A few days passed. His vision grew steadily better, but his dreams persisted, and he felt a deep sense of longing for his parents. He never had the same nurse, and after the second change, he gave up on asking about his father. He didn’t like the way they’d act confused, and then defensive, when asked about someone that wasn’t on their patient list.
He stopped reaching out with his mind altogether; he felt a deep sense of guilt about doing it at all in the first place, and wondered if perhaps the lack of answers regarding his father was some sort of punishment for his recklessness with his talents. He ate without enjoyment, but he finished his meals. He followed the instructions of his nurses. No doctors came, and at the beginning of what he thought was the third night, he began to feel deep depression.
Hello, Nathaniel, came a voice in his mind, and he recognized it as Adam Prime. For a moment he felt guilty again; speaking with one’s mind is a gift, and not to be used recklessly, but he also felt very alone.
Hello, Adam. He paused briefly, and then released his thoughts, and felt tears stream his cheeks. I miss my parents.
I’m sorry, Adam offered, but it was a forced apology, and Nathaniel could feel the embarrassment in his new friend’s thoughts, and it made him feel awful. Adam’s thoughts rushed in, Don’t feel bad. I don’t really remember my parents, so I don’t know what to say. But it’s okay, I’m sure that it will be okay.
Nathaniel wiped his face irritably. I don’t know if it will be. I haven’t seen him since I got here. Where did they take my father? Inspiration took Nathaniel, and he inhaled sharply. Where did they take him? Do you know?
Adam’s projected thought seemed cautious. What in God’s name makes you think that I would know? I don’t have a clue as to who your father even is.
I know you don’t, thought Nathaniel wildly, but maybe you could. I don’t know where you are, but maybe you’ve heard something about him. Or the other humans that came on the cruiser. I just want to know that he’s doing okay, that’s all. I just want to know that I will see him again soon.
Adam’s voice hesistated, but returned. I could look around, but they’d know it was me. I’m the only Hybrid not recovering from the trip. It would put me in a lot of trouble.
Please, Nathaniel pressed. I’m on a strange planet, with a bunch of people that I hardly even know, and these nurses can’t even tell me where my father has gone. He bit his lip. He hardly knew Adam, and he was putting him at risk. Nathaniel wasn’t even sure what would happen to Adam if they caught him. But Nathaniel was desperate. I don’t have anyone else that can help me.
He felt Adam’s presence fade and shimmer. But in a few moments, he felt Adam come back. I’ll do it. But understand, when we finally meet, you’ll owe me one. His voice was scolding, but there was a hint of mischief in there as well, and Nathaniel got the feeling that his new friend liked causing trouble from time to time. Tell me everything you know about your dad, and I’ll try to get to the bottom of it. It might take a little time.
Thank you, Adam, Nate replied, and he projected all that he could think of about his father. He sent information regarding his name, his body type, his hair color…anything that might help Adam in identifying his father.
That should be fine, Adam sent back. I’m on the case! And then the presence of Adam was gone, and despite being alone again, Nathaniel felt hope for the first time in his new home, and sleep came easily.
When he woke in the morning, he discovered that his vision had returned. He also discovered a man in his room, reading over papers fastened to a metal clipboard. He was older than his father, with a fringe of gray hair over his ears. He wore plastic-rimmed glasses over his nose. He also sported a neat little goatee, the color of iron. When the man realized that Nathaniel was awake, he smiled, and Nathaniel sensed kindness in this individual.
“There he is!” the man said, offering a little wink. “Hello, Nathaniel. My name is Dr. Crow. I’m taking over your case for the time being. I hope everything is up to snuff.” He sat on the edge of the bed, studying Nathaniel, but stopping short of being intrusive. “I know that this is a particularly difficult transition for you, but I promise you that I will do everything in my power to make it as painless as possible. You might even find that you like it.”
Nathaniel sighed. “I suppose that might happen, Dr. Crow, but for the moment I am more focused on trying to just find out where my father is located. I haven’t seen him since we were put under and it’s been days. No one seems to know what is going on, and they never send the same nurse in to let me know if they’ve discovered anything. I’m very tired and I’m very worried.”
Dr. Crow flipped up the chart, looking genuinely concerned. “Your father is…Shadrach Trader?”
Nathaniel nodded. “And before you ask, I don’t know what his ID number is.”
Crow laughed. “Someone asked you if you knew that? Goodness, I don’t even know my own number! I have to carry it around in my wallet if it’s ever needed.” He shook his head. “I apologize for the lack of help you have received, Nathaniel. I promise you that I will contact the right people and be back with you as soon as I can regarding your father’s whereabouts.”
“I’d like to believe you, but I’ve been told the same thing before.”
Crow nodded patiently. “Well, then, perhaps I’ll restore your faith in people. I’ll go check on him right away and see what’s what. It won’t take a moment.”
And Crow strode from the room, and Nathaniel could hear him calling out to the nurses, barking orders about getting in contact with something known as Valhalla. Nathaniel sighed and lounged back on the bed, feeling better that he finally had the attention of someone that seemed to be caring, but still doubting that anything would be done, until Adam figured out what was going on.
The nurse wheeled in a tray of breakfast, and Nathaniel ate in solitude. He watched a program on a screen about the majesty of something known as the Gaea Federation and their fleet of star cruisers. It seemed vaguely interesting, although a little dated; on Bacarri he’d seen plenty of star cruisers, and pretty much all the time. He turned the program off after a bit and tried to rest.
Nathaniel, Adam’s voice suddenly barked in his mind, and Nathaniel sat up, rigid. He could sense to anxiety in his friend’s voice. They found out what I was doing. I didn’t realize how good they were at reading me. He sounded winded, but also ashamed. I wasn’t able to get away with it. They’re talking about revoking privileges.
I’m sorry, Nathaniel replied. He did feel genuine remorse for putting his only friend in danger, but he also knew that in his heart any news would be worth gold to him. I’ll talk to them and tell you I begged and pleaded. I didn’t want you to get caught.
No, Nathaniel, it’s fine, Adam projected. I saw news of your father. And then there was silence, and Nathaniel felt his heart race.
Dr. Crow came into the room, holding his chart behind him. His eyes, behind his glasses, were full of hesitation and remorse. He opened his mouth to say something, but no words came out, and he closed his mouth into a small crease of indecision.
“What?” Nathaniel said, and he could feel bile rising into his throat, and the sweat popped out all over his forehead. He repeated himself, but the word came out, strangled.
At the same time, both Adam projected and Dr. Crow said the same thing.
“I’m so sorry, Nathaniel.”