Wei examined Chao-xing’s tongue. “Too much wood energy. Have you been doing your quigong exercises?”
Chao-xing rolled her eyes. “Quigong doesn’t help.”
Wei sighed. She’d always been a stubborn child. “The exercises are a meditation tool.”
“I don’t need to meditate. I need more food and some time off.”
“It is our honor to be here, serving China,” Wei reminded her.
“I used to be proud that China beat everyone else to the moon. But now I’m pregnant and hungry and I haven’t had a day off in a month.”
“Your food allowance will increase once the baby is born.”
“It’s not enough.”
He could see the bones in her wrists, and there were bags under her eyes. “I know it’s not.”
“Please, doctor, there has to be something you can do. I’m worried about my baby. Sometimes, I have nightmares that she’ll starve inside me — that she’ll be born a hollow husk.”
He’d already promised half of his meager rations to his own daughter — if he gave away anything more, the station would soon be without a doctor. But he wanted to do something for her.
He remembered when she and his daughter had played together on dirt streets, when both girls had dimples in chubby cheeks, instead of the hollows he saw now. “I can’t get you any additional food, but I can write you a prescription for a multivitamin. For the baby. It will help.” He filled a satchel with a handful of his precious herbs. They were difficult to grow in the low-gravity greenhouse, and were the only thing that helped his own aching joints. “And these are for you. Make tea with these and drink it before bed every night.”
Chao-xing took the satchel. She sniffed it and grimaced. “Thank you. I can handle tea.” She hopped off the table, graceful in the low gravity that still had Wei stumbling, even after two years.
“How are you feeling, doctor? Your meridians all well-adjusted?”
Wei smiled. “I’m fine.”
She left, and he worked through a quigong exercise. Every step reminded him of how far away from home he was, but he kept his balance.
Jamie Lackey lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and their cat. Her fiction has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Penumbra. She’s a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Her Kickstarter-funded short story collection, One Revolution, is available on Amazon.com. Find her online at www.jamielackey.com.