Danie’s invasion into my brain was neither painless nor left me unaware of his foreign presence. Unlike the link with Captain, this wasn’t welcome. I couldn’t stop it, just like all those other times. Like a vid that I couldn’t stop watching, my past flashed through my mind. I knew Danie was in there, seeing it too, and that pissed me off.
But then something new happened. When my anger flared, my mind latched onto Danie’s. The connection between us went both ways, and as he saw my past, I saw his. The history Freska had mentioned before he was officially switched on was horrific to experience. I’d tried to shut down my feelings, to become a robot doing only what they ordered me to do, but I’d done that on my own to survive.
Danie hadn’t had a consciousness, if that’s what was what made an A.I. actually become an artificial intelligence that was aware and everything. He’d been a shell that had basic commands and functions, and the beings around him treated him as such.
But that kernel inside him had already been growing, unbeknownst to them, so it was a true form of Hell. Or maybe that was just because I knew he was in there as they did… things to him.
My throat burned with the scream that burst out of me when Danie’s connection was yanked out of the port’s in my neck. I collapsed to my knees, one hand against the wall, and vomited.
Those memories weren’t mine, and I didn’t want them. My hand shook, and I panted, desperately trying to blink through the flood of tears streaming down my face and obscuring my vision.
“—shouldn’t kill you now?”
“I wasn’t trying to hurt him.”
“You did. He didn’t do anything to you. Why did you attack him?”
“It wasn’t an attack. I was attempting to connect so he would know the truth. So you would know the truth.”
I looked up. Captain had a weapon drawn and pointed at Danie. Freska was standing in the corridor staring at us with her mouth open and her eyes wide.
“You were inside my head, my memories,” I rasped. I shook, disgusted by the mess at my feet. I lurched upright.
Captain caught me as I stumbled, the hand holding the weapon on Danie not even wavering.
“The bond goes both ways; I wasn’t trying to read your memories and past, but there was some crossover that was unavoidable. I am sorry.” Danie looked fine, not even sick, and that pissed me off.
“How could you do that to me?” I’d never really thought the ports would make me vulnerable; not like that, not here. I put a hand over them.
Danie cocked his head. “You don’t trust me. You think I’m going to do something to hurt you, or this ship, or the mission against the Elites. Don’t think I didn’t catch the subtext of your body language and comments.”
Captain narrowed his eyes. “And this attack was your way to make us change our minds?”
“It wasn’t an attack, I already said that.” Danie turned toward Freska, and Captain’s arm lifted slightly. “Tell them I wouldn’t do that.”
“Danie, stay still and stop moving for space’s sake. Captain, I know you are scared because Kohen was scared. Please stay calm.” Freska spoke softly, and she didn’t move toward us. “But he’s okay. Danie wasn’t trying to hurt him. Linking is just shocking at first and hard to control.”
“I would never hurt Kohen. He’s like… family. The closest I may ever have.” Danie shook his head. “I just wanted him to understand.”
“I know, Danie, I know. Just stay still, okay?”
“Kohen, think back over the time you were with Danie. You were experiencing either your memories or his, right? There are no blank spaces or times?”
“What does that mean?” It’d been like a flood of images from both of us. Blank spaces and times? “Nothing felt blank.”
“Your brain is comprised of partial electronic parts. Those times you recall from your past being fuzzy, or blank, that you said you went away in? Those were times they were programming you. I know you have fears that Danie might have done something like that to me or you. But there are no blank spots in my time with him, which I can prove if I have to do a download, and I’m sure if you review what just happened, you’ll realize you don’t either. He didn’t do anything to you; he was just trying to share with you.”
“I can’t…” I shook my head. It was starting to throb, and my mouth tasted foul. “I want to go back to our quarters.”
“Okay, Kohen, okay.” Captain stroked his hand up and down my arm, holding me close. “Kohen, hit my communicator please.” I did what he asked, not caring to ask why. “Deke, I need you.”
“Captain!” Freska finally took a step inside the observation room.
“No. This might have been an attempt to get us to trust him, but it was a fail. I won’t harm him, but he won’t have a chance to do it again. He will be kept away from Kohen.”
Deke jogged into the room, his weapon also out and at the ready. “What is it, Captain?”
“Take Danie and Freska to their quarters, please. They are to stay there until further notice.”
“Captain Querry, our mission….”
“No, Freska. I don’t want to hear it. Not from you.” He waited for Deke to usher Danie and Freska out, then he finally put his weapon away. Cupping my face, Captain stroked my cheeks. “Are you okay?” He studied my face, his gaze drilling into me.
I put my hands over his. “I don’t know.” My head ached. “Can we go lay down?”
“Yes, of course.” Captain led me to our quarters, stripped me, and cradled me against his body in the bed. He stroked my forehead. “Try to relax.”
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