The Dohani War
by Martin Kerharo
|Table of Contents|
Chapter 4: Fascination
She raised a hand to my face. I managed not to flinch, although my heart was pounding. I tensed, but she only brushed my face with her hand. I heard Charts stiffen. No doubt he was getting ready to throw himself at Jane in case she did something like try to tear my eyes out.
Jane withdrew her hand and looked down. She examined her hand, turning it over as if she were seeing it for the first time. Then she looked up and raised both hands toward my face. I heard a gasp; Charts was at the ready once again.
Jane put her hands on my skin. She closed her eyes and began to explore my face.
And yet Jane did not need to close her eyes. We had noticed that she almost never blinked; the beings that had... modified... her had omitted the reflex. Eliza thought the reason was that in combat, vision is the most important sense. The one who sees the enemy first is almost sure to win. Since Jane never closed her eyes, she had an added advantage.
Even so, she closed her eyes and began to explore my face. She felt safe. She brushed my skin, hardly touching it. What did she sense? This was the first time she had touched me.
She opened her eyes. I smiled again. She did not react; her expression was the same: permanent surprise. She did not know what a smile was.
“Everything is okay, Jane,” I repeated. The more she heard my voice, the more her confidence would increase.
Our communicators vibrated. Eliza took the call. Jane heard the vibration and glanced at my wrist, but she did nothing else, figuring it was not dangerous to her.
I heard Eliza talking in a low voice to the Control room. She ended the call. “They’ve locked the doors to the adjoining corridors, to send her to the same place as last time, just in case.”
Jane withdrew her hands from my face, closed her eyes again and came even closer to me. She breathed deeply. Her nose was almost touching me. She breathed in again several times, and when she began moving her face around mine, I realized she was smelling me.
Charts snickered and whispered, “She likes your aftershave lotion?”
I did not deign to pay his comment any attention. Neither did Jane. She opened her eyes and I saw her expression change. She still was not smiling, but her eyes seemed different. Her expression was no longer one of surprise or fascination. Nor was it cold, as when she launched attacks. It was a new expression, one we had never seen before. I tried to decipher it, to understand what Jane was feeling. We were making progress, but the reasons for her doing what she did remained mysterious.
She closed her eyes and began smelling me again.
“Yes, she likes you,” murmured Eliza. “She’s acting like an animal; she’s intoxicated by your odor and is attracted to you.”
Charts was snickering all the more, and I began to worry that it might have bad effects. We did not know how old she was, and her modifications threw off most of our readings, but she seemed to be about fifteen or sixteen. If she began to make advances... Oh well, maybe we would have to use the sleep drug after all. I just hoped nobody would put me out of action by mistake.
Eliza could not help chuckling in her turn. “The rumors are true. This creature is in love with you.”
“Rumors?” I replied, appalled. “We have no idea how she thinks, and some have even said she doesn’t think, that she’s directed entirely by the subprograms of her neural implant. Don’t you think it’s a little early to draw conclusions?”
I really did not know why I had this effect on Jane. From the beginning, I was the only one who had managed to calm her down, but why? That was a mystery. It was also a miracle, otherwise we would have had to lock her up permanently. I doubted it was purely sexual, although nothing could confirm whether it was or not. She just seemed not to understand what we were or, rather, what I was; she had never taken an interest in the others.
Charts would get a kick out of talking about that with his comrades.
Suddenly, Jane turned around and walked slowly toward the other end of the corridor. I stood up, expecting her to run away even though I could guess by the way she was walking that she would not run. Actually she stood motionless for a while. I no longer saw the expression on her face; she was standing as still as a statue. I could not even tell if she was breathing.
Finally she moved and turned back to me. She came up to me very quickly and gripped my wrist. Her strength was surprising such a small person. She turned again and began to lead me toward the end of the corridor.
Charts stifled a laugh as I stumbled along behind her. I was wondering what she would do if I fell down: would she simply drag me along? I did not want to find out. My back was still hurting after the experience in the cafeteria.
Charts and Eliza followed us. Jane was not hurrying; she seemed to understand that I could not keep up with her normal pace. She just walked quickly.
We entered a corridor by one of the doors left open by the crew in the Control room.
Suddenly, I pulled back. I told myself I was not just an object she could do with as she pleased. I tried to stay in one place while keeping my balance and not toppling over. I was leaning backwards with my arms outstretched, but I managed to remain standing.
Jane stopped. I thought I had won, but she just pulled all the harder and overcame my resistance. Behind us, Charts started laughing again, as quietly as he could.
I was not heavy enough. If Jane had chosen Charts, things would have been different. Maybe it was better not to underestimate Jane. Her small size was misleading: her adversaries thought it would be easy to get rid of her and became careless.
“Jane, stop!” I exclaimed suddenly. I jerked my arm back.
She turned around quickly and I was afraid I had made a mistake, because I saw her expression become cold again. I began to panic. If she attacked me now, I would not be able to escape.
“Oops,” said Charts. He was getting ready to intervene, but Eliza held him back.
“Wait,” she said, “she hasn’t attacked yet. Normally she doesn’t pause, she attacks instantly. She hasn’t done that.”
Indeed, Jane was looking at me with her neutral expression. She didn’t make any other move. She was not getting ready to pounce and was not looking around her to check out her surroundings. She seemed to be waiting for something, or thinking.
I decided to talk to her, even though I knew my attempt would be useless. “Jane, let go of me. You mustn’t grab people like that.”
Jane looked confused.
“Keep talking to her,” Eliza murmured urgently.
“Come on, Jane, let go. I’ll follow you, but you have to let go of me first.” I smiled.
Jane still did not move and did not let go of my arm. Then she started moving again. My stubbornness had accomplished nothing; she did not understand.
I began to lose patience, but Eliza calmed me: “Let’s wait and see where she wants to go. If you resist too much, she may get angry for good and all.”
I suspected that Jane would not get upset and that she would just continue to drag me along if I did not go willingly. But I did not want to risk unleashing another confrontation and losing her forever. I was afraid that would undo all the progress we had made.
As we advanced, Jane looked rapidly right and left, all around her. She stopped before one of the locked doors and ran her hand over its surface. She did not try to push on it. I did not know how, but she guessed that the door could not be opened. She set off again, followed by our little group.
“An easy chase for once,” said Charts.
I sensed a note of disappointment in his voice. He was obviously not the one who had to crawl through the ventilation shafts.
Jane kept going. Every so often she would stop in front of a door and repeat the same gesture, moving her hand within a centimeter of the door. And then she would start off again.
I had an idea. “Eliza, would you please ask the controllers to unlock one of the doors in the next corridor. Unlock it, but leave it closed. They can leave all the others doors locked and make it a dead end.”
Eliza looked at me doubtfully but complied.
We turned another corner in the corridor and were no longer very far from Jane’s last hiding place. We came to the unlocked door. Jane moved her hand over its surface and immediately opened it.
Eliza stifled a gasp of surprise. How had Jane guessed that this door was unlocked? Normally the station’s doors were either open or closed and locked. The security bars made it impossible to open them. This was the first time that Jane had come to a closed, unlocked door. And she had not hesitated to open it, even though it was impossible to see that the way was not blocked.
“Incredible,” Eliza murmured. “She has more talents than we ever suspected.”
Jane moved through the new corridor, moving her hand over each door, but they were all locked. Obviously her sixth sense told her they were, and she did not try to open any of them.
We were passing by a storage area, and I had another idea. “Eliza,” I said, “tell Control to unlock the door to room C-64.”
Jane turned her head partly toward me when she heard my voice.
Eliza spoke quickly into her communicator. I resisted again, to slow our progress and gain a few seconds, to give the crew in Control time to act. Jane turned toward me, again with her cold air. Then we heard the click of the door being unlocked behind us.
Jane quickly looked in the direction of the noise and retraced her steps toward the door of the storage room. She gave me a sharp tug with her hand to force me to follow her. Apparently she had decided she did not have time to talk about it.
When she came to the door, she moved her other hand over its surface. She decided it was unlocked and pushed on it. We went in.
The room was small and filled with all kinds of boxes. The light came on when we entered. The area should make an acceptable hiding place for Jane.
She dragged me over piles of materiel to a corner of the room, a small space invisible from the doorway.
Eliza and Charts came in but stayed behind.
Jane climbed onto one of the storage crates, curled up into a ball, lying on her side. And she fell asleep.
She still had not released her grip on my arm. I sighed and sat down next to her. I was a prisoner.