Location: Boston, the Gateway to the Galaxy
Doug could smell it again, even before he could see it.
Fumes. Smoke. Polluted. Awful.
He fought off sneezing. Sneezing in a dream? He pondered that for a split second. No stranger than anything else that had happened during the past week or so.
He walked through white fog and shadows. "I can't find you." he finally said, in exasperation.
"I can't find you." came her voice.
"Talk to me!" he yelled joyfully. "Talk!"
"Yes, talk. Tell me about, about pasta and, and Titan and blue dresses and baseball. Just, just talk to me and let me find you!"
"Yes! Just speak, babble, it doesn't even have to be coherent." he could tell he was closer but something was off.
"Bab, babble, she said cautiously. "I, I, Yipran."
It was less foggy, and less white. It was ... silvery.
"Hmm? One more sentence. A few more steps."
"Awake. Four. Friend."
"No, you're sleeping, he said, reaching a silvery shape. It was a curtain. He parted it.
She was at least, it seemed to be her lying in a bed. Large tubes in both arms. Unfamiliar monitoring equipment behind her. Arms were, strange, wearing long patterned sleeves.
"Sleeping?" she asked.
"Yes, Lili. You may not believe it, but you are sleeping." he came closer.
"Believe, she said tentatively, then looked at him quizzically. "Who who are you?"
Treve really didn't want to be there alone, late at night, babysitting a hazardous alien. Still, he had his studies with him. Might as well be productive. History. Philosophy. Nothing too exciting but not too bad. The life of a future diplomat, he thought to himself. A diplomat to inferiors.
The alien stirred.
"Oh, you're up, he said.
"Up." she parroted.
"Yes." he came closer for a look. "You must be very old. Your hair is so long. And no calloo any more, too, just bare extremities when we plucked you."
"Yes, calloo. It's what those patterns on your arms and legs are called. Once they're gone, you're close to dying. Doesn't matter what from you're ancient if you have no calloo."
"Yes. Like you. You're very old. But still strong. Odd, he said, coming even closer.
She grabbed at him, which surprised him. "Old?" she asked.
"Yes. You. You are old, he said, but he didn't make a move to take her hand away.
She smiled at him. "Not. Not old."
"Hmm. Maybe not. I don't even know if you humans have calloo. Doesn't matter. I wonder what else is true of your anatomy, he said, beginning to enjoy her grip on him.
"Anatomy, she said, smiling. She pulled her thin hospital shift up.
"Oh, he said, looking down at her. "You may not be able to speak much, but you don't seem to have forgotten this." he bent over for a closer inspection. She then grabbed his bald head and kissed him.
"What?" she asked.
"What do I want to do? Is that what you are asking?"
"I," he smiled, "I am a bit flattered, I admit. I have not been with a woman. Not an alien and not a Calafan. And I'm tempted to find out just what sex with you would be like."
"Sex, she said, licking her lips. "Like."
This time he initiated the kiss. "I, I should tell you. When we, we Calafans, uh, mate "
"Yes, when we, when we mate, my, uh, my climax, it takes a while. Everything swells up so that I can release as much, uh, sperm as possible. Things might be at least that is my understanding might become sticky. Or, or tight."
"Tight, she said, hands all over him now, clutching at his clothes to get them off.
Doug was stricken. "It's, it's me. It's Doug. Your Doug."
He was very close, and reached for her. She shrank back.
MacKenzie was ambling through the halls. Sure the Empress wanted him in for repair work. Ugh. How dull.
He spied a lone female. "Haddon!"
"Everyone's busy. I'm just getting off shift, finally." she complained.
"Wanna get off another way?"
"I'm with Masterson." she pointed out.
"Haddon, until Crossman is back, you'll be, uh, otherwise engaged every night. Up for it?"
She looked around and weighed her options, then followed him to his quarters.
"Don't, don't be afraid of me. Please, please, don't be afraid, Doug said.
"I, I don't, don't ..." her voice trailed off.
"I don't know what's happening with you, he said gently. "You, you seem sick or hurt somehow. You're in some sort of a hospital, I think. And you don't seem to know me. But I know you. And, and, I will not harm you."
"I, I don't know you, she said, voice trembling.
"And you don't seem to know yourself, either. You, you are Lili O'Day. You can cook and you can laugh and you are, you are, uh, responsible for me becoming, well, becoming sane, he said.
"Let me, let me touch you, he said softly. "Just, please. I've waited so long."
She closed her eyes and braced herself. "God," he said, "what did they do to you?" He reached closer. Several centimeters away, a spark leapt from his hand to her arm. She jumped and cried out incoherently. "Oh my God. I am so, so sorry. I, God, I've made a mess of it. I, I never, never meant to hurt you."
She looked up. "Like, like stones."
"You, you remember something, he said quietly.
"Yep." he took her hand and the sparking stopped. "I'm going to get you out of here."
Treve and the alien woman were done and he was contemplating another round. "That was delicious, he said to her.
"Yes, well, I wish I knew your real name, but I'm afraid I don't. And I can't go around calling you by my own mother's name, even if everyone else is going to."
"Yes. You, you have a name. And so does everything else. Like, like here." he pointed to her left hand. "Correct hand. And the other one is the incorrect hand."
"Yes. Correct and incorrect, both sides. And here," he took her hand. "Thumb." he kissed it. "Ub finger." he kissed her index finger. "Fep finger." he kissed the middle finger. "Abic finger." he kissed her ring finger. "And Lo finger." he kissed her pinky.
She leaned over and kissed his arm. "Calloo."
"Yes, that's right. But I don't really have much in the way of calloo yet. I wish I could ask you how old you are. I suspect you're younger than you appear to be, but there's no way of confirming that, not really." He touched her lips and she smiled at him.
"You are a naughty alien, he said, I have no basis of comparison, of course. I, I, one thing that can happen when we Calafans mate is, we pair bond very strongly. I didn't think that was possible with an alien. It's not supposed to be."
"Bond, she said, Pair."
"Do you want to have another go?"
"Yes!" she said.
While they were kissing, the door opened.
"How?" she asked.
"That's, uh, to be determined."
She shook her head, shaking off cobwebs. "I, oh, where am I?"
"I wish I knew, Doug said, You'll need to gather the clues yourself. I can only see whatever you can see."
She looked at him intently. "I, I think I may know you. But I can't place you."
"Treve!" It was Dr. Baden.
"Oh, my!" Treve sprang to his feet. He covered himself with his right hand.
"Incorrect hand!" the alien woman pointed and giggled.
"What have you done?" Baden asked.
"I, I, isn't it obvious?"
"Yes, but with an inferior? Treve, this is an old military tactic. It's a weapon in an arsenal."
"It was what we both wanted, Treve said.
"Inferiors don't give consent. They can't. Their minds can't wrap around it. Get dressed."
Treve didn't have to be told twice. "Doctor, uh, doctor, I'm so sorry. Please, please don't tell my father or Polloria. Please."
"Allow me to explain this to you." The doctor said, once Treve was dressed. "Actually, not in here. Come with me." They walked into the next room. "Treve, that is an alien. They are no more sentient than the animals in the streams and the fields, that we use for our food. You cannot do such things and not expect there to be consequences."
"I, I know. I don't know what came over me."
"The Festival of Ub and Fep is tomorrow. No time to really do anything about this until after that. And the alien will be eliminated by then, Baden said.
"Don't tell me you've pair bonded."
"You'd best not have. Polloria doesn't want any complications."
Doug smiled at her. "That's something, at least. I, I don't want to give you too much, too soon."
"Is there, is there a lot?"
"Yes, he said, thumb caressing her fingers. "There is a lot. There's everything."
"Are we, uh, are we together?"
"Kind of. It's a lot to explain." He sat down on the side of her bed. "You and I aren't even awake right now, which is even crazier. But you and I, we, uh, it's very special."
"Are you in the room with me?"
"No, not, not really. And I don't even know where the room is. Do you, do you have any clues?"
"There is a doctor. At least I think he is one. And children."
"Yes. They are, they are my children."
"No. They aren't. You're being sold a bill of goods."
"A, a what?"
"Um, you're being lied to, Doug said, Anything else?"
"It smells bad. Like cleaning solution, I think. And there is, there is my, he says he is, my, my husband. Am I, uh, having an affair with you?"
Doug smiled. "It's not like that." He felt the tug of morning. "I'm going to wake up soon. And the connection will be broken until we both fall asleep again. I know that makes no sense and I don't have the time to explain it right now. I can tell you're recovering but I think you'd better make it look like you aren't. I think if they think you're a lot better, they'll try to figure out why. And then they might cut this connection off again somehow."
"I, I can't pretend to understand, she said, I'm not even sure I can trust you, but you seem warm and, and I don't know. There is just something."
"Yes, there is definitely something, he said, I would like to kiss you but I don't want to alarm or upset you in any way. But I can't help telling you that that's what I want to do."
She smiled at him. "I, I feel like I barely know myself. But I feel I am a loyal person. Whether I am loyal to this, to my husband, or to you, I cannot tell."
"You'll need to be careful, remember that. Please don't let them think you're more recovered. You've got to go back to just saying a few random words." He kissed her hand. "The best hand. I couldn't resist." He got up.
"Will you be back?"
"Count on it."
He disappeared into the mist and, before he awoke, he typed out his findings.