Thursday, May 23, 2019

The Host Chapter 53: Condemned

The Seekers host remains was named Lacey a dainty, soft, feminine name. Lacey. As inappropriate as the size, in my opinion. Like naming a pit bull Fluffy.Lacey was just as loud as the Seeker-and still a complainer.Youll oblige to forgive me for issue on and on, she insisted, whollyowing us no other options. Ive been sh extincting away in there for years and never getting to speak for myself. Ive got a lot to on a lower floorstand all stored up.How lucky for us. I could almost make myself glad that I was leaving.In answer to my ear hypocrisyr question to myself, no, the face was not less abominable with a different awareness behind it. Because the awareness was not so very different, in the end.Thats why we dont desire you, she told me that first night, making no mixture from the present tense or the plural pronoun. When she realized that you were hearing Melanie just the way she was hearing me, it make her frightened. She thought you might guess. I was her deep, dark secret . A grating laugh. She couldnt make me shut up. Thats why she became a Seeker, because she was hoping to figure out some way to better deal with resistant hosts. And then she requested macrocosm assigned to you, so she could watch how you did it. She was jealous of you isnt that pathetic? She needed to be strong like you. It gave us a real kick when we thought Melanie had won. I guess that didnt happen, though. I guess you did. So why did you come here? Why are you helping the rebels?I explained, unwillingly, that Melanie and I were friends. She didnt like that.Why? she demanded.Shes a good person.But why does she like you?Same reason.She says, for the same reason.Lacey snorted. Got her brainwashed, huh?Wow, shes worsened than the first integrity.Yes, I agreed. I nookie see why the Seeker was so obnoxious. Can you imagine having that in your head all the time?I wasnt the that thing Lacey objected to.Do you have anywhere better to live than these caves? Its so dirty here. Isnt t here a house somewhere, maybe? What do you mean we have to share rooms? Chore schedule? I dont understand. I have to work? I dont think you understandJeb had given her the usual tour the next day, demonstrateing to explain, th unhandy clenched teeth, the way we all lived here. When theyd passed me-eating in the kitchen with Ian and Jamie-he threw me a smack that clearly asked why I hadnt let Aaron shoot her while that was still an option.The tour was more crowded than mine. Everyone wanted to see the miracle for themselves. It didnt even come along to matter to most of them that she was difficult. She was welcome. More than welcome. Again, I felt a little of that bitter jealousy. But that was silly. She was gentleman. She represented hope. She belonged here. She would be here long after I was gone.Lucky you, Mel whispered sarcastically.Talking to Ian and Jamie about what had happened was not as difficult and painful as Id imagined.This was because they were, for different reaso ns, entirely clueless. Neither grasped that this brisk knowledge meant I would be leaving.With Jamie, I still why. More than anyone else, he had accepted me and Mel as the package deal we were. He was able, with his young, open mind, to grasp the reality of our dual personalities. He treated us like two people rather than one. Mel was so real, so present to him. The same way she was to me. He didnt miss her, because he had her. He didnt see the necessity of our separation.I wasnt sure why Ian didnt understand. Was he too caught up in the potential? The changes this would mean for the human society here? They were all boggled by the idea that getting caught-the end-was no longer a finality. There was a way to come pole. It seemed natural to him that I had acted to save the Seeker it was undifferentiated with his idea of my personality. Maybe that was as far as hed considered it.Or maybe Ian just didnt have a chance to think it all through, to see the discernible eventuality, bef ore he was distracted. Distracted and enraged.I should have killed him years ago, Ian ranted as we packed what we needed for our raid. My final raid I tried not to bear on that. No, our mother should have drowned him at birthHes your brother.I dont know why you keep saying that. Are you trying to make me line up worse?Everyone was furious with Kyle. Jareds lips were welded into a tight line of rage, and Jeb stroked his gun more than usual.Jeb had been elicit, planning to join us on this landmark raid, his first since Id come to live here. He was particularly keen to see the hiss field up close. But now, with Kyle putting us all in danger, he felt he had to catch behind just in case. Not getting his way put Jeb in a foul mood.Stuck behind with that creature, he muttered to himself, rubbing the rifle membranophone again-he wasnt getting any happier about the new member of his community. Missin all the fun. He spit on the floor.We all knew where Kyle was. As soon as hed grasped how the Seeker-worm had magically change into the Lacey-human in the night, hed slipped out the venture. Id been expecting him to lead the party demanding the Seekers death (I kept the cryo tankful always cradled in my arms I slept lightly, my hand touching its smooth surface), only if he was nowhere to be found, and Jeb had quashed the resistance easily in his absence.Jared was the one to realize the jeep was gone. And Ian had been the one to link the two absences.Hes gone after Jodi, Ian had groaned. What else?Hope and despair. I had given them one, Kyle the other. Would he betray them all before they could even make use of the hope?Jared and Jeb wanted to put arrive at the raid until we knew if Kyle was successful-it would take him tercet days under the best(p) circumstances, if his Jodi still lived in Oregon. If he could find her there.There was another place, another cave we could evacuate to. A very much littler place, with no water, so we couldnt hide there long. They d debated whether they should move everyone now or wait.But I was in a hurry. Id seen the way the others eyed the silver tank in my arms. Id heard the whispers. The longer I kept the Seeker here, the better chance that someone would kill her. Having met Lacey, Id begun to pity the Seeker. She deserved a mild, pleasant new life with the Flowers.Ironically enough, Ian was the one who took my side and helped hurry the raid along. He still didnt see where this would lead.But I was grateful that he helped me convince Jared there was time to make the raid and get back before a decision was made about Kyle. Grateful also that he was back to acting bodyguard. I knew I could trust Ian with the shiny cryotank more than anyone else. He was the only one I would let patronage it when I needed my arms. He was the only one who could see, in the shape of that small container, a life to be protected. He could think of that shape as a friend, something that could be loved. He was the best ally of a ll. I was so grateful for Ian, and so grateful for the obliviousness that saved him, for the moment, from pain.We had to be fast, in case Kyle ruined everything. We went to Phoenix again, to one of the umteen communities that spun out from the hub. There was a big shuttle field to the southwesterneast, in a town called Mesa, with several meliorate facilities nearby. That was what I wanted-I would give them as much as I could before I left. If we took a Healer, then we might be able to preserve the Healers memory in the host body. Someone who understood all the medicines and their uses. Someone who knew the best ways to get to unattended stashes. atomic number 101 would love that. I could imagine all the questions hed be dying to ask.First the shuttle field.I was sad that Jeb was missing this, but hed have so many other chances in the future. Though it was dark, a long line of small short-nosed shuttles drifted in to land while others took flight in an endless stream.I drove the old wagon train while the others rode in the back-Ian in charge of the tank, of course. I circled the field, staying clear of the busy local terminal. It was easy to spot the vast, sleek white vessels that left the planet. They did not depart with the frequency of the smaller ships. All I apothegm were docked, none preparing to leave immediately.Everythings labeled, I reported to the others, invisible in the dark back. Now, this is important. Avoid ships to the Bats, and especially the See Weeds. The See Weeds are just one system over-it takes only a decade to make the round trip. Thats much too short. The Flowers are the farthest, and the Dolphins, Bears, and Spiders all take at least a ampere-second to go one way. Only send tanks to those.I drove slowly, close to the crafts.This will be easy. Theyve got all kinds of delivery vehicles out here, and we blend in. Oh I can see a tank truck-its just like the one we saw them unloading at the hospital, Jared. Theres a man looking ove r the stacks Hes putting them onto a hover cart. Hes going to load them I drove even slower, trying to get a good look. Yes, onto this ship. Right into the open hatch. Ill circle back and make my move when hes in the ship. I pulled previous(prenominal), examining the scene in my mirrors. There was a lit sign beside the tube that connected the head of the ship to the terminal. I smiled as I read the words backward. This ship was going to the Flowers. It was meant to be.I made a slow turn as the man disappeared into the hull of the ship. limit ready, I whispered as I pulled into the shadow made by the cylindrical wing of the next enormous ship over. I was only iii or four yards from the tank truck. There were a few technicians working near the front of the Flower-bound vessel and others, farther away, out on the old runway. I would be just another figure in the night.I cut the engine and hopped down from the drivers seat, trying to look casual, like I was only doing my job. I went a round to the back of the van and opened the door a crack. The tank was right at the edge, the light on top glowing dull red, signifying that it was occupied. I lifted it carefully and closed the door.I kept up an easy rolling pace as I walked to the open end of the truck. But my brisk sped up. This felt more dangerous than the hospital, and that worried me. Could I expect my humans to risk their lives this way?Ill be there. Ill do it myself, just like you would. On the off chance you get your way, that is.Thanks, Mel.I had to force myself not to keep glancing over my shoulder at the open hatch where the man had disappeared. I placed the tank gently atop the closest column in the truck. The addition, one among hundreds, was not noticeable.Goodbye, I whispered. Better luck with your next host.I walked back to the van as slowly as I could stand to.It was silent in the van as I reversed out from under the big ship. I started back the way wed come, my heart hammering too fast. In my mir rors, the hatch remained empty. I didnt see the man emerge before the ship was out of sight.Ian climbed into the passenger seat. Doesnt look too hard.It was very good luck with the timing. You might have to wait longer for an opportunity next time.Ian reached over to take my hand. Youre the good-luck charm.I didnt answer.Do you feel better now that shes safe?Yes.I saw his head turn sharply as he heard the unexpected sound of a lie in my voice. I didnt meet his gaze.Lets go catch some Healers, I muttered.Ian was silent and thoughtful as we drove the short distance to the small Healing facility.Id thought the second task would be the challenge, the danger. The plan was that I would-if the conditions and numbers were right-try to lead a Healer or two out of the facility under the pretext that I had an injured friend in my van. An old trick, but one that would work only too well on the unsuspecting, trusting Healers.As it turned out, I didnt even have to go in. I pulled into the lot jus t as two middle-aged Healers, a man and a charr wearing purple scrubs, were getting into a car. Their shift over, they were heading home. The car was around the corner from the entrance. No one else was in sight.Ian nodded tensely.I stopped the van right behind their car. They looked up, surprised.I opened my door and slid out. My voice was thick with tears, my face twisted with remorse, and that helped to fool them.My friend is in the back-I dont know whats wrong with him. They responded with the photoflash concern I knew they would show. I hurried to open the back doors for them, and they followed right behind. Ian went around the other side. Jared was ready with the chloroform.I didnt watch.It took just seconds. Jared hauled the unconscious bodies into the back, and Ian slammed the doors shut. Ian stared at my tear-swollen eye for just a second, then took the drivers seat.I rode shotgun. He held my hand again.Sorry, Wanda. I know this is hard for you.Yes. He had no idea how har d, and for how many different reasons.He squeezed my fingers. But that went well, at least. You make an excellent charm.Too well. Both missions had gone too perfectly, too fast. Fate was rushing me.He drove back toward the freeway. by and by a few minutes, I saw a bright, familiar sign in the distance. I took a deep breath and wiped my eyes clear.Ian, could you do me a favor?Anything you want.I want fast food.He laughed. No problem.We switched seats in the parking lot, and I drove up to the ordering box.What do you want? I asked Ian.Nothing. Im getting a kick out of watching you do something for yourself. This has to be a first.I didnt smile at his joke. To me, this was sort of a last meal-the final gift to the condemned. I wouldnt leave the caves again.Jared, how about you?Two of whatever youre having.So I ordered three cheeseburgers, three bags of fries, and three strawberry shakes. by and by I got my food, Ian and I switched again so I could eat while he drove.Eew, he said, wat ching me dip a french fry into the shake.You should try it. Its good. I offered him a well-coated fry.He shrugged and took it. He popped it into his mouth and chewed. Interesting.I laughed. Melanie thinks its gross, too. Thats why Id cultivated the habit in the beginning. It was funny now to think how Id gone out of my way to annoy her.I wasnt really hungry. Id just wanted some of the flavors I particularly remembered, one more time. Ian finished off half my burger when I was full.We made it home without incident. We saw no sign of the Seekers surveillance. Perhaps theyd accepted the coincidence. Maybe they thought it inevitable-wander the desert alone long enough, and something bad would happen to you. Wed had a saying like that on the Mists Planet Cross too many ice fields alone, and wind up a claw beasts meal. That was a rough translation. It sounded better in Bear.There was a large reception waiting for us.I smiled halfheartedly at my friends Trudy, Geoffrey, Heath, and Heidi. M y true friends were dwindling. No Walter, no Wes. I didnt know where Lily was. This made me sad. Maybe I didnt want to live on this sad planet with so much death. Maybe nothingness was better.It also made me sad, petty as it was, to see Lucina standing beside Lacey, with Reid and Violetta on the other side. They were talking animatedly, asking questions, it looked like. Lacey was holding Freedom on her hip. He didnt look especially thrilled about this, but he was happy enough being part of the adults conversation that he didnt squirm down.Id never been allowed near the child, but Lacey was already one of them. Trusted.We went straight to the south tunnel, Jared and Ian laboring under the weight of the Healers. Ian had the heavier one, the man, and sweat ran down his fair face. Jeb shooed the others back at the tunnel entrance and then followed us.Doc was waiting for us in the hospital, rubbing his hands together absently, as if washing them.Time continued to speed up. The brighter l amp was lit. The Healers were given No Pain and laid out facedown on the cots. Jared showed Ian how to prompt the tanks. They held them ready, Ian wincing at the stunning cold. Doc stood over the female, scalpel in hand and medicines laid out in a row.Wanda? he asked.My heart squeezed inward painfully. Do you swear, Doc? All of my terms? Do you promise me on your own life?I do. I will meet all of your terms, Wanda. I swear it.Jared?Yes. abruptly no killing, ever.Ian?Ill protect them with my own life, Wanda.Jeb?Its my house. Anyone who cant abide by this agreement will have to get out.I nodded, tears in my eyes. Okay, then. Lets get it over with.Doc, excited again, cut into the Healer until he could see the silver gleam. He set the scalpel quickly aside. Now what?I put my hand on his.Trace up the back ridge. Can you feel that? Feel the shape of the segments. They get smaller toward the anterior section. Okay, at the end you should feel three small stubby things. Do you feel what Im talking about?Yes, he breathed.Good. Those are the anterior antennae. Start there. Now, very gently, roll your finger under the body. Find the line of attachments. Theyll feel tight, like wires.He nodded.I guided him a third of the way down, told him how to count if he wasnt sure. We didnt have time for counting with all the blood flowing free. I was sure the Healers body, if she came around, would be able to help us-there must be something for that. I helped him find the biggest nodule.Now, rub softly in toward the body. Knead it lightly.Docs voice went up in pitch, turned a little panicky. Its moving.Thats good-it means youre doing it right. kick down it time to retract. Wait till it rolls up a bit, then take it into your hand.Okay. His voice shook.I reached toward Ian. Give me your hand.I felt Ians hand wind around mine. I turned it over, curled his hand into a cup, and pulled it close to Docs operation site.Give the soul to Ian-gently, please.Ian would be the perfect assistant . When I was gone, who else would take such care with my little relatives?Doc passed the soul into Ians waiting hand, then turned at once to heal the human body.Ian stared at the silver ribbon in his hand, his face full of wonder rather than revulsion. It felt warmer inside my chest while I watched his reaction.Its pretty, he whispered, surprised. No matter how he felt about me, hed been conditioned to expect a parasite, a centipede, a monster. Cleaning up severed bodies had not watchful him for the beauty here.I think so, too. Let it slide into your tank.Ian held the soul cupped in his hand for one more second, as if memorizing the sight and feel. Then, with delicate care, he let it glide into the cold.Jared showed him how to latch the lid.A weight fell off my shoulders.It was done. It was too late to change my mind. This didnt feel as horrible as Id anticipated, because I felt sure these four humans would care for the souls just as I would. When I was gone.Look out Jeb suddenly s houted. The gun came up in his hands, pointed past us.We whirled toward the danger, and Jareds tank fell to the floor as he jumped toward the male Healer, who was on his knees on the cot, staring at us in shock. Ian had the presence of mind to hold on to his tank.Chloroform, Jared shouted as he tackled the Healer, pinning him back down to the cot. But it was too late.The Healer stared straight at me, his face childlike in his bewilderment. I knew why his eyes were on me-the lanterns rays danced off both his eyes and mine, making diamond patterns on the wall.Why? he asked me.Then his face went blank, and his body slumped, unresisting, to the cot. Two trails of blood flowed from his nostrils.No I screamed, lurching to his inert form, knowing it was far too late. No

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