“That’s odd,” I said, hovering my hand above K’s head. She was seated in a dimly lit section of the temple, and I was standing next to her. Rays of orange light coated the walls and carpeted floor, streaming in from the windows. K, keeping her head as still as possible, looked up at me.
“What is it?” she said.
My brows furrowed. I was cross-checking the data I had taken from scanning her head the other day.
“Well, even just compared to when I last scanned you, I’m noticing a few growths forming on your brain. There are two noticeable spots on your frontal lobe, and one larger one on your parietal lobe. It’s odd how much change there has been in such a short time.”
“Huh,” said K. Her gaze fell to the floor. “So, my brain is getting bigger?”
“Well,” I said, moving my hand around her head, continuing the scan, “not exactly. That implies an equal distribution of growth. This growth is seemingly random, only affecting certain places. Not unlike the spikes growing on your exterior.”
K nodded slowly. “I guess that makes sense.”
“I’m going to check your cerebellum, the other day I noticed a small growth. I wasn’t sure if...” My ears lowered. “The growth there seems to be gone…”
“Okay… so my brain is getting smaller?” K looked up at me with an eyebrow raised.
I shook my head. “It’s almost as though your body is developing tumours at an abnormal speed, but also disintegrating them. There’s no sign of the growth I noticed before.”
“Huh…” said K.
I deactivated my holo-gauntlet and began rubbing my forehead. “That kind of explains what your doctors meant, about it being like cancer, but nothing like cancer.”
“I suppose it does. I don’t know why they never told me the details about it though.”
I squinted my eyes. “Well, you were only how many months old at the time? I think it must have been hard for them to know how to relate to you… or how to treat you.”
K stood up and stretched, walking over to the window. She took in a deep breath, and I caught the beams of light sketching a bright outline around her face and body, and the spikes jutting from her arms and head.
“They never really cared about me, I guess,” she said. “But I don’t remember them very well.” She kept her back to me. “So, does this information help you treat me?” she asked.
I sighed. In truth, this discovery was extremely unhelpful. I had no idea what would be causing her brain to change so drastically and so randomly in such a short time. It wasn’t even a “simple” matter of removing a brain tumour, because they were disappearing almost as quickly as they were appearing, so what good would that do? Operating on her would be needlessly dangerous, even for a proper surgeon. I had hoped I could use my skills as a theoretical biologist to come up with some kind of a solution; a theoretical solution which could be posed to someone more equipped to perform an intervention, whatever it ended up being. Perhaps if I was lucky I’d be able to concoct some kind of medicine to halt the progression of her condition, or alleviate some of the symptoms. Though I didn’t have that much experience with pharmaceuticals.
Furthermore, I noticed something odd glancing down at her scans. There was a decently sized section of her brain, which, across all of my scans, showed no elevated signs of use. The tissue was clearly alive, but the neurons there weren’t firing properly. I had no idea what it meant, and debated whether to tell K or not. I wasn’t really an expert on brains, after all.
K turned to face me and I saw the fear, and hope in her eyes. Her lips were pursed in anticipation. “Are you gonna be able to help me?”
I struggled to remain composed as a bolt of anxiety hit my chest. I had no idea what was wrong with her. Something about her genetic makeup, her accelerated growth and learning, must have been linked to the growths. But I had absolutely no idea how to help her.
“I’m sure if we keep up the scans, I’ll figure something out. I’m already forming some ideas…” my voice caught in my throat, trying to squeeze the lie out through my constricted breathing.
“I knew I could count on you, Osax!” she said with a smile. She came over to me and hugged me, grinning. The wind was knocked out of me in an instant and I felt my arms being crushed by her strength, and her anxiety transferred to me. “I never… I never thought I had any hope. But now… just knowing I have a chance, that maybe I’ll get to live a normal life... That’s-”
“You- You don’t have to say any more,” I coughed out. She let go of me.
I caught my breath. “No worries. Let’s… let’s get something to eat.”
K nodded, her expression returning to normal, before flashing a slight smile.
My body felt heavy, and not just because Astraloth has a stronger gravitational pull than Earth, Voren, or the artificial kind on TAU ships.
That day, my mother gave Joëlle and K a tour of the Great Temple. I followed from a distance as she led them through the ornate halls, and Joëlle spoke to her politely and graciously. K couldn’t seem to decide if this place was incredibly exciting to her or incredibly dull; it seemed as though every new room she entered she’d flip a coin before reacting. She kept glancing back at me and smiling though, and every time she did her mood seemed to lift. And every time her mood lifted, mine plummeted.
I wandered through the halls of the temple, of my childhood, passing people, priests, and guards, who were all kind enough to give me space. Even those who recognized me as the prince, despite my armoured outfit, were observant enough to see that I wasn’t quite in the mood for talking. I wasn’t good at speaking to multiple people at once, and there was already a great discussion being staged in my mind.
At last I settled on a balcony overlooking the city surrounding the temple. The sun was setting, and a large orange bird perched on the railing. I was so withdrawn from the world that when I stepped forward and leaned on the rail the bird didn’t even twitch at my presence.
Then my holo-gauntlet flashed and flared to life without warning. The bird cawed and took off. I glanced at my arm. K had opened up a text document on my computer remotely from hers. I shook my head and chuckled to myself. Why had I agreed to pair our gauntlets? I knew I couldn’t trust her not to mess around.
The text document was blank for a second, then words appeared. She could have just called me; instead she opened a text file which we were both editing in real time. It was certainly creative.
were are you, sax?
I smirked, and manipulated the cursor. I replaced ‘were’ with ‘Where’, then added an ‘O’ before ‘sax.’ New words appeared.
Where are you Osax? haha, xD
I typed into the document.
Where are you Osax? Haha, xD I’m just spending soasdjslgkdsfgdlhgmdsfjlsdhgeds;fj sdkfjtdskfljdsfiasldkmsadljesd adsakd;lksdfdsodsfnedsfg
As I was typing, K started mashing keys. I paused, watching the garbled text continue to expand. After a while, she deleted everything.
I lifted my ears.
It’s okay, it was kind of funny. I’m just spending some time alone, while we’re on the planet and not all cramped together in Joëlle’s ship.
you mean you don’t like being all cramped together for days? :P
Sometimes I just need space. I’m gonna delete this file.
The file closed, and I sighed. I was so glad we were friends, and I didn’t want to mess that up. I told her I could help her, but that wasn’t the truth.
I had no idea how to help K.
My holo-gauntlet beeped while I walked down a long hall of the temple that evening, startling me out of my circling thoughts for a moment.
“Hello?” I answered.
“Osax, hello!” Jonathan’s voice scratched through the communications device, much to my surprise.
I took a long breath before responding. “What is it, Jonathan? Need a hand with the repairs?”
I heard him chuckle with a nervous edge in his voice. “No no, the repairs are going just fine. We should be in good condition for space travel in just a few hours.”
“Great!” I exclaimed, surprising myself with the desperate tone of my voice.
“Yes. I appreciate the enthusiasm!” There was a moment of static before Jonathan spoke up again. “That’s obviously not why I’m calling.”
“Obviously. So why are you calling?”
“Well, I was just calling to let you know that I won’t be staying in the temple tonight.”
“That’s fine,” I said, “but if you don’t mind me asking, what’s stopping you from joining us in the temple?”
I heard him sigh. “To be quite frank, Osax, it’s your mother. I don’t like the idea of having my mind read.”
So that’s why he was so eager to start the ship’s repairs when we landed.
Without a second thought I started walking down to the hangar the Firebrand was docked at. “That makes good sense to me.”
Jonathan chuckled. “Thanks for understanding. I had a feeling when we were talking out in space that you weren’t exactly comfortable with your mother’s powers. That your relationship was… strained.”
“Well, you’re right, I guess.” As I said this, I turned a corner and bumped right into my mother.
Even if she somehow hadn’t heard our conversation, she could read my thoughts. I swallowed.
Jonathan’s voice came through as my mother stared down at me, her ears slowly drooping. “In any case,” he said, “contact me when you’ve had enough of your mother. We can head out again just about any time now.”
My eyes lowered to my gauntlet, though I could feel my mother’s gaze still on me. “Okay. Goodbye.” I hung up the call, and quickly began walking around my mother, not looking up.
I got a few steps past her in the otherwise empty corridor before suddenly, against my will, my limbs slowed to a halt and I was frozen in place mid step. I could still move my neck, so I turned my head around, glaring at the queen. Her eyes were glowing a dim white.
“Mother, let me go!” I exclaimed. “I’m not a child anymore!”
Slowly she stepped toward me. “What’s troubling you? You have so much on your mind, Osax-”
“What, is that not allowed? Is that illegal now? I have to be apprehended for having thoughts?!” I struggled to break out of the force field hold that she was projecting with her mind.
At last she let go, but I no longer wanted to run. All the tension that had been building in me since arriving on Astraloth- since arriving on Voren, even- was rising to the surface in the shape of anger.
I marched toward her. “Who do you think you are?!” I screamed. “You may have raised me, but I’m almost twenty-seven cycles old! I’m a warrior, a scientist, a loro researcher, and yet you treat me like a child. Always interrupting me, telling me what I’m thinking instead of letting me do it for myself! Telling me how I feel instead of hearing what I need! And always with the air of a concerned, protective mother. But instead of protecting me, you’re just smothering me!”
I paused for a moment as she recoiled. I was panting.
“You have no idea what I’m going through! I don’t care if you’ve been through your own things, I don’t care if you think you can sense my feelings, or my memories. You don’t get to decide for me anymore! Even if you think you can see what I see, and you think you’re wiser and smarter and more experienced.” I swung my arms emphatically. “You don’t get to decide for me!”
My mother remained motionless and a calm expression fell over her face once again. My blood began to boil.
“You always do this! You always act so calm and stoic. You say you can sense my feelings, but you have no sense of empathy!” I felt tears welling in my eyes. “Why? Why can’t I just walk away from you without you stopping me, trying to get your own word in? Trying to tell me who I am?”
Her voice was quiet, almost defeated. “You can.”
“Thank you!” I said, before turning around and storming off.