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.”
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.”
Want more flash?