Not Alone Ch. 03byLingerieRobot©
It was like a long, intermittent dream. There was no sense of time on the ship, and little to do. Richard was rarely awake for more than a few hours at a time, and he spent those hours in a daze, wandering out to fill himself with the bland food Wing produced, sit and think about the strange circumstances he was in, then return to the warm comfort of his bed. He rarely saw Tom and Kayleigh -- maybe they were on a different sleep cycle, maybe they just never left their room.
He thought frequently about conjuring up Wing and her (his? Their? Not for the first time Richard lamented the inadequacies of the English language and its gender pronouns) transformable body. But he didn't want to dredge up any more of the weird shit lingering deep in the recesses of his mind. Sometimes he would feel a carress through the sheets, as if the ship was propositioning him, but he would always turn over and dig his head further into his pillow.
Many days passed like this -- he wasn't sure how many. Time was meaningless here. The strange, slippery dreams he had were hard to tell apart from his reality. And then, for the first time in a while, Wing summoned them all to the living room.
Tom and Kayleigh were dressed in matching bathrobes, which they pulled around them as an almost instinctive gesture of self-protection. Richard wondered if they had gotten Wing to conjure up an entire wardrobe for them. He then realized that he hadn't showered or changed clothes the entire trip, which might explain the distance the couple was taking from him. Personally, he thought he smelled fine.
Today Wing had once again formed his authoritative male human appendage. "Hello once again," he said. "I hope your journey has been pleasant thus far."
Kayleigh sniffled. "About as pleasant as kidnappings get."
"Please, I believe the appropriate term is abduction," said Wing.
There was a pause. "Wait, was that a joke from you?" said Richard. "I'm shocked."
"Humour is another one of the base pleasures I occasionally indulge in," said Wing. "But I haven't called you here for my comedy routine. First off, I'm pleased to tell you that we are three of your Earth days away from Jian-2. We've made good time, if I do say so myself. But before we can land you will have to be inspected."
Richard sighed. "I knew there was going to be anal probing somewhere."
"You know, this fascination with anal probes that your species has, and projects onto others, is quite fascinating," said Wing. "I wonder what kind of subconscious desires are responsible for this fantasy?"
Kayleigh didn't laugh -- she hadn't smiled in at least a week. "So tell us what you're going to do to us now."
"A representative of the New Species department will run some tests on you with highly advanced machinery. He won't even have to touch your physical bodies."
For some reason Richard wasn't reassured. Still, there was nothing he or the other two could do to resist -- even if they did somehow escape the eternally malleable prison that was Wing, there was nothing outside but the deadly vacuum of space. It was just as Kayleigh had put it -- it wasn't a question of what they would do but what Wing and his alien cohorts would do to them.
And yet, Richard couldn't bring himself to hate Wing in the same way Kayleigh did. Rationally, she (as Richard thought of the being, if only to reassure himself about his sexuality) was their kidnapper and jailer, the villain of the story. But Richard didn't really regret being torn away a life of endless department meetings and fruitless experiments. Maybe it was just Stockholm syndrome, or residual endorphins, but he liked Wing -- at least as much as one could like a creature that was so vastly different.
But he saw the dead stare in Kayleigh's eyes and almost forgot about all of that.
The three abductees gathered around the viewscreen for the first thing they had been able to see out of it that wasn't stars set in a velvet void. This spaceship looked much different than the sleek, almost familiar chrome vessel they were currently sitting in. It was a gnarled brown hunk making its way through space on a pulse of purple flame. The ship was lumpy and amorphous, far from an example of aerodynamic engineering.
They sat in silence, watching it grow from a small discoloured dot on the horizon to something massive making a slow but inevitable lurch towards them. Tom thought that the exterior shell of the alien ship looked like wood, but surely that was impossible. Wing swung itself to the side, allowing the other ship to dock alongside it, and formed a connecting tunnel out of thin air. With a swish, a door opened in the floor, and then suddenly the floor was a wall and they were all drifting softly downwards as Wing rearranged itself (when it was just a ship, it was hard to not use the pronoun "it") in order to accommodate its new visitors.
The creatures that emerged from the door might have resembled humans, were it not for the lack of heads. All four of their limbs ended in six-fingered hands. They crawled around the room on all fours, grasping and swinging from one piece of furniture to the next. Two were male and one female, although the only sign of sex were the genitals visible behind the back set of arms. Every inch of their tangerine-orange skin was exposed. Three gashes on their backs pulsed, taking in and releasing air.
Tom stepped back, repulsed by the creatures. They seemed like grotesque rearrangements of human beings, some sort of mad science experiment. He wanted to run, but there was nowhere to run to. This wasn't what he had imagined space would be like.
Richard and Kayleigh both looked queasy as well, althoug there was more than a hint of fascination in their eyes. If the aliens recognized the humans' anxiety, they didn't show it, strolling around the room confidently (at least Tom thought it was confidence, although it was hard to read emotions into something that didn't have a face.)
"These are Thalians," said Wing, back in his authoritative male human form. "This is part of their Science Corps they've donated for League's purposes. There's no reason for alarm -- they're here on official business."
Tom couldn't help but stare at one of the Thalians' cock, drawn in close to its body. Other than the orange colouration, it looked strangely identical to the human instrument. Now that he was closer, he could see four small holes on the front end of the creatures' torsos -- perhaps some kind of senses.
A pungent, foreign smell hit the air. It smelled a bit like paprika, but even that was a bit of a stretch -- Tom couldn't truly relate it to anything he had ever smelled before. He supposed this would be a common experience, encountering the completely new -- something that was not just a modification of something he already knew but built on a foundation he was completely oblivious to. It was exciting and terrifying. He felt like a child.
Kayleigh was squatting down next to one of the creatures, examining closely the pulsing gashes in its back. (His back? Her? These things had genitals, but did they have genders?) She had her scientific look on, that gaze of scrutiny and fascination that Tom recognized from the few times he had seen her in the lab, or the many times he had seen her curled up with some scientific journal.
"How do they communicate?" she said.
"Through scent," said Wing. "In fact, at this moment they are greeting you, quite respectfully I might add."
Kayleigh put her hand out, as though she was going to pet the alien, but withdrew it at the last second. Tom heaved a sigh of relief. He saw one Thalian crawling closer to him, and instinctively shied away.
"Now they are asking for you to come over to their ship for the tests. I believe they don't want me listening in on them." If Wing had been more familiar with human gestures, he might have raised an eyebrow.
"Onto there?" said Richard, gesturing towards the strange Thalian ship with a mixture of disbelief and panic. It was understandable -- the Thalians seemed like much more of a threat than Wing did, strange creatures they couldn't understand. Wing was the type of movie villain who seduced you with luxury and killed you with kindness -- which was a threat in and of itself, but all things considered, Tom supposed he would much rather be killed by kindness than by weird headless aliens.
"No need to worry," said a new voice. "You aren't in any danger." Standing in the doorway was the first other human any of them had seen in weeks.
He had a dusky bronze skin and his words had a strange accent -- perhaps he was from a different country on Earth, or perhaps he had dragged a rusted English language out of mothballs. Whichever it was, Tom was sure it wasn't another illusion, another being disguising itself as human like Wing did. He was too imperfect, too flabby and earthy, completely unlike the movie stars Wing unwittingly conjured up as its avatars.
The man was wearing loose-fitting black clothing that wouldn't have looked out of place on Earth. He stepped forward and offered the three abductees his hand. Tom and Richard shook it hesitantly, while Kayleigh just stared at the proferred appendage like it was obscene.
"Xanon Por Pramuk," he said. "Special Envoy for the League of Worlds. When I heard that we had some humans heading our way, I had to tag along with the usual science ship."
"So you're with the aliens, huh?" said Richard. "Sort of a human Uncle Tom, I guess."
He continued smiling blithely. "I'm afraid I don't understand the reference. I'm seventh-generation diaspora, you see."
Tom was trying to put the implications together in his head. "Meaning..."
"My ancestors got whisked up from Thailand about two centuries ago. I was born on Talos-9. I am afraid I have not kept up much with Earth culture -- we get so little of it, just fragments here and there. People tend not to be abducted with libraries."
Tom had thought that they would be the only humans where they were going. He was comforted by the knowledge but there were more, but now felt just ignorant -- had alien abductions really been happening for centuries? How long had this been going on? Just how many abductees, and descendants of abductees, were there up there?
"But you will find out about all this in time," said Xanon. "You will be living amongst the human population -- Little Earth, for lack of a better term -- on Jian-2. All we need to do are a few preliminary medical and psychological evaluations."
Tom backed up. It sounded like code for something sinister. Xanon chuckled. Wing's human embodiment said "I'm aware that you may be paranoid, with good reason. But they truly are harmless tests. We wouldn't bring you all this way to harm you."
Kayleigh shivered again, one of those full-body shudders she had been doing lately, like she was trying to contract herself into a small cube. "Paranoid? It's not paranoia. You kidnapped us. Don't act like we're silly and irrational to resent that."
Wing said nothing, just gestured towards the door. Tom still didn't want to go, but he didn't think he had any choice. He stepped over the barrier into the strange wooden Thalian ship. Richard and Kayleigh stepped in after him. Were they following him? Had he been appointed the leader without realizing it.
Xanon cleared his throat. "I am afraid we're going to have to leave all of you behind, Wing."
Wing smiled, although it was an awkward approximation of a human smile. "Of course. I had forgotten." Tom felt the incredibly disconcerting feeling of his clothes sliding off his body, going from solid material to a crawling liquid that pooled on the floor. He had almost forgotten that their clothes were a part of Wing, and that shock overtook any shame at his sudden nudity. He looked at the black pool slithering across the threshold back into Wing's ship-body, where it melted into the ground. He wondered if that liquid was the closest thing Wing had to a true body.
Xanon showed no reaction to their nudity, and they themselves were too battered to protest. Even Kayleigh didn't make much of an effort -- she crossed her arms to cover her breasts, but left her pussy standing uninhibited in the artificial air.
"Come on in," said Xanon. "We may actually be able to get you some real clothes."
As soon as they were five feet away from Wing they found themselves floating off the ground. Kayleigh grabbed a nearby branch and pushed herself off it, sending her floating slowly through the air. Tom tried to grab for a perch and ended up spinning himself into an opposite wall. He didn't need a science degree to figure out that there was no artificial gravity on this ship, but that didn't help him navigate the confusing tumble that the world has become. As soon as he had decided on one point being a wall and another being the floor he would spin and all that would be reversed. Xanon was watching with a profound sense of amusement, hanging on to one looping branch.
"A little help?' said Tom.
"Just grab onto the sides and climb. You can propel yourself for a while if you do it right -- treat it like swimming. She has a good form over there." Indeed, Kayleigh was breast stroking her way through the gravityless air. Tom had to catch his breath. She looked like an angel, flying nude through the sky. She also looked, just maybe, like she was enjoying herself for the first time since they had left Earth.
The strange plant-like skin of the ship proved a boon for travelling in zero-gravity, perhaps why it was there. The rough wall was covered in roots and vines, which were convenient handholds as Tom slowly climbed along. He had to go into more of a squatting position as he climbed, wary of rubbing his own twig and berries against the ship's rough bark. This meant sticking his butt out into the air, causing Kayleigh to snicker as she looked past. Richard was blessed with boxer shorts, so he hugged tight to the wall. Out of the corner of his eye Tom saw the Thalians easily scurrying across the walls, their four hands always finding purchase somewhere. He had the sneaking suspicion that he looked like a complete idiot.
Tom realized he should have been marvelling more at the ship. It was his first glance at a real ship, instead of the malleable floating hotel room. But his mind was mostly taken up by the difficulties of putting one foot in front of the other, and the remaining mental power went towards worrying about what the tests would involve.
Up ahead, Xanon tossed them each down a robe, although his throws were weak and the robes floated through the sky like great bats. Tom managed to tug it on, although it did send him spiralling into the opposite wall. At first he thought the robe would be too big, but it quickly shrunk and constricted to fit the contours of his body. It wasn't much, he thought, but at least it was a real piece of clothing.
All along the plant corridor were torso-sized silver circles, the metal awkwardly juxtaposing with the natural environment around them. Tom wondered how a ship like this even worked, how it stayed sealed against the vacuum of space. Xanon reached one of the silver circles, seemingly the same as all the others, and tapped it twice. It whisked open, revealing a smaller room behind it. Xanon invited them all through, although it took a couple tries for Tom to get through the portal without bumping his head up around it.
The room they moved into was similar but smaller, a wooden sphere with more silver portals on either side of it. A seamless black sphere floated in mid-air. Xanon propelled himself over to it. "All right, who wants to go first?"
The three abductees looked around at each other, each looking queasy. Xanon dug a finger into the black ball and pulled it back, splitting the material open and forming a makeshift seam. He took a green cylindrical instrument out of it, with several odd-shaped buttons on it.
Tom sighed. He didn't want to have to go through this, whatever it was, but he would make sure it was okay for Kayleigh. Besides which, there was something exciting about even a sketchy medical examination -- the zero-gravity, the new technology, the strange aliens. It was every bit as novel as it was disconcerting. "I'll do it."
Xanon ushered Richard and Kayleigh out of the room. The silver door slid shut again. Tom kicked his feet awkwardly, propelling him back towards the opposite wall. He would have to watch his movements here -- even the slightest habit was exaggerated into ridiculous motion. Xanon approached with the green sensor. Tom was feeling a lot less confident now that he was alone with this stranger, a human who might as well have been alien.
"Do I need to undress?" said Tom.
Xanon shook his head. He pressed a button on the sensor and started running it over Tom's body slowly, starting at the feet. It cast a pale blue light against Tom's skin, and the areas it touched seemed to crawl, although he was sure he was imagining that. In a way it was just like the doctor's office, without the smell of disinfectant.
"So," said Xanon. "How are you dealing with leaving Earth?"
He raised an eyebrow. "Okay? I am going to need more from you than okay."
In all the worry over the green sensor, Tom had forgotten that Xanon had even mentioned a psych examination. "I'm doing fine, really. Obviously I miss home and shit, but I'm kind of excited to be here and seeing new things. I feel like this is still kind of a dream... like maybe it hasn't sunk in for me. Hell, maybe this is a dream. It'd be a very strong dream, but that's more reasonable than me being in space right now."
"It is not a dream," said Xanon. "Denying what is happening shall not do you any good."
"I'm not denying it. It's just like... I know what's happening, but it's like I'm following the plot to a movie, not what's happening in my life." Tom wasn't sure why he was opening up to Xanon, but it felt right.
"What about the other two?"
Tom felt especially unsure about dishing out Kayleigh and Richard's personal struggles. "Well, you're going to see them after me, right?"
Xanon paused, and tapped his hip. Tom had no idea what it meant -- maybe it was an alien gesture that he had picked up. "Well, I would rather get every perspective I can."
"Well, it's hard to say about Richard -- he keeps to himself a lot. Maybe he's bawling his eyes out in there, maybe he's fine. As for Kayleigh... I'll admit it, she's taking it rough. Rougher than I would have expected, really. But she'll bounce back. She's a strong girl."
Xanon made a non-comittal "mm-hmm" noise. The green scanner had reached Tom's neckline. "How has Wings of Steel treated you?"
"Well, he -- it, I guess -- has been fine. A bit reluctant to explain things, but it's provided us with everything we need. Truth be told, I forget it's there sometimes... and then when I do remember, it's kind of creepy, you know? Or maybe you don't."
The scanner continued its advance, up towards his face. "Close your eyes, please." Tom complied. A second later he could see the bright green light of the strange device through the dark red shield of his eyelids. He felt a headache quickly blossoming.
A moment later, however, the light ceased. Tom felt a finger trying to open his mouth, and he complied in a daze. The finger -- Xanon's, he presumed -- slipped a small, smooth capsule onto his tongue and retreated. "Swallow it," said Xanon.
"Can I open my eyes now?" In the process of speaking, Tom swallowed the pill, whether he wanted to or not he was still unsure).
"Go ahead." Xanon had in his hand a bottle of pills that looked to be the same size as the one he had just administered. It looked weirdly similar to an Earth prescription pill bottle. "It's just a simple adaptation medicine. The atmosphere of Jian-2 is only a bit different than Earth's, but that bit will cause quite some damage if you don't take these. Once daily, before you go to bed. Don't forget."