In The Deepest Space
Chapter 1 - Last Breath
Flain - small holes behind the ear that are kind of like a nose, but detect not only smells, but emotions as well and sound. They are covered by skin, but open up when required.
Struiit - a time measurement. Approximately five and three-quarter hours.
Croan - something between a groan and whimper
gnyuck gnyuck - an admonishment like "now now"
cleuge - like a bandaid that adheres to the skin and changes its chemical appearance to blend in with the skin
Sa-ahn - sorry
Ahhh-ghizhhhhhhh - a calming sound, to sooth
Zhah-wuut - hold still
"Swan, can you hear me? SWAN!"
I hear his voice but can no longer respond. The oxygen in my tank is running dangerously low, and I can't waste it on speaking. I shallow my breathing as much as possible while crawling on hands and knees back toward where I think the shuttle is. My heart thuds painfully in my chest, and I know that this could very well be the last few moments of my life. And it's just so fucking dark out here.
My mind briefly wanders to Charlie - my dad - and then to Renee, my hair-brained mother. I think about all of the things I haven't said to them, have never and will never experience with them. I worry less about my mom because she has her new husband Phil to take care of her, but Charlie doesn't have anybody except for his fishing pole and the two deputies at the station. I think about our last telephone conversation and how short I was with him. I won't get to say I'm sorry for being an ungrateful bitch of a daughter.
The rest of my team continues yelling at me through my headset, but their voices begin to feel too far off - like an echo down a long hall from the far end. My arms will no longer carry me, and I feel them go out from under me, followed by my legs, and finally I lay flat against the surface of this foreign planet. It's dark, oh-so dark, and cold. My space suit is designed to protect me against the cold of space, but it's a different kind of cold I feel now, the cold of death's grip. I am a fish out of water, gulping for any last remnant of oxygen I can find...and then there is none.
Then there is nothing but black, but the pressure in my chest is gone. This is death.
"Leeft her ghently, Emmeet. You musssst be careful."
Emmeet grunts as he picksss the girl up, heavy in her white uniform. I'm sssure sssshe is on the brink of death, I'm sure and we are moving much too ssslowly.
We race to the pod with Emmeet carrying the girl, hoping to sssave her life. She is unresssponsive, and only moments before, we watched her take her last breath from a ssshort distance. She has some form of communicassion device on her, and if we make too much noise while we resssscue her, whomever issss on the other end will know we are here.
"We mussst make hassste, Emmeet. We will be unable to revive her sssoon," I notify.
Emmeet grunts and runs fasster. We get to the pod, and I quickly open the hatch; Emmeet ssspeeds through, removing the girl's cranial protection. I rip the purified air tube from the wall, and we open her passage, jam the tube down her thhroat, working to revive her heart. Emmeet movesss at her feet, pulling her boots and cloth from her feet, then begins to shock her arches. Within ssseconds, her back bowsss off of the table as she attempts to breathe in air.
I quickly leap up on the table, stradling her and turn her cranium towards mine. I ssspeak to her through my orbs, demanding she look at mine. She is sstrong-minded, fighting my voice in her head, but complies after my telepathic trancce.
"Ahhh-ghizhhhhhhh"," I buzz through my teeth at her, and her eyes flutter closssed. Sshe will sleep now and not fight againssst our help.
I replace Emmeet, working on her feet so that he can direct us back to the sship. He is a sskilled driver and has ussss moving in short moments. We have the technology to travel without being detected; Emmeet passes over her ship, and we ssee a form walk quickly away, wearing the same uniform the girl had been. My feminine senssses detect it is a man, and my flain opens up; I smell his rigid fear even as far from him as we are. He is most likely looking for the girl, but he will never find her. As far as he knows, ssshe has expired.
Once the girl is in a deep sleep and her heart hasss regulated, I move to the front of the pod and sslide into the ssub-cradle. Emmeet expertly glides uss toward home, and we remain quiet for a time. I think about our misssion today. We had gone in search of a broken pod. Carlisss had argued with Ah-liss about going out, as there were to be cossmic storms, but Ah-liss won, so here we are. The sstorms are just now beginning to make an impact, and after several struiits pass, the ship appears on our satelite.
In the back capsule, I hear the girl moaning and incoherently murmuring words that have no meaning to me. I extract myself from the ssub-cradle with Emmeet directing us closer to home. The girl sstrugles againssst the restraints I put her in earlier and whimpers loudly. The tube is still down her throat, and her mouth opensss as sshe fights againsst it.
"gNyuck, gNyuck," I admonish her, then crawl on the table, reaching above her head. I sstab at the air button with my digit, before ssslowly extricating the tube from her throat. She whoops and gaspsss for air, so I gently press againssst her esophogeal crevicce; she calms down.
The girl says nothing for sssseveral momentsss, and she and I watch each other. I releassse her arms and legss from the restraints and watch her move her limbs. Her movements are ssspastic, and I worry that she may have a problem in her cccentral computer sysstem.
"I died," she says, and my flain opens up once again, tasting her words; Emmeet croansss out front at the tenor of her human voice.
I ssswallow thickly, attempting to regain my composure. Ah-liss gave me this exact warning before we'd left, saying that I mussst maintain my will against unforseen surprissses.
I nod at her. "Yesss, child. You died. But now, you are not dead," I explain.
Her eyes widen as I speak, and I'm not sssure if it's at the news that she isss alive or that I have ssspoken to her. She opens her mouth to ssspeak again, but closessss it without saying anything. I approach her ssslowly, taking my time and walking around the table, untangling all of the device cablessss, then unplugging them from her skin puncturessss. She makesss a little noissse when I pull the cable from her neck, and my flain flaresss again. She gassssps, and I look over at her, noticing her gaze upon my neck. I slowly lift my hand, placing it behind my hearing receptors, and smooth the skin back over my flain. The girl watchesss me clossssely, and I know she will sssspeak to me again sssoon; I puff out my chest, ingesting breathing particles, and reach for composure.
A droplet of color dotsssss her cranial column, and I try my hardest not to tassste the air for her essense smell. I drift to the wall compartment that holdssss our bandages and remove a small cleuggge, then move back to place it against the girl's skin. She flinches ssslightly at my touch, then quickly composes herself. She sssits stoicly upon the table as I move to extend her legssss over the ssside of it.
"You mussst stand, now. Yesss?" I question. I must asscertain that all of her cranial computer functionss are in perfect working function.
The girl ssswings her legs over the ssside of the table, and I put my hands out to her. Ssshe looks fearful, skeptical at first, but then grabs them. A ripple moves across my skin, and I feel my flain flair once again. She notices the change in me and triesss to pull away, but I grip her tighter, pulling her off of the table. She issss shakey on her limbs on firssst account, but I steady her, keeping her upright and fronting her weight. The girl takes several deep breaths, then dipss her head at me.
I drop my hands and move to the side so she hasss room to tesst her capabilitiesss. She takesss one small step, then another - several more, and she issss walking around the cccircular compartment. She letsss go of a twinkling, excited sound, and I am unable to curtail my croan this time.
It slithers out of me slowly, as I am unable to contain it; the girl throwsss her back against the sssshell wall and ssstares at me.
"What was that sound? Did that come from you?" the girl inquires.
Moving over to the door, I wave my hand across the closure sssensor and look back at the girl; I wave her forward, and on much sssteadier feet, she walksss out in front of me, exiting the room.
We make our way to the front of the ssship so that she may properly be identified to Emmeet and that she may sssee her surroundings. She pauses when we come to the compartment head door, and I again wave my hand over the ssensor. It opens, and ssshe moves to walk through. However, I hold her by the arm and move in front of her. Emmeet is not dangerous, we are a calm and loving species, but he is still a young mate and can quickly become irrational.
I feel the girl walk closely behind me, and my flain opens to a new scent that she emits. I only recognize it when we come across an enemy clan and are unsure of our fate. She is feeling fear.
I turn around to her and slowly pass my hand before her orbs. "Ah-ghizhh. Callmm, child."
Her body quakesss, and I grip her arm and hold her steady. Onccce she is composed, I turn and walk the rest of the way into the compartment head. Emmeet wearsss his head phonesss now, communicating with the ressst of our clan. I sslip into the ssseat next to him and point to the ssseat behind Emmeet. The girl ssits.
"What is your name?" she asssks me as she attempts to buckle the sseat around her armsss and torssso.
"Name?" Thisss word is unfamiliar to me.
She dipss her head at me again, then looks around, then back to me. She emits a lot of air, then placesss her hand on her chesst. "I'm Bella. Bell-a," ssshe says, tapping her chest with her digit. I undersstand then. She is requesssting my title.
"Esssme. My title is Esssme. Your title iss Bell-a? Are you not SSSSSSwan?" I clarify, pointing at the lettering stitched upon her white uniform.
She once again dipsss her head at me, then ssshows me her teeth, making me flinch. She takess notice of my expression and quickly hidess them; a forlorn look comess acrosssss her face. I compute that the ssshow of teeth meansss much different thingss to her kind, than mine.
I passs my hand over my face to let her know that all isss well. I am unsure if she undersstands the meaning of this, but her attentionsss are taken from me as ssshe peers out the front of the compartment head. I watch as her eyesss widen and wonder what all of thisss looks like to her.
Our home ssship loomsss in front of usss. Emmeet grunts at me, and I quickly begin to launch our hover land gear, anticipating out entry into the ssship.
I have to be dead. None of this can quite possibly be real. This woman, Esme, speaks like a snake, and her feet barely caress the floor as she walks. It's more of a glide and everything feels so surreal. I know I died. I remember the feel of that last breath of air, and there being none in the next. I remember the way my lungs burned - a horrible pain - and the fading of my vision. I'm in some sort of afterlife that doesn't really exist. Maybe this is like what people say - how your life flashes before your eyes before you die. But this isn't that, this is something entirely different and not at all real.
But I can feel pain.
Is this real?
The small pod, as Esme, or whatever her name is, called it, coasts forward a bit and we begin to get closer to the much larger ship in front of us. It is a pristine white color, if that is what you can call it, since I can't really place a name on the actual hue and stretches far past either end of the pod window in right and left directions. Above the larger ship, I see stars and black, open space. I've never felt so small.
The small pod we are in coasts forward into a large mouth on the ships southern tail. Upon our entrance, a heavy weight settles into the bottom of my stomach, and I can't contain the bile that quickly travels up my esophagus to my throat, spewing out of my mouth. I feel the burn of it in my throat, mouth and in my nasal passage. This can't quite possibly be real.
The vomit floats in the air, and suddenly, my feet feel so much more solid and sturdy on the floor of the pod. Through the pod window, I see large arms come out of the floor of the docking room and reach up to grip our small pod. In that instant, whatever kind of gravity they have here, sets in. My vomit, having moved forward from my mouth and body, crashes to the floor, some of it landing on "Emmeet."
In the next instant, he is quickly on his feet and turns to face me; his eyes bulge from his head, and he instantly throws up all over the place, a bluish-green viscous matter.
"Ha-aghhhh, Emmeet! gnyuck, gnyuck!" Esme says as she jumps up out of her chair. Her hair whips around her body, curving like a protective layer around her upper torso, yet appearing more delicate than silk.
"Sa-ahn," Emmeet says quietly. His eyes are down cast, and I'm surprised at the soft lilt of his voice. It is smooth like velvet and carries and air of old age with it, although he looks to be my age. I don't know what age or years or time means in this place; I try to hide my surprise at his voice.
Esme looks at him and raises her hand up in the air like she is holding something, but gesturing at me. "Bell-a." This is all she says, and in the next second, Emmeet sweeps me off of my feet and begins to walk down a little corridor and around a corner, until we are standing at the pod's hatch. Esme waves her hand over the sensor, and it slides open; a small, curvy set of retro-looking stairs unfold from the pod, and we descend, Esme first, then Emmeet with me in his arms.
I know that I should be paying close attention to everything around me, but truth be told, I can't take my eyes off of Emmeet. He is a good looking...being, but his looks are not why I'm unable to look away from. Behind his ears are three small holes and a flap of skin. The skin shimmers in such away that is utterly beautiful. I'm transfixed; the skin slides back over the holes and finally, I can look away. As I turn my gaze ahead of us, I catch Emmeet's eyes, and he smiles at me; large dimples dot his cheeks. He nods at me, then looks up ahead of us, and I quickly follow his eyes, remembering that I need to be paying attention to my surroundings if I ever plan to make it out of here.
We walk through several long corridors with me still being carried by Emmeet, until finally, I see a lighted area ahead of us. There is a round room with several glass panes and bright lights, illuminating the glass. It appears to be - what I assume - a satellite or communication system. We round a sharp corner, walking towards a doorway, but Esme comes to an abrupt stop in front of us. She makes this weird clicking sound in her throat and I quickly look over to her to see her focused on something in front of us.
Make that someone...or better yet, someone's bare ass, a bare fucking naked form. I can't deny that it's a very nice ass, and as I stare at it, I realize just how fucking bizarre all of this is. I seriously have to wake up at some point, or truly die, because this can't all be real. Not fucking possible.
Naked Ass turns around - yep, totally naked - and I quickly move my eyes from that...ah, level, and up to his face. He looks young; blond hair cradles a flawless face.
"Carrrrrlisss! You haaven't a garment on," Esme teases, not the least bothered by his nudeness.
'Carllissss,' pronounced like Car-leeese, smiles and walks over to us in the floaty way that I'd seen Esme do earlier, coming up behind Esme. He reaches his hand out and traces the shell of her ear. The sound that comes out of her is completely indescribable; I couldn't describe it if I knew every language on Earth and in space. It was like this guttural groan and a lion purr plus something else, all in one. If she wasn't wearing such a look of pure contentment and ecstasy on her face, I might have been frightened by her.
Esme lets out a long breath that sounds like a hissing sigh and in an instant, there is a short girl standing beside me and Emmeet. In the next half-second, Esme glances at me, then ghosts down the hall with Naked Man...errr, Carlisss.
This is so fucking weird.
I remember the little female beside me and look over at her. Her eyes bug out a little and she makes a small "o" shape with her mouth. The look is utterly ridiculous and I want to laugh, but I have no idea what it means and offending these "people" could be bad. She grips Emmeet's upper arm and he gently begins to lower me from his embrace. I follow his lead and place my feet on the slightly soft, rubbery looking floor, surprised at the way my body feels here.
I've never been a bigger woman by any means, but here, my body feels light, floaty; I feel like I may have trouble keeping my feet on the ground. Maybe that is why they all seem to glide or float to me.
"Weel-cohm," the small girl says; her voice is luxurious and heady. Like Emmeet's voice had been, her's seems too old for her body.
"The title I taake is Ah-lisss. Your title isss Bell-a?" she asks.
I nod my head at her. "Yes, but how did you know?"
Scaring the hell out of me, Ah-liss throws herself away from me by five or so feet within seconds. I hear Emmeet make a noise behind me, but he places his hand on my shoulder, making me feel comfortable...almost safe.
"Ahhh-ghizhhhhhhh," he says, gripping my shoulder. "Ah-lisss, composure."
Ah-liss floats her way back over in front of me and makes that wide-eyed "o" face again, then places her index and middle fingers against the temple of my head. I attempt to turn my head to look around and take stock of my surroundings, to see how many others their are, but Ah-liss holds my head in place as she does whatever it is she is doing.
"Zhah-wuut," she whispers, and again, I have no idea what it means. I decide to just hold still until she is done with her test, or whatever, on me.
Ah-lisss lowers her hand then and looks me directly in the eyes for several moments. I hold her gaze, trying to convey whatever it is that she needs me too, then she abruptly turns away from me.
"The union is decided," Ah-liss announces, and all eyes in the room fall on me.
I'm confused and an onslaught of questions plague me, but mostly, I want to know what union.
"What union?" I ask as Ah-liss and two others begin to stalk toward me.