Loscia’s eyes slowly drifted open. She was in a homgen hospital. Her room was air conditioned, leaving it cold and still like the night. It made her uneasy to lie down in a place like this. Still air ought to be warm, punctuated by a cooling breeze. Sure, the night was cold and still – but when that happened she could just bundle up in a cotton bedroll, listen to the bugs and stare at the stars as the wild sung her to sleep.
Nature was a parent to all living things, and without its lullaby the room felt hollow and lifeless. The tiles on the ceiling were set in a grid like iron bars, and the whole room was colored pale as death. The only sounds were worried whispers, pained groans, and mechanical beeps too rigid to have music. It was clean, too – far cleaner than Loscia would like. Not a trace of blood or vomit, no stains left by men fighting for the privilege of clinging to life for one more day. It was depressing, like the whole damn place had just… given up.
It felt like the building itself was assaulting Loscia… and someone had changed her damn clothes. She wasn’t used to feeling things rub against her arms. Normally her duster and gloves blocked out all nature’s ills, leaving only the gentle rippling patterns that ran through leather when the wind beat against it.
Wait. Where was her hat?
Loscia strained herself, pain surging through her entire body – but it only got her head five or so centimeters off the pillows. It wasn’t long before she fell back down into the bed. Thankfully, she’d managed to catch sight of her hat on a table within arm’s reach. Didn’t take her long to grab it and put it back on her head where it belonged. Something still wasn’t right, though. When she’d rolled over for her hat, she didn’t feel any metal pressed between her hip and the mattress.
“Oh! You’re awake. That shuttle did quite a number on you, what were you thinking attacking it head on?” A nurse approached Loscia. “Ah, well. Everything’s been patched up now. Give it a month and a week and you’ll be back to picking fights you can’t win. Anything I can do for you in the meantime?”
“My gun.” It hurt a little to talk. “Bring me my gun and bullets.”
“I’m sorry, but that’s not -”
Loscia shot her nastiest glare at the nurse. “Now.” The nurse nodded quietly and ran off, soon returning with Loscia’s gun and a box of bullets. “Thanks.” She watched as the nurse scurried off, then gave her pistol the usual check for damage. No dents. No scrapes. Good.
Like always, the magazine slid out clean and smooth, like it was on wheels. Its weight told Loscia it was completely empty, not a bullet in it. One at a time, she began to to take bullets out of the package, slowly and carefully loading them one at a time – making sure each one was aligned just so. She’d learned to do this from her father, who insisted it was why the gun had never jammed. Loscia wasn’t sure if she bought that, but guns were a sacred thing. The legends and campfire tales they birthed carried life, but in their chamber lay death – ready and waiting.
Never hurt to treat such a thing with care.
A note from the
Arlvere and and homgen get along like cats and dogs – very rarely.