"Chance Encounter" by Corry Vrecken

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Date: <48:4 (Less than 13 years after the Battle of Yavin)

"How are you holding up, sir?"

"Still here," newly promoted Lieutenant Colonel Rhyan Conwy muttered thickly. He blinked up at the medic's face, trying to bring it into focus against the light.

"It won't be long now, sir."

"That's alright. I'm not going anywhere."

In fact, the Colonel had been waiting for a good while. But the triage tent was packed and he knew better than to complain. Complaining to a corpsman could get you in a whole batch of trouble.

"In that case..." The corpsman looked a bit chagrined. "Could you do me a favor, sir? Could you keep her awake? Looks like a concussion and we've got to go out to meet the transport."

"No problem. It'll keep my mind off my gut. Which one?"

"On your left, sir. Thank you!"

One stretcher to the left lay a woman. Conwy knew it was a woman because the corpsman had said her, otherwise it was difficult to tell. They hadn't had time to clean her up and crusted blood and dirt obscured what little he could see of her face.

"Hey! Over there. What's your name?"

Her head jerked at the sound of his voice and she sucked in ragged breath before answering. "Vrecken. New Republic Military. 8472157."

"No, no." He would have laughed, but his stomach was in no condition to take it. "This isn't an interrogation. You're in a hospital. A friendly one."

"Oh." Her voice was blurred and drowsy. Much like the way he felt right now. "Best news I've had all day."

At that he did laugh, and instantly regretted it. When he had gotten the pain back under control, he said, "You just need to stay awake until the medics get back. Don't let yourself fall asleep. Talk to me for a while, alright?"

"Yes, sir."

"Not sir. Try Conwy instead." When there was no response he twisted as far as he dared to get a better look at her. Her eyes had closed. "Hey! Hey you! What did you say your name was?"

It took a moment for the answer. "Corry. My name is Corry."

"OK, Corry. Tell me, what's a nice girl like you... come to think of it, what are you doing on the front lines?"

"Just trying to fix a couple things that the bad guys broke."

"Fix? You a mechanic? A tech?"

"Something like that. I'm an engineer. Just took over Allson's department."

"Really? I suppose that would be a good reason to head for the front lines." His teeth flashed white against the pale blur of his face. "Don't tell him I said that. So, what's a nice engineer like you doing in a..."

"Stop!" She chuckled.

He was glad to hear the laugh. She didn't sound sleepy anymore and if he could get her talking, he would be able to just lie quietly. The hole in his gut was starting to burn, and he was rather afraid to look down at the wound. Just what was keeping those medics anyway?

"You want the whole sad story?" she asked. "I was trying to get a motivator unstuck on a med transport, of all things. I'd crawled under the landing struts to see if I could reach the inductor valve when wham! Incoming shell blew the cockpit to pieces and the hoverpads cut out. I'm just lucky the hull didn't smash me flat."

"Gutsy move, crawling under there."

"Not really." She laughed again. "More desperation than anything. And a fair bit of suicidal stupidity." She had shifted now and was looking toward him. "What about you?"

"Oh, that would be telling." The other side of her face was bruised, but unbloodied and he could make out long dark blond hair which had been pulled back tightly, but was now loose.

"That's not fair. I told you my tale of woe. Now it's your turn."

Conwy studied her for a moment. She had hazel eyes, not the usual blue. Why that should make any difference he didn't know, but he found himself saying, "I'm with Elite Squad. We were coming back from a quick raid and I tripped."

He didn't say that they'd been planting a series of explosive devices along the enemy's fortified left flank. He also didn't say that a fried death glider had slammed into that position, setting off the explosives while the squad was still within range. He didn't say that Franpik and Thrril were both dead and that he should be too...

For a while the only sound in the tent came from the droning of some local insect and the low moans of the other occupants.

"Are you alright?" Her voice was quiet and her eyes concerned. Conwy stared at the roof of the tent, hoping she couldn't see the wetness around his eyes.

"What a thing to ask!" He answered gruffly. "If I were alright I wouldn't be hanging around here, no matter how nice the company."

He heard her shift, probably lying back again. He was glad that she was leaving him be. It hurt to talk. The blockers must be wearing thin. Where were those blasted medics?

Soon her breathing began to change, lengthening and deepening, and he remembered that she had to stay awake.

"You're Taur'i, right?" He ventured.

"Hmmm? Taur'i? Er, yes. Does it show?"

"No, it's the smell."

"What!?!" She was alert again.

Conwy winked at her. "Just joking. I've never been to Earth. What's it like?"

Corry sighed. "You're trying to keep me awake, aren't you?"

"As a matter of fact I am. Any burning topics of conversation come to mind?"

"Sorry. Afraid I'm fresh out. My mind's on other things."

That was meant as a put off, but Conwy wasn't taking the hint. "Like what?"

She gnawed on her lip for a moment and then admitted, "It's my arm. I can't feel it. It's got me a bit worried."

"Let me see." Conwy carefully raised himself on one elbow and took a good look at her right arm. It had been immobilized, but there was definitely a bit of bone sticking through the skin. It was a good thing she couldn't feel it. Out loud he said, "Oh, that's nothing. Just a scratch. You'll be fine."

"I didn't know you had a medical degree." Her voice was a shade cooler than the statement required and he realized that she must be really scared. For an engineer to lose the use of her right hand... But he could understand that kind of dread. Best thing to do was to keep her mind off of it.

"Oh, I don't, but compared to me, you've just got a scratch."

That worked. He could tell by the way her face colored. He'd now seriously ticked her off.

"Is that so? And just what is wrong with you, Mr. Conwy? Tripped, did you? Sprain something? A nice strain perhaps?" Her voice was dripping with irritation and sarcasm. Somehow that bothered him. He was simply trying to help her. What did he have to do? Hold her hand?

"No, nothing sprained or strained. I only impaled myself," he said bitterly.

"You what!?"

"Yeah. I told you, you're far down on the list. I'll bet you a good steak dinner that I will be well into the recovery room before they ever bother with a scratch like yours—Hey! What are you doing?"

The woman was standing over him, starring down at his wound with an ashen face. He looked down himself and was vaguely surprised at the amount of blood.

"Why didn't you say something?" she asked hoarsely, jerking the sheet off her cot with her good hand and trying to use it to stanch the bleeding.

"I guess I didn't... are you squeamish about blood?" Everything seemed rather quiet now and he was surprised that his voice came from so far away.

"No, I'm not." She was leaning all of her weight on the wadded cloth with her usable arm, but it didn't seem to be helping. Her answer came through gritted teeth. "Why?"

"Because you're white as a sheet. You should really lie down."

The surprise in her eyes met the concern in his and they both started laughing. They were still laughing when the flaps to the tent were flung aside and corpsmen with laden stretchers rushed into the tent. A medic appeared at Conwy's side and eased Corry's hand off the compress.

"That's right, you take care of him," she said indistinctly, her voice slurred. "I'm just going to go back and lie down."

She didn't quite make it and hit the floor before anyone could react.

Bearers appeared at the head and feet of Conwy's cot and the medic said, "OK, sir. We're taking you in now."

"No." He reached up and grabbed a handful of the corpsman's tunic. "Her first."

"Sir! She's alright. But you need—"

"No! I'm not going anywhere until she's been seen to."

Conwy knew better than to argue with a corpsman, but he didn't much care, and apparently the corpsman knew it. The two glared at each other for a long moment before the corpsman grumbled something about suicidal officers and yelled across the tent. Soon two more bearers appeared and carried the woman into the aid center.

"Tell her that she won!" Conwy called after them. "And tell her I'm buying dinner!"