He looks quite beautiful in that leather jacket with the colour turned up. He looks like a twat, but a pretty one. His acne's gone. He stands.
"You two are here because you have excelled in all 3 assessments. You have been chosen to be in our most elite team. We are attempting to understand their technology and create strategies to undermine them. You are special. You can see more than your fellows."
It's like he's speaking another language.
"You have a mutation. A mutation that changes how you see the world. We don't know what it is yet. But we will find out. And you will help us.
What we do know is that your eyes are more similar to the aliens'. And that means you'll be able to understand their technology better. There are only 14 others like you. Myself, Mbali, and Nancy among them."
"Then why isn't Nancy here?"
"She did not perform well in the assessments. Tomorrow we will introduce you to your tasks. For now, you must rest. You may use any of the rooms you had access to before. Mbali will escort you to your new dorms. Dismissed."
I turned on one heel and went into the corridor. I have a feeling Atoni bowed his head at the table first.
Mbali led us down 3 halls and into our room. It was square, with large bed one side and one on the other. It wasn't grey and white like the other rooms, it had softer creamier whites and blues. It was quite pretty, less like a hostel and more like a hotel. I guess they really wanted us to help them.
"People in our line of work tend to go to bed at 9:30pm. It's a tiring line of work. You may want to consider going to bed early tonight." Mbali left.
Adoni and I looked at each other. Our cases, well, my rucsac, his case, were on our beds. I was on the right side, he on the left. We unpacked in silence. I guess Adoni was thinking about our new work. I was just thinking about Iqab. Why was he here? Why had he come to our school? Had he travelled here with us? How had I not seen him? Was he sent to sit next to me? Why? What was going on? What even am I?
And in seeing him again my old fears became less supressed. I couldn't go outside again. Mbali made that worse. He never mentioned what he'd done to me, and I know I'll never confront him, so I can't risk going out alone.
After Adoni was done unpacking he motioned to me on the bed,
I shook my head. Too many people. I'll lock the door when he goes. Noone can touch me.
He left. I locked the door behind him. I sat on my bed and tears started flowing down my cheeks. I do a lot more crying than is necessarily normal, I think. Soon I had scarlett streaks dried onto my skin and yet more tears came. I couldn't tell if I was making noise or not. My breath was hitched and came in little bursts, but I couldn't tell if it was me that was screaming. I had my legs hitched up to my throat and my nose resting on them, arms wrapped round my legs rocking me back and forth, back and forth. It didn't make much difference. I put my eyes against my knees, pressing into them.
After 2 hours Adoni came back. He tried the doorknob. When it didn't work, he knocked. I couldn't move. I guess he had a key because I heard it in the lock. He opened the door slowly. I guess he could hear me.
"Kira?" He asked.
I looked up at him.
"Kira," He said softly, "What the hell?"
I said nothing and just pressed my eyes into my knees again. Much better. Now I couldn't feel them burn with tears.
I expected Adoni to go to his bed, or have a shower or whatever. But I felt the mattress sink a little next to me and a hand on my shoulder.
"Kira, what's going on?" I shook my head.
"Kira, you need to tell me what's happening. Or someone, at least. Someone older, more experience perhaps. Mbali?"
I shivered violently.
"Okay, not Mbali then. Tell me. Tell me what's happening."
I pulled my head up and rested my chin on my legs.
Violent sobs over took me and I was back to being closed up.
"Do you want to write it down?" He said, after a little pause.
He held out his phone to me. It was on the notepad page. I took it and sat cross-legged. Every so often while was typing I would wince as though in terrible pain and he would stroke my leg to comfort me. One time he kissed me on the head.
I'm terrified of people. What do they call it, social anxiety? Yeah, I have that. I have panic attacks and I scream a lot and cry before a day where I have to go out. Like every night before school. And I know Iqab from when I was at school. He was new and came about a month before I came here. He asked me out as a joke, just like everyone else who asks me out. Because I'm disgusting. I mean, am I so vulger, am I so repugnant that it is such a joke to say you fancy me? Because that's what everyone at school did. They made fun of me by saying they fancied me and it was horrible. And Iqab did exactly the same thing, so I yelled at him. Then Mbali
I finished there. I couldn't even write it. I put the phone on the bed and cried into my kneecaps. My jeans did not soak it up well. Droplets of crimson lit up my eyelashes and stuck on the black jeans like reversed poppies. I don't know why I even noticed them.
Adoni skimmed the note next to me. He rubbed my back with his hand absently.
"What did Mbali do, Kira?" He said, so soft it was barely words.
"Kira? What did he do?" He put his arm round me and squeezed a little.
"He - raped - me." I got it out. It didn't feel any better out than in. It felt like an admission of weakness. I started crying again.
Adoni put the other arm round me and I hugged him back. I sobbed against his chest and it didn't make anything better, but it was better than crying alone.
"It's not your fault, Kira. He's a bad man, everyone here knows it. He doesn't show it, but we've all heard stories. He's a mysogynistic bastard and too powerful. It's not your fault Kira, I swear."
"But - I'm weak. I couldn't - stop him. I couldn't- I couldn't- I couldn't get him off me."
"That doesn't make you weak, Kira. Gods! You're the strongest person I know! Don't you let him take that away from you!"
We stayed just hugging for a while. Adoni squeezed me and then broke away.
"But," I looked at my hands, "How do I go back outside? What if he finds me, what if he wants to teach me another lesson?"
"He's too high up for us to do anything. They've had a few complaints like this, nothing this serious though, and nothings ever happened about it. Not even a rap on the knuckles." Adoni spat out the words. "But he won't get to you. If he does, I'll kill him."
He saw that the words didn't help much. I didn't want to depend on anyone.
"Or you will. If you weren't able to overpower him last time, he drugged you. Simple as. Mbali may be powerful, but he's not strong. Not stronger than you. And they screen everyone's bags before they get in the shuttle. There is no way he'll be able to overpower you again. And if you suspect him, don't breathe."
I raised my eyebrows at him.
"The drugs he uses are airbourne. He takes an antidote, sprays the drug in a room or on himself, then all the girl thinks is "Weird, it smells like orange in here" and they take a deep breath to find the source of it and they're gone and he's got them. So just don't breathe around him whenever you're alone."
I sniffed. Adoni put his hand on my shoulder.
"You know how fucking stupid those boys at your school are?" He looked at me from under his eyebrows. His eyes were big, black and very beautiful.
"They are so stupid. You are so pretty, Kira. You're incredible. And they made you think you were ugly? They're so stupid. Iqab included. So fucking stupid, Gods."
I smiled weakly at him.
"Come on Kira, you're okay. You can punch people hard enough to make them throw up, and you're very cute about it. Don't fret."
He held his arms out to me. I shuffled closer and rested my head on his chest. He held his arms round me and I held onto one like a life raft. He lay back eventually, pulling me with him. I guess we must have fallen asleep like that.
* * *
At 7 Iqab knocked on the door. He let himself in.
"Rise and shine my lovely- Oh my Gods!" He then started lauhing so hard I expected bodily fluids to start excreting from his pores. His throat sounded like retching. "Looks like I'm interupting something! I'll be back at 8:30 to escort you lovebirds, do try not to get pregnant in the meantime."
I rolled my eyes and fell out of bed. Literally. It didn't hurt that much. I like to fall out of bed in the morning, I don't know why. Adoni got up on the other side and pulled of his T-shirt by his chest of drawers. I really wasn't ready to get dressed in front of him or to watch him get dressed, so I grabbed some clothes and went to have a shower in our esuite.
It was a pretty little bathroom; full of gold and cream things. I guess it hadn't been used much so it was pristine. There was a bath too, but I guess Adoni had to wash too, so I didn't use it.
I had my shower and did my makeup. I continuously combed my hair while it was drying so it went slightly wavy instead of curly. It wasn't as pretty but it was less hot. I wore leggings, high wasted black short and a short sleeved black top that was lace from halfway down. It was one of my favourite tops and I wore it any time it was clean. I also wore a very long-sleeved black cardigan. It was my Mum's and it smelt like her even now. I didn't feel that much homesick for her, more homesick for the Earth. I missed being on real land and I missed trees. Being here is like being inside constantly. It was depressing.
I went to the food hall alone. Adoni had to wash and I didn't want to be dependant on him. I needed to learn to be alone and not be scared again. Also, since I hadn't eaten last night I was absolutely starving.
Nturan and Nancy were sat at a table together. Chauffer joined them and sat next to Nancy. I got my food and joined them too, and they bombarded me with questions.
"We just saw you get taken away after the test; we didn't know what was going on or if you were coming back or anything. And then I get back to the room last night and all your stuff's gone and I say 'Oh my Gods they killed her they killed Kira' and Chaffer's like 'Nancy you cnut of course they didn't kill her' I'm like 'Cnut? Really?' and he's like 'yeah bitch' and so I say..."
She went on and on. Most of what she said was about Chauffer, I noticed. They were also sit very close together. That was sweet.
Nturan leaned close to me.
"How's the anxiety?"
I thought for a second.
Adoni then arrived at our table. I hadn't seen him come in.
I waved my hand at the seat next to me. He needn't be so polite, most people just sat and didn't care.
Chianti came and sat with Rioj on her lap. We chatted and laughed and poked fun at each other until 8:25, then Adoni and I exused ourselves to go to meet Iqab at our room.
I started hyperventalating a bit when I saw him at the end of the corridor. Adoni grabbed my hand and squeezed it. He let go.
"Oh honeys please don't stop holding hands on my account you look so adorable." He said when we were in earshot.
He took us down 6 corridors and into a very large, very white room full of computers and blueprints and lab equipment. 8 people sat round the rediculously huge table in the middle, while a couple of others idled around the place.
"This here's our little team. Mbali's the leader, very clever man, he'll give you your real tasks tomorrow. Today is purely an introduction. Or is it induction? Ah, who cares anyway."
He led us towards a pretty 25, 30 year old woman.
"This here is Kerina and she has been here for about 3 months now, near the start of when the aliens posed a threat. She's going to show you a little something about the ships that I don't understand so I'm going to stand over here."
She showed us how the ships were based on a twin fuel system. They were very slow, but they seemed to go on forever. Inside, she said, there were entire ecosystems. She couldn't understand why. Why go to all that trouble just to invade our little planet?
And then we met Ayotumi and he showed us their electronics, and then Adrenum and Kisamine who showed us the weird metals their ships were made of. Then Nronan, Hercle and Florence showed us algroithms of battle plans, which Adoni seemed particularly interested in. Then Misadrin, Heleni, Greg and Keplin showed us the most horrific things of all.
The aliens' biology.
They were the same aliens as I'd seen in the simulated meadow. They looked so human aside from the creepy, beautiful eyes. I noticed they had red marks around their eyes. Had they been crying?
They lay on tables. Sheets covered parts of them, with squares cut out to pour preservatives in and to take samples out. It was grotesque. Their bodies were mangled, probably from a crash, and bruises covered their skin. The cut out organs only added to the horror, as did the smell. It was horrific.
So this was my team. My "new family", as Iqab called it. A new family of monsters.