Floaty Hand

When you’re serving on a faster-than-light ship, there are limits to how hard you should work on cleaning duty.

Author: Brandon Martinelli

Brandon Martinelli was born severely left-handed on the West Coast. He works a regular job, and some of his free time goes towards writing.

Narrator: Eddie Knight

Eddie Knight has been a technical leader in organizations ranging from financial services to software security, enabling him to gain the wealth of experience and insight that he brings as a speaker, author, and strategist.

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Riley showed his arm.

She gawked, “Where the hell is your hand?!”

“I was swabbing the deck and wanted to get the very edge, so I opened the docking bay doors. I stuck my hand out too far and caught the FTL field.”

Satchitt pointed at the missing hand, “How’d you get the doors open when the ship’s at FTL?” She thought more about it, “Wait, how’d you get them open at all?”

“I disabled the pressure interlock.”

Satchitt blinked at that. They stared at the negative space of the hand.

She stuttered, “I mean, does it hurt?”

“Not really. I’m really hot though.”

She gripped his forearm and lifted his stump above his heart.

“What are you doing?”

“You should keep it above the heart. For blood loss.”

“There’s no blood.”

“Well. We should do,” She shrugged, “Something.” She pulled on him, “We have to get you to Medical!”

“Do you think it’ll catch up when we get out of FTL?” He struggled with her yanking him down the passage. A passing officer approached and she put herself and Riley against the bulkhead to make way.

“Evening, sir.” She said.

“Evening.” He glanced at them, then whipped his head around again, “What’s wrong with your man’s hand there?”

“Missing, sir.”

“Well, get it above his heart.”

“Can do, sir. All the way to Medical. Thank you.” Hustling Riley with her as he began to ask the officer about FTL fields. She knocked on a door and came into a tiny office, a man sitting behind a desk.

“Chief!” She shoved Riley at the desk. He looked up from paperwork as she spoke, “He needs a doc!”

He looked to his hand, “Where’s that thing at?”

Riley spoke, “Maybe outside, chief.”

He looked at Satchitt, “What was he doing?”

“Cleaning the landing deck. Caught it in the FTL field, chief.”

“Is any gear missing?”

“No.” She lied, certain Riley did lose something. She would steal it from another division.

He wrote a note, “Fine. Take him by the hand and get him down there.”

She reached for the missing hand, and moved up to the arm, “Come on.”

“I’m left-handed.” He muttered as he let her pull her.

Chief sipped a mug, “The FTL field is left-handed.”

She pulled on Riley. He broke free from her, “You’re making me nervous, Satchitt.”

“I’m nervous because you’re not.” They moved down the passageways, through hatches to Medical. Another man behind a desk.

“Doc!” Satchitt said.

“I’m a medic.” He continued to fill out forms.

She thrust out the stump, “He needs help.”

He looked up at it, “What the hell happened?!”

“Caught the FTL field.”

He took the end of the arm with his thumb and finger, “Where is it?”


“It might catch up.” Riley added.

He looked up, “In the field?” He picked up a phone with one hand, a tongue depressor with another, “I should call Engineering so they can make sure the field is fine.”

“Can’t someone else do it?”

He glanced at her, looked to the missing hand and asked Riley, “Are you bleeding?”

“No.” He waggled his arm.

“Does it hurt?”

“Well, no.” Moving up and down.

The medic nodded, punched numbers with the stick. They waited while he talked. Hung up.

“Sit down.” He rifled through the drawers, took out some pills, “Take these.” He tried to put them in the missing hand, Satchitt substituted her own and took them.

“What are these?” Riley peered at the red clear spheres while Satchitt broke them out of the blister pack.

“Cough drops.”

They looked at him, Riley’s hand out, Satchitt’s paused.

“I’m a medic, not a doctor. I can’t dispense medication.”

“Then get the doc and let him do it.” Satchitt said. Riley nodding, hand still out.

He shrugged, “Got to do something. Take them while I get doc.” He sauntered through the hatch to the depths of Medical.

Satchitt looked down at the cough drops. She turned to him, “Do you want these?”

He shrugged, “I guess. We should do something.”

She frowned as she popped them into his hand. Riley was crunching on them when the doctor came out.

“Heard there’s a missing man.”

Satchitt spoke up, “It’s a hand sir. The man’s right here.”

He chuckled at nothing, looked at the stump, “And how’d you get that done, son?”

“Swabbing the deck. The field.”

“Well, haven’t seen that one before.” He took Riley’s vitals, “Any pain?”

“No.” Riley said. Satchitt could smell menthol from the cough drops.

“Interesting.” He flashed a penlight into pupils, “Well. Not much to do at this point. No pain, no blood. Looks like you’re not in shock. We can try to look for it after we come out of speed. Maybe it’s floating around out there.”

Riley seemed pleased, “I was thinking that too.”

He smiled, “Worse case is we fit you with a mechanical. Just like the real thing.” The doctor slapped his hands together, “You make it real easy, son. Do you want anything? I suppose I can get you some painkillers, say you got phantom limb pain.”

Riley nodded.

He turned to Satchitt, “You want some aspirin? Cough drops?”

Satchitt shook her head.

“Well then. I’ll talk to the Chief Engineer and the Captain. We can try to spot your hand if it’s out there. There’s a few theories it can prove either way whether we find it or not.” He shrugged, “I guess it’s back to work for you two. I’ll fill out a form. Show it to your chief.”

They made their way through the passages, both were quiet for a time.

“Do you know anything about mechanical hands?” He asked.

“I hear they’re pretty good these days. Some can even play instruments.”

Some hours later, Riley was called down to the docking bay. The ship was coming out of FTL and the field would be deactivated. They were going to look for his hand.

Chief pointed at Riley, “Get down there right now. Both the Captain and the Chief Engineer are going to be there.” His eyes wandered to Satchitt, “Go with him.”

Satchitt nodded.

They hustled down to the docking bay, crowded with leadership and others to make sure everything was in order. Riley got recognized and hands passed him nearer the doors, where the importance of people increased. Satchitt flowed along with him.

The Captain turned, “You Riley?”

“Yes, sir.” He stood immobile.

“Well, just stay there and don’t move.”

A hull technician floated off in a slow jump up to the hand waving at him. He caught it, and signaled to be reeled back in. He came through the airlock back into the bay.

He held out the hand to Riley, gripped in a handshake, “Nice to meet you.”

The Captain looked at the doctor, “Can you reattach it?”

“Oh, probably.”

He turned as he talked, “Slap it back on. Have him push a broom until it heals.” He passed Satchitt, “You were with him?”

“Yes sir.”

“You can hold the dust pan for him.”