It was dark, but not the kind of darkness that you got because the lights were off, more the kind that came from wearing a blindfold or having your eyes screwed tight shut.
This must be one of those waking dreams, thought Carli, because I feel awake.
So, if I just open my eyes…
Ok, that didn’t seem to work, let’s try…
“Aha, the Cyclops lady is awake at last.”
The voice, somewhere very close by, made her jump
“Who’s there, where am I, what the hell is going on?”
“Well, to answer your questions in order; Eric, the med bay and ocular clone surgery.”
“Eric..?” The name was familiar, but to start with she couldn’t work out why, then it suddenly dawned on her, “Lazzaro, Eric Lazzaro? First Officer Lazzaro?”
“Correct on all three counts,” he said, the smile audible in his voice, “but you can call me “sir”.”
“Oh, yes, I’m terribly sorry sir,” she replied with barely disguised sarcasm, “where are my manners, they must have deserted me, along with my sense of humour and my eye!”
Instead of the stern reprimand she’d been expecting, he laughed.
“I’m kidding of course, I think we can dispense with rank and formality, for now at least. What do you remember, how are you feeling?”
Thrown slightly by his friendly tone, she paused before answering, biting down on her natural distrust of officers and casting her mind back. What did she remember?
She’d been doing her make-up whilst looking through some holos about NASA 6, seeing if it was going to be worth going dockside when they landed to make the methane delivery and get some R+R, when there had been some sort of emergency and…oh shit!
Her hand tried to reach for her face, but for some reason she could hardly move.
“Hey, calm down,” his smiling voice again, “you’re fine, you just came out of surgery, the restraints are still on from when you were in the clone tank. Hold still a moment.”
She felt his hand brush her arm, then the pressure on her wrist eased and she tentatively moved her arm, flexing the stiff muscles and finally raising her free hand to touch her face.
It all came back to her now; the horrible popping sensation as the stiff brush punctured her eyeball, the collision with Lazzaro in the corridor, his hand on her forehead, then relief as the pain faded and blackness finally engulfed her.
She cautiously explored her bandaged face, realising that the pain had now retreated to a dull throb, then turned in the direction of his voice.
“I remember now,” she said, “you pulled it out. Did you bring me here?”
“I did. I thought leaving you on the floor with your eyeball hanging out might have been considered rude,” he laughed again, a sound she found she didn’t completely hate, much to her annoyance, “so I brought you to the med bay and you’ve been out like a light ever since.”
“Since when, exactly?”
“That was yesterday morning,” said Lazzaro, still sounding amused, “about thirty six hours ago. They had to wait for the clone tank to process your new eye so they kept you under sedation and you were happily floating in sleep juice until just half an hour ago.”
She was about to ask him something else when a loud, metallic CLANG! echoed through the ship and the com speakers burst into life;
“ALL SENIOR OFFICERS TO REPORT TO THE BRIDGE IMMEDIATELY”
“Oh damn, what now? Ok, I’m gonna have to go, you just relax and do as the doc tells you, I’ll be back to check on you later.”
And then he was gone, leaving her to contemplate her situation and wait for the med officer to return with news of her surgery.
Carli drifted off again, the “sleep juice” of the clone tank not having totally cleared her system yet, waking a couple of hours later and feeling more alert than before, which led quickly to boredom.
When none of the med staff appeared, to let her know what was happening with her treatment, she tried to recall what she had read in the holo about the moon the ship had been heading for when the sudden impact had caused her to impale herself.
From what she could remember, NASA 6 was a rather nondescript, cold and depressing little moon with weak gravity, one side permanently in darkness and a colony that was often described as “the one that wasn’t supposed to survive” or even “the miracle colony”.
This was mainly due to the fact that, after the administration ceased to exist, the original earth colonists stubbornly refused to leave, surviving initially on the charity of the population that lived on the moon’s parent planet far below.
She had read that the humanoid inhabitants of the planet, already technologically advanced enough to have harnessed the power of space travel, had offered limited assistance, providing the NASA 6 colony with a boiler plant and a large methane recovery tank, to enable them to at least be self-sufficient and independent from their benefactors.
Since then, the colonists had managed to expand their operations to the point that they had a pretty serviceable spaceport, large enough even for the Alice Marie to land in.
Add to that an ever-growing fleet of their own ships, (almost exclusively constructed by cannibalizing old or crippled vessels from the nearby floating scrapyard, left behind when NASA went belly-up a few centuries back) and they were well on the way to becoming a useful, if small and unexciting, port of call for the various traders, explorers, mercenaries and research ships that travelled this sector of space.
Unexciting it may be, but she guessed anything would be better than staying cooped up on the ship, she’d have to go and check out the nightlife, there must be something to do around here.
Then she heard footsteps approaching her bed and a man’s voice say; “I see you’re awake, how do you feel?”
Before Carli had a chance to reply, the voice said, “Right, let’s get those bandages off so we can have a look at you shall we?” then, with a little chuckle he added, “Or rather, you can have a look at me,” he paused, seeming to expect some response to this, then continued in a slightly disappointed tone, “because you have a new eye, d’you see?”
He sighed and began carefully unwrapping the long strip of gauze from around Carli’s head, pressing his fingers on the pads over her eyes to hold them there until he was done.
“Right, I want you to keep your eyes closed when I remove the padding, I’ll tell you when you can open them, ok?”
Carli nodded, suddenly nervous.
She felt the release of pressure as the adhesive strips holding the soft pads were removed and fought an urge to open her eyes right away, seeing the soft glow of light through both of her eyelids.
“Yes, yes, that all looks perfectly normal,” he said after a few seconds of inspecting Carli’s eye socket with gentle fingers, a touch of satisfaction creeping into his voice, “the clone organ appears to have adhered to the natural tissue almost seamlessly.”
“Oh, I didn’t mean…well, see for yourself, you can open your eyes now. Take it slow, the light may seem a little bright at first.”
Carli swung her legs off the bed, stood unsteadily on the cool tiles and slowly opened her eyes, shielding them with a raised hand from the overhead lights, but there didn’t appear to be any discomfort, apart from a slight itching sensation at the corners of her right eye.
“Hello there, chief med Matthias Drake, at your service. How’s the vision, any blurring, doubling, anything unusual?”
Carli shook her head, “No, no it’s fine, I can see perfectly well, thank you.”
She knew that wasn’t enough somehow, but what do you say to the man who just grew you a new eye?
“Thank you so much, it’s wonderful, thank you.”
She leant over and kissed the middle-aged and slightly plump doctor on the cheek, making him blush like a reactor going into meltdown
“J-J-Just doing my job young lady, glad I could be of assistance, it’s nothing, really, don’t mention it…” he tailed off in embarrassment
She looked around the small med bay until she spotted a sink with a mirror above it in the corner. She turned to the doctor who saw where she was looking and shyly nodded to her, “Of course, of course, go and see what you look like.”
Carli walked across until she was nearly in front of the mirror, took a deep breath and then one more step and…
“What’s wrong?” The doctor, sounding panicked, hurried over to where she stood, staring in the tiny wall mirror, “whatever is the matter, is the eye malfunctioning?”
“What are you talking about, can’t you see?” she rounded on the doctor, “Do these look the same to you? Well, do they?”
“Oh is that all. I’m afraid they only come in blue. Stem cell stock item you see. Single donor, thousands of eyes, all exactly the same. You’ll need to see Mandy in ophthalmology for contact lenses if you want them to match I’m afraid,” he smiled, “although I have to say, I think they look rather good.”
Carli turned back and looked critically at her reflection.
Hmm, one eye so dark brown it was nearly black, the other a pale blue so clear it was almost like ice.
She decided the doctor was right, it really did look pretty cool after all.