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Episode 10 Page 1

By:  Lenady

Tilly woke to dim lights. She opened her eyes to a soft glow, but shut them back quickly, instinctively protecting her sensitive eyes. She could have stood a few more hours of sleep. She didn’t know what time it was and she really didn’t care either. All she knew was that she was still exhausted. She rolled over and put the pillow over her head.

         “Toren?” she asked hesitantly, the word slightly muffled.

          “Yeeeeeees?”

          Tilly stifled a groan. She had brought it on herself, but why, why did Toren have to be so dang chipper?
        “Dim the lights for a minute”.

            Tilly slowly moved the pillow enough to allow herself to peak out from under it and sighed, thankful that the ship had actually done what she had asked. She let go of the pillow and curled back into the blankets.

 “Thanks”, she mumbled. It took a moment before she half-way wondered if Toren could actually understand what she said, but the part of her that was still reaching out for sleep questioned whether it really mattered or not.

“Hey! You still need to wake up. I’ll turn the lights to bright if I have to.” The room brightened intensely, reaching Tilly’s eyes even beneath squeezed eyelids and a layer of blanket.

“Gah!” Tilly retreated back underneath the pillow, pressing her face into the mattress. “I’m not movin’ an inch till you turn the dang lights down!” She was completely honest in her threats. She was prepared to keep her face firmly planted in the bed until the lights were softened enough to not cause temporary blindness. 

“I’ll meet you halfway. I’m dimming the lights to the first level I had it set at, but I’m not going any lower.” The voice sounded cheerful to Tilly’s ears, but she could also hear a slight undercurrent which she couldn’t quite read.

Tilly growled and jerked the pillow off her head. “Fine! But ever heard about the bet between the wind and the sun, Toren? You could learn a lot from it.”

       She sat up, rubbing at her eyes, which still refused to open. “Why do you have to have everything so bright in the morning anyway?”

        “It’s part of the regulation clock. It regulates the light according to a day and night schedule. Otherwise your circadian rhythm would get all wonky!”

         “That makes sense, I guess,” Tilly yawned, raising a hand to her mouth halfway through. She stretched and opened her eyes. They didn’t burn like they had a minute ago, but they still felt like they could close at any second, letting her drift back off if the computer would just let her.

         “Of course it does. I’m probably the most advanced piece of artificial intelligence ever created on this side of the galaxy.”  

      “You’re also built by Sanrook, which kind of takes a little away from your claims,” Tilly said, noting the edge of bitterness in her own voice.

        “I spy hostilities!”

        “Toren, I don’t think that’s something you’re suppose to sound so cheerful about.”

        “It’s fun seeing people interact. Conflict just adds to that. Entire industries are built off of it. I’m just getting my entertainment for free!”        

        “Yeah, well it’s not that fun being the one that has to deal with it. You can turn the lights up now.” She wasn’t completely ready for the increased amount of light, but figured it would be better to get it over with. As the lights raised she felt her eyelids squeezing together.

       “Ooh, you’ve got a mess to clean up,” the computer chirped.

         While Tilly had been firmly buckled in place during the crash landing, she couldn’t say the same about the stuff in her room. Practically everything that she had unpacked the week prior was tossed about, creating a sea of clothes, books, and other miscellaneous items. It had been quite a shock the previous night to discover the mess. She should have been prepared, after all, being turned upside down would certainly do that, but other thoughts had been more pressing up until she had walked in the room.

        “Fond of stating the obvious?” Tilly grumbled.

        “Temper, temper. Someone’s obviously not a morning person,” Toren responded.

        Tilly sighed and rubbed at her eyes again. They still felt scratchy. “Yeah, that seems to be the case. Sorry. I’m just not used to being around people first thing in the morning and I’m not looking forward to all of this cleanup. I think I just need some time to wake up. Mind giving me a bit of space?”

            “If you want me to open up an airlock for you there’s plenty. But I don’t think that’s what you meant.”

            Tilly winced at the reminder of the fact that she was essentially floating in nothingness. She smiled, trying to ward away the pit growing in her stomach. “I’d just like a bit of time to myself.”

            “No problem.”

            Tilly waited a minute, wondering if the computer was really gone or not, before she swung her legs out from beneath the sheets and dangled them over the edge of the bed. Her feet brushed against the books and clothes that were strewn in the floor. She scooted forward so that she could kick the items out of the way. Her toes grazed the floor and she tensed, involuntarily pulling them upwards and away from the chill. She should have packed her slippers. She breathed in, steeling herself, and climbed out of the bed, glancing around the room for a pair of socks. She didn’t remember the ship being quite so cool the week before. Perhaps she had adjusted to the temperature of the planet more than she realized. She dug through the nearest piles of clothes, finally retrieving a pink polka-dotted pair of socks. After pulling on the socks she grabbed a large armful of clothes and sat back on the bed. She piled the clothes in her lap and started sorting. At least if she had to clean she could keep herself cozy in the process.

She sighed as she refolded a black t-shirt. She didn’t know how much good her actions would actually do. With another rough landing her belongings would be flung across the room all over again. At least she hadn’t brought anything breakable, at least as far as she remembered. Although they had complained about the trips from the car carrying her belongings, in all honesty she hadn’t brought that many things. Most of her stuff was sitting in an old barn outside of town. Despite the fact that things were thrown everywhere, it would probably only take her a few minutes to get all of her things put back in a semblance of order. Really, five or six bags isn’t much to pack up your life in.

         Tilly folded clothes until the nest on her lap was gone, replaced by semi-neat stacks beside her. Although some of the clothes were out of the floor, the room still looked wrecked. She sighed, realizing that the rest of the job couldn’t easily be done sitting on the bed. Thankfully, she noted as she stood up, the floor didn’t feel quite so frozen as previously. Tilly ran her hand through her hair as she looked at the chaos in front of her. She didn’t even really know where to begin and wasn’t even certain about where to put things once she got started. There was a small closet in the room, but she hadn’t really examined it yet. Her best bet, she thought, was probably just to start sorting and see where things went from there.

Tilly grabbed the nearest bag, the one she had brought her books in, and began to walk around the room picking up paperback novels and manga. She felt a vague sense of déjà vu, realizing that she was essentially repacking everything, but shook it off, telling herself that for the moment it was simply the best way to keep everything tidy. She worked her way across the room, until she got to a corner and set the bag down beside a smaller, zippered, book bag, which she picked up. She hadn’t gotten into it the previous week and wasn’t completely certain about what it contained anymore. She looked down at it, then back towards the rest of the room. It would be better to finish cleaning up the mess, but somehow the small task felt daunting. After fighting off a yawn she pushed a stray stuffed animal out of her way and sat down against a corner of the bed.

          The items she found were random: things, Tilly realized, that she had thrown into the bag right before she had left her apartment for the last time. They had been in a rush that day; after the run-in with Mr. Kaphtman, they had moved quickly to get everything taken care of. There was only really a day or so to wrap everything up: dealing with bank matters, packing up belongings, turning in the keys to her apartment, all done in a way to try to draw the least amount of attention, with little success. Tilly knew they had probably been watched, since she was fairly certain that she had been watched the entire year anyway. Her dad had probably seen to that. In a way, she had barely registered what was going on. She supposed it had made things easier, but now…

             The whole matter felt hasty and ill thought. Perhaps Sanrook was rubbing off on her. Although Tilly had often admired the vibrant spirit and impulsiveness of her friend, she was seeing the drawbacks much more now. The adventures Sanrook was pulling Tilly into weren’t the same as they were in school. Instead of smoking science labs, she was dealing with mass riots and exploding buildings. Tilly put her hand to her forehead, ‘And that gun,’ she thought, ‘what the hell is that gun?’

            The whole ordeal in the last city had been nightmarish, but in a lot of ways the trip back to Toren hadn’t been much better. Certainly at times less harrowing. They still had spiders and heat to contend with, but at least they weren’t being shot at or anything. Still, it was unsettling in another way. Sanrook had been her happy-go-lucky self, as if there was nothing in the world wrong… as if they hadn’t contributed to an absolute train-wreck everywhere they had gone. It was something Tilly hadn’t expected. She knew Sanrook was a walking ball of chaos, but the fact that she never thought of the repercussions… Tilly shivered a little when she thought of the grin she had seen on Sanrook’s face after that gun had been shot.

It wasn’t the face of the Sanrook she knew.

There had been an awkward vibe the entire trip, which had culminated in the argument outside of the ship. There had been an aura of coldness she wasn’t accustomed to feeling, which she had tried to shake it off, telling herself that it was all in her own head. Sanrook seemed to be acting herself, really. But Tilly couldn’t shake the sensation, something akin to a repelling force. When neither of them spoke the feeling was nearly tangible, and it had gotten stronger the further that they drove. Tilly found it was rather difficult to be on a bike with someone you suspected would probably rather you not be there at all.

Nothing had been said since their heated discussion the evening before. She had gone to her room after they had gotten off the planet and she had assumed that Sanrook had done something similar. She clenched the shirt she had pulled out of the bag. How dare she? Speaking of powerlessness. Tilly already knew how little she had been able to do while they were on the planet. It felt as if she had just stood there and watched as things fell apart around her. The entire week it felt as if she had been in a tidepool that was slowly sucking her under, with just one thing after another happening to pull her in further. Then the whole trip back she felt like she was being toted around like a pack on the back of that bike.

Stupid Sanrook.

Tilly breathed in and out and released the shirt. T-shirts didn’t really wrinkle, but she knew it wasn’t fair to take things out on the garment. She sat down the shirt and instead picked up the white polar bear she had moved aside. She drew her knees up slightly, careful to not let the bag tip over, and hugged the stuffed bear as hard as she could. That was what stuffies were for. Her fingers wrapped themselves around the plush softness as she leaned over and pressed her face into the top of the bear’s head, feeling the faux fur tickle her nose with each breathe, in and out. Slowly she felt the tension begin to leave her shoulders, replaced instead by a slight fogginess in her thoughts. Her eyes still felt weighted, and the fact that she had squeezed them shut for the past minute or so hadn’t helped. The extra weight on her lap reminded her of the work still left to be done, of the mess that still had to be dealt with, but at that moment all she wanted to do was stay still and quiet, alone with her drifting thoughts and her bear. A moment later the bag tumbled to the ground, unnoticed by Tilly who had returned once again to her dreams.

 

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