She knew nothing of herself, or her past. While possessing the words of many languages, they made a clotted mess in her head. She wasn’t even sure which language she thought in, but it didn’t matter: everything was too wonderful to be true ! Having Jason with her filled the void remarkably well. Turning a warm smile on him, she felt the unseen force that joining them stronger than chains would have. His continued happiness dominated her thoughts.
She frowned as a shadow flittered across her mind. There were reasons he might not remain happy, but she couldn’t quite recall what they were…
Driving the Jeep back into town, Jason caught her staring. “Something wrong?” he asked.
His mellow baritone voice vibrated with concern, sending a shiver of delight coursing through her, as she huddled in the blanket he’d insisted she wear over the clothing he’d given her.
“It’s nothing.” Her smile widened. “I will keep you safe, no matter what. I promise!”
He gave a startled laugh. “Thanks. I appreciate that.”
They passed various bright-colored structures, several stories high, with peak roofs, slat walls, and intricately carved ornamental touches, giving them graceful charm. The Jeep stopped in front of a building with a sign out front. She couldn’t read the writing, and had no idea what the winged stick thing meant.
“Here it is,” Jason said, “Doc's place. The office looks closed, but there are lights on in the rest of the house.” He switched off the engine. “One thing, unless the doctor notices, don’t tell him you’re an alien, okay.”
His words confused her. “I’m not from around here?”
“Not this state, this country, or planet--maybe not even this solar system. I’m not even sure you’re from this galaxy.”
She stared into his lovely blue eyes. So intense, deep as the sky at the edge of space… She decided that the color went well with his short black hair and pale skin.
“We have to be careful with your secret,” he warned. “Are you listening?”
His lips teased her with the promise of soft, caressing warmth. So inviting…
She wished he’d just shut up and kiss her. “My secret? What secret? I’m just like anybody else.”
“Ordinary women can’t fly on fields of force, they can’t pick up grown men without strain, and they don’t have naturally purple hair.”
She bit her lower lip, blinking back sudden tears. “You don’t like me…because I do those things?”
“That’s not what I…”
“You want me to change my hair?
“You don’t like purple?” Her lower lip trembled.
“I love purple!” he protested. “You’re fine just the way you are!”
“Ooooo!” She squealed and lunged, wrapping her arms around him. “You say the sweetest things!”
“Awk! Not so…tight. That hurts…a lot.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.” She relaxed her hold. I need to remember that my precious Jason is delicate.
He sighed, “Never mind. Forget I said anything. Just let me do the talking, okay?”
“Of course, whatever makes you happy…” It was so cute, the way he took charge, like a real warrior!
“We should go in now,” he said.
“That would work better if you’d let go of me.”
It was her turn to sigh. “All right, if you say so.”
Freed, he opened his door and slid out. She exited on her side, left the blanket on the seat, and waited for him to come around and collect her. Latching onto his arm she let him guide her around the habitation, up the steps of a porch. A button glowed by the entrance. Jason pushed it and she heard a lovely, but short, melody.
A few moments later, the door opened. A wrinkled man peered out at them, head crowned with a white cloud of hair. Glass lenses set in a metal frame perched precariously on an unimposing nose. “Jason? Is something wrong?”
“I need you to look at the lady, here.”
Doc’s eyes took her in, head to toe and black.
“That’s not difficult,” he said. “What’s the problem?”
She remained silent. Jason had asked her to let him do the talking.
“I pulled her out of the river just now. She’s suffering memory loss. I thought it best to bring her right over.”
“Well, she looks like she came through it fine. Bring the lady this way.” He retreated.
Jason leaned closer and whispered. “Try to breathe whenever he’s looking at your chest, okay?
She whispered back, “I’m not sure how. It may take me a while to figure it out.”
As Doc led them through the structure, she tried to look at everything. Some things she understood. Others were a dark mystery. Nothing seemed as if it had ever really been a part of her life. Perhaps I’ll know all about these things when I can remember again. She walked by a device on a table that put out light. As she passed, it flickered and dimmed, then returned to normal strength. It’s not working right.
They ended up in a room with a long table that had paper stretched out across it and steps at its base. “Climb up there and have a seat, little lady. Jason, you can wait in the outer room.”
“I really think I should stay, Doc.”
“Don’t you think the lady deserves some privacy?”
She felt adrift as he reluctantly eased toward the door. She reached toward him. Her voice spiked with panic. “No. Stay with me!”
“Alright,” Doc said. “Maybe we can skip the usual disrobing, but I will need to listen to your lungs. Now where did I put my stethoscope? Excuse me, I‘ll be right back.”
He left the room and Jason stepped closer. “This is where you really need to do that breathing thing we talked about.”
“Let me see you do it.”
“I am.” He took her hand and a pleasurable shiver went down her back. Her face warmed as he set her hand against his swelling chest. She felt a rhythmic beating inside of Jason. Her awareness sank into his hidden tissues as he released a breath. Descriptors slid across her mind for each organ she encountered, deciphering function. Soon, the entire expression of his life-function slid into focus--his matrix, so very close to her own.
As the doctor returned, Jason stepped away. When she lost touch with him, her special perception snapped off, but she was breathing. Air came and went in her body, and her heart beat in exact time to his.
Doc looked back and forth at them, his brow furrowing. “Okay,” Jason who is she, really? Some lady you found? I don’t think so.”
He’s sees through my pretense! He must have a special knowing too.
Jason feigned confusion. “What do you mean, Doc? I told you what happened.”
“Like I can’t see the family resemblance… What is she, a half-sister? Cousin? I‘d have seen it sooner, but that dyed hair throws you off at first.”
Jason appeared puzzled. His eyes went to her face, looking for something that should have been obvious. Apparently it was. His eyebrows rose in surprise as recognition glimmered in his eyes. “Second cousin, twice removed,” he said in a rush. “She has to keep a low profile, Doc. She’s in the Witness Protection Program. I’d really appreciate it if you’d keep all this quiet.”
Doc nodded, plugging a strange device into his ears. “Sure. I won’t ask any more questions. None of my business really…” Moving behind her, he lifted her shirt and put the other end of the device against her back. He touched her at several spots, each time saying, “Breath deeply.”
She obliged. Doc came around where she could see him. He shone a light in her eyes. “Hmmm, pupils are unresponsive,” he felt her head, “but no sign of an injury that might induce concussion.”
“It’s her natural condition,” Jason said. “She’s uh…”
“Oh,” I get it now,” Doc said. “She didn’t want you to go because you‘ve been helping her fake sightedness. How long have you been blind, little lady?”
She was about to answer, but just in time, remembered that only Jason was supposed to do that.
Still, the doctor read her silence as an answer. “Not long I’d say. You’re still not comfortable with it, are you?” He turned to Jason. “Far as I can tell,” she’s absolutely fine. Still, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. You owe me sixty bucks.”
“Take a check?” Jason asked.
“Son, I’m kidding. Your mom, may she rest in peace, was one of my dearest friends. I imagine you‘ve get enough expenses, giving her a proper send off and all. This visit’s on the house. Now, scoot. I have to get ready for a date. There are new releases at the theater, and I mean to go have a gander at one of ‘em.”
Some of his words confused her; there appeared to be gaps in her language, terms lacking resonation. While she pondered what a “release” and a “gander” were, Jason took her arm and assisted her in stepping down to the floor, guiding her firmly toward the door.
“We’re scooting,” Jason said.
Scooting, there’s another one!
Doc followed them back to the first room they’d entered. As she passed the light device, it flickered again, dimming. Then they were at the side door, going out. Doc called out, “Let me know when the services are. I plan on bein’ there.”
“Sure, Doc. I’m having a service at her church so folks can say goodbye, but don‘t plan on coming to the graveyard afterwards. Mom left a note saying she didn’t want to be remembered going into…” his voice failed him a moment.
Kalli grew concerned. The bright flux of force coming from Jason thinned, going ragged. Her heart resonated with his distress, growing cold and desolate.
“…into a hole,” he finished. Her essence cleared as she sensed him shoving his pain away to deal with the moment.
Doc nodded. “Yeah, I think I remember her saying something like that once. Well, take it easy, Son, and try to stay out of freezing rivers. You‘ll catch a cold.”
“Do my best, Doc.”
Jason walked her back to the Jeep. “You know,” he mused, “I should have noticed it a lot sooner.”
“Our resemblance. After all, I see my face every morning when I shave, and I’ve been looking at you since we met, can’t help it really. I hope that doesn’t mean I’m narcissistic.”
“No, you’re Jason, and what is this shave thing you do?”
“I scrape my lower face with a small blade to remove tiny sprouting hairs.”
“Why? Does it hurt?”
“It keeps me handsome, and no, it doesn’t hurt.”
“Well, if it doesn’t hurt, keep doing it. I like you handsome.” She thought about their similarity. “We look exactly alike?”
“No, there are differences. Your bone structure is lighter, definitely female. And apparently, there are differences beneath the skin. You see differently. I think your eyes react to wavelengths humans can’t pick up.” He stopped and turned to face her. “Tell me, what color are my eyes?”
She sighed in adoration. “Blue.” The most wonderful shade of blue in the universe!
“Hmmmmm, apparently, you slide back and forth between visible and invisible light spectrums pretty much at will. I think I understand: back on the bridge, just before you became human, you tried to become solid, but had trouble--until we touched.”
They reached the vehicle and he opened the door for her. She climbed in. He went around and got in behind the wheel.
She considered the scene he described. “I don’t remember that?”
“Take my word for it. I think what happened was, you needed a pattern, and you took it from me, creating a female version with a few extra biological oddities thrown in for good measure. God alone knows how!”
She shrugged. “What difference does it make?”
He matched her gesture. “None, I guess. I’ve got good genes. Actually, it might make things easier once we leave town. I can introduce you as my sister.” He started the Jeep and sent it rolling into the street.
“Oh, you’re so smart!” She slid closer to him, taking his arm, leaning her head on his shoulder. “Where are we going?”
“My mother’s house. I don’t know about you, but I’m bone tired. I need to eat and get some shut-eye.”
“Sleep. Mere mortals need to go comatose eight out of every twenty-four hours to stay healthy.”
“Oh, then I will sleep with you.”
“God! You don’t know how often I’ve wished to hear that from a beautiful woman, but it would be a serious mistake--you can’t remember your past. For all we know, you’ve got a husband and three kids waiting for you somewhere on the dark side of Pluto.”
She failed to follow his logic. “Why would that make it a mistake to go comatose together?”
“Uh…well…, oh, never mind. Let’s just say I prefer to sleep alone, and leave it at that, okay?”
“Whatever you say, Jason.” There was so much she didn’t understand! Why would he ever want to be alone, when he could be with her? She changed the subject. “So, I’m going to meet your mother?”
The vehicle swerved as Jason shot her an incredulous glance. He corrected his steering and took a moment to calm himself before speaking. “You didn’t understand the discussion that Doc and I had about her? She’s…dead.”
“Dead?” She repeated the word. “Is that like being broken?”
“It’s being broken forever. Don’t people die where you come from?”
The question briefly opened a door in her mind. Memories flashed; a cascade of strange and violent images unlike anything she’d seen since meeting Jason. She shrugged away her inner confusion. “I guess not.”
“Man, you don’t know how lucky you are.”
She pulled her head off his shoulder to stare at his profile, burning it into her memory. He’d called himself handsome, but she disagreed. He was beautiful and special, caring and attentive, and all hers! She was so lucky, she hoped nothing ever changed.
* * *
It scuttled on long spindly legs, tracking the released human from her pen.
The Skath didn’t like having to use humans--they burned out too quickly--but there was little choice. Chaak’s off-world host had died unexpectedly, a bad reaction to atmospheric pollutants, and a new body was needed. The parasite took what was at hand. Earth had billions to spare. Who was going to miss a few small lives anyway?
The long-haired Earther struggled, bouncing off rock walls as Chaak clamped onto her spine, biting into vertebrae. She screamed as tendrils pierced epidermis, sliding through elastic tissues, budding near major organs to extend new filaments. She jerked, tearing at her self, the mounds on her chest bounced wildly as she fought to escape--until the Skath blocked the impulses from the creature’s brain.
The Skath selectively remapped blood-flow through grey matter, starving unneeded areas of oxygen. The host personality withered and faded, leaving a compliant animal behind, no longer able to care about pain.
Chaak willed the host to stand. It did. How odd, and dangerous, to go through life on only two legs when losing just one becomes a crippling loss. Very inefficient. The host swayed and lurched about, but soon, the Skath refined control. Its kind were quick studies; they had to be.
It made the woman leave the darkness where she’d been kept, emerging into the bright-lit cavern where other bonded personnel manned power and weapon systems, as well as communication devices.
“I have an in-coming report from Saturn regarding the Amrha liner?” a tech reported as a holo-field flickered into existence. The image of a Skath Captain condensed into focus as the air turned heavy with tension.
“The trap was sprung,” the captain announced. “All data has been analyzed thoroughly from the sensor drones in the debris field. A final report is ready for Lord Ess’ consumption. I am sending it with the standard encoding.”
Soon, would come the part of the job Chaak hated, having to take a summery back into the darkness, to the cavern where the Vasti lord waited, so terribly patient, so insanely lethal. The Vasti tended to kill the messengers of bad tidings, so the Skath fervently hoped his evaluation report would be positive. Besides, if the prototype weapon worked well against the Furies, it would signal the end this long humiliating retreat across the galaxy. The Vassti would return to power and the Skath would stand triumphant in their shadow once more.
“The downloaded has been uncompressed and deciphered,” a tech reported.
Chaak stepped to floor grid at the edge of the holo-field so his own image could be seen on the distant ship. “Just tell me one thing. Was the fury destroyed?”
“Heavily damaged, in evident distress. We tracked her falling in-system to Earth. You’ll have to look around for whatever’s left of her.”
“Gladly!” Chaak announced, as tension yielded to a festive air.