Day 45 started much the same as Day 44 and Day 43. Both boring days, with no interlude aside from when the food was un-ceremoniously shoved through the access slot next to the door.
Kell stared at the ceiling, focussing on her breathing. She’d spent the first fifteen days of Quarantine being angry, the ten after that being annoyed. Since Day 25, however, she’d managed to come to peace with her situation.
60 days inside the Quarantine.
60 days until it was determined she hadn’t been infected by the Unecron.
60 days until she could still say, with certainty, that she was human.
By Day 45, she had managed to make a little routine. Wait for breakfast to be pushed through the slot, take her suppression drugs and stick her arm into the testing box. Meditate until lunchtime, and then after lunch use her exercise bike to try and keep some level of fitness. Then dinner. Then more meditation. Then exercise. Then sleep.
Then repeat it all again the next day.
Kell kept her eyes shut and her breathing slowed. She focussed her entire attention on each part of her body in turn, her feet, her legs, her torso, her arms, and then her head. It was a dumb test, but she needed to do it to feel like she had some semblance of control over herself.
The bite on her wrist itched. It did every damn day. Barely two centimetres across, three clean puncture wounds and an array of smaller scrapes where the Unecron had bitten her down in the tunnels.
All this for a tiny bite, she thought. She would have thought it was overkill, if she hadn’t been the one who had set up this damn process in the first place. If she hadn’t seen what an Unecron infected human was capable of.
In the old world, they were considered gods. They could call down lightening from the sky or control the elements. They were powerful beyond measure and that was the reason they had been eliminated in the rebellion.
Now, if you got infected, you awaited the same fate as the Originals. Strung up across the Mysvensa Rift by two metal cables and electrocuted to death. Your body was then dropped down into the depths of the planet’s core, dissolved instantly in the lava. There was no grave, no funeral rites, no mourning.
You were simply eliminated.
Kell sighed, sitting up on her small bed. It was thin and empty without her husband’s body next to her. Riven had been killed in the attack in the tunnels. Kell hadn’t even been able to wish her husband into the next life because of the damn Unecron bite.
“Prisoner 09-Z,” the voice called over the tannoy system, “your testing.”
Riven had died so that Kell might live. Riv had seen the Unecron bite, and he’d still battled the Corenion to allow the rest of the team to escape.
The rest of the team hadn’t escaped. Just Kell.
Luck, she thought to herself. It had been luck. The lightening that had killed the Corenion had been a fluke.
Kell slid off her bed, walking over to the small service hatch. On the other side, scientists bustled in green cloth suits that covered their head to toe. No part of their skin was exposed, just in case Kell was indeed infected.
“Morning, Genat,” Kell said, rolling up her sleeve. She thought it was Genat, but she could never really tell. The green cloth suits made them all look like cave frogs.
Genant, if it was him, didn’t reply. He gestured for Kell to put her arm into the tester.
“Nice morning eh?” Kell said, peering through the window to see what breakfast they had for her.
There was just an empty tray, with a small piece of paper on it.
Somethings wrong, she thought.
Kell tried to pull her arm out of the tester, but it clamped her hand down in place. She tried to pull it out, but she could not get free of the clamps that held down her wrist.
“Let me go!” Kell yelled.
The green suited man ignored her, and instead pushed the little tray through the slot. The slider clicked open, and Kell grabbed the tray eagerly.
She flipped open the note.
Welcome home, Sister.
Kell looked from the note, up to the man in the green suit. He stared back, and it was then that Kell noticed the glimmer of silver eyes through the thick suit mask.
A Crona. A Unecron infected human. Alive, well, and very much not dead.
“Who are you?” Kell whispered at the glass.
It couldn’t be Traq, he died. She watched him die by the Unity’s hand. Her baby brother-
The man leant forward, tapping the glass. It shattered under his fingertips, making Kell yelp. Around her sirens began to blast, and the other green suited people started at Kell as if she were to blame.
The man tapped the tester, releasing Kell’s arm. She stumbled backwards across the room.
“Who are you?” she said.
The man pulled the mask from his head.
It was Traq. Older, definitely, but still Traq.
Traq with the silver eyes and silver hair of a Crona.
“Traq?” she whispered.
“Hey big sis,” he said. His voice had a more musical quality to it now, “I understand you’re one of us now?”
Behind him, the other scientist began to unfurl in panic, screaming as they left the room. A live Crona was enough to send anyone running in fear.
Traq slammed the door button next to him. The door to Kell’s cell squealed open.
“But how?” Kell asked.
“I’ll explain once we’re out of here,” he said, “but I needed to know you were one of us now.”
“Us?” Kell asked.
Traq pulled the screen round from it’s mount on the wall and showed it to Kell.
On it, a huge, green word splashed across the screen.
“Cavedark’s blessings,” Kell swore. This wasn’t happening, it couldn’t be happening-
“Kell,” Traq said, nodding towards the door, “let’s get out of here. Then I can explain everything.”
The clamps released her wrist, and Kell pulled her hand out of the testing slot. She was infected, there was no going back now. It was either death or-
Or whatever this is, she thought, looking up at Traq.
“You need to explain where you’ve been for the past five years,” she said, pulling her sleeve down over her arm.
“All in good time, Big Sis,” Traq said, “but first might I suggest we leave?”
He grabbed something under the table and threw it through the window. Kell caught it on instinct.
Riven’s jacket. The one he had given her before she had run for her life.
“Let’s go,” he said, pulling off the green frog suit to reveal what looked like a military uniform underneath.
Gods help me, she thought, as she pulled Riven’s jacket over her prison uniform. She had more questions than she could have thought possible. Traq was alive, he was here, and he was a Crona?
“Come on!” Traq yelled, now standing outside of Kell’s door, “we need to go now!”
She buttoned up Riven’s jacket and walked out of the door. Sirens blared around them. No doubt the emergency protocols would be slammed into place. The Guards would be here shortly, and then the army after them.
And she was Crona now. Hunted. Hated. Wanted.
She had no choice but to run.
So run she did.
Featured Image by Alice Hampson on Unsplash
First Posted in 2020