The instruments were laid out on the tray.
The needles and the knives.
Cia tried not look at them, but they were there, glinting in the corner of her eye.
"Are you ready, Captain Roth?" Dr Sanik asked.
No. No. Never, not ever.
"Yes," Cia said. She looked away from the tray and sat down on the examination table. "I'm ready. I think."
Metal clinked against metal. "This will only take a few moments."
"Thank you, doctor," Cia said politely. Something cold touched the skin behind her ear and she was -
falling away as fast as she can from
Dr Sanik was on the other side of the room.
No, Cia realized. I'm on the other side of the room. Crouched in the corner, back pressed to the wall.
"Captain Night said you wanted this procedure," Dr Sanik said.
Want. Wrong word.
"I have to have it," Cia told her knees. "I have to."
Metal clinked on metal again. Cia stole a glance at Dr Sanik and saw her hands empty, the needles and the knives on the tray. "Did he explain to you that it is nothing like - the surgery you had before?"
"Yes. He said - " Cia closed her eyes and tried to make Silver's voice real, tried to make it sound as if he were there and not the other side of the cluster. A fairly minor operation, Cia. Very safe. "He said it was safe."
"It is safe," Dr Sanik said.
Cia nodded, and told her knees "I know."
"We can give you something to make it easier. A mild sedative, if you want."
"I want - " Not to have to do this. "To have -" Silver here, really here, not just a memory of a voice. "I could, if -" Ami were here, holding my hand.
"Captain Roth," Dr Sanik said. "I understand that you may feel some anxiety. I did, after all, perform the reconstructive surgery, after the ... incident."
"I know," Cia said. "I am sorry about that. I mean, I'm sorry about the - the fuss I made. I know, I knew, you weren't ... I did know. It was just the -"
and the dark.
"I understand from Captain Night there are some time constraints," Dr Sanik said.
"Yes." Cia took a deep breath, and forced herself to get up. The room spun, and then steadied. "Yes, there are. I can't afford to - I'll need to be sharp, later. I don't think, a sedative, I don't think it's a good idea."
"Then if you'll take a seat?" Dr Sanik indicated the examination table again. "We can begin."
It was a long way across the room to the table. Cia took a step, then another, keeping her gaze away from the tray, from what it held.
The last time Dr Sanik had held a scalpel and touched its blade to her scalp, Cia had held tight to Ami's cool metal hand, held on even in the dark, through the needles and the knives, until it was over.
Cia opened her mouth to say Wait, wait until Ami gets here, I'll be all right when Ami gets here.
Closed it again. If Ami was here, it wouldn't be necessary.
She heard metal scratch against metal, felt the cool touch of it on her skin. Someone was whimpering. Cia was too frightened to open her eyes to see who it was. Please, no, she thought, please, stop. Please.
The words stayed unspoken in her throat.
For family, you do anything.
Even into the dark.