Bacta Time

I was alright until I woke up…

I was warm and so relaxed. I could feel my arms, my legs, even my head gently swaying in what had to be an ocean current.

That was it. I must be snorkeling, maybe diving. There was a soft rubber mouth piece between my lips. But I didn't feel the drag of flippers or the tightness of a vest across my chest. And why was I sleeping on a dive?

I was alright until I opened my eyes…

The Bacta hit my eyes with a rush, the thick slimy liquid pressing back on my corneas. That's what really scared me - the sluggish thick weight of it.

I jerk backwards, but only went a few inches before I hit a wall. It took me a minute to figure it out. I was floating in one of those confining Bacta tanks.

I admit I panicked. You would too if you suddenly woke up in an eight foot tall translucent tube, completely immersed in colorless slime. Two quick kicks take me to the top of the tube, but a grey concave cap stops my escape. I reach up to pound on the lid, but it opens immediately and I push out of the liquid, clinging to the edge of flat decking which circles the top of the tube. The breather skids across the decking and falls to the floor of the med lab as I gasp for real air.

That's when the full effect of Bacta hits you - when you breathe real air again. That's when you start to choke on the horrible, flat, cloying sour smell that is almost a taste.

I am busy trying to clear that smell from my lungs when someone carefully strokes my head and jowls. What I see is a slightly greasy feminine hand. The hand went with a voice. "D’Abu’Da, you need to stay in the Bacta for another 8 hours, at least." The voice went with the Lady General’s caring face.

"Absolutely not!” I'd gotten my lungs full of air now and my voice was working again. "Let me out of here!"

"You've been tortured and you need to heal." The Lady General intones in what was probably her best tank-side manner.

I've been told that I'm not a model patient. No time to change now. "I'll just heal the old fashioned way, thank you."

I put my hands on the edge of the deck and try to push out of the liquid, but suddenly find myself dunked back in the smelly stuff. As I resurface, sputtering, I realized that I hadn't slipped; I just didn't seem to have any strength in my arms.

When I look down, the lights shining through the bluish-white liquid turned what was left of the left side of my face and more importantly, my jowls, into an ugly, raw, red mass. I was shocked enough by the sight that I just stared at the reflection.

The Lady General’s voice is quiet. "There was a horrible mission where you were captured and tortured. Do you remember?"

"No." I couldn't stop staring at the horrible ruin of my face.

"Your back is in about the same shape. The good news is that you've healed quite a bit already. If you'll just let the Bacta work, the muscles will re-grow and you won't even have much scaring. But if you get out now or try to use the muscles again…"

The sight of my jowls is quickly changing my mind about being a good patient. How long have I been in this tank?

The Lady General asks, "Are you claustrophobic?"

I shake my head, causing clear opal drops to splash on the sluggish surface of the Bacta. "Not usually, but…"

"It's alright." The Lady General assures me. "The first time in the tank is normally the worst." A neuro-spray is in her hand. "Do you want to relax or go to sleep?"

"Uh, I don't…"

"Sleep it is." The spray hisses against my neck and suddenly without The Lady General moving, the breather was back in my mouth.

As I sink down into the horrible liquid I think I can hear her voice. "Just a little while longer, you'll see." I was asleep before she clamps the lid back on.

When I woke again, the room is dark. The only light comes from the glowing elements inside the tube below me. They throw strange bluish white ripples of light and shadow against the walls of the lab. Some of the shadows scurry around, some drift like seaweed. I felt very muzzy at first, imagining myself in a giant aquarium. My head bobs down as I look to see if my legs have fused into a mermaid's tail… strange stuff that neuro-spray.

When I catch sight of my face the skin looks ice white and unreal, but the fact that I actually have skin helps to snap me out of some of the stupor.

I spend the next few minutes peering out of the tube, looking for the wall chronometer. The concave transparisteel walls of the tube distorted the outer room, but I can tell the time - two in the morning. The display is also good enough to inform me of the time I had left in the tank - three hours.

I think about the little miracle that is going on in my face and back and I decide I'll continue to be a good patient. The best thing is to go back to sleep. Much better than being trapped in this thing for three hours with nothing to do but watch the shadows.

That's when I see them.


The kind you usually see under a rock, deep in the bowels of Sullust.

My head bobbed a bit as I jerked forward and my hair swirled like seaweed in the thick liquid. By the time I had a clear field of vision again the eyes were gone. There was nothing there. Only the flat walls with the strange lights and the flickering shadows.

Stupid neuro-spray. That stuff can't be good for you.

But now I am awake. It isn't but a few minutes longer until I see the eyes again.

A cat? It was a sleek black cat hanging on the side of a wall, the greenish lights sliding over its back, its cold green eyes watching me.

I blink and the Bacta swirls against my eyeballs. Now the cat has wings. Not feathered wings, but more like those of a manta ray. Another blink and the wings are gone. Squat, toad like legs cling to the wall. It scurries a bit now, back and forth, avoiding the brightest waves of light. But now it knows I am watching it, and it is watching me.

This little game goes on for some time. The Bacta slides across my eyes and the shadow seems to take another form—some are grotesque, some strangely familiar. But the eyes never change, they stay exactly the same.

That's why I finally decide to act. The malevolence in those eyes gets to me.

Looking up I notice something I hadn't seen before—there is an internal release button on the lid of the Bacta tank. Of course there would be. You don't just lock a person in this stuff.

The release is nearly silent and I use my weight to keep the lid from opening too quickly. As I quietly break the surface I take the breather in my right hand and use my left arm to slowly draw myself out of the liquid.

I put enough force behind the throw that the breather gives a meaty thunk as it hits the shadow. I am strangely satisfied by the high pitched squeal which accompanies the impact.

The lights suddenly come on the lab, white and glaring.

A 2-1B medical droid quickly wheels in. "Captain, you still have two hours left. Please return to the tank. "

I peer out over the edge of the decking, but there is no black body on the floor below. I call to the droid. "I'll need a new breather."

The answer is a somewhat exasperated bleep, but a metal appendage reaches up to hand me a clean breather. Then the unit moves over to pick my old breather up from the floor.

"Did you cut yourself, Captain?" The droid cocks its head toward me, trying to see if I'd been damaging myself. "There is blood on the breather."

I smile knowingly. "No. I didn't cut myself."

On a better day I would have asked for a full workup on the blood.

But I am suddenly worn out. I just want to return to the warm, noxious liquid. Before I go under for the third time I call to the droid, "Leave the lights on, will you?"

The medical unit nods in an almost human way and leaves the room, and the lights continue to chase away the shadows.

It's hard to laugh in Bacta. Don't try it yourself, the stuff tastes horrible.

But I laugh as I sink down into the vile, slimy stuff.

I didn't really need the lights to chase away shadows, just more neuro-spray!

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