March 25, 2012

Beneath the Surface – Chapter Twelve Part 2

“Don’t move,” Damon quietly commanded and cautiously eased in front of Manton. “Wait outside,” he whispered.

Head to toe Damon was covered in enough greasy, black soot to hide the color of his silver-teal jumpsuit. The same goo seemed to line his mouth and throat, the vile taste threatening to heave his stomach. Awakening only moments ago on the OT platform, he had found Rowan and Eron with him, dazed but conscious, and looking just as ragged. Fear had him racing back down the hall to the crisis room, the meld severed and Debra’s mind closed to him.

The filtration activators shutoff and the ceiling vents closed; the stench of soot almost overwhelming. A soft sizzling sound drew his attention to the melting booth window. Eyebrows lifted in mute admiration. Composition of the triple pane safety glass was hard enough to withstand an energy blast fired at pointblank range. Whatever Debra hit it with had punched a hole through the middle, almost liquefying the glass down to the frame instead of shattering into razor sharp shrapnel.

Movement from the back corner snapped his head around at the same time as the backup lights came on. Debra stood, shifting slowly, side to side, her blood red eyes focused on something unseen in the distance. Hands and fingers twitched awkwardly as larger muscles in arms and legs jerked defensively.

Without warning, the aura disappeared, revealing just how transparent her skin had become. Damon could hear the persistent soft whimpers trapped in her throat, the deeply frantic breaths sawing fast and furious from flaring nostrils.

“She’s reliving the nightmare,” Eron said grimly from the doorway, a blackened hand clutching the filthy jumpsuit material against his chest—reassurance that his body hadn’t been cleaved in two while caught up in Debra’s hell.

The intensity of the nightmare, the absolute persuasive immersion of the mind’s senses; his eyes blinked in astonishment as he rubbed his aching chest. What his battered body now suffered went far beyond dream reality and into psychic torture. How Rowan had survived hours of Debra’s nightmare was a testament to her singular strength of self.

As a practicing subliminal translator, Eron agreed with contemporary theories that the conscious mind did not switch on and off with wakefulness or sleep. But rather provided release from physical restrictions through consciously-created dreams.

Ancient Thalians were convinced the conscious mind was the road taken in life while the subconscious was the map of all existence. As an observer Eron’s task was to gather the clues and symbolism from the conscious journey and interpret them using the map of the subconscious.

The arduous trek into Debra’s mind had confirmed many of his growing suppositions, and all the pieces of the puzzle were beginning to fall into place.

Arms raised to prevent Eron from getting too close, Damon continued his efforts to probe Debra’s mind, yet failed to penetrate her sealed barriers. “How do we snap her out of it?” he demanded tightly, knowing better than to try and tangle with her autonomic defenses. “I can’t reach her. She’s closed to me.”

Both men heard the popping sound and turned, staring at Rowan’s extended hand, holding what looked like a toy handgun.  Manton stood behind her loading a second gun in case the first injection wasn’t enough. In unison everyone looked over at Debra, the feathered dart piercing her stomach, and waited for a reaction.

“Ro, what the hell are you doing?” Damon blurted angrily, searing his sister with a dangerous look.

Rowan passed off the empty tranquilizer gun to Manton and accepted the loaded weapon. “We can’t get near her with her autonomic defenses active.” She held up a palm-size gun with a six-inch barrel. “I wasn’t taking any chances this time. I borrowed these tranquilizer guns from Mica this morning.”

“He actually let you take weapons out of his human arsenal collection?” Eron interrupted, stunned.

Her shoulders shrugged, tellingly, eyes averting her brother’s glare. “I was in a hurry,” she said tersely, glancing at each dubious face. “I’ll clean them before putting them back,” she groused, hoping grand master Mica remained ignorant of the temporary pilfering from his prized collection of earth weapons.

All eyes returned to Debra, her black-streaked face like camouflage against the heavily scorched corner and dark sweatshirt. Almost six-feet of muscle and bone slowly weaved as her body fought to expel the impairing drug. Mouths gaped as the cylindrical mental dart wiggled on its own, bit by bit, then ejected from Debra’s stomach to bounce noisily several times on the hard floor.

Rowan swallowed stiffly, pressing dry lips together. “The drug should knock her out, hopefully stopping the nightmare.” She placed a hand on Damon’s rigid shoulder. “Enough time for you to reactivate the meld and let her know she’s safe.”

Debra stumbled, taking a small step forward, eyelids closing in exaggerated slowness over blood red orbs. Each time heavy eyelids fluttered open the bold red had diminished, until only a faint pink remained to color the whites of her eyes. In silence, Debra slid down the wall, a heap of uncoordinated limbs, yet aware enough to be thankfully free of the bloody nightmare. In the gathering delirium that filled her mind, she found Damon waiting for her.

A collective sigh lightly echoed in the room as Debra’s chin dropped heavily to her chest, a clear sign that she was out cold. Everyone looked to Damon, who nodded in acknowledgment of the reestablished meld, before helping hands cautiously lifted her to the damaged chair.

Rowan checked the pulse in the slender neck, avoiding Debra’s hands that could grab with astounding speed and the kinetic energy that continued to arc gently between her fingers. As a precaution, Rowan forced a small stream of kinetic adrenaline into Debra’s system to overcome the nauseating withdrawal symptoms that would soon follow.

‘We’ve got about fifteen minutes before she comes around,” Rowan stated briefly. She hesitated, watching Eron whisper something to Manton just outside the door, his dark eyebrows lifting in a combination of surprise and unease. Using the bond between them, Rowan opened herself, sensing Manton’s heightened concern, before he finally nodded in agreement and left the room.

Curious, but not willing to press the issue, Rowan spread her hands in a questioning gesture at Eron.  “So what did your evaluation find?” she asked succinctly.

“Manton’s having Theron move any staff out of the OT lounge,” Eron said evasively. “Once Debra’s conscious, we’ll all be more comfortable there.” He looked down at his filthy hands and jumpsuit. “I’d like to at least wash my hands and face before we get started.”

Brother and sister swiftly glanced at each other as the older man turned to leave. “What is it, Eron? Please.” Rowan implored, afraid for Damon and Debra and the hope she represented.

“It’s complicated.” His gaze lingered over anxious faces, noting the candid resemblance in their features. Over the years he had evaluated them, taught them, helped ease their youthful fears; always feeling so much pride and love. Rowan and Damon had become like his own. With a sigh of resignation he straightened, wondering how much damage the truth was going to leave behind this day. “If I’m reading everything right, and I usually do,” he muttered, “the initial trauma goes back twenty-three years.”

Eron could almost see the wheels of Damon’s mind churning, sifting through those long ago memories. Watched the younger man’s eyes suddenly stop and slowly rise up to stare at him with such certainty.

“You’re talking about when Trevon died,” Damon said bluntly.

Eron nodded. The archives still listed many unanswered questions surrounding the actual cause of Trevon’s death. Massive cell disruption made findings incomplete; it appeared the virus had done its worst, but didn’t explain the extensive smoldering burns on clothing, or the singed hair that covered his body. None who were present had any memories of the actual time of death to help piece all the events together. So the evidence had been taken at face value and those left behind to mourn were coddled and cared for. And life went on.

It hurt dredging up memories he had worked hard to forget. Look to the future had been the rallying cry when dreams of living on the surface had died with the colonists and craftsmen. Eron struggled to focus on the present, his mind and body tired. Maybe he had seen too many generations come and go and it was time to see to his own Farewell. Yet there was always that small ray of hope, of one day standing in the sunlight or seeing healthy Thalian children playing in green fields of wildflowers.

Eron licked black smeared lips and grimaced at the foul taste on his tongue. He really did want a shower in the worst way. But the past was waiting, as were Rowan and Damon.

Theron entered the charred room with a tray of bottled water and passed the cold drinks around. “The lounge is ready,” he said attentively, “with fresh uniforms laid out and lots of cleaner and towels.” He turned to Rowan. “There’s a gurney in the hallway if you’d like to move Debra to the lounge now.”

Still cupping the nape of Debra’s neck, Damon calmly offered, “She’s still under the drug, but we won’t have any trouble transferring her to the bed.” With the meld firmly activated, Damon sensed nothing of what Eron found from the past. All trace of the nightmare had receded.

At Rowan’s nod Theron wheeled the bed beside the reclining chair, hands grabbing at shoulders and legs, each cautiously keeping a good distance from those lethal hands and the arcing energy that continued to lovingly caressed Debra’s fingers.

OT on-duty staff was on standby and waiting in Isolated Recovery in case they were needed. The huge Operating Theater stood empty and silent as the small group entered the brightly lit lounge. Comfortable sofas and chairs were scattered about the long rectangular-shaped room. The food case on the nearby wall had been freshly stocked that morning by Terrace staff, providing everything from nutritional snacks to full meals. True to his word, Theron had restocked the cooler with ice cold bottles of water and juices, and a table had been set up at the far end with a dozen bottles of spray cleaner and old towels that were destined for recycling.

The room was quiet as everyone took up a bottle of mild spray solvent, normally used for safely cleaning grease and grime from sensitive maintenance equipment. Thick towels came away from faces and hands disgustingly black and rank smelling. The laundry bin quickly filled with towels and jumpsuits destined for the incinerator. It wasn’t a long hot shower, but better than suffocating beneath a dense layer of tar.

The cold sweet juice felt refreshing on his raw throat as Eron stared out the large tinted window at the park. From the third level only the nearby treetops were visible, with the flowerbeds and green lawn stretching out into the distance. Beyond the far rise his mind visualized the stately black marble altar standing alone in the valley of souls, a testament to Ruthie and the hundreds of others who had become a part of the beauty of Tantria. Without warning, his tired voice filled the silence.

“After Kalon died, Trevon refused to return to the ship,” Eron said tonelessly, watching Thalians and humans go about their work and pleasures. “He wanted to die in his new home in Lincoln County, with the woman he loved and many of his family around him.”

He turned to find them all hovering about Debra’s bed, their eyes following him as he moved restlessly about the room. Only Damon felt secure enough to clean the soot from his wife’s face and hands while she remained unconscious from the drug.

“It was a weekday, well into the morning. And since no one came forward, it was presumed that only Edith and Debra were present when Trevon died. I can now confirm that was the case,” Eron grimly admitted. “We found Edith unconscious beside Trevon in the backyard by the gate. Debra wasn’t in the house or on the grounds. A search spread out and found her outside the fenced-in yard at the bottom of the ravine, badly bruised and in a coma.” He glanced at Damon, remembering another time. “It was later determined that she had been linked to Trevon when he died.”

“And you think that’s the cause of her psychic disabilities?” Rowan asked doubtfully. As one who had been inside Debra’s mind, who knew firsthand the younger woman’s strength and determination, Rowan just wasn’t convinced.

Damon shook his head, feeling the same doubts as his sister. “No, that can’t be it.” He looked around at the faces of friends and family. “I suffered a severed link with father when he died. Remember? I was left in a coma for three days, but that didn’t stunt my psychic growth.”

Rowan could see it in their eyes, the dawning of the unimaginable. But it wasn’t possible. It just couldn’t be possible. Her voice came in a rasping whisper, “You think Debra killed Trevon?” Stunned into anger she shouted, “She was a baby, Eron. A baby. The elders listed the cause of death as the virus. Are you saying that was a lie? That the elders and past leaders are somehow involved in a conspiracy, a cover-up of a two-year-old baby supposedly strong enough to kill her father?”

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