The Long Haul | Invulnerable pt 2 ch 2

For the next period of… weeks? …(it was hard to recon time) I was alone in my cell.


Part 2 - A Believer's Visitation

Chapter 2 - The Long Haul

For the next period of… weeks? …(it was hard to reckon time) I was alone in my cell.

Occasionally, Doctor — Her name, I learned from that first brief touch of the screen, was something like wings of iridescent morning-sky blue. Occasionally, Doctor Bluewings would come by, but she never again let me touch the screen she always had with her.

Regularly, I was let out, went down a corridor with the two guards, the only other beings I saw besides the Doctor, to a kind of gymnasium. The room was tall, and light, and a brief contact with a guard's screen told me I was expected to run, jump, exercise in that wide, high hall. While I was in the gym, my stores were replenished. Furs were replaced frequently. They had provided for all the comforts of home, if home is a jail cell with no shower. There was a sink, and soft chamois to bathe with, wonderfully soft felt-like towels.

I would try to talk to the Doctor, to the guards, try to bring them the Gift of peace, but it didn't work. They didn't get it. I had never had that happen. I just waited. Contentedly. Patiently. Plying them every day with that positive message.


One day, we arrived at the exercise room, and I caught a glimpse of two of my captor's people -- the only ones else I'd seen than the guards and the Doctor. They seemed to be a man and a woman, and they were flying down to the floor just as we walked in. They did not have on the usual long tunics, just a kind of loincloth-shorts, and I saw they were far more feathered than I realized.

And they flew! Beautifully! The two executed tight downward spirals and were out another door in a moment.

My guards were apparently very disturbed by this. I wasn't supposed to have seen that, I figured. They seemed scared. They chattered at each other a while, and I noticed they did not touch a screen, which all of them almost always did. They both looked at me. Then we went on into the gym.

And my routine of imprisonment went on normally.

Three times I was brought to a room down the hall from my own cell, not as far away as the gym. I was placed in a chair, incongruously a simple cheap plastic lawn chair from Earth, surrounded by large panels, like the screens, but all blank, save for a pastel glow of gradually-varying hues.

I was to sit in the chair.

Shadows moved behind translucent walls.

A prickly, staticky feeling.

And I was returned to my cell.

Somewhere stored in that alien device were bits and pieces of Paul's memories of his life before he became our Man.

He truly was amnesiac. He had no idea of any life before the day he headed for the city. But in the long solitude of the journey through the stars he began to recover glimpses of his past.

Moments of just playing with other children.

I had a family. Some women. Mother? Sister?

How, I wondered, could I forget?

And how could I remember?

Something bad happened. I can't remember what, but, it was right before I knew nothing bad could happen anymore.

There were flashes like these strewn among Paul's long wait, staring out at a barely-moving starscape.

But all through the long, slow weeks, one thought stayed foremost in my mind.

I had caught the thought from Doctor Bluewings that first meeting. An unshielded thought, which only happened because of her surprise when I refused to let go of the screen that day. I only caught the thought because she was afraid at that moment.

These things which I relate as being told to me by that alien recording, Paul's diary, I tell as a story, as an unwinding tale the way we read stories, but the device actually works by instantaneous transmission. All I am telling you I saw in a few moments, relived all his months of incarceration in seconds. Less.

So it was with the thought the Doctor had let slip.

I could tell she wasn't sure she had let it slip, whether I had caught it. She may have decided I wouldn't know what to make of it. Or maybe it wasn't going to matter. But whereas the guards would use the screens to tell me what to do (I never caught any other stray thoughts from them), Doctor Bluewings never again attempted to use her device with me.

But I had caught the thought.

War. Inter-planetary war. War across neighboring solar systems. War across races. My lizard-faced, bird-like hosts were at war with mammals.

She had been terrified of my mammalian-ness alone.

But there was more.

They were going to use me.

They were going to go into battle with the mammalian races and wipe them all out.

These names I give them, mammals, birds, their individual names, they're just my interpretations of Paul's interpretation of whatever he picked up on board the spaceship, like Bluewings.

Like General Silver Breast-Shield. There's no good way to say his name. He was leading the charge.

Paul wasn't thinking about war. He had a growing sense of humor about his incredible situation. He started calling the two guards Zach and Ike. Still, mostly, Paul simply felt sad that he couldn't bring the gift to anyone, although he kept trying.

And he wondered, how could he, how could I, be a weapon?