Acceptable Cost

Prompt: I remember better days / Don't you cry `cause she is gone / She is only moving on / Chasing mirrors through a haze. ~ Better Days, Graham Nash by pygmymuse. Okay, I Have to Ask

So I wanted to dig into Mira’s sister a little more since she plays a serious role in the story from inferno. Hope you like.

Liana Mir

Liana Mir reads, writes, and wrangles the muses from her mundane home in the Colorado Rockies and, occasionally, from the other side of the Barrier.

Series Listing

16 — 02. Summer

When the Clock Strikes Midnight

16 — 02. Summer through 03. Autumn

Wake and Thrive

16 — 03. Autumn through 17 — 01. Spring

Its Own Absolution

16 — 03. Late Autumn

After the Grief

16 — 03. Late Autumn

Battery Acid

17 — 02. Summer

Accounting for Redemption

17 — 02. Summer

Counting Heartbeats

18 — 01. Spring

Song Between the Waking and the Dreaming

20 — 04. Winter

Echoes of Anchor Lost

21 — 01. Spring

Don’t Remind Me That It’s Over

21 — 02. Summer


21— 02 Summer through 22 — 01 Spring

Name Me Another (or Glass Angel, Redux)

22 — 01. Spring

Glass Angel

22 — 01. Spring

Pause the Sonata

22 — 02. Summer

Without a Reason

22 — 03. Autumn

Learning Legato

23 — 02. Summer

Acceptable Cost

23 — 02. Summer

History Lesson on the Night Train

23 — 03. Autumn

Abyss Looking Back

23 — 03. Autumn

Collateral Damage

23 — 03. Autumn

Five Reasons I Love You

23 — 03. Autumn

Little Things

23 — 03. Autumn

Owning Beauty

23 — 04. Winter

Dream the Dance

23 — 04. Winter

Snow Day

24 — 02. Summer

As the River Breathes

AU 21 — 04. Winter

Normal written in coffee grounds

Acceptable Cost

Some things are worth it.

Alaine Shaever is a healer by nature, and she’s studying to become a medic by trade. It’s her first emergency call out in the field. Nobody ever told her it’d be like this.

23 — 02. Summer
Kingdoms and Thorn Science Fiction
Short Story

Alaine Shaever woke to the wail of an alarm through her personal comm. She bolted half upright, tangled in sheets, and dug and scrabbled for the phone unit buried somewhere in bedclothes. “D—,” she swore aloud, then immediately repented when she imagined what her mother would say.

There was the comm. She yanked it out from under her pillow, chivying loose the corner of a sheet, and slapped the green button. Message received. A line of block-letter text across the screen read, “8th and Main.” She had ten minutes to get there after she’d pressed the d— button.

It was Alaine’s first call as an emergency medic, student class. She tripped over herself three times getting out of the knotted covers and into some clothes. She hastily yanked her hair through a band while nearly stumbling out the front door. She didn’t have time to pause for her father scowling, arms crossed, beside it.

She was seventeen years old. Alaine scowled as she slid into her driver’s seat, jangled the key in the slot, and coaxed the engine to life. “Come on. Come on.” She was old enough to make this decision for herself.

Eighth and Main were in the heart of the Thoroughfares, a central kingdom with broad avenues linking other kingdoms within the city together. The primary income there came from toll roads and transit taxes. She could take her car and make it in the nick of time.

Crazy, crazy. Chasing after mirages and fleeting nightmares in the middle of a dark city night, stark shadows and aglow with street lamps and blinking car signals. She didn’t feel as old as she claimed herself in her head, but no time for regrets.

The wheels squeeled as she pulled out onto the concrete street, running straight south. Her comm beeped, and she glanced at it. Another call, but it bounced back since she’d already accepted the other.

Traffic was moving fast tonight and Alaine picked up the pace, still muttering to the car, to herself, tapping her foot on the gas with nervous energy to help herself wake up and make the drive go faster.

“Eighth and Main. Eighth and Main. Come on.”

The best thing that ever happened to her driving record was the Thorn Rebellion, which handily removed federal power and national speed limits. The Thoroughfares gave broad exemptions for everything to medical personnel, even student class.

Ten endless minutes after she’d slapped that green button on her comm, she pulled to a halt behind a whining emergency vehicle, scrambled out, and ducked under the green tape to head inside a square red brick retail and office building, flashing her badge on the way.

“Tenth suite,” a woman told her, catching Alaine’s arm and nearly yanking her to a halt or stumble.

Alaine pulled away. “Heard.” Tenth suite. She glanced at the right door, read off eighteen; left door just up ahead, read seventeen; and started running, knowing now where to go through the milling crowd of blackcoats law enforcement and green-banded emergency workers.

Student-class. She was student class and her heart was pounding because she was on the scene with a healer badge that outranked half the professional medics here.

Tenth suite’s door was splintered open and bloodstained, and she sucked in a breath as she slowed to a fast clip, then stopped just inside the door, tiptoeing to see over the orange tape and the workers and officers—looking for a body.

“Killinger.” Alaine rolled back on her heels in surprise, then darted forward toward the copper-skinned, professionally dressed woman standing by a cubicle wall. Ilsa Killinger headed up the Special Unit, a city-wide law enforcement body that Alaine’s older sister often consulted for.

Killinger looked over when her name was called, surprise registering in troubled brown eyes. She frowned, but nodded in acknowledgement. “Our primary witness is going into shock.” She spoke quickly and quietly, walking Alaine down a couple cubicles.

Inside, a girl hardly older than Alaine was holding her bloody torso, arms crossed, teeth gritted, and rocking back and forth.

“Five bullets. Severe blood loss,” a male paramedic with dark brown skin and close-shaved hair commented from beside her. He’d obviously cleaned up the worst of the mess and done what he could.

Death rattle setting in.

Alaine didn’t waste the seconds she had. She heard that sound and dropped to her knees, wrapping the girl in an embrace to press her palm into the girl’s back.

Trust me, trust me. No time to think about the craziness, just push into the hazy dreams and nightmares, trust me, push, I’m here to help, bullets flying toward me, fiery pain and blooming blood and…, trust me— She fell in with a daze, diving into another person, minds melding in a mishmash of dying and can’t breathe and pain blooming through her entire body until she was screaming and holding on and live and My mama’s going to kill me, but she’ll never get the chance and trust me, don’t die, don’t die, don’t die—

Alaine fell away from the girl with a start, torn loose in a shock that rattled her as soon as she realized she was Alaine and she hadn’t been shot.

The paramedic’s eyes were inches from hers. “You can’t hold on like that.” Worried voice; he’d pulled her off, she realized suddenly.

She felt sick, nausea hitting her at once then crashing through her belly and throat, but she was too limp to do anything about it. She started to shiver with something other than cold.

The paramedic muttered as he pulled her back and helped her lean on the cubicle wall. “Stay with me.” He shook her arms until she nodded, got a grip on herself.

She kept nodding. Breathe deep. Slower, slower. Just like that. Good. “I’m okay.” And she was, slowly coming back to herself and a stable if bone-weary state. She didn’t think she could move. She looked up at the girl.

The girl was staring at her. Healed. Completely healed. Mouth open in wonder, blood still on her clothes, but perfect unbroken skin and five shattered bullets scattered on the floor.

Healed. Alaine leaned her head back as the paramedic checked her badge and realized she was a student when he’d thought she was a professional and knew when to stop and not to dive in like that, and all Alaine could think was: Healed.

She took a shaky breath and accepted a glass of water from Killinger, sipping as she had the energy. She had never come so close to death. She had never come so close to life.

They left her alone as they kept doing their work. Almost. The paramedic—“It’s Devon,”—came over and pressed a bioreader behind her ear, making her grimace, and shook his head as he checked her vital signs.

“How long have you been taking calls?” he demanded.

Alaine sipped her water, leaned back her head. “First time.”

Devon stared at her, mouth moving, but no sound came out.

“Gotta start somewhere,” she added, not shrugging because she had absolutely no energy to do so.

“They didn’t tell me they were sending a student,” he responded, clipped and angry.

Alaine decided not to point out that he had to be listed as accepting student-class medics or she wouldn’t have gotten the alarm in the first place. Instead, she asked, “You work with a lot of healers?”

“I know when you overdo it,” he stated.

His mouth formed a straight line, and he leaned over to scribble something on his clipboard. It was the paramedic’s job to file the report. Alaine hoped that was a good thing.

G—. Her parents were going to be worried sick.

She grimaced and started moving her limbs into position to stand, but everything felt sluggish and clumsy and then a wave of dizzy nausea rolled over her and Devon was pressing her by the shoulder back to sitting.

“Stay there,” he ordered her. “I’ve got to sign off on this for them.” He left her then.

She stayed.

“They always saddle me with the rookies.” Devon had been muttering non-stop since they put her car into a locked carport for emergency workers and Alaine into the passenger seat of Devon’s hospital-owned medical car to drive her home.

“I can drive without you,” she shot back at him, glaring because he wouldn’t clear her to go home unsupervised and then had the gall to complain about it to boot.

Devon laughed. “Sure thing. I’d like to see you try.” He kept both hands tightly on the steering wheel, his gaze fixed on the traffic in front of them, but nodded as if he was gesturing. “Keep on drinking that. Get your strength up.”

Alaine sighed disgust and took another swig from the water bottle he’d handed her earlier. Whatever the drink was, it tasted awful, but it was supposed to help replenish her body of whatever she’d lost pouring it into the girl. They called it biotransferrence, but nobody had actually qualified what life was just yet.

“How old are you?” Devon asked suddenly.

She scoffed at him. “That is none of your business.”

“You act like a teenager.”

Her mouth opened, and she was a half-thought from lighting into him for that one, then snapped her jaw shut. She just needed to get home, tell her parents she was still alive, then fall into bed before another day of classes and afternoon work at the bookshop.

“You’re killing yourself, you know, if you take this job,” he said suddenly, but before he got any further, Alaine slammed her palms down on the armrests, hissing between her teeth in anger, and looked at him with the first genuine attention she had really paid him.

“Save it,” she said. Stay quiet. Slam the lid back on your temper, d—. She shut her mouth, worked her jaw, looked out the window, then thinking again, snatched the bottle from the holder and guzzled the rest in one go. “I know what I’m doing.”

Devon shook his head. “They all say that, Alaine.”

He must have read her name off the badge.

She signalled when they reached her neighborhood street, and he pulled over to let her out.

Alaine gave him one last look as she stepped out. “Some things are worth it.” Then she got out of the car and forced her wobbly knees to keep her upright as she walked down the street and up the driveway to home.


Kingdoms and Thorn Science Fiction

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2 Responses to Acceptable Cost

  1. Kabobbles says:


    I am still on the fence at this point. Not sure what to think of Alaine just yet.

    • Liana says:

      Fair enough. I needed to write this story just as I needed to write "Without a Reason" as groundwork for a couple others I'm working on.

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