Saturday, June 5, 2021

Sic Transit...Vox (Part III)

This was it. This was exactly what her parents were so worried would happen to her. She was shot, and bleeding out on the floor of an unfamiliar universe. If her father was going to find her here, he would have to do it quickly. Azura grabbed the medkit from the wall, and started wrapping gauze around Treasure’s neck, but this wasn’t a hospital, and she wasn’t a doctor. There was no guarantee of survival. Worst of all, without a throat, she couldn’t scream. She couldn’t escape. Something was pounding on the door.
“Can you leave?” Azura asked. “Can you jump from here?”
Treasure shook her head, but obviously couldn’t answer. She started pantomiming again. She pointed to her throat.
Something pounded on the door again.
“You have to be able to talk?”
She mimicked air coming out of her mouth.
More pounding.
“You have to sing?”
She shook her head again, and widened both her mouth, and her eyes.
Something struck the door so hard, dust flew in from the edges.
“You have to scream.”
Treasure nodded.
The door dented inwards.
“Okay. That’s okay. I just need time to program it.” Azura just as carefully as before removed the grenade from her bag, and placed it on the floor. “I don’t know the coordinates to voldisilaverse. That’s loci non grata for us. Where else do you feel safe? Where should we go?”
Treasure removed one hand from her neck, keeping the other in place. She waved her finger down, into a curve, then back up, and into a complementary curve, before finishing off the tail.
The dent in the door grew deeper.
“That looked like a fish. Salmoverse, really?”
Treasure nodded.
Light from the hallway peeked in through a little hole in the dent.
“All right, well, I definitely have those coordinates.” She started messing with the gears and tiny buttons, and whatever, on the grenade. When she was done, it opened itself up, releasing a glow. The door broke open too. Just as the enemy soldiers were coming in to kill them, the whole room filled with technicolors, and spirited them away. It spirited all of them away.
Luckily, Azura knew what had just happened, so she wasn’t as confused as the soldiers. As she lay there dying, Treasure watched Azura make the first move. She started fighting the enemies on her own, switching opponents easily, always knowing which one was the greatest threat that second. She got shot herself a couple times, but just kept going. In the end, they were all on the floor, and she was left standing. “Hold tight,” she said to Treasure. Not only had all the people come through the transport grenade, but the weapons and other gear did too. She found cuffs and chains, and used them to bind the soldiers to the seats. Yes, seats. This looked like a really big train car.
Now that the enemies were disarmed and no longer a significant threat, Azura felt she could drag Treasure to the next car up, and start getting back to treating her neck. Treasure tried to speak, but still couldn’t.
“Just rest. I’ll get you patched up.” Azura removed a syringe from the medkit. “ gonna hurt.” She jammed it into Treasure’s neck, and knocked her unconscious.
Treasure woke up after a good night’s rest. She was no longer on the floor, but in a bed that looked like a sleeper car. It didn’t just look like a train. It legit was a train. The windows were weird, though, and it was far too big to fit on a regular set of tracks. Was this—? No, it couldn’t be. What were the chances...? She sat on the edge, and started testing her throat. She could swallow, and she could cough, but she couldn’t speak. Well, she could eke out some really pathetic sounds, but not enough to convey information, and she absolutely couldn’t scream. Was this permanent? It was then that she realized that there was something on her head. It kind of felt like a tiara. She accidentally tapped the jewel in the center of it, which apparently powered it up. “What the hell is this thing?” a voice came from the tiara. “Who said that? Was that me? That sounds like me.” It was her own voice, but instead of coming out of her mouth, it was through a little speaker. The tiara was evidently converting her brain signals to an audible voice. She didn’t even have to move her lips.
Treasure left the sleeper car, which was actually just one section in a whole car of other sleeper rooms. While looking for Azura, she ended up finding the first car instead. The soldiers were still chained up to the seats, but their arms were now free, so they could eat. They regarded her with fairly noticeable indifference, probably having realized that she didn’t know anything about them, and had no stake in their war. One man didn’t have any food yet. Azura was just coming in from the other side to hand it to him. She changed tactics, and handed Treasure the food instead. “How do you feel?” she asked.
“Like a robot,” Treasure’s brain answered.
“Oh, good, the tiara is working. I’ve yet to find an exit,” she began to explain, “or a control room. We may be floating in space, for all I know. I know what this is, though.”
“The Transit,” Treasure said first. “The missing bulk travel ship.”
“That’s right,” Azura confirmed. “My people made it, but never used it, and then it disappeared. They always suspected it ended up in Salmonverse, but I don’t think they spent much time looking. It, uhh...never worked that well. Elegant design, but half-assed engineering. If we want to use it to get you back home, we’ll need someone smart enough to get it running.”
“Can’t we just use your grenade thing?” Treasure presumed.
“It was a one-time thing,” Azura said. “That’s why I was being so careful with it. I was trying to figure out how to reprogram it for multiple crossing, but only ever figured out how to change the destination. It kind of...exploded after we used it.”
“My true voice. Will it ever come back? I doubt this thing will let me...”
Azura hesitated to answer. “Medically speaking, it’s possible for your vocal cords to repair themselves. With anyone else, I would be hopeful. Realistically, historically, futuristically, probably not. You might heal, but I think you probably aren’t destined to. It would explain why you weren’t on our list of people and machines capable of crossing over. You only did it once, wasn’t in our records.”
“It happened more than once, but that wasn’t the point. Now her only hope of getting back home was this machine, and no one here would know how to fix it.”
Azura turtles her head forwards. “You just said that out loud. And you said it in Vertean. Why did you use third person past tense?”
“What’s Vertean?”
“That’s their language.” She indicated the soldiers.
Treasure looked down to find the soldiers looking at her funny. “I think I need to practice using this thing. Alone.”
“I’ll keep looking,” Azura said. “The ship is pretty big.”
Treasure went back to her sleeper car, and started talking to herself. She complained about her parents, and how this was their fault. They should have taken her on trips early on, so she could get used to being on other worlds, and better understand how to use her powers. Perhaps there was a workaround. Maybe she didn’t really need her voice after all, but now she couldn’t test that theory. Now she was stuck. They should have let her learn. But it wasn’t their fault. They laid out the rules, and they were clear, and they were reasonable. This whole thing was exactly why those rules existed, and she should have respected that. She should have trusted them, and honored them. They were going to help her learn when she was an adult, and that should have been good enough for her. She should have been patient. This was her fault, she was such an asshole.
“I don’t think you’re an asshole.” Azura was at the door with one of the soldiers.
“What do you want?” Treasure asked.
“Treasure,” Azura said from behind him. “Siphon would like to say something to you. Go ahead, Siphon.”
“I’m sorry for shooting you.” The tiara was both translating her thoughts into his language, and his voice, into her tongue. It wasn’t that hard to use, now that she knew the difference between a stray thought, and one that she wished to vocalize. “I realize now that you were never my enemy, and...we should have been more careful. We should have kept our war to ourselves. I apologize. I know what it’s like to be silenced.”
Treasure stared at the man with a blank expression. Then she reached over to the sliding door handle. “Get the fuck out of my car.” She slammed the door shut. Hopefully that word translated well, so he would fully grasp how angry she was. She half-expected Azura to come in, and try to talk to her, but she didn’t. They both left, and Treasure went back to hating herself for getting her into this mess.
Hours later, a simple knock on the door indicated that there was another food tray waiting for her on the table outside the bedroom. This was how they started doing things. Treasure would stay in her personal train car alone, mostly in the bedroom. Azura would come by every once in a while to switch out her food trays, and update her on the goingson. She and the enemy soldiers drew up a truce, and then came to an understanding, and then became friends. They weren’t so different after all. It was only Treasure who didn’t belong, even though she was the only one actually born to this universe. Of course, she crossed over to volidisilaverse within seconds of her birth, but her mother was from here, and spoke of it often. If they ever figured out how to get this train back down to Earth, she would know who to contact.
Yes, the train ship was in space, probably in some kind of lava tube on Pluto, in order to keep it out of the hands of those who would exploit its power. Based on gravitational readings, that was as much as Azura could determine, but even that didn’t seem right, based on what she thought she knew about Pluto. The windows were there, but they were opaque, so it felt like living in an underground bunker. There was plenty of space for the small group of them, and they spent the entire time trying to power it up completely, if only to send a message to Earth. Treasure spent three weeks almost completely alone before something happened that forced her to leave. There was a jolt, and a surge of energy throughout the walls. It didn’t hurt much, but she definitely felt something, and she had to go out to ask about it.
Azura and the rest of this brand new crew were in an auxiliary control room. She was pounding on the inputs, trying to get them to work. “Come on, you were doing something before. You’re alive sometimes.”
“What happened? I don’t mean to interrupt, just curious,” Treasure added.
“I believe we went back in time,” Azura replied.
“I can only get any screen to give me any information for a moment. My guess is that the ship is quantum locked. It exists exclusively during a fixed period of time, probably according to the orbital period of whatever rock we’re on. That narrows down the list of suspects, but I still don’t know where we are, because I don’t have that data, because I can’t turn on most of these damn interfaces!” She was frustrated with all the time it was taking to work on this, but not mad at any person. The crew understood.
Treasure stepped forward to comfort her, and maybe apologize for being such an insolent little child this whole time. As she did so, the nearest computer booted itself up, as if responding to her presence. They were all very surprised.
“What did you just do?” Azura questioned.
“Nothing,” Treasure claimed. “I’m just standing here.”
“Walk over towards that computer over there.” Azura jerked her head farther down the car.
Treasure did as she was asked. That computer turned on as well.
“Oh my God, it’s you,” Azura complained. “This ship senses your power. I can’t believe you were the key to our salvation all along. Come with me. I need you to activate the engine room.”

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