My legs wobble as I walk back to our quarters. I either experienced a long session and am in need of nutrient or … my legs shouldn’t wobble like this. I stand still, imagining my legs becoming firm again. My breathing is rapid, my palms are slick with sweat. I slowly look around. I have no way of knowing if the Nosram are watching me. I can only hope my momentary pause in the corridor isn’t drawing any unwanted attention. I focus my thoughts on the camaraderie I enjoyed with the Caysas as we sat outside around the fire pits at night, shadows flickering across each face — each different and unique face. Some Caysas had creases in their faces, or many creases, like Elder. The new ones, the offspring, captured my attention the most — they were small and unblemished. Their soft, smooth skin featured a light pink hue, unmarked by Caysatoil stains or harsh living conditions.
My normal breathing pattern returns and I continue my trek. What if the Nosram are watching me? What did they see in my behavior? In my favor is the lack of any visible problems. Once I return, I will blend in with the other scouts and hopefully lose the focus of those watching.
The door to our quarters opens in front of me. Something is amiss as all of the other scouts appear to be huddled together as though trying to form one body.
“Come quickly!” one of them exclaims when it sees me in the doorway. It motions me over to the cluster of bodies.
“It’s the new one,” it explains. “We were gone too long.”
There is much jostling as the others shift and crowd around it. For a moment, the scene looks like something from one of my missions; a ritual of some kind. Each one of them has a hand on what appears to be a chair. Although the chair resembles those around it, this one is grey streaked with white. I can barely make out some dark lines running through it, like the trace of seams where there shouldn’t be any. When I left, there were exactly one dozen chairs in our room, enough for each one of us. Now there are thirteen.
In the doorway I heard what sounded like a low hum resonating throughout the room, but as I draw closer I understand what the noise is. The other scouts are each telling about a mission. With all of the scouts talking at the same time and in the same tone it is like something akin to an incantation. While I mimic their motions and begin recounting my days among the Bormea, I can’t immediately comprehend what is happening here. I almost wonder if the incident in the corridor did something to alter my mind.
My hand rests on the top of the chair’s arc. I can feel the cool, processed material slowly begin to warm and soften under my touch. I glance around wondering if any of the other scouts are noticing a change.
As though in response to my unspoken question I hear, “It’s starting to come around,” from another.
“The room was empty when I came back,” comes another voice. “I thought it had gone in for training.”
“I came in after you,” says yet another. “I noticed there was an extra chair.”
My hand starts to sweat again as I finally comprehend the truth. Though, surrounded by all of the other scouts I have a difficult time concentrating. Why aren’t the others more … agitated? This new one could have been lost before it had even gone on a mission. The guards would have to come in here to take it away and we would have to start all over again with another new scout. Without initial training and the immediate and constant companionship of the rest of us to strengthen its abilities, the new scout lapsed into a sedated state amidst the solitude of our room. Without any control of its abilities, the scout adapted to its surroundings and became a chair. Were it not for the others coming back when they did, the shift to an inanimate object would have been permanent, a much more alarming fate than being recycled.
As we continue to surround and talk to the new scout and it slowly regains its original form, I think about what happened. Either the Nosram can’t see in here and don’t know what is happening or they allowed it to happen to see what our reaction would be. If they can’t see in here then we are free to behave however we want without being watched. If the Nosram allowed this scout to change into a chair, we might have come back too late to revive it. That would mean recycling and reprocessing this new scout. Such action would be highly inefficient of them. Did the Nosram make a mistake? Are they capable of making mistakes or lapses in judgment? Mistakes are signs of weakness and weaknesses can be exploited, or so the Commander has always told us.