As I awoke, my BCI (the chip in my head) was waiting until I woke. It displayed a message as soon as I was getting up. It was from Elatio. I was excited to read the message he sent. It said, ‘Hey James, How are you?’
I didn’t want to respond straight away, so I put it away and turned over. Caroline had already got up and I could hear the shower running in the bathroom. I smelt my underarm and found that perhaps I should be in the shower. I went to the edge of the bed and placed my feet on the floor. They looked so thin again. I attempted to get up and found myself weak. I just ended up falling into the wall.
I felt upset that I had to go through all of this again and went to the EMC we got yesterday. Materialising myself a protein shake, I began gulping it. Desperate to build my muscles once again. However, I knew it was going to take several days, and I was unsure whether it would be as fun as last time. I was uncertain how to act around Caroline.
I felt comfortable standing there in nothing but my boxers, however I didn’t dare go into the bathroom since I didn’t know how she would react to it. Still feeling guilty for putting her through everything she had gone through. It musn’t have been easy for her. I did not know what happened at the ceremony after they shot me. Did she survive? Was she shot too? Did she talk to Periclum’s family? I didn’t know.
She was drying her hair as she came out of the bathroom. I stood there with the protein shake in my hand, leaning against a wall and stood staring into space.
“Ah, James, you’re up!”
“Yeah,” I said, smiling back at her.
“Perhaps today we can look for some volunteer jobs for you?” She then looked down at my legs. “… And push you to train those muscles!”
“Sure,” I continued smiling, not sure what else to do or say. I drank the last remaining bit of my protein shake. “I’ll go for a shower first.” Then placed the shake container back into the EMC and began using the wall as a support for myself to get into the bathroom. Caroline just stared at me as she saw me struggle.
Once inside, I took my boxers off and stepped into the shower. I was glad to be having the hot water running over me. My body had a lot of aches and it felt wonderful to have the water soothing them. I was enjoying it just as Caroline came in. She crouched over the toilet just as she began talking with me.
“Are you angry with me?” She asked.
The comment surprised me. Yesterday it was her that was silent and not talking with me. “No, I’m confused.”
She used the EMC b-day in the toilet to wash herself and then went to the sink to wash her hands. “I’m sorry.”
“You’re sorry?” I asked in surprise.
“Yes, I was the one that asked Periclum’s mother about the data in his suit. I didn’t understand why you never asked, but I think I understand better now.”
Soap began pouring out of the shower as I looked at her, thinking what to say to her as she stood leaning against the sink. “It’s fine. I don’t think it’s made much of a difference. She was desperate to pin anything on me. Desperate to make me out to be some monster. I’m also sorry.”
“The aggression in the corridor and the fact that you had to deal with the situation alone after they shot me.”
“James, they killed you! Unless you are invincible, I can’t imagine you could have changed that situation.”
“Is it possible to be invincible?” I asked. Caroline just looked at me as if I had said the most ridiculous thing. The shower began running clear water again, washing to soap off my body.
“James, I’m a Companion. It is my job to look after you. In some ways, I failed that when I allowed you to be shot.”
“You never failed me. You’ve been fantastic to me.”
She smiled back at me with the greatest smile. She grabbed a towel just as she saw me come out of the shower and wrapped it around me. Hugging me. It was exactly what I needed, and I held her tight. Silently tears began falling down my cheeks, but luckily Caroline’s clothes were already getting wet by the water from the shower.
I still felt guilt at the fact that I hit the walls and shouted in the corridor, but for that moment, I wanted this more. So we didn’t talk about it. We did a lot that day, but I can’t say it was anything productive.
When I awoke the next morning, I remembered the message from Elatio and replied. Short and sweet, just like him. I did not understand what else to write. ‘I’m good. How are you?’
After, I got up out of bed with Caroline still asleep. Going as easy as I could to try to not make any sound as I struggled to the bathroom. His message back was quick. ‘I’m good. What are you up to?’ I sighed as I realised the conversation this was going to be if I continued it. Crouched over the toilet, I did my business, after which I sent back, ‘Nothing much. Are you wanting to meet?’
I was in no mood to continue a conversation full of small talk. Especially when I hadn’t told Caroline that we were in contact. I still didn’t know how she would react and we just forgave each other after everything being so tense. So I decided I would tell her afterwards. But first I wanted to talk to Elatio, one on one. I felt text was too impersonal.
Just as I went to the sink, I received a message. ‘Sure, where do you want to go?’ As I was washing my hands I sent, ‘How about at Re’s? I think it’s called The Temple and we meet outside at the door at 13:00?’
Wasn’t long before I got a message back telling me, ‘sure! I look forward to seeing you again.’ I looked forward to seeing him. ‘It’ll be great!’ I replied. After which I didn’t receive a message and I left the bathroom. I looked across and could see Caroline was still sleeping, then went over to the EMC machine. Materialised myself a breakfast. The breakfast was that alien food. But it was the closest thing to an English Breakfast I could get. I sat myself in the driver’s seat and ate, thinking about how I was excited to meet Periclum’s brother again.
Caroline soon woke up to the aroma filling the cabin. “You’re eating without me?” she asked. “You looked cute as you slept. I didn’t want to disturb you.” She gave a frown at the comment as she went to the EMC machine herself. She sorted out the bed and ordered the same as me, soon sat down and began eating. I stumbled over to join her.
“How are you feeling?” she asked with a beautiful smile painted across her face.
“I’m good. Feel groggy but can feel I am getting better.”
“That’s good. We should keep up with the exercises today.” She replied.
Our conversation was going well. It felt like the right moment when I could ask her about Elatio. “I was planning on meeting Elatio today.” I replied.
She looked at me confused stuttering for a moment, “Wait, why, how?”
“He had sent me the request!” I lied.
“But… He shouldn’t of done that and you shouldn’t be meeting with him!”
Now it was my time to be confused. “What, why?”
“James, his mother wouldn’t ever agree.”
“His mother doesn’t need to know.”
“But what if he accepts the data from Periclum’s suit?”
“Wait, what? We want the data from Periclum’s suit!”
“Yes, but legally. Without the mother’s permission, we would break Tuhingan law.”
“No one would know!”
“James, I would know.”
“Why does that matter?”
“James, I am a part of The Core. The Core and I are the same. The same as the rest of the Companions. What one knows, the rest know.”
“Oh! But can’t you just hide the knowledge of where the data comes from?”
“It doesn’t work like that!”
“Can’t you disconnect?”
“James, why did The Liberty crew spend so long to bring me back?”
“But can’t The Core do anything illegal?”
“But it has intelligence?”
“How would it have run the Cargo Ship without it?”
“It can’t do anything illegal?”
“James! The Cores are an important part of Nkri society. Some of them run the government and military for the Galactic Union. Do you think they would be trusted if they broke laws?”
“Oh, well, I’ll just have to say I don’t want the data if Elatio offers it.”
“What? If I don’t say I’m doing something illegal, then you don’t know and The Core doesn’t know.”
“But I know James! Me and The Core are not stupid!” I was thinking at the time that Caroline was anything but stupid… Perhaps except for some things she should have known but didn’t.
“James, I’m coming with you!”
“Fine!” It was something that I didn’t want to happen. But she pushed me into a corner. Caroline was always so persistent when she believed something should happen. For as long as I’ve known her, I have never known her to break a single law or even a small rule. However, that day I learned an important lesson as to who Caroline was and realised I needed to be more careful about what I talk about with her. It made me feel uncomfortable not being able to trust her if I was to do even something slightly illegal.
“Good”, she replied. Happy that she is coming with me.
“Wait, so I won’t be able to take anything illegal while I’m with you?”
“James, you’re on The Liberty. Every drug is legal here!”
“Ahh, I am not someone who breaks the law regularly. I often respect the law. But with Caroline I realised it would be like having a police officer hovering over me, watching everything I do and worse, sometimes know’s what I am thinking. “This is going to be hard!” She looked at me, confused.
The rest of that day was composed of training to increase the muscle mass in my legs, and it was soon time to go meet Elatio. We took a wheelchair for me to go in from our home to the station, then crammed it in the back of the pod. It was exciting to be going to Re’s place again. I hoped they allowed me in. I would avoid announcing my visit. As we got closer to Re’s place, my nerves were getting the better of me.
He may have been younger. But he was still a member of Periclum’s family and I wanted to make a good impression. Especially since everything went the way it did. I was dressed in a white shirt with the top button unbuttoned, blazer jacket, and black jeans. Ready for anything.
Caroline wheeled me up to the front of The Temple and I was thankful she came. But I realised that I would have to be able to be on my own with Elatio, even for a short time. He was late, and we were waiting for a little while for him to arrive. We waited around twenty minutes, walking up and down the street hoping no one would recognise me.
If anyone asked, I was telling them my name was Daniel Mackintosh, not James Foreman. People believed me and moved on. I would get secondary looks, but they were few. Caroline said that she was sure they were looking at the news as they were looking at me. Comparing the photo in the article with me. I didn’t want to know what the Tuhingan media were telling about me. I already knew what most people were thinking, and that was enough.
Elatio arrived after around twenty minutes of waiting, apologising, saying he wasn’t able to slip out since one of his mothers had given him a chore to do.
“All they do is sit around all day and ask me and my siblings to do all the work. Slave labour if you ask me!” he explained. It explained a few things about Periclum’s personality.
“It’s okay, I’m glad you made it!” I replied.
He looked at Caroline. “Does your Companion go everywhere with you?”
“She insisted she joined.”
“I need to make sure you two do nothing you will regret! Not that you aren’t already.” Caroline said in response.
“We’re not doing anything wrong!” Elatio replied.
“But you’re planning to!” she responded.
Elatio had this bewildered look run across his face. Like he was trying to consider what Caroline was. He seemed to shake off these thoughts and continued. “I think most people will recognise you in here James, it surprised me you chose this place!”
“I didn’t know any other place!”
“How about we settle in a small place that I know?”
“Sure!” I said, wondering what place I was going to see next.
Elatio led us to a small cafe close to the market. Outside there were people going by, by the thousands, and I was getting a few strange looks. We stepped inside and we could see only three people in the cafe. Two of which weren’t even Tuhingan.
“Travellers Haven.” Elatio said.
“Is it?” I asked.
“No, that’s the name of this cafe. Most of these guys are gamblers and concentrating on gambling right now.” The two that weren’t Tuhingan and sitting down seemed to stare into space and then celebrate at random moments.
“Us Tuhingan’s aren’t big fans of gambling, however many species are!”
“Elatio! How are you? Come to place a bet?” the Tuhingan server asked when she came over. She then looked at me and Caroline. “Hang on, you look very much like that guy in the news!”
“That’s another human. Most of them look alike.” Elatio explained to the Tuhingan woman.
“Oh, that’s unfortunate. I wouldn’t want to look like him right now.” Me and Caroline smiled back at the lady. “Oh, what ugly creatures.”
“Could we get some juices for me and my friends please, Nasum?”
“For all of us. Yes, please!”
The large Tuhingan woman turned around and went to get us our drinks.
“You gamble?” Caroline asked. “Aren’t you a little young?”
“Not here. Anything is possible on The Liberty.”
“Hmm, if only the Galactic Union had stricter rules.”
“I’m glad you’re not in charge!”
The server came back soon after. “Here you go. Three glasses of herb juice.”
“Thanks, Nasum!” Elatio replied as she placed the drinks on the table.
“You remind me a little of Periclum!” I said, trying to cut through the obvious tension in the air between him and Caroline.
“Thanks, I loved my brother. It’s a real shame about the accident. But considering what he said about you and the official statement that came out, I knew it was something you couldn’t have helped. The media are crazy.”
“Thanks!” I said in reply.
“Periclum wasn’t the only one that was different from the rest of my family. One day, I want to go out and help The Liberty like he did. All my mothers and fathers do is sit around playing games all day.”
I sipped the juice, and it tasted like they said it would. A mixture of different herbs that have all come together to create a satisfying drink. It was green with plenty of floating bits. “How are you feeling after everything?”
“I’m feeling sad that Periclum is gone, but doing okay. Thanks for asking!”
“Anytime” I smiled again and Elatio gave a confused look.
Our conversation continued about everything, and I enjoyed the company I had with Elatio. I explained how after I got shot I had to go through all the exercise’s and building muscles again. He was listening patiently when I was talking about the situation I was in and responded with kindness. Soon we had gone through a lot of these herb juices and I was needing the toilet. Caroline assisted me and Elatio also went to the toilet at the same time. It was difficult considering the toilet was like the one we had in the motorhome. But we managed like we always did.
Once me and Elatio had got comfortable. Caroline then went to the toilet and at that moment, the conversation turned to the data. Elatio was the one that started the conversation.
“I sneaked the data from Periclum’s suit and have it with me.” I looked at him and felt so happy. “First, I need to know what you will do with it?”
“Didn’t anyone tell your family?” I asked.
I sighed. “One of Periclum’s last acts was to download the Earth’s database into his suit memory from the Cargo Ship.”
“Ah ha. Earth was your homeworld?”
“Yes, with that data I can make the house I want, eat what I want, listen to the music I recognise. I miss it all so much.”
“My family kept on imagining you using this data for many sinister things. They thought you had got rid of Periclum for a reason. It all just made little sense to me. Thanks for telling me.”
“Anytime Elatio! Honestly!”
Elatio then pulled a device out of his bag that had sat on his side throughout the entire time we had been talking. He had been clutching it like he did not want to lose it at all, and I was about to know why. He handed me the device and described what it was.
“This is something that is a little illegal, especially for The Galactic Union.” It felt exciting to hear him comment on this exotic-looking device. The device looked like a pebble, with a small screen embedded into it. It had various symbols and metres on the screen I assumed displayed the battery and other information. The surface felt smooth and was about the size of my hand.
“What is it?” I asked.
“If you know how to use it, it can hack into most systems you come across. It can act as a private server and there are so many other functions that I can barely remember. It’s an important tool for any Black Scavenger or Private Investigator. Right now though, I have put all the information from Periclum’s suit on there and an encrypted way to contact me. Just make sure Caroline doesn’t know you have this!”
“No try, James, this is serious! If she discovers you having this, it can’t be linked to me!” He seemed like he was a lot more mature beyond his years at that moment.
“I promise I will hide it.”
“Wait, how would I make the house using this data?”
“You will need to connect to the device. That is the most dangerous part because you don’t want to leave any trace that you have entered it. But after that, the AI inside should assist you to keep you dark. Meaning that no one will know what you are doing and you can connect it to other devices which will turn dark.”
“So it will be like a private network for me?”
“Exactly! Can you do that? I’m risking a lot giving you this.”
“I think so.” pausing for a moment, I realised something. “How on earth will I hide this from Caroline if I make a large house using Earth materials?”
“James! You can’t accept the data from him!” Caroline said, standing behind me. I slipped the device into the outer pocket of my blazer jacket and turned to her.
“I… I’m not!”
“We were just speculating, if it would be possible. As I was telling you, James, it’s not possible,” Elatio said to me.
I looked at him. “I guess you have no reason to help me?”
Caroline sat down as Elatio continued. “I have plenty of reason, James. I loved Periclum and Periclum did not like our mothers. He wouldn’t have wanted any of this and he would have wanted to make sure you were okay!”
“Why?” I asked, bewildered at the amount of care and attention I have got from Periclum and his brother.
Elatio looked into my eyes and said, “Because you inspire hope that the future is not so mundane and boring. You have already fulfilled that prophecy ten times over. You are the man with many labels.”
“Do I need to list them? What has the news been saying?”
“A lot, I’m guessing?”
“You’re not reading it?”
“I don’t want to. I think it will just increase my paranoia.”
“Hmm, I guess Humans and Tuhingan’s are very different species.”
“What do you mean?”
“The Tuhingan imagination is too vivid and strong. Reading about yourself in the news gives great comfort to many Tuhingan’s because it’s always not as bad as you think.”
“Do you think it’s bad for me?”
“Yeah… you have it bad. The worst I have ever seen in my lifetime.”
“Hope this isn’t forever.”
“Who knows? But if I were you, I would have moved away from The Liberty as soon as I came out from that operation you went through. When I saw your face at Periclum’s ceremony, I couldn’t believe it.”
“Yeah… I guess that wasn’t a good idea, huh?”
“Well, we wouldn’t have met if you hadn’t had done it!”
“Anyway, James, I best get back. I told one of my mothers I went to the shop!”
“Ahh, well, it was very nice to meet you!”
“And you too.” We stood up and Elatio gathered up his things. He stopped for a moment and looked at me. “Look after yourself out there, James!”
“I will” I replied.
“I mean it. You are much braver than a lot of Tuhingan I know and you remind me a little of Periclum.”
“Thanks,” I said as I took it as the compliment it was mean’t to me.
“It was also nice meeting you too, Caroline.”
“I hope everything goes well for you, Elatio and you do everything you dreamed of!”
“Thanks, Caroline. That’s very nice of you!”
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.