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Nov. 1st, 2012 06:23 pm
0good_as_gold0: (Biohazard symbol)
[personal profile] 0good_as_gold0 posting in [community profile] good_as_gold
(Written 2008, just never posted, for some reason.)

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     Brennan had remained deeply sedated the entire trip back to Yannis’ base, and slept his way through the protracted job of removing all the skeins and strands of thick, sticky polymer that had wrapped him – it had necessitated sacrificing his top layer of clothes, and some of his hair, because the thick adhesive bonded far too well with the fibrous materials.

     He remained sleeping for several hours after they got him secured in the deprivation tank, as well. And when he finally woke up, he was so muggy and disoriented he was convinced he was still asleep, lost in a fog of silence and darkness. He sat up, groaning about the hard floor he’d laid upon, and rubbed his aching temples.

     “Hello?” he wondered, drowsily, waving his hands in front of his face but seeing nothing. “Hel-hello? Is anyone there? Please?”

     There was no answer – not even an echo. His voice was muted and dull, the very darkness seeming to soak the sounds up, like inkblots into black velvet.

     He struggled to his feet. “Please, if anyone is there-…” he tried again, scuffing one foot across the floor. The surface was smooth… polished. He slid his feet carefully across the floor, looking for obstacles, but found nothing until his outstretched fingertips bumped the wall opposite. The wall was just as smooth, just as featureless – it felt as if it had been coated in matt paint. He moved along to his right, hoping he might be able to find a door, at least. He discovered a table, first of all – just high enough to crack his knees on. There was the slop of water and the rattle of a jar rocking, but thankfully no klonk or splosh as whatever container it was fell over.

     After he was finished with his groaning and cursing, he carried on carefully navigating the room, and this time kicked something yielding.

     Oh no, tell me there are not bodies in here-! After a moment or two of dithering – if there was a body, he didn’t want to grab hold of anything unsavoury! - he crouched and hesitantly dabbed his fingers down on the yielding thing.

     It revealed itself to be nothing more than a rolled blanket, and a pillow, and a bucket at the end. Bedding. So, he was here for the long haul, it seemed… He continued along the wall, concerned that as yet he’d not even found a corner. And when he bumped the table with his welted knees for the second time, he realised (with a sinking sense of dismay) that the room was not only circular, it had no door. And no light!

     “What madness is this?” he wondered, faintly, trying harder to glimpse something – anything – in the gloom. Nothing answered his question.

     Someone was playing some sort of unkind trick on him, he recognised. Because this room wasn’t just quiet and dark, it was utterly silent and utterly lightless. He sank down on his rolled up pad of blanket, and listened to his breathing – not heavy because of fear, but heavy simply to break the constricting silence…

* * * * *

     Back on Ardea, to say that Eri was worried would have been the gravest understatement in months. And things had seemed to have been going well, if Sei’s latest report was anything to go by! He was making fair progress, having tracked his suspect all the way to a little world called Hah’zeept, and he and Bren were going to do a little investigation down on the surface of the planet, as of his last communiqué. And that had been it! That had been the last words from them. They’d tried hailing them repeatedly, but to no avail, and now Ardea herself was on her way to the little desert planet to see if her crew could find out exactly what had gone on.

     As if to cap it all, Hauura had been taken ill – and apparently quite seriously. When she’d not turned up for her morning shift, and not answered her hails either, Velia had gone down to her quarters and found the big female unconscious in the middle of her living space floor. They’d rushed her down to the infirmary – once they finally managed to carry her! – and now Doctor Kin’toughra Threetoes (or more commonly just “Kinto”) was busy treating her.

     When Eri turned up, to see how the big raun was, she got a bit of a surprise – Hauura was sat in the bottom of large clear-sided tank full of water, looking forlorn and pathetic, a larger-than-usual mantle around her shoulders. Her massive shoulders were rounded forwards, and her heavy head slumped down on her long neck.

     “Goodness-… What’s wrong with her?! Are we under attack? Has she been hurt?” Eri turned full circle before the doctor snagged her arm and reclaimed her attention.

     “Goodness, no, nothing of the sort,” he reassured, sitting the captain’s fiancé down behind his desk. “She’s just coming out of crisis, that’s all. She’ll be fine in an hour or two.”

     “Crisis…?” Eri echoed, giving the doctor a dumb blink.

     Kinto rested his cane against the console, and gave her a speculative look. “Um, let’s think. How familiar are you with Augren’s syndrome?”

     “Augren’s…? I-…” Eri shook her head, helplessly. “Never heard of it.”

     “Doesn’t surprise me, not many non-Xanu have.” Kinto briefly checked the monitor he’d been watching when Eri first over-reacted, then set his stylus to one side and pecked a button or two to bring up a medical dialogue. “It’s the condition that Hauura has. It’s immunological, with an autoantibody attacking neurotransmitter receptors, and as a consequence she can get very tired, and very weak, and have to rest for a long period.”

     The reason for the way the big raun had to go and sit down after protracted periods of active bridge duty suddenly became clear. Hauura was never one for sitting calmly and discussing things with the captains and crew of other vessels, she had to be up on her feet, arms waving, stomping about, while Iios was the surprising voice of calm in the background.

     “Can’t you treat it?” Eri glanced over at the drowsy Xniki.

     “Of course I can! And we do, very successfully! But! Because our dear Hauura hasn’t been taking her medicines properly – which, I should add, she is prone to,” Kinto waggled his stylus at Hauura in a naughty-naughty! kind of way, “she gets periodic respiratory crises like this one.”

     “Make me sick, Three-toes!” a muffled voice grumbled from behind the glass, and a flurry of bubbles simmered up from her mantle. “You try take them!” Her voice was heavy and resonant and rather beautiful, under the water, unlike its usual dry, growly irritation.

     “You’d rather go into crisis again? Hauura, I never understood the way you behave with your damn disease, and this just compounds it.”

     “Wouldn’t use that tone if I was out of here, Hop Along!”

     Kinto turned his back on her and rolled his eyes. “One of these days we’ll develop a treatment for Augren’s that its sufferers will take willingly,” he grumbled.

     “If the medicine is so horrible, isn’t there a gene therapy that’ll just… fix it?” Eri wondered.

     “If we knew what caused it, probably, but Augren’s is very rare in monogenes.” Kinto spread his hands, and limped his way over to Hauura’s tank. “And polygenes have so much genetic data in there it’s hard to isolate what bit is going wrong in common diseases, let alone the rare ones.” He glanced up at the smouldering brown eyes that glared down on him through the glass. “All right, Hauura, I think another hour should do it. Happy to stay under the mantle?”

     “Don’t give me much choice, ne?” Hauura let her bulk subside back to the floor of the tank, sulkily.

     “We’re still in the warp, and we will be for another few hours,” Eri reassured, pressing her fingers flat against the glass that separated her from her friend – although it was odd, she’d only just now begun to think of her in such terms. Funny how even the bleakest of situations had little silver linings, if you looked hard enough. “There’s nothing you could do right now, anyway. We’re all still waiting on information from the Hah’zeepti police.”

     Hauura grumbled quietly, but nodded her thanks. “Will do what doctor asks,” she acquiesced, sullenly.

* * * * *

     Brennan had done yet another circuit of his silent room, mumbling to himself purely so he had something to listen to, when the lights came on – they were very muted, barely more than candlelight, but to his light-starved eyes it was like being trapped in a floodlight. He gave an involuntary cry and lurched away backwards, one arm over his face.

     “Good afternoon, my old friend,” a familiar (and hated) voice greeted, as if nothing at all were wrong. “How are you enjoying our company this fine day?”

     “Yannis,” Brennan croaked, feebly, keeping his arm across his face. “What do you want?”

     “What do you think I want, friend?” Yannis oiled, sweetly.

     “I dare not imagine.” Brennan crushed his eyes into a squint, but still couldn’t quite blot out enough light to stop it hurting and still be able to see. “Although I know it is not simply to see an old friend!”

     “Hah! You have always been such an astute little man,” Yannis deadpanned, dryly. “All right, allow me to explain. I have, how can I put it? A chip on my shoulder. A very considerable chip on my shoulder, in fact. And you are one of the idiots who put it there.”

     “You are resentful because of your exile,” Brennan recognised. “I am sorry that it had to come to that, but then I am more sorry that you can not take a little more responsibility for your actions.”

     “Pah. My own actions, indeed! First of all, dear Brennan, consider how I feel for having been banished at all,” Yannis argued, in an overly melodramatic voice fairly dripping with false sorrow. “Trapped out here on this primitive little world with very few of my own kind for company! Second of all, consider how I feel for having been banished for working only for our people’s improvement, our people’s benefit!” He clasped a hand to his chest. “And lastly, consider how I feel to have been banished after being accused – and convicted! – of causing terrible harm and attempted murder,” his voice dropped to a snarl, “when the individual in question is not even alive!”

     “That is a matter of opinion only,” Brennan argued, at last managing to get his arm down and look up into the little rectangle of light above his head – so that was why he’d not found the door. It was in the ceiling. “You saw only the sum of a man’s parts. There are those out there who would see you as nothing more than a squashy, chemical machine.”

     Yannis hissed, softly. “That is beside the point,” he snapped. “All right, Brennan, I will desist beating about the bush. You are here because I require a test subject. You are here because I need someone to use to test my super-weapon on. The weapon I will use to finally wipe out those overbearing, supercilious idiots who banished me to here in the first place! I will get my vengeance on all those idiots who dared cast me aside and stamp my name with dishonour and humiliation, even if it means I am the last of my kind that still stands!”

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