Warning: This chapter, along with being short, contains mentions of nudity without specifics. Just a heads up!
At this point, my tears have dried. I’ve thought about everything. Could I escape? Where would I go, out into space and die? Call for help? Using what? My phone has no service. At the end I resigned to trying to make my life as tolerable as possible. Go along, keep my head down. But I made note of every weapon, imagining how I could use it to take down Kason. I ask questions about ships, seeing if I can learn how I could pilot one back to earth.
My little rebellion seems very fruitless, as it appears that the weapons available could do little more than irritate him without him dawning some less protective garments. The AI states every time that a Conduit need not learn to pilot as all systems are automated. But that won’t keep me from trying.
As I reword ‘How do you pilot a ship’ in Ivrean for the thousandth time, the quiet hiss of the door puts me on edge. The steps, cold and metallic, remind me of the soft, leave crinkling ones in the forest. I shake as he comes near and lays his hand on my shoulder.
“Earth-girl, now that you’ve-” He pauses, glancing at the screen “Discovered the reality of your situation, I believe it’s time to get to the formalities of it. You know my name, now I must know yours.” The first part seems almost amused when I hear it, like a mother discovering a futile attempt to sneak some sweets or to use a calculator on a mental math homework assignment. It makes me sick to think that he’s now in that much power over me, as if I were a child in Year 1. “I asked, you a question, Earth-girl.” He says, a bit more forceable.
“Rennel.” I answer, turning my head in spite. Just because I don’t have a choice doesn’t mean I have to kiss up to him.
“Okay, Reynel.” He says, probably pronouncing it wrong on purpose.”Now, I assume you now know about your abilities, purpose, and the events that will happen in the following Ivrean cycles?” I nod, without looking at him.
“Great, now follow me.” He says, leaving me a bit bewildered. I sit up out of the chair and look at him.
“What are we doing? Where are we going?” I ask, confused. He stops and turns toward me, a look of annoyance on his face.
“You’ll know once we get there. Come one, we need to get you out of those awful human clothes.” He says, walking out of the room. I tense up. I didn’t expect it to happen today, er this cycle.
I feel a pressure, and get up to walk towards him. He must be constricting my range. I don’t like the feeling so I follow him. He heads into the room labeled “ Synthesizer”, where I presume clothes and other items are made using the resources made by conduits. Everything seems to rely on with conduits make. It seems that without them, without us, the Ivrean civilization would crumble. I find it strange, I’m now lumped into a group of which I don’t know anyone, and may never know.
As I enter the room, Kason motions towards a large circular thing, made of glass and with a strange arm-like thing connected to the circle at the bottom. I walk towards it hesitantly. How am I supposed to get in this monstrosity? It doesn’t seem to have an entrance. I circle it, trying to find what I’m supposed to do and where.
Kason, without warning, pushes me inside. I phase through, like going through a soap bubble. Instantly, my uniform disappears, almost melting off my body and the strange mess that it becomes gets soaked up by the bubble, diffusing through it until it’s clear again.
I look at him, mad. Why’d he push me? And, now that I finally realise it, I’m naked. I cover myself and glare daggers at him. “What the heck?!” I shout, my face flushing. He seems rather calm for someone who just essentially undressed a young girl with no relation other than ‘Alien Captor’.
“I don’t want you to keep those bacteria and fungi-fostering clothes on. It’s not hygenic.” He moves over to a panel, which must have been raised out of the ground while I was distracted, since it wasn’t there before. “Hold still.” His commanding voice alone makes me freeze, but I do as he says, hoping that this won’t last much longer.
The arm moves, and strange streams of white flow around me, little robot-like things taking this strange thread and making quick work of making some basic undergarments. Now that I’m only partially undressed, I feel a bit less exposed.
My hands fall to my sides and I glance at him. He seems to be examining the clothes. “Hm… that’ll do.” Kason suddenly makes a few quick motions on the panel. “This may hurt, and my previous command remains in place.” I suddenly feel uneasy. Usually the Doctors say to look the other way, blow, or just that it won’t hurt when doing an injection or something. And, of course, it always hurts.
Soon, a tingling sensation starts, on my back. Then, it escalates to a burning sensation, concentrated between my shoulder blades, right below my nape. Suddenly an icy feeling spreads across the area and soothes it. It quickly fades as I twist to get a look at what it was. Unfortunately, I can’t even get a glimpse.
“What was that?” I ask, looking at Kason, frustrated. I don’t like not knowing what’s happening to my body. He just looks back up at me, then I find myself swiveled away from him. He must be admiring his handiwork…
“Nothing of concern to you. Now, We’ll have to go through several different variations of outfits. This will take some time, so shut up and don’t make this harder than it has to.” I groan. This is going to kill me. But, I keep my mouth shut. Hopefully I can get some sleep, maybe wake up from this nightmare, or escape into a dream about breaking out and returning to Audray in time for school.
Then, without realizing it, I start wondering about what happened. Is school still going on? Maybe they sent out an amber alert. Or perhaps Audray’s already woken up and notified. And those police officers… are they dead or just knocked out? Did other people see us flying into space? What about my parents? What will the government do, cover it up or come forth? If they do tell the truth how will the public react? Will they try to find me, or figure out what happened to me?
“Is that comfortable, and is there anything you’d like to change about this?” Once again the sharp voice of Kason brings me out of my head, though thoughts and questions still swirl inside, and this time with no AI to answer them.
I move around, finding that this outfit, which seems to be something similar to the heavy armored outfit he wore in the video, though with more armor around my neck. It’s surprisingly light, though not something I would want to run in for a long time. Everything is covered except my head, though there’s a shimmery looking thing that may be some form of alien force field.
“It’s fine.” I say, and he nods. The outfit is seemingly morphed into the one he was wearing when he found me, though I notice he has since changed into a different outfit. Once again, it seems perfectly tailored to me, even my uniform wasn’t this nicely form-fitted.
Repeating the confirmation, we move onto the next. This continues for a while, with several different outfits. There is a stiff but moveable uniform, one that is more like a training outfit, and a tight body suit with obvious stealth implications. One feels like sleepwear, another like something you’d wear in winter, and now very obvious space-suit, though more streamlined. However when this one morphs into the next outfit, I can’t believe it.
“Why do I need, uh, this?” I say looking at the monstrosity I’m in. The long robe, with trailing sleeves, and open back feels like a dress. This one reveals too much, and I can’t help but flush with how strange it feels. I’ve never been one to dress up, but this, especially in my current situation, feels out of place, like a medieval dress.
“There are many formal occasions that will call for some formal wear, and the traditional Ivrean Uino is the basic version for females of bipedal races.” He looks at me annoyed. “Is it uncomfortable, physically? Does wearing it cause you pain? Is it not covering something vital?” His tone is almost sarcastic.
“N-no, but…” I search for a valid reason to alter it. I mean, it certainly flows nicely when I move, and it does look good, but that’s not really the problem here.
“Then we’re moving on.” Kason deftly does something on the panel and moves onto the next outfit. The brief moment of awkwardness goes away, and now I’m standing in a casual shirt and long pants. It’s much looser than the other ones, and it’d probably be the casual outfit. I give my nod of approval, and then he backs away and the panel lowers into the ground. Are we done?
This time, when I pass through the bubble, my outfit doesn’t disintegrate, but it does add a shimmery bracelet to my growing pile of accessories. A headband of language, ring of internet, and now what? A bracelet of outfits?
“That will control what outfit you wear, and things like color and whatnot. I suggest not to mess with it.” He signs then heads out of the room, and feeling the same sensation as earlier, I surmise that I am to follow. This gives me the feeling of a dog on a leash, but there’s not much I can do. He heads back into the room with the computer and walks down the steps, into a large platform, with a grid-like pattern.
When I get onto the platform, a shimmery veil spreads around the perimeter, making this feel like a arena of sorts. This makes me uncomfortable, and I turn my eyes to Kason. He’s fiddling with yet another panel, which I assume has risen from the floor.
The Ivrean ship style seems to be very smooth, but with lots of pop-ups. It reminds me of this puzzle I’d play with when I was young, with different buttons that would expand the object, revealing more buttons and swivels, levers, and, of course, it was an AR puzzle, but I loved that thing. It reminded me of my life now, expanding, becoming more and more complex. And, as I walk towards my captor, or channeler, I wonder what this one will reveal.