No Way Back – Chapter 25 – Told Ya It Ain’t Dead!

Many moons have past.  Okay, two full moons.  And now, the wait is finally over!  Chapter 25!  To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I was ready to post it or if I should just outright continue, but I decided to move to the next chapter.  It’s roughly 3200 words, depending on how you count’em, so have fun!

Chapter 25

The chime sounds throughout the room as I lay in my bed. I open my eyes and slowly sit up, bringing my hands down to the cushions to prop myself up. I had known it was only a matter of time before one of them came to check on me. It wasn’t like I could hide on this ship with my communications device attached since it acted as a tracking device as well. I look around the sparsely decorated room and ask myself, Am I really ready to talk to anyone? As if to reply, the chime rang again, followed by a muted pounding on the door.

Dharcia, outside the door, yells directly into the metal, knowing its design was to silence chatter. “I know you’re in there, Robert! You need to let me in!”

I tap my communications device and request that it open a channel to Dharcia. When it complies, I ask before she can speak, “Why?”

This time her voice comes more through the comms than the wall. “Because you only have a few hours before you’re slated to undertake that combat run and I think that you could really use a counselor right now.”

“Fine.” I turn off the device, wincing in self-aggravation because of my bitter tone with her. She had nothing to do with what was upsetting me and I wasn’t going to take it out on her if I could help it. “Door, unlock.”

The sound of a whisper emanates from the door rails as it slides open. A moment later Dharcia crosses the threshold, then snaps around to face whoever else is with her. “I think you should stay out here for a minute.” The response I hear is the sound of Ter’link’s attempt to argue, which is silenced when Dharcia strikes the door control and it slides back shut. She then taps in a series of commands into the unit.

The machine sounds with each claw-fall, then announces in its own voice, “Door locked. Containment protocol C-6 activated.”

My eyes widen in surprise as I turn to face her. “Containment? You’re trapping me here?! And what’s C-6 anyways?!”

“Calm down, human.” The mephit begins walking towards me with a slow, purposeful gait, her tail drifting in the air behind her. “C-6 is a secured containment for counseling and for high level detainees. It runs a signal through your walls to ensure that any listening devices are blocked and can’t transmit.” Her smile becomes obvious as she stops next to the bed. “It also can’t be opened unless I unlock it, so I’d suggest not hurting me.” For a moment, she stands as if deciding what to say before finally continuing. “Mind if I sit down?” I shake my head and slide closer to the wall, pulling my knees up to my chest and freeing up a large area of the bed for her to sit. She turns around and lifts her tail above the padding, then lets it fall as she sits. The movement reminds me of a little girl making sure that she didn’t sit on her dress. I chuckle at the image and she looks at me with a confused smile. “What?”

“Nothing.” I look back down at my knees. “Why are you here?”

“I told you why, Robert. You’re not in the right state of mind to be–”

A flare of annoyance hits me and I loudly cut her off. “Of course I’m not in the right state of mind!” I take in a deep breath and let it go so I don’t yell at her again. “Dharcia, you don’t get it. I was in love with Allessa. I mean, her. That… That…”

“Alien?”

I finally look at her again and give my honest thoughts, this time not allowing myself to be calmed. “Horrible bitch! This was all a game to her! All of it! We lived together! We did everything together! She was… I was going to ask her to marry me, and it turns out that she’s the part of some intergalactic slavery organization? She knocks me out to become an alien’s automaton, then shows up and expects me to be fine?”

“I don’t think—”

“Well it’s not fine!” I grab a section of padding from between Dharcia and I and throw it at the false window. “I want to go home! I want this to all be a dream, Dharcia. But then I live my daily life and I know it’s not!” I slam my face down into my folded arms that now rest on my knees and try not to cry from the combination of emotions running through me. Despite my best efforts, the tears come and I sob loudly into the echo-chamber that I’ve made for myself. After a few moments, I feel a gentle touch on my arm, warm and with the slight tickle of moving fur.

Dharcia audibly licks her lips and speaks slowly and quietly. “Robert, I can’t change what happened. I’m sorry that you had to come to us this way.” I hear her inhale and feel her move as her hand-paw shifts slightly on my exposed wrist. “But I am glad that you are here. We are so wrong about your kind, Robert. I don’t know of any reason why you shouldn’t be a part of the UFO.”

I look up at her with a vicious glare. “Is that what you think this is? I don’t give a damn about the Organization! My life was ruined, Dharcia! And it all was because of her!”

She looks me in the eye before she starts, her voice hardening just enough to be easily heard. “I know. I only said that because this never would have happened if humans were in the UFO.” Her smile and her tone softens as she tries to calm me. “And I know that you’re going to be upset about it for a long time. But, you have a chance to make something of yourself here, Robert. You can change the future of your species. But you need to let her go, especially if you’ll be working with her regardless of if you win or lose.” I start to respond but her free hand-paw comes to my lips to stop me. “I know that it’s not the planned thing, but it’s happening. And I’ll always be here to talk to, Robert.” Her grin widens again as she lets go of my lips.

I sigh and nod. “Alright. I’m not saying that I’m going to be easy about this, but I’ll try.”

“Good.” She leans forward and wraps her furred arms around my still balled-up body. “Now, we have to make it where you’re not some mediocre fool on Grai’gahrd’s payroll.” Dharcia slides off of the bed as her paws fall to her side. She quickly crosses the room and enters a shorter series of keys to which the computer responds with a security disabled response and the door quickly slides open. As it does, I hear Ter’link and Allessa arguing outside, which comes to an end as the portal opens. “Alright, you two. That’s enough. Ter’link, go in and wait. Chiantalle’Biress, I think we need to have a word.” She steps out and Ter’link takes her place in the doorway. Once inside, he hits the door control panel and it slides shut.

“You okay, little man?” When I nod, Ter’l briskly crosses the room and leans on the wall facing me. “I can’t imagine what you’re going through. I mean, damn, this sucks for you.”

I look at him and say nothing.

– –

The door closes behind Dharcia and she looks at the ChromeBot pilot with general disdain. The usually calm and collected officer’s voice disappeared, replaced with an aggressive growl as she addresses the dark-furred Eil’ph. “I don’t care who you are. I don’t care who you think you are. But if you think you’re going to hurt him again,” she steps closer and jabs a clawed finger into Chi’bi’s chest as she speaks to emphasize her point, “you are sadly mistaken. I won’t let it happen. And if I have to turn you into space debris myself, don’t think for a moment that I won’t make it happen.” Before the slack-jawed and drop-eared Eil’phae can respond, Dharcia has turned back to the door and reaches for the door panel, the normal sweet feel of her voice instantly returning. “Now, come along, Lieutenant. We have a very short time to get this right, and we’ve only got one shot at it.”

– –

Both the Eil’phae and the Daranni entered the room, Dharcia’s stride giving the feel of accomplishment and control while Allessa’s, no, Chi’bi’s head hung low in submission and shame. Ter’link, having taken a spot on the wall across from the door and in front of me, looks over with a smile, greeting them as they enter, which is informally returned by both females across the room. I, however, don’t move or acknowledge their entry. Instead, I keep myself huddled together against the wall on my bed. I do watch them between the folds of my uniform, but other than the small peephole, I have no visible access to what’s going on. I don’t want to see it, much less speak to this particular person. But I was going to have to. She would be my superior officer once this was all said and done, a punishment from Commander Grai’gahrd, no doubt, for being human. I wait and say nothing.

The tension in the room is thick enough to cut with a knife as no one starts the obvious conversation that is going to happen. After a few moments, Dharcia opens her mouth to speak. Her words, however, never come to fruition as Chi’bi chooses that moment to finally say anything. “I… I want to speak to Robert…”

Ter’link looks at Chi’bi, then me, then back to her with a response of, “Go ahead, we’re all right here.”

“I need to talk to him alone… Please, just for a moment.” Allessa’s still beautiful voice rang from the alien’s throat, and I raise my head from it’s hiding spot to look at her to remind myself that this alien wasn’t who I thought she was. When I do, Dharcia glares at the female rabbit and begins to loudly decline the request. Chi’bi’s voice becomes frantic as she looks to the counselor. “I promised I wouldn’t hurt him! I just… There’s something… I have to tell him something, please!”

Ter’link growls loudly as he begins to walk across the room in a straight line towards the black-and-white-furred woman. Dharcia’s voice explodes in a tirade of angry remarks, starting with something about how she had no right. I really couldn’t understand her because all I could hear was Chi’bi’s voice and the blood rushing through my ears.

“Wait…” I whisper, the sound being suddenly caught up by the surrounding argument. When I realize that I wasn’t heard, I try again, louder. “Dharcia?” Still, the argument continues, but now Ter’l has started to push Chi’bi towards the door with Dharcia reaching for her comms button and insisting that she was going to call security. I allow the anger for the woman who duped me to swell and reach into it to make myself heard. “STOP!” All three of the aliens stop their arguing and look at me. I uncurl myself from the ball I’d been hiding in and begin to stand, facing the still-entangled shipmates. “I want to hear what she has to say.”

The tension suddenly refills the room. Dharcia takes a few steps towards me, her head cocked in what I’ve come to recognize as confusion. “Are you sure? Robert, you don’t have to do this.”

My voice gains strength as I breathe. “But I do, Dharcia.” I look over at Chi’bi, still being held in place by Ter’link, then back to the purple-and-pink mephit. “I appreciate your concern, I really do. But, she and I had a past. A history, even if it was a false one.”

“It wasn’t false!” Chi’bi’s voice cuts in as an interruption, one that she bites off to let me finish so that I don’t change my mind.

I look back to her. “If that’s true, Less…” I close my eyes, then shake my head and look down to the floor before continuing, “I’m sorry, Chi’bi. If that’s true,” I look once more into the neon blues that I know, barely noticing Ter’l’s arms no longer holding her, “then why did you let them take me?”

Her gaze falls to the flooring tiles, a tear glistening in her eye as it forms. “I had to… I didn’t have a choice, Robert.” Chi’bi raises her eyes from the floor and finds my gaze waiting. “There were so many lives at stake. I’m sorry, Robert, but I tried to stop this. I wanted to…” Again she drops her eyes to the floor, but this time she doesn’t raise them, her body shaking hard as she tries not to let herself cry.

After a moment of silence, I look to Dharcia, then to Ter’link. “It’s going to hurt, but I think whatever she has to say, I need to hear. You’ll be able to hear everything one way or another, I’m sure, but I need to do this.”

Dharcia nods as she glares at Chi’bi. “Alright, Robert. If you think everything will be alright.”

Ter’link turns to walk out the door. “But we’ll be right outside! Don’t think we won’t be in here in a heartbeat!” Ter’link leads Dharcia out of the room, the latter’s tail flicking and flashing in an angry display, and the door slides silently shut.

For several long moments there was nothing said. I find myself looking over the rabbit-like alien, her black and white fur matching what I remember from the naked girl who would have been Allessa that night. She still had her mate-attracting curves, the sweet, melodious voice, and her electric eyes, but she wasn’t Allessa. Finally, I step closer to her and carefully lift her chin. She doesn’t resist as I bring her face up towards me. I take a deep breath and then say the one thing that I wanted to before I let her speak: “Allessa? Are you really in there?”

My hand trembles at her chin as I watch her open her eyes and find mine. “Robert, I am Chiantalle’Biress. You knew me as Allessa, and, as such, yes, she really is in front of you. I’m… I’m not Allessa. Not anymore. I can’t be. I am a lieutenant of the UFO. But the part of me that is… Was… Allessa wants you to know that she’s sorry, and that she really does love you…”

“You talk to me as if she is another person.” I feel my voice wavering with the strong emotions I struggle to keep in check. “Is that how it is?”

Before she responds, Chi’bi slides forward and wraps her arms around me in a strong embrace. She lets me go when I don’t return it in the few seconds she’d given me. The lone Eil’phae continues quietly, the tone of sadness unmistakable in her voice. “It has to be. Please, sit down and I’ll explain everything, and maybe one day you’ll forgive me.” She takes my hand and leads me back to the bed, letting me sit before taking her own seat across from me, keeping as much distance as the bed would allow between us.

During the next half-hour, she explains what had happened. Every detail about the operation, starting at her team’s capture, a botched reconnaissance mission. I listen intently as she tells me of her mild torturing at the hands of the creatures she was going to turn me in to eventually, followed by the offer they made to her. She then tells me of Djarn, her fiance and her battlegroup commander and how they were going to execute him if she didn’t train an appropriate ChromeBot pilot from the “back-water” beings of Earth. As she speaks of him, I can feel the combination of pride, pain, and betrayal from the years’ worth of action she had taken with me. She then continued on with her landing on Earth, finding a suitable candidate by hacking the local systems and finding someone who had the right kinds of aptitudes for training. Then, the sudden job offer to the real Allessa’s parents and subsequent quick move on a weekend my parents and I had spent away. The “game,” she explains, was actually a piece of training software that had been modified by Au’sharh military command for use in the mission, and she had taken to teaching me to play. The rest I already knew, she says definitively. When I think that she has finished, I notice that her gaze had fallen to the bed and her ears were still flat against her head. Before I could say anything, her attention snaps her gaze up again and she begins to sobbingly apologize to me for what she did. She lets me know that she had changed her mind when it was time to turn me in and that she was going to tell them no, so long as I told her I could still love her as an alien. When I had denied her and, in fact, had become angry about who she was, she had realized that there was no chance of reconciling it and carried out the plan.

Chi’bi’s sobbing continues as she tries to choke out a few words. “It’s why you’re here, and I’m sorry that it’s my fault!”

Without thinking, I slide closer and pull her tear-covered, blubbering body close to me and let her cry on a shoulder. “Chi’bi, please stop.” I pat her back as she continues crying into my uniform. I can’t think of anything to say to the woman who feels, sounds, and smells like the woman I loved but is just not.

The door slides open and the ship’s counselor pokes her head in, her skunk snout unmistakable in its purple trim. “Is everything alright, Robert?” The sound of concern is genuine in her voice as she starts to slide in, and I notice the fur on her cheek begin to bristle as she notices Chi’bi’s crying body against mine.

I nod at the woman with a forced half-smile. “Yeah. Why don’t you two come back in. Just, take it easy on her. I’m not saying that I forgive her. I don’t know that I will be able to anytime soon.” I look down at the writhing mass of flesh that is the bawling Chi’bi, then continue on with my though. “But I do understand why she did it.” I look over to see Dharcia closing slowly, her fur still ruffled, and Ter’l standing close behind her. “Regardless, it doesn’t matter. We have to get through this together, whether we’re ready or not.”

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