Die Trying (character extract)

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Bryan Dechart as Jhalib Ekal.

I write for a Star Trek RPG–this character (Jhalib Ekal) is one of my favourites that I’ve created in the last two years. It was originally in a script format. This is my favourite quick piece.

He woke up with his lungs full but unable to breathe. It was a familiar panic that set in, unable to properly move his body because of oxygen deprivation, but he managed to place his hand onto his fiancé’s arm in a desperate attempt to wake him up.

His amazing, smart and life-saving fiancé, whom was sleeping like the dead.

Merce. Help.

The Coverian stirred in his sleep, his fiancé tapping him again, managing to gasp out.

Merce!” Jhalib wheezed.

The purple-skinned man sucked in a sharp breath, head moving in confusion before he turned over to face his betrothed. And then he understood, awareness falling upon him like a splash of cold water. “Siala?”

“I can’t-“ He huffed again. “I can’t breathe-“

Well, that wasn’t entirely accurate. He could breathe, in a sense, but what he was breathing was not providing him with what he needed. And his chest was fully aware of that fact, instinctively heaving to get as much oxygen as he could into his system.

While Jhalib was suffering from an ingrained panic that came with oxygen deprivation, his fiancé’s steady and calm nature took over, quickly pulling the covers off their bed and at Jhalib’s side in a flash, helping him up.

“Arm around me.”

He was hefted up, Merce half-carrying him to the kitchen, Jhalib gasping for breath as he hung off of him and stumbled the short distance from their room to their living area. The Coverian ordered the computer to turn the lights up, and pulled a box from the shelf. He was fishing out medical supplies and instruments as Jhalib pulled his shirt off with whatever energy he had left, slumping against the bench—and glad he’d managed to at least make it to a stool.

With the bedside manner of a hologram without personality protocols (probably angry his fiancé was in the middle of almost-dying), Merce slapped a pulse and oxygen monitor onto his chest, the display instantly providing the doctor with information he likely already knew, an incessant beeping demanding Merce act quicker and the display glowing a dangerous red.

Jhalib made the mistake of looking down at his vitals. 60%. Well below normal readings. He was probably lucky he hadn’t just died in his sleep.

It had felt like minutes, but it had really only taken Merce seconds to reset a breather to accommodate Jhalib’s current needs and hand it to him. As a man literally starving for oxygen, Jhalib took deep breaths from the breather.

The beeping slowed. The colour turned back to blue. Jhalib’s readings rose to significantly more acceptable levels.

Merce leaned back, head lightly knocking against an overhead cupboard, taking his own deep breaths of relief.

“You have to tell them.”

Jhalib took a few more deep breaths from the breather before attempting to reply. “If I tell them, they dump me from the mission.”

The mission?” Merce bit his lip. “You are so invested in the past that you don’t even realize how close you are to not having a future! What happens if you hadn’t woken up? What then? I get up in the morning and find the love of my life dead next to me, and have to explain to our daughter that dad isn’t coming home. “It’s a family curse, sweetheart, there’s nothing more I could do”.”

“Merce-“

“No. Don’t “Merce” me,” He stood up straight, pointing a finger at Jhalib. “When are you going to understand that you are fragile, Siala? Chroniton radiation is only exasperating your condition! When will you draw the line-“

“When I fix the timeline, alright?” Jhalib snapped.

Merce was taken aback, gazing at Jhalib with hard eyes, not understanding what he was saying. It was the first time he’d ever been snapped at by him—the first time he’d shown his true colours about this. And it was also evidence that something was wrong. Jhalib was not a stressful person by nature – he avoided stress where possible, missions excluded, simply because his body couldn’t afford the extra work. And now he was actively seeking it out.

“What happened last mission?” Merce finally asked as the vulcanoid took another breath from the rebreather.

“It’s not the mission, Merce, it’s . . . something’s going on.” He admitted. “Tholians took out a KDF base and the Klingons are blaming a Federation leak. Command is spooked. And the last adjustment? It didn’t take. Nothing of substance changed – we still end up here.”

The Coverian looked away, pulling a stool out from under the bench to take a seat. “Have any of you considered that maybe we have to be here?”

“Destiny isn’t real, Merce.”

His fiance shook his head. “It’s not destiny or fate that keeps bringing us back to this point. It’s life. And it’s sucky, and I know you want to do anything you can to change that for your family-“

“It’s not just Ilakai, or my meite. They have nothing to do with it,” Jhalib interrupted. “It’s our daughter. It’s you. I’m sick and tired of coming back wondering if you’re both still alive. I want to come home with the guarantee that you’re both safe. And I’m going to do that. No matter how many adjustments it takes. I’m going to keep trying.”

“Siala, at this rate, you’re going to die trying.”

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