Rapid Departure II

rating: +17+x

Days consisted of little other than waking up, reading the books the Doctor had brought me from my cell for a couple of hours, then going back to sleep. My wounds healed rapidly, taking days instead of weeks; I attributed it to the salve. I wondered what kind of tricks the Doctor had up his leathery sleeves. Or, rather, in that black bag that looked like he probably kept cocaine in it.

From what little I’d learned about human medicine over the course of history, that was an accurate assumption. (Holy shit, don’t inject drugs into your spine and mutilate each other to prove that it inhibits pain. What kind of medical research is that? Humans were insane. I shuddered thinking about it…)

It was just another day; I’d finished my most recent book. It ended rather intriguingly, with acceptance of a robot takeover. I agreed with the robopsychologist– it was for the betterment of humanity. However, the timeline was confusing; from what little I’d seen by stealing glances at time-and-date-keeping devices, it was somewhere past 2020, and the story was set in the 2000s; was there already a robot takeover? Surely, they wouldn’t let the Foundation exist. Unless the Foundation was all robots?!

I jest. Robots would be better at their jobs.

I was sprawled unceremoniously over the edge of the hospital bed, contemplating the thought-provoking ending when the door opened; I had a feeling something was wrong by the way the Doctor checked behind him as he entered the room. He was holding a bag I hadn’t seen before.

“How are you feeling?”

I was cautious to answer. “Better than before.” Then, “Why?”

He busied himself with checking the cabinets, where medical supplies were stored. “The situation has changed. It is imperative that we depart immediately.”

“What?” I exclaimed, sitting bolt upright. “We’re going to leave?”

“I believed I had incapacitated ​​Dỳo. I was incorrect.”

I recalled that was the name of the strange figure, or rather the mask that sat utop it. “What happened to it? I don’t really remember…”

“I attempted to- I wanted to- I thought they would not bother us anymore. I have been making frequent visits to the containment zone I set up to the best of my ability, and they have remained there every day… until now.” The Doctor began pulling things from shelves, putting them into the bag.

“It’s- They’re gone? Do you know where?” I tried to not let my alarmedness show.

He shook his head. “That’s the issue. God knows what host they may have obtained.” Once finished packing things, he left the room, then returned with a white garment.

“I assumed you would wish to wear something more suitable than a hospital gown. This should be roughly your size.” He held it out to me.

I took it. It was a white jumpsuit, like the one I had been wearing prior to the accident with the masked figure. The Doctor pressed some buttons on the IV pump, shut it off, and reached through the neck of the gown to unscrew the line from my port. He wheeled away the IV stand, then came to the foot of the bed. I was confused when he pulled the blankets up to my ankles, and alarmed when he took ahold of one of my feet, then the other.

He contemplated. “Are you average size for your species?”

“Yes,” I lied through my teeth.

He made a thoughtful sound. “I will see if I can procure small enough boots.” When would the roasting end? “Change clothes. I will return shortly.”

I was grateful he’d left and let me change on my own. He seemed to want to do everything for me, from food to adjusting the bedding to blowing my freaking nose. I kept telling him to stop, that I didn’t need help, but a part of me - that I was deeply ashamed of - was starved for attention. I didn’t realise how bad it was until I almost started crying when he asked me if I liked the book I was reading. Nobody had even tried to consider what I liked in so long.

After my obligatory struggle with the snaps, the gown came off. I stepped into the legs of the jumpsuit, then put my arms in the sleeves and zipped it up.

Ah, familiarity. The baggy piece of clothing lulled me into a false sense of normalcy, like nothing had changed from before the calamity; I knew this was far from the truth.

The Doctor came back with boots, as promised. He also brought a coat, so big it could have fit him. I took the shoes – sturdy, black boots, that looked honestly quite cool – and meekly put them on, hoping my feet weren’t so weird that they were the wrong proportions for human shoes; to my relief, they fit, if a little roomy. I rolled up the legs of my jumpsuit a little, because I didn’t want to step on the ends. While the actual leg part was relatively the right size, the torso was too long, making the whole thing too long.

He draped the coat over my shoulders. I put my arms through it; it was a nice material, soft on the inside and simply patterned. The shoulder seams hit me halfway down the brachium; just insulting. But it would have to do, and it made me smile slightly that he’d gotten it for me. I didn’t think too hard about where it came from, because did we really have any choices?

I stood up, slung the bag around my shoulders, and followed him out of the room, resisting the urge to take a last glance behind me. The long corridors gave way to offices, check-ins and welcome desks, and then we were in front of large doors marked “EXIT” in fluorescent letters.

The Doctor pressed down on the long bar spanning one of the doors, and it opened, revealing… the outside. He held the door open for me, and I slipped past him onto the pavement.

Leaving the building hit me with all kinds of intense emotions. Warm air flowed across my face, and I felt sun on my skin. My first time seeing Earth, fully conscious, from the actual surface of the planet; my first time being out of the Foundation’s grasp in a real, tangible way.

I breathed in fresh air. It was muggy, but tasted like freedom, enough to make my hearts soar in hopeful anxiety. But my feet felt cemented to the ground for some inexplicable reason– I wanted to leave, I knew I needed to, but it felt impossible.

I’d been in containment for so long, and even after the Foundation was gone, I’d remained there. The whole thing was terrifying and tortuous and I wanted nothing more than to leave, but I just felt stuck. After all, I’d become used to the horrors. I’d told myself they were normal, because how else was I supposed to get through it? There was no other choice but to accept it.

But I was free now. So why was I clinging to shreds of something I wanted so badly to be rid of?

I would have stood there and stared at the landscape ahead of me forever, if the Doctor hadn’t taken my hand in his gloved one and stepped away from the door.

“It’s time to leave,” he said gently, gesturing ahead of me with his other hand.

Yes. Yes, it was. I took a step with him, then another, and we walked down the path together. I was gripping onto the other anomaly like a lifeline, my face was tinged blue in embarrassment at such a display of frailty. I hoped I wasn’t crushing his hand, but if I was, he didn’t say anything about it.

I felt like a bud that had just formed legs, trying to walk for the first time. I still didn’t know how I was going to function without the Foundation, because that had all I’d known for what felt like forever. But with the man steady at my side, I resolved I would at least try to get through it.

The sun was almost directly overhead when we left. It sunk slowly as we walked through abandoned cities, looking for life and taking frequent breaks to sit in the shade.

We were in the middle of one, the Doctor checking my temperature with a thermometer he brought, when my curiosity got the better of me.

“Why do you always wear gloves?” I asked timidly, not wanting to inquire on a personal matter.

The probe lens glided over my skin, guided by his steady hand. He waited until it beeped, read the temperature, then said, “It is a precaution.”

“Against what?”

“I do not wish to harm you,” he said finally.

“How would you hurt me?”

The Doctor tucked the thermometer into a pouch on his belt and stood up, offering me his hand. “We need to keep moving. We should be very close to a town.”

I pressed my lips together, but didn’t ask again.

After not too long, we happened upon a larger, and therefore more promising, city. Tall buildings stretched skywards, sparsely luminated in the dusk. There was but a whisper of wind that flowed in the streets; it was cool now, growing ever colder the higher the moon rose in the sky. Earth’s moon was similar to the one on my home planet– they weren’t so different, after all.

I didn’t know where we were going, I was just following the Doctor. He peered into windows and read signs, but didn’t try to enter any buildings. I wasn’t sure what he was looking for, but I just hoped we would find it before I froze to death.

As I thought that, we turned to a building with a large parking lot and dimly lit signs. One of them read ‘EMERGENCY ROOM’ in large text, accompanied by an arrow pointing to wide glass doors. We approached them, and something overhead glowed as the doors opened.

Immediately, I noticed a foul smell that lingered in the air. The Doctor drew closer to me, steps growing apprehensive as we rounded the corner to a triage area. There was a very quiet tapping sound that grew steadily louder.

The Doctor went in first, then stopped and stared. I cautiously followed and was surprised by what I found.

There was what appeared to be a human, a bit on the larger side and dressed in casual Earth clothes, sitting at a table. They were pressing something to the table, then flicking it into the air and catching it. That was the source of the tapping sound. They were immersed in the activity, a scowl apparent on their face as they somehow failed repeatedly at the task.

“Grabnok?” The Doctor asked.

The person looked up, obviously recognising him. “Oh, hey, long time no see.” He had an accent that differed from the other humans, as well as the Doctor, but I couldn’t place where it was from. Their eyes flicked to me, looking me up and down. “Who’s that?”

He put his hand on my shoulder, pulling me towards himself. “This is my patient.” Then, to me, “This is Grabnok the Destroyer. I met him once, when he was randomly transposed into my cell. He travels between worlds.”

Grabnok chuckled. “Not voluntarily. Anyways, what’s the state of the universe?”

“Human life is either negligible or nonexistent.”

“Oh, that would explain those.” He nodded to the far side of the room, in which were bloated corpses leaking bodily fluids. That’s where the stench was coming from, evidently. “So, this one’s not a human?” he asked, pointing to me.

The Doctor’s grip on my shoulder increased slightly. “Kepler.” We had talked about where I’d come from, and we had been able to locate a few different planets in the Foundation database that were likely candidates. The humans had called them Kepler exoplanets, so that was the name we were going with.

Grabnok’s eyebrows raised. “Like the astronomer?”

There was a pause. The Doctor seemed hesitant to give away my personal details, which I appreciated. “Like the planet,” I responded.

“You’re an alien?”

“To me, you’re the alien.”

He laughed. “Fair enough. Guess I’m the only human on Earth then, huh? I've heard whispers filtering down from the Foundation about mass extinction events happening in some universe or other. To my knowledge, this is the first one I've been in that's still like mine. Eerie. What are the odds?” He checked his watch. “I’m due to teleport back any minute now. Just been sitting in here, in case there was something outside that killed all these fellas. I'm going to start heading back for Site-19 so the Foundation doesn't have to go too far to find me when I appear back.” He got up, taking his small object with him.

Grabnok started to walk past us, then paused and looked me in the eyes. I felt uncomfortable, and looked away.

“Do you have Wilson’s disease?”

I said “no” at the same time the Doctor said “yes”. I turned to him, confused.

“It’s obvious. You have Kayser-Fleischer rings,” he clarified.


“In your eyes,” Grabnok said, “Around the iris. Humans get it when they have copper poisoning due to Wilson’s disease.”

“But copper is good for me?” My voice rose slightly at the end, like I was asking a question, even though it was supposed to be a statement.

“Dude!” Grabnok exclaimed. “Hemocyanin?”

Now that I knew the answer to. I nodded. He smiled and added, “I’ve always been interested in cryptids with weird biology.” He held up his hand, offering me the small object he’d been playing with earlier. It was rectangular, with rounded corners and small cylindrical things on the bottom– I was pretty sure they were wheels.

I hesitated, then took it. “What is this?”

“It’s a Tech Deck. Keep it, so that if I reappear in this universe, I can know it’s you.”

I slipped it into my pocket. “Okay. Thank you for the Tech Deck.”

Grabnok brushed past me, leaving via the doors we entered through.

Once he was gone, the Doctor turned to me. “Are you alright? How is it, talking to humans? Is it different, because this one is not part of the Foundation?”

Surprise must have showed on my face, because he touched my arm and said, “You do not have to answer right now. I only ask for future reference.”

“Uh…” Being asked about my feelings was weird. He hadn’t answered my earlier question, so I thought it wouldn’t be horribly rude to avoid his just this once. “Maybe we should do something with the dead bodies.”

He turned to the reception desk, where a human lay face-down on the counter with a pool of putrefied fluid around their head.

“I do not want you touching the bodies.” That was just as well, because I didn’t think I would be able to put up with it. But I wouldn’t admit that. “I do not want you breathing in the smell, either. I will retrieve the mint extract they always keep in hospitals, and a mask. Wait here.”

I did as he asked, sitting down in the chair Grabnok had occupied and putting the backpack I’d been wearing down beside me. The chair was slightly warm, which reminded me that I was in the minority in terms of -therms. At least, I was before humans were wiped out. I wondered if the exotherms were going to rise up and take over next.

A few minutes later, the Doctor returned with a filtration mask and handed it to me. I put it on, and was hit with the strong scent of what was apparently mint. It was a strong smell, crisp with a sickly sweet undertone. The longer I breathed in, the sleepier I got. The Doctor knelt by my side, asking me how I felt.

“I’m… uh… I…” my eyelids drooped, and I leaned against the table. Before I was aware of what was happening, the world lost focus around me and I went limp. The last thing I felt was the Doctor smoothing my hair, then he pushed my chair in and positioned my arms so that my head was resting on them. He might have said something to me, but I didn’t catch it as I lost consciousness.

I woke up in the same position as before, but wearing a scentless mask. The foetid smell had dissipated, and as I raised my head, I noticed the room was empty save for the Doctor in a chair beside me. I eased up on my arms into more of a sitting position, rubbing my eyes.

“I didn’t expect that you would be out for so long,” he commented, raising a pen light and shining it in my eyes.

I squinted reflexively. “I think I’m allergic to mint.”

He nodded. “That is certainly possible. After all, this is a strange planet with substances you are not accustomed to.” The light turned off and disappeared somewhere inside his black robes. “Are you breathing alright? May I listen to your lungs?”

“Uh… sure.” He removed a stethoscope from his bag, which I hadn’t noticed was on the table. He put the earpieces somewhere under his hood and pressed the circular end to my back, instructing me to breathe deeply. It was slightly uncomfortable, but I’d had problems with my lungs my whole life. However, it got much worse after the Foundation infected me with throttling viruses; I’d never really fully recovered.

The Doctor didn’t make any comments, so I assumed my lungs sounded normal enough. Then he moved the diaphragm to my chest, and I grew tense. I could feel my pulses speeding up; dual systoles and diastoles were a dead giveaway to how different I was from humans, or rather, most humanoid creatures on this planet.

After a long moment, he asked, “Do I make you nervous?”

My reaction was enough to make me qualify for a diagnosis of arrhythmias. I opened my mouth and made some sputtering sounds, then finally squeaked, “Yes, so much.”

He withdrew the stethoscope and put it away. “I apologise. Your biology is simply fascinating to me.” A pause. “Is there anything in particular that I should be doing differently?”

He was looking at me intently, and I had to stare a hole into the table. I fucked up; had I hurt his feelings? “It’s not a bad- I- It’s- I just-” I swallowed hard. “I just… don’t want you to hate me, or something.” It sounded incredibly stupid, and I was contemplating smashing my head into the table as a poor man’s amnestic. The truth was, for the first time in forever, I had something to lose. (And, also, there was the part where I watched him throw a grown man across a room. Hello? Excuse me?) We hadn’t known each other that long, but I was getting attached. I hated getting attached.

But as much as I hated it, it wasn’t so bad. I was growing to like his company, which was strange and foreign to me… but not unwelcome. I gritted my teeth and added, “Because I like you, and I want you to like me as well.”

The Doctor chuckled softly. “I do not hate you. In fact, I like you. You need not worry about such things.”

I smiled nervously and balled my hands in my lap. Wow. Someone liked me? I’d always wanted a friend. Not that we were friends or something– I didn’t want to call it something it wasn’t– but liking each other was the first step to being friends, right?

“Now, I would like to show you to the room I prepared for you. You slept through the night, and I did not want to disturb you– therefore, you must eat.” He got up, took the backpack, and motioned me to follow. I stood, and the world greyed out. When my vision and hearing returned, the Doctor was grasping my arm. “6118?”

“Sorry.” I leaned on him slightly to maintain balance. “Just felt a little lightheaded.”

“You definitely need to be fed, then. Come along.” He placed a hand on my back and guided me out of the triage, walking with a slow page. We went into the nearest room, a small squarish thing that was devoid of anything but a bed, chair, and IV pole. The bed was against a light beige wall, with a darker stripe the same colour as the floor running along the lower part of the wall.

I sat down on the bed, and he set the bag down, unzipping it and taking out one of the IV bags. The pole already had a pump on it, as well as tubing with a cassette hanging off one of the hooks. The Doctor switched to blue exam gloves– I could have sworn I saw another pair of gloves the same colour as his robes underneath, but that just sounded ridiculous.

“You know,” the Doctor said as he primed the cassette and put it into the machine, “It’s marvellous how much medicine has advanced. I’d gotten so caught up in my duty of curing humankind of the Plight - The Great Dying - that I failed to consider that there were other avenues. In a position like mine, gaining extensive knowledge of medicine is unavoidable; why not use that to help someone who actually deserves helping?”

He pushed the coat off my shoulders and unzipped my jumpsuit, then scrubbed the catheter port on my chest with a sterilising wipe. “I do not mean humans, of course. They are beyond help, beings cursed with affliction for the rest of their days. It’s been centuries, and yet, their filth, their greed– Try as I might, nothing changes.” Screwing in the line, he finished, “You are something else entirely…” A pause. “With this great Curing, my eyes opened; perhaps vivisection is not the answer. Perhaps there are more important things.”

He patted my shoulder. “Well, that’s enough from me. I brought a few of your books; there was no room to spare, however, I believe reading is the essence of life. Also, I did not want you to become overly bored.” He knelt and reached into one of the bag’s pockets, holding out a purple book. “I believe this is the next one in your series, yes?”

I took it and nodded. I didn’t know how to feel about his viewpoint on humanity, but it made me happy that he cared about something as small as if I was bored or not. And it made me happy that he thought I was different, but not in a bad way. Before, when I’d been different, it’d always be in a bad way.

“I’m going to take a better look around, to see what we have to work with in this place. Please do not get up and wander– if there is an issue, I will be down the hall right here.” He stood at the door and indicated the direction by pointing.

“Thank you for the food, and the book, and all the help.” It was the least I could say. I would be literally dead without him, and besides, his continued assistance was quite meaningful to me.

“It is of no consequence.”

That was one of those human phrases that I’d learned. “No, it has a lot of significance. I really appreciate it.”

“You do not have to thank me. I am simply doing what must be done.”

We looked at each other for a few seconds, and then he left, leaving the door slightly ajar. I could hear his sharp footsteps echo down the hall, and I opened the book, turning to the first page.

Barely a chapter in, and I heard yelling.

“Anyone occupying this building, come out with your hands up!” It was coming from nearby, sounding like they entered the building from the same glass doors that I had.

I set the book down, forgetting to note the page I was on. I stood and left the room, wheeling the IV pole with me towards the continuous noise. I looked down the hall, but the Doctor did not appear to be present. I was about to call out for him when the source of the yelling ran into me.

They were humanoid, roughly around my size but stockier and probably a lot older. They looked unwell, and there was bile splattered on their clothes. They were holding a firearm, which they pointed at me before hesitating and putting it into a holster.

“Hello there. Hope I didn’t give you too much of a shock. Who are you? What are you doing here?” They gestured at the IV pole. “Are you hurt?”

Ah yes, I looked like a sick child. I wasn’t used to sympathy, and if I was smarter, I could have probably played it up. Alas, I didn’t want yet another thing to hate myself for, so I tried to make my posture less dejected, standing up straighter and looking past their head instead of at the ground. “I am occupying this building.”

“Yeah, I can see that. How old are you? Where are your parents?”

I wasn’t sure how old I was exactly, and I had no clue how old I looked in human years; I was certainly an adult Kepler, but my species' development was expedited, mere months instead of the 20-something years it would take a human to be at the same level of development as I was— there was no good age scaling between our species.

It was also jarring to be reminded of the whole two or more biological parents thing that humans had going on. The implication that someone was raising me was almost offensive; did they really think that daughters– or, children, which was apparently what humans called their gamete-based offspring– with healthy, loving families hung around in hospitals and, well, looked like this?

There was an awkward silence. I looked down the hall, wondering where the Doctor was.

“Are your parents over there?”


“Who’s over there?”

I was going to deflect again when I heard door hinges creak, then saw the Doctor emerge from a nearby room. The person in front of me drew their firearm and took on an aggressive stance, clearly hostile.

“You! Are you behind those zombies outside? Disgusting things, had to put ‘em down!”

The Doctor looked to me, then them. “Who are you?”

“A former member of Psi-8, meaning I know all about you.” To me, they said, “Get behind me. That thing’s dangerous, it’ll kill you for sure.”

Not wanting to escalate the situation, I stepped behind them, giving the Doctor an apologetic look. “A Silencer that was herself revived. Ironic, isn’t it?” He responded with a tinge of amusement in his voice.

“Shut the fuck up, anomaly.” The Doctor walked forwards, and I could see her finger squeeze the trigger. In a moment of terror, I darted forwads and grabbed her wrist, jerked it sideways, and tried to wrestle the gun out of her hand.

“What the hell?” She exclaimed, letting go and turning around to face me. I scrambled backwards, yanking the magazine out of the weapon and throwing it towards the Doctor. I missed badly, and it clattered to the ground behind him. He continued to walk towards the former member of Psi-8, who was looking at me with a great deal of confusion expressed on her face.

I held my empty hand out, palm facing both of them. “Stop. Doctor, stop. Please don’t hurt her. We all just need to calm down and talk about this.”

“You’re on its side?” Her eyes narrowed. “What exactly are you?”

The Doctor ceased his approach, but said, “I’d thought my encounter with him was notable enough to be logged.”

She scoffed. “You can’t possibly mean that you two… The Foundation would never allow…”

“I ran into his containment chamber while trying to evade Foundation security, but it would be bad if that got out, right? So the only note is in my file– it was apparently either never documented or redacted from everywhere else,” I cut in. “Is that enough? Does that satisfy you? Can we please calm down now?”

“…So, what makes you a skip?”

I was feeling short of breath from talking so much so fast, but I didn’t want to make her angry. “I’m E.T. and you guys exploited me for medicine.”

The former Psi-8 member seemed to accept this. She shifted, facing the Doctor again. “So you’ve just been reanimating decaying corpses? Is that what you’re up to, now that you’ve escaped? I thought you’d lose your mind, with all the humans on Earth suddenly Cured.”

“Death is not the Cure, it is merely a component. However, I…” He glanced at me. “I no longer wish to execute my Cure on humanity.”

I gave him a small thumbs up. This was good, this was progress to deescalation. I was all for less people dying, both short- and long-term.

She squinted and asked, “Why should I trust you?”

“He’s very trustworthy,” I promised. “Always keeps his word. Really honest.”

The former member of Psi-8 rolled her eyes. “Well, I suppose it can’t hurt to keep an eye on you two. Give me back my gun, and I’ll show you freaks to the settlement where the other survivors of the calamity are staying.”

The Doctor and I exchanged a look. He nodded to me, and I tentatively held the handle of the firearm out to her. I didn’t know if it was a good idea, but I trusted the Doctor’s judgement.

The Psi-8 accepted it with more force than was necessary for a peaceful offer, and then asked, “What about my ammo?”

“You can get more once you show us the settlement,” the Doctor said. I thought this was a very good idea; don’t give the angry human a loaded weapon, and give her an incentive to take us where she said she would.

She looked down the hall, like she was considering going after the ammo I’d thrown, but looking at the Doctor, she seemed to change her mind. “Okay, fine.” She sighed.

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