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Aberrant: Stargate Universe - Night Terrors [Complete]

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Area 51, several months before the formation of SG-21.

There were worse gigs, Olivia reflected as she pushed her glasses higher on her nose. Today, there’d been no reports due, so she’d cleaned up her desk, surfed the Web a bit, and then had been officially bored. Not someone who enjoyed that sensation, she went to find her new boss, Marv Goldman. “Marv, I’m bored,” she announced as she leaned against the door jam. "Please tell me there's something I could do to help."

"Not in what we hired you for," Marv said softly, looking at her through the goggles he was wearing. The parchment spread before him was almost blank with age, and the goggles were enhancing his ability to pick out the remains of the ink.

"Then I'll do anything," Olivia said. She did want work, but there was a small ulterior motive for her offer. Hopefully, they'd have her catalog or something like that, and she could learn more about some new piece of alien tech. "Come on, I'm bored stiff."

His eyes ranged over his desk, looking for something. Olivia doubted he'd find anything on that desk. Mountains of post-it notes were piled one on another, looking like a deflated rainbow, while books for literal walls against interlopers. The computer monitor, mouse and keyboard were mostly free, but the rest of the computer was buried in papers and books like an earthquake victim standing in the wrong place. The head of Research and Development at Area 51 was bound to be a busy man, but her owl-like boss probably made his job harder through lack of organization. "Oh, I know," he said suddenly, snatching up a post-it note - and peeling three others off of it. "We had some artifacts that arrived in the 80's from a Grecian dig found in Connecticut-"

"What?" Olivia asked, feeling her eyebrows rise. "Greeks in Connecticut?! Why haven't I heard of this before?"

"It was hidden from the public because of the nature of the artifacts. Anyway, though they are clearly of non-Earth origin, and though they appear to be tech," Marv continued, "they also appear to do nothing. So they were cataloged and put in a box and stored in the warehouse. The Polaroids and film taken of them have deteriorated over time, and we need someone to take new pictures and load them into the database. It's drudge work, but you're welcome to it."

This was exactly what she wanted. "Sure!" she said, getting excited. "Do we have a folder on it? I'd love to read it."

Marv smiled at her enthusiasm. She was still new, so she hadn't yet lost that shiny new-job eagerness. He wrote out the directions to the right crate and then to the right file folder. The system for organizing all of this stuff was going to be complex. "Here you go," he said, handing her a post-it that had "Garfield - Rose - Iron" written on the back. Marv had a bad habit of recycling post-it notes.

It took an hour, but Olivia found the crate, got it to a table, set up her camera and laptop and poked through the file. It was very slim, frustratingly so. Mostly, it was on the artifacts, but Olivia was sure that there must be more somewhere. They had to have brought someone in to perform a site excavation. If they hadn’t – Olivia didn’t think about that. She didn’t want to consider the thought that valuable data had been destroyed because the government couldn’t be bothered to arrange for someone to do a proper dig.

She pulled the first artifact out, carefully removing it with gloved hands from the foam packing securing it. It was a small bronze knife, unmistakably Greek in origin. But strange crystals had been embedded in its edge, in a manner that a modern smith would have had difficulty managing. Olivia looked around to make sure no one was near, and tested the edge on some paper. It cut easily and cleanly. “Wow,” she whispered, then set it on the black velvet backdrop and took several shots.

On and on it went like that, treasure after treasure, each more bizarre than the last. Olivia was having the time of her life; none of these things came from Earth, and had she had access to them in the outside world, she’d have no problem supporting her book. It was almost an obsession for her now – she wanted to see that book published, to silence her critics. She knew that wasn’t going to happen so long as this stuff was classified. She’d have to be content with knowing that she right, and not being able to tell anyone. It wasn’t something that comforted her very much.

When she came to the black pentagon, she was hungry, thirsty, tired and officially into her own personal time. “Just one more,” she murmured as she started to take measurements. It was black and slick like obsidian, but it was warm to the touch, which the folder confirmed. It was rounded on all corners and sides; even the five tips of were soft curves. It was impossible to shape the black volcanic glass like that. “Four inches from each tip to base,” she muttered, setting the stone down so she could type. “Weight…” She picked it up to take it to the scale, and it made a popping noise.

Surprised, she looked down to see a five-sided opening in the stone, the inner points going the opposite way as the outer points. It went all the way through; she could see her hand behind the small red crystal that was suspended in the opening. There was something in the crystal, and she leaned close to see:


Darkness coiled behind her eyes as they burned. From there, the agony screamed down her nerves to her brain, where her body went haywire, the muscles locking completely. Her skin seeming to sizzle with pain, Olivia was cast in hell – in part. Her mind went there, cast into the raging furnace. Her body, left in the chair, began to spasm until it collapsed to the floor, the pentagon clenched tightly in her fist.

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She cooked for an eternity, her skin blackening and eyeballs bursting, only to heal and begin to cook again. Time had no relevance here; there was no external way to judge it, and her agony prevented her from counting it in her head. There was only pain – it was her world, and her mind collapsed under its weight.

Deliverance was preceded by voices, whispering as if they were right next to her ear. She didn’t look to see if anyone was there; she didn’t care. “It is broken already. I thought they were resilient.”

“Perhaps they have their limits.”

“Pity. Restore, and let us start more gently.”

Olivia opened her mouth to speak when she was suddenly at home, sitting up in her bed. “What the heck?” she asked, staring around, trying to remember what had happened. She’d been cataloguing artifacts at Area 51. Shaking her head, she grabbed her glasses, stepping out of bed and into her living room, looking around for some clue of how she’d gotten home last night. Her keys were in their dish, and her purse was on its hook with her sweater, so it looked like she’d just worked herself to exhaustion and come home. I don’t like not remembering driving home.

Shaking a head at her own foolishness, she headed to make herself some coffee. A buzzing sound stopped her, and she turned back, her eyes searching her living room for the noise. She slowly tracked the noise to a small black pentagon, lying next to her key dish. “What is that?” she murmured, and touched it with a finger.

It stung and she pulled back sharply. The tip of her finger ached and was red, as if the stone had actually stung her. The surface of the pentagon rippled, and something crawled out of it. Olivia pulled back further, her face scrunching up with disgust as the small bug pulled itself clear of the stone before lifting into the air with a buzz.

It darted toward her, looking like a wasp made of black glass. With a yelp, Olivia snatched up a magazine and swung at it, knocking it to the floor. She slammed the bug with the copy of Elle a few more times. “Need to call work, because this is wrong,” she mumbled, standing up and heading for her phone.

The buzzing was louder. Olivia turned around, as two more bugs freed themselves from the stone. “Oh, crap,” she said with feeling, grabbing her flyswatter. Stun them. Hopefully if you don’t kill them, it won’t make anymore. It might have worked, but she could only fend them off for so long. When one stung her, she clapped a hand to it, killing it.

Behind her, the stone buzzed. Olivia groaned when she saw two more bugs crawl out. Then the other member of the first pair stung her, and she knocked it loose, yelping. Without waiting to see if she’d killed it, she darted over to the pentagon and grabbed it – only to have it sting her flesh. Yelping, she dropped it, and every part she’d touched writhed with bugs working loose.

Snatching up a towel, she used it to scoop it up, noting it was still hurting her through the cloth. Bugs began to pour out, crawling straight into her hands, even as she thrust it into her freezer and slammed the door.

It was too late. She sank limply to the floor as anaphylactic shock set in. The terrible stings continued, but she didn’t care. She just closed her eyes and let it happen, let her heart slow and stop.

”Much better result. It needs to feel that it can fight, regardless of the reality.”

“What if it feels it cannot fight, but could? I have checked its files, and have a suitable scenario.”

“Very good. Restore and begin again.”

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Olivia opened her mouth to speak when she was suddenly at home, sitting up in her bed. “What the heck?” she asked, staring around, trying to remember what had happened. She’d been cataloguing artifacts at Area 51. Shaking her head, she grabbed her glasses, stepping out of bed and into her living room, looking around for some clue of how she’d gotten home last night. Her keys were in their dish, and her purse was on its hook with her sweater, so it looked like she’d just worked herself to exhaustion and come home. I don’t like not remembering driving home.

The door to her apartment opened and closed. Olivia tensed as she eased toward the central hallway; no one else should have a key, and she always bolted her door when she came home. But there was the unmistakable tread of someone in hard-soled shoes walking in her hallway, and Olivia reversed her direction, trying to dart through the dining room to the kitchen – and the fire escape there.

A hand caught her around the neck, and the familiar chuckle froze her blood. She hadn’t heard that particular malicious delight in years, but she remembered it clearly. “Hello, Liv,” he cooed and she shivered, wondering how he’d found her and what she’d have to do this time to get away.

Her eyes filled with tears as his other hand began to possessively touch her through her clothing, as he began the soul-destroying dance he’d already forced on her once. She looked up – and there was a gun on the shelf in front of her.

She almost grabbed it. But fear of trying to use it, and failing to use it right, made her hesitate, even as he hurt her again. If she used the gun, he might hurt her. He might take it and kill her. She just had to survive this one more time, and then she’d be fine.

She was fine until he began to choke her, his strength holding her easily as she fought against him. As she looked up into Carl’s eyes and died, she saw the black pentagon hanging from the chain around his neck.

”It assumed survivability based on a previous encounter.”

“It let itself be killed because it was afraid.”

“The long-term viability of the subject is questionable.”

“Restore. Give it something to fight for.”

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Sergeant Joe Rademacher almost forgot about the woman who had taken exam room one. She was forgettable, very quiet and easily overlooked, and she dressed like his mother. Still, she had a pretty face, and he wondered if the body hidden behind a full skirt and giant cardigan was just as pretty. Still, she was so shy that he didn’t bother trying to talk to her; by the time he’d wormed through her defenses far enough to date, he could be in the sack with a woman with fewer issues. Still, she was exotic, and he didn’t mind the occasional fantasy about her.

It was that off-handed interest in her that made him stop at the door and extend his shift by a few minutes to go check on her. Walking into the warehouse, he called, “Doctor? You ok? Shift’s ov-“

The sound of a chair clattering to the floor made him bolt forward, one hand going to his firearm, the other to his radio. He rounded a shelf and saw the woman sprawled on the floor, twitching. He scanned the area for threats, and seeing none, knelt next to her, looking for a pulse. He found it, frighteningly slow. “Shit!” he muttered, then radioed, “Medical to Warehouse Nine, section twelve – I have a woman down and need medical assistance! I need medical assistance immediately!” The call was out, and all he could do was focus on keeping her alive until they got there.

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Olivia opened her mouth to speak when she was suddenly at home, sitting up in her bed. “What the heck?” she asked, staring around, trying to remember what had happened. She’d been cataloging artifacts at Area 51. Shaking her head, she grabbed her glasses, stepping out of bed and into her living room, looking around for some clue of how she’d gotten home last night. Her keys were in their dish, and her purse was on its hook with her sweater, so it looked like she’d just worked herself to exhaustion and come home. I don’t like not remembering driving home.

“Hey, sleepy head, about time you got up,” Wakiki’s voice made her jump. “Joly was about to give Mattie permission to stick an ice cube in your bed.”

She turned to find him standing in the doorway to her living room; behind him, in the dining room, his blond wife and their beautiful daughter were playing a board game. That’s right, they were staying over with me. How could I forget that? Olivia shook away the cobwebs, wondering why she was resisting the thought of her brother and his family being there. Why wouldn’t they visit her after she’d moved to Nevada? “Mmm, I’m still asleep,” Olivia muttered, pressing a hand to her head.

“I can wake you up,” little Matsu – Mattie to her family – called, her high voice giggling. “Daddy showed me how!”

“You iced your own child,” Olivia said, shaking her head at her brother. “You’re a monster.”

“Gotta make her tough,” Wakiki laughed, utterly unrepentant.

“I iced him, and Mommy too,” Mattie giggled. “And Grandma!”

“Yeah, and you and Daddy both got grounded for that,” Jolena said, reaching out and playing with her daughter’s soft, dark curls.

“Still funny,” Mattie rejoined, kicking her feet.

Olivia smiled, relaxing a little in the comfortable presence of her family. This was what she needed after yesterday – not that she could remember why it’d been a bad day. Hadn’t she gotten to catalog for Marv?

Her thoughts were destroyed as something slammed against her front door, shattering the wood around the lock and popping it open. Olivia was the closest to the hallway, and was the first to see the three armed men in black commando uniforms. She heard Wakiki behind her, moving to defend his family, even as her hands rose as if pulled by strings. “Down! Down! On your knees! Move!” one of them shouted at her, leveling the gun, and Olivia hit her knees, shaking.

“Take whatever you want,” she said as loudly as she dared. “Please don’t hurt my family.”

“That depends on you,” one of the men said. He fished something out of his pocket, holding it before her. Olivia had a completely irrational surge of fear as the black pentagon hovered before her face. She’d never seen that before, but it was making her very, very afraid. “What is this? What does it do?”

“I don’t know,” she said, shaking. “I’ve never seen that before in my life.”

“That’s not the answer you need,” the commando said, nodding at one of his peers. The man aimed and pulled his trigger, even as Olivia shouted a denial. Jolena jerked and flopped backwards; Wakiki rose, making an inarticulate noise as he started to attack. Mattie screamed; the tears that had started to flow were now racing down her small face.

Olivia shouted something, but it didn’t stop two of them from applying their rifle butts to her brother. She couldn’t stand here and just watch; there was a knife in the belt of the one of them. Without much thought and with ferocity Olivia didn’t know she possessed, she ripped the knife loose and plunged it into the soldier. He screamed as she sunk it to the hilt and twisted it. Her knuckles were almost white as she ripped it free, seeing him stumble back, holding his gut. She heard something that her brain decided was threatening, and turned to see a gun pointed at her.

Wakiki leapt at the man pointing the gun at her and slammed into him, knocking them both down. “Livy! Mattie!” he screamed as they collapsed together, and Olivia knew what her brother wanted: her to save his daughter. There was no time to consider whether she could do it; she reacted. The next man aimed at her as she bolted without thought, toward her niece. The spray of bullets went where she was as Olivia grabbed the child dashed into the dining room and toward the kitchen. The molding on her doorframe exploded in splinters with a burst of gunfire as she cleared it; she tried to shield her niece and felt them hit her.

The next round burned like fire as he caught her in the center of her back. Olivia stumbled and fell onto the tile floor of her kitchen; all of her energy went to not falling on her niece. The world went black too fast; she was dying. The last thing she saw was Mattie crying and begging her to wake up and get up.

She died without knowing the child’s fate.

”Much better response. A hardwired maternal instinct to protect genetic carriers.”

“That does indicate a species focused on the passage of genetic material to the next generation.”

“But that is no indication of true sentience. It should be sentient, yet it displays a lack of will to live. Only sentient creatures should have access to the Trial Grounds, yet it displays no self-preservation. Restore and run another scenario.”

“Wait,” Olivia whispered, but she was dead – wasn’t she?

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Dr. Lam hated this. The small, dark-skinned woman on the bed was suffering from a variety of symptoms, all of which changed rapidly and constantly strained the woman’s system. Dr. Jenings-Izumi’s file indicated that she was new to Area 51, so there wasn’t a lot of medical data available. For all Dr. Lam knew, this was an extreme allergic reaction to some strange bit of alien tech. The problem was that she didn’t know what could be causing it, and she was supposed to know these things.

She’d also feel better if they could get that alien device out of her hand. They’d tried everything, from Marines trying to coax her fingers open to a local anesthetic to focus the muscles to relax. Nothing was doing anything, and Dr. Lam was getting really frustrated. This was her job!

Two nurses hovered over Dr. Jenings-Izumi, constantly monitoring her. They’d seen welts and bruises rise and fade in a matter of seconds, as if something were injuring internally and healing her just as fast. Worse, her heart was stopping periodically, then restarting without warning. These events were so fast that no one was trying to treat them anymore, only monitor one on the hopes it would slow down and let them get a better look at what was happening. It was like something from those hokey old sci fi shows, where the hypnotist had complete control over his victim-

Dr. Lam blinked and straightened. “This is psychosomatic, classically so,” she said, causing the two nurses to glance at her. “We have to figure out a way to stop her brain from hurting her. Suggestions?”

The two nurses stared at her with wide eyes. “Um… drugs to sever the connection of the brain to the body?” one stated in the form of a question.

“We don’t have drugs like that that aren’t called ‘poisons’,” Lam barked. “Other ideas?”

“Doctor!” The nurse who hadn’t spoken was pointing at the bed; blood was seeping around the edges of the patient’s shoulders.

“Lift her! Right now!” Lam snapped and they pulled her into a sitting position. Her back was a bloody mess, and Lam sopped it away, looking for a wound. But the blood just oozed from an unbroken area of skin, as if from her pores. As they watched, it stopped – as did the woman’s heart. It started again, quickly, but no one was happy about this. That was the last straw for Lam; frustrated, she ordered, “Get a transfusion bag on her and clean her up. I’m calling Dr. Frasier for consultation.”

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She burned.

She froze.

She drowned.

She started to dread every time she woke up in her bed room, gasping in a full panic that couldn’t be stopped. She was always given enough time to begin to question what was happening to her, to question how she’d gotten there and then it started again.

She was shot.

She was knifed.

She was skinned.

She couldn’t remember what had gone before, but she knew each time something was very wrong. She knew what was coming, but she couldn’t stop it and she couldn’t see it until it was hurting her. Each time, another piece of her mind shattered, fragmented to nothingness from the onslaught.

She boiled in oil.

She was beheaded.

She was buried alive.

Pain scrubbed away fear. There was no other reaction she could have, in time. She was afraid of pain, but after so much, it didn’t matter anymore. She tried to avoid it, but if it came, it came. All that mattered was getting through it, getting to the next challenge and getting through that, as well. Over and over, she was dragged into the next round of pain and fear, and over and over she died from it.

And over and over, she heard that hated voice, saying, ”Restore.”

It took a while, but she found a loophole. At the moment of death, when she was on threshold of death, she had a second to act, a moment in time where death did not have her, and neither did her tormenters. It was the only time she remembered everything, where she knew where she was. It took several tries to time it right and not be overcome by the sudden return of her memories. She finally got the balance right.

“Stop it!” she screamed the second she died of suffocation, putting a surprising amount of volume into the words for a woman with no air in her lungs. She waited for the order to restore to come, but it didn’t.

”It speaks. It speaks to us.”

“My name is Olivia,” she gasped. “I am not an ‘it’.”

”No matter. Res-“

“Stop it!” she shouted. “You stop that! No more restoring! We’re done with that!”

”You have still not shown that you are sentient, though being able to talk to us like this is a good sign.”

“You fail to fight, to struggle, against self-annihilation.”

“That is a lack of sentience.”

“Or a sign of my ability to choose. Avoiding self-annihilation is not always the mark of the best and the brightest.”

”You fail to understand the meaning of this experiment. Like an animal, you rut and eat and excrete and die. There seems to be little more to you.”

“You lack the desire to live forever. You welcome pain and bring death. You are not logical.”

The voice was condescending, and deeply offensive. Olivia, haggard and running on emotional exhaustion, bristled at the tone. “Listen to me,” she snarled. “I don’t care what game you are playing here. You have no right to judge my sentience, not through torture. I don’t care what power you have. You’re morally reprehensible for doing this to me!” She probably should have stopped one line sooner, but the words tumbled from her mouth in a rush.

”We are the superior beings. We have every right to judge.”

Olivia thought for a moment, then shook her head, right as she heard the first part of that hated word. “You’re doing it wrong. Completely wrong.”

There was a pause, and a sense of irritation. They seemed to want her to shut up and die like a good little inferior creature. ”Wrong? We are not wrong, ever.”

I stung some pride there, I think. “Observation is the not the best means of data collection.” She paused, to see if they’d bite.

”It is the best we have.”

“No it isn’t,” Olivia replied, quickly. “The best you have is direct experience. You can pull things out of my head and use them against me, make me experience them. So you can do the same to yourself. Live my life. Live my choices. Judge my actions through my eyes and beliefs.”

Silence was her answer.

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“I’m just as mystified as you,” Dr. Frasier said, shaking her head and frowning. They stood over Dr. Jenings-Izumi, watching her sweat, shiver, bleed and die without warning or pause. “But I’m sure we need to get the artifact out of her hand.”

“We’ve tried,” Dr. Lam said, looking furious, though that anger wasn’t aimed at Janet. “She’s not letting go, even with we’ve numbed the hand. But yes, the artifact is key. We might have to break her fingers. In fact, I'm considering it right now.”

“We need to be careful,” Dr. Frasier warned. “It has to be doing this to her mind, and we might damage her by removing it.”

“Are you suggesting we leave it-“

“Doctors?” One of the nurses interrupted. “I think there’s a change.”

“You think?” Lam asked tensely.

“What?” Dr. Frasier asked immediately.

“Nothing’s happening to her, and hasn’t for the last minute.” The nurse held up the stopwatch they’d been using to track the rapid changes. “She might be stabilizing.”

“Keep monitoring,” Dr. Lam ordered. “And see if you can get that damned thing out of her hand now.

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“Experience… directly?”

“Yes,” Olivia said. “You’ll see my actions as your own, and you’ll know what I think and feel. You’ll know why I think and feel what I do. And you’ll come to understand my motivations, and how they’re informed by what I believe. You’ll know me.

She should have been upset by this invasion of privacy, but that had already been done. This was her way out, and she couldn’t let it slip through her fingers. She sensed that she had to pass this test or she’d die here. There wasn’t a very good reason to think this, but they were looking for something, and they hadn’t shown much concern for her rights and feelings. Somehow, she didn’t think they’d feel all that bad about killing her.

She waited a long time, hovering between life and death, feeling an eternity of time roll by. Finally, a voice said, “We will attempt your suggestion.”

“We doubt the validity of your beliefs.”

“We believe that this will not help.”

“But you won’t know until you try,” Olivia said. “I know I’m frustrated when I want some information, and can’t find it. This is your chance to not guess, but know my mettle.”

She was suddenly without form, or shape, or anything to define her as “Olivia” other than her panicked thoughts. She sensed others around her – it wasn’t seeing. There was nothing to see, only the knowledge of what was happening around her. She ‘spun’ in nothingness, disoriented and lost.

“Calm yourself.”

The voices were closer than before, almost inside of her, yet further, better defined from her. She cut off her yelp and just focused on being. Slowly, she adapted, just by not thinking about what was happening to her. She quickly had another thing to consider.

Below her, which was more just an arbitrary direction than an actual ‘down’, she saw strange darkness, punctuated by muted red lights. The area of awareness seemed small, almost as if it were from the inside of a peach-red chamber. And then the birth started.

“Oh, god,” Olivia gasped. “That’s… me being born, isn’t it?”

“Yes. It is. Our scientist who agreed to experience your life is starting at the beginning, as he should.”

“And I can see it… but not feel,” Olivia clarified.

“Yes. This is how we have experienced you to date. Visually.”

“This should be interesting,” Olivia ‘muttered’ though there was no change to her voice or even volume.

No one should ever have to watch their live from beginning to end, with no filters and nowhere to hide. Every mistake was played out through Olivia’s eyes, for her to see her making again. Every triumph was there, large and beautiful, but bracketed by her pain and losses. Had she had tears to cry with, she would have wailed, bawling at the waste and failures while weeping at the sweet beauty of happiness and good choices.

She ran with the lions in the beautiful dream in Kenya again, saw her first kiss and her first meeting with her first boyfriend. She saw going to college, to meeting Bill, to losing him in Kuwait and then all the associated loss from that debacle. She saw herself hurt again by Hatchins and his friends, withdrawing into herself and burying the shame, while being envious of Wakiki for falling in love, starting a family and being happy. She watched as she met Sean, and as they dated until he couldn’t deal with her issues. She witnessed her life collapse again as her work was derided and observed her debriefing by members of the IOA. Then the job offer at Area 51, and her new life there.

And then they hit the trials. Olivia watched with horror as they ran her through them again and again; as much as she’d been aware of what was happening to her, she’d been numbed to them over time. Seeing them over and over again like this drove home how awful they’d been, and she felt new revulsion for these meddling aliens.

The scenario ended, and Olivia found herself back on that threshold. For a moment, she was sure it had failed, and she wished she’d called home one more time, to tell her family she loved them. She wished she had gotten that card in the mail for her niece. It really is the small things.

“You may go.”

“What?” she asked, frowning. “What, just that?”

“You have proven your point.”

“But I… can I ask a question, please?” She managed to ask it politely despite her outrage at the treatment she’d received so far.


“What were you looking for?”

“You have the lineage of the Ancients in your blood. You were being tested for inclusion into our ranks.”

Olivia closed her mouth. Me? The Ancients? “What ranks are those?”

“We have said too much. As it is, we have to restore you before returning you-“

“No!” Olivia snarled. “No more restoring, remember?”

“We must. Our observer felt your anger at us, and we will not expose ourselves to more enemies.”

“You…” Olivia didn’t have words strong enough for what she felt at that moment. She just glared, her eyes nearly glowing from the intensity of her gaze.

“Fear not. We have learned from you. Good bye, Olivia.”

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The patient hadn’t moved for five minutes, and her condition had stabilized. Dr. Lam was wondering if the problem was over when Dr. Jenings-Izumi suddenly opened her eyes. Dr. Lam jerked back, startled by the wild, terrified look in her dark eyes. The life monitors screamed an urgent note as her heart rate and blood pressure shot through the roof. She shrieked and sat up, her arm coming up violently. The black pentagon tumbled through the air, bouncing off the far wall and rattling to the floor. The woman began trying to scramble off the bed. “Destroy it!” she screamed, pointing at the device. “Don’t let anyone touch it!”

“What is it?” Dr. Lam shouted to her, grabbing her arms and trying to stop her before she hurt herself. Her statement didn’t seem to calm her, and even when Dr. Lam said, “No one’s going to touch it!” she wouldn’t stop. She was already tangling herself in her lines, and Dr. Lam was straining to hold her down. “Sedate her!”

It took a couple of nurses to hold her still long enough to put her into a restless sleep.


There was a marked changed in the woman who woke up again several hours later. This time, her eyes fluttered open slowly, groggy from the aftereffects of the drugs in her system. Dr. Lam was called, and she was at her side when Olivia’s eyes finally settled on her. “What… happened?” she asked blearily.

“We were hoping you could tell us. You were the one who was insisting that no one touch the Artifact,” Dr. Lam said softly. “You seemed pretty shaken.”

"Artifact? The last one I remember was a black... pentagon." The woman wearily closed her eyes. “I don’t remember anything more,” she confessed.

Dr. Lam stared at her, clear disbelief on her face. “You don’t remember? You certainly seemed to be remembering something earlier.”

“It’s gone now,” Olivia said softly, her eyes opening. “Nothing there.”

“Well, something happened. We’ve done some scans on you,” Dr. Lam said. “There was some… brain damage. It’s not enough to cause serious impacts on your life, but there is damage done.” Olivia nodded as if she’d expected to hear that. The lost look in her eyes was so desolate that Dr. Lam struggled to add something positive. “But, in my medical opinion, you’re going to be just fine, Doctor.”

“Somehow,” Olivia said, “I don’t think you understand what you’re saying. I don’t even know what happened to me. There is nothing ‘just fine’ about that. But don’t worry – I’ll live, brain damage and all.” With a sigh, she gave into the drugs still swirling in her system and closed her eyes, and fell into a nightmare-laden sleep full of death and night terrors.

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