Captain Cee's Last StandVincent Cleaver / Science Fiction
Captain Cee’s Last Stand
By Vincent Cleaver
“I’ve always been haunted by water.”
Hannah Clinkenbeard woke up to the words of Sergeant Jules and felt a fierce tightness in her chest. Then the hand clasping at her heart seemed to compress. Pain hammered at her and shot down her arm. She struggled up, falling out of her bed and pulling the covers with her. She dragged herself over the chilly floor to the door, opening it with difficulty.
She tried to cry out for help, but couldn’t manage more than a croak. She was fading fast and the only thing keeping her moving was pure will, and an incandescent anger at just how unfair the man upstairs was. She wanted a word with the management!
She passed out in the hallway, this time dragging over the small table she’d been laboriously climbing, and that noise had finally brought help.
“Back with us?” a familiar voice asked her. Hannah found that she was looking up into Dr. Wong’s face.
“Wah ‘appen ‘ith ‘ee?” she asked, or tried to ask. Wong’s almond-shaped eyes grew guarded and he brought forth a fake smile.
“Everything is going to be all right-” He began to reassure her, but she squeezed his hand tight, twice, stopping him. “No? I see…”
“’Nesty izz eye plizzee,” Hannah gabbled. “Me! What!?”
“You had a mild stroke. Mild in that you survived and I… I honestly don’t know how much you will recover.”
“Tooth!” Hannah beamed lopsidedly, the right side of her face drooping below her missing eye. “Gah, goo, ‘ood!” She howled in frustration as the words fought her.
“Calmness would work better, Hannah. You’re in for a long fight, just like always; conserve your strength.”
Hannah concentrated, willed herself to relax, be calm. “’Ell me.”
“Complications from what was left of your implant, Captain.”
So that damned old injury was still trying to take her out. ‘But Heaven doesn’t want me and the Devil won’t have me’, she thought to herself.
Doctor Wong had not been her Chief Medical Officer on the USAFV Corpus Christi. He had inherited that position when the CMO had died during the evacuation of CeeCee; he had taken care of her people in their initial exile, up here, north of the enemy base down by the sea. The PLASN troops had actually named their settlement among the dragons ‘Shanghai’, Chinese for By-The-Sea. Then, in those first years of downshifting, while she built up the Outfit and the smaller settlements in the North Country, he’d been her private doctor. The policy which she and Old General Ma had set up, that ‘We all will survive here, because it looks like we are it!’ was mutually assured survival for Humans and Dragons. Dr. Wong had helped her to contribute her own hostages to the ‘Hundred Year Plan’; they were conceived, implanted in her damaged womb, and then he had delivered each of her children. Five pregnancies, four births, one death, and then another… She had two sons, their wives and children, all delivered by this man.
“I must say, Captain, that I’m rather pleased that we’ve turned this infirmary into a fertility clinic… Out with the Death Tech and in with the Life Tech…” he busied himself with his work and just a little bit later muttered to himself, “Only about ten percent of your ova are viable... how did you survive?” Then he remembered the Captain and had the good grace to wince.
“It was a very near thing. I had... strange dreams.” Not a near death experience; just her scrambled brain sorting itself out. “But, you see, Heaven doesn’t want me, and Hell won’t take me either. So here I am. I’ll live until I die.”
Wong looked over at her. Captain Clinkenbeard was… eccentric? 'Crazy' was technical term he wasn’t privileged to diagnose, and 'strange' was much too vague. She was reliable; in fact, she was reliably exceptional. She got things done, and if she got them done in a different way than any other officer, then that was because any other officer would have already failed.
“There is one other possibility, Doctor.”
“The fetus you saved from… No. 1.”
“That presents certain ethical-“
“Survival has an ethical argument all its own.”
“We don’t know that…”
“You’re right, Doctor, we don’t know.” The Captain stared him in the eye until he looked away.
“Prep us both. I owe her, and her husband, a life.”
“This is a bad idea, Hannah.”
“Maybe so. We’ll do it, anyway.”
The little boy, Samuel, would have been her first-born, but Sam didn't make it. She had miscarried, and had, against her doctor's advice, tried again. Then along came little Malcolm, and then his brother, Kevin (not Simon or Wash, as Jules had joked). There was another miscarriage, and she had only continued because she had badly wanted a little girl. Uncharacteristically self-indulgent of her, but she had had Georgie and finally Margaret, named for her own mother. Kevin and George had made it to adulthood, and she had acquired two daughters-in-law; one was from Hell and the other from Jupiter or Mars (not Venus, that was Hell!). No. 2 Daughter-in-Law made no sense to her, at all. And yet, she liked her. The one from Hell she understood all too well. Hannah fought her tooth and nail.