For April Marian Allen

Craw stomped along the station’s corridor, unaware of his fellow colonists making way for him. He didn’t hear them chuckle when he had passed, telling each other, “Craw’s in one of his moods again.”

He had done whatever he had to, to wangle a place in the ship, to fly to the stars, to live in flight in artificial gravity not-quite-Earth-normal. He had watched, studied, sold his soul for a chance to learn more, learn enough to be a medic.

It had been worth it. More than worth it.

Still, sometimes the safety suits made his shoulderblades itch. Sometimes the collar, with its emergency automatic atmosheild generator felt like he had a piece of plastic trash around his neck, strangling him.

Doc Aimanov always knew when Craw had had enough, and ordered him to take some time to recuperate.

“You’re no good to the patients when you’re like this. Go get it out of your system.”

Craw reached his destination: the conservatory. The biosphere, the garden–whatever. It was the place the plants grew, that was all he cared about. A huge bubble of self-healing bio-fiber, it was a plant ecosystem all its own. He drew the warm, moist air into his lungs as if he hadn’t been breathing before he entered the room.

He pulled off his gloves and clawed the rest of the suit off. It was a joke in the station: Ravi Crawford running naked through the jungle, though no one had ever seen a glimpse of his bare skin.

Three steps and he was hidden by the growth. Three more heartbeats and he was free, returned to his true form.

This was more like it! This was just what he needed! A couple of hours of this and he’d be ready to take on human shape again and mingle with the people, clever and unsuspected.

Meanwhile, he spread his raven’s wings and flew.

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About Jim Hilton

Just having a good time writing about our little adventures.
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