Episode 3: Haley the Space Assassin Despirately Needs an Aspirin

Haley woke-up on a beach. She knew this beach; she knew it well. The hot sand burned her toes. The ocean in front of her seemed to wave at her like a big inviting friend, promising relief. She was fifteen again. She remembered she, and her mom, had just bought a brand new swimsuit for the occasion. She had pressed her mother for a string bikini, but her mom kept insisting on a more modest swimsuit, something Haley was convinced a nun would wear on a beach vacation. Ultimately, they reached a diplomatic solution which would keep both of them happy. A hot pink tankini, a straw sun hat that was ironically cute, and a pair of new sunglasses.

As she walked, her father trudged along beside her, making a joke, maybe for the hundredth time, about how they were never coming back to Virginia Beach ever again. Everyone knowing it was his favorite place on planet earth. Towards the beach she saw people swimming, children screaming with joy, ships cruising out to some exotic port with their containers, sailboats, powerboats, and lifeguards all going about their normal beach routines. The smells of beach, food, and salt water stung their noses. She had to admit that she loved the beach too. There was something magical about this place. Her sister, younger than her, trudged along, silently, beside them. She, in sharp contrast to the rest of the family, hated the beach.

Putting their stuff down, they set up their small encampment. A small shade tent was erected, and beach towels were unfurled. Dad fell into his beach throne, to keep close eye on his sandy domain. They all took their normal places, and roles, in this family tradition which had gone from an annual, to a biannual, to an every possible weekend, event. They even sometimes came in December, when the weather was nice.

Haley walked towards the water, but it felt different than every other time she had been here. With every step she felt like there was a growing magnetism between her feet and the sand. No matter how much force she put behind her steps the beach seemed to want to hold her in place. The act of walking itself was becoming an increasing burden. The water, which never ceased the droning sound of waves, crashing against the shore line, as it had done since the beginning of time, seemed to grow farther away at each step. She started running as the sounds of the waves, and the heat from the sun, and the scorching of the sand suddenly grew intolerable.

The crashing of the waves echoed in her ears, displacing all other sounds the beach had to offer. The sounds of the waves were inviting, and mesmerizing.

thump, thump … thump … thump … thump

thump, thump … thump … thump … thump

As she ran, the faces, towels, umbrellas, ships, even the smells themselves passed away. She found herself, inches from the water’s edge. One more step and she would make it. Behind her the world had fallen away. All of the people were gone, everything had vanished. She wanted to cry out for her mother, but there was nothing to see except a desert, ending in ocean. Even the buildings had succumbed to lumbering hills of sand.

She stood there, looking out into the water, staring at the waves. She was now naked, no longer a girl of fifteen, but a woman of twenty. Naked for all the world to see, but there was no world, to see her. No people, no cities, no roads, nothing. Just her, the sand, and the water made up her world now. But still, she knew she had to stick her toe in the water. She was compelled to do it. Like doing so would suddenly link her to not only the past, but also the future. She felt that if she just dipped her toe in, she could find a way back to the world she was a part of. She reached her foot forward and for a brief moment, felt the cold water of the Atlantic overtake her food. It sent a sudden chill of electric vibrancy through her body.

thump, thump … thump … thump … thump

thump, thump … thump … thump … thump

Haley woke with a start. She couldn’t see a thing. The room she was in was dark, save for the glow of a panel on the wall, and a few colored lights that blinked on and off in nonsensical patterns. Occasionally, the panel issued a beep which sounded like the completion of some unknown diagnostic routine. Perhaps the diagnostic routine was designed to ensure the nonsensical patterns of lights were still flashing nonsensically.

For a moment she didn’t move. Trying to remember the last thing she saw or heard. Searching her brain for some sort of answer, she winced at the pain radiating from the back of her head. Dammit, that stupid Bagorian. She remembered suddenly, the card, the black card. The one she was never supposed to see. That guy was a space assassin, on a mission to earth, or something.

She picked her hands up off the cold metal table and started feeling her body.

Arms … check

Legs … check

Torso … check

Head … crap that hurts … check

Everything seemed to be there, in working order. It really didn’t explain why she was alive though. She suddenly remembered the only class she had on run-ins with the assassins. It was simple. Assassin’s served one function in the galaxy. To kill people their organization felt were undesirable. There’s no need to tell you more because, if you meet one you are either a target, or collateral damage. They would kill you. But, don’t worry, the chances of you actually meeting one were so astronomically against, we don’t really need to discuss the matter further. Suddenly, Haley regretted not raising her hand and insisting the teacher go into more detail.

She, cautiously, swung her legs around to the side of the table, or bed, she was on. Thankfully, they still seemed to respond to her commands, and soon her feet were just barely touching, what felt like, the deck of a ship. Cautiously she stretched and wondered how long she’d been out.

The pain in her head seemed to subside slightly by the act of sitting up, but it didn’t leave completely.

thump, thump … thump … thump … thump

thump, thump … thump … thump … thump

In the darkness she heard a metallic noise, sounding vaguely like an engine. She had no idea where she was, or really how she got there, but there was one thing she was certain of, she was, most likely, on a Bagorian ship.

She’d only been to space twice before. Once on a small transport vessel to make a weird delivery to the dark side of the moon. What made it weird were her instructions to leave the delivery on a rock, take the money, and leave. The second time was on a familiarization flight in school for The Service. It was just around Pluto and back, but it was three days. Long enough to get used to life aboard a space craft and for her to understand basic ship procedures.

“Hello? Is anyone there?” she said.

“Yes ma’am, how may I be of service?” a bright voice suddenly erupted from somewhere in the dark.

“Oh good, someone is there.” Haley suddenly realized the voice might not be a friendly voice at all, but it was too late to worry.

“Where am I?”

“Well, you are sitting on a medical bed, in the medical bay, of a starship. To be more precise, we are presently at a full stop, outside a large asteroid. It’s actually quite lovely. The make-up of the asteroid is mostly crystalline structures. I think an earthling would call it amethyst, and—”

“Okay, okay, enough. So, we’re on spaceship.”

“Well, I figured that would be obvious because, you can’t be just floating around space on your own. You must be one of those impaired humans, I’ll speak slower. You are in spaaaace … you know … where spaceships live … me computer.”

“Okay, so you’re a computer, good, now we’re getting somewhere.”

“Yes … me computer … you huuuuuuuman”

“Why are you talking like that?”

“Because you’re retarded. Oh sorry … we’re not supposed to say that anymore. You slow human … me speak small words … we go slow … okaaaaaay?”

“Why don’t I get up off of this bed, find your control panel, and dump a bunch of water into your circuits. Then we’ll see who’s slow then? I’m confused, my head hurts, and I’m likely nowhere near my bed. So, stop being a jerk.”

“Okay, I apologize. No need to get snippy. My internal sensors are telling me there’s nothing wrong with you. I’ve scanned your whole body and with the exception of a slight concussion, you seem to be in perfect health. Would you like a diagnostic of your reproductive system? I have completely scanned your—“

“Oh, just stop! Look, don’t scan my … reproductive areas without my permission. So, you’re a medical computer I’m guessing, so maybe you can give me something for the headache? Do you have any aspirin?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Off to her right she could see a couple of the lights suddenly flash. A quiet beep issued from an annunciator panel announcing the end of some process.

“Can I get some lights please?”

“Lights at full power,” another, deeper, voice barked.

The room was suddenly flooded with a dizzying, and blinding light. Haley had to cover he eyes. She immediately felt the heat from the lights bear-down on her. She wondered if food under a warming light at the restaurant had the same reaction.

“Turn those lights down! You are so inconsiderate. She’s a human, they aren’t designed for that kind of lighting.” The medical computer snapped at an unknown entity, controlling the lights.

“Well, I never know,” the deep voice said. “Sometimes it’s hard to tell. We get so many different species on this ship I never know what to do.”

“If you had bothered to check the database you would know,” the medical computer shot back.

“Oh, I’m so sorry. I’m not a fancy medical computer like you are. I’m only responsible for lights, water, and heating. I’m so stupid. Maybe you should talk slow to me too then … you know you think you are so high and mighty …”

The computers appeared to be arguing with each other. Meanwhile, Haley cowered on the bed, trying to hide her eyes from the intense light and frightening heat being kicked off by the lamps. The two bickered back and forth for another twenty seconds until she couldn’t stand it anymore.

“Hey, you two! Earth girl, dying of heat exhaustion and going blind!” she said.

“Oh sorry,” the computer with the deep voice said.

Suddenly she felt the intensity of the heat from the lamps fade. She dared look out from her fingers to see the lights were a more comfortable, and more normal level of illumination. The room was mostly a polished silver color. There was a gold band running through the center of the room that seemed to serve no other function than as an aesthetic detail. The one panel on the wall appeared to be running a diagnostic on her. There were two other beds, unoccupied, which had dark panels behind them.

“Thank you. What ship am I on?” she said, taking the aspirin form the dispenser, and the little cup of water the computer had prepared for her.

“You are presently on the Bagorian vessel, Splendid Two,” the computer with the deep voice answered. “Anticipating your follow-up question, which I’m programed to do, you are presently docked with the Splendid One. But you should know—”

“Thanks, that’s enough for now. Who is the Captain of this vessel?”

“Ma’am, the present captain of this vessel is the Bagorian Leader, Trelax,” the medical computer answered.

Suddenly Haley’s brain reminded her of the paperwork for her last delivery. It was for a Mr. Xalert. Trelax spelled backwards. The Bagorians weren’t known to be the most creative folks in the galaxy. Maybe this guy Trelax can be duped into just taking her home.

“Alright, then what do I call you two yuck-yucks?”

“Yuck-yucks Ma’am?” the medical computer replied.

“Yeah, don’t you have names? How do I know what to call you or do I just yell out medical computer thing, I need something?”

The computer with the deep voice butted in, “Oh yes, I understand her question. I’m the Control and Analysis Regulation Computer, most people just call me Carl.”

“Hmmm … hmmm,” the medical computer sounded like it was clearing its non-existent throat. “I am the Medically Intelligent Computer Element. Mike for short. Pleasure to make your acquaintance.”

“Well, Mike and Carl, my name is Haley Meadows and I’m pleased to meet you as well. Now, thank you for the medicine, Mike, and the lights, Carl, but I need to get out of here so if you’ll excuse me.”

“But wait Ma’am, I mean, Haley,” Carl implored of her. “There’s something you need to know.”

“Thanks guys,” Haley replied, “but I think it is time to talk to this, Captain Trelax, and catch a ride home. People are going to start worrying about me.” She walked through the door which automatically opened with a whooshing sound and then closed behind her as she walked into the dimly lit hallway.

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