Chapter 13

Cawdor regained consciousness as they were being carried to the Infirmary.

"Van ... Van ... "

"Shh. I'm here, Cawdor." It was Vanley who was carrying them.

"Dale." Cawdor tried to blink and claw at reality.

"Right in front of us. Kendrew has him. Undris and the physicians are all in place." Vanley ran into the Infirmary with Cawdor.

"Is he alive?" Cawdor to struggle against Vanley.

"Barely but yes." Vanley lay Cawdor on a bed. "You did it, Cawdor. You're amazing."

"I want to see him." Cawdor struggled to sit up and felt like their entire body was being torn apart.

"Don't ... "

"Don't what? Vanley he could die. I didn't go through all this to have him die alone. Either help me or I'll go alone." Cawdor staggered to their feet and Vanley ran to support them.

"At least let me stitch those cuts." Undris said from the doorway.

"Later. How bad is he, Undris?" Cawdor limped heavily to the door.

"Bad. It's a miracle he lasted this long. He was up there for almost two and a half hours. I have him in a hyperbaric chamber in the old hospital. We don't have a lot of oxygen treatments over here."

"But it's just propping him up. Right?" Cawdor had to stop and lean heavily on Vanley. Undris nodded.

"Transfuse him." Cawdor said and Vanley almost dropped them. "Undris you can do it!"

"Cawdor we don't have transfusion banks any more." Undris said in shock.

"I have eight pints of the stuff." Cawdor struggled into motion again.

"Cawdor you can't!" Vanley steered them into a chair. "It'll kill the pair of you!"

"He's as good as dead already." Cawdor looked evenly at Vanley. Vanley looked desperately at his sibling's bloodied and battered face. "The equipment is still there, Vanley. It's all in the old hospital. I don't actually need your consent."

"But you need mine." Undris stated. "Vanley's right Cawdor. It could kill you both."

"So could that Fifeogen leak. So could my crashing a shuttle through the very room he was in. So could the explosion when that cruiser disintegrated. They all could have killed us both. We're both still here. Undris, our ancestors used to do this in abandoned jail cells with bits of rubber tubing! Yes, people died but some lived. My parent lived." Cawdor's eyes shone with tears. "We have to try. Vanley, tell me you wouldn't do this for Kendrew."

"Damn and bugger it." Vanley swore. "Undris?"

"Better me than some two bit quack in an abandoned jail cell." Undris nodded. "Take Cawdor to the old hospital, Vanley. You ... " They pointed at Cawdor. "You let my staff clean you up and stitch those cuts before they fester. If there's even a trace of infection then I'll be unable to do it. Are you hearing me?" Cawdor nodded and started to cry. "I'll go and prepare the transfusion suite."

Dale was barely alive as he lay on the transfusion bed, hooked up to a line that ran through a series of filters and a screening machine that took up an entire wall. This line eventually ended up in Cawdor. Vanley was all scrubbed up and sterile and sitting by Cawdor. Cawdor couldn't take their eyes off Dale.

"He looks so frail." Cawdor's voice wavered. "I can't believe I'm doing this."

"Join the club." Vanley said ruefully. "If this works, he'll mutate to the same physiology as us, Cawdor. His system may not take it."

"Vanley I know." Cawdor turned to face their sibling. "I told Foley not to inflict the agony on his granddaughter. I'm not too good at practising what I preach, am I?"

"One huge difference, Cawdor, and an important one. Dale's here on Bedlam with us, just like our survivors were. That little girl wasn't. He was exposed to this shite accidentally, the little girl would be purposely exposed to it. I don't think Foley quite understood what Fifeogen poisoning was like until that cruiser flooded." Vanley shook his head slowly. "He must have been pretty desperate."

"Yes." Cawdor turned to see Dale again. "You got his name right."

"Who? Gail? Of course I did." Vanley sniffed and made Cawdor smile.

"You feeling drowsy?" Undris came over to Cawdor's bed. "I'll need to slow the rate of transfusion. You're giving more than you're making."

"I'll ... sleep. I just need to rest." Cawdor predictably argued. Undris slowed the transfusion anyway.

"I'm going to sedate them, Vanley." Undris said quietly once Cawdor had drifted off to sleep. "It's touch and go with Dale and I rather Cawdor was out of it if the worst happens. They're still far from strong themself." Vanley let out a long breath and nodded. "Go and take a break Vanley." Vanley nodded again, stroked Cawdor's cut forehead, and left. They met Kendrew outside the hospital.

"Cawdor's resting. The transfusion in still going on. Come on, we'll go home. I need a million showers to get Cawdor's blood out of my mind. What's the situation with the disintegration site?" Vanley asked as they walked down the path towards home.

"Foley has the entire area sealed off, and us." Kendrew nodded. "I think Bedlam has a brand new territory."

"With bugger all left there. How generous. I have regrets, Kendrew. At one time I'd have said sod the lot of them, but not now. For one, I regret not meeting Captain Crown. Even Foley, in a way. He tried to do for his granddaughter what Cawdor is doing for Dale. It's typical of Cawdor, but I never thought it possible of a stuffy Commonwealth Admiral. I regret the death of those people on that cruiser. I regret that Cawdor and Dale had to risk their lives on all those occasions. All because of this crap we live in and breathe." Vanley stopped to look up and the green shimmering cloud that was their sky. "I wouldn't want to live anywhere else even if we could."

Undris let the transfusion run its course then hooked Dale up to a line of immunosuppressants, as a precaution against any conflict between mutated organs. Cawdor had their tubes removed and Undris had them moved to another room under the watchful eye of medic Anz.

"Cawdor will make it." Undris wrote on Cawdor's chart. "Dale still has a long, long way to go."

"Will they need sedated again?" Anz asked.

"No. We can't keep them sedated forever. They're to be kept out of there though. It's an isolation area." Undris nodded to Dale's room. "I'll see to Cawdor when they wake up."

"Caw ... dor." The audio on the monitor in Dale's room was very clear. Dale was awake?

"Dale." Undris ran into the isolation room. "Dale can you hear me?" They began scanning Dale's body and checking monitors.

"Cawdor." Dale muttered.

"Get out of my way Anz!" Cawdor almost knocked poor Anz into the door. "Dale! Dale wake up, please!"

"Cawdor! Come on, settle down. He'll wake up when he's ready." Undris said firmly and Cawdor began objecting "Yes I know you heard him. So did I. He's pulling through, Cawdor but you have to let him rest. I need to run a shed load of tests and scans. Anz? Send for Vanley, please."

"I'm not going with bloody Vanley! I'm staying here." Cawdor waved their arms around.

"My dual gendered arse you are." Undris said flatly. "How am I supposed to get anything done with you buzzing around?" Cawdor looked fretfully at Dale, still unconscious on the bed. ""Cawdor this is a huge breakthrough for him. This has gone better than anyone could have ever imagined. Let me do my job. I'll look after him." Undris smiled. "Anz will check you over, then you need to rest and let Vanley look after you."

"Do what? Kendrew maybe. I'd rather have that bedpan looking after me than Vanley."

"And I'd rather beat you with the bedpan." Vanley arrived, their hair still damp from the shower. "He made it?"

"Of course he did." Cawdor said.

"He's not in the clear yet, not by a long way but this is very good news. I'd know better if I could get my ruddy scans done!" Undris glared at Cawdor.

"Yes Cawdor. You shouldn't even be in here. It says isolation on the door. Come on, out of it." Vanley shoo'd at Cawdor. "I'll get Kendrew to construct a fruit crumble for you? You can use my indigo bath salts?" Cawdor nodded and went to Dale to hold his hand.

"You'll wake up soon. You have to. I keep getting told off by everyone. You want me, you just tell Undris to send for me. I'll be back tomorrow and hopefully I won't be as battered looking. Totally ruined my eyebrow waxing." Cawdor kissed Dale's head and left with Vanley.

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