Scene 36 – Quiritationis

QUIRITATIONIS

KATHERINE

My name is Katherine Lisbon. It is not ‘Kat,’ but people called me that even before I became a fel, so I really shouldn’t expect them to stop now. Being mute makes it hard to argue, anyway.

I had woken up strapped down in a van, but before I had a chance to try and free myself I had been unbuckled and dragged into a lab. The last thing I remembered was the fight with Akane, in the burning building. Why had she attacked me?

There was a song in the back of my mind, more beautiful than anything I had ever heard. Something was wrong with it, though—pieces were missing, notes out of tune. It was beautiful, but it could be so much more.

I tried to sing it to Akane, but she didn’t react. She just continued to pin down my arm, while Ling kept hold of the other. I had fought Akane before. Why had she attacked me? I didn’t understand. I had tried to ask her, but she hadn’t responded.

Of course. I was mute. They couldn’t hear me. Why had I forgotten that? Everything was getting fuzzy…

How long ago had that been? It was getting hard to think. I had never spoken much to start, so I hadn’t cared much when I took a bullet to the throat.

They tried to fix it, but vocal cords were tricky things, and back then the toy maker was a bit simpler. Now it would probably be easy, but I honestly liked it. If you can’t talk, no one expects you to.

I saw Derek, looking down on me with a sad expression on his face. He wasn’t wearing a shirt, so I could see the large, bloodstained bandage across his chest, as well as a smaller one on his neck.

He was saying something. I could hear him, but I didn’t care enough to understand. Would he know the missing parts of the song?

Maybe…maybe that’s what he was saying. Maybe he was trying to tell me about the song right now.

With regret, I pushed the music to the back of my mind and concentrated on his voice. I still tried to sing, still tried to show everyone around me how beautiful it was, but it was more an unconscious action than anything else. It was no different than twiddling your thumbs.

“She hasn’t tried to transform?” he asked someone I couldn’t see.

I heard another voice. “No. That’s not that odd. A number of the captured screamers don’t use their powers unless threatened. They seem to vary between aggressive and merely defensive. Luckily, she is defensive.”

It was Doctor Isaac Clarke’s voice. That distinct, breathy excitement, like everything was the most important thing in the world…it was unmistakable.

Derek looked at me closer. “Is it just me, or is she thrashing less?”

“The defensive ones are smarter. She probably realized she couldn’t escape, and decided to conserve energy. Henry, get the clamps.”

A large man came into my vision, and I felt cold metal bands around my arms. I heard the sound of a power screwdriver, fastening me to the steel slab I was laying on.

“I doubt that will keep her contained if she transforms,” Laura’s voice pointed out.

“We don’t know enough about this power,” Clarke retorted. “She might not be able to wriggle out of this. Either way, we’ll get her in a cage as soon as possible.”

“Shouldn’t you be resting?” Ling asked from my left side, with a slight lisp. I noted blearily that she seemed to be missing a few teeth. The toy maker would fix that soon enough. She was looking at Derek. “You lost a lot of blood.”

He waved his hand. “I’ll be fine.”

“We can handle this,” Kelly said from behind me. I couldn’t see her, but I could feel her shadow. “Go to sleep.”

He sighed. “Okay, okay.” He pointed at Ling and Akane. “But you both need to get some attention too. You guys got banged up pretty bad.”

They both left without another word, and I found myself singing louder again. Derek was clever. He would know the missing parts. I should have asked him when I had the chance.

The others were talking, but I wasn’t interested. I had to share the song. They couldn’t hear me. What could I do?

Change.

That would be a good idea. But why hadn’t I thought of it before?

Change.

It wasn’t my thought. It took me a moment to parse it, but it was an alien word, reverberating under the song. I knew I shouldn’t listen to it. I’m cautious by nature, and a sourceless voice in my brain wasn’t going to change my mind.

Change.

I changed.

It was a strange feeling, one that is difficult to describe. As my body dissolved into black smoke, I felt as though I had slipped into a cool pool of water. All my sensations disappeared, leaving behind nothingness. I couldn’t see or hear or feel. It wasn’t particularly unpleasant, but it wasn’t quite enjoyable either. It simply was.

But it faded quickly, as the smoke re-coalesced in a new shape.

I was smaller now, out of the restraints, and all the color had bled from the environment. I flapped my wings and flew off the table, fluttering past a shocked Akane.

I could feel…something. Some energy, some power source in my gut draining fast. I needed to escape, to share the song, before it emptied completely.

But I was trapped in a room, a lab twenty feet wide and long. There was nowhere to run to.

My reservoir depleted while I was circling one of the dim lights in the ceiling, and I instantly reverted to my original form. I landed on the floor easily; I’ve always had good reflexes, even before I became a fel.

I looked at my friends and the doctor, clustered around the table I had just fled. They eyed me warily.

Kill.

Now, hold on. Why would I want to do that? These were my friends, and even if Clarke was annoying, he hardly deserved to die. The thing with Akane was probably just a misunderstanding. Besides, I just wanted to share the song. They could hardly fill in the blanks if they were dead.

Kill.

No, I didn’t think so. Instead, I backed slowly into the corner of the room, keeping an eye on my friends. They weren’t armed, except for Akane, but they were still dangerous if they decided to attack for some reason.

Kill.

No. I wouldn’t. Not now.

As soon as I thought that, I felt a sense of freedom. The song eased in my mind, and I began to think more clearly. I quickly realized the implications.

I had thrown off the compulsion! If I could do it, so could others. It wouldn’t be easy, but with patience we could cure everyone. We just had to give them something to fight for, a reason to push aside the song.

Then my body lunged forward.

I tried to stop. I mentally hit the brakes as hard as I could, but nothing happened.

It wasn’t under my control any more. It was like my body belonged to someone else entirely. I could only watch as I attacked my friends, and Akane slashed at my legs, trying to immobilize me as quickly as possible.

Now it made sense. If throwing off the song was truly so easy, I wouldn’t have been the first one. No, the ‘defensive’ screamers were simply those who had been completely seduced by the song, and retained some semblance of intelligence behind it. The ‘aggressive’ ones, the far more common variety, were those who tried to fight the compulsions, and were rendered prisoners in their own bodies because of it.

Collaborator or slave. No choice at all, really.

The lights suddenly flashed, and I felt pain through my nighteyes. My body stumbled back, dazed. Before it could recover, Akane hit it hard in the center of the forehead with the hilt of her sword.

Unconsciousness swept over me like a warm blanket.

Behind the Scenes (scene 36)

Loga (the screamer changeling) went through a similar process as this when he was turned. Everyone does. And they never remember if they are cured.

Of course, there’s only one way to cure a screamer, and the Composer has made that option pretty much impossible. Sure, he/she/it/they has a few more obstacles that way, but that’s fine with him/her/it/them.

Extra update Wednesday.

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