a science-fiction adventure game

Chapter 8: Of Those Who Could Not Go...
(part one)

To Carina ren Talove:

With the endorsement of the Elder of your Clan and by decision of the High Council, it is decided that you are hereby confirmed as a primary crew member on board the vanguard vessel Laeril as the First Officer/Navigator....

* * *

“Sit down, please, Ms. Talove.”

Carina settled into a chair at the table opposite the doctor, her hands gently resting on her thighs. She was used to the way non-Letarri would omit the 'ren' from her name. Normally, it would be a stinging, constant reminder of how her people didn't belong here. Today was different, though. She could sense the tension in the man across from her, knew it was going to be bad news. It was.

“Your brother has a condition called Clarenden's Syndrome. It's a very rare degenerative disorder that affects the brain and nervous system.” The doctor continued onwards, but Carina was only partially hearing the words. Uncontrollable muscle spasms. Loss of control functions. Numbing and loss of a sense of touch throughout the body. Seizures. Dementia. Death. Hundreds of thoughts ran through her head. Questions that needed answering. “and I assure you that we will do our best to make sure he is–”

“How long does he have before...” Carina asked, her voice low. Emotions welled up inside her, and she carefully constructed her face to reveal none of it to this man.

The doctor paused for a moment. “He is in the later stages, so it is unlikely that he will live for a year. Perhaps seven to ten months, maybe eleven.”

“Does he know?”

The doctor shook his head. “Since you are his only living relation, I am required to tell you first. I can speak with him after we are–”

“No,” Carina murmured. “I will tell him.”

* * *

He was in a communal treatment ward, of course. It wasn't much more than a long, wide corridor with patient areas separated by curtains. Visitors milled through the room, crowding near their loved ones.

Carina stepped into Toma’s area, pulling the curtain closed around the bed as he turned his head to look at her. He gave her a smile that was meant to comfort, but it only pained her to see it. She moved around the bed, slowly settling down into a chair as he held out his hand. “Carina,” he whispered.

“Toma, I am here,” she answered, offering him the best smile she could muster. She squeezed his hand and then let it go. “I spoke to the doctor.”

Toma folded his hands over his abdomen and closed his eyes. “I can hear in your voice that I am not going with the Third Migration.” He said it so absolutely that, for a moment, Carina couldn't breathe.

“I'm sorry, Toma.” Her reply, calm and controlled, even surprised her. She spoke of the condition, his time left. He must not see my fear, she thought, trying her best to shield the churning of emotions that boiled within her as she spoke. I must be strong for him.

There was a long silence between them, a moment that seemed to hang in the small curtained room, until at least he reached over and grasped her hand in his. “Have you heard any news from the Council about your appointment to the Laeril?” he asked.

Change of subject was welcome, and Carina nodded her head. “I received word today that I have been accepted...” Her voice trailed off, even as she presented the news to him. What point was being accepted to such a position if going meant leaving Toma to die alone? “But it makes no difference now, Toma.”

His eyes found hers. “Carina, what do you mean?”

She took in a deep breath of antiseptic and hospital smells. “While I was speaking to the doctor, I made a decision. When the Council next meets, I will tell them that I am passing on the commission. I am not leaving you behind to veyt alone.”

“Carina... you are not staying behind. There will be no other Migrations from this world.” His voice was firm.

Her own voice matched his in stubborn will. “I am not leaving you, Toma.”

He sighed and lay his head back on the pillow, closing his eyes. “Listen, the Rynan Luminate will come and lay claim to this world. Think of how our ancestors were treated on Letarr, the stories of their suffering under Rynan rule.” He paused, opening his eyes, “My time of veytch is coming. There is little anyone can do about it. Your time has not yet come. This place is not where you belong. You belong with our people, you belong–”

“I belong with my family,” she interrupted sharply. “I made a promise to Father before he died that I would be here for you, and I'm not going to break my promise to him. I am not leaving you here alone, without at least someone here who isn't kharsi. You belong with your people too, Toma.”

“And what will you do after I veyt? You will be surrounded by kharsi waiting like them until the Luminate comes to claim this place. It would not surprise me if they handed you and the other Letarri over to the Rynans in order to barter for their safety--”

“Brother! Have these people not given us a portion of their world to live upon?”

“Only begrudgingly,” he replied. “The kharsi bear no concern for you or me or our people. How many times have crimes been committed against us, and the security forces merely file a report? How many times have our people been passed over for important positions merely because we are Letarri? They allowed us to stay on the kindness of their leaders at the time, and have tolerated our presence, but that's all, Carina. Our time here is done.” He paused.

“You should not condemn all of the kharsi. Are there not those who do help us? Your doctor seemed concerned about your condition. Is he merely tolerating your presence here?”

Toma sighed. “He did want to get me moved to a private room because of my condition. He seems to care for his patients, regardless of who they are. But, Carina... he is one of millions... do you expect him to stand up against his fellow brethren to protect you? Will he stop you from being tortured by the Rynans?”

Silence. Carina knew the answer. She couldn't expect any of them to sacrifice themselves in order to save her, or any Letarri. “Perhaps not,” she said, finally. “But I will not leave you alone to veyt without your kin here. I made a covenant to Father before his veytch, and I intend to keep it.”

“Carina, do not do this. Do not stay because of me.”

She gave his hand a squeeze and let it go. “I must. I promised.” She glanced down at her watch, then looked up and offered her brother a smile. “Visiting hours are almost over. I should go.” His eyes met hers, a pleading look in them, and she had to turn away from them. “I will be back tomorrow. Pel koloro, Toma.”