Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Wednesday Briefs: Denied Chapter 16

This week's chapter is inspired by the prompt: "What time is it?" A big thank you goes to everyone following this story (and my other Briefers flashes) still, btw! It keeps me writing, even when I'm in a horrible slump like I have been for so long. 

“Are you sure, Cohen?” Captain stood in the corridor outside my door. I was dressed in a pair of loose pants and a short-sleeve shirt. The air outside my room was colder, so I shivered again.

“Yes.” Okay, so maybe part of the shivers were from what I was about to do. I reached for the jacket that I’d been given that would identify me as part of the maintenance crew. I could put my strength to use.

“You’ve met with Luca and Priella. You’ll be on their crew. I’ve been assured they’re both great teachers.”

I nodded. My heart was pounding, and my chest was tight. But I could do this. I needed to. It was two people; I’d met them in a session with Lakshou. They were both past rescues, which should have made me uneasy since I was so unsure if I was still a weapon, but with my permission Lakshou had explained about the ports and implants and the changes to my brain. Neither of them had anything like that, and they didn’t look down on me with pity but they still understood.

I didn’t feel like I had to protect myself from them or protect them from me. They knew what I was afraid of, and they said they would have no problems disabling me if necessary since they both carried weapons and I’d be unarmed. Again, that should have made me nervous, but I was more reassured than anything else.

“What time is it?”

“Priella will be here soon to get you for just a half-shift rotation. You’re still recovering,” Captain said.

“Aparoe already told me to take it easy.” I tucked my hands in the pockets of the coat. “Thank you for letting me do this,” I said softly.

“We’re here to help you, Cohen. I don’t want you cooped up all the time, and if you feel like working, that’s okay. You don’t have to stay on the maintenance crew. You can explore the different jobs on the ship as we travel. Maybe by the time we reach a habitable port, you’ll have an idea of what you’re good at.”

Besides killing? I kept that one to myself. The idea of being physical with anyone, for any reason, was still an intense craving as well as a power aversion. I wanted to touch and be touched so badly, but I was more afraid of what might happen so I tamped down on the need. Aparoe still came by every day and scanned me, and I noticed they touched me in some small way each time. They kept it brief and light, but it helped.

Being near Captain didn’t help. I still remembered the intense warmth of his body the first time I dared allowed myself to touch him, the feel of his muscles bunching as he carried me out of my cell, and the scent of him that had surrounded me taking away the sterile torture of my existence.

But I wouldn’t let myself hurt him. I curled my hands into fists, still hidden inside my pockets.

“Hi, Cohen!” Priella strode down the corridor. She was a tall human, with a wide face and prominent cheekbones with sharply carved features. Her open smile faded as she stiffened and saluted Captain as soon as she noticed him beside me. “Sir!”

“At ease.”

Priella’s hand dropped to her side, but her body was still tense. Why? I looked at Captain, but he was still relaxed beside me. His uniform jacket was open at the neck, the high buttons on the collar opened. “I’m going now,” I said slowly. I didn’t really get the complicated leave takings the people did, when it would seem fairly obvious I was leaving since I was walking away, but I tried to fit in so I gave the Captain time to object before I walked away from him.

Priella swung around and walked beside me, close but without touching. She glanced over her shoulder a few times. “I don’t think I’ve ever been so close to the captain,” she said. “He’s tall.”

He was taller than most of the humans I’d seen on the ship, but many aliens were taller. “His quarters are just down the hall from mine. His office was turned into a room for me,” I offered stiltingly.

“Wow, so you see him a lot?”

What was a lot? I shrugged. And was it some sort of big deal? Would it upset someone that I got to see Captain a lot? Or if he was ignoring someone else to be around me?

“Okay, okay. No pumping you for information about officer’s row until we’ve had you working with us longer. Are you ready to work?”

I nodded. I kept my mouth shut about having to take it easy. I didn’t want to come across as lazy or a complainer. We got down to the maintenance bay and got to work. At first, I was just handing them tools, but eventually, over the course of that shift and the next, they started to explain what they were doing to the shuttles that were stored on the ship.

We were standing at the rear of one of the atmo shuttles when someone ran a anti-gravity bin into the shuttle. It was currently hovering, the clamps off, because one of the stabilizers was missing. Luca was standing beside me, and the shuttle was just inches away when I stepped in front of him and grabbed it.

I grunted and pushed, straining my arms as I locked my stomach and leg muscles and braced. No one wanted to write a report on a broken piece of equipment crushing a crew member. I wouldn’t have to do it—Priella and Luca were co-leaders, but I’d have to write up my own report to add to theirs. It would be a lot less stressful just to stop the shuttle.

So I did.

Want more flash?

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Wednesday Briefs: Denied Chapter Fifteen

I surreptitiously glanced at the people with Ss’merit. They were all aliens, not a human among them. I didn’t recognize all of them, but there were a few species I knew. Were they like me? I saw ports on one short alien with no hair, just a rigid crest running from his forehead and down his spine.
They were.
I was so fixated on the ports that I didn’t hear what Lakshou and Ss’merit were saying until Ss’merit abruptly turned and led the others off. I took a quick breath in and let it out slowly.
“Who was that?”
“Ss’merit.” Lakshou shifted in his seat. “He is the passenger facilitator aboard. He escorts guests usually, but he’s also in charge of the rescues we bring on board.”
“Why haven’t I met him before?”
“A sub-faction of his species are among the inner circles of the Brox Consortium. Not everyone trusts them because of that. Ss’merit is defensive, which I can feel, but I don’t know if it’s because he’s trying to hide things or if he’s just trying to overcome the perception the Ss’eenui are all willing to harm other species to gain power.” Lakshou shook his head. “He usually avoids me.”
“He looked creepy,” I admitted.
“Yeah. That doesn’t help their cause much either. Some species just don’t get along with them, humans included. But the captain doesn’t always get a choice in his crew.” Lakshou’s ears flicked sideways, and then he clapped his hands together once, as if to close that discussion. “Okay, what would you like? We still have some time before your order is ready.”
The rest of our trip went smoothly, and I was back in my room before I realized how tense I was. I wasn’t sure what I’d expected to happen, but I was glad to be alone. I took a sonic shower and then put on some of my new clothes, relishing the softness and warmth. We’d eaten, and I wasn’t thirsty, so I curled up in the bed and turned on the vid to catch up on more that I’d missed over the years.

Time had always gone in fits and spurts. Sometimes it felt like the same day went on endlessly and other times the days blurred together so seamlessly it felt like they were speeding by before I even realized it. Aparoe and Lakshou visited, and I made short trips outside of my room, but without answers about the mess in my head, I was scared of befriending more of the crew, even if they encouraged me to.
It’s hard to get to know someone when you’re afraid you’ll have sex with them and then slit their throat, or air chamber, or speech sac. There were several kinds of aliens I’d seen before and knew, but more I didn’t. When I surreptitiously studied them I would later wonder if I was looking because I was curious or if I was searching for ways to use them the way I’d been trained.
Breathing exercises and meditation with Lakshou helped, but I kept feeling this sense of impending doom.
It made me happy Captain had been keeping his distance, though I saw him occasionally in the hall considering his doors were just a short distance down the call from mine.
I was waiting for Lakshou, since Aparoe had already been by to run some tests and check my health, making their noncommittal noises. I’d already figured out they were coordinating their visits.
The door chimed, and I slowly walked over to it. “Oh.” Instead of Lakshou, Ss’merit was standing outside my door. “Hello.”
He dipped his head once, his single eye unblinking as he stared up at me. “Hello. My name is Ss’merit. I wanted to speak with you in regards to your adjustment to your new life.”
The alien was shorter than me, which I hadn’t realized before because I’d been sitting. He was very… intense though. “I’m fine, thank you.”
“There is much to learn that I can help you with,” he insisted. “We can speak inside your room, or go elsewhere.” He glanced up and down the hall. “Your choice.”
I crossed my arms over my chest. “I’m already talking to Lakshou, and Captain has assured me I’m safe here. I have no intentions to leave this ship anytime soon.” I barely resisted touching the ports on my head. I wouldn’t be safe to be around anyone.
“My interests are solely for your well-being.” Ss’merit didn’t move, and I didn’t either. I was reluctant to let him into my space, and I wasn’t going to go anywhere with him either.
“Easy for you to say. I’m being taken care of by a medic and counselor. I am fine, thank you.” I tried to end the conversation politely.
“Don’t you want to speak with your fellow survivors?”
I hesitated. He had me there. Especially the one with the ports like mine. “No.” I shook my head. “I don’t want to think about that hell or talk about it either. It’s time to move on.” I put my hand on the door sensor. “I don’t need your help.”
The door slid shut on his objections and his oddly intense stare. I wrapped my arms around my chest and moved over to the table. I curled into the chair and studied the flat surface, rubbing my finger along the smooth surface just to feel it. I had no idea what I was going to do for my future, regardless of what I told Ss’merit.
Maybe it was time to find the Captain and ask what I could be use with my limited skill set. There had to be something I could do that would be helpful. 

Want more flash?

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Wednesday Briefs: Denied Chapter Fourteen

This week's flash was inspired by the prompt: Include an alien in your story. (Okay, so it's kind of cheating since it's a scifi story already, but I mention 2 new aliens this week!) 

“You can’t stay here forever.” Lakshou stood outside my door.

“I’m fine.” I retreated and let Lakshou come in. The door slid shut behind him.

“No, you’re not. You need someone to speak to. You need to be out among people.”

“Why?” I wrapped my arms around my chest. “That’s when I’m dangerous.”

“We don’t believe you’re in danger. Captain says there’s no way for someone to get a signal through the ship’s shielding while we’re traveling anyway. We’re not due to stop for a full standard month. The station where we found you was the outer edge of our orbit around this galaxy.” Lakshou shook his head. “We still don’t know what they were doing out so far. There’s no inhabited space sectors anywhere near here.”

“Can’t we just practice here? Aparoe will visit me later; they come every day. I’m talking to people.” I sat on the edge of the bed.

“Two people aren’t enough. I want to take you to the leisure ring. You have been cooped up for most of your life. I know you’re probably more comfortable with staying in your quarters, but it’s not healthy.”

I sighed. Everything Captain had told me only made me more convinced that I needed to stay in my quarters. But they were all pushing me to leave. Aparoe kept mentioning other people they’d rescued and the results of tests they were running. I was the only human that had been there, but apparently not the only rare alien found this far out. Apparently there was one alien whose body gave off a soporific mist if the temp rose above sub-zero temperatures. “What if I panic again?”

“As long as I’m with you, I can help with that. We’re not asking you to leave with a regular crew member; we just want you to stop punishing yourself.”

“It’s not punishment!” I snapped as I jerked to my feet. “I’m trying to protect you.” There was a feeling inside me, a growing surety that my rescue wasn’t an escape but a test. This was real. I knew it was real. I also knew I was going to hurt someone.

It was all I knew how to do.

“We’re not afraid of you, Kohen. We’re afraid for you. Come out, just for a little while. I wanted to take you to the stores ring. You need a few more things.”

“I don’t have any money to pay for it.”

Lakshou waved that concern away. “There’s a fund set up for rescues from the Brox Consortium. They fund these rescue missions, help reacclimate anyone we find and rescue, provide travel home, or education and a job if going home isn’t an option anymore.”

Home. I had a brief glimpse of a room, tiny and cramped, and bunks lining the wall. It was more like my cell than I wanted to admit, but I knew it’d been what we called home before my parents sold me.  Barren land, subsistence rations, and a whole hell of a lot nothing.

“Home definitely isn’t an option anymore,” I said bitterly. Now that I’d stirred up a memory, more would come. The vid screen couldn’t stop them, and I wasn’t tired enough to sleep—and I’d only have nightmares if I tried. “Okay, let’s go out.”

Lakshou smiled, his bifurcated lips parting and curling up on the edges. “Great. You’ll need foot coverings.”

I sat down in one of the two chairs in the room and grabbed the soft booties with the semi-rigid soles. Captain had assured me they’d keep me adhered to the deck if we lost gravity. They were mostly comfortable, if I had to wear something.


“Yes.” Not really.

Slowly, my anxiety ebbed. We got nods, some quiet greetings Lakshou returned, but most of the time I wasn’t given a second glance. There were several aliens, some I tried not to stare out, they were so different, but at least half the crew we passed were humans. I didn’t stand out at all. We traveled down to different rings, taking a meandering path.

When we finally arrived at stores, I was tired and more than happy to sit down. The crew member staffing the area handed Lakshou a tablet that he handed to me. I looked down at it, then back up at Lakshou. “If all I have to do is make selections on this tablet, how come we had to come all the way down here? Why couldn’t we do it in my room?”

He looked away, but I saw his little smirk. “Then someone would have had to bring them to you. We can pick them up here. And it got you out. You said hi to two different people. That’s progress.”

I wasn’t really irritated with him. Now that I was out, I did feel a little less worried about leaving my room. It didn’t really make sense, but my stomach’s uneasy churning had settled. “Right.”

We stopped at a mess on the next level up while we waited for my order to be put together. We were sitting down when a group came into the room, and Lakshou stiffened. I hunched over, eyeing them warily as they came closer. Were they like that other guy?

“Lakshou.” The being in the lead of the group had leathery gray skin with striking red patterned spots in different sizes. Even more oddly, they had a single eye with a yellow slit pupil.


“A new disciple?” That single-eyed gaze was chilling as it roved over me.

“No. This is Kohen. We was one of our other recent rescues.”

“Ahh, the one the captain brought in. I was wondering why he wasn’t included in my orientation sessions.” Ss’merit’s already thin lips nearly disappeared as they… smiled? “Welcome to the ship, Kohen. I hope Lakshou can help you acclimate to your new freedom. If not—”

“He’s fine.” Lakshou looked at the small crowd behind Ss’merit. “Looks like you have your hands full anyway.”


Want more flash?

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. 


Want more flash?


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.”


Want more flash?