I am half-asleep when Osc enters my room to prep my attire for tonight’s banquet. My eyes, heavy with sleep, and my mind slowed by boredom, loss and inactivity, don’t readily take note of Osc’s hand movements. I have the vague impression that he’s repeating the gestures, moving closer as he does so, but I am unable to ascertain the meaning of them.
As my focus blurs and my eyelids droop I feel an ice cold band wrap around each of my wrists. It startles me enough to awaken. My pulse, which must have been barely detectable just moments ago, is now thudding rapidly as though to make up for the loss of beats. Shaking off the smothering sense of sleep, I realize I have lost all sense of time and place.
“What?” I ask, my voice nearly my own and not that of my Bormean counterpart.
Osc quickly flashes his true form of a scout to me to further my awareness as he releases his grip around my wrists. Then, after looking over his shoulder at the door, he leans in toward me. “You’re in danger,” he confides in a low tone.
The pace of my heart speeds up all the more and my breathing comes out in heavy pants as I shed all sense of sleepiness and take in this information.
“Tell me more,” I instruct him with hand motions.
Osc’s hands move quickly to tell me the news. “Carnesol plans on poisoning you at dinner tomorrow night before our departure for the next city. Soven and I may be poisoned as well. It’s supposed to be a slow-acting agent and one that will weaken us. Carnesol has hired some nefarious fellows to attack us while we’re out in wild. We’re meant to be abandoned in the wasteland.”
“He wants the tristal and the craft.”
I nod. “We’ll leave tonight instead,” I instruct him with gestures. “Smuggle out as much as you can. Alert Soven of our plans.”
“Thanks,” I murmur to him, since we don’t have a gesture for that word.
Osc’s eyes widen briefly, taking in this unexpected response, before he backs up and returns to his prep work.
“Have you decided which city you’ll visit next?” Carnesol asks me during our feast.
I turn toward Carnesol, seated now at the head of the table and I, now seated at his left, “Linamet.”
Carnesol nods. “From what I hear, it’s not even big enough to be called a city.”
The other Bormeas chuckle at his remark, barring their pointy teeth in dark amusement.
I shrug, “Then I’m sure they’ll be even more inviting to my presence.”
Carnesol glares at me for a moment before ripping the leg off of whatever poor creature was selected for dinner. Bringing the barely cooked limb to his mouth, he tears into the pink flesh with his teeth. Intermingled juice and blood dribbles down his face as he slurps at remnants barely hanging on to the bone.
“I’m going to go for one last ride around the city tonight. Is anyone interested in a ride?” I ask, trying to keep my tone casual. I try not to smile when all I receive are groans in response.
Turning back to Carnesol I remark, “I do hope you plan on something special for my farewell banquet tomorrow night.”
Carnesol’s expression wreaks of malevolence as focuses on me. “Oh yes, it will be quite special.”
I nod, “Good. I was hoping it would be memorable.”
As Carnesol chuckles considering his plot against me, I allow a smile to show on my own face thinking of his reaction when I best him yet again.
“Soven, show me how to direct these beasts and I’ll be on my way.”
We’ve left the city far behind and gone in the opposite direction than what Carnesol might suspect. Having considered this escape plan before, we’ve also driven the nasidors hard, to put some distance between us and the city as quickly as possible.
I continue with my instructions. “Once I’m on my way, go back to the city. Take on new forms and observe the reaction to our leaving. There’s a little time left yet before your part of the mission is over,” I tell the two other scouts as I look back and forth between them. “You have the scanner, see what else you can find out about the city.”
Even as the scouts nod, their forms are shifting to something else.
I ride back alone to the pickup site and wait for the shuttles. The craft, packed with as much samples as possible, will be taken back to the ship in a transport shuttle. Even the nasidors will be transported back. I’ll follow in a scout shuttle. While I wait, I start to shift back to my form. Since the Bormean form was such a large and bloated one, I’ve slowed down the shifting process to allow my skin time to adjust. Nonetheless, I feel some immediate relief over diminishing in size and shape. I can tell I am changing as the Bormean robe, which was once snug on me, is now becoming loose around my waist and arms.
I close my eyes letting the process take over and think back over my extended mission. Although abbreviated by a couple of days, I am ready to go back. The other scouts’ observation of the Bormeas’ reaction to our surprise departure will make for an interesting footnote in our reports.
Still, I can’t help sensing something is different about this mission. That when I leave, part of me will remain here. I open my eyes and look upward into the night sky, wondering if I can detect the shuttles arrivals. I can’t help but think not everything went as we planned on in this mission. For one, I can’t let go of my memories and attachments. How that will influence my behavior has yet to be seen.