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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