|"Planet of origin: Allii, located in the Soleran system..."|
"What seems to be the trouble, gentlemen?" The dry, androgynous voice preceded the approach of a female officer wearing a grey uniform similar to the ones worn by the guards, with the exception that hers bore a different insignia on it. Her pale hair was smoothed back against her scalp so tightly that it almost blended into her skin. Her dark eyes seemed weirdly shaped in her face as she inspected me.
"It looks alien to me," she muttered.
Was she saying I looked like an alien? I wanted to protest, to point out that I was every bit as human as the rest of them, but I couldn't move.
Meanwhile, she went on. "Who are you? What is your home planet? Which Federation do you serve? Who is your principal Chief Quadrant Official? Where is your identification implant?"
One of the officers pointed something that looked like a short black flashlight at me, and when he activated it, a high-pitched squeal sounded.
"Subject has no implants at all, Sir," he answered.
The woman scowled fiercely. "No implants? Must be a farce, then! Arrest her!"
"Captain Gayle, sir," another soldier piped up, "we cannot comply with your orders to arrest someone without due cause."
The captain glared at him. "Fine; she stowed away on the ship, so that is suspicious. Confine her to the prison ward—"
Another soldier coughed behind me. I heard the leather of his armor squeak as he raised his hand.
Captain Gayle sighed. "What is it?"
"Unidentified persons cannot be detained during active wartime without proper medical examination—"
"Fine!" The captain barked, waving her hand at me. "Take her to the medical bay and tell Dr. Igorax I want the full treatment: decontamination, inoculation, examination—and I will send Cher down to bring her to the Commander."
The entire contingent saluted. "Yes, sir!"
"Dumb hitchhikers; they always get off easy." Captain Gayle turned heel and walked away. Two soldiers grabbed my elbows and turned me around to face the long walkway. If I hadn't been paralyzed, I would have gasped.
Clear tunnels enclosing steel walkways stretched this way and that above and below us. Outside the tubes, small robots of various shapes and colors (mostly white and silver) wove their way around the main body of the enormous ship. By the time I was able to wrap my head around this, we came to a stop before a vertical silver tube. One of the soldiers produced a thin metal wafer, which he waved before the scanner. The door slid open with a hydraulic hiss, and they pushed me inside, the security-bot holding me inert still close at my heels. The door closed in front of me, and I completely lost all sense of gravity for about ten seconds. When I felt weight again, I came to rest on my back, not my feet. The door opened, and there were soldiers standing over me as I lay inside the tube. I still had no voluntary control, but my body sat up and climbed out under the watchful silver eyes of the soldiers' guns. Whatever war these people were fighting, it certainly had everybody on edge. I wondered who they might be fighting, since a human stranger invited such suspicion.
The doors to the medical bay opened and a man in a white lab coat emerged.
"What is it?" He asked. I admit, I kind of liked his voice. It had a warm, puffy sound to it, after the sharp, metallic grating of the soldiers' voices.
"Stowaway alien discovered on the fourth level, Doctor," the soldier on my left explained. "Captain Gayle requests a full and thorough examination."
"Alien, huh?" Doctor Igorax echoed. "I'll be the judge of that." He paused a moment. "Why won't she turn?" He asked.
The soldier coughed.
"Oh for Skather's sake!" cried the doctor. "Is that really necessary, officer?"
"Subject must be restrained until interrogated by the commander."
"Well," Dr. Igorax sighed, "if you insist."
I heard the shuffle of shoes, and the doctor came into view. My breath caught in my throat as the scream I wanted to give passed through inert vocal chords. Three eyes blinked at me from the upper part of the man's face! He squinted with two of them, but I couldn't take my eyes off the third eye, right there in the middle of his forehead.
"A bit strange-looking, wouldn't you say?" Dr. Igorax mused—which was ironic, to say the least!
The rumble of wheels interrupted us. The soldiers had to yank me off to the side as a blood-smeared gurney rolled toward the doors. The others could turn away, but I got an eyeful of the poor soul on his way to the ward: his right arm bent in a place above the elbow, and his right leg ended just above the ankle. His face had been torn open on the side, and blood streaked over a strange symbol tattooed on his neck.
Nobody moved till the doors closed behind the medic.
Dr. Igorax scowled. "Those abominable Drothikans! How long must the massacres continue?" His body was practically shaking with outrage.
The soldier fidgeted. "Look, Doc, would you just get on with your business so we can get on with ours?"
The three-eyed face swung our way again. "Hmm? Oh, yes, all right." He took my hand and pulled me toward the doors of the medical bay. "Come along, my dear."
I shuddered. His skin felt cold and flabby against mine, and he had six fingers! And everyone thought I was the alien, here?
Dr. Igorax left me in the care of two "nurses" who looked more like automated mannequins.
"Please hold still," they instructed pleasantly, grabbing hold of my clothes. I smelled burning fabric, and almost immediately my jeans and tee-shirt fell away from my body, unraveled completely at the seams. One nurse swept up the clothes and carried them away, while the other tipped her head back and forth like a bobble doll and carefully guided a stark-white gown onto my inert body.
"Decontamination gown activated," she said as she fastened it behind me.
I felt a tingling sensation that began at my neck and spread to the furthest extremities of my body. It was like every cell of my body was anticipating something painful, like the feeling you get just before a burn.
The burn never came, though. Just when I was getting weary of the anticipation and ready to resign myself to the burning, it stopped, and the nurse bobbled her head again.
"Decontamination complete. Proceed to examination room."
She turned and began walking away from me, down the narrow hallway to the next ward. The security-bot at my feet slowly rolled after the robot woman, allowing me to follow her.
Inside, Dr. Igorax waited next to a long table with arms and a headrest. He took my hands and guides me over to the table. "Lie here, please," he said, arranging my body over the table.
I heard hissing and clicking and felt pressure on my wrists, ankles, and forehead. I could see nothing in my periphery, but the ceiling seemed to be coated in a reflective substance, and I could make out restraint bands holding me in place.
The three-eyed doctor produced a glowing implement that emitted a high whine like a dentist's drill.
"Let's begin," he stated.
With the help of his two robotic assistants, Dr. Igorax commenced a thorough examination of my entire body: skin samples, tissue samples, fluid and hair samples. He measured everything, from my total weight and body mass, to the circumference of each individual finger and toe. None of it was particularly painful, but it wasn't comfortable, either.
Partway through, one of the nurses finished running the DNA test.
"Subject is a member of species Homo sapiens," she announced. "Planet of origin: Allii, located in the Soleran System." A planetary map projected overhead, showing the familiar view of my own solar system, zooming in on the planet I knew as Earth. They called it Allii.
Dr. Igorax snorted, "Well, I guess that makes you Alliian, after all! Don't get many of those anymore; not since..." Dr. Igorax sighed and patted my shoulder. "But you probably don't like to talk about it much, hey? Two millennia is too soon, they say."
The way he spoke made me wonder if Earth existed anymore; and if not, how far in the future was this? Did people not use the term "human" anymore? Why not?
A shooting pain in my neck distracted me from my musings. Dr. Igorax withdrew something that looked like a small stapler.
"Identification chip implanted," he announced. "Everything with the Alliian is in order."
"Attention, Doctor," the nurse responded. "Assistant Cher is waiting to collect the subject."
Dr. Igorax nodded. "Time to meet the Commander!" He said cheerily.