Chapter 21: Halls
It had been two weeks since Kai had arrived at the hotel, and with that time had come trust. That, and quite a bit of improvement with respect to her wheelchair-using skills. She would have preferred a pair of crutches, she thought, but apparently they had none on hand. The resupply team, who Kai had yet to actually meet, had been unable to procure any. They had, however, been able to bring in some fresh food, and plenty of clean needles. The latter had been far more obvious, as it seemed there was some new reason for her blood to be taken every day. Maxwell had at least proved to be quite good at finding her veins on the first try. Her arms had, however, been perpetually bruised for the past few weeks. She couldn’t say that she enjoyed having her blood taken this often, or that she knew it was safe, but it wasn’t as if she had a choice. No. This was just a part of her life here. A place to stay and two or three meals every day. It wasn’t as if she could leave though. Not only did she need to heal, but something told her that her presence here had stopped being optional the moment her blood had saved Aster.
In regards to Aster, she’d found the nature of their interactions had changed drastically.
After that first, unsupervised visit, she’d found herself unable to get even a moment alone with the alien. There was always someone else in the room, quietly watching. Usually, this was Reese, and on occasion, another woman she’d learned was called Vera. Vera herself was a tall, quiet woman in her mid-forties. A surgeon of some kind, or maybe some sort of researcher. She’d spoken to Kai only a few times, and even then she’d really only spoken when it was time to leave Aster’s room.
At the current moment, however, Kai had taken things into her own hands. The building had been quiet today, and by now she knew the way to Aster’s room. The days of being offensively gated into her room had long passed, and she was trusted to roam the place.
For the most part, anyway.
She was conveniently intercepted every time she made it up to Aster’s floor, but not today. No. She’d made it to the door, a door that she could assume wasn’t locked. Kai looked over her shoulder and saw no one, then moved to push the handle down and open the door. It swung open without much effort, revealing the shape of Aster, curled up on her side.
“Aster? Aster, you awake?” Kai spoke softly, wheeling herself closer to the bed.
The alien didn’t reply, save for a quiet groan. She didn’t react as Kai reached a hand out to shake her shoulder, save for giving another little grumble.
Finally, Aster rolled over to face her. She looked just about the same as she had before, save for a half-lidded gaze and a slackened jaw.
“Hi..Kai.” Her voice was a drawl, one hand lifting up off the bed to vaguely grasp at Kai. “That rhymes, yes? I like rhymes…” She giggled, then flopping back on the bed.
This was rather troubling.
“Are you feeling alright?”
Aster smiled, giving a nod. She lifted up her other arm, this having an IV placed in the crook of her elbow. “Yes!”
“What’s in there?”
Kai gave a long sigh, annoyance masking her concern. Slowly, she maunevered herself back around the bed, toward the IV stand. The bag was, unfortunately, unlabeled, and even if it had been, Kai didn’t really know the names of many medications anyway.
“How do you feel?”
It was a more specific question, she thought. Perhaps she’d get a more specific answer.
“I feel like I’m…” Aster paused, grinning. “Floating. I want to sleep too.”
Of course. You’ve been drugged. Great.
Kai dragged a hand across her brow.
“How are you feeling?”
“I’m doing fine, Aster.”
“That is good.” The alien languidly rolled onto her back, then moved to partly throw back to covers, lifting an arm in an inviting way. “Come here.”
“Please?” Her red eyes were pleading, staring at Kai with all the innocence of a puppy.
“What if they come in here? I don’t think I’m allowed in here alone.”
“I will protect you.”
Kai sighed, then extended a hand toward Aster. “How about I hold your hand?”
“Okay.” Despite her clearly sedated state, the alien’s hand flashed out with unnatural speed to grip Kai’s. She gave a powerful tug toward the bed, succeeding in dragging Kai’s chair a few inches and nearly dragging the younger woman out of it. Aster’s brows furrowed together, the creature propping herself up to examine Kai.
“You are hurt.”
Her other hand reached out to press rather painfully on the bruised crook of her arm, earning a yelp from Kai as she tried to pull away. Unfortunately, Aster’s grip did not allow for this.
“Yes. They’ve been taking blood almost every day. I assumed it was going to you.”
“No. No more blood for me. I do not need it.”
That was odd, though she had supposed they were running tests on it anyway. She supposed if she had any scientific background, she’d also want to know if there was anything weird going on with her blood. Actually, she wanted to know anyway.
“Must just be testing it then.”
“For what? Are you also sick?”
She shook her head. “I don’t think so.” Kai paused. “Are you?”
“I do not think I am right now. I feel good.”
You’re also clearly high as a kite.
“Glad to hear it. Would you mind letting go of my arm?”
“I don’t want to.”
“You will leave and I will be alone. I do not like being alone. I like you here.”“I won’t leave.”
“Promise?” There was an almost childlike undertone to Aster’s voice, the creature still staring up at her with those big eyes.
Kai sighed. “I promise.”
It took about an hour by Kai’s estimate for Aster to fall asleep, and ten minutes of sleep for her to work up the courage to slowly remove the creature’s hand from hers. She slowly moved to lay it across the alien’s chest, giving it a light pat. It felt like the right thing to do, as she did feel rather bad for Aster. Clearly, the creature had appreciated the contact, as her hand had taken on the color of Kai’s skin. It was almost cute, somehow.
Though Kai had made absolutely no effort to move quietly, she was not intercepted as she made her way back to the elevator. Though there were only seven other people in the building, and yet every other time she’d tried to venture off on her own, someone had managed to find her. As the elevator stopped on her floor, Kai paused.
Something was not right.
Her finger found the second floor button. That was their ‘office space’, she’d learned. She’d only been down there a few times, but her gut told her this was where they’d be. She, after all, had not been allowed in such a place unaccompanied. Her fingers drummed nervously against the armrests of her chair as the elevator’s bell dinged once. Slowly, Kai wheeled herself out the door. The hallway was quite similar to the others, possessing the same fading white and black patterned carpet and olive green painted walls that she’d grown almost fond of. These rooms, however, did not seem to be used to any significant degree. Most possessed no label whatsoever, and a few didn’t even have doorknobs. Her own room had been labeled with a neat little laminated card that said ‘Patient Room’, though it also had not possessed a door. That had seemed more intentional than anything else though. Clearly, they had wanted to establish that she had no privacy early on.
Or maybe they just didn’t have an extra door.
She kept on, moving as slowly as she possibly could. Really, she thought it was better to have the wheelchair here. It was certainly quieter than a pair of crutches. She found herself leaning forward, squinting as she made every effort to take in detail. There was a disturbing lack of labels on anything, though she supposed her nearsighted nature would have prevented her from reading man of them anyway.
There was, however, one door that was slightly cracked open. Voices drifted out, hushed, anxious voices.
Kai rolled closer.
“And that’s it?”
Vera. Her voice was as low and calm as ever, though the annoyance within it was clear.
“Yeah. That’s it.” Max.
“Give me that. You’re not qualified to interpret that anyway.”
Rustling papers accompanied Vera’s sniping words.
“Should be fine. I haven’t been in.” There wasn’t even the slightest scrap of concern in Vera’s voice.
“Why would I?” Vera heaved a sigh, the rustling of papers ceasing.
“Going to apologize?” There was a thoroughly teasing tone in Maxwell’s voice.
“You were right. There’s nothing here.” A pause. “Get another sample tomorrow. There must be a mistake.”
“Vera…” Reese spoke now, “This is just wasteful.”
Even from her place outside the door, Kai could hear Vera’s deep inhale.
“How is it wasteful, Dr. Thompson?”
“You’ve already had those samples tested-”
“And? This is the first time we’ve had one of them alive, let alone with a chosen human! Do you know what this means?”
“Yes, I’m very aware.”
“Five years of this. We could end it. We’re so close. I feel it.”
“Enough with the grandstanding. She’s right. We’re wasting money.”
This voice was male, and unfamiliar. Kai thought the speaker sounded old.
“We are in no danger of running out of money.” Vera scoffed.
Apparently this was a good point, as nobody attempted to refute it.
“Regardless, the girl you’re sticking is almost certainly growing tired of it.”
Kai, assuming she was ‘the girl’, had to agree.
“She seems more than happy to help.” Maxwell chimed in. A chair creaked as he presumably leaned back.
“Because you’re lying to her, Mr. Jones. Or rather, withholding information.”
Vera did have a point, Kai thought. However, she did think it was partly on her. They were taking a lot of blood, and she did think she should have questioned it.
“She hasn’t asked. Not super social, that one.”
Something sighed. Kai couldn’t tell who.
“Anyway. Moving on. Reese. Did you get the money from the last fundraiser yet? Mr. Price said the transfer should have come in today.” This was the older male voice once more. Kai wondered who it was.
It didn’t matter though, she thought. They were no longer talking about anything that interested her, and as such, she took the opportunity to slowly wheel away.