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Chapter 1.1 Lyr Andraste

August 28, 2012

Lyr shook her head, counting to a hundred, as she waited for her eyes to adjust under the harsh light. The Njeri kept the cell bright on purpose, and she knew it was precisely because it kept her, and the other Sef, from getting comfortable.She raised one of her hands to cover her eyes as she sank deeper into the cot. Listening.

Three sets of boots were approaching.

Their rhythmic precision was almost unnerving, even if she was beginning to tell each guard apart just by his footfalls.

They stopped two cells down. A male. Lyr didn’t know his name.

She closed her eyes tighter trying to press the last bit of energy into knowing what was happening at the end of the hall. They were speaking something she couldn’t quite make out. She slowed her breathing, focusing. They’d given her a translator, but only when she was working with Dr. Clarke. Now, in her cell, she was depending on the words she hoped she’d picked up correctly during all her sessions.

“En— tests.” She frowned, unable to catch the first word.

“Difference from humans.” Human, that was what the Njeri called themselves.

“No more, please,” the male voice trembled, pleading and pathetic. He wasn’t speaking the Njeri tongue, and the guards laughed pretending ignorance, even though it was all too clear what he meant.

“Just a few questions.” She knew that phrase well. Too well, she thought, running a hand over the remnants from yesterday’s questions.

She heard the sharp crack of something hit the floor, and she flinched two cells down. She imagined she heard the automatic woosh of the door slide up, and the hum of the energy cuffs, and then three sets of boots were retreating. Their pace halting this time, carrying something, and she heard the familiar grind of legs dragging.

An involuntary sigh escaped her lips. It wasn’t her turn. Not yet. She tried to remember the last time she’d been hauled out, but she couldn’t recall how long she’d been asleep.

She opened her eyes, hoping that might give her some sign of the time. Maybe the flickering light in the corridor had finally gone black. Maybe there would be a corner of this cell offering some relief from the harsh white light.

No luck.

The cell was just as it had been when she’d fallen asleep: slick grey walls, cold floor, lone cot, and flickering hall light.

She rolled off her cot onto the floor pushing herself through her standard shipboard workout: push-ups, sit-ups, light calisthenics. Tikexik wouldn’t excuse her getting slow just because she was taken prisoner, even if it was his fault.

Her phori glowed a deep red at the thought of being trapped here. She knew it was too dangerous for a rescue; she was stuck, unless she could get out of this mess on her own. She ran through another set of reps, then another until she sat on the cold floor panting, her phori finally resuming their normal shade of cobalt blue.

She jumped hearing a lone set of boots approach her cell. She’d been careless. “Lyr,” It was Clarke, a xenoneuropsychologist. It was a mouthful even with her translator. She’d worked out he specialized in aliens, her in particular, and their brains. That was as in-depth as her translator would get, two weeks ago, and she still cursed it.

She rose at the sound of his voice feigning incomprehension.

He passed the translator to her, and she stuck it in her ear.

“Better?” he asked.

She nodded, mute until she needed to speak. She wasn’t going to give these Njeri anything unless she had to, who knew what they were doing with it.

He unlocked the door and the blue energy cuffs hummed to life. She frowned, no matter how long she fiddled with the cuffs she hadn’t been able to dissemble them. Damn Njeri technology.

“Did you sleep well?” he asked.

She nodded. She suspected they put a sedative in the food. It was the only explanation as to why she’d been able to sleep despite the constant light.

“Good. Are you ready to answer some questions?”

She kept her eyes straight ahead. He led her down the same familiar set of corridors to his office. Her eyes traced the residual patterns of faded light in the UV spectrum, the traces of other Njeri headed other places. If he would take her a different route just once, she’d be able to start forming a map of this impenetrable maze of halls and bulkheads.

No luck. Again.

He waited several seconds while she settled into the chair before he fixed the electrodes to her scalp with a smile she didn’t return. “There,” he said. He was gentle, the gentlest person on this ship, at least, that she’d encountered.

He sat across from her sliding his fingers absently over a datapad. He was taking his time. He always took his time; he seemed to think that would make her talk. Make her comfortable.

“Now, why were you on The Vantage?”

The machines whirred behind her looking for a signal, but she was silent.

He waited. His eyes followed her slivery ones as they surveyed the room, her fingers playing restlessly in her lap, her mouth forming a thin and pale line. He looked at the machines frowning.

“An easier question, then, your name?”

Silence.

“The name of your ship?”

Silence.

“How old are you?”

Silence.

He threw the datapad against the wall. It was the first time she had seen him exhibit any form of violence. “Goddammit. I can’t help you if you don’t give me something. They want to kill you. You need to give me something to tell them. Anything.”

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