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What Does This Mean? – A Scene III

“It means you’re a moron who can’t help but get into fights,” the doctor said, dabbing my brow with antiseptic. I winced.

My very sore behind sat on the cold receiving table of the military med bay, instead of our inept nurse’s hall. I’d even been offered a stretcher from the student wing to the base. Privileges for belonging to the military.

“It means,” he continued, sliding his chair to his silver netscreen by the door. He’d shaved his beard since I’d last seen him. “I’m giving you the long way round of healing, because you’re here too often and you waste government money.”

I glanced over to the doctor’s desk, eyeing the aluminum tube that could spray my stitches away, indifferent to whether he used it or not. The emotions from my bond’s declaration had purged when I punched Wiry on the nose, and when he’d slammed the tray onto my face. I’d told the doc as much, seeing as he was my assigned physician.

Though I’d probably have to think of some sort of payback for Wiry. After all, it would give me a scar.

“Your knitting magazines,” I murmured, eyeing a basket underneath the doctor’s desk, cutting him off from one tirade or another. “Are they a waste of government money?”

The corner of his mouth pulled up. “They remind me how to sow up wounds.”

“I hope your boss believes that, because I don’t.” He smiled, eyes still on his netscreen. A 3d display of my injuries rotated slowly, and if my bond had been near, I might have felt embarrassment. Instead,  the glass doors slipped open to reveal my commanding officer, a short thin woman in her late forties.

“I don’t believe it, soldier. But he’s a hell of a doctor. So we make allowances for it.”

“Ma’am.” I nodded.

She pulled up a file on both our netscreens. “Five times in the med bay? For fights you started?”

I raised a brow. Right. I’d forgotten those other two.

“Fortunately you’re a hell of a soldier, or you’d have been sent to a far moon for this kind of behavior. I’d thought the B.E.T. project had been going well.”

I glanced through my file. “The irrational behavior is due to the emotional response from the male subject. His response and then withdrawal led to the female subject’s sudden outburst of emotion.”

“You’re blaming him?”

“I’m reading the doc’s files.”

He coughed. “It’s not blame per se, more of a catalyst.”

She raised one thin brow. “And you think that our decision to separate them ‘catalyzed’ her behavior?”

“That’s not enough to warrant a visit, Mother Superior, and you know it,” said the doc.

She ignored him, keeping her gaze on me. “Lucky I was on my way to you already. The Operation to Delta Prime has been moved up. We need you in the shuttles by 0800 tomorrow morning. I suggest you take the rest of the day to sleep this off.”



Are You Okay?- A Scene II

She said it with a lilt in her voice and a reassuring pat on my arm. I tried not stab my salad fork through her manicured fingers.

“Fine,” I muttered, weaving through the crowd of uniformed school children looking for seats. I hoped she didn’t follow me.

“He told me what happened,” she said, a few steps behind me. I knew her from English – why did I have to continue knowing her during the lunch hour? Couldn’t I just forget the existence of people that were inconvenient to me?

Or more importantly, why did he choose to forget our privacy and tell the whole world what I’d told him?

I slid onto the cold seats, someone else’s drink seeping in through my thin layer of clothes. Great. Now I’d look like I couldn’t control my bladder. The chatter of other students at the table continued, non plussed by two new additions to their seating arrangement.

Either that or they didn’t want to meet my eyes. Last I sat in the cafeteria without him I punched a rugby player. One that played the sport all traditional like, with gravity and everything.

The two girls with matching haircuts sitting on the edge of the table laughed a little too loudly, and the guy’s smile across from me faltered. I felt a small wave of satisfaction that I’m certain came from me.

“So,” she said, ignoring her food, staring earnestly in my direction. “Delta Prime.”

“You sandwich is going to get cold,” I said, taking a bite of mine. Not likely though. The heat in our food lasted for three hours, guaranteed. Along with a promise of freshness (or the imitation thereof) and a low price even a student on the Magnus Belt could afford. It couldn’t be healthy.

I took a breath of the stuffy recycled air, hoping the pain in my chest was related to some stressful test he was taking, or a new resurgence of some ancient disease, like cancer, and not the uncomfortable feeling of abandonment he had left with me.

He was supposed to have been outraged.

“I won’t be in Delta long,” I said, looking down at my food. Her head snapped up excitedly, knowing my reluctance to share information would soon return. The blond curls that framed her round face still bounced, and I tightened my grip on my milk carton. “They don’t like to keep us apart.”

She nodded. “Do you know what your mission is?”

“Whatever it is, I’ll be back soon.” I said, trying to put an emphasis on how quickly I’d return. On how important it was that my telepathic bond and I stayed close. On how irrationally stupid I felt when he decided to share with other people. Other blonde people.

He was supposed to have feelings about all this separation. Not me. I was strictly a no feelings person. That’s why they made us bond.

“I couldn’t do that,” she said, taking a dainty sip of her milk. It likely wasn’t dainty. I was likely projecting. “Work for them and not know what I’m doing.”

“You’re not me.”

Her eyes widened and her lips parted, and somewhere behind my cold anger I registered that I had somehow offended her.

“Of course not!” she said, reaching out to touch my hand. “I could never be you. Nor could I replace you.”

I pulled my hand away.

“That’s an impossibility.” I forced a laugh, choosing to ignore what she meant. Her face smiled, but her eyes didn’t. I offended her again. Did she want to be me? I’d promptly give her a list why that was an irrational desire.

The ID scanner that contained my briefing and my mission weighed heavy in my pocket. Metaphorically.

She’d cry from the things written there. She’d cry from the things that I’d done. I’d almost like to see that. I told myself to stop looking for available ID booths before I broke a law they couldn’t forgive me for.

A column over and four seats to the right a wiry looking fellow with spiky black hair slammed his tray a little too hard on a table, the other boy with him twitching in apprehension. He shoved himself in the seat, took another boy’s milk and poured it over his head. Laughed.

Before the bond I never would have seen that. I never would have felt the fear in the younger boy’s eyes. I never would have felt anything.

Stupid empathetic telepathy.

Stupid feelings.

I stood from my seat, emptied my tray in the proper trash receptacle, walked over and punched wiry on the nose.

The cafeteria let a out a shout of surprise, loudly and predictably. He growled and tackled me, throwing me on the ground where I landed into somebody else’s lunch. Ducking a punch, I kicked him in the ribs before he had a chance to get to me while I lay in an array of lunch meats.

The shouts grew louder and more violent, growing to a crescendo as we both found our footing. His eyes were dark, focused. Blood dripped from his nose. Good.

I felt myself grinning as I stood, grabbing a plastic knife from another student’s tray. It wasn’t anti-grav neopolymer steel, but it would do. I rushed.

He grabbed a broken tray and whipped it across my face.

I spun, landing a few feet away, my head rammed against the floor.

A loud horn rang through the cafeteria, urging in a wave of hushed whispers. I could hear the vague shouting of some authority figure. My face too close to the cold tile, I pushed myself from the ground, fighting the wave of dizziness that crashed my vision. Something dripped from my forehead.

“Are you okay?” my seat-mate asked, her pretty faces frowning. Did she have two faces?

“Besides the open wound?” I giggled, and it echoed through the silent hall.  Another drop of blood fell on my cheek. “Fine.”

We Need To Talk – A Scene

“We need to talk.”

The worst sentence in the english language. Okay, so maybe it’s not as bad as ‘your mom died,’ or ‘we dropped a bomb on Hiroshima,’ or ‘we ran out of cereal,’ but it’s pretty bad. I’d put it up there on the top five worst things to hear. Or say.

The problem with those four stupid words is that the ‘we’ isn’t a ‘we’. You’re not saying ‘we’ need to talk. You’re saying ‘I need to talk and I want you to listen and I’ve made up my mind so nothing you say will matter.’  They’re reductionist and self-serving.

Very human.

He sat across from me in the nigh empty hall, a bewildered look on his face, as I tried my best not to avoid eye contact. Three people passed by, two of them girls in uniform, and they shook their heads at me. They’d heard the echo.

“I didn’t mean that,” I said, wrapping my arms around my knees. It was a defense mechanism against his growing anxiety. I knew it, he knew it, but I didn’t care.

He raised an eyebrow. “You’d rather not talk?”

I shook my head. Frowned.  “I mean, I do want to talk to you, but not like the words sounded.”

He laughed. Sometimes, when a person laughs, their face lights up and they suddenly become the most brilliant version of themselves, an idealized other. And your brain remembers all the wonderful things about them and calls you stupid for ever thinking that they weren’t perfect.

He didn’t laugh like that.

I don’t think I can recall a moment in my life where he laughed like he meant it; out of simple mirth. The face he made was like something dark and grimy got stuck in his throat a century ago, and the excess goop dripped out of his eyes. They were always dark, his eyes, always stuck on some emotional dilemma. Brooding. Annoying.

Other students would look at us with envy, because he and I were so close, because we were in the council, because we were an attractive pair. Mostly, I think it was because some part of their subconscious knew we’d rip them in half given the opportunity.

People envy power.

“So?” He kicked my foot, bringing me back. “We breaking up?” The grin on his face was cruel enough that I knew he was joking, and I just rolled my eyes. Better to deflect than think about painful realities.

There would never be a break up for us. Whether we were friends, romantically inclined, or if we hated each other’s guts, it could never be. Actually, hating each other’s guts was practically impossible, given that the open channels of telepathy always caused such empathetic reactions in the subjects.

“They’re assigning me to Delta Prime,” I said. He furrowed his brows, and I projected a replay of the conversation for him. His wave of indignation, fear, and anger punched me in the gut, and I kept my palms flat on the cold tile to keep adverse side effects at bay. I didn’t want to go to the med division for the third time this month.

“This is because of the Chicago Project.”

“They didn’t say that,” I shrugged. I’d thought the same thing when the higher ups let me know of my relocation, up until they sent me the specs for Delta Prime. I’d kept that part out of his field of vision, if you could call our emotional link some sort of vision. I’d just showed him the main conversation, but his brain radiated disbelief.

You’d be surprised how many things in a human brain are actually emotionally driven and how many things we try to cover up with faulty logic. Though I wouldn’t really call us human anymore.

He felt my determination and the projection of regret. He widened his eyes. “I’m not invited.”

I nodded and he looked askance at his shoes. The mental link would be weaker on the other side of the space station. It would be as if we were two different people. Almost.

“I’m not the most charming sort,” he muttered. “But the separation will affect us.”

“Not in the same way,” I said. We couldn’t really go against what the higher ups told us to do – being their lab rats and all, but they tried to keep us together as often as possible. Side effects were worse when we were apart.

He was susceptible to bursts of aggression and paranoia. I, on the other hand, became a sociopathic killing machine. We’d separated once before. A whole colony on Yaelin was dead because of it. I’d come back on board and he’d acquired a few broken ribs, and once the emotional link got back up to speed, I’d developed PTSD. But I knew what he was asking.

Why did I agree with them?

“My brother is on Prime.”

The words rushed out faster than I meant them to, along with the emotional attachment and overwhelming sense of dread. I’d learned how to use emotions because of him; I was almost as good as he when it came to projecting them. I suspected they chose him for the telepathic experiment because of it. Better to have a sociopath on an emotional leash than in a cryo-pod – easier to control.

“They found him.” The half grin split his face in two, like I’d taken a jackhammer to a block of cement. He didn’t even try to shield the satisfied wave of vindication. I said nothing, waiting for the the other shoe to drop.

“No sudden remorse?” I asked after a while, tilting my head to the side. We’d have to finish our conversation soon, the last bell before his sociology course rang. The murmurs of incoming students grew louder.

“Not for him.”

I once had the choice of indentured servitude, a telepathic babysitter, and high school, or going back to earth to rot in solitary. They’d manipulated me into choosing people. I’m certain it was the most amoral of decisions, given their uses for me.

“You know what they’ll have me do,” I said.

“My psych says I’m letting your memories affect me too much,” he answered, trying to get his giddiness under control. “I was due for another round of clinical depression meds. This might even be good for me,” He checked his watch.

“We are breaking up,” I said, surprised. Another set of words people hate.

“Temporarily.” He stood, picking up his textbook from the ground.

“Good talk,” I said, nodding so he could leave. I didn’t tell him about the contingency plan in case my mission failed. Just as well, because he disappeared in the the crowd.