When I next awoke, the room was dark and I heard sounds of scuffling near the doorway.
“Come on, you can do it. Just set yourself down right here. It’s okay, I’ll be right back.”
It was Cap’s voice. As my wakefulness spread, I became more aware of my surroundings. Mearr was still on her bed. I was still on mine. I had a headache, like one you get from sleeping too long — well, humans get them, at least; don’t know about other species — and I had to blink a few times to clear my vision of its sleep-filled bleariness. As I did so, my eyes adjusted to the dark. Light was spilling in from the corridor outside — it must have been either that or the sounds of Cap and his patient that woke me — and there were lights glowing from the consoles and other machinery around the room. Enough to see by, so I propped myself up on my elbows and looked toward the doorway.
Sys. It was Sys that Cap had been helping in. She was collapsed on the floor in a corner, curled up as though clutching her abdomen in pain.
“What’s wrong?” I tried to say, but my throat was hoarse.
I cleared my throat, which had Cap glancing back at my with a whip of his pod.
I nodded and reached for the water tube beside my bed. Once I was rehydrated, clearing out whatever dryness had prevented me from speaking, I tried again. “What’s wrong with her?”
“Don’t know,” said Cap, turning back to his table of instruments now that he knew I wasn’t dying or something. “She collapsed at her station a few minutes ago. Guhle called me down with an emergency notice. I think whatever was affecting her before has relapsed.”
“What can I do?” I said, slowly rising out of the bed and gingerly setting my feet on the cold, ceramic floor.
“Nothing. Just stay out of the way.”
“Do you need the bed?”
Cap paused and turned toward me. Then he glanced at Sys and nodded. “That would help, yes.”
I tottered over to where Sys was laying. I was still a bit unsteady as I moved, but the nausea seemed to have passed. My muscles were sore, as though they hadn’t gotten much use in the past few days — which, in all fairness, was probably true — but I hoped they’d be dependable enough to help Sys into the bed.
“Here, allow me,” said Cap. “You’re still weak from the energy drain.”
“I can still help,” I said, crouching down beside Sys and looping my arm around her back. “C’mon, Sys. Up you go.”
As I stood, I realized Cap was right. I was too weak for this. My legs shook and my arm was nearly limp around Sys. The only thing that was solid in my whole body seemed to be my shoulder. So that’s what I used to prop Sys up against the wall.
With both of us steadied against the wall, I took several long, deep breaths as I tried to regain my strength in a matter of minutes. I didn’t work, of course, but I felt like I was still trying to do something.
Cap scuttled over to Sys’s other side as I stood there with her. She was only semi-conscious, though I couldn’t tell you what made me realize that. Cap took her other side and together we shuffled across the floor to my bedside. By this point, I was already exhausted and wanted nothing more than to collapse onto the floor, but we still had to hoist her into the bed.
I looped my other arm around Sys in order to support her entire torso while Cap crouched down and grabbed her legs. Together, we slung her up onto the bed — ungraceful as a cow, but still successfully. I slumped over on top of her as I set her down, gasping for breath. My knees quaked and my arms shook, but the rest of my body seemed to be okay.
“Have a seat, hatchling,” said Cap, linking two of his appendages together to form a rudimentary sling. “You need to take care not to overexert yourself.”
I lowered myself into the sling, dropping my full weight onto it because I had no energy left in my body, it seemed. Surprisingly, Cap held my weight. His little chassis was apparently stronger than it looked.
“Thanks,” I muttered as I rested my head back against his pod.
“You’re welcome,” said Cap. It was strange to hear his voice coming both out of his external speakers and out of his life-support pod. I could hear his tiny voice reverberating through the fluid. “Thank you,” he added a moment later. “I…appreciate your help.”
I nodded. “Yeah. No problem.” Then I groaned and coughed. Apparently speaking was taking its toll on me now, letting me know about its own weariness now that I’d given my limbs a chance to rest.
In fact, the entire rest of my body seemed to be waking up to deliver reports of unhappiness, now that I wasn’t so focused on other people.
“You are still weak,” said Cap, slowly carrying me over to one side of the room. “You need rest. Sit down over here while I tend to Sys, and as soon as I can free up a bed for you, you’ll have a chance to rest.”
I nodded groggily, already feeling my body beckoning me back to slumber. But I couldn’t sleep, I thought. Not now. Not while I could still help.
All the same, once Cap set me down in a corner of the room, my head lolled onto my chest and eyes drooped shut.