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.”
“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.”
I gathered my courage. “What things?”
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