hares-recovery

Slumber Party

“Interesting,” T’bia observed, examining medical sensor readouts on the wall. “It’s almost better than his own regenerative gift.”

“It is his gift.” Tari sat up on the exam bed, peering at her hands. “His healing gift, his instincts… What the hell is next? Am I going to start turning his colors?”

“I didn’t want to mention it, but there is a very slight shift in hue -“

“Don’t even joke about that.”

“Sorry. Have you by chance tried…” The skunk raised her hands, gesturing wildly with her fingers as though she expected something to happen. “You know?”

“What, his elemental abilities? I really don’t dare. It’d be my adolescence all over again without someone knowledgeable to help me control it.”

“Was just a thought. Hold still.”

Tari crossed her eyes, trying to look at the monitoring device that’d just been attached to her forehead. “What are you doing?”

“Checking a theory.” A series of graphs appeared on the wall. T’bia tapped her fingers against her elbow, eyes darting over the displays. “Well… So much for that. I was sort of hoping I’d be able to see signs of Jay or this ‘Vira’ persona in your head. Far as I can tell it’s just your wave pattern in there.”

“Comforting.”

We’re wasting time, Vira whispered. We should be looking for -

“Hm.” T’bia highlighted a section of the graph, pulling it away from the first for a close-up. “Nope, no sign of the little monster…”

Vira growled at the unintentional slur; Tari bit down on her own tongue, hoping Vira would take the hint. With an angered snort her fox spirit fell silent once more.

“Oh well.” The AI scratched her head. “Don’t suppose you’d care to wear that neural monitor full time?”

“I’d rather not.”

“But it’s for science!

“Sorry.” Tari plucked off the small sending unit. “It’ll have to wait.”


“There, there!” Vira pointed at the datapad in Tari’s hand. “That is the answer!”

“I… don’t think I’m seeing it.” Tari turned the pad a quarter turn in her hands, then again. “Doesn’t stand out upside-down, either.”

Vira snorted, grabbing for the pad; her hand passed through it. “Rrr…”

“That’s the fourth time you’ve tried to do that. You’re pretty quick for a figment of my imagination. Is that a sign that I’m secretly as dense as you?”

Her spirit side growled, slapping her on the arm. The waking dream containing her fox spirit’s presence had solidified over the three days she’d been searching for solutions, completely interfacing with reality. Vira was no longer confined to a simple whisper in her head or a specter on the edge of her vision - she came and went as she pleased, occasionally disappearing back into the recesses of Tari’s own psyche for hours at a time. While she could not truly interact with anything outside of the dream, Tari herself was a part of both the dream and reality - and completely subject to Vira’s ire.

“You truly do not see it?” Vira questioned disappointedly.

“I’m reading an old story about a human who was transformed into a fox.”

“Yes, but that is the point!” Vira stopped just short of grabbing for the pad, counting down from five and taking a breath. “Cross-reference this with other cases of transformation. Look at the method, at how the crossover was accomplished.”

Tari complied, creating a new index on the display device. “Mmm. Yes!”

“You see it now?”

“No.” Tari flipped pages on the screen. “Look, I’ll tell you what I actually see here. I see several legends, so I’m already taking them all with a grain of salt. But, if we go ahead and pretend that these are factual accounts? We’re looking at killing someone by draining all their energy. Then, we remove their soul, infuse it with a piece of our own spirit, and finally return the whole mess to the corpse to basically… ferment.”

“Half of which has already been done, yes!”

“No! Even if we had the energy between us to attempt this - and I’m quite certain we don’t - I’m not about to push something of this magnitude on him without his consent!”

“The energy required is grossly overstated for what still remains to be done, I am certain. We may have to sacrifice one tail, at the most.”

“Vira…” Tari moaned, putting her head in her hands. “You’re not listening. I won’t put the burden of dealing with someone like you on anyone unless they know exactly what they’re getting into. Unless he’s conscious, he can’t willingly accept the risk that we might cross him over. We have to find another way.”

“There is no other way,” she spoke matter-of-factly. “You will not find anything better.”

“Just watch me.”


“Still no luck?”

“No.” Tari flicked her hand, sending the datapad skidding across the table. T’bia stopped it as it reached the edge, gently placing it back within reach. “I’ve wasted a week and a half reading every scrap of pertinent gobbledegook that my people have left on the public record… The only viable possibility I’ve been able to locate is something I’m not willing to do.”

“I really don’t want to rush you,” T’bia voiced. “But if you’re not already aware of it… I can really only keep a body viable on life support for so long. Another two or three days at best.”

“Can’t you just stick him in metabolic stasis?”

“He’s gone from being virtually indestructible to possessing the delicate constitution of a wet paper sack. Wet paper doesn’t freeze so well. Gets brittle. Tends to come out of the freezer in itty-bitty pieces if you sneeze while taking it out.”

A quiet thump echoed through the tabletop as Tari’s forehead made contact. “Damn it… And we can’t leave to get me in touch with home, anymore.”

“You did give me the okay to remotely control the J’Ruhn’s autonomous systems while the computer core is down, so it’s not entirely my fault. I’d just tell you to take it for a test drive with the Serin in tow but I doubt the Fleet would appreciate that with their security and repair crews crawling all over the place. You might like to know… They’ve stumbled upon some very interesting things.”

“Such as?”

“When I helped extract a copy of the main databases for the investigation, I found every DNA encryption key used to build every biological system on the Serin and the handful of starcutters sharing its design template. Tons more beyond that.”

“Why would they even have that?”

“I can’t trace when they were stored in the database, not just yet. Lots of stacked encryption to decode and I’m more focused on things Pakar’s teams need to find. I’m just guessing, but I suspect Chameleon stole them. Somehow he must have broken out of the labs after his first capture, might have taken them as souvenirs. Still, there’s no way the nemaqi labs should have had the full set - unless someone intentionally broke protocol.” T’bia grinned. “I’m going to be able to do things to the Serin I’ve only been able to dream about before now. Getting my hands on those makes all this headache worth it.”

“Please forgive me if I don’t share your enthusiasm. I don’t think any of this is worth Jay’s life.” Tari sighed, shaking her head. “I’m sorry. I know you didn’t mean it like that… I just don’t know what to do. There’s no one I can go to for help.”

“Maybe you should ask for a little divine intervention. You’re basically part of the pantheon in a way, no?”

“Not… as such, no. We’re not gods - even though some of our eldest are damn near godlike. At our core we’re spirits of the land and of the elements. We don’t get a priority line to the next tier of support.”

“Well… It never hurts to reach out and ask, anyway.” Bee nodded toward the wall behind Tari; the kitsune turned her head, peering at the tapestry of the Val’Traxan goddess, a near-clone of her true kitsune form. “Even if your own people are out of earshot, someone else may hear you.”

“Bee, I respect your faith in the existence of a benevolent higher power. I really do. Despite what I am, what I can do, and what I’ve seen others do… I honestly don’t share it.”

“I didn’t say I believe, either. I suppose I drift in and out. Mostly, I consider myself a non-practicing agnostic.” T’bia got to her feet, adjusting her emitter. “Gotta go. Toy’s ready to pop another set of bulkheads open.”

“Have fun. Don’t break my ship,” she added, picking the datapad back up.

“She’s really quite lovely,” Vira spoke, just after the door closed.

“Who is?” Tari turned around, finding her spirit’s avatar peering into the eyes of the tapestry. “Vira… Don’t do that.”

“Do what?”

“Stare at her. It’s not polite.”

“Why do you say that? It is not as if she can actually see me. This creation is merely a combination of organic fibers, pigments, and dyes.”

“That’s not the point. It’s still a sacred artifact by their book. If you want to admire it, fine. But don’t… antagonize it.”

Vira grunted, moving along the wall to examine the photo collection. “I have not been completely honest with you.”

“Shocker. What about?”

“I am aware that you do not wish to use the method I have insisted we should utilize. I have focused on it mainly because I know you would not use it.” Vira inhaled quietly. “I believe we can replace his soul with few consequences to his long-term health.”

Tari slammed her pad on the table. “Then why -“

“I do not wish to return to what I was. I had no specific sense of self-awareness, no individual existence. I cannot say for certain that I do now… Perhaps I am no more than a manifestation of your mental trauma, created solely by your mind as a way to deal with the combined stresses of unwilling captivity and containing a foreign soul within your own. I would like to believe I am something greater than a mere delusion… Yet, I cannot ignore the possibility that I am no more than that. Returning his essence will certainly terminate my existence.”

“We can’t keep him bottled up inside us. It’s not fair to him.”

“It is also not fair for you to deal with me in such a face to face manner for the rest of your days. I have no independent existence from you. I am a mere shadow, never meant to be… There is no future for me. There never has been, not from the very moment I possessed a thought that was independent from your own. And yet, I believe…” Vira held her hand in front of the tapestry, running her fingers past the surface while never quite discovering a way to touch it. “I believe I am scared, Tarioshi. I believe that I am staring down my own death.”

“Vira…”

“Of course I will not die,” she continued quietly. “I will merely return to the depths of your psyche, once more becoming the primal urges of our maternal heritage that you so abhor. You will be whole again. The greater problem facing us is the energy required to restore him without chancing a conversion. We must delicately untwine his soul. I am not merely containing him - he has integrated somewhat with us, as evidenced by our suite of new knowledge and healing abilities. If a spirit fragment returns with his soul it will fester and grow, consuming a portion of his soul in the process of turning him.”

Vira turned to face Tarioshi, their gazes meeting. “I profoundly believe it will require the sacrifice of one tail at the barest minimum. It may require both, which would wholly sacrifice me to save him, leaving you at best powerless and forever trapped in that Val’Traxan guise… It may even require a tremendous amount more than we can generate on our own. There is simply no way to know until we begin. Once we invoke the sorcery, we cannot stop the process until it completes. If suddenly we require more energy than we have available to commit… It will kill all three of us.”

Tari made a mental effort to not to grind her teeth together. “One. More. Day. Give me one more day to look over everything again. I know there’s another way. There has to be!”

“I am not the one you must plead with for more time. His body is the one with an expiration date, not ours.” Vira straightened up, standing tall as she faced Tari. “If you believe there is an alternative… Let us find it. I have one condition.”

“What?”

“You have been awake for three days, searching for this alternative we have yet to locate. Even I feel the fatigue we are staving off with sheer willpower. Should you even find something in this state, we would not be able to make use of it… And we likely would not recognize it as a solution. Sleep.”


“If we don’t start now -“

“Then let us begin.”

“Right.” Placing her hands on Jadyn’s chest, Tarioshi closed her eyes. “Let that which has been done, be undone. Let the soul we have stolen find its way home.”

A faint green glow appeared around her hands, life energy seeping from her body to his. Vira carefully placed her incorporeal hands on top of Tari’s, looking her in the eye. “Alone, we are weak. Together, our will is insurmountable.”

“And together, we name you: Jadyn Elon Tzeki, son of Kieran and Aazi. Return to your mortal vessel.”

Ancient energy exploded around the medical bed. Tari clenched her jaw, shutting out the fire blazing in her skull. Vira writhed in her own personal agony as the aura engulfed her form.

“Now!” Vira ordered. “You must do it now!”

Nodding a single time, Tari focused her thoughts into the deepest recesses of her spirit side. Vira was in an incredible amount of pain, the sorcery they’d invoked forcefully separating Jadyn’s soul from their spirit essence. Tracing past the suffering, the desires, the very core needs… Beneath it all, the true power of her kitsune blood lay in wait.

“Tarioshi!” Vira pleaded. “We will be torn apart! You must release it!”

With a single thought, Tari removed the seal on one of her tails.

A feral shriek pealed from Vira’s lips as the incredible store of energy was unleashed, the tail exploding in a shower of glowing embers. Tendrils of white light seeped from her chest, spiraling down her arms. Cascading over Tari’s hands, the delicate threads of Jadyn’s soul traced their way back into his own body.

“It’s working - Gods, it’s actually working -“

Tari cut herself short, sensing the panic building within Vira. The energy from the first tail was not enough - nowhere near. Their eyes met through the light around them; Vira shut her own, resigned to her fate.

I’m sorry, Tari apologized to herself, watching the tears stream down the face of her spirit.

“Do it,” Vira whispered.

The seal on her remaining tail dissolved away without a second thought.

Vira screamed. Every ounce of pain, of desperation, of hope and disappointment and regret and fear - all that she was came out in one agonizing wail as the very thing giving her substance ceased to exist. All her energy collapsed in upon itself, separating completely from Jadyn’s soul.

Tari refocused her thoughts, holding onto the last vestiges of Vira’s energy as she tried to continue threading Jadyn’s essence back into his body. Without the spirit to help contain him, she willed her own life energy to envelop him as she worked. Darkness set into the edges of her vision as she struggled to hold onto the magic and the containment, unable to manage both on her own.

Oh, Gods… It’s still not enough… I’m going to lose him…

Tari swallowed, staring at Jadyn’s body as the sorcery slowly fell apart. Blackness set in on her senses as the her own strength ebbed away, Jadyn’s existence bleeding away as she faltered.

“Someone… Please, anyone… Help… Help him,” Tari whispered, her head falling limply onto his chest. As her consciousness faded, her thoughts were drawn to the tapestry a few rooms away, to the image of the vixen that so much looked like a twin.

“Help us… kshorahii…”


Tari woke up screaming and soaking wet. Taking several deep breaths, she quickly scanned the room to gather her bearings. “I… The Serin… This is… I’m not…?”

“Tari, I don’t know what kind of nightmare you were having, but damn.” T’bia shook her head, setting down an empty bucket. “Do you have any idea what it takes to set those sheets on fire?”

“What…?” Glancing at the bed around her, she leapt to her feet. A large body-shaped char mark lay on the sheets and mattress where she’d been sleeping. “What the hell?!

“That’s what I’d like to know.” T’bia grabbed her by the shoulders, spinning her around and giving her a once-over. “And not so much as a singed whisker on you… Tsk. Doesn’t count if there’s no blood, you should know that.”

“I… Where’s - My tails!” Tari released her val’traxan form and ran to the mirror. A sigh of relief escaped her as both extremities proved to be at hand. “Vira…?”

“Present,” her fox spirit groaned, prone on the floor beside the bed. Wisps of smoke drifted from her fur. “That… was… uniquely unpleasant. I am just going to lie here for a time…”

“Tari.” Stepping up behind her, the AI gently held her arms. “I’m not usually one to pry into someone’s dreams, but what in the Void did you just go through? Jay’s had rough nights, but… Never like this.”

“I… I dreamt that Vira and I… We tried to restore his soul… We used every last ounce of her power and my life… And… We couldn’t…” Tari choked on the words, turning and latching onto the skunk as she sobbed. “Bee, I can’t do this… I’m going to kill him, or her, or myself… I’ve made a hell of a mess and I can’t clean it up… I need help…”

T’bia held the vixen close, letting her work the fear and frustration out into a friendly shoulder. “I’ll talk to Pakar first thing in the morning. We’ll leave in the afternoon for Terran space. Okay?”

Tari nodded, easing away from her. “I’m sorry. This shouldn’t be your problem. I know you’re busy trying to help everyone with the J’Ruhn…

“Don’t worry about it. There’ll be plenty of time to wax that clunker when we get back. Why don’t you try to get a little more sleep, okay?

“I don’t… I don’t know if I dare…” Tari swallowed, peering at her bed. “I, uh… I’ve got to clean this up first…”

“No, you don’t. You can have Jay’s room for now. I’ll deal with this. Come on.”

Tari let herself be led from her quarters, barely aware of the trip down the hall. Fatigue swept her as T’bia helped her into bed; she was fast asleep before the lights went out.


“You guys can’t leave! You’re my only reliable technical reference manual to this crate. Half the plans are completely wrong.”

“We don’t have a choice. There’s no one within communications range familiar with her style of elemental manipulation and we’re going to lose his body in short notice. We have to go.” T’bia knocked on a bulkhead, listening to the echo. “Pressure’s good. Ready?”

“Yeah.” Toy watched as T’bia grabbed the door, slowly forcing the hydraulics to retract. “Can’t you give it one more day? We should be able to bring main power back up this evening… I could get clearance from Pakar to -“

“To what? Take a severely damaged ship into a no-fly-zone just to make a collect call?” The AI frowned, padding into the newly opened corridor. “A few minor hull breeches… Simple microfractures. There… There… And there. Need a team to seal them, but structural integrity is still sound for now. Non-critical.”

“Scheduled.” The leopard grunted, scratching out notes on his pad. “There’s no other way? None of the nearby elementalist races can help?”

“They’re not familiar with her style… Or ours, for that matter. We need someone with practical experience in one of the two. I’ll have to bust out a Flashpoint corridor just to get there in time. Not that I mind, mind you. Wormholes are cozy.” T’bia peered at a location plate, the large cargobay-style door standing beside it firmly closed. “Navne kanydeuh heha - roughly… Cold Storage, Bay Nine.”

“Cold… Cold… There’s no reference for any Cold Storage Nine on the master list, let alone one through eight. Not that I’m surprised after looking for corridors marked on the plans that don’t actually exist…”

“Yeah, that bugs me. These plans were used on every standard Juggernaut class ship the Galactic Fleet constructed. Why would they change huge portions of the inner layout for just this one? Wonder what’s in here.”

“Strictly speaking? ‘Cold Storage’ sounds like a refrigerator. Maybe it’s part of the galley.” Toy frowned, tapping buttons beside the bay door. “Odd. This door’s still deadlocked.”

“Really?” T’bia cracked her knuckles. “I’ve been hoping for a challenge.”

“Wait a sec… I’ve got energy readings inside here. Looks like a low-output fusion reactor was left online. Something like in a mobile computer core or a life support pod… Or in a very large galley fridge, for that matter.”

“Signs of atmosphere?”

“Appears it was sealed against the leak that happened out here. Normal atmospheric pressure inside. Can we get Tari to clear the deadlock?”

“She really could use a few more hours rest before we bother her. Besides, this can wait until we get back.” T’bia knocked on the door, grinning. “It’ll be a nice surprise, eh?”

An answering knock came from the opposite side of the bulkhead. T’bia and Toliya peered at each other; the skunk leaned against the door, tapping out a simple pattern. As she finished, it was repeated back to her, pause for pause.

“Echo?” Toy asked.

“Can’t be. Timing’s not exactly on mine. Definitely an organic copy.” She pointed at the panel below the access keypad. “Open that, cut the red, blue, and orange links to the controls. Carefully…”

“Red… blue… Orange. Done.”

“Get back.” T’bia stepped up, shielding her emitter behind her back. With her free hand she took hold of the three wires, shorting them together. Arcs of electricity danced across the panel as mechanical grinding sounded within the wall. “Deadlock should be cleared… Woo-damn. I’d hate to do that with main power up. Wow. Nearly overloaded my emitter.”

“Bee? What other ways are there into this bay?”

“Don’t ask me. You’re the one with the faulty schematics in hand.” T’bia squinted. “I still don’t have enough of the database decoded to see if there’s an updated one… They really went overboard with encryption. Guess we open it and see who got stuck inside.”

“Mm.” Toliya drew his sidearm, eliciting a concerned glance from the AI. “Just in case.”

“You’re a little too paranoid sometimes. One of your repair guys probably just crawled through some shaft we don’t know about.” Taking the blue wire in hand, T’bia shorted it against the doorframe. A deep groan rolled out from the wall as the old hydraulics pushed into action. The pair watched as the door slid aside, darkness greeting them from inside the bay.

“Hello?” he called, stepping to the threshold of the door. “Is there anyone here?”

“Toy. Take four paces backward.”

“Hm?”

“Get behind me, right now.” T’bia squinted into the room, her artificial eyes easily piercing the darkness. “‹Good morning, sir. As Khamai is in my medical ward, unconscious and in restraints, and Iguano told us before his death that their father died at Khamai’s hands… You are doing a fine impersonation of a walking corpse.›”

“‹The rumors of my death have been somewhat exaggerated.›” A short white lizard limped from the shadows, dressed smartly in the black and gold uniform of a Galactic Fleet Captain. The cut was mostly standard, altered with short sleeves and otherwise adjusted for his diminutive size; the only true variation were the pair of black gloves covering his hands and the small cane helping support his weight. “‹You speak this language well… Would this indicate you are mefiritan?›”

“‹In a sense. My name is T’bia Halio. I am a Val’Traxan-crafted AI personality. You are a long way from home, Chameleon -›”

“‹Please, no.›” The lizard grimaced. “‹I have never considered that name my own… It was our creators that branded me such. I call myself ‘Anolis,’ Vel’Halio.1›”

“‹What are you doing, locked in here?›”

“‹A difference of opinion with my eldest son. Now, if you please - this is of critical importance. What is the date?›”


Eight lights floated in eternal twilight, forming a circle around a fading ninth.

That was close… the blue light voiced. Now what?

The darkest glow rumbled in disapproval. We have already interfered far too much by reversing the timeline.

She asked for help in the Goddess’ name -

She does not follow the faith.

That hardly matters. We’ve never turned down anyone who has come to us with a prayer truly from the heart, spoke the silver light.

Desperation is not faith, the dark glow countered. She came to us as her last resort to save herself.

She didn’t ask us to save her life. She asked us to save him. Even if we turn a deaf ear to her plea, we cannot ignore the consequences of doing nothing! The existence of billions are at stake.

The entire timeline will collapse, the blue insisted. It nearly did a moment ago -

We did not create this situation, observed the dark glow. We must not interfere, even if it costs us all our existence.

The brightest light moved towards the ninth glow, faint fingers of energy caressing it, infusing it with newfound luminance. If we do nothing, this timeline ceases to exist. Therefore, since we are here, entertaining this discussion… We have already intervened. The only thing we must now decide is exactly how… and precisely when.



Annotations

1. The 'Vel' prefix is formal Val'Traxan addressing, equal to 'Mr.,' 'Mrs.,' and the like, but is gender neutral.

6 Responses

  1. Derek says:

    While the prior versions of my works that have been dump-trucked onto the InterTubes will have generally given away the collective identity of those ‘speaking’ (and I use the term loosely) in the last scene… The goal here was that it shouldn’t be completely clear, not yet. It’s kind of obvious based on the context, and to me it feels really obvious, but I’m hardly objective. I’m hoping the effect is there.

    As an aside, Creationism will eventually see the light of day again.

  2. Dimensional says:

    Interesting turn of events. Extra dimensional beings resorting to a temporal reversion to save not only Tari, Vira, and Jay, but also billion of lives that they have yet to touch.

    Well, your not the only one who knows whats going on. When it comes to temporal matter, there are a few people, myself included, that will understand it beyond the point of insanity. Not joking. Like the movie “Next” with Nicholas Cage, 5 minutes after he’s with the girl in the motel, I realize that everything after that moment is just through his ability. He’s not really doing all that, not yet anyways.

    I actually want to chat with you, some of your work is crossing with ideas I’ve been having for years.

  3. Tsunari says:

    actually given temporal mechanical in this story i’d say they have touched those lives already.

  4. Derek says:

    Let’s

    Do

    The Time

    Warp

    Agaaaain

  5. Dimensional says:

    I was referring to the present. From their point of view, they have yet to touch those lives. It’s all relative. Space, time, even size.

  6. Tsunari says:

    From the point of view of those extra dimensional beings they have touched those lives already. Although we have to see where the story goes in terms of time travel rather than make assumptions.

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