Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Wednesday Briefs: Denied Chapter 13

I could still recall, though it was a dim memory, feeling absolutely enraged when no one would listen to me. Overall, the complete lack of any control over my life had eclipsed that childhood frustration, but I felt it now. “Captain, you have to listen to me. I could be a danger to you right now. What if they found some way to be in my head? To see and hear what I see and hear?”

“I don’t think that’s possible,” Lakshou said. “I don’t sense anything other than your self inside you.”

“Do you sense machines?” I snapped.

“Actually, yes. It’s like a… void. But I can sense activity. There’s some studies saying what we sense”—Lakshou waved a hand toward the horns on his head—“is all electrical impulses. Emotions are just parts of the brain firing off. But, with practice, we can learn to feel the difference and shut out background noise coming from machines. It is one of the reasons my temple was so quiet; I’ve removed most technology from the area, much like my home world.”

I turned to face him fully. “So you could feel it? If they turn on the things in my head and make me….”

Lakshou nodded. “Yes. I could. And I don’t sense anything but you, Kohen. I haven’t since you got here.”

“But you’re not with me all the time. What if it happens when you’re not around?” My head hurt, and I shied away from touching the ports.

Oddly, Lakshou hesitated, turning toward Captain. Captain was shaking his head, his lips folded firmly together.

“What about if you’re not around?” I repeated.

“Currently, I do not have a meditation partner, as the crew on this vessel do not require much more than a sympathetic ear to vent their frustrations.”

“If we lose our anger, we lose our edge,” Captain interjected.

“There is some truth to that.” Lakshou inclined his head. “But my kind has the ability to do much more. When someone is in high need, they can come to me for a more… physical form of meditation. Communion creates a mind-link which helps me soothe them mentally and physically. It remains active until we stop daily meditations together.”

“Mental and physical?” I frowned. “Like what?”

Lakshou winced when Captain jerked to his feet and stared at him. “No. I don’t want you offering him that. I already said he isn’t a danger.” Captain turned to me. “Kohen, we have you monitored. Your quarters and clothing have been tagged so that we can track your movements, everything you do and when you do it. I am sorry; I didn’t want to tell you this because it is invasive and downright illegal on many planets. But, as you said, we don’t know who we are rescuing from places like that lab. It’s not just you; we monitor everyone we save.”

“Really?” It didn’t feel like an invasion of privacy. I had been watched for so long it was normal. “So you could do something like lock me in my room? Or send guards?”

“Yes, if necessary. But it won’t be. I’m sorry you have to live with those memories of what those bastards did to you. But we saved you, and I won’t let them hurt you again. Aparoe has a team working exclusively on these scans. We can drop out of drive at any connection hub so they can consult with the best minds in the universe, if necessary. We’ll make it better. Just… trust me, if you can’t trust yourself.” 

Lakshou and Captain walked out of his quarters with me, but Lakshou kept going when I stopped at my room. “Please lock me in,” I asked.

“No, Kohen.” Captain shook his head. “I won’t turn your quarters into a more comfortable version of your cell. You don’t deserve that. This corridor is reserved for officers. You will not catch us unaware or unprepared.”

“Maybe I should ask Lakshou—”

“No.” This time Captain’s voice was much sharper.

I broke off and stared at him.

“Oh hell. Kohen, Lakshou’s communion only works with meditation partners he’s intimate with. As in sexually.” Captain narrowed his eyes. “It’s what Kemit was being such an ass about. Some people were raised on more conservative planets, and to them, it’s abhorrent to consider sleeping with strangers as therapy.”

“To you?” I liked Lakshou. He made me feel better about myself. I didn’t like the idea that Captain had problems with him. “Even if it’s normal for his kind?”

“No. It’s not that. I have no issues with it.” Captain cleared his throat, speaking softly. I leaned in closer. “Sex, I mean, his way of communion with others. But we just rescued you.” His voice lowered even more. “You’re so young, Kohen, and you’ve been held captive a very long time. I don’t want….”

“What?” I breathed.

Captain’s gaze drilled into mine. I was so close I could smell that spicy scent on him again, like I had when he first rescued me, when he held me tight. “I don’t want your choices taken from you by fear,” he finally said. “You have so much to learn. It’s not right for someone innocent like you—”

That word. Innocent. I closed my eyes so I couldn’t see his expression change. “I’m not. I’m not clean. Not innocent. I used my body to lure in my targets. I did anything they wanted to achieve my objective. Men. Women. Aliens.” I wrapped my arms around my chest. Sometimes I even enjoyed the act, but I didn’t want to tell him that. “Every time I killed them, I thought it was a horrible punishment, for failing the test. To make me feel them die as I took their lives with my bare hands.”

“Kohen, that wasn’t you.”

I opened my eyes. “Yes, it was. So you see, I’m not innocent at all.” And I shouldn’t touch anyone ever again. Captain was right. Communing with Lakshou would hurt him. I didn’t want him to link to my mind. 


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Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Wednesday Briefs: Denied Chapter 12

Lakshou and Captain stared at me, like I was going to break apart or run screaming. But… I’d had years to experience the horrors of what they did to me. The digging around in my brain. The tests. Things I’d done even when I didn’t want to.

I’d hoped they were all in my head, visions as I’d been held immobile in my cell.

But I’d crushed that box. Just like I’d crushed…. Nausea swirled in my belly.

Maybe I’d left my cell before Captain had rescued me. If that was true…

“You have to take us back. Or put us off on a planet. Somewhere. Anywhere. You’re in danger!” I blurted out.

“What?” Lakshou’s horns flashed, but his ability, his magic couldn’t dent my panic. The panic they were clearly expecting from Captain’s news, but not this way.

“We will not take you back,” Captain declared. “We couldn’t, even if we wanted to. We set charges and blew all the airlocks on that station to destroy all their equipment, then we sent it on a collision course with the sun in that system. By now, it doesn’t even exist.”

But you don’t know what we could do. You have to get us off your ship.” Flashes of the tests, the atrocities I’d witnessed. They’d isolated me, put things in me, changed who I was and what I was capable of.

I stared down at my hands. The hands I’d seen crushed the throats of men I’d seduced; the long fingers had easily snapped the necks of the women who’d been drawn to my sophisticated wiles…. Every touch I’d felt in that suit had equaled pain, and every touch I’d shared with others had been with deadly intent.

All without ever knowing I’d really done it.

Whatever they’d implanted in my head controlled me. What if they were able to do it remotely? What would I do that woman who’d mistakenly contacted me on the vid? Would I tear away Aparoe’s clothes and learn finally if they were male or female?

Would Captain let me close, thinking I was the harmless survivor of torture, just so the aliens could make me turn on him?

My heart was racing, and I couldn’t catch my breath. Was I already doing their bidding?

“Kohen, calm down. What are you talking about?”

If I told them, they’d hate me. Captain had always looked at me with—something—in his eyes that kept me from being scared of him, even in the cell that first day. He’d let me come to him. He’d rescued me. How could I put him at risk just so he wouldn’t look at me and see what I now saw? The killer.

The whore.

I’d let so many use my body before I killed them in their most vulnerable moment. People who didn’t expect someone who looked like me to be dangerous.

I was disgusting.

I was death to everyone who might try to help me. There was no telling when or where.

“They put that stuff in, the things you said before, to control me. The tests… I thought they were to teach me aversion to touching people. To letting men or women use me. To make me….” What was the word the guy with Captain had said? “Asexual.” That was it. “I thought they were just in my head. Visions. I didn’t know.”

More than anything else, I wanted to put my arms around my chest, to hold together the pain and breaking apart my insides were doing as the true realization of what I’d done was hitting me, but the idea of touching myself with my hands made revulsion sweep through me. No. I couldn’t.

Lakshou rocked back from me.

Captain frowned and shook his head. “We knew they tortured you. It’s not your fault, Kohen.”

I bolted to my feet, jumping over that tiny table, pacing the room. I couldn’t run from them, from this. They had to know, then they had to lock me up until they could get rid of me.

“No, you don’t understand.” I paced the room, unable to stay still. “I killed people for them. Men, women. Humans. Even some aliens. They’d remove the suit, then I’d… I’d be sent among people. Always alone. I never tried to run away. I never tried to tell anyone that I was being held captive. I’d find someone and let them use me. Then I killed them.”  I thrust out both arms. “With these hands.”

I pointed at my head. “Because of whatever they put up here. I could be here to hurt you. To prevent you from destroying their labs, their bases. Aparoe told me that’s what you’re trying to do, to stop them from gaining any more power.

“If you keep me here, I could kill you all.”

Captain rose. “Kohen, you aren’t going to hurt anyone.”

“You don’t know that! You said it’s alien technology you don’t know. You’ve never seen it before. Well I know what it can do. And I can’t control it.” That was the true horror. Not just the pain they’d made me feel, the disgust for my own body, the fear of the touch of others.

The kernel of myself that I kept safe deep in my mind, that kept me alive to hate them despite the torture of my existence, the small bits of control I’d kept over my actions. The one thing I thought was my refuge, the thing they couldn’t take from me… that had been the first thing stripped away.

“This entire ship is in danger, if not from me, then from the others you rescued from the cells. We could all be vulnerable to the orders they implanted. Who knows how they did it? If they can still do it. You need to put us all in restraints and lock us up. Now!” I cried.

Captain’s mouth dropped open, and he shook his head. “Kohen….”

“I don’t want to hurt you.”


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Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Wednesday Briefs: Denied Chapter 11

Captain held up a box. “First, do me a favor. Can you take this in your hand?”

I eyed the small green box in his hand. It was small, with smooth sides. I still hesitated. “What does it do?”

“Nothing. It’s just a cube. It can’t hurt you.” The edges weren’t even sharp, so I carefully reached out my hand. Captain gently dropped it into my hand.

“What now?” It was so light I could barely feel its weight on my palm as I cradled it.

“Squeeze it,” he said.

“Okay.” I closed my fingers around the cube, crumpling it into a much smaller shape, irregular. “Now what?”

“That was made with carbon nanotubes, the same metal that covers the outside of ships and stations. What you just did shouldn’t have been possible.”

I frowned. “Why?”

“Because the human body isn’t capable of exerting that much force. Certainly not without straining. You didn’t even try, and it crumpled like it was made from paper.”

“I’d never crush something made from paper.” I gaped at Captain. “It would be destroyed.” Paper was a prized commodity in the outer zones. I’d only seen a few pieces of paper in my life… before.

“We don’t even have any on board,” Captain assured me. He took the box from me. “When you fled from medical, no one could catch you. You were very fast.”

“I was?”

Lakshou spoke up. “Yes. I didn’t even see you before you bounced off me and hit the floor.”

“Sorry about that.” Lakshou waved away my apology, inclining his head. “But I’m confused. I thought you wanted to talk to me about things you found out from t-the others.” I didn’t want to say prisoners, even if that’s what we were. The longer I was away, the less I wanted to think about it. Captain had rescued from a horrible nightmare that went on and on.

“Kohen, do you remember any times where those aliens might have done surgery… on your head?”

I slumped forward on the couch, my muscles tensed as I fought not to run. I reached up and cradled my head. The spots, under my hair, on either side that ached after every test.

The first time I woke up, they’d been there. My head had been shaved bald. It hurt, and I was cold, and to my horror, I’d felt holes under my fingers.

The holes were still there.

“Yes, we know about those. Aparoe wasn’t sure if they were just for the leads that went to the suit, or if they’d been used to do… other things.”

I swallowed spasmodically, my stomach churning. “Other things,” I croaked.

“Here.” Lakshou pushed the drink in front of me closer. “Take a sip.”

My hands shook, so I held the cup in both hands, pulling it up to my mouth. The liquid was tasteless and room temperature. I swallowed a tiny bit, then took a slightly larger drink when that stayed down. The memories bombarded me, and I set the cup down.

Words started spilling out of me, and I couldn’t hold them back if I wanted to. “That first day, I screamed and fought. But they took me anyway. My parents didn’t care. Didn’t stop them. Then they did something to me, and I went numb. I couldn’t move my body.

“I passed out, or they did something to me, because I don’t know what happened that. But when I woke up”—I brushed a hand over the holes—“these were in my head. They did things through them. Put probes and wires and things in. Sometimes fluid came out. It hurt so bad. I begged them not to do it, whenever they’d send the machines in my room. They’d paralyze me, and keep me awake. I couldn’t move, couldn’t stop it.” I started to shake, and I gripped the edge of the table, just like I used to grip the edge of the bunk in my cell, so I wouldn’t hurt myself with my need to hold it all in.

But my arms were bare. The suit was gone. I sank back on the couch and lifted my knees, curling up and wrapping my arms around them, shoving my body into a tight ball. I buried my head against my knees.

Lakshou dropped to his knees in front of me, hovering close but not touching. “It’s okay, Kohen. You’re not there anymore. They can’t hurt you here. I’m here, the captain is here.”

Captain broke in. “I will keep you safe.”

“Breathe like we practiced.” Lakshou’s voice took on that smooth cadence, the singsong tone that helped push my panic down and let me focus on following his instructions. “Take the panic and pain and push them away. The past cannot hurt you. Breathe through your emotions, letting them drift away as you ground yourself in the now.”

I knew his horns were probably sparking blue, because my heart stopped pounding and I didn’t feel like I was going to throw up, yet again. Tears streamed down my cheeks, but I took deep breaths and tried to stop crying.

Tears didn’t help. I looked up, sniffling.

Lakshou continued to crouch in front of me, and Captain had taken his spot on the couch.


Captain shook his head. “Don’t apologize. I know this is traumatic for you. Do you need a break?”

I did, but I wanted to know what he knew too. “What did you find out?”

“The beings we rescued were all… altered. A mix of cybernetic and unknown alien technology had been implanted inside their bodies. Aparoe did extensive scans on your body when we removed the suit, but she mainly focused on your nervous system. But she reexamined the places where the suit had been attached to your brain.” He took a deep breath. “Parts of your brain are missing, and in their place are bits of machines and genetic material we have no record of.” 
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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Wednesday Briefs: Denied Chapter Ten

The insistent chime from the door woke me up. I sat up in bed and yawned, then grimaced. My tongue felt thick and tasted nasty. Cokala didn’t taste good the next day. “Yuck.” The chime was loud in the tiny space of my room, and the muscles in my neck tightened as my shoulders hunched. I didn’t want to answer the door or let anyone in. Every time I spoke to someone, it was like my world changed again.

Ignoring it wasn’t working though.

Sighing, I pushed the covers back and slid off the bed. It was only a few steps to the door, but each one felt like a journey of a thousand steps. I finally reached the panel and stuck my hand on it, not giving myself time to second-guess answering.

“Hello, Kohen.” Lakshou was standing outside my door, both of his hands buried in his robe. “I thought you might like to continue our lessons. I’m sorry it’s been a few days since I was able to see you last. I prefer to do daily meditation training.”

“I guess. I need to clean up.” I didn’t move out of the doorway. My room was a mess. I hadn’t changed since the captain had showed me my new room.

“That’s fine. I don’t mind. Would you like me to wait out here?” The blue light arced between Lakshou’s horns. “Sorry. I can sense your unease.”

The churning in my stomach had eased, and I didn’t feel like bolting away from the door in hopes it would never open again like I had when it first chimed. “Okay.” I did step back, but slowly, and I didn’t scurry away from the door as soon as it slid shut. I stared at it for a few moments though.

Did I have the courage to walk out that door again? To be among others? People who would stare, and talk, and maybe ask questions.

I didn’t want to. As much as I loved my bed and the unlimited supply of food and drinks—things I remembered having before and things I’d never even seen in human menus—I couldn’t stay in there forever. The silence, with only the vid screen for company, had started to wear on me. Bring back memories.

Thoughts that maybe I hadn’t escaped my cell, and this was all an elaborate game to mess with my mind.

I quickly stripped off the clothes I was wearing. I still didn’t know where to put dirty ones, so I pushed them off to the corner with the robe I’d been wearing before. The sonic shower was quick, at least, and I didn’t have a lot of clothes so it wasn’t hard to decide what to wear and get dressed. I even put on soft foot coverings.

Lakshou will still outside the door when I opened it. “Ready? It’s after shift change, and enough time has passed that most crew members are either resting or on the leisure deck. The corridors should be pretty empty.”

The training he’d given me before came in useful as I took in a deep breath and let it out, feeling the calm seep into me.


We made it back to his quarters? Temple? I wasn’t really sure. But we made it there without doing more than passing a few others in the corridor. One was an alien that had eyes that literally popped out of his head and lifted over it to stare at us as we passed.

That was gross.

After another meditation session with Lakshou, his calm voice guiding me to release the pent up feelings inside me, not even that would have bothered me on the way back to my room.

But all the work I’d done disappeared when Captain was standing in the space between our doors. He looked past me to Lakshou, nodding at him. “Hello, Lakshou.” He pressed a hand to his stomach and inclined his head. I looked over my shoulder at Lakshou.

Lakshou did the same but bent over much farther. “Captain Querry.”

“Would it be okay if I talked with Kohen for a bit?”

"That would be up to Kohen, of course.” Lakshou tilted his head.

“Oh, of course.” Captain faced me and smiled. “Kohen, I would like to speak with you, if you’re okay with that.”

My stomach was starting to churn again, and I swallowed a few times before I was able to talk. “In my room?”

“If that makes you feel better. Or we can visit my quarters. I’ve rearranged my quarters and put in a new sitting area and desk. Whatever you prefer.”

“Your room?”

“Okay.” Captain Querry started to turn but paused when I spoke.

“Can Lakshou stay?” I blurted out. I knew he was going to ask me questions. I even knew, in my head, that it was important to answer as much as I could. But I was still scared.

“If he has the time and you’re more comfortable that way, of course.”

He had to feel how little the relaxation I’d gained in the temple with him had disappeared. “Lakshou?”

“I don’t have an appointment until closer to mid-shift. I can stay for a time.”

“Thank you.” Gratitude filled me, and I reached out and gripped one of his fingers, squeezing it. His hands dwarfed mine as he patted the back of my hand with his other one.

Captain cleared his throat. “Thank you, Lakshou.”

I peered around curiously, but I’d spent so little time in his room that I couldn’t really remember what it had looked like. But I liked Captain’s room.

“Drinks?” Captain got something for each of us and then sat down in the single seat. I sat on the longer seat next to Lakshou. “Kohen, I don’t want to scare you again, but we’ve learned some disturbing things from the other prisoners at the station lab. You were held there the longest.”

“I didn’t know that.”

He nodded.

I gathered my courage. “What things?”


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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Wednesday Briefs: Denied Chapter Nine

This week's flash is inspired by the prompt: Since when did anyone are about me? (slight tweak to make it fit the storyline)

The door chimed, and I reluctantly uncurled from my ball on the bed and went to find out who was there. I hesitated, my hand hovering over the panel, before I finally let it settle on the cool screen. It warmed briefly, then the door slid open.

“Hello, Kohen.” Aparoe stood outside the door with a bag in one hand.

“Hello.” I retreated, but they didn’t follow me. I stared at the black bag.

“Can I come in?”

I darted a look up at their face, then tilted my face to one side and shrugged.

“The captain did tell you these are your quarters, and you control who comes in, right?”


“Good.” They stepped inside, and the door slid shut. “I brought you some things.”

“Why?” I didn’t want to get back on the bed with Aparoe in my room, so I sat down in one of the chairs at the small table. I pulled up my legs, tucking my body into a tight ball with my arms wrapped around my knees.

“Because I want to make sure you’re getting what you need nutritionally. You underwent a serious surgery recently. Your body is still recovering, and I can only imagine what you’re feeling and thinking after so many years as a captive of the Brox Consortium.”

I rested my chin on one of my knees. “Brox Con-consor….”

“Consortium. Those scum running the lab we rescued you from.”


Aparoe paused in taking the packages out of their bag. “They employ aliens, yes. But it’s run by a company that has far more reaching goals. Galactic politics, power behind the power thing, and they’re willing to use brutal, horrific means to accomplish their plans. Including torturing different species to find out what makes them tick.”

“Hmm.” I didn’t really get what she meant. “What is that?”

The bag was full of purple powder. “This is a supplement. I would like you to add it to the juice I’m going to program into your machine. One every morning, and one at night.”

“The patches will help calm any agitation your nerves might experience. We’re unsure of what effect the suit will have had on your body. You had several storms of electrical activity after the surgery to remove it. Should it happen again, you can place one of these patches on the base of your neck. It will help.”


“Tingling, burning, muscle and skin crawling sensations. Most likely, an event would be brought on by stress. Your body’s nervous system goes into hyper drive, essentially. There’s also an anti-emetic, which will help with nausea.”

Was that what had happened? While we were eating? I felt a little better, thinking maybe the freak out by my body wasn’t just because I was broken in my head. And I knew I was.

More than anything, I wanted Aparoe gone. I wanted to be alone. I knew I shouldn’t, that I should want to be around people, but it was too much.

“Kohen? Can you read this?” Aparoe held up a digital sheet.

“Yes. Biz… Bizard… I don’t know that word. Then it says, um… take with juice t-twice a day.” I pleated a fold of my pants between my fingers, rubbing it nervously. “Didn’t read much before.”

“That’s good enough. You just need to be able to follow the directions. Place this portable vid over the medicine and it will give you the directions. If you’re unable to read it for any reason, this button here”—they pointed to a set of wavy lines—“will read it aloud for you.”


Aparoe gathered up their bag. “Please let me know if you need anything. I will be checking on you once a day for the near future.”


“We’ve only been able to decode the basic information in your file from when you were first… well, from early on. Only you know what you’ve been through, but we know that they were tinkering with human DNA as well as mental and emotional experiments. We want to help you.”

I frowned. “Why?” Remembering my life before I’d been sold was hard, but I hadn’t forgotten everything. No one did anything without expecting something in return.

“It’s our mission.”

Like that told me anything. “Mission?”

Aparoe nodded. “We— wait, hold on. Yes.” They tapped behind their ear. “Sorry, Kohen. I’ve been summoned to deal with an idiot who didn’t realize mass doesn’t change just because you’re in zero gravity.”

They left me with more questions than answers, and the visit alone had exhausted me. I got up and rechecked the seal on the door, then crawled back into bed. The pillow was soft, like a fluffy cloud in an old storybook, and the blanket was heavy and smooth.

I curled onto my side and pulled the blanket up to my face, turning it and clutching a handful so I could rub my chin and cheeks on it. Since when did anyone care about what happened to me? My parents… not so much. The aliens? Definitely not. I couldn’t even think of any friends who might have really missed me—or missed me at all.

Drawing in a ragged breath, I tried to push those thoughts away. The past didn’t exist, and I had no idea what my future held. I would do what I’d done for years to get by; I’d live in the now. And the now meant I had a private place for my own with comfortable clothes and an awesome bed, and I could watch anything I wanted on the vid and order anything to eat and drink.

I sat up on the bed, wiping away the moisture on my cheeks. At home, there had been channels on the vid we couldn’t see….

Hopping out of bed, I bounced over to the dispenser. I didn’t even have to think about it. “Parl treats and warm cokala.” The sticky, chewy candies were impossible to chew, but when you bit through them, the goo on the inside oozed out and the two flavors combined in the best ever flavor. I liked the ones based on Old Earth fruits.

The cokala was thick and fizzy and better than anything I’d tasted before. “Oh yum!” I took my haul over to the bed. Time for some fun.

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