CHAPTER FIVE – Welcome to The Liberty

“Welcome to The Liberty, I apologise about you not being able to move, we will release you as soon as we can do a quick assessment of you. Some of you aren’t fitted with a BCI, don’t worry. We will also take care of that, however, I realise you didn’t understand that sentence.” That was the first thing I heard after I felt my senses, from what I can only describe as faded in. It was like I wasn’t conscious and there was darkness, but then the world faded in around me. Faded with the voice becoming loud. As my sight came back to me, I could see I was in this large hanger area, when I say large, I mean huge. It was so big that clouds blanketed the ceiling. My eyes were fixed on the ceiling watching the mist swirl.

I wanted to move, I wanted to breathe. I remember the panic when I realised I wasn’t breathing. My internal voice screaming at me, breathe, I need to breathe! What of my heart, why can’t I feel it beating? This voice echoed in this great hall. “Now, so not to alarm you all, I must caution you, you may see us carrying some large weapons. It is for both of our safety so please do not panic and remain calm then all will be well.”

I was panicked, I couldn’t move my eyes or any limbs. I tried to close my eyes, but I didn’t have that luxury. There were some voices near me that sounded a little similar to Periclum. “How many of these idiotic creatures did we materialise?” I heard one voice say “I don’t know but I hope these refugees behave.” I heard a scanning device that sounded fresh out of a science fiction movie coming from the direction of these voices.

“Look at that one, I mean he looks ridiculously scared. I tell you, I bet he hasn’t even seen a ship this big before.”

“Just hurry and tag him for a BCI chip. My mother needs me back as soon as possible!”

“Your mother is one beautiful woman,”

At that moment I could hear the muffled sound of wind. I recognised it as that terrifying sound that had caused me so much pain before.

“Not this again, we can talk about anything except this.”

“All right, all right. We need to tag this one, anyway!”

Again the faint sound of wind filled the air.

“Did you hear the rumour that this lot was from a Nkri Cargo ship preparing these for a Nkri zoo?,”

“Noo, who told you that!?”

“Loculator,”

“No, it can’t be true. That means some of these have never even seen a spaceship before.”

“Probably all of them haven’t seen a spaceship,”

The scanner was continuing to make a sound as they were moving from creature to creature. I began to glimpse the creatures that were chatting. Standing just over a metre tall and looking very much like Periclum. Except this time I couldn’t see any suit and could see a lot of thin red hair covering their bodies. I couldn’t make out their features so well through the corner of my eye. I saw them with their device pointed at the creatures and then hearing wind as they walked away.

“Well, let’s keep our weapons handy while they are here. The Captain will get rid of them all.”

I remember wondering at that moment whether I was dead. Whether these were two creatures that go about in heaven moaning about the idiotic stuff they have to deal with on their heavenly spaceship or it was real. Laying there, waiting, forced to listen to those two talking and not being able to move. I didn’t know what to think, and I did not care. I was numb, yet it all terrified me as I was forced to stare at the ceiling.

Soon the two creatures stood over me, scanning me and then the voice from earlier began to talk again. “We are sorry for the way you are being treated and you must be afraid of all of this. Be patient as we release you one by one. Please understand that this is for both of our safety. We do not want you to be hurting us or yourself when you come out of stasis. I hope this materialisation through the EMC hasn’t been too traumatic for you.” The two creatures walked away after scanning me and feeling assured that I was not needing to be ‘tagged’.

At that point, I had a moment of rage and I was wondering why they wouldn’t release me. I was feeling like I could hit someone or something and yet I was frozen. I tried to calm myself down again which seemed hard since I couldn’t feel myself breathing, my heart beating or even the blood rushing through my veins. It was a weird sensation that sent a panic through me to my core causing me to go into myself, feel numb and feeling overwhelmed as I thought of nothing.

I heard more of these short goblin creatures going from one of the other creatures to another. Unfreezing them, assessing their emotional state and whether they are a threat. Then place them into groups. While I laid waiting for my turn, I started to have flashes. As if everything else wasn’t traumatic enough, the last moments on the Myrmeke were coming back to me like a movie rewriting my memory. Previously I only had a memory up to where they activated the weird contraption. But then the memories after came flooding through. The trauma of those events began to terrify me more.

I could see someone hovering over me. It was one of the creatures that were the inhabitants of this ship. This creature had a large smile on his face and I couldn’t make out much more through the corner of my eye.

“James, I found you! They unfroze me as soon as I arrived, but it’s taken me a while to find you. You made it! Hey, did the upload work? Have you got all your memories after we made the scan?” I recognised the voice and mannerisms. It was Periclum. It made me feel a little more relaxed to hear his voice. I attempted to reply to him and say ‘I think so’, yet I was still frozen. “Oh, I’m sorry, I’ll get someone to unfreeze you. I’ll be right back.” Periclum walked away, and I realised at that point that this must be his home and the creatures around are Tuhingan. It must have been what he mentioned before, the place he would take me back to.

I felt my breath return to me like someone had punched me in my stomach and my heart restarted going quick. The beating and the sound of my blood moving again gave me a headache. Relaxing my muscles, feeling that I can move again, I was thankful that I wasn’t in pain. My leg seemed to be better again. So I laid there feeling comfortable on the cold, hard floor.

Periclum came back, “did it work? Why are you still on the floor? I’ll check the machine, maybe we did something wrong?”

“wait!” I said to him in reply.

“Ah, it did. Okay, ehh, why are you still lying on the floor?” he said in a startled tone

I laid there staring at the ceiling, enjoying the sound of my breath and my heart. Just glad to be alive in what seemed like a safe place compared to where I came from. My cheek was warm with the feel of my tears. Sitting up, the tears became more and more. Trying to hide this moment of complete despair, I placed my hands over my face. I seemed to be wearing my clothes again, but the memory of them being ripped from me left a scar in my memory. I looked at my wet hand and noticed how it was shaking.

“What is happening? I don’t know what to do?” Periclum said in a panicked way.

“It’s okay,” I said in reply, “I just need a moment.” I took a deep breath trying to convince myself that this wasn’t real and that I just needed to get through this.

I attempted to stand and felt weak but still got to my feet. Once standing, I looked around. I was shocked, this hall must have been eight kilometres across, and I couldn’t see the ends of this hall. Looking around, I could see that there were so many of us. The hall was empty everywhere except where we were. All of us close to the side of this great hall where there was an extremely large door. Most of us were still frozen and unable to move. When they unfroze some, they dropped to the ground as soon as they were unfrozen and was clear that they were dead. They were dragged out of the large hall. I looked around in astonishment, there were so many creatures, so many ways life could exist, that was if I was not dreaming or dead. But my imagination couldn’t ever come up with anything like these forms in one dream and I doubted that the afterlife would be this strange. I was an immigrant on this ship.

I could see the groups at the side of the hall, it seemed they were separating the creatures depending on their shape and size. Everything seemed peaceful apart from the occasional creature who seemed to lash out in anger as soon as they were unfrozen. Some creatures were large and these Tuhinga only stood just over a metre tall. I watched as the Tuhinga would try to restrain these beasts, but when they couldn’t control them, they would shoot them. I gasped at the sight, terrified that could happen to me, thinking about how I could avoid that fate.

“James, it’s okay! It won’t happen to you!” Periclum said as he was trying to comfort me. However, I had seen terrors on Earth with the way we treated refugees during a crisis. Many times I had volunteered to help them, so I knew that even if someone meant well by saying that, it doesn’t mean it is true. Especially during the chaos of so many arrivals. Only the ones who attacked the Tuhingan and made the Tuhingan struggle to restrain them were the ones that were shot. I tried to take some comfort in knowing I would never be so aggressive. Looking over, I noticed Periclum staring at me. As I looked back, he smiled.

“It’s so awesome, your species are pretty much identical to the species that liberated us all those thousands of years ago.” I looked at Periclum confused, “what?”, Periclum was happy I asked and seemed to stutter and want to say something. He stopped himself and instead said “we’ll talk about that another time, first let’s get out of here. Follow me!” I got up and followed him through the crowded room and all the Tuhingan we passed seemed to stare at me or Periclum. I felt like we were some weird celebrities everyone feared or was nervous to talk to. We were walking towards what appeared to be a large door that could slide up, like one of those large industrial doors you find in a factory except much bigger. This one looked as though it could let six double-decker buses through side by side with space to spare. In the centre of this larger door was a smaller door that was big enough for one person to go in or out. They had that small door open and had Tuhingan standing around it in a clumped mess.

I could see the Tuhingan going through the door and others coming back out. They had what looked like to be camping supplies, tents, bags, rolls of what could have been sleeping mats, all sorts of equipment that were different sizes. They were piling the equipment next to tables where Tuhingan were filling boxes with the equipment and serving them to the group close to them. I looked up and I could see a large door in the middle and one on the ceiling. They were a repeat of the doors that stood on this ground except upside down and to the side. I remember looking up and astonished at how large the construction is. It’s like whoever designed this room expected people to walk on the ceiling and fly. Most of the doors looked out of use, rusted up and open at an angle. This whole hall looked as though it was old.

We walked up to this large door and Periclum approached the group of Tuhingan at the door. Periclum announced our arrival “I request that James Foreman and I be allowed through”. One of the Tuhingan women, or at least I think they were women, looked at him and replied “Periclum! We can’t allow the release of any refugees before processing, you know the rules!”

Periclum looked at the Tuhingan. “Come on, James is almost genetically identical to the Rehew!”

“The Rehew are extinct Periclum, what species is he?”

Periclum looked annoyed, “I want to speak to the Captain!”

“You have always been for sakenly stubborn, the Captain is busy. Now go to processing and see which group your friend needs to go to or go by yourself through this door!”

Periclum turned to me. He said in a hushed tone “you would never think I have salvaged as much as I have for this ship by the way they talk about me.” I looked at Periclum for a moment.

“I salvage information James, it’s invaluable in this galaxy. Guess the grand tour will just have to wait!” It seemed that Periclum wasn’t the most patient person. However, he seemed relaxed even though he was frustrated. For the moment I thought that to be strange considering what he has been through, but then I remembered where I was. That was the moment I realised Caroline was missing, “where is that woman?” I asked. Periclum looked at me, “I saw her shot but I also saw you shot so I am just hoping she survived?” He looked at me for a moment, looking as though he was concentrating to know what I was talking about. Then something clicked in his mind,

“Oh, you mean your companion, what was her name again?… Caroline?”,

“yes, that woman!” I said in reply

“She was dematerialised,”

“What?” I said in a confused tone

“She couldn’t live James, not without the core. The core stored a huge amount of data and I prioritised the data relevant to recreate you and the other creatures in this hall. The upload just wasn’t quick enough.”

At that moment in time, I did not have a clue what he was saying. He could have been speaking an ancient foreign language and that would have been preferable to what he said. Instead, I was left with this puzzle in my mind trying to figure out the right question to ask with what sounded like a complicated situation. My mind wasn’t functioning and still felt numb to everything around me. I just looked at Periclum with a vacant stare and came out with “So she isn’t with us?”

“No James, but she will! I will make sure of it. We need the companions to keep the peace with these guys. We don’t know how to go about looking after everyone yet. But we will try our best.”

“Why do you want to help us?”

“We have had our fair share of disasters in our history. We all know what it is like to feel forgotten.”

“Do you all feel this way?”

“Not all, but most people I know do. There are some groups that are a little more extreme than others. I would look out for them if I were you but don’t worry, us Tuhingan are peaceful. We would only attack if we knew there was a consensus for it. We hate fighting, or at least my friends do. They all say there is something wrong with me when I go out doing what I do.” I looked at Periclum for a moment with an interested look. In reality, most of what he was saying was being registered in my mind but my mind didn’t know how to react. “I’m always putting myself in danger and I love it. I am the best scavenger there is.” We came to a group that had creatures that all looked humanoid in some shape or form, “Ahh, here we are. I think they want you in this group.” A Tuhingan man approached us. He looked like he was wearing spotless clothing of great quality and was roundish around the belly. He seemed very well-groomed and had large yellow eyes, he was also hairy with wisps of red hair poking out from his beautiful clothing. “Ahh, Periclum, how was it being trapped in that awful, awful place for so long?”

“I survived is all I can say, survived but almost died of boredom!” Periclum said in reply

This Tuhingan made a strange gurgling noise which I assumed at the time meant that this creature was happy, “Periclum you crazy idiot! Well now you’re back home and I’m sure you’ll be up to mischief before you know it!”

“I’ll try not to do what you wouldn’t!” both Periclum and this stranger were making this strange gurgling sound in the most peculiar way. Looking at them both, I was confused.

“Sorry, my boy, where are my manners? Who is your tall friend here?” the Tuhingan man continued

Periclum looked at me and turned back “this is James, he is Human although when I scan him the computer said that he is Rehew,”

At that point, the stranger seemed to cough and splutter in the most violent way. He pushed Periclum away as Periclum went to help. Then stopped coughing but was still wheezing like he had asthma. He pulled out a long pipe from his inner pocket in his jacket and began sucking. He took in a large amount of whatever was in the pipe. During that moment where he was sucking from his pipe, he seemed to just stare right into my soul. His large pale yellow eyes looking as though they can see right through me. Then he let out that large breath still staring, releasing a little of whatever he had just sucked into his lungs, looking as though it could be steam or smoke. He took a long moment to calm himself as he stared at me. Then talked, glancing at Periclum while continuing to look at me.

“The Rehew ancestors that remained on their homeworld continued a separate bloodline. Kau was a space station, the Rehew did not evolve there, only got lost and ended up there. Their brothers and sisters remained on their homeworld in a relative primitive fashion compared to their star travelling counterparts. There were rumours that the planet still existed, I heard that it was still primitive. No way they could have travelled the stars yet, yet here you are…” He looked at me for a moment with inquisitive eyes. He then changed his posture and looked disappointed “That would make a great story, wouldn’t it? Yet it probably isn’t true. Would make a fantastically tasty rumour though.” He looked away from me, frustrated with himself for getting his own hopes up. I stood there saying nothing.

I looked at him for a moment, not sure what to say. Periclum was darting his eyes from me and then the stranger and back again at me. He looked like he was about to say something before the stranger did a strange shake for a moment like he had a shudder up his spine. The stranger then said “I’m sorry, where are my manners, I’m Re Prava, you can call me Re. I own The Temple, famous for supplying any kind of pleasure you could ask for. You should drop by once you are out of this dreary place.” I stared at him, unsure what to make of the situation or this creature.

Periclum came into the conversation, “Re, do you know that these creatures come from primitive worlds. They are the last of their kind. Did no one tell you?”, Re looked at Periclum for a moment with a confused look and then said “looks like they left Re out of the loop. Perhaps it was for the best though. They know all too well that I would have crafted this into a wonderful story. I am sure they didn’t want that story to travel across the galaxy yet.” He took a moment to suck from his pipe continuing to stare at me but less intensely now. Periclum was silent as this creature breathed out smoke or steam once again. An unusual aroma was filling the air. “Talking of stories, please tell me about your homeworld… I’m sorry, I seem to have forgotten your name?”

I looked at him for a moment, took a deep breath as I felt anxiety with these two Tuhingan looking at me. Re was explaining something I didn’t understand. I came round to introducing myself, with my dry mouth and my chapped lips, I smacked them together, took a deep breath and began to speak. “I’m James… ehm, Earth is green and beautiful… and..” I began to start breathing more as I felt myself panic. Not knowing what was going on, my breathing became faster and it began to feel like my chest was imploding. I didn’t know how to deal with it. Sitting down, I held my chest for a moment. A fear of something being wrong with me went through me like a fierce fire, heating my veins. Feeling light-headed, I launched myself back to lie on my side on the cold concrete floor in the foetal position. I couldn’t control my breathing and then I felt a hand on my back.

“Breath James, breath” I heard Periclum’s voice in my ear. “It’s okay, us Tuhingan suffer these things a lot”. I began controlling my breathing and calming myself. Sitting up, I looked back at these two Tuhingan and the crowd of different creatures that looked similar to humans. The crowd was looking at me. Realising how dry my mouth was, I asked for water. Periclum went to get some for me. Re looked at me, “I’m sorry my boy, I can’t imagine what you are going through right now. Things will get better, I promise you and I will help you to make that happen.” Re’s hand was on my shoulder as he spoke to me. I felt a little awkward and nodded to what he was saying. He looked a little confused by the gesture however Periclum then turned up with the water.

“I hope this is right, one hydrogen and two oxygen? Is that what you were asking for? It’s not poison for you, is it?”, I had to laugh at that moment at the absurdity to the question. I looked at him and told him it was fine as I took the cup. The cup seemed to be created from resin that created the form of a glass. I took the glass or cup and drank a little and it tasted like the purest water, it tasted of nothing at all. “Thank you” I said as it felt much better to be drinking water. I didn’t realise how thirsty I was until the water touched my lips.

I heard Re telling me something, “I’m sorry my boy, I didn’t mean to bring about anxiety in you. We should get you processed so you can rest, I am sure you are exhausted.” I was exhausted, really exhausted. Felt as though I could sleep for days. Re helped me to my feet and with the cup in my hand, we went to what appeared to be a Tuhingan woman. She was asking questions to one of the human-like creatures. Simple questions were being asked such as “what is your name?”, “How old are you?” “What is your homeworld?” and also, oddly enough “which sector does your homeworld reside?”. Re had put me in a queue behind around two other humanoid creatures.

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