Month 6 Day 11
Kolla opened her eyes and rolled away from the black man. Rising to her knees, she looked around the room. “Nobody else is here yet, Mac said in the back of her mind. We can’t have been out very long, but they’re bound to show up soon.
I know, Kolla answered, her lips pressed together. She considered the unconscious man. Is this one also a friend?
“He’s my brother.”
If she had actually been talking, Kolla would have sputtered. Brother?
“That’s how close our friendship is.”
Is everybody on this... ship your friend?
“No. There’s a couple I can’t stand. Some I haven’t actually met. Quite a few I would not want to be alone with.”
Yet every time we are found, it is by one of your friends.
Yeah, what rotten luck. I’d much prefer running into someone I would like to punch.
That would render us unconscious, too.
I’d find a way.
Yes. Kolla laboriously climbed to her feet, leaned on the desk as the room started to spin. You have managed to avoid it pretty well. Until this one.
I never expected Bugsy to tackle me. Didn’t anybody tell him what would happen if he touched me?
How would your people know about that... side effect of our situation?
They wouldn’t be assigned here if they were stupid. That first encounter with Takor-“
The lizard. Right after you... Kolla could feel a chuckle emanating from the other ...invaded me.
It wasn’t something I wanted to do.
I know. Anyway, after that accidental touch, somebody would have figured it out. Kolla sucked in a deep breath. Are you feeling better? Because we really should get moving.
Yes, Kolla acknowledged. She turned, was startled to see a black-haired, dusky-skinned woman in the doorway from the corridor. But the woman who entered paid no attention to her, knelt beside the black-skinned man and wrapped her long fingers around his wrist.
This one is a friend, too.
You said that about the man.
He- Apparently, he doesn’t understand what’s going on.
Then this one won’t, either. Mac didn’t answer right away. Kolla could feel her thoughts churning in the mind they shared. I- We can’t ask for help again. We don’t have any energy to spare. With two of us inside this body, it’s doing double duty, you could say. It’s very rapidly approaching complete exhaustion.
I wasn’t that far from it when you arrived.
She stepped toward the door. What? Why? Their internal conversation was interrupted when the black-haired woman rose to her feet and hurried to get to the door first. Kolla watched her warily, expecting to be stopped. But the woman-
Her name is Yellow Dog. I think she’s here to help.
Meanwhile, Yellow Dog strode boldly into the corridor, where she stopped to look in both directions. Then she waved Kolla/Mac forward. Of two minds about what to do, the redhead started forward slowly.
Yellow Dog gestured for her to hurry, again looking in both directions, then stepped across the hall and opened a jeffries tube hatch. Reaching the open door, the redhead leaned out just far enough to glance up and down the hall. Yellow Dog had stepped well away from the hatch. Seeing no one else in the corridor, the redhead hurried across the hall and dove into the tube. The hatch closed and was dogged shut behind her.
Kolla/Mac crawled along the tube in the dim light. I hope your brother is okay.
So do I.
Why did the woman help us while the men have tried to stop us?
Well, I’ve been thinking for some time that YD is telepathic. Or at the very least, she’s extremely empathetic.
You think she knows that you are now... us?
I would not be surprised if she does. I’ve never managed to surprise her.
Kolla paused just long enough to raise a hand and try to stifle a yawn. Why were you already near exhaustion when I arrived?
I’ve worked a number of double and triple shifts this past week. Almost everybody aboard is sick. And before that, I’d started having trouble sleeping. Probably nerves, since despite a great deal of studying, I can’t remember anything long enough to pass a simple quiz by my boss.
You have problems with your memory?
I never used to. Not until I arrived here. But now, any time the boss asks a question, my mind goes completely blank. Sadness emanated through the entire body. So of course he thinks I’m a complete idiot, and he’s about to ship me out.
That seems harsh. I haven’t seen any lack of knowledge in you. Except, perhaps, difficulty understanding basic solid transport concepts. But if that’s not your field-
Kolla, we don’t have that.
What do you mean?
Those papers I finally found? The ones you said were full of holes and in some places just plain wrong? They weren’t on improving a transporter. They were on the theory of transporting solid matter.
Really? Then I take it back. For someone just hearing that it can be done, you grabbed the concepts quite readily. Your captain would be the idiot, if he cannot see your intelligence.
The captain doesn’t make that decision. She leaves it up to the department head. In my case, Mr Smythe.
The name sounds... familiar. Have we run into him?
A couple of times.
Is he the big one you had to fight?
No, that guy is in security. Smit is... he’s... Words failed, but a picture of the man slowly formed in Kolla’s consciousness.
Kolla mentally grunted. That’s the one I mistook for Sethym, when I first got here. But Sethym has a mustache.
If he’s anything like Smythe, I feel sorry for you.
He’s also my husband.
One arm buckled, and the body nearly landed on its face before adjustments could be made. Husband?
That’s a scary thought.
Kolla dismissed that topic and lay down, rolling onto her back. What do we do now? Do we have any options left? She closed her eyes. Maybe we just fall asleep right here, and... not wake up again. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
Nope. The body rather jerkily returned to hands and knees and moved on, turned at the next intersection. We go back to the auxiliary bridge.
We’ve already tried that.
We try it again. And by the way, what were you doing to Smythe that made him look... scared?
You don’t know?
It’s not like you were doing it in front of a mirror. Plus, the whiskey was wearing off. It was getting hard to hear each other.
Kolla considered what words would best explain. I was wishing he were Sethym.
Mac sighed internally. Guess it doesn’t matter. I won’t be here past the end of this quarantine anyway.