Telloc cleared his throat to say something but before he could, Chloe had already turned and started running down the beach. She ran as fast as her legs would carry her, controlling her breath as best she could. Only when her heart nearly exploded under the strain did Chloe stop. Hardly able to stay still, Chloe started kicking at the loose sand and punching the air with white-knuckled fists. Losing her balance, Chloe fell on her back and stared up at the clouds lazily drifting across the bright blue sky. Burying her face in her hands, Chloe screamed and cried until her throat felt like sandpaper.
Telloc watched Chloe from a distance, keeping watch over the storm of emotions raging inside her mind. When her thoughts began to quiet, Telloc followed the footprints along the shore. When he found her, she was sitting close to the rolling waves. She clutched a broken stick in her hand, tracing shapes in the damp sand. Groaning in frustration, she broke the stick in two and tossed the pieces into the swirling waves.
“I assure you he felt no pain. He would have died instantly on impact.” Telloc watched her with his hands clasped behind his back. Chloe ignored him, silently watching the spot on the horizon where the plane had struck. He glanced over his shoulder before sitting beside her.
Chloe lowered her gaze to the waves rolling along the shore. With each crash, they reached further and further towards her. She took in a deep, shaky breath. “Just a dream,” she whispered to herself. It had to be. Telloc was sitting next to her. She only had to wait a minute, maybe two and the nightmare would end. She would wake up in the caves with another day’s work ahead of her.
“I’m afraid this time is different.” He cast a sideways glance and found Chloe staring into the waves as if they held the answer.
“You’re not real,” she shouted, covering her ears with her hands. “You can’t be. None of this…”
Chloe Moore, you are better than this.
His voice resounded angrily in her mind. She lowered her hands and shifted a few inches back. A cold sweat broke out over her neck. “Excuse me? How do you know my name?”
“I know much more than that.” Shadows plagued his gaze.
She raised an eyebrow and glanced around her, wishing she had some sort of weapon. “Who are you?”
“Telloc Cauhlgar.” He bit his lip and sighed. She felt something moving in her mind. His voice echoed like a low whisper. It was so soft, Chloe thought she was imagining it. I’m what you would call a doctor for the Coronite Resistance. Look, I know how all of this looks, but I can assure you that I will not harm you. We need you Chloe… yes, I really am speaking English. Alara taught me before she left.
Chloe’s eyes widened. She didn’t know he could also hear her thoughts. She swallowed past the lump in her throat and struggled to keep her voice from shaking. “What are you going to do with me?”
Telloc looked around again. This is not the place. We must get to our base. He glanced at her wobbling knees. Can you walk far?
“Ok, first thing’s first, you need to stop the whole mind talking… stuff.”
“I only do so because,” he stopped when he noticed Chloe’s eyes. She was incredibly strong, he’d give her that. He was beginning to see what Alara saw in her. Pushing himself to his feet, Telloc held out his hand to her. “Of course. Can you walk?”
She eyed his hand warily.
“It is a long walk to the access point, and it would not be wise for us to be out after dark.”
Chloe’s mind flashed to the creatures in her nightmares. She shivered, even though it was almost uncomfortably warm. She rose without taking his hand, shaking the loose sand from her slightly damp pants. “How do I know you’re not one of them?”
“Then you would already be dead.” His voice had a sharp edge to it like he was tired of dealing with a child who asked “Why?” one too many times. “You have no weapons. I’m your only chance of survival in this world.” When he still saw the tension pulling at her shoulders, Telloc turned to expose his neck. “If I had been turned, there would be a scar. See for yourself.”
Just as he said, there was no scar. “Alright. I trust you… for now. Where do we go?”
He indicated the hill jutting just slightly above the tree line. “The devices respond best up there. It’s our best chance for a clean transport.”
Before Chloe could groan, Telloc was halfway to the beginning of the trees. Chloe struggled to keep up with him as he seamlessly glided through the twisting trails. For a moment, she remembered her father and their escape. She tugged at her collar, but the heat was relentless. Beads of sweat lined her brow and her head began to spin until she felt like she was walking sideways alone the ground. A sharp pain throbbed at the base of her neck, which didn’t help the nausea swirling in her stomach.
All of a sudden, Telloc stopped. He dug something out of his pack. It looked like the stuff her father gave her before they crashed. “Here, take this. It’ll make you feel better.”
“I thought you said you’d stop reading my mind.”
“It doesn’t take a mind reader to see when someone’s about to fall over.” He pointed to her cloak. “Give me that. The less weight, the better.”
Too tired to argue, she untied the cloak and handed it to him. They continued on in silence, even though Chloe still felt the presence in her mind. By the time they reached the top of the hill, the sun was half way to setting along the horizon. Chloe was gasping as she reached the top of the hill. Telloc seemed unaffected, but said nothing to Chloe. He looked down at the device on his wrist and muttered something in an unfamiliar language. Telloc held out his hand. “I will need to see your wrist to put in the coordinates.”
She glanced down at the strange device, humming softly. Keeping her eyes on his, she held out her hand and watched him enter strange symbols on a sort of keypad on top of the device. Keeping his eyes on the keypad, Telloc said, “When we arrive, understand it may be difficult for the others to understand. For the time being, we’re going to have to keep you separated for your safety.” Before Chloe could say anything, the devices began to glow and hum loudly. Telloc breathed a sigh of relief as they vanished in a flash of light.
When the light faded, Chloe found herself in a semi-dark room, which her eyes were thankful for. Unfortunately, she also noticed she was alone. Telloc was gone. Her heat skipped a beat and her hands became clammy. “Hello?” No one answered. “Hello,” she called out louder. “Telloc. Telloc? Somebody answer me.”
In response, Chloe heard something buzzing behind her. She turned and saw a hologram of some sort staring back at her. Her large, round, blue eyes both scrutinized and reassured Chloe at the same time. “Hello, Chloe. My name is Alara. I’m sure you have many questions.”
“That’s a bit of an understatement.” Chloe grabbed a chair and sat in front of the hologram. “But, I figure if I’ve gone crazy I might as well play into the delusion until I wake up.”
“Who I am is a bit complicated. This body is a native girl whose brain essentially lost all function on my master’s operating table. I escaped by implanting myself into her mind. Don’t worry, I am not part of my former masters. I was their primary ship’s computer AI, initially designed by your great grandfather.”
Alara’s small smile eased Chloe’s churning stomach. “I wish I could tell you this was a dream.” She took in a deep, even breath. “You are on a planet called Taren. Two thousand years in your future, Taren was invaded by a hostile race of parasites, my former masters, who use other beings as hosts. They took over this world and enslaved its, people except for the Coronite Resistance, who rescued you when you arrived.”
“Which I still don’t understand how, by the way,” she muttered.
“You and your father came to Taren through a rift.” She paused, nibbling her bottom lip. “It’s sufficiently complicated that I’ll leave the math out of this transmission, although I can show you it when we finally meet if you would like.”
“You’re not here?”
“I would like to have talked to you in person, but unfortunately, plans had to change. I needed to be recaptured.” She focused her gaze into Chloe’s. “Listen closely. We don’t have much time.”
Marna Leven paced the small room for hours, wondering when the hell Telloc was going to get back. This whole being in charge thing was so far out of her league. What had he been thinking, throwing this on her at the last second and right when Alara had been captured? She rubbed the back of her neck, pausing to trace the jagged scar from her last encounter with the aliens. Guess it didn’t matter now, but he’d be getting a piece of her mind when he dragged his sorry a…
A knock at the door disrupted her thoughts. Settling into the chair behind a half broken table, she straightened the papers strewn about the table’s surface and called out that the door was unlocked.
“Marna, Telloc is….is….h-here,” said Garren. He was one of the newest rescues. A host nearly all his life, he still had trouble adjusting to life on his own two feet.
Marna smiled and pushed back a chunk of hair that had fallen from her loose braid. “Very well. Bring him in.”
When Garren didn’t move, Marna cleared her throat. “Something wrong, boy?”
“He brought a,” he paused and moved closer, “a… human.”
“A parasite?” She exclaimed, “He brought one of those things here?!”
“Not exactly. Telloc requested you meet them in the isolation room.”
Marna grabbed the disruptor in her drawer and clipped it to her belt. Ignoring the headache between her eyes, Marna motioned for Garren to follow her. There was no telling what the creature could be like. How could Telloc have been so stupid? Unless the thing threatened him or was controlling him somehow. The latter seemed entirely too feasible for her liking.
She marched through the base until she got to the isolation wing. Telloc was in the main control room watching a monitor of one of the rooms. She pushed open the door long enough for Garren to follow in behind her before securely shutting and locking it.
She stood with her arms crossed in front of her, tapping her steel toed boot on the stone floor. “You want to tell me exactly why I shouldn’t raise a vote of no confidence? You brought one of them here.”
“This one is different.”
“There’s no such thing.” Garren looked from Marna to Telloc.
Telloc pointed to the monitor he was watching. Marna followed his gaze to the woman watching some sort of hologram. “By Anuway… what the hell is that thing?”
“A human before they left Earth. She is going to help free us and Alara.”
“You’ve got to be kidding.”