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Nov 23

She: Contact

She didn’t know how long she stood there, frozen. Time seemed to stand still while her mind struggled with, rejected, tried to explain away, what her eyes saw. A cold weight had formed in the pit of her stomach, sending tendrils of shivering gooseflesh outward along her limbs.

A loud crackling squawk shattered the silence and made her jump nearly out of her skin.

She spun around in panic, searching for the source of the sound. Where it had seemed to come from, there was nothing but a wall. Then, another brief squawk, her senses honed in, and she finally noticed the panel. It had several buttons, but was the same blank color as the walls, barely visible unless one knew where to look.

“Press it again.”

A voice. A voice. Someone else was here! Somewhere. Her heart racing, she raced to the panel, mashing the buttons.

“Aaahh? Aaaah! Aaaah!’ Overwhelmed, her voice erupted forth incoherently, her mind speeding forward too fast for her disused sense of language to keep up. She needed to tell them. She needed to find them. She needed to do it all at once.

“Do you think it’s a–”  The voice cut off mid-sentence as her finger found a button. “Aaahh?” She shoved her face within centimeters of the wall in her urgency. There was a moment of silence. Had they heard her? She jabbed the button again repeatedly. “Loo… look! Look!” she croaked out in the midst of her hyperventilating.

Some garbled noises emitted from the speaker, a voice — or more than one? — heavily disguised under whining feedback. “Hear? Look out!” She pointed back toward the window, forgetting in her excitement that it was a useless gesture.

“What is she…” The rest was garbled.

“Outside!” she cried, her hyperventilating nearing a sob.

“What?” This voice was clear, strong.

“Outside. Outside!” Panicked sobs were burbling up from her chest, this small human contact a release valve for the crushing awareness of her circumstances as revealed beyond the window. She didn’t know what to do, but maybe this voice would, if she could get him to understand.

“Shhh!” The sharp hiss made her jump. “Who you?”

Didn’t he get it? “Outside!” she repeated, jabbing a finger toward the window, groping for forgotten words to explain. “Kali! Kali!

Another pause. She waited, holding her breath.

Squawk. “Kali.”  Pause. “Where are you?”

“I…” She took a deep breath, trying to calm her racing terror. She looked toward the doors, trying to retrace her steps, to create a mental map that she might be able to describe to the voice on the other side of that panel. “Ff.. fitness room. Double doors… outsi… outer-most hall.” She paused. “Windows here.”

The panel emitted some low static, then what sounded like overlapping voices, too quiet to make out.

She remembered, and jabbed the button again. “C-81!”

More voices — she was pretty sure there was more than one? — too quiet and garbled to understand. It seemed to go on for a long time. Her alarm began creeping upward again. He hadn’t forgotten about her, had he? Would he just leave her there, alone?

She punched the button again. “Where you?”

The conversation stopped abruptly. Then the firm voice returned. “Center room. Halls like spokes, all meet here, in the middle.”

“Okay.” She was already moving toward the doors. “I find. You stay… I am come!”

She practically ran out into the corridor.

* * *

She paused at the junction of the two hallways just outside the doors. Halls like spokes? She squatted, tracing on the floor with her finger as she attempted to visualize the layout. Center room. She traced a circle. Spokes. She traced straight lines coming outward from that circle, and realized none of those would cross each other. She looked up at the junction, then back to the floor, retracing one of her imaginary spokes. The corridor she was in now was parallel to the one where she’d started. None of the spokes would be parallel, either, so there must be connecting corridors… she traced a larger circle around the outside. Yes, that seemed right. The hallway she was in went around along the outer wall of the ship. The other hall was a smaller circle, inside of it. So the hallway that connected them must be one of the spokes.

She stood. That made it easy. All she had to do was walk straight until she got to the center.

She stepped into the connecting hallway and began to walk.

It was straight, but the lighting was inconsistent – mostly dim, even out completely for short stretches – so she could only barely make out what she thought might be the end of the corridor, where it would lead into the central room. She tried to walk quickly, but upon starting, abruptly felt exhausted. Her adrenaline was crashing; she knew this without having the words for it. She suddenly realized she was really hungry. How long had it been since she’d awakened? She had no sense of time.

Her pace slowed as she went along, but she was determined to keep putting one foot in front of another. Maybe he had food.

Maybe he knew why they were here.

She counted the corridor junctions, a way to distract herself from her quivering, burning muscles. The one outside the fitness room. The hallway she had started from. Another one. And another. One foot in front of the other.

She looked up. In front of her was a large set of double doors. She stepped up to them, reaching out with a trembling hand. These doors also emitted whining and grinding noises, before jerking open about half a meter, whining some more, and then falling silent.

She carefully squeezed through the opening, and was assaulted by the sudden glare of the overhead lights bouncing off the white walls. She blinked, squinting her eyes, trying to see.  “Hello? I’m here!”

The room remained silent as her eyes adjusted and her vision came into focus.

She didn’t know what she had been expecting, but it wasn’t this. The room was huge, far larger than any other room she’d seen thus far, and filled with chambers – but not like the people tubes she had already seen. These stood vertically, shorter and stouter, more egg-shaped than cylindrical. Numerous cables and tubes emerged from the top of each one, connecting them to a large machine of some sort, which in turn had its own tubes and cables snaking away through missing panels in the ceiling. The clear panel on each chamber was larger, too, taking up half the circumference.

She approached these chambers warily. Light bounced off the surface of the clear panels, making it difficult to see inside. She stood in front of one, her shadow falling across its front — just enough to see that it was empty, except for the familiar amber fluid, and some spongy material covering the back inside surface. Looking more closely, she thought it looked artificial, human-made, but couldn’t tell what it was.

Perplexed, she stepped to the next chamber, peering through the glass. Inside this one was…

A baby?

No.

A chilling horror crept over her. It looked like a baby… sort of. It was suspended upside down in the chamber, curled in a ball, surrounded by a clear membrane and attached to the spongy material by a fleshy placenta and umbilical cord.

But it… she… was – older. Too old.

An adolescent.

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