….”
     Azure closed her fingers around his hand, and was gratified when he squeezed back – only a tiny bit, but it was enough to notice.


I need to update my ElJay icons later, too. Hrm. Wonder how quick I'll get THAT done. </sarcasm>


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 1st, 2007 05:49 am (UTC)
You know, this wasn't nearly as medical as you made it sound. Even with all the terms, you can still tell easily enough what's going on, well, except for the details on the bacteria.

It needs some transition between all the bits you have here, and the "But wiping out the primary bacteria..." section feels too much like a cut-away (i.e substitution for seeing the actual events it described).

Hm. In theory, you could use this as an excuse to turn Lii into a synth as well...
Aug. 1st, 2007 12:50 pm (UTC)
Oh, I accept it doesn't "flow" very well. ;) And parts of it are very hasty "this happens here" bits - to start with, it wasn't even going to be more than a brief end chapter, rather than a full part of the plot. I need to work them up pretty heavily.

And funny you should say that, but I DID toy with the idea, way back a couple of years ago when the character first got the false heart, but I ditched it fairly early on, as there was even LESS reason for it than with Eri. ;) So Lii will be staying biological, certainly for the near future...
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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