Hello readers! I am happy to present chapter 14 of my current work-in-progress, and also happy to report that I have been writing actively. That means that the next two chapters are complete and the third is well under way.
If you are new to this series, Paradise is the working title of my sci-fi WIP. It’s the story of a man named Rick in one world and Roman in another. Plagued with memory loss, he can’t be entirely sure which world is the real one. Chapter 13 gave him hope that maybe he was finally starting to put the pieces together. Let’s see what happens next.
Max moved me out of the med bay the following day. She said she was sick of my smell stinking up the place. Maybe that was her attempt at humor, but Sam was happy to move me into our private quarters. She found a small office near the center of the bunker and turned it into a home for us.
To say it was a home wasn’t a fair description, at least not as far as creature comforts were concerned. They had been able to find some mattresses in the complex, though they barely qualified as mattresses. About the thickness of two of my fingers and wreaking of mildew and years of dust, they provided little relief over lying directly on the cold cement floor.
Sam said I was too quiet, and for several days I am sure that I was. Peadar hung heavily on my mind. My only memories of him were from the compound, but none of that had been real. I couldn’t remember the real Peadar and that truth was devastating.
“Were we close?” I asked Sam late one night. We had both been pretending to sleep. There wasn’t much to occupy our time in the bunker. No one had ventured out since the last of us arrived for fear they would lead the Plax back to our new hiding spot.
“You were closer to his brother. Mical stood witness when we were married.”
Married. Another memory I didn’t have.
“Tell me about Mical.”
“There’s not much to say. I never did know him well. He was bigger than Peadar.”
“Bigger?” I interrupted her. Peadar was huge.
“Yes,” she laughed a little. “He was at least a head taller than Peadar. Something about the Hyatt treatment reacted differently with him. He was scary smart and had no trouble picking up us normal mortals with one hand.”
“The Hyatt made him bigger?”
“I’m sure he was big to start with,” she told me. “The Hyatt didn’t bother to invest time in small or weak individuals. The bot infusion made him grow bigger. He would have been very uncomfortable in this bunker, if he could even get here at all. Some of those passageways were pretty small. If he were here, he’d have to always walk a little hunched over or he’d be constantly hitting the ceiling and lights with his head.”
It didn’t seem possible that I could forget such a mountain of a man.
“He was very protective of you,” she went on. “He even tried to stop you from marrying me.”
“He did? Why?”
“Mical wasn’t sure I could be trusted. Though really, I don’t think he trusted anyone outside of you and Peadar. The Hyatt had broken him and that made him suspicious and paranoid.”
“Paranoid and smart. That doesn’t sound like a good combination.”
“No, it definitely could have been very different. Had he not been intent on protecting Peadar, I shudder to think what the Hyatt would have turned him into. Had he come after us, none of us would have been able to stop him. In the end, even the Plax had a hard time.”
The Plax. I hadn’t thought about them in a while.
“In the compound, they were shapeshifters.”
“They who?” she asked me.
“Shapeshifters?” She sat up to look at me. Even in the dark I could see a new fear in her eyes. “What do you mean?”
“Um, that they could change shape.” I did my best to sit up. “Vann, the leader in the compound. He was Plax. So were Gregg and Todd. They were also the white tigers I kept seeing.”
She was still looking in my direction, but I got the distinct impression she was no longer talking to me.
“Relax.” I reached out to touch her arm. “It wasn’t real. It was just some sort of construct.”
“I have to find Max.”
“Wait. What’s going on?”
Sam was already on her feet, but I was still struggling to sit upright.
“This could change everything.” She was oblivious to me.
“Sam, stop!” She was already out the door but stopped and looked back at me.
“Roman.” She said my name and stopped. It didn’t make sense what was going on. She decided it was a good idea for me to go with her and helped me to my feet.
Max was asleep in the med bay. No one had ventured out of the bunker so there were no injured filling the beds. I realized she wanted me out so she could have some privacy.
“Max, you gotta wake up.” Sam walked up to her and shook her awake.
“What’s wrong?” Max sprung to her feet ready for any emergency.
“What if they’re shapeshifters?”
Max shook her head as if to clear it. “Shapeshifters?”
“Yes!” There was an earnestness in Sam’s voice that I did not understand.
Max looked at me. “What on earth is she talking about?”
“The Plax,” I told her.
Something clicked in Max and she sat back hard on the bed where she had been sleeping. “Then everything..” she didn’t finish.
“Changes!” Sam shouted. “Everything changes!”
“Everything,” Max repeated.
Closing author note: What do you think of the story so far? I am eager to hear your comments! Please keep in mind this is a first draft that I am sharing as I write it. Please be kind as to editing and inconsistencies. Everything will be fixed before a final version is made available.
Until next week…