Disclaimer: I don't own anything you recognize. The world of Airborn belongs to Kenneth Oppel.
AN: The section at the beginning is from Airborn, Chapter 7, "Sinking". I don't claim to know anything about medical conditions and such, so please excuse any errors.
"Just then I caught the scent of her perfume and it was my mother's perfume. I had to turn quickly away, a sudden tremor in my throat. I looked out the window at the approaching sea. I didn't know how to swim either.
We were close enough to hear the ocean's impatient sigh, to see the thuggish slouch of her surface, calm enough, but there was no hiding the immense strength of her mile-deep muscle. It was a clear day and the rising sun was painting jittering diamonds on the surface.
I didn't want to touch it."
The image taunted me as it reached ever closer. But suddenly, the dull throbbing in my head increased to a pounding, and the image blurred before my eyes, turning and twisting. I felt my knees give way, and all of a sudden, I was crumpling to the ground, the chaos and panic around me – both sight and sound – fading away to black. I knew no more.
When I next awoke I was back in my cabin, in my own bed, with Doc Halliday sitting watch. It was not the first time I had woken like this, so the sight did not startle me. I did not wonder at why I wasn't in the infirmary either, for it was very rare that circumstance put an ill or injured passenger or crew member in an infirmary bed. The infirmary itself was quite small. The Aurora was not, after all, used primarily as a place for medical treatment. The doctor more often visited any needing his help in their rooms, be they passenger or crew.
I myself had found myself in this situation more often than most, for I was anaemic and often prone to dizzy spells and fainting. This wasn't, however, a normal situation, as was evidenced by the odd rocking of the ship. Her smooth, lighter than air feeling was conspicuously absent. The whole memory of the ordeal came back to me at once – the pirates, the storm, preparing for evacuation. I could not, however, recall actually getting off of the ship. We clearly hadn't, for I was in my bed at that very moment. Had she been fixed? No, else we would be flying. I came to the conclusion that we had somehow found land. This might have been comforting for some, but land brought with it a distinct heaviness that settled on my heart. But, at least, I thought to myself, she wasn't at the bottom of the swirling depths of the sea. There was hope for her yet.
I turned my gaze back from the ceiling to the doctor where he was sitting in the chair that sat in the corner of the room, on the side of the porthole. Baz and I often used it to throw clothes on. I absently wondered what had happened to the uniform I had left there. The doctor was just standing to leave, probably to check on the passengers. It occurred to me that I still didn't know what had happened – and also that he didn't know I was awake. I fixed both problems with a simple question.
Doc Halliday looked up at me, surprised. "I had not noticed that you had awakened, Mr. Cruse," he said. He came up to the edge of my bunk, and felt my forehead for a moment. "You've still got a bit of a fever. I also suspect the stress has gotten to you a bit – otherwise, just as usual." He paused briefly. "As for your question, the captain spotted land. We didn't have to go out into the lifeboats after all, thank goodness. You collapsed just before the captain saw the island, I think. Gave the passengers quite a fright, I hear. Luckily Mr. Mobius was nearby. He got you ready to land on water, talked to the passengers, reassured them that you were alright, and started to get ready to take care of two muster groups, plus an unconscious cabin boy," he smiled softly at me. "And that was when the message went out that we'd be on land, and the muster groups weren't needed."
I nodded in response. "But, where are we now, sir?"
"Still on the island. Looks a bit like a tropical paradise at first sight, but I doubt many of the crew would see it as such. Chef Vlad's still going on about the amazing fish though. It's been less than twenty minutes since we got her tied down, I think. The passengers are all outside, either sunbathing or hiding under the tarps we've put up. The kitchen crew is in the middle of cooking. You're off duty for the day, so you'll probably get to eat soon, with the passengers." He pointed out some medication he'd left on the small bedside table for my headache, and told me to take it easy for a while. Then he left.
I was surprised to have even got a full day off. There wasn't time for the crew to take such long breaks. The passengers were demanding at best, and someone else would have to take over all my shifts if I wasn't there to do them.
After waking from an uncharacteristically deep sleep, I lay in bed for a while longer, but the heavy air was making me nervous. Just as I was contemplating getting up and wandering the ship, Baz burst into the room, a slightly panicked look on his normally cheerful face.
I pushed myself into a sitting position, and looked down at him, my eyebrows raised. "Yeah?"
"Thank goodness, mate, you alright? I heard you fainted – wonderful timing, by the way. You missed lunch and dinner. Vlad's getting a bit crazy – says you don't appreciate his cooking. I'm sorry I haven't been in to see you sooner, I've been on duty. Crazy people, can't go a minute without their drinks, or the tarps, or the buns, or the bread. Would it kill them to get up and fetch food on their own, I wonder. Anyway, I'm so sorry, and I've been so…"
"I'm alright, Baz," I cut him off. "And I wouldn't have noticed if you were here, anyway. I've been asleep."
He looked slightly relieved. "Well I'm glad you're alright, mate. I'm off duty for a bit, so we can do something if you'd like. Go watch a movie, or eat… I've already eaten, but I definitely wouldn't mind going back for more, and you really should eat… or we could do something else, whatever you want. You can just sleep if you rather – you need it, for sure."
I got down from my bunk, and attempted to smooth the wrinkles in the uniform that I was still wearing. I thought for a moment, then looked back up at Baz. "I couldn't stay here for a moment longer," I said decisively. "Do you mind going back to the mess?"
Baz smiled, "not at all."
When we entered the crew's mess everyone looked up, all of a sudden, asking me how I was, telling me to get well soon, commenting that I was still pale. I nodded and smiled in response. We were a closely knit crew. It was nice to know that they cared. Baz and I walked to the nearest empty seats, and I checked the menu, and Baz got up to go and get our meals. I was glad that Doc Halliday didn't believe in giving special meals to the ill – unless of course they really couldn't handle certain foods. The meal was as good as any, filling and mouth-wateringly good – much better than the broths and watery teas my mother gave me when I was ill at home. I ate quietly, Baz filling the silence with his happy chatter.
When we were done, we put away our dishes and headed back to our cabin, and suddenly I was quite ready to sleep again. The view from our porthole was dark, and a last few passengers were coming back into the ship from the beach. I wondered for a moment how long nights were on the island, and then took off my shoes, changed out of my uniform, and climbed back into my bunk, where I promptly fell asleep.