Monday, July 6, 2015
For a long time, things were hazy. I moved in and out of visions, unable to tell what was dream and what was real. Sometimes there were only voices or sounds. I heard a baby wailing at one point. It sounded so weak, more like a kitten mewling than a human voice, but I knew what it was. I dreamed of my baby’s cry, a beautiful noise to be treasured. I wondered if my friends would be able to save her before the It silenced her.
Figures came and went before my faded vision. Oses, Betra, Feru, and Tep. Even Captain Wotref. They were all high above me, like dark and grim angels. The kinds of angels that visited plagues on mankind when God was displeased. I heard my voice screaming for the antidote. Ha. There was no antidote to the It. The organism would kill my unborn daughter now that it had swallowed me. Why wouldn’t they just destroy me? I wasn’t coming back.
I sometimes felt my body. It jerked. It was wracked with pain. My lungs heaved for breath. My heart skipped, unable to maintain its rhythm. I felt these things only dimly, since the It had won everything but the tiny corner I huddled in. They didn’t matter, not to me. Not anymore.
Tep’s voice, booming and far away all at once: “Go back into hibernation. It’s your only hope. Either way, this body will not serve you any longer.”
My trailing scream, uttered by another’s defeated fury. “NO!”
Back to silence and darkness. Only the feeble sensation of ultimate loss. Shattered, unable to defeat the chaos. They would destroy me. My mission had failed. That meant I was not perfect, as I had been intended to be. I was flawed after all, created by the imperfect Maker. As such, I had no place in an orderly universe. No wonder the Bi’isils had sent me away, abandoning me and Other One. They had known what fallible creatures we were. We were not fit to serve them.
There was nothing left but to allow these awful Kalquorians their victory. That I had been thwarted by them, by this incredibly flawed host and her pathetic, weak body ... yes, I was not worthy of the Bi’isil’s perfection. It was too clear now. My only comfort was to die pure, unsullied by one even more defective than me.
I withdrew, going where I no longer had to endure the inadequate world I’d awakened to. I went to where I didn’t have to face my own deficiency, my great inadequacies. Being in the midst of nothing was soothing.
Both parts sharing the same body sank into nothingness, separating as we each fled from our unique pains and losses. We were both grateful to be gone. And for one glorious moment at the end I was just Shalia Monroe again, happy that the It could no longer savage me. I felt horrendous agony as my body returned to me and only me, but that was okay because it was fading already. I was me, and I was falling free into a quiet, painless chasm where there was no fear, no pain, nothing.
After all I’d been through, nothing felt pretty damned good.
Thursday, July 2, 2015
When the transport door opened, the It almost immediately came face to face with two Nobek security guards. I suppose it was ready for them, because it never hesitated for an instant in attacking them.
That was the Kalquorians’ Achilles’ heel: they had to react rather than carry the fight to their foe. I knew the transport’s security was on alert what with the alarms going off. No doubt they’d been told to look out for me. It didn’t change that the It was already fighting before they realized they were in trouble. The It had a plan, and they didn’t know what it was.
Plus there was that little matter of their instinct to protect rather than attack a woman ... not to mention the order to take me alive if possible. The invading organism had no such restrictions. That put the Kalquorians well behind the eight ball as far as trying to stop it.
I cringed in my little corner of my head as the It went low to take out the legs of one man with my reinforced arm, simultaneously kicking the knee of the other. There was a lot of cracking noises, sounds that sickened me. The guards’ howls rang in my head.
Had the It stood and fought, I think those two bruisers would have still triumphed. They each had a leg sticking out in strange angles, but they reached for me nevertheless. Nobeks are awesome creatures. They don’t stop.
Unfortunately, neither did the It. Other members of the bay’s security were rushing for us, coming fast. The It did its own quick move, snagging one of the fallen Nobek’s percussion blaster and darting away out of his reach. It opened fire at the coming defenses, forcing them to duck for cover.
As hard as I fought to keep separate from the It, the high emotion of the fight made it wide open to me. I suddenly knew its plan for escape ... and destruction of the transporter.
The It wanted to grab a shuttle and launch from the shuttle. It knew the transport would lock on to the shuttle via system controls that linked the two vessels together. Once the transport opened the computer links between the two vessels, the It could send a feedback loop to the Pussy ‘Porter ... one that would knock most systems offline, including life support. From there, the It hoped to also access weapons control to turn the transport against the accompanying destroyers.
I remembered how the It had not been able to access codes for life support and weapons before. Yet there was something about the link that would be established between the transport and the shuttle that the It believed would leave those vulnerable to this feedback loop ... something about getting access to priority code override commands. Whatever it was, the It was determined to exploit that weakness.
My body headed towards the shuttles, racing for the nearest one. Shouting guards were coming for me, held back only by my blaster fire. I was too close to the It’s goal for Security to stop me before I got on board one of the escape vessels. If I was to retake control of my body, now was the time.
The sound of Oses’ voice sealed the deal. All at once I rose, shoving the It back with all the anger and will I had. Feeling flooded me; my legs, arms and all were mine again. I whirled around to face Oses and the rest of the Nobeks charging towards me.
“It wants to take a shuttle and destroy the transport through a feedback loop,” I shouted.
The men surrounded me. A circle of percussion blasters pointed straight at me. Good; they were taking no chances. Oses pushed his way to the front to face me.
“Your passenger is operating off old information,” he told me. “We changed those protocols a long time ago when we fought the Bi’isils. There is no way to access the transport’s controls through a feedback signal now. You may as well surrender.”
I heard the It shriek in fury inside my head. The next instant, brutal pain walloped my chest.
I had known it was coming. The It had learned earlier that pain was a way of disabling me. It was horrendous, as awful as anything I’d ever felt. I kept telling myself it was only pain, that I wasn’t actually being damaged.
It’s one thing to know it on an intellectual level. It’s quite another to feel you’re being shredded from within, ripped to pieces without mercy.
I screamed. I looked down at my chest, expecting to see blood spraying everywhere. Of course that wasn’t the case. The It was setting off nerve endings, brutalizing me in a way that wouldn’t actually destroy. It still felt horrific.
Oses got in my face so I couldn’t see anything but him. “Hold it off just a few seconds, pet,” he told me. “Just a few seconds is all we need. Look at me, Shalia. Look at me and hold on.”
In Hell, a few seconds is a million eternities. I tried to shriek my lungs out as jagged blades seemed to tear and tear and tear me apart. I’m not sure how I obeyed Oses and maintained control for those infinite forevers. I can’t tell you how his determined stare sustained me or his insistent voice kept my grasp strong. All I know is I wanted to give in and he wouldn’t let me.
My arms jerked out to the sides. My feet left the ground. I drifted upward and Oses said, “We’ve got you. You can let go now.”
I did, knowing I would not come back another time. It was a relief to give up myself as lost. The It grabbed control again, and the pain stopped.
I was done.
I went back to my corner of my mind, observing my body under the control of another. I huddled there, defeated as I have never been defeated before. My only hope was that the Kalquorians would find some way to save my baby. That they would have to destroy me in order to defeat the It was no longer a question as far as I was concerned.
My body glared at Oses and then looked at my upraised arms. Hovercuffs circled the wrists, including the fully armored one. Those adjustable metal rings had also been placed on my ankles. I hung in the air, about a foot and a half off the floor.
The It snarled at our captors through my mouth. “The host’s mind is gone. This body belongs to me now. I will not be stopped. You cannot hold me forever.”
“We don’t have to.” Tep came through the guards, a device in his hands. I recognized the portable stasis box attached to straps. He wrapped this around my torso, just above the bump of my baby’s body. The next moment, I was like I’d been in Medical ... unable to move from the neck down.
“Even full stasis won’t stop me for long,” the It promised. “We adapt. We overcome. The stasis will fail. I will destroy the obstacle within the host and complete the transformation. You cannot stop that which is wrought in perfection.”
“Then you cannot win,” Tep answered grimly. “Your so-called perfection is a lie. Full stasis on.”
Darkness closed in and I was aware of no more.
Monday, June 29, 2015
Feeling what seemed to be my own thoughts, thoughts that spoke of hate for me and the baby, helped me gain a little of the real Shalia back. I flew to that screaming bit of me, the part that was pure – albeit almost insane – Shalia. I separated as best as I could from the It. It still invaded my conscience, trying to consume what small mote remained.
It was a nightmare. One moment I was terrified and trying to hide from the invader. The next moment I was the invader, determined and homicidal. Alarms sounded in the ship. I pumped adrenaline and endorphins into my unaltered legs, making them run faster than I’d ever managed before. When I came upon the enemy – any Kalquorian – I used my enhanced arm like a battering ram. I knew I was doing a lot of damage if not outright killing those who got in my way.
I wandered back and forth, two different people. The weaker Shalia me could only watch as the stronger It me left a wake of carnage as it sought the hiding place it needed.
Besides my unborn child, I feared the most for Oses and Betra. I thought Betra might try to find me, believing he could talk me down. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind that Oses would come hunting. Sooner or later he would find me too. If I was too far gone, if I could not regain control, the It would not stop at killing either man. That scared me enough to almost give in once more to the urge to just scream and scream and scream.
Another awful scenario would be if Oses had to kill me to save the ship and anyone the It might come across. I was fine with giving up my life in that case. I would have rather died then be the vehicle through which the It ‘purified’ the universe. But Oses was still trying to fight through the trauma of not being as much of my protector as he felt he should be. I feared he might not remain sane if he had to end my – and my baby’s – life.
I thought about trying to reason with the It. To bargain somehow. Let my child be born and then take my body. We could ask for a shuttle with which to leave the transport.
The It heard my thoughts. It immediately turned them back. Even if the Kalquorians agreed to such a deal, they would no doubt blast the shuttle and us into dust the moment it could. The It knew they considered it too dangerous to be set free. No, the plan was to hide for the few hours it would take to gain control of needed brain centers, destroy and expel the child, and finish transformation of the host. Then it would free Other One, and they would carry out their mission.
I battled to cut myself off from the It. I succeeded, once more letting myself be consumed in emptiness. Whether that was a victory or not, I’m not sure. It felt like a substantial amount of time passed as I sat in the dark, blind and deaf to whatever my body was up to. I hid there in the darkness, marshalling my will as best I could. I thought of the life I still had before me, of all I’d survived to get to where I was. I thought of my dreams and hopes of the future. I fed my determination with the love I felt for those on the ship who meant the most to me: Candy, Katrina, Betra, and Oses. I thought of the child I had not yet met but already loved.
After psyching myself up as much as I could, I began to fight my way back to the surface.
Maybe the human will is an indomitable source of strength. Maybe love is more powerful than any other force in the universe, like the songs and poems have always insisted. Maybe it was just because Oses’ bite had worn off. Or maybe the It thought I had waved the white flag and given up. Whatever it was, I was given the might I needed. I not only mentally shoved aside the startled It, I also regained control over myself.
I had no idea where the hell I was. The room around me was empty of personnel. All around me were computer stations and vids, most of them turned off. The three that were on displayed only Kalquorian letters. I had only learned to speak a little Kalquorian. I still couldn’t read but a few words of the language yet, so it was incomprehensible to me.
I could feel the It on the outside of my consciousness, trying to shove back in to regain control. I didn’t dare peek into its thoughts for fear of it taking me over again. I had the feeling that if I weakened for an instant, I would never be myself again.
I saw only one thing in that small, dimly lit room that I recognized as something I could use to my advantage. It was a com, sitting on one raised table. I hurried to it and said, “Com Weapons Commander Oses, personal frequency.”
I could have cried with relief to hear that gravel voice issuing from the speakers. “Oses here.”
“Thank the prophets,” I cried, overcome.
“Shalia? Where are you?” He almost screamed the words.
“I don’t know. I’m in some small room with a bunch of computers that I’ve never seen before.” The alarms continued to sound from behind the room’s one closed door. “I’m afraid to step out in case Security decides to shoot me on the spot.”
“They have orders not to do so, to take you alive if at all possible. Stay where you are, though. I don’t want you hurt, which is a very real probability. I can trace this com signal to find you.”
“Hurry, Oses. I don’t know how long I can keep the It under control—”
My words ended in a scream. Vicious pain slashed through my chest. It felt as if my heart was being ripped right out. I fell to the floor in a heap, with Oses’ desperate voice calling my name through the com.
“Shalia! Shalia, answer me!”
As I tried to remember how to breathe, the It came at me. It overwhelmed me, demanding my surrender. Its determination to regain control lessened the brutal pain, allowing me to recognize the real danger of the moment. My consciousness fled from the intruder, retreating back into the dark corner where I mentally barricaded myself from being swallowed. I still had that bit of me, retaining my identity as Shalia. It had been close though.
I had no control over my body once more. The It had taken command. This time, however, not all was dark in my tiny little patch of consciousness. I could still see and hear what was going on with my usurped body.
Now that the It and I knew each other’s weaknesses, we were both on guard. I knew that the next time I took over, the organism would retaliate with mind-stealing pain. It stood ready to demolish what was left of the real me at that point. I would have to choose my next – and probably last – battle wisely.
Warned that Oses was on his way, my body got to its feet. It propelled towards the door, where it spoke with my voice but not my words. “Door, open.”
The door obeyed, humming quietly into the wall. The It looked out into a corridor I was sure I’d never been in before. It looked out carefully, listening past the claxons for any hint of others. There were voices, but they sounded distant, well beyond the corner a few feet away. The It edged out and headed quickly in the opposite direction. I kept hoping Oses would show up, but there was no sign of him or anyone from ship’s security. What remote corner of the ship had I ended up in?
Three turns down other unfamiliar halls, and we stood before an in-house transport. We boarded it, and my voice ordered, “Shuttle Bay Seven.”
I felt a chill to hear where I was being taken. It was the same bay where the It had blown out the doors the first time it took control of me.
Thursday, June 25, 2015
I had only flashes of sight and sound at first. For some time I thought I was dreaming. Everything was hazy, like a mirage. I saw the view from my medi-bed. The diagnostic arms were over me, their lights a steadily glowing green.
Later I was looking from the bed towards the door of my room. As had become the usual, there were two Nobek guards there. Usually they stayed inside my room, but at that point they were just outside the door. They seemed to be chatting up one of the Imdiko orderlies. He smiled at the pair of grinning men, young and cute as a button as he enjoyed their attention.
Another period of blankness. It must not have lasted long because the guards and orderly were still talking. A part of my attention was on them. Another part was on the computer panel of the medi-bed.
Something different filled my thoughts. Not blankness. Not real consciousness either. More of a mapping ... I looked at a grid of energy pulses. I followed trails I had seen before, looking for something. Control commands. That was what I wanted. Now that I had subverted stasis, the warning alerts would soon tell them I was breaking free. I needed to divert their attention and finish my escape.
The first alert beeped. Another joined it. In less than a heartbeat, several medical alarms went off at once. I looked at the panels of the bed again. The lights flashed red, signaling shutdown of all major organs.
The Imdiko orderly shoved past the startled guards to get to me. In an instant the room filled with more medical staff, Tep tearing in at full speed. The guards were distracted and pushed aside in the panic. My moment had come.
I came off the bed, my fully armored arm tossing the heavy control panels away from me as if they were made of cardboard. I ignored the shouting medics, springing right for the Nobeks. I had not yet gained my full strength and capabilities, but it was now or never. Time had run out. Whether my host body was ready or not, I had to get out of Medical.
My only hope was through surprise. I had managed that, and I took full advantage of the guards’ confusion.
I brought the fully armored fist around in an arc to smash the skull of one. It made a beautiful crunching sound that brought triumphant joy I hadn’t felt in far too long. He dropped at once.
I had no real time to enjoy the victory. Though my infiltration had strengthened the other arm, the armor only extended slightly past that shoulder. I could not incapacitate the other guard so easily, especially since he had a moment to recover from his surprise. I did not try. The moment the first Nobek went down, I turned and grabbed the second. He was going for his blaster, moving in a blur. I was faster. I had him by the throat in an instant and flung him at the startled medics. Before he landed, I was already running out of Medical.
As adrenaline pumped through my body, I became aware of a tiny part of my mind screaming in horror. It had started screaming when I’d knocked the first guard down. Little by little, I had become more conscious of the terrified bit of consciousness twisting in my head, trying to escape knowledge of what I’d done.
Her. It was the weak-minded host. That irritating Earther who was always whining to herself and others about the baby.
The damned unborn child, I cursed to myself as I ran, finding the least-used corridors as I made my way to the in-house transportation system. It was that fetus which made the Earther’s body an unorganized soup and somehow managed to keep me at bay when I tried to push past. But that would end soon. All I needed to do was stay out of sight for a little while, long enough to destroy the hateful parasite and complete the transformation. I knew all the places where the vessel’s minders rarely went. I couldn’t be tracked by them either. If I could gain one of those safe places, I would win. If not, I would die ... and I would take this creature and her progeny with me.