The following day Xal worried he would need to feign sickness to reach the stranger’s requested time hack. A mounded slag of artificial potatoes and eggs arrived at 0600, next to which Xal found another yellow note attached to a silver pullback.
Eat all of your food, then bite on the pill.
Xal didn’t feel like his circumstances left him with many choices. He didn’t know if his father down on Earth could do much to improve Xal’s predicament, but there seemed to be someone on board who could. But is there another option? Xal tried to think hard. Barring a power outage, he couldn’t think of another way for the door to open without a guard. As far as Xal could tell, all of the guards were from his Space Crew, yet none showed any signs of recognition. I’m just a prisoner to them now. Those who did glance at Xal sneered until he passed. Any attempts to speak ended in a slap to the back of Xal’s head.
Xal finished his fake eggs and slurry of oatmeal before he bit down on the pill. Instant foam poured from his mouth. Cyanide! I’ve seen this shit in the movies. Spluttering, freaking out, Xal ran and pounded on the door, hoping someone would come in time. A guard’s face appeared in the window annoyed at first but then snapped to shock. The door swung open, throwing Xal onto his back before two men pulled him to his feet and dragged him into the Medical Bay.
A fogged sense of situational awareness told Xal that he’d moved, but the details felt faint at first. Two observation beds laid empty until the guards tossed Xal onto the closest. That’s when Xal saw Third Guardian Dalton’s face appear above his own. He’s not a medic. Why is he the first one looking at me? Xal tried to get up, but Third Guardian Dalton held a firm grasp against his chest.
“Go find the Medic,” Third Guardian Dalton commanded.
Xal couldn’t see if the two guards left but felt another pill shoved into his mouth.
“Bite,” Third Guardian Dalton said.
A soft hiss, and then the pressure from Xal’s mouth disappeared. Ashamed, Xal realized that the disorientation stemmed from more of a mental freakout than actual symptoms.
“How?” Xal gasped once enough of the bubbles disappeared.
“I didn’t just get my rank for being a good Spaceman,” Dalton said, “I’m also a damned good Chemist. We don’t have time for that now, though. Tell me what’s wrong with Fleet Admiral Boon. We had 5 minutes, and three of them are gone.”
Xal tried to talk over the tiny pockets of foam that remained in the recesses of his mouth as he explained the imposter and how it happened. Third Guardian Dalton’s face didn’t change one bit until Xal mentioned the radio message he received from his father. A look that sat somewhere between hope and astonishment flashed across Dalton’s face.
“There hasn’t been any other signal that has been able to get in or out of this damned ship,” Third Guardian Dalton said. “Maybe if—“
“Third Guardian Dalton,” One of the guards said, “we have the Medic.”
The meeting ended.