Monday, May 18, 2015
May 20, part 1
I have spent the last 24 hours in hell. I am in terror for myself, for my child, for Oses, for Betra ... for all of us.
I am not myself anymore.
The last thing I remember after Betra left my room was choosing an outfit for my appointment with Dr. Tep. I thought of how I would have myself tested for the alien organism that was taking over Candy.
I don’t recall a blank period. It was as if one moment I was pulling a dress out of my closet, and the next, I was back in the bulkhead area where I’d gone to Candy.
I blinked at my surroundings. The area had seemed much darker only the day before, when I had strained to see Candy in the shadows. It was much better lit this time around. There was no way I could have been so certain, but I somehow knew I was in the same exact place as before.
The nearby computer console had a vid floating before it, as if it had recently been in use. I’ve learned a decent amount of conversational Kalquorian and even how to read a few words. All I saw that looked familiar on the screen was a series of blinking numbers. They appeared to be counting.
I barely paid attention to them. My heart was hammering with the knowledge that I had lost time. There had been no hallucinations as when I’d returned from being a captive on Finiuld’s ship. Yet there was no denying I had lost conscious knowledge of what I was doing. I knew I must be missing at least twenty minutes, the time it took to get from my quarters to the bulkhead area.
My first thought was that I was having another breakdown. Yet except for worrying over Oses and then Candy, I hadn’t been under a whole lot of stress ... at least not the kind of stress that has become almost commonplace simply because I’m Shalia Monroe and trouble loves me.
Thoughts of Candy reminded me of my nightmares and the concern that I might be infected as she was. That sent a stab of terror through me that had me running to get out of the bulkhead area in a hurry.
I thought of going straight to Medical, but instead my feet carried me back to my quarters. I had a bad scare in the shuttle area when I was almost discovered by the men working in there. Now I wish I had been caught. It would have raised questions and perhaps saved some lives. Lives that I took, as it turned out.
I entered my suite, out of breath, with my heart hammering a million miles an hour. I stood in my sitting room, kind of at a loss as to what I would do next. I couldn’t think straight.
My gaze fell on my room’s com unit, which flashed a notice that messages were waiting. I patted my pockets to discover I hadn’t taken my portable with me.
“Play messages,” I ordered the com.
The first was from Dr. Tep. “Shalia, you have an appointment with me as of fifteen minutes ago,” he said, sounding exhausted and a bit temperamental. “Please get here as soon as possible.”
I checked the chronometer. Holy shit, I should have been in Medical an hour and a half ago. What the hell had I been doing in that bulkhead for all that time?
The second message was from Betra. His voice was almost screamy from worry. “Shalia, where are you? You didn’t make your appointment with Tep. Com me back immediately, or I’ll have Oses track you down.”
His message had been left 45 minutes ago. Surely he’d put the weapons commander on my trail well before now. Why hadn’t they found me?
I realized they hadn’t been able to find Candy either, not until they tracked her when she contacted me. Even I’m not so slow as to not figure out what was going on.
I was turning for the door, ready to run my infected ass straight to Medical before I could lose my mind as Candy had, when the floor beneath me shook. Screams and then warning claxons erupted in the corridor outside my door.
The message over the transport’s announce system came seconds later. “All Mataras, please go to your quarters immediately. Your section of the ship is not in danger. I repeat, Mataras, please go to your quarters and await instructions from your liaisons.”
I had no idea what was going on. However, I knew I had something to do with it. I thought about the computer in the bulkhead, the vid showing numbers changing. Perhaps counting down?
The order had been to stay in quarters. Screw that. I needed to be in Medical, maybe even in stasis. I ran out of my room ... and straight into Betra.
The Imdiko grabbed me, his eyes wide. “Shalia, thank the ancestors! Where have you been?”
I didn’t answer him. “What happened? What was that big jerk I felt?”
He shoved me back into my quarters. “One of the shuttle bays suffered explosive decompression when the door to space opened without warning.”
I got a really sick feeling in my gut. “How many, Betra? How many were killed?”
He shook his head. “I don’t know. I’m a liaison, so I wouldn’t have that information right away. No doubt at least a dozen or so men were working in there. Probably more. I doubt they all got away in time.”
At least a dozen lives lost. Men doing their jobs, not harming anyone. Why?
“Is the ship in danger?” I asked.
Betra sighed with obvious relief. “An emergency containment field went up seconds after the doors opened. The ship is fine. Hopefully, that also means a lot of the crew got away unscathed.”
He hugged me tight against his body, but my thoughts were riveted by what he’d said. An emergency containment field? Damn it, there had been no indication of any such thing, but I should have known there would be something like that in place in case of a rupture. I had been dormant for far too long, and this body was putting up too much of a fight for me to function at capacity.
Rage suffused me. I was too angry at my failure to even realize I wasn’t hiding my thoughts from the host anymore.
Wait a minute. I meant to write, I was so focused on the otherness inside me to realize it wasn’t me...Shalia me...thinking and furious with the invader’s failure.
I remember everything as if it was my own actions causing them. At that moment, the other was in my head, running my body, and using me. But it didn’t feel separate from me at all. It felt like it all came from me.
That scares me more than anything else. I couldn’t separate it from me at all in that moment.
Lost in the parasite’s will, I turned the rage against Betra. I yanked free of him and shoved him away. He went down, arms and legs flailing, his mouth a perfect ‘O’ of surprise. He didn’t let go of me right away, and the sound of fabric tearing was almost as loud as his surprised yelp.
He stared up at me from the floor. I stared back, wondering how the hell I could have attacked Betra. I was losing my mind.
Oses swept into the room before either of us could recover. He stopped short to see Betra sitting on his ass and me standing over him. He eyed us both carefully. “Is everything all right?”
Betra said, “Fuck no.” At the same time, I said, “Everything is fine.”
This time I could feel a separateness there, a slight difference between my real thoughts and the other ones that shouldn’t belong to me. My mouth opened to scream for help.
Oses spoke first as Betra climbed to his feet. “Shalia, you were seen leaving the shuttle bay several minutes before the doors opened. What were you doing in there?”
There was no time to explain, not when I could attack my lover and be forced to lie without warning. “Get me to Medical now,” I said. “Use hover cuffs if you have to—”
My throat and mouth froze. Anger was building again, the same anger that had led to me shoving Betra to the floor. My fists clenched.
Oses saw the motion, his gaze dropping to my left hand. His eyes widened for an instant before he moved in a blur.
He grabbed my arm, lifting it. My sleeve had torn, showing a hint of gray and green beneath the fabric. Oses tore the sleeve off.
From the wrist to just past my elbow, my arm was encased in bony armor and green tube-like veins. I swear as God is my witness, I do not know when it happened. It might have been days that the exoskeleton had been knitting itself over my flesh ... and I had never noticed.
The otherness in my head dissipated, becoming one with me. For a few moments, there was no more Shalia Monroe. There was only the It, and it was furious to have been discovered too early.
Rapid-fire tactics flew through my head, faster than any thought I’d ever experienced before. Strengths of Kalquorians, the assessment of the pair before me, my options of fight and flight – it ran through my shared brain in less than a second. I recognized that I was not up to full strength and could not hope to fight to victory. Flight seemed the best plan now, flight and going into hiding. First I would have to get past the two enemies to gain the door and the corridor beyond. They were still surprised. It gave me a precious moment to hurt them badly enough to keep them from being able to follow or raise an alarm.
A small part of me had remained separate after all, it seemed. At the idea of harming my lovers – and seeing into that other’s plans and how devastating its attack could be to them – I re-surfaced and snagged tenuous control over myself.
“Cuff me now!” I screamed at Oses. “It’s going to use me to hurt you!”
Bless that big wonderful brute, he didn’t hesitate for an instant. Even as I screamed with the rage of the It, Oses was already behind me, snapping cuffs on my wrists at the small of my back. He swept my feet out from under me, catching me before I could fall and be hurt. He lowered me facedown onto the soft carpet.
The Its consciousness vanished all at once. I was fully myself again, sobbing in terror of what I’d become.
“The baby,” I cried, my greatest fear rising to the surface. “What is this thing doing to my child?”
“We nuh-nuh-need to get her to Meh-Meh-Medical now,” Betra said, his hitching words telling me he was weeping as well.
“I’ll carry her,” Oses said, his hands busy with tying my legs together with what I later discovered to be my bathrobe’s sash. He’d gone into my room for it and returned without me even realizing he’d moved. “Let Tep know I’m on the way, but first com Security and tell them to get a guard detachment with me.”
“Oses, this is Shalia!”
“Not all of her is Shalia. Not any longer.” Oses swung me into his arms, cradling me gently against his chest. “Get me that security detail, Betra. Tell them I’m taking the most direct route to Medical.”
With that, he left my quarters at a run. I shut my eyes against the blur of our surroundings and prayed for salvation.