She was much lighter than I was expecting. I had never had to carry Michelle before, because even when she was in plaster for her broken legs she still insisted on moving under her own steam. She only had three rooms anyway -- somewhere to sleep, somewhere to go to the toilet, and somewhere to relax -- but it was enough that she needed to be able to walk.
"I can crawl," she had told me. "And I can hop. Just about." I let her get on with it.
Now we were nearing the main corridor and she was still in my arms, but I could hardly feel any weight. When I put my fingers around her arm they met, easily. "Come on, Shelley, what happened to you?" She just shook her head and refused to answer. When I pressed her more, she said that she hadn't been hungry.
"Where are you going?" Two of the Voices had blocked our path and was standing with imperious expressions, staring at us. "She is not permitted to leave this area."
"Is she not your Queen?" I replied. "She has put up with your torture and borne your children ... is it too much to ask for her to have the chance to see the planet we have landed on? As a human she has never been anywhere else. I think she deserves this little privilege, doesn't she?"
"She might try to run away," the other replied, suspiciously. Shelley laughed aloud.
"With my leg in plaster, near enough complete paralysis , on an alien planet with no way to get home? I hardly think so. I only want to see it. For goodness sake, it's not that big a deal." She laughed again. "Anyone would think you were scared of me."
"We will come with you," they said at last. "You need an escort. All Queens must have an escort, it is the rules. You are our power."
Shelley rolled her eyes. I knew what she would have said if she could: Yeah, yeah, whatever. Like that's true. If I was your 'power', surely you wouldn't keep me prisoner all the time? But she kept quiet, and as the two Voices fell into step behind us we came closer and closer to the hatchway.
I unlocked it, manoeuvring Shelley into one arm as I did so, so that I could turn the metal wheel. It turned with a clunk and we were out in the fresh air.
Straight away Michelle threw up her arm in pain, shielding her face -- she didn't even notice that it was moving. "It hurts!" she cried. "It hurts. Doctor, please ... get me away from here."
"You have to stay here," I told her. "It's got high levels of oxygen. You'll be able to move again." But I knew it must be hurting: I remembered my own first day on an alien planet and the pain of the atmosphere ... here, of course, I was used to it, because my living quarters were well ventilated. But Shelley...
"It hurts. I can't see. Dr Jones, please get me inside..." Judging that she'd been subjected to enough pain, I pulled the door closed and we returned to Shelley's bedchambers. She was asleep as soon as I laid her down on the bed.