Original Content Transcripts 2: Chapter 4

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Previous: https://arkmuse.org/threads/transcripts-2-chapter-3.317/

Written by Squiggle Story Studios (Michelle Hodgson), edited by Steeveeo (Steve Green)


It was clammy inside the tent.

Despite it being before dawn the Australian heat still permeated through the air. Salt and sand stuck to her skin, more sand clung to her dark, wood-coloured hair. Today was their last day on the beach, the next morning would be the long drive back to civilisation. Back to reality.

Jasmine rolled out of her sleeping bag and reached for the loose white linen shirt to throw over her bikini top. A few more of her clothes were strewn around the floor of her one-man tent. It was too hot for jeans, even if they were fashionably short, so her slightly damp board shorts from the night before would have to do.

She hastily pulled her shoulder-length hair back into a bun, retrieving a hairpin lost in her locks to hold back the rogue fringe from falling in her face and tucking whatever couldn’t be held back safely behind her ear. With one final yawn she exited her shelter, greeted with the still, seawater-scented air.

The ocean beyond was flat, waves lapped at the shore with barely a sound, the sky tinged purple with the threat of the oncoming sun. Jasmine stole a quick glance around the campsite. Three tents tucked beside a rusty Pajero, a car almost as old as the young adults who drove it out into the bush. A kitchen fly protecting them from the ocean winds. And four mangled camping chairs sunk into the white sand around the campfires embers.

Jasmine looked out towards the ocean, a lone figure stood on the shore with a fishing rod. Warren was fishing, and for a moment, she wondered if he had even gone to bed that night. She glanced back at the tents, Katy and Chamkov were still sleeping, or at least they weren’t ready to show their faces to the public.

Alone and hungry, she made the decision then and there to raid the last of the food. All the good stuff had been eaten days ago, and fish for breakfast was getting a little old. The last thing untouched was a bottle of pancake mix, so she brushed most of the sand out of the frying pan and washed it with a little of the melted ice water from the bottom of the esky. The heavy metal skillet still had traces of bacon grease, but that would only serve to make the batter better.

Jasmine sat in front of the campfire, raspberry jam and butter to her left, pancake mix and spatula on her right, skillet resting in the dying embers of last night’s fire. She shook the two liter bottle of premade mix, pouring out small dollops of batter, no bigger than her palm, into the pan. Pikelets really. The creamy mixture bubbled and sizzled nicely, bacon grease crisping the edges while the batter rose to fluffy heights. They even behaved when she flipped them over, not a single one stuck to the surface and all had a delicious, golden brown glow.

She made a note not to share the first batch with anyone.

Jasmine slid the first lot of pancakes onto a plate in her lap, smothering them in butter and sticky sweet jam. The first bites were glorious, sugar and salts collided in her mouth with the hint of bacon combined with vanilla; the texture heavenly crispy, yet fluffy. She quickly gobbled up the next two, so entranced with the delicacy that she didn’t even notice Warren had since abandoned his fishing experience and trudged up the beach to return to camp.

“You going to save us any to eat?” he joked, planting his Shimano rod into the sand and fixing his chair to sit by the fire.

Jasmine swallowed the last gulp of her fourth pikelet, and smirked. “Well,” she began, with a quick glance over her shoulder to the tents behind them, “I think Katy and Chamkov are busy eating each other, but if you ask me really nicely,” she grinned, “I’ll make you a fresh batch!”

Warren chortled, reaching into the camping chair’s cup holder to pull out the crushed box of cigarettes, lighting his first smoke of the day (or last of the night?) on the embers. The light of the dying fire cast shadows on his long face, dirty blond hair sat scruffily on his head, the scratched pair of sunglasses he had worn the entire trip were folded over the collar of his singlet.

Jasmine peered into his brown eyes, warm and golden like the fire. He smiled at her as he let out his first puff of smoke, politely blowing it down camp. It was the only thing she wasn't too keen on, smokes destroyed your taste buds after all.

“You’re full of surprises, you know?” Warren stated, watching her put more butter in the pan, "I was scared to say ‘boo’ to you a few weeks ago, you bounce back quickly!"

“Yeah well, I’m sure you’ve come back from worse...” she dismissed.

“Hey,” he said pointedly, grabbing her attention, “Just because I got my ass shot doesn’t mean you’ve had it easy! Life’s going to keep throwing shit at you and it doesn’t care if you get back up or not. But as long as you don’t give up and keep on fighting, you’ll be fine.”

Jasmine nodded thoughtfully and began pouring more batter into the pan. Warren took another drag of his smoke and let it out with a subtle laugh. “I mean, you’re tough enough to try and work in a kitchen; I’m not that brave!”

“What? Are you saying that working a kitchen is tougher than Afghanistan?”

“Yeah nah, I’m saying you couldn’t pay me enough to deal with fucking customers.”

Jasmine nearly knocked over the plate in her lap from laughing. “Too right!” she cackled, flipping over the pancakes.

The warm glow of the campfire began to fade with the encroaching dawn's light, the bright sun glimmering on the white powdered dunes. Jasmine handed Warren his plate of breakfast and began preparing the rest.

“Man, that sun is bright…”

-*-

The security lights seared Jasmine’s corneas, her face stuck to the smooth floor and her back felt as though she had been tossed out in the garbage.

Light and noise were torture, it had been a long time since she had been this hungover. She had underestimated the potent mix of pure ethanol and the only alien drink that wasn’t water. Jasmine’s mouth tasted like someone had thrown a meat and mint milkshake out in the sun and then forced her to drink it.

It hurt to exist.

Soft voices vaguely mumbled somewhere in the distance and she heard her name. The recognised word struck a nerve and the translator got to work making her life even more miserable. Several voices bounced around in her skull; the aliens, the translators, and her own mind rioted for attention. Groaning in pain, the human finally stirred, pulling her aching body to sit up. Another body stirred next to her, a warm and heavy head resting in her lap. Her hands instinctively reached for comfort and her nose breathed in the familiar musty smell of Spade’s fur.

Staring at the company surrounding her, Jasmine’s eyes forced her to face the reality of the situation. Gone were the white sandy beach and salty warm air. Blue skies and ocean replaced by a sea of cold white tiles.

“Jasmine, are you in pain?” The gentle question belonged to her friend Xant. The human was drawn towards the alien doctor. Sleek black skin covered his long face and snout, ears perked up like eagle feathers on the top of his head, warm brown eyes looked at her, concerned. She'd never noticed the speckling under his eyes, before.

Xant had freckles.

Jasmine nodded her head, unable to do more than one thing at a time. “(Yes),” her translator broadcast for all to hear. The internal neural translator reverberated inside her skull, causing her to wince even further.

“Jasmine, I have some depressors to stop the pain,” he offered her. Jasmine nodded again, accepting the offer of relief. Xant reached for her arm, but instead of the rubber gloves he normally wore, his four-fingered hands were cold, hard… He was wearing some sort of power armour.

She barely felt the needle pierce her skin, but she certainly felt the cool bliss of alien pharmaceuticals hit her system. Cooling liquid coursed through her veins, soothing the aches and reinvigorating her senses. She took in a sharp breath and her eyes shot open.

“Oh damn!” She exclaimed.

Xant’s ears wiggled a little, he seemed pleased with her reaction. “How do you feel now?” he asked her.

“Much better, thank you.” She paused, allowing her brain to process the sight of the Doctor. “What are you wearing?”

Xant looked down at himself, and gave a shuffling, almost embarrassed gesture. “It is… protective equipment,” he reasoned. “The Director was generous enough to provide a citizen like myself with Military Grade Freq Armour, in case your emotional state remained volatile.”

Jasmine shook her head ever so slightly. “No, I think I’m over most of it now, there’s not much left in me to let out…” Her eyes regained focus, and her chest sunk when she saw where she was: the security training room. The last time she was in that large empty room was right after the confrontation with another doctor. Jasmine was surprised by how many were in the room with her this time around.

Xant was not the only one by her ‘bedside’. Executive Director Laandi sat with her long thin legs folded neatly underneath her elegant frame, black, almond eyes closed as she nodded her grey head. A hand across her chest as she greeted the human.

“That is a relief to hear, Miss Howe, we were concerned that you may have damaged yourself beyond repair.”

Jasmine shook her head. “No, no,” She reassured her companions, “I mean, what I did was incredibly stupid, but that Depressor stuff is the best hangover cure ever!”

“Your grace?” To her right sat one of the twin Arvas guards. Six insectoid eyes in a lowered gaze lifted when she noticed him. He sat on his legs, four arms rested on top like a disciplined soldier. Black and orange uniformed armour looked out of place against his dull brown shell. “If I might be so bold, your presence has dulled. Have you Freq-fried yourself?”

Jasmine blinked then looked to Xant to explain. “Freq-fried?”

“In cases of extreme Freq-aggression, the Arvas species can permanently damage themselves from over-broadcasting their frequency pulses.” Xant explained, his ears flattening as he added, “Your own presence has certainly dimmed since your explosion.”

“Explosion..? Oh.” Jasmine’s heart sunk.

Frequency, Freq, Freq-aggression, it was all alien talk for emotional strength. Apparently, the range of human emotions had proven rather volatile to most aliens; happiness made them giddy, anger could shut down their entire bodies. The “explosion” Xant spoke of was Jasmine’s terrible cry of absolute despair. Laandi had been the one to inform her of how Jasmine arrived at the research station for study, how she had been abducted by the unfeeling Rajava, and the most likely fate of those she loved, indeed everyone on Earth.

Jasmine, by her own reasoning, was probably the last, intact human alive.

“Well,” Jasmine answered the guard and doctor, “The answer is: I don't know.” It was the truth. Hours ago she was still holding out hope that there were others like her, that she would be able to go back home, that maybe there were other human abduction survivors.

But that wasn't a possibility with the Rajava. To them, humans and other sentient beings were little more than organic building blocks to be broken down and reconstructed for their own gain. They stripmined planets and repurposed them for their own nefarious intentions.

She looked to her companions then down to her bare feet. “I’ve lost everything. My home, my family, friends... It’s a lot to take in. I don’t think I’ll ever be the same again.”

“That is unfortunate to hear,” Xant answered, dismayed. “Your lighter disposition will be missed.”

Jasmine frowned, quick to correct him. “I’m not saying I’ll never be happy again. It’s probably going to be a while before I am, though. What I mean is,” she closed her eyes and sighed, collecting the millions of thoughts floating in her brain, “No one is waiting, and no one is coming for me. I can’t keep pretending that someone is going to show up and solve all my problems. I cant keep sitting back and let things get out of control.” Her sore eyes opened with the familiar determination Xant had seen before, moments after announcing her proclamation of hope to the universe. “I may be the only one left, but I don’t have to go it alone. I’m going to need all the help I can get.”

Xant’s ears stood up pleasantly as he nodded his head low. “And I will do everything I can, just as you asked,” he assured her.

All present began to stare, stunned by Xant’s forwardness.

“As I asked? When did I ask?” Jasmine inquired.

“You were... intoxicated, but you asked for Captain Rynard and my help to preserve your vitality for life and to ensure no other being has to suffer as you have done!” Xant answered proudly.

“I did?” Jasmine was unconvinced that she would have been able to articulate anything close to that while completely legless.

“You were VERY intoxicated.” Xant reiterated. “Does intoxication in humans prevent long/short term memory committal?”

“It’s common side effect,” she ashamedly admitted, “But I don’t think I’ll ever be getting that drunk again, despite the awesome hangover cure.” She couldn’t afford to lose track of herself anymore.

“Regardless, as long as I am able, I will be at your side, Jasmine,” Xant emphasised.

Jasmine pulled a smile, and a small rush of warmth tickled Xant’s chest, but it faded as quickly as it had come.

“Which, may not be very long I’m afraid.” Laandi interjected, breaking the pleasantries.

“What? Why?” Jasmine demanded shortly.

Laandi looked to Xant. “Did you not inform Miss Howe?”

“She was VERY intoxicated,” Xant reiterated.

“Inform me of what?” Jasmine almost snapped, dreading being blindsided by even more terrible news. Spades stared pointedly at Laandi, picking up on his namegiver’s displeasure and expressed his own with a low growl.

“Lieutenant Commander Nako is on his way-” Laandi began.

“Oh right, the military guy.”

“Yes, but I’m afraid after your last Freq-pulse incapacitated half the station’s staff.” Laandi tilted her head in polite submission. “There is no reasonable way you will be able to stay in our custody.”

“So I’ll be shipped off to a secret government facility,” Jasmine replied dully. “Figures.” The was another brief pause, as both Laandi and Xant suppressed their confusion.

“You’re taking this better than I had anticipated.” Xant informed her, “Military environments are far more strictly controlled, I thought such a restriction would be uncomfortable for you?”

“Honestly, if any of you guys had showed up on Earth it would have been the first thing we would have done… If you didn’t get shot first.” The aliens exchanged wary glances at each other.

“Miss Howe,” Laandi put forward, “All of us, with the exception of Captain Rynard, are citizen grade. We will not be allowed to accompany you in the transfer.”

“So, your saying that after the Lieutenant shows up. We won't be in contact afterwards…”

“That is the most likely outcome.” Laandi nodded, as though she was doing Jasmine a service.

Jasmine groaned, rubbing her face with her hands. Aliens, she had come to the conclusion, had no concept of pacing bad news.

“Laandi, can you do me a favour? Just, stop trying to keep me informed.” She snorted dispiritedly at her own bluntness. “I’m sure you’ve got more important things to do.”

“Not presently I don’t,” Laandi replied, oblivious to human social cues. “Until the Company Asset Assessor arrives to clear us of any corruption, Xant, myself, and the Guardsman are confined in quarantine alongside you.”

Xant, being privy to Jasmine's more subtle emotions, stepped in as the human’s face contorted with frustration and confusion.

“Forgive me of informing you, Jasmine, but Chief Medical Officer Krydon has found evidence that exposure to your Freq may have caused some interesting neurological side effects. Until this matter has concluded we are under quarantine.”

“Great, so I’m officially a walking biohazard!”

“A minor set back and misunderstanding, nothing more,” Xant replied with calm confidence. “I have plenty of evidence of my own to support your cooperation with Esaander and a willingness for compromise. That is far more than most rogue individuals have ever expressed under questioning.”

Neither Jasmine’s frustration or confusion dissipated as Xant had hoped, his explanation only served to bring her more questions.

“Wait, what has my willingness and cooperation got to do with you guys being in quarantine?”

“Jasmine, your emotions can cause damage to others. We designate that as Bomb-Type Freq Aggression.” Xant broke down the explanation as best he could, realising that she had no contextfor the quarantine. “But you also have a very strong Command Freq impulse. Command Freq is the ability to give orders to those around you; with enough force and conviction you could very well order Laandi, myself, or even the captain to do as you wish,” he gestured to Suk. “You have already commanded Privates Arc and Suk while amidst your Freq Aggression incident with Dr. Duuarn.”

Guilt flushed Jasmine’s cheeks at the mention of Duuarn, but she nodded in acknowledgement.

“Command Freq is Military Grade, reserved for installation in Military units and a natural occurrence within Arvas Leaders. We are in quarantine because, should you will us to harm others on the station, we may not have the ability to resist.”

Xant watched as Jasmine’s eyes widened with comprehension, a new power revealed to her.

“You mean I can…?”

“Command our actions? Yes, but I know that is not in your nature.” Xant’s ears twitched happily as he recalled how much restraint she had shown in the past. “Even when commanding your dogs, you do so with compassion and humility. ”

Jasmine looked down to the obedient Spades, to her hand resting on his head, ruffling his fur.

“I need to speak to the Acting Director and clear this up. Immediately!”

Next: https://arkmuse.org/threads/transcripts-2-chapter-5.339/
 
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