Chapter 18: Need
“You need me? For a wife or something?”
Aster shook her head abruptly, throwing her hands out in front of herself as if to stop a physical object flying at her. “No, no. I need blood. Your blood.”
Kai drew in a deep breath. It seemed this conversation had once more pivoted back to the surreal.
“I do not know.”
“You need my blood and you don’t know why?”
She paused. “Sort of.”
“Explain.” She raked a hand through her hair, “Reese mentioned a device? Is that the thing that’s in your chest?”
“Stop saying ‘sort of’.”
The alien drew in a deep sigh, her own fingers moving to tangle into her hair. Was it a language barrier, Kai wondered? Or was it a genuine inability to explain the nuances of the situation?
“Okay. Let me ask a different thing: can I see the device?”This drew the attention of Aster, who nodded vigorously. Her hands withdrew from her hair to crawl across her bed, eventually snaking beneath her pillow. A small oval-shaped object was produced, about the size of the alien’s fist. It was made of smooth metal, and warm to the touch. As Kai reached out to pick it up, the object hummed to life. Once more, the intertwined hands and their strange flower appeared.
“What is it?”
“Sort of a doctor.”
“It’s a box.” Kai sighed, desperately wanting to add “And you said sort of again.”
“We need different kinds of doctors than you do. Let me see.” She held out a hand.
Kai had no choice but to hand it back to the alien, who cupped it in her hands as gently as one would hold a small animal.
“What does it do?”
“Fixes us. Tells us what we need.” A long finger reached out to run across the surface of the device, almost affectionately. “And what I need is blood.”
“For a transfusion?”
“Why didn’t you just say that?”
“It is not that simple.”
Kai wanted to throttle her. It really did seem that simple. “So. What else does it do?”
“It is hard to explain.”
She couldn’t stop the annoyed hiss of air from escaping her lips as she tossed her hands up.
Aster gave a quiet sigh, her head slowly tilting. Her wide eyes were full of a strange, unreadable emotion. It was something like sorrow, Kai thought, and she almost felt bad for her.
“I am sorry, Kai. I wish I could explain.”
“Why won’t you?”
“I do not know. Really. I do not. Do you know how all of your medical technology works?” There was most certainly malice in Aster’s voice, malice the alien made little attempt to hide. It was a rather sudden change, and one that was not lost on Kai.
“You have a good point.”
Something told Kai that she wasn’t being told the whole truth, which she very much did not like. For now, however, she elected to drop it. Aster’s posture had changed, the creature leaning toward her and partly leaning over her. She was looming, and menacing based on size alone. She wasn’t certain if this intimidation was intentional, though she didn’t care to continue needling at her and find out.
“How are you two doing?”
Both Aster and Kai startled as Reese spoke up from her place at the doorway. Neither had heard the woman enter, and neither knew how long she had been there. Girl and alien exchanged a brief glance, then turned their gazes over to the doctor.
“We are doing well.” Aster spoke up first, offering a sharp-toothed grin.
“Yep. All good.”
Reese nodded, the woman then crossing the room to meet Kai, hands settling on the handles of her wheelchair. Before Kai could protest, she found herself being wheeled backwards and away from Aster’s bed. She was too stunned to speak, instead craning her neck back at Reese.
“What are you doing?”
“We need to have a conversation.” Reese leaned down to speak softly in her ear. “Away from her. Now that you’ve met her.”
Immediately, this raised red flags. Before, Reese had seemed utterly calm about the presence of the alien. Why had that suddenly changed?
“Good-bye, Kai. I will see you soon.”
Kai just nodded at Aster, feeling as if she was somehow a step behind everyone. It was deeply frustrating, having no control over what was happening. It was time to put a stop to it.
The moment the pair had crossed the threshold into the hallway, Kai’s hands shot out, catching the brakes of the wheelchair. Reese stopped pushing the moment she moved. Clearly, the motion had been expected.
“Explain.” Kai’s voice was little more than a growl, and her face had contorted into a deep frown.“Not here.”
“Yes, here. I want to know what the hell is going on.”
“We don’t know how well she can hear. I’m not taking any chances. Stop being a child.”
Kai huffed, teeth grinding. This was a tricky spot. Though she loathed being called a child, it was hard to say that she thought her actions were unjustified.
Reese took the opportunity of her temporary stillness to release the brake, and push Kai back toward the elevator.
Once more, the ride down to her own floor was silent. For the first time in her life, Kai wished there was music playing in an elevator. It was too quiet, the only sound being Reese’s foot tapping against the ground. This was deeply unsettling, and made the ride feel painfully long. The woman remained silent as she wheeled Kai back down the hall and to her room. Kai herself wondered why she wasn’t allowed to propel the chair on her own. It seemed like that was what she was meant to do. She didn’t protest though. There were worse things in life than being moved around without any effort.
The moment the door to her room snapped shut, Kai moved to push herself up to stand. Almost immediately, her unhurt leg buckled, having fallen asleep. Reese was there to catch her near instantly, arms wrapped around her waist as she guided her back to the bed. Neither woman spoke. It was an embarrassing situation for one, and a deeply inconvenient one for the other. Once Kai had been situated, Reese took up residence in the wheelchair, as there was nowhere else for her to sit.
“You saw the device, right?”
“I think so.”
“What did she tell you about it?”
“Not a lot. Just that she didn’t know how it worked.”
Reese sighed, sounding almost frustrated. The woman lifted a hand into her curly hair, clearly thinking.
She shook her head, hands moving to adjust her lab coat. She was stalling.
“So you put me in there for no reason?” It was a slight subject change, but Kai had a purpose. “Or did you think she’d tell me something? Since you gave her my blood and all.”
“We were hoping she would, yes.” Reese’s fingers drummed lightly against the chair’s armrest. “It’s technology like nothing I’ve ever seen. And one can expect that, given that she is an alien. But it’s strange. It really is. I thought she was going to die, then we gave her some blood and she’s fine.”
“Was it that injury?”
Reese shrugged. “I don’t know if it was related or not, honestly. And I should know. I’m a doctor, for Christ’s sake. But I couldn’t tell.”
This was somehow more frustrating than hearing Aster’s floundering explanations. At the very least, the alien hadn’t acted like she knew something only to reveal she knew absolutely nothing. Had Reese changed her mind about something?
“How did you know to give her my blood?”
“The device. It brought up your name and picture. That, and she kept repeating ‘blood’. Scared the shit out of my nurses.”
“I don’t know.” Reese licked her lips, her gaze dropping to the ground as she leaned forward. “Honestly, this is the first time I’ve dealt with one of her kind. And the first time I’ve seen an escaped prisoner. Do you know what happened in the prison? There was an explosion, wasn’t there?”
There it is, Kai thought. You don’t care about this situation, or me, you just want to know what’s going on in that building.
“No. I don’t. Did you find anyone else? I wasn’t alone in there.”
Reese paused. “I’m sorry, we didn’t. A couple of us are keeping an eye on the area though. My friend Mae – the one who found you – said she saw a bunch of transports flying out. Did you have friends in there? There’s a chance they’re okay. Maybe they were just moved. If you have names, I can tell people to be on the lookout–”
Briefly, Kai thought back to Amy. It felt like so long ago that the woman had been dragged out of the cells. She wondered where she was now. “No. No friends.”
“Did they keep you in isolation?”
“No. It was just quiet. People didn’t like to talk.”
Kai nodded. It seemed everyone needed something from her. Blood and answers, namely. She sighed. At the very least, the latter was easy to give. Besides, she could certainly use it to build trust. Somehow, she knew Reese wasn’t telling her everything.
She leaned forward, putting a smile on her face.
“I know you have questions. Ask away.”