Lucia woke up and found herself sitting naked in a cold metal chair in front of a metal table, inside a metal room. The room was cold and grey, with a door on one wall, and a large opaque panel on another. A single light sat in the center of the ceiling. What? What.. where am I? She thought. The last thing she remembered was staring up at Niarith’s glowing teal eyes. She was alone in the room, and as she tried to stand she realized she’d been chained to the table by her wrists, and to the floor by her ankles. The table itself was bolted to the floor.
After several long, silent minutes the door opened. A short, somewhat heavy set woman entered the room. She had dark tan skin, dark hair tied up in a bun, and dark eyes. She was wearing a blue formal shirt, and darker blue pants. She walked silently over to the table, and stood in front of it, and Lucia. She placed her hands on the table, and looked Lucia directly in the eyes. “Hello there, miss. My name is Darlinna Mechanicane. I’m the head security officer of this Waystation.” Her emotionless mask loosened briefly, as grief showed on her features. “And now… the only security officer of this Waystation. Do you know where you are, miss?”
Lucia stared blankly for several seconds, confused as to what was happening. “N-no, I don’t. Where am I? What’s happening? Where’s Niarith?” Officer Mechanicane walked away from the table, toward the opaque panel on the wall. She pressed a finger to it, and an image appeared on it. It was Niarith’s ship, landed in a large metal room Lucia didn’t recognize. The perspective was from somewhere up on a wall, and a doorway could be seen in the lower left of the picture. Lucia had thought it was simply an image, until three people ran through the doorway, and stared at the ship. One of them was clearly Officer Mechanicane. Lucia watched the display as Officer Mechanicane made her way over to a console and spoke into a microphone. There was no sound, so Lucia didn’t know what was said. After a few seconds, the ship’s hatch opened, and a bright teal light could be seen emanating from inside.
The real Officer Mechanicane tapped a symbol on the display and the view changed. It was now lower down, seemingly above the doorway seen in the last shot. Lucia could see… herself. Standing in the airlock of Niarith’s ship, naked. The glow behind her pulsed, her eyes began to glow, and she spoke. Again, Lucia did not know what she’d said. The video paused, and as the security officer tapped another symbol, zoomed in on Lucia. Officer Mechanicane turned to face Lucia again. “This is you, correct?”
“Yes, it is, but… I have no memory of this. When did this happen?”
“6 hours ago. Your ship was flagged as suspicious when contacted by Station Control, and events unfolded as you saw. But… there’s more.” She turned around again and tapped several symbols. The video zoomed back out and continued. Lucia watched in horror as the Mirideth possessed Niarith made her way down the ramp, killing the other two people on screen. She made her way over to Officer Mechanicane, and the video went suddenly white. “Do you know this other person?” The Officer said, pointing at a still frame of Niarith. Lucia said nothing, and looked down at the table. “Miss. I need you to talk to me. I understand you’ve been through something. I have too. I lost my whole team today. I just want to know what killed them, and why. So please, talk to me.”
Lucia took a few shaky breaths, trying to contain her emotions. “That woman is… her name is Niarith. She and I… we were.. Together. She saved me from a woman who had illegally conquered my planet, Mirideth Asazlaiyn. We stopped her, but… something happened. She used what Niarith called ‘nanites’ to take control of me, and Niarith. Mirideth used these nanites to kill, to control… to.. change people. It was part of how she maintained control over my planet. Niarith was part of some kind of plan to expand out into the rest of the galaxy. She had control over us both when we landed I guess. She.. the things she did to me, to us, to everyone.. It.. i…” Lucia was unable to continue speaking, tears streaming down her face.
“Miss, what is your name?”
“L-Lucia.. Lucia Carlena.”
“Lucia. I understand you’ve been through something horrible. I want to make it clear to you that the woman in that image is still alive. She’s unconscious, being held in an induced coma to prevent her from hurting anyone. If what you say is true, she wasn’t acting of her own volition, and will not be held responsible for the… the deaths she caused. But I’m going to need proof of this. All we have right now is you, a PTED ship, a woman with advanced cybernetics who is registered as a PTEO, and… two corpses. There’s no sign of this other woman, Mirideth, was it? We haven’t seen a single sign of anyone on that ship but you and Niarith.”
Lucia looked up at Darlinna “She.. I killed her. I shot her in the head. But.. her body.. It just… melted. And her nervous system remained. It.. I believe it is the glowing lines seen in Niarith on that display.”
Darlinna looked uncertain. “You’re telling me.. that this woman has a second nervous system? That it’s the nervous system of another person, controlling her? Do you realize how that sounds, Miss Carlena?”
Lucia tried to stand, anger making her forget she was chained down. She only managed a kind of jolt up and then down again. “I don’t care how it sounds! I… you have advanced medical technology, don’t you? Scan her, or however it is that it works. You’ll see it!”
Darlinna placed her hands on the table again, looming over Lucia. She stayed that way for several long moments, staring at Lucia with suspicion. “Miss Carlena, are you a primitive?”
“Y-yes? I think so? I.. Niarith told me I couldn’t go back, after she took me to the Heavens.”
Darlinna sighed and put a hand to her forehead. “Niarith took you offworld? For what purpose?”
“She needed my help to stop Mirideth. She seemed to regret it.” Lucia said, confusion in her voice.
“I'm sure she did regret it,” Darlinna said, a slight tinge of anger in her voice. “Doing what she did is illegal.”
“She did it to save the lives of millions. Mirideth saw her. She knew she would try to stop her. Mirideth didn’t care about the people there, my people. She would have caused as much damage as she could before Niarith could leave and come back. We needed to act quickly. She said I was needed as an eyewitness to Mirideth’s crimes”
“EyeWitness Protocol is clear, it is to be enacted only in a dire emergency. If we can prove it was, the felony can be waived. If not… well, you’ll be charged and imprisoned pending further investigation. We’ll carry out a scan of Niarith’s nervous system, see if there’s any abnormalities. If there are, and they are what you say… we’ll have a discussion about the deaths she caused. In the meantime, you will be confined to the ship you came in on. Someone will be along to take you there shortly.”
With that, the officer left the room, leaving Lucia alone with her thoughts. I was an assassin. I was respected. Now look at what I’ve become. A scared, nude girl in a cold metal room, suspected by authorities I never knew existed. How much more pathetic can I get? I should never have left her alone. I left her there in the cockpit. She was alone, and Mirideth got her. Maybe she would have been okay if I’d been there, maybe we’d be together, happy. That brief moment we shared wasn’t nearly long enough. Several minutes later, a man in heavy, face concealing armor arrived. He walked up to Lucia silently, unshackled her, and motioned for her to follow him. He carried a large metallic object that Lucia could recognize as a weapon like Niarith’s pistol, only larger.
The pair traveled in silence through empty metal corridors until they arrived at Bay A07. Lucia boarded the Epsilon VI, and watched as the hatch closed behind her. She made her way to the bedroom, redressed herself, and laid down on the red silk sheets of the bed. As she lay there in the silence, she felt… nothing. She simply felt numb. All the feelings she’d felt over the past few days.. Had it been days? How long had Mirideth had her before their arrival here? It didn’t matter. It was time she’d not get back, and she had to focus on the here and now. Niarith was in a coma, and possibly going to be charged with murder. She was an accessory to said murder. Things had gotten somehow even more complicated.
“Luci?” Lucia jumped up out of bed, having heard Niarith’s voice, oddly modulated and mechanical, but hers nonetheless. “Luci, it’s me. I don’t know where you are, I don’t even know if I’m alive. But if I am, the matching nanites in our heads should allow limited telepathy within a certain distance. If you can hear me, think ‘yes’ as hard as you can. Think that word, and think about sending it to me.” Lucia simply stood there, unsure if she was losing her mind, or if it was really Niarith. She decided she might as well try going with it, and kneeled on the carpeted floor, thinking about saying “Yes'' to Niarith, thinking only of that, until there was nothing else in her mind. She felt a strange sort of electrical jolt in her skull, shaking her from the mild trance she’d induced.
Lucia stood up, wondering if she’d done it, and sat on the bed again. About a minute later, she heard Niarith’s voice again “Holy shit! It works! Luci I could KISS you right now! Well, I could if I weren’t… whatever I am right now. Mirideth had me… she… entered me. I don’t remember anything past that. I don’t think I’m conscious. I might be dreaming, but if I am, Mirideth isn’t here. And I’m talking to you, so it’s a good dream.”
Lucia smiled, and thought back “We’re on some kind of… space… station? I woke up chained to a table in some kind of interrogation room. A woman came in and showed me… us. Under Mirideth’s control. She used your body… to kill two people. Security officers, she called them. You’re in an induced coma, so Mirideth can’t hurt anyone else. I told them what I know, about Mirideth being inside you. They’re going to do some kind of scan to confirm it. If they confirm Mirideth is there, and you can give an accurate report of why you took me offworld, they won’t charge us with anything. If not.. I’m sure you know more than me what will happen.”
Another minute later, she got her reply “Luci, I. I’m so sorry. I didn’t want this. I just.. Wanted it to be over, and you… I’ve never met anyone who makes me feel like you do. And now we’re… I’m sorry.” Lucia tried to tell her not to be, that it wasn’t her fault, but suddenly her head felt very warm, it quickly became uncomfortable, painful even. The heat continued to intensify until Lucia could do nothing but scream. She lost consciousness shortly afterward.