The next day, I laid there as the Tuhingan doctors and Caroline were crowding around me. They were looking at their pads and going through a list of things they had tried, haven’t tried, and what they think would be too far. So far, radiation was at the bottom of the list. The process sounded awful. Much like the chemotherapy. I didn’t like the idea of losing my hair, but they had more advanced equipment and medical knowledge than we had on Earth. However, I couldn’t help but think at the back of my mind that the doctors working on me had never seen a human before.
Opifex was grumbling a lot. He couldn’t stand his new Companion. At first, he seemed stunned by her. To me, she looked like all the other Tuhingans, a little more chubby than the average, but nothing special about her. However, he seemed to fall silent as she entered and went into himself. Didn’t say a word to her, she had to say everything to him.
She told him her name was Puellae. Then continued to tell him what a gigantic Tuhingan man he was. Telling him how she can imagine he could run carrying the heaviest of weights. Then complimenting him on the small fortune Opifex had got. He burst out of his silence in anger. “No!” he shouted. The doctors and Caroline stopped looking at their pads for a moment and looked at Opifex. “No, no, no!” Opifex looked at his Companion, “You are not a real!”
“Opifex, she is as real as you or I. She may not be Tuhingan, but she is real!” Medens, the doctor said.
“Shut up! You don’t understand! You don’t know! I don’t need her!” Opifex seemed anxious about being around his new Companion. Once again, he went into himself and didn’t say a word. His Companion also went into herself after that outburst from Opifex. However, she remained seated next to his tube.
The doctors continued to go around the tubes and were repeating some mild treatments they had tried. This time under Caroline’s watchful eye. I could hear sounds coming from her, as if she was agreeing with an invisible force, and then she seemed deep in thought. She often looked deep in thought, daydreaming and then talking as though she wasn’t thinking at all. I admired her as I watched her work. It made me feel more attracted to her when I witnessed moments when her thoughts seemed genius. Although, sometimes I didn’t know what they were talking about.
The testing seemed a lot more frequent on that day and they got through every treatment they had tried so far. Watching how the virus reacted. Then, the end of the day was approaching and Opifex had still not talked to his Companion.
“She has a hard job.” I said to Caroline.
“We all do.” Caroline said back as she was studying a pad.
“You know you should get some rest!” I thought I would make a point of it since she seemed to just keep going throughout the entire day. She just looked at me in response for a second and then went back to her pad.
“Later we can rest. Right now, I need you better!”
I looked at her in the most sympathetic way I could. “Caroline, we all need a rest at some point. Even if it is just for something to eat.”
“I can take over!” I heard Puellae say as she came over. Caroline looked at Puellae, confused. They stared at each other as if they were in a staring competition. Then Caroline snapped out of it and agreed that Puellae can take over.
Puellae then began talking to the doctors, catching up and continuing from where Caroline left off. But, not long after, Caroline was back.
“I can’t go away. We have to make you better, James!” Caroline said as she took the pad off of Puellae. Caroline paused for a moment and then afterwards began looking at the pad once again. From that moment, Puellae began helping Caroline with the task. They continued experimenting on us that day with no better results and it was soon the end of the day. Caroline was sitting on the chair and falling asleep. It amazed me how dedicated she had been and how much she had worked. At that moment, I had never felt more attracted to Caroline.
It was soon time for Puellae to go to bed. As she was leaving, she asked Caroline if she was coming. Caroline continued to refuse, so Puellae left by herself. Many of the Tuhingan doctors had also left. Only Caroline and Medens stayed.
“Caroline, you need rest! Need sleep. You should go to bed!” Medens said.
“I can’t leave! We need to beat this thing!” Caroline responded in an upset, determined kind of way. She seemed determined to keep going regardless of the cost to herself.
“James will still be here tomorrow and we can always materialise him again if something goes wrong.” Medens was saying. I wasn’t sure how to take what he was saying. I just smiled an awkward smile.
“No!” Caroline replied, dreary eyed, still staring at her pad.
“I said no!” she scolded. There was a moment of silence after that. Medens was staring at Caroline as if he was thinking hard on what to say next.
I felt as if I should try to find a solution. “Can we get a bed in here for Caroline?”
Medens looked at me for a moment like I had just said something wrong. I looked back at him, confused. He looked frustrated for a moment and then confirmed that we could do that. However, he would sleep with us. He set up the EMC turrets in the room and materialised two basic beds. They appeared to be made of some plastic polymer for the frames and had standard mattresses on top. One was Medens size, and the other was Carolines. Caroline pulled her bed to me and laid down to rest. I looked over and felt so happy to see her.
She looked at me and smiled, then seemed to stare into space. I watched as her eyes grew heavy and it was long before she fell asleep. She looked beautiful, a sleeping beauty, and it took me a while to sleep.
The next morning, Caroline was sleeping in. It gave me some time to admire her beauty as Medens freshened up in the room next to us. The doctors began coming in, disrupting Caroline and waking her from her deep slumber. Upon their arrival, Caroline quickly went through the same door Medens did previously and returned not long after looking amazing once again. They were all getting ready to do the harsh experiments. Beginning with some mild treatments that were the worst things on their previous list. They used the biological nanites and the memory of the pain came flooding back. From that moment, my memory of that day is a blur. They used a variety of techniques, each one more destructive than the other. They blasted our bodies with radiation, and I remember crying out in pain. Caroline was in tears and at one moment I remember other companions running in to drag her out as she became irrational. She appeared to be wanting to stop the procedures, but the rest of the companions came in and were surrounding me, pushing to continue. I remember Medens coming to my tube and telling me, “Sorry James, there is nothing I can do. The Galactic Union just wants this disease gone.”
I barely remember his words since, at that moment, I was in such agony again. It was exhausting. I only remember at that point I would trust Medens with my life a thousand times over. But my life wasn’t in his hands and I died a painful death unceremoniously.
Again I materialised and my memories came back to me. The radiation treatments continued and so did the pain. Throughout all this, I looked over and saw Opifex’s Companion, Puellae, crying over Opifex’s tube. Throughout the process, I had heard him screaming. Though he was silent with his complaints. The day was ending and their last act was to disintegrate me and re-materialised me. I laid there in the tube, traumatised by the memories flooding back to me from my BCI chip. Not sure how to process this information. I couldn’t sleep that night and Opifex was silent except for one moment. He looked at me dead in the eyes and said to me, “I will erase this from the BCI and materialise a version of myself before all of this happened. I can’t live with the memory of this torture.” he looked at me with such desperation. Tears forming in his eyes before he rolled back over.
Caroline wasn’t in the room and the doctors had left. I looked over and Medens had gotten into the bed he had set up for himself the night before. He saw me look at him and it seemed it was enough for him to get up and drag his bed over to the side of my tube.
“James, I am sorry you are going through this.” I stared at him, not sure how to respond. “The Galactic Union was pushing us to try everything.”
I continued to look at him but in a quiet voice replied to his comment, “why do I have to remember?”
He looked at me as if he was about to be sick, colour drained from his face. “Are you wanting to forget?” he asked.
“No,” I said. “I would want to know what happened.” He relaxed from my response. “However, why did I go through this torture?” I asked him.
“We need to know what you are going through, including how you are feeling. Machines can only tell us so much and you have been very helpful.”
I couldn’t remember saying anything about my pain or what was happening to me, but I knew I was talking a lot. I remember uttering words and descriptions. But that is it. “I’m glad I have helped,” I said, confused.
Medens looked at me, “you have helped a lot, even by telling us where something hurt. This torture wasn’t for nothing. We think we have a treatment for you.”
It concerned me and it was written on my face as I looked at him.
“A treatment that will work.” He continued. “A treatment derived from the experimentation.” he paused a moment to look at my response, then continued. “A treatment that should be less painful compared to what you have been through.”
I nodded in agreement. “… And I should be able to come out of this tube soon?”
He tilted his head side to side, “Hopefully!”
I stared at him for a moment before my eyes became heavy as I felt my mind trying to process the day. “Goodnight,” I hear Medens say and I utter the last word I said that day “goodnight”. I was soon drifting off into a sleepless, scary nightmare filled night.
Caroline came back the next day. Made up with makeup. She had attempted to make herself look amazing and didn’t fail. She came in, silent but stern, looking embarrassed as she looked at the other doctors. Then came over to Medens and stood next to him. He looked up from his pad to look her up and down. She flashed a look back down at him.
“Are we ready with the treatment?” she asked.
“We’re ready when you are. But I hope the Galactic Union isn’t planning on torturing my patients again today?” he said with an angry undertone.
“No, just the treatment.”
Medens took a deep breath, “Okay.” he said. Then continued to explain to me and Opifex what will happen on that day. I understood most of it except the radiation they would be using. There would be problems for me, mainly cancer, which they promised they would keep under control using medical nanotechnology.
It all sounded painful, however, they promised me they would take it slow and monitor the process. So the treatment began. At first I felt nothing and was asking Caroline how she was, however she seemed so focused on the pad she was looking at, she didn’t even notice I spoke. I tried to talk to Opifex. He had his back to me, not talking to anyone. His Companion by his side, looking as though she thought the world was ending. Medens and a few of the other Tuhingan doctors were the only ones to look at me. However, some of them looked at me in such a way that I felt like they wanted to see me tortured.
“Are you okay, James?” Medens asked me.
“I don’t know what is happening!” I replied, “I mean, I know how the treatment works and how that will affect me. But I don’t know what is happening with everyone else.”
Medens looked around the room for a moment. “Hmm, yes, you will have a challenge when you leave here.”
I looked at him confused, “What do you mean by that?”
“James, many of us loved Periclum. I understand you considered him your friend, but many of us knew him much longer. He was a brave Tuhingan that always knew what to do and many of us, including myself, admired him for it.”
I looked at him with a blank expression as it sank in that I wasn’t the only one suffering from the loss of Periclum. I felt selfish for it to take so long for me to realise that I was in a room full of people mourning his annihilation, the annihilation I caused. Most of them were suffering just as much, and perhaps more than me, about the loss of Periclum. Panic struck as I realised I will have to leave the safety of my tube and this room soon.
“Is everyone mad at me?” I asked. I knew the answer, and it wasn’t anger that they were feeling towards me. However, it was most definitely negative.
“Ehm, you will have to figure out for yourself how to deal with the emotions people are feeling right now.” Medens replied.
I smiled a brief and worried smile, then turned onto my back and stared at the EMC turret above my tube.
Around fifteen minutes after, Caroline was looking down at me with a sympathetic look. “You look bored.”
“Nah, just contemplating the hatred I will have to face when I leave.” I joked.
“We’ll deal with it together.” She said, unaware of how uncomfortable that response made me feel.
“Sure,” I said, forcing a smile.
“James, I understand humans to be barbaric and aggressive. So I found the Tuhingans have this fighter simulator. I thought you might like it.”
I looked at her blank for a moment, not knowing how to respond. Whether I should take offensive at the fact that she called humanity barbaric and aggressive. Or to thank her for finding me some entertainment she thought I would enjoy. She soon sent me a message, and I accepted. It was a link to the simulation, and she was right. It was more enjoyable for me than the other games I had played.
I started out in a cockpit of what appeared to be a fighter jet, with all the switches and terminals needed for it to function. Looking around, I could see I was in some form of hanger. The small ship I was in was facing a door. I had no clue what to do until a message highlighted the controls I needed to operate. I flicked a switch, and the door opened in front of me. Flicking another, my small ship was being dragged forwards into the compact room beyond the door, with another door in front of me. I continued flicking switches here and there. The air hissed out of this compact room and the door in front of me opened to reveal a long tunnel. At the end of the tunnel, I could see stars dotted across the opening.
I flicked a few more switches and watched the lights above my head come on one by one. There were four of them that lit up in yellow and then all of them became blue. Just as that happened, my little ship accelerated forwards at incredible speeds. The experience was unreal as I felt all my organs being forced to the back of my body. I went through the opening and then was in space.
To the left and right of me, I saw immense rings around what appeared to be a gigantic object that I had just left. There were these large pillars linking the rings to the main object. The rings appeared to be made of a black metal, the same metal was used to make the object I just came out of. They decorated the rings with a variety of turrets that were firing into space. I looked at what they were firing at and could see countless small ships like mine and strange circular alien ships which they were attacking. In the distance I could see an enormous ship that was shaped a little like a potato in the colour of black. Blocking out the stars. The only reason I knew it was a ship was because of the small lights on it. It drifted on the horizon and the stars were being blotted out, then appearing on the other side.
Alarms were blaring in my little cockpit and I saw a missile was coming straight at me. It exploded on impact and it wrecked my little ship, me along with it. It scared me and I came out of VR, realising I was relatively safe in reality. I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn’t real. I tried again. This time attempting to fire back. It worked, and I destroyed one ship only to be wrecked by another. Again and again I died and my ship exploded. I felt frustrated and wanted to improve my score.
So I did it again and again. Eventually, I was kicking ass. I thought about hints and tips on how to avoid craft and the game would give me a tactic I could use. So I improved. My survival time increased. I was doing a lot of fancy flying, pulling very intense Gs. I felt sick sometimes as I was going on this crazy ride. The sickness became worse and worse. I was finding my head was also hurting.
I pulled out of the game to find doctors surrounding my tube.
“Increasing dosage to sixty-two percent,” I heard one of them say. I was sick in the tube.
“I’m sorry for the discomfort,” Caroline said, trying to comfort me. “It won’t be long until this is over. We think we have almost eradicated this virus.” She went back to her pad as quickly as she spoke to me. Distracted with something that appeared to be important, then I was sick again.
“Increasing to sixty-three percent.” that voice again, who said that? I couldn’t tell. Everyone was staring at their pads. I was sick again and this intense headache formed. Closing my eyes, I felt the world spin. I had to open them again. It felt as if I was very drunk without the benefits.
“Sixty-four percent. We are making progress.” I was trying to keep control of myself. I was sick next to myself in the tube and felt myself getting worse. The number kept climbing. I could feel a burning sensation coming from inside my body. It was getting painful. “Sixty-eight percent”, the fading voice said. After I started blanking out the rest. Another human female voice came in, “we have to slow down, he is suffering!” One of the Tuhingans came in, “we almost have it, if we stop now, then we will just have to go through this again!” “Sixty-nine percent” “Why doesn’t he just block out the pain and go to sleep?” I heard a faint voice say. “Maybe he doesn’t know how!”
All of their voices seemed so distant, like they were in the next room. However, I could see they were swirling next to me. I tried to focus on them but couldn’t seem to focus. I felt like I was going out of my mind. The burning sensation increased inside. “Cancer is forming all over his body!” I heard one person say. “Seventy-two percent,” another said. I didn’t know what was going on most of the time. I think I was sick a few times. “… the cancer is everywhere, but it seems the bots are dealing with it.” I was trying to sleep, trying to get away from this chaos. “The EMC is draining so much power…” it wasn’t long before I passed out.
Ohh I do love my feedback, how can I improve?
Tell me what I can do better!
Where do my challenges lie? Please, tell me.