From the Story Arc: My Brother's Keeper

Previous Story in the Arc: Remember me? by Komrad Vex (Friday, January 05, 2007)

Next Story in the Arc: A Friend in Need by Komrad Vex (Friday, January 05, 2007)

(posted Friday, January 05, 2007)

The shimmer of the CCCP reclamation unit faded as it deposited Vex on a diagnostic bed. Slowly, he rolled onto his side and then sat up. There was pain everywhere. Perched on the edge of the bed, he looked down at his torso, inspecting himself for injury. His arms and legs were all still attached and, amazingly, there didn’t seem to be any serious injury.

As he scanned himself, he noticed his chest. The normally brilliant gold star of the CCCP was almost completely blotted out with blood. Suddenly remembering what had happened, he hopped off the bed and crossed the room to a wall-mounted mirror. Gazing at his reflection in stunned silence, he ran a gloved hand over his blood caked face, recalling the events of a few moments earlier. Glancing around the room quickly, quietly thankful there was no one on duty in the med bay, he set off in the direction of the barracks and the showers.

Steam billowed out of the shower as he slowly stripped off his uniform. Carefully, he hung his uniform on the wall and stepped into the sanctuary of the shower stall. Leaning against the wall, his head cradled in his arms, the water pelted his head and shoulders. As he watched the crimson water spiral down the drain, he replayed the night’s events in his mind. Again and again he saw the boy’s terrified face at that last moment before the explosion. tears streamed down his face as his anger and frustration consumed him. He sat down in the corner of the shower, covered his face with his hands and wept.

Waking with a start, Vex was shocked by the rain of cold water falling on him. He stood slowly and turned off the taps. He drew back the curtain, grabbed a nearby towel and gingerly dried himself off, careful not to aggravate his battered muscles. He wrapped the towel around his waist, grabbed his uniform and began to walk to his bunk. As he approached his room, he could see light under the door. He reached for the doorknob dreading the thought of talking to anyone. Steeling himself, he pushed the door open and walked in.

The room was empty.

The desk light on Tao’s worktable was on, but he was nowhere to be seen. Counting his blessings, Vex opened his locker and placed his soiled uniform in a garment bag.

He sat on the edge of his bed while he put on his one-piece jump suit. As he stood and zipped up his jumper, he glanced over at Tao’s desk again. On it was an inkwell and brush sitting on the corner of a piece of parchment. Reflecting on his fortune at having been assigned such a quiet, reflective bunkmate, he crossed to the desk to have a closer look at the parchment.

Written across the top of the page in Tao’s flowing calligraphy were seven simple words;

Things are not always what they appear.

Shaking his head in puzzled amusement at the cryptic words, Vex opened the door and walked into the hall. In an attempt to fill his head with more pleasant thoughts, Vex found himself thinking about Tao. They had both joined the CCCP at roughfly the same time. Since then, Tao had become one of his closest comrades. It had been some time since they had both been able to sit and have one of their conversations. It seemed as they both began to gain higher security clearances their schedules has pulled them in opposite directions. Vex resolved to make an effort to spend more time with his friend. As he made his way toward the mess hall, he mulled Tao’s words over in his head thinking how Tao’s often cryptic speech forced him to think and look beyond the obvious of every situation. Halfway down the hall he froze, a look of astonishment dawned on his face.

Why hadn’t he realized it before?

Turning around, he broke into a run in his haste to get to the central computer room. He came to a skidding stop as he reached the base super computer. Entering the start up sequence, he anxiously waited as the computer roused itself from it’s standby mode. His fingers flew over the keypad as he established the link to the Zigursky prison inmate booking logs for the past twelve hours.