23:5 Beyond the Plastic Curtain

OUTER SPACE  |  2055

Pape could hear Major and Zhang having words as she tentatively approached the sick bay. She paused at the door unwilling to subject herself again to the horror she knew was laying just beyond the sterile barrier.

“You should have consulted with me, Zhang,” the captain growled. “I never would have condoned this.”

“There was no time, Thomas,” Zhang explained. “Every second his consciousness remained tethered to that broken body meant the loss of more … well, more Bjoern. I feel comfortable that we have salvaged enough of your geologist to continue on the mission.”

“How can you say that?” The captain exploded. “Bjoern is dead; I can see that with my own eyes. He is a pile of fucking hamburger!” Major’s gaze fell to the unfortunate state of his friend’s corpse.

“Thomas … captain,” Zhang began another tack. “I assure you that Bjoern would want this mission to continue as planned. It was a choice between trying to do the impossible to save what amounts to—as you so eloquently expressed it—‘a pile of hamburger,’ or try to save what really makes up your friend; his feelings, his memories, his training, his spirit.”

“How can you talk about spirit, you monster,” Pape was unable to hold back any longer and found herself standing in the middle of the abattoir. “You should have let him die with dignity!”

“Dying with dignity is still dead,” Zhang engaged the enraged biologist. “You, of all, should be aware of that, Doctor Pape. Just to accept Bjoern’s death would have been antithetical to the successful prosecution of this mission.”

“Captain,” Pape reached out for support.

“I’ll tell you what, Doctor,” Zhang forged ahead. “If you are so worried about how Bjoern would feel about his condition, you are more than welcome to ask him yourself. I’m about to make him aware.”

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