|Shadows on the Cave Wall
Author: Mojave Dragonfly PM
The O5 crew are abruptly not themselves.Rated: Fiction K - English - Sci-Fi - Chapters: 4 - Words: 5,224 - Reviews: 5 - Follows: 3 - Updated: 02-12-12 - Published: 05-15-11 - id: 6993622
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N Disclaimers in part one
Chuck pulled into his driveway on Neil's motorcycle, and studied the house, alert for anything out of place. Anything other than himself, anyway. He'd just been here, right? Sipping lemonade on the back stoop. Suddenly concerned that he might have lost time as well as his own body, he checked his—Neil's—watch. Neil still wore his government-issued analog watch with the large glow-in-the-dark dial. Most astronauts accepted the edict that they must wear this watch on missions, but only the new guys wore the ugly thing off-duty like a private badge of honor. I made astronaut, the watch said. Chuck frowned as he realized that in this timeline, Neil didn't own this watch yet. He must be wearing Mark's. Why would he do that?
At least the watch confirmed that it was only 35 minutes later than he last remembered being in his house. The front door opened to him, unlocked. He stepped inside and looked around. Everything looked normal, and he wondered what he'd accomplished by returning home. Well—and here was an uneasy thought—his own body ought to be here somewhere. "Hello," he called. Nothing. He headed for the last place he'd been—the back porch.
He stood alone at his back door, looking down at himself. He lay slumped like a dropped puppet on the single concrete step, the lemonade overturned and streaming onto the dry grass.
Shoving away the feeling of creepiness, he reached down and pulled himself onto his back. He was breathing, and he had a slow pulse. Chuck leaned back on his heels and sighed deep, studying his own sleeping face. No one ever gets to see what they look like with their eyes closed.
So when he'd called, uh, himself, there was no one home to answer.
Chuck picked up the lemonade glass. Two fingers worth remained in the bottom of the glass. He drained it. He took out Neil's phone again, and reconsidered the speed dial. There was no point in trying to call his son. Just where was Neil if Chuck was wearing Neil's body? He eyed the recumbent body he was sitting beside and dialed Angela.
Neil looked around Kurt's bedroom; spacious bed, infrared camera, mirrored ceiling and large-screen TV. He had to think. What had happened? He looked down at his hands—not his. He looked up at the mirror—Kurt's face looked back at him, an unfamiliar expression of panic on it. Calm down, he told himself. Okay, I'm in Kurt's body. All things considered, it's not impossible. After all, I was put in my own body five years in the past. Had The Seeker done this for some reason? Or was it more like when that sentient tried to download his father's consciousness into some archive? He looked around for a phone. Surely Kurt had one in his bedroom.
A knock at the door. "Kurt, can I come in?"
"No," he answered without thinking. "I'm, uh, getting changed."
His heart jumped as the doorknob turned. Jeanne's face appeared first through the door's opening. She grinned. "Is that really necessary?" The rest of her slithered into the room. She leaned against the wall, thrusting her breasts forward, and started unbuttoning her blouse.
Neil sighed. She was hot and willing, and it wasn't like he'd been getting any since his exile back to high school. He had other—rather important—concerns to attend to, but he found himself wavering. It wouldn't be betraying someone Kurt was in a real relationship with—she'd never even been to Kurt's place before. What about Holly? He was pretty sure it still counted as cheating on her. Even if it was with Kurt's body. Kurt's body? Ew. Abruptly the idea of having sex using a body that wasn't his own made him feel almost sick.
As he'd been wavering, he and Jeanne had moved closer to the king size waterbed, Jeanne removing her blouse to reveal a lacy black bra beneath. She passed in front of Kurt's bedside camera perched on its tripod, and Neil glanced at it to see how much it showed of her shape beneath her clothes.
Her silhouette was blue-green. It should have been red-yellow.
"And we're out," said the technician standing beside the TV camera operators. "Two minutes." Pleased with the job he'd done reading the teleprompter to the camera, Kurt turned to the gorgeous woman beside him, smiling his most winning smile. She scowled at him. "What do you think you're doing?" she asked. "Don't tell me you think that's going to help you." Before Kurt could reply, she slid out of her seat and into the hands of two women bearing makeup kits and hair products. The three of them cast disgusted looks over their shoulders at him as they dabbed cosmetics on the blonde anchor and spritzed her hair. On his other side, Troy approached at a rapid clip, looking worried.
"Sarah, honey," he said, "are you sure you're all right?"
"I'm fine," Kurt said, one eye on the women. "Tell me something. What's her story? The blonde."
"Candace? What do you mean?" Troy put a hand on Kurt's wrist in a gesture more intimate than Kurt liked. "Look, we're live in a minute forty. Can't you just read the news normally? Did you hurt your head when you fell?"
Oh. Kurt wanted to laugh. This was such an amusing hallucination. "I see. So my American accent didn't quite come off?"
"American-?" Troy blinked and glanced around at the hive of activity on the set. "Sarah, are you trying to sound British? That's crazy. Everyone knows you, honey."
The "honey" was starting to make Kurt's skin crawl. Or Sarah's skin. Whatever. He pulled his wrist free and picked up the papers on the desk in front of him. They had the same text as what had been on the teleprompter. "Sorry," he said, leaning hard on the "rr." He'd spent years surrounded by Americans and had actually caught his speech patterns matching theirs at times. He thought he'd done pretty well. "I'll do better with this next bit." He waved the papers with one hand and made a shooing motion with the other. "Go away, Troy."
Troy's eyes widened, but he was summoned by another headset-wearing man before he could say anything. Kurt studied the script he was next supposed to read, saying it in his head. He had no idea why he was dreaming he was Sarah, but he preferred to excel at whatever he was doing. He read:
A break-in occurred last night at the Transhumanist Center, on Houston's south side. The thieves stole over $500,000 in equipment designed to study human consciousness. [cut to clip 2-24-123A Stiles] According to police, the Center's locked loading dock doors were ripped open by some mechanical force, doing another $100,000 in damage. The equipment, which was described by Transhumanist Center staff as large and extremely heavy, was removed from the site before police arrived, responding to the building alarms. Dr. Carl Egan, lead researcher and owner of the Center, was unavailable for comment.
Kurt looked up from the paper at the TV studio crew members returning to their positions. The blonde anchor slid back into her seat beside him. "Thirty seconds," someone reported. Kurt looked at the woman beside him. "It's not a hallucination, is it," he said.
"What is your trauma," she asked.
"Shit," Kurt scooped up the piece of paper and shoved it in a suit jacket pocket. He got to his feet, only to be reminded that he was barefoot. He looked around for those godawful pumps. They were better than nothing. Expressions around him turned astonished, and the inevitable Troy rushed toward him. Kurt spotted the pumps on a table next to sound mixing equipment, and Troy caught him there as he fumbled to put them on.
Kurt straightened and slapped Troy on the shoulder, using him for support as he slid the second shoe on. "Sorry, old man, you'll have to carry on without me. Now where is my, uh, purse?"
In her own original timeline, Sarah had gone through considerable medical screening before being selected to fly aboard the Odyssey as a journalist, but she knew it was nothing compared to the physical scrutiny the astronauts underwent throughout their careers. She needed desperately to be released to get home, contact the others, do something, but now that she was an astronaut, any hint of a medical issue meant she had to be immediately subjected to every test the NASA flight surgeons could throw at her. She despaired of ever escaping the infirmary.
They gave her a CAT scan, took eleven vials of her blood, put her on a treadmill for a stress test and had her blow as hard as she could into a plastic tube. They looked in her eyes, her mouth, her ears and nose. They asked questions about her sleep, her vision, her periods and general level of stress. She made up answers as well as she could, sticking to her story that she got mysteriously dizzy in the simulator. And the whole time they called her Major Perry. It was surreal.
Finally she was taken off flight status for 24 hours and sent home. She knew her way around Houston Flight Center; what she didn't know was the combination to Angela's locker, where she would keep her civilian clothes, most likely including such useful items as a purse with car keys and a phone. She leaned her forehead against the locker and wondered what on earth she was going to do. She longed to call Troy for help and support, but Troy was part of her real life and she could never share with him the insanity of this other life. She'd already caused herself enough heartbreak with Corey. Tears of frustration stung her eyes, trying for release. She wanted to cry for herself, alone in an impossible situation, and, as always, wanted to cry for her baby, whom she wasn't allowed to even visit unsupervised. That grief followed her everywhere—that she couldn't save him. No one believed her. Lord, she prayed, help me.
She straightened and swallowed, telling herself sternly that Corey hadn't died yet, and she was just going to have to deal with this latest weirdness. She couldn't be Corey's mom in Angela's body.
Wait a minute!
She sped out of the locker room and stopped a passing young man in an Air Force uniform. "Excuse me," she said. "I've forgotten the combination to my locker. Can you tell me where I go to get that fixed?"
Corey's mom wasn't allowed within 500 feet of Corey, per court order. The injunction said nothing about Angela Perry, astronaut.