Vida picked at her dessert absentmindedly. The thought of eating anymore made her stomach queasy. She had comsumed a salad, a large plate of pasta, four pieces of bread and a strawberry milkshake.
"Full?" Seth asked teasingly.
"Mm-hm," she muttered, still staring at her bowl of ice cream.
"You don't have to eat it all if you don't want to," he said in a voice that reminded Vida of the way her Aunt Ada used to talk to her when she was little. Seth always treated her like a child and she hated but also loved him for it at the same time. He was only being protective.
"I know, I'm just thinking, that's all," she explained. She was often preoccupied with other things. Thoughts were constantly running through her mind.
"No," she blurted out rather abruptly, "what made you say that?"
"I don't know, you were with him most of the day. It was just a guess, why are you being so defensive?"
"I'm not being defensive!" she yelled at him, then laughed with embarrassment when she heard herself.
"I'm sorry," she said, resting her weary head in her hands, "it's been a long day."
"Go home and get some sleep," he told her gently, "it's getting late. You must be exhausted."
Vida realized just how tired she was as she struggled to get out of her chair. Her head pounded and dizziness overwhelmed her for a moment.
"You're right, I need some rest. I'll see you later, okay?"
As Vida walked out of the restaurant she thought about what said Seth had said. He was right; Tristan was on her mind. She couldn\'92t understand why that would be. All he had caused her was trouble from the moment he bumped into her. She had been arrested, treated like a criminal. It wasn't the first time she had been arrested. In her early days as a wanderer she could recall being so poor that she had to steal scraps from restaurant tables to stay alive. More than once she had pulled off bogus trades in order to make some desperately needed money. Who was she to judge this young man when she was just as guilty as him? The only thing that had saved her from her life of crime was a collection of rare relics from an archeological dig on Earth. It was had been dangerous trek, but when an explorer named Connor had asked for her assistance, she had acquiesced out of necessity. She had been in grave need of money and she had not been disappointed. Out of the wreckage that was once Earth, they had found over ten million merits worth of artifacts. She and Connor had met a rich merchant to buy them and split the proceeds. She hoped for Tristan's sake he would have the same luck one day. He was probably already gone. Wanderers never stay long in one place, especially those who were wanted for their crimes, which she was sure Tristan was. He most definately had enemies who wanted him dead for duping them. She sighed deeply. She almost missed the perilous life of a wanderer. She had once been exactly like Tristan. How different she had become in only a few short months. This was the longest she had ever rested in one place and she was enjoying it. Sure, she found it somewhat tedious at times, but it was better than running for her life like Tristan. She was beginning to want to take root somewhere and this was as good a place as any. But still, she had an insatiable urge for adventure and danger and those needs were not being met on a boring spaceport.
Her footsteps echoed down the unfamiliar hallway. She must have taken a wrong turn. It was dark and the smell of blood and death made her cringe. It was a smell she was all too familiar with. The stench of an Andromedan. There was more than one of them. She could hear them breathing now. Her heart was pounding fast and strong, trying to break free from its home in her chest and run far from danger. Her body tensed and her senses were alert and ready. Her eyes now glowed faintly in the darkness as she tried to detect where the Andromedans were hiding. A pair of yellow eyes jumped in front of her path and let out an evil laugh. She bolted in the opposite direction with incredible speed, but ran into a wall of Andromedans. They now surrounded her like a hungry pack of wolves, their yellow eyes gleaming with determination. She was cornered and frightened. She knew she was their prey.
"Would you mind letting me pass," she said in their language, managing to speak with an amazingly calm voice, "I am tired and I am on my way home."
"This is our territory," one of them replied out of the darkness. "You are trespassing."
"We will let you pass...for a price, of course," another one said with a baneful smile.
"Here, take my purse," she offered, already knowing that this was not what they meant.
They approached her, ignoring the purse she was holding out.
"You speak our language well for a human," the leader whispered, grabbing her chin and pulling her face towards him. He studied her softly gleaming golden eyes in surprise. "You are Andromedan. Even better."
She spat in his face and tried to escape his grasp, but he was much stonger and quicker. She cursed her Human blood for making her weak. He punched her in the cheek and she felt the sting as the sharp ring he was wearing ripped through her skin. Warm blood trickled from the deep gash.
"Insolent female," he snickered, wiping the saliva off his face, "You are headstrong for a woman, but you will learn. We will have to teach you some respect."
He punched her again, this time in the abdomen. She fell to the ground with a groan and clutched her stomach. The others joined in, plumetting her with blows that might have killed a mere Human. Even with her Andromedan stamina, she could feel her strength wearing down. She knew she couldn't take much more. Then they tugged at her pants. She moaned in protest and was given another quick strike to the left side of her face. Fearing that she would suffer the same fate as her poor mother, she closed her tearstained eyes and braced herself.
Suddenly, she heard a voice in the distance. The Andromedans looked up to see someone running towards them and pointing photonblaster in their direction. The figure holding the gun shouted at them and pulled them off of Vida. The leader tried daringly to grab the weapon, but the man was quicker and manage to kick him with enough force to bring him to his knees. The others hastily disappeared into the shadows. The man pointed the gun at the Andromedan's head, right between his fiendish eyes. The Andromedan pathetically pleaded for his life until the man lowered his weapon in pity and told him to go. He got up of his knees, thanking the man for sparing his life. As he went to leave, he briskly seized his weapon from his belt and aimed it at the man, laughing in triumph. Vida gasped at the deafening sound of a photon blast. She fearfully opened her eyes to see the Andromedan's decapitated body on the ground, his head blown clean off.
The man stood over the body for a moment, shocked and appalled at what he had done. He turned his face towards Vida and she stared in disbelief when she realized who he was.
"Tristan," she said in a stifled voice, "is that you?"
"It's me," he said as he knelt down beside her. "You're lucky I was in the neighbourhood."
"Lucky isn't quite the word..." her voice trailed off and her eyes started to shut.
He slapped her gently on the face, trying to revive her. "Hey, stay with me," he shouted, then he said quietly, "we've got to get you to the infirmary."
She struggled to keep herself conscious and looked at him with glassy eyes and then burst into tears. "My mother, oh, my poor mother," she raved deliriously.
"Shh, it's okay," he said, taking hold of her hand to comfort her. It was ice. "Let's get you out of here"
He gathered her shivering body up in his arms and carried her to the infirmary, carefully stepping over the dead Andromedan on his way.
Allyson sat at her desk, seriously comtemplating a suitable treatment for one of her patients. She liked having her own office, even if it was right off of the noisy infirmary. The walls were relatively sound-proof and so was the large window that allowed her to peer into the infirmary. The window was helpful when she wanted to keep an eye on a patient, but otherwise it was a nuisance since there was such a lack of privacy. She made a mental note to invest in some blinds next payday. There were so many things to do and remember. Since she had started her job on Borderport six months ago, she was being perpetually bombarded by sick people. The novelty had worn off quickly. But she loved being a doctor nonetheless. She only wished there was more of them. She was the only doctor on the entire spaceport, unless you counted the senile homeopath who worked in the infirmary when she was sleeping. The rest of the people working for her weren't even trained in medicine, but they were better than nothing.
She twisted a lock of auburn hair around her finger playfully. She stopped when she saw a gray strand mocking her. She let out a disappointed sigh. She wasn't the same young and ambitious doctor that she had once been. Where did the time go? Next month she would be forty-four. It seemed like only yesterday she had been a cocky medical student, full of life and intensity. When had she changed? Part of it was the invasion. It had changed everyone in some way or another. Her view on life had been drastically altered. She took nothing for granted anymore.
"Help, help me, someone!" Allyson heard a man call frantically.
She shot out of her desk and rushed out the office door into the infirmary. The man was holding the limp and inanimate body of a young woman in his arms.
"What happened?" she said with concern as she helped the man place the injured woman on a bed.
"I was walking to my room when I saw a group of Andromedans attacking her. I managed to scare them off, but they had already hurt her pretty bad. Is she going to be all right?"
"I don't know yet," she told him, taking out a a scanner to determine how severe the injuries were that she sustained.
"I think they might have raped her," the young man fretted, clenching his jaw at the thought.
"Well, we'll know soon enough," she replied, wondering how she was going to get rid of him. "In the meantime, why don't you go grab a coffee or something. I need to work alone."
He scowled at her and appeared as if he might be preparing to shout at her, but Allyson bravely spoke before he could do so.
"Please, go. Don't worry, I'll let you know how she is as soon as I can, but I'll get it done faster if you leave."
His intimidating frown faded and he slumped his shoulders in defeat. "I understand. I'll come back later," he said and walked out of the infirmary dejectedly.
Allyson opened a lid of her eye to check her pupil. She was surprised to find that the girl had the unmistakeable golden iris and the cat-like pupil of an Andromedan. It was odd since the readings of the scanner detected Human characteristics. She scanned again. The healing process was taking place at an accelerated speed, much faster than humanly possible. She looked at the spot on the girl's left cheek where a deep wound had been and saw that it was now almost gone. She had to be an Andromedan. That would explain why she was unconscious. When Andromedans were badly injured, their bodies lapsed into a comatose state so they could heal at an ultimate speed. Yet there were clear signs of Human traits. Her hair and skin tone didn't fit the mold of an Andromedan. How could that be? She decided to do a DNA scan.
"Fascinating,"she said under her breath, in awe of the results. Both Human and Andromedan genes were present. Who was this mysterious girl?
Tristan went to a nearby cafe and ordered a coffee. He wondered how Vida was doing. That's a dumb question, he thought to himself, she was just attacked, maybe raped. She was obviously doing terrible. Then he thought of the lady doctor who had kicked him out so rudely. Of all the nerve. He should have told her off when he had the chance. Why hadn't he? And then there was the dead Andromedan to think about. They'd be looking for him soon. He hit his head on the table in frustration. What was he going to do about that mess? He shouldn't stay at the spaceport, he should leave. The problem was he didn't want to leave. He felt guilty about Vida. He couldn't just walk out on her, but he had to watch out for himself. Maybe he didn't have to leave. It was best to lay low awhile and stay as inconspicuous as possible and this spaceport was the perfect place to do that. The innumerable amount of people would allow him to blend in easily. Yes, that's what he would do. Problem solved- as long as the Andromedans never found him.
Vida was enveloped by darkness. There was a burst of light up ahead of her, but its distance was indiscernible. She began to walk towards it. The light comforted her and soothed her spirit. As the magnificant brightness of the light hit her skin, her wounds were healed miraculously. Colours emerged like a rainbow and she followed them, hoping to find the pot of gold at the end. She found her mother instead. Her face was still youthful and vibrant. It was exactly how she had pictured her. She smiled the most brilliant smile Vida had ever seen and she shuddered with happiness. She looked around her, mouth gaping in awe. She must be in heaven, for there were no earthly words to describe it. She must be dead. Remarkably, this thought did not disturb her. In truth, a tremendous surge of joy rushed through her. Her mother held out an angelic hand. When Vida touched it, the hand transformed into the serpent from her nightmares. It hissed at her tauntingly. She shrieked when saw that her mother had been replaced by a rotting skeleton.
A comforting voice brought Vida out of her nightmare. Her face was damp with tears or sweat. She was glad the dream was over, but the memory of her mother still haunted her. She opened her eyes and saw the face of a woman with rust-coloured hair and a kindhearted smile. She didn't recognize the woman or her surroundings.
"Who are you?"
"Where am I?"
"In the infirmary."
"Why?" she asked, but memories were already beginning to return.
"You were beaten badly," she answered. "I'm glad you're awake. You were having quite a nightmare and I couldn't seem to bring you out of it."
"The guy who brought you in? I sent him away. He was getting in the way of my work."
"Yeah, tell me about it. He knows just how to get in the way."
Allyson looked at her curiously. "You know, he saved your life. You should be grateful."
"Oh, I am."
She wondered how well these two knew each other. Tristan had said he was just a passerby who happened to be in the right place and the right time to save this damsel in distress. At first, she thought his concern was for a stranger, but for what this young woman had just told her, she was no stranger to him. "So, you must have met him before, then?"
"Yes, just today, or was it yesterday? How long have I been asleep?"
Vida cocked up her eyebrows in surprisement. It hadn't seemed that long. "Well, I met him only hours before my run-in with the Andromedans. We were arrested together."
"Arrested?" she exclaimed just as a patient called to her from another bed. "Excuse me, I have to see to another patient. I'll be right back; I still have something to discuss with you."
Vida laid back and closed her eyes, but all she saw was visions of the night before. She touched her face, remembering all the beating it had recieved. It was smooth and undamaged. The doctor returned to Vida's bed and pulled up a stool.
"I need to talk to you," she started as she sat down.
This must be serious, Vida thought. What could it be? "Am I okay?" she asked fearfully, expecting the worst.
"Yes," she replied, much to Vida's relief, "and there's no sign of sexual assault. You're fine, at least you are now. That's what I'd like to talk to you about. When you were brought here, you were bleeding internally and the abrasions and swelling on your skin were so bad that you were virtually unrecognizable, and yet, now there's no evidence of that." The doctor paused and then finally continued, "I did a DNA scan."
Vida looked away. She knew what the doctor was getting at. "You had no right to do that without my consent," she rebuked.
"Maybe not, but I had to know."
"And what exactly do you know?" she asked bitterly, already knowing the answer.
"That you're a hybrid, a mixture of both Human and Andromedan DNA."
Vida didn't know what to say. In a way she was glad that what she had been saying to Seth and Jade was true, without any doubt. There was evidence to prove it. On the other hand, she didn't want this to get out into the scientific community. They might want to do experiments and who knows what else. She didn't want to be treated like some laboratory mouse.
"Don't worry, I'm not going to tell anyone," she said, as if reading her mind. "I just wanted you to know that I know."
"In fact," Dr. Winters continued enthusiastically, "You're probably not the only hybrid. There has to be others. Just think, a whole new species has been developed!"
Vida thought about this. Were there really others like her? Somehow she doubted that. She had been all over the galaxy and she hadn't come across anyone like herself. Unless they were able to hide their identity. If they didn't have the telltale golden eyes like her, it would be much harder to discern their origin.
"I think you're getting a little carried away. I don't exactly think I'm the beginning of a new breed of people, if that's what you're saying."
"But highly unlikely," she said incredulously. "Have you actually seen anyone like me before?"
"No, but that doesn't mean they don't exist. I thought you would be happy at the possibility that you weren't alone in the universe."
"And I thought you would be more skeptical, being a scientist and all. You have no evidence."
"You're my evidence."
This conversation was beginning to sound vaguely like the one she had had with Jade and Seth, only she was on the other side of it. Why was she so against the possibility that there were other hybrids? Maybe it was because she enjoyed being unique. She liked the attention that her golden eyes attracted. They attributed a sense of mystery. She was an enigma to those around her. Deep down, she knew this was the reason, although she would never admit it to anyone, especially not this inquisitive doctor.
"Is Tristan coming back?" Vida changed the subject.
"He said he would."
"When can I go? I feel fine."
"Just overnight," she explained, "for observation."
"I don't want to be observed, I want to go," Vida protested with a familiar feeling of anger welling up in the pit of her stomach. She took a few deep breaths, like she always did to calm herself. She found it was an affective way of soothing her nerves and it prevented her from any outbursts that she might regret in the future.
"I understand that, but I think it would be better if you stayed."
Just then, a man limped into the infirmiry with two other men supporting him on each side. His leg was crushed to the point of almost being severed.
"Don't let me keep you from your work," Vida said as she watched the man hobble to a bed, his leg a bloody mess.
"Oh no," Dr. Winters uttered, seeing the man was in excruciating pain, "I'd better go. You get some rest, all right?"
Vida watched her go. She didn't feel like resting; she'd been resting for a whole day. She looked around her small cubicle, trying to find something of interest to occupy her time. There was an offshoot from the bed which she pulled down to her eye level. It had a screen attatched to it along with an overwhelming multitude of buttons. She pressed one experimentally. The screen turned on and a face appeared.
"May I be of service?" an automated voice asked politely. This was the spaceport's computer.
"I'm not sure."
"I have a variety of games on my database," the computer offered. "Would you like to play one?"
"No, thank you," she replied with aggravation. Then she had an idea. "Can I contact someone?"
"Yes, if the individual you wish to contact is a Borderport employee."
"Right, well, I'd like to contact Seth Riley."
"Connecting..." said the computer as it paged Seth. There was no answer. "I am sorry, I am unable to reach this person. Would you like to contact someone else?"
"Connecting..." the computer repeated.
Vida waited patiently until Jade's face finally appeared on the screen. She had interrupted her from her work.
"Jade here," she spoke into her portable communicator."Hi Jade, I'm sorry to bother you during work, but it's kind of important."
"No problem," she said, happy to have the break. "Vida, where are you? I was worried when you didn't show up for boxing this morning."
"That's what I wanted to tell you, I'm in the infirmary."
"Oh, my god," she exclaimed worriedly, "what happened? Are you all right?"
Vida nodded her head."I was attacked by a gang of Andromedans, but I'm going to be okay."
"Those sons of bitches!"
"Jade, would you just make sure to tell Seth when you see him? I don't want him to worry."
"Yes, of course I will. Are you sure you're okay? I could come and see you if you want. I'm sure Sonya would cover for me."
"I'll be fine," she assured her. "Now get back to work before I get you in trouble."
"Right," she chuckled. "One more thing. How long are they keeping you there?"
"Then I'll see you tomorrow. Take care."
Vida disconnected and the lovely female face of the computer appeared once more.
"would you like to do now?"
"Oh, I don't know," she muttered wearily.
"How about a movie? I have everything from motion pictures dating back to the twentieth century up to present day virtual reality films."
"I don't want to watch a movie."
"Would you like to listen to some music? I have a wide selection of..."
"Hey, how's it going?" a male voice said over the computer's incessant rambling."
She looked up from the screen."Tristan, I'm glad you're here," she said with relief. "This computer's getting on my nerves."
"Well, you could always shut it off," he suggested. He reached over to hit the 'off' button and the computer's irritating voice abruptly ceased. "There, that's much better. What would you do without me?"
She stared at him for a moment, trying to look completely irked, but his mocking smile made her lips quiver with amusement.
"I was going to shut it off," she said. "I just meant that the computer's not the same as having a real person to talk to."
"You know what your problem is?" he inquired without waiting for an answer. "You take things much too seriously. You should learn to take a joke once and a while."
"I can take a joke. Just not your jokes," she rebuted. "I think it's you who has the problem."
"Oh yeah?" he said, crossing his arms, "and what might my problem be?"
"You don't take anything seriously. Life's a big joke to you."
"What do you mean by that?"
"I mean," she elaborated, "you're using humor as a defense mechanism. You try to be funny so that no one can get close to you. That way you can't get hurt."
"Well, Dr. Vida. Thanks for the analysis," he scoffed, "but you obviously don't know anything about me."
"See? That's exactly what I mean."
"Well, fine. I think I'll be leaving now. I came by to see how you were doing, but it's clear that you're back to your usual self," he said loudly and then turned to leave, saying under his breath, "I don't even know why I bothered saving an Andromedan."
"Wait, come back. Please come back," she begged. He stopped and waited for her to speak. "I don't want you to go like this. I'm sorry. Thank you for saving my life, I'm forever in your debt. If there's anything I can do for you, just say so. There, is that what you wanted to hear?"
He walked up to her bed and sat on the stool, looking down at his hands which he neatly folded in his lap. She looked down at them, too. They were strong, yet graceful and tanned a light shade of bronze. His skin looked smooth and youthful. She realized that he could not be much older than she was.
"There is one thing you could do," he said, looking up at her with his innocent, irresistable blue eyes.
"Well, you see, I was wondering if you could lend me some money. I would have had money if you hadn't ruined that jewel swipe by bumping into me."
Her jaw hung down in disbelief. "For the last time:You bumped into me! Got it? That was your own fault, so don't you dare guilt-trip me."
"But you do owe me, you said so yourself. You said 'anything' and this is what I'm asking for. Is it really that much to ask?"
"How do you know that I'm not just as poor as you are?"
"Just look at you: your clothes, your hair, it's all...perfect. You probably don't even know what it's like to be poor. I doubt that you're even a wanderer. You most likely have a rich daddy and mommy who buy you everything."
Vida didn't know what to say. It hurt her that he'd think that she was only a rich snob who knew nothing of poverty or pain. She knew all too well what it was. She wanted to tell him everything she'd been through and prove to him that she wasn't what he thought she was, but something stopped her. Maybe it was best that he go on thinking that she was a naive, spoiled little girl. After all, what did it matter what he thought? Once he got the money he wanted, she would never see him again.
"Fine, you can have the money. How much do you want?"
"A couple thousand merits should hold me over," he replied, a look of victory in his cocky smile.
"All right," she said, envisioning what it would be like to bash his flawless white teeth in. That would surely make his smile fade. "I'll see what I can do, but you'll have to wait until I'm discharged from the infirmary. My merit card is in my quarters."
"Can't you just ask your boyfriend to get it?"
She tilted her head with puzzlement. "My boyfriend?"
"Yeah, the guy who bailed us out," he explained, seeing her confused expression. "I guess he's not that memorable."
"Oh, you mean Seth," she said and bursted out laughing. "He's not my boyfriend. Is that what you thought?"
"Well, yeah," he muttered with embarrassment. He thought how ironic it was that all this time he had wanted her to at least crack a smile and now her laughter made him feel like a complete idiot.
"No, no. He's only a friend," she clarified, quieting her giggles. "Heh, I have to tell him you thought that."
"How was I supposed to know?"
"I don't know," she said and tried to look at it from his perspective, "I can see how it might have looked like that now that I think about it. I hugged him and asked him out to dinner, but that was only because I was so thankful that he got us out of there."
She laughed again at the thought. She had always been independent and free. It seemed strange to think of herself with a man. Long ago, she had vowed never to let any man tie her down and over the years, she had grown accustomed to avoiding men's advances to preserve her independence. This was a vow she was still determined to honour, mostly because she had always done things on her own and she wasn't willing to change that for anyone.
"I should go now. I'm tired, I'd like to go to my room and catch some z's if I can."
"When will you be leaving? I'll try and get the money to you before you plan to go."
"I'm not really sure," he said, "I was thinking of staying here for a bit until I decide where I want to go next."
"Do you think that's safe? The Andromedans will be looking for you," she mentioned, thinking of the Andromedan that Tristan had killed trying to protect her.
"They won't find me, not with all these people around. Besides, the departure bays will be the first place they check. I think I'll take my chances here."
"Okay, well, I'll see you later, then."
"Yeah, see you around," he said as he headed for the exit, then turned around as an afterthought and said, "actually, what's your room number? That way I can find you when I want to get the money."
"Fourty-two," she told him, wishing he would stop mentioning the money. To him, rescuing her was purely business and now he was collecting his paycheck. He was a genuine wanderer, right down to the core.
End of Chapter 7. For the next chapter, click here!