Breathing hard, the three found themselves back on Bern’s beach. Bern wasn’t ready for it when Ishan barreled toward him, catching him in the jaw with a hard right hook. It threw the connection and Bern, Fane, and Ishan tumbled back onto the grass outside of the warehouse.
Corbin and Sophia, sitting next to them, scuttled out of the way as they came to, Ishan trying to press the blade in his hand toward Bern. Fane restrained the knife. “Prince, sh…sh…Ishan…it’s all right,” Fane tried to calm the angry man.
“Fuck that! It’s not all right. The hell was that, Bern?” Ishan demanded of the man.
“It’s not his fault, Ishan. It’s not…It’s just…it’s all right, all right?” Fane tried to reassure him.
Ishan looked down at Fane’s sad smile, his pleading face that was begging him to not cry. Ishan curled around him possessively. “Fane. My god.” The man trembled around him, threatening to strangle him from holding him so close.
“That’s why I need Corbin ta look at his void.” Bern pinned the man with a cruel glare. “He better be willing to take responsibility f’r leavin’ him like that if he wants his spaceship ta work,” the man spat.
“What do you mean leave him like that? We’re not leaving Fane strung up in a place like that!” Ishan protested.
“Bern?” Fane directed the man’s attention. “Don’t make me do that again.”
Bern huffed, angry, his face colouring. He pushed himself off the ground and stomped back to the warehouse. He let himself in and allowed the door to crash behind him. That left Fane, Ishan, Corbin and Sophia sitting on the ground.
“You aren’t vaporizing us, so it went…?” Corbin offered kindly. He really was lost at what was going. He stilled under the falcon-like gaze of the prince. “Show me those medical reports, now!” Ishan pushed himself off the ground. He pulled Fane up with him, not willing to let go of his hand. Fane slipped the knife back into his holster and followed Ishan into the building, his head throbbing horribly.
Sophia led them back into a different room, what looked like an office that had been hit by a category four tornado. Bern was already in it shuffling through piles of papers in frustration. Papers were spread everywhere. A tablet lay on the top of a rather precarious stack. She shuffled a few shiefs around, nudging Bern out of the way. “We’re trying to get you to open the portal again, but this time we aren’t calling on the Grey Monster. Instead, we’re going through the door it used to get us through a wormhole to the other side of the universe. There’s a galaxy that our research is saying has several habitable planets and resources similar to ours.” She brushed through more pages, trying to find a few stacks of papers while Corbin came in with the manila envelope of Fane’s medical history that he handed over to Ishan. Ishan looked it over, recognizing some of the images as the papers he had seen from Zephyr. Now he really had a better idea of what was going on.
Sophia looked up excited when she finally found the mound of papers she was after, though it sent a deluge of white rectangles splattering to the ground. She shrugged and urged Fane onto the only other chair in the room. Ishan eased up to stand behind Fane’s right shoulder to look down on the papers that she was gleefully waving at them. “The read-out shows in the time leading up to the release of the Grey Monster that there was a high spike of adrenaline and cortisol followed shortly by noradrenaline. It corresponds with the portal development lines here. Within a couple minutes of the noradrenaline dump, you entered a state of meditation here.” Sophia pointed at another chemistry line on the papers. He shrugged and looked up at her.
“The chemicals balanced into perfect harmony for these hours here. You hit a spike of cytokines, probably from exhaustion. Several hours after this extensive event you had a high level of dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins. That combined out only shortly after with norepinephrine, vasopressin, and nitric oxide. Jeez these implants are fantastic. They even got your orgasm. This was only a couple hours before Corbin, and I pulled you into our time.” Sophia was pleased with her graphs.
Fane blinked at her as his cheeks, and the tips of his ears burned. “Do fucking what?” he raised his eyebrows in surprised incredulity. He was very much over feeling invaded. His heart beat hard and angry in his throat, and the room began to feel like an icebox.
“Here, no see.” She pointed to the wiggling lines without notice of his current discomfort. “This shows you went through a phase of fear, the fight or flight instinct. That was followed shortly by extreme anger. Then you went into an almost tantric level meditation for a time. Not quite twenty-four hours later, you went through a phase of extreme joy that led to sexual relief.” She was overwhelmingly jubilant in her proclamation. Ishan coughed firmly. Fane looked up at him beseechingly. He did not want to be having this conversation. He was very much done with the pair of mad scientists.
“We’ve seen some small marks of your fear levels. They tended to come in the late night hours. Then low-level meditation in the early mornings and shortly following lunch.” She flipped pages and pointed at mirrored graphs.
“Night terrors. I run, stretch, and climb in the mornings, and do shot practice and gymnastics in the afternoons.” Fane supplied the schedule he had maintained at the base that would fit the chemical releases.
“There are very few markers for happiness in here.” She furrowed her brow as she rummaged through more sheets. “I don’t see any in here until relatively recently. I’ve got a few small levels here.” She pulled out another paper.
Fane looked at the dates on the graphs and handed them to Ishan. “Day I met you and the day of that big VR dragon battle,” Fane mumbled as his thumb tapped the top left graphs on the page.
“The portal began its dilation around here.” Corbin showed Sophia something on his tablet. She tapped at the screen and flipped through some images. She glanced up at Fane, then furrowed a brow and returned to the image. She zoomed in on something, spreading her fingers across the screen. “Huh. Anyways, it started truly forming when you went through extreme fear and anger. It balanced out at the meditation line, getting stronger. That seemed to help stabilize its growth pattern. I think it would have collapsed if you hadn’t had that line. The,” she coughed more modestly, catching Ishan’s warning, “this line is what finally thinned the membrane at the portal enough for the creature to push through. We’ve got the ring built, but we need you to rebuild the portal membrane. We can push through it as long as it’s thin enough. Do you,” she cleared her throat again, glancing away from the men, “do you remember what occurred for each of those event lines? Maybe we can replicate it to get the ring to dilate. We need it to jump a wormhole of sorts,” she asked. She was anticipating hearing of them having a lover’s quarrel and a smouldering make-up session that had set up the portal.
Fane leaned forward, his elbows almost on his knees. He folded his hands together, one thumb rubbing the knuckle of the other. He bowed his head over his hands and turned to the side, and stared at a set of papers with meaningless graphs taped to the wall next to a bright desk lamp. Ishan paced to the door and back. Sophia’s heart beat hard in her chest. She looked between the two men and furrowed her brows. This wasn’t some easily remedied lover’s quarrel.
Fane rubbed his face and up to ruffle his undercut and down to rub at the short hair at the nape of his neck momentarily before looking up at her. “A noble killed one of Ishan’s nieces and her bodyguard, Zahar. Good man, would have liked to have kept him in service. The baron’s men rigged the back compound to blow. That terror line matches up with the timeline when I went into the heir apparent’s house while it was on fire and pulled her body out. I found half of Zahar’s head blown off. That high spike was when the bomb went off, and I thought Ishan and I were going to die.” He pointed to a specific high spike on the graph. “He showed me a note that the man had left behind. He had taken the other twin. I…” He paused, his voice hitching, tracing the timeline and the rise and fall of chemicals. “This is where I found her…and them. She was only a child.” Bile coated the back of his throat again. Ishan placed a calming hand on his shoulder. Fane reached up to hold the hand at his shoulder.
Ishan spoke for Fane, “Tam was raped. Fane got her out of the baron’s house and brought her back to us safely. This spot to this spot,” Ishan spread his finger across the area that Sophia had gleefully proclaimed meditation.
Fane stepped in with a low whisper, “killing spree. Forty-two men dead, one injured but alive.” Sophia looked up at him, her face going sallow. Bern and Corbin regarded him with horror. Fane raised an indifferent eyebrow. His soul felt dead at the memory. He had gotten her out, but she had still died because of him, because of the Grey Monster. Ajay and Shelly were dead. Tears and self-anger rolled behind his eyes. The space swamped in cold, clammy humidity. Sophia glanced around uncomfortably.
“He brought her and the baron back and came back to his room. The baron was thrown in the jail we have at the palace. Tam was taken to our private hospital. I helped get him cleaned up, and we collapsed on his couch for most of the rest of that morning into the early afternoon. My former bodyguard was put in charge of seeing to Tam while she was being kept in the hospital yesterday evening. I didn’t want to wake Fane, but when a bad storm blew out the already precarious electricity, and I wasn’t sleeping well, I called him to take over his position as bodyguard for Ajay. We ended up down in the armoury you found us in.” Ishan’s finger traced the gentle slope that led into a hard peak on the paper. It was bizarre to him, seeing Fane’s emotions spread out under his fingertip like some kind of roadmap.
Bern drew in a deep breath, interrupting the group’s melancholy, knowing he was only going to be adding to it. “As it stands right now, Fane is in nae shape f’r openin’ up that portal a’ yer’s Sophia. He might be strugglin’ so hard to do that because of his void. I need ta take Corbin in and show it ta him. He should kin what he’s askin’ this man ta do.” Bern grabbed Corbin and Fane both by the back of the neck and launched Corbin into Fane’s void unceremoniously.
Corbin dragged in a stifled gasp as he fell into the chill darkness. The smell was enough to twist his stomach into knots. The noise in the echo chamber dropped him to his knees. He covered his ears with his hands, but that did nothing to keep the screaming and bellowing from rattling his nerves. His eyes adjusted for him to finally look up. He pulled violently away from Bern and fell out of Fane’s void willfully.
He dashed for the tiny trash can at the door and puked. Wiping his mouth on the back of his hand he turned to look at Fane, a haunted expression lingering in his eyes. Corbin glanced at Sophia and back at Fane.
“Tell me ye’re gonna leave him like that n’ I will drive a wedge a’ madness so hard inta yer void that ye willnae e’en remember yer damn name,” Bern dared Corbin, his mouth set in an angry grimace.
“Whatever you have to do.” Corbin nodded to Bern, puking once more at the thought of what he had seen. The Grey Monster on the TV had been nothing compared to seeing the tentacles in the void, the smell, the sound, the acid burning flesh. He was still dry retching when Bern took Ishan and Fane from the room to the commissary where they could get a few changes of clothing.
Bern showed them around the campus that was the Subgalaxia facility. He nabbed a key and a bedroom in the second floor of the warehouses’ split between the small three-story mechanic’s shop and the fifteen-story main build hanger. Assembly of the ship was done in stages, each new part attached outside in what was affectionately called the yard. He showed them across the way to a massive launching system that the Subgalaxia would be docked into that would get them airborn. Fane followed along mutely, memorizing every face they passed. Taking on the position of bodyguard for Ishan he could manage. It let him cool his nerves, but he still felt tight and strung out from having faced down his own void, becoming consciously aware of it.
Finished with the tour, they returned back to the room they had been issued where they pushed their twin-sized bedframes together and subsequently fell into an uneasy sleep.
Chapel Orahamm (C) 2022-2023. All Rights Reserved.
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