18) Cobi and Anna

Cobishandra ran. She wasn’t sure why and had no idea where she wanted to go. She found herself in the apartment, tore off her clothes and plunged into the steaming pool. It was suddenly strange. The fright made her dive to the bottom. She swam through the underwater opening and surfaced in the grotto behind the water fall. Her skin crawled with uncertain colors as if she was being scrutinized by countless critical eyes. Vivid images of Ana’s horror assaulted her. She pulled herself out of the water and slid over into the surrounding vines, covering herself. She felt hopelessly trapped, as if pinioned by a spike through her heart. All she wanted was to pull it out, but couldn’t.

On the power deck several levels down, in a magnetically sealed room, a technician tried frantically to raise the Ambassador.

“Your Excellency! Your Excellency! Answer please! Emergency! Emergency! Intrusion into power system! Breach of Quantum Fission plant! Your Excellency! Anyone! Please answer!”Finally, the Ambassadors voice came on line. “What’s wrong?”“We’re holed up in a control room next to the power plant. The bug has gone wild. It moved so fast we couldn’t do anything. Soldiers and technicians inside the plant are all dead. We barely escaped! The thing bored right into the center of the Quantum Fission reactor and is whipping tendrils out into the whole surrounding area. It’s sucking us dry! We must shut down now!”

“What? You fools will pay for this! All you had to do was cross scan it with the frequencies I gave you!

“Please, sir, we couldn’t help it. It must have changed, or something. It was too fast I tell you!”

“How long before it goes critical?”

“We’ve got about 80 zerons. Then it will be too late to restart! We should shut down now!”

“No! Get a cross scan on one of those tendrils!”

“But, sir, it’s too dangerous. I don’t want to die!”

“Well, I’ll bring some real men and take care of it myself!”

The Ambassador summoned 21 of his elite guard and headed for the power plant.

When Anadia came to, she was strapped to a table in the Physical Healing Center. The stump, which used to be her left forearm and hand, oozed through the bandage. She writhed and cried as the unspeakable agony returned. She was too weak to scream. Two Kultaki doctors, Dr. Vagila and Dr. Draken, appeared over her and spoke alternately through sterile masks.

“His Excellency has ordered no pain relief to be given.”

“We are to keep you alive only.”

“This is your punishment for collaborating with the enemy.”

“His Excellency has no use for one-handed girls.”

“Now, you will be entertainment … for horny soldiers.”

“Those who can stomach such a freak.”

They both laughed heartily and disappeared. She was alone. The pain grew unbearable and she left her body.

She was in a misty room with many other girls. Cobishandra was there. The conversations were all small talk; the little, nasty, vicious things that Kultaki girls normally talk about behind closed doors.

“I am going to touch the soul of another,” Anadia said.

She could hardly believe what she heard coming out of her own mouth. Every girl in the room stopped and stared in disbelief.

“I am going to touch the soul of another,” she said again.

Suddenly, they all got up and came toward her.

“No, no Ana, you mustn’t do that!”

“You will destroy yourself!”

“Think of your reputation!”

“You’ll be an insult to your heritage!”

“What would your mother think!”

“You’ll be arrested!”

Just then, some of them noticed the stump of her left arm. They gasped and fell back.

“She’s a freak!”

“A damned cripple!”

“An assault to the senses!”

“A useless piece of shit!”

“Let’s have some fun with her, then kill her!”

“Yeah, we’d be doing her a favor!”

“I am going to touch the soul of another,” she said as they descended upon her.

They pulled her ears, bit her, threw her into the air, stomped on her and passed her around the room, scratching her with painted claws. Her head spun round and round.

Then, all was quiet. Cobishandra’s face was in front of her.

“I’ve given you an injection for pain.”

“Cobi, why did you tell Lance, why?”

“I didn’t tell him, Ana, I swear. He must have picked it up from you while using the thought machine. I love you Ana, don’t die, don’t go away, don’t leave me alone with him, please Ana, please.”

“I’m sorry Cobi, I love you too.”

“What are you going to do Ana?” Cobishandra was crying and kissing Anadia’s right hand.

“I don’t know Cobi. All I know is … I have a very strange destiny to fulfill. I don’t belong here and never have. There is somewhere I do belong … and I must find it, Cobi. I must touch the soul of another.”

“No, Ana, no, it’s not our way, it’s not our way!”

“That’s why I don’t belong here, Cobi.”

“Oh, Ana …”

Cobishandra buried her face into Anadia’s neck and shoulder. Then, they heard voices coming from the hall.

“I have to get out of here now,” Cobishandra said, “If they catch me, it’s the grinder for me too, or worse.” Cobishandra embraced her and kissed her on the lips. Choking back tears, she quickly left the room by the back door.

“Goodby love,” Anadia whispered.

The two doctors entered the room. Anadia pretended to still be in pain. It would be a while before the pain killer wore off but she had to move fast because when the pain returned, she’d be immobilized once again. Dr. Vagila and Dr. Draken in their sterile masks stood over her as before. She writhed and moaned and cried.

“Thinking about things?”

“Wishing you hadn’t become a traitor?”

“Want to die?”

“Sorry, you must experience all of it.”

“Every twinge.”

“Every nuance.”

They had a good laugh, turned and went out.

Even before they had gone all the way down the hall, Anadia managed to undo the straps that held her. She crouched weakly on the floor. A few microns later, she was in an unoccupied retiring room splashing water on her face with her hand. She looked at herself in the mirror above the sink. She looked drawn and pale.

Leaning upon the sink for support, she closed her eyes and called from the depths of her being, Pheledra, Pheledra, Pheledra the outlander … my soul longs for you.

CONTINUE: 19) Playing Doctor

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