My lids flutter open enough to catch a glimpse of my world. A clear container with a liquid distorting everything behind it waits on a table in extreme close up. I am folded over an arm of the chair I occupy. I recall punching a wall and remnants of a face—a horrible half face. My arm doesn’t feel normal. I flop it near to inspect it. It is taped up; now I recall puce blood transfused to Seatash. It’s puce because it hasn’t reacted to the elements in the air. It’s darker when exposed to air.
I adjust to sit properly and realize I’ve messed up my neck. The young male lies on his front without clothes. I see no mark on his back yet I know somewhere his body had been pierced by metal. I sneak a peek at my hands. One is still stained with blue. Now Seatash and I are even. He saved me when the my guide was killed and I saved Seatash. I can leave at my earliest convenience.
Rummaging in the corner catches my eye. I see the Covers Man, Candrotha, cleaning something. I try to speak but nothing comes out. I reach for the water and almost topple it before I bring it to my lips. It goes down smooth, cooling the raw throat from vomiting.
“Have you ever passed out before?” I test my ability to make noise before speaking.
‘I’ve never given blood before. I couldn’t.” When Houssam realized my blood could expose me, and him, to inquiries, he committed to teaching me at home. He brought tutors in to help me achieve high test scores
“I didn’t know how much I could take. Vecher and Plakkan have different blood densities. I may have taken more than I should have. I’ve never worked with someone…like you. ” My left hand moves in that Plakkan gesture. “When you passed out I panicked. “ A small grin appears on my face. “When did you know…what you are?”
“I’ve always known.” I don’t recall a time when I didn’t know than I am Placher and the world outside my lab was a dangerous place. The day I arrived at Houssam’s I had been told to pretend that I’m asleep when in public. They said we were playing a game to see if I liked the real world. But my courier told me the truth as we rode together. The regiment was coming for the lab and would kill me if they knew. I asked if I could have some gum.
“The science, it’s far beyond anything I’ve seen. You are both but there are other additions, enhancements. I wonder how many tries your creators had to go through before they reached this symphony of genetics. It’s a single-mindedness that I’ve never seen, like inertia kept someone going, immune to all other influences. I know there had to be defeat.”
“I—I don’t know.”
“Why did you risk coming here? How did you find out about my home?” I remember Seatash’s reaction to the thought of my blood.
“We had a raid today in my building. Someone betrayed me and my minder. He made me leave without him. I need papers to leave Region One.”
“I see,” Candrotha mumbles and begins movements. He leaves the room. On the wall opposite the couch there are expensive paintings of places outside Region One. The sun shines brighter outside of One—it’s too industrial to see the full potential of the sun. A chill comes over me and I believe I am well enough to move again, but only to find something to keep me warm. When I leave the seat I am wary but manage to maneuver the living room. I take a pillow and blanket. The former I place over Seatash’s hind quarters. If he hates me, he probably doesn’t want to share his hahtah or backside. It strikes me now that he doesn’t even know my name—my Vecher or Plakkan name. I tried to tell him once.
In his arm there is a pinched tube which must have been used for my blood. I want to touch it but hold back. Rumblings from the back room send me be into my chair like I have been caught doing something naughty.
“Here we are.” Candrotha hands me two electronic passes, the ‘papers’ I have been searching for since I jumped down the garbage shoot, and a reader. My image explodes into life out of the reader. My new name is Valour. I look up into the man’s face.
“What does it mean?”
“Heroic courage,” I am puzzled why he would give this name to me.
“Why do I have a second set of papers?”
“I give these to you but you must take Seatash with you.” This time my expression is all that is needed. “I’ve known him so many cycles that my head hurts thinking about it. He appeared in my safe place, where you came for your covers. The little Vecher children knew I would not rebuke them with depravity. I ended up getting another set of rooms for the children. He played the xylophone.” Candrotha chokes up but recovers quickly. “I am his parent.”
“You taught him words like ignominy.” My conclusion is lost on the man. I insert the second pass into the reader. Brash’s papers have no picture. “Don’t you have a photo?”
“Not a recent one,” he offers without looking at me. “If they knew, they would condemn me for depravity!” I look at him and realize he’s not talking to me. He must have a whole host of sins that the commandant would kill him for.
“I cannot wait for him to heal. I must leave Region One tonight.”
“What did you do to me?” Candrotha and I turn to Seatash. He is pushing his chest and head off of the couch. The pillow falls but I only look at his fingers. They are free of webbing. “I don’t feel pain.” Those words bring my eyes to his face. His eyes still glow in orange but his forehead is smooth.
~Raging and quivering female mass of hormones and tosser of Dark Side Cookies™ (trade marked by Etoile)