Kira's dream keeps coming back. Is it a warning? All she knows is that her destiny lies intertwined with the prison planet. Will Chavez understand? It is six hours away from rendezvousing with Dr. Winters, who will attempt to help Kira with her problems. But Captain Maddeson is on an intercept course to capture them and return them to the warden. Will they escape? Dr. Winters has diagnosed Kira with the Chameleon Effect and in an attempt to halt its progress, he will use Chavez's DNA.
Kira’s hearing was improving rapidly since being injected with the transposons. She was silently listening to Dr. Winters and Chavez from beyond the sliding doors to the bridge and decided her only chance of survival was to get to Planet 452. Kira would not be locked up on a ship in the middle of space. She’d had enough of being in prison! She didn’t understand all they were talking about, but as she looked at the back of her hands, she could see the tan mottling around her forearms and wrists. It was spreading fast! Kira could also feel something happening to her on the inside. Her awareness of things around her was heightened and each item or event was becoming a piece of her knowledge. It was as if her brain was working like a computer and identifying each new thing and how it related to her. Was this the Chameleon Effect at work? If it was, then she was far more advanced than Dr. Winters suspected. She was identifying and categorizing as she went. Kira realized that she had to protect herself from what others might do to her. She didn’t want to be anyone’s lab rat.
Right now her only option, aside from staying on the ship, was to take Dr. Winters’ shuttle and make a run for it. She wasn’t sure where she was in space, but anywhere would be better than being cooped up here, waiting to die! Then she had a thought; she would visit Chavez on the bridge and get a look at the star maps. They were individual computer chips plugged in and displayed on a computer screen. Chavez always kept the computer linked to the original maps as he traveled. Kira packed a few supplies into a shoulder sack, hid it in her quarters and headed for the bridge. When she arrived, Chavez and Dr. Winters were still deep in conversation, which halted abruptly when she passed through the double doors. She knew they were still talking about her, but it didn’t matter now. Wandering over to the map station, she was startled to see that all his original maps had been put away and the computer was organizing their mission.
“What happened to all your maps?” she blurted out, unrestrained. This was unacceptable! She needed those computer chips with the maps!
Both Chavez and Dr. Winters stared at her, but Chavez said, “Are you unhappy because of a little housecleaning? Dr. Winters is entering those new sectors into the computer for me. A tedious job which I have ignored.”
“But it gives me something to do on this journey.” Dr. Winters added, smiling.
Kira didn’t answer, but spotted what she needed on the computer readout. A map of the current sector was open and a blip showing their location flashed onscreen. She grinned as her own mind instantly made a copy of the sector.
“What’s so funny, Kira?”
Chavez had noticed her half-smile. Damn! Now she needed to make up something. “I’m just thinking how easy it would be to get lost without these maps.”
“And that’s funny?” Chavez said. He lifted an eyebrow and tilted his head as he stared hard at Kira.
Kira turned toward the double doors and gave Chavez a withering look. “Absolutely!” Then she was gone off the bridge with a sigh of relief. That man always made her feel disoriented and as if he could see right through her. For all their snapping and fighting, she found herself thinking that she would miss his company.
But right now she had another thought that was first and foremost to her. I need to find the shuttle. She didn’t know her way around the ship, but it was small enough that with her one prior exploration, she could sneak to the tail of the ship and find its docking port with veritable ease. All the way there, however, she was hearing Chavez’s voice in her head. Haven’t I tried to protect you? But Kira shook her head vigorously.
“No! You aren’t protecting me when you take me away from the only thing that will save me!” she shouted back at her thoughts. Kira knew that Planet 452 held the key to her release. She fought with her blank memory, trying to remember the tiniest thing about herself. Chavez had told her she had been programmed to return, but if that was so, why was she adapting to her surroundings out in space? She had been through the computer data files and had all the history of the quadrant. She could remember everything in the encyclopedia, but not one detail about who she had been before she woke up in prison.
Dismissing the disturbing thoughts, she began to run through the ship’s halls, anxious to be gone. She stayed away from the floor with the engine room, knowing that the computer would betray her to Chavez. Finally, on the lowest level, a door slid open and there, in the cargo bay, sat Dr. Winters’ shuttle.
“Thank you Dr. Winters!”
Kira smiled as she approached the ship. Thinking of all that needed to be done to launch the shuttle, she started to panic. But she had very little time before she got caught, so shaking off her feelings of fear, she forged ahead. Kira pressed her hand onto the shuttle’s computer readout and a sudden influx of information flew into her mind. She suddenly knew how to do this and in what order. It was simplistic! All she had to do was follow the steps in her brain. And she had to hurry!
Kira didn’t question how this information was transferred to her, or why. Her hands were shaking as she felt a thin webbing form between her fingers, while the mottling continued to change faster than before. Catching a glimpse of her reflection in the computer screen, she could see the mottling next to her eyes. It had changed the shape of her eyes. They were pulled up and out, so instead of being round, they were oval. She blinked with two sets of eyelids closing and saw that her iris color was now a shimmery blue-green.
Kira locked the shuttle door, depressurized the cargo bay and opened the outer doors into space. Step by step she released the interior drag lines, adjusted for pitch and yaw while she taxied out, then, when she was clear of the outer doors and the ship’s tail, she fired the engines and disappeared into the stars.
To be continued...
To be continued...