Too much. Too much. All the eyes on me, the men standing over our table. That sneer reminded me of my dad, when he sold me to the aliens. I’d seen the credits change hands before he walked away and my life became nothing but torment. My stomach cramped and I leaned over, vomiting up the meal I’d just eaten.
I retched, unable to stop, as the bile burned my throat.
Captain jumped back.
I dropped from my chair and scuttled under the table, my stomach muscles still heaving even though nothing else was coming out. My eyes teared up, and I couldn’t hold them back yet again. Inexplicably, I yearned for my cell. I’d known what to expect there. It was safe.
There was no safety here, in this room surrounded by so many others.
“I’m sorry, Kohen. You were doing so well, but this was too much to expect of you.” Lakshou hovered outside the table, crouching down to talk to me. A blue glow began to surround him.
I shook my head and curled up tighter, turning away. “No.” I didn’t want him to do that thing. I’d let him calm me down once, and it lead to this. I clamped my hands over my ears and squeezed my eyes shut, blocking him out and the raised voices surrounding me. “No, no, no.” The word became a chant.
“Kohen. You’re safe.” Captain was on the other side of me, his voice dropped to a warm, low murmur from the snarl he’d used to address the other man. I darted a glance at him, my chest heaving. He held out a hand but didn’t try to touch me, just waited. I’d made the leap once and let him take me out of my cell. Could I risk it again?
“It’s okay. On your terms, when you’re ready. The room’s empty, so there’s no one here but us. You’re safe.”
The smell of my vomit was covering the food smells, but I didn’t want to be in the big room.
“Where what? Oh. You mean where will you go?”
“There is space next to my quarters available. I had some crew go in and make it comfortable for you. It’s small, but somehow I don’t think you’ll mind that.” He smiled, and I could actually hear it in his voice too. That decided me. I wanted to go with Captain, with his warm, spicy scent and his soft touch.
Easing out slowly, a few inches at a time, I scooted toward his hand. Captain backed up two steps and then held still, his hand open. I grabbed it and held it tight, and he pulled me to my feet. My eyes were level with his chin.
“Wow. I knew you were tall, but not that tall.”
I didn’t know if my height was unusual or not, since I hadn’t seen any adult humans since I was a kid. I’d had nothing to compare myself to as I shot up to my current height.
“Come on. Let’s get you to your room so you can clean up.”
“Bye, Kohen. I’m sorry this meal was not a success, but I hope to see you again soon. I would like to help you continue with your meditation, but I can come to your room if my temple makes you… uncomfortable.”
“Thank you, Lakshou,” I said over my shoulder.
Captain didn’t pull his hand out of mine, and he didn’t seem to care that I crowded close to him every time we passed a crew member. He kept up a quiet running commentary on the ship as we walked. “You’ve seen the crew quarters, temples, and medical deck. Officer’s quarters are one ring up. Each ring isn’t really a ring, seen from outside of course, but an outer corridor that follows along the curve of the ship. The center of the ship houses the more delicate areas like our life support mechanisms, the computer systems, as well as the engine.
“Maybe one day I’ll take you to see the forward engine. That’s the one that allows us to compress space and travel faster than light.”
“Okay.” I didn’t really care if he took me or not, and I was pretty sure he knew that. His voice gave me something to focus on, though, and that was the important part. I tried to block out everything going on around us, but the ship was a busy place, full of people and aliens.
By the time we got to the new quarters Captain promised me, I was shaking again and sweating inside the robe Lakshou had given me. It was spotted with small areas of sick around the hem. I gathered up the courage to ask, “Can I have some clothes? And get clean?”
“Of course. I asked for some generic stores to be sent to your quarters. Medical got your measurements while you were there, so they should fit. And this… room didn’t have any facilities, so we set up a temporary unit in one corner with a sanitary reclamation unit and installed a sonic shower bar on the wall.” He stopped and stood in front of a door. “Here it is. Please put your hand on the scanner for a DNA scan.”
The plate didn’t hurt me, just warmed against my palm. Air whooshed as the door slid open.
“After you,” Captain said.
I let go of his hand and stepped inside. The room was several times bigger than my cell, which was what I’d been expecting. There was a bed on a platform, the coverings the same fabric and color as Captain’s bed.
“Uh, you seemed to like mine, so I got you the same.”
“Thank you.” I curled my arms around my chest and turned slowly. A small table with two chairs and dispenser on the wall above a small shelf were on one wall. The sanitary unit and sonic shower were in the other corner.
It was amazing. “This is mine?”TBC
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