“Thank you,” Rian said, looking at Delvin. “We are more than willing to give a full explanation. We have been attempting to do so. We are not certain how this escalated into a conflict in the first place.”
He paused then, glancing at Oleg, who was lingering with his droid.
“Thank you for your assistance as well, Captain. We have it handled from here.”
He turned back to Delvin and the others.
“Our stories are two stories, but we will tell you the story you are asking about first. The story of what happened when Rian Mallory left home. We are Rian Mallory now, but that that time, we were not. So when we speak of ourselves then, we will refer to ‘Rian Mallory’ as a separate entity that existed in the past, to make it easier for you to understand.”
If, Rian reflected, they could understand. He had not been sure from the outset, and he was even less sure now.
“Rian Mallory left home by stowing away on a ship in the flotilla when the Jillian’s Luck
docked there to trade. From there, he traveled from ship to ship. Eventually he joined a crew. This crew was engaged in less-than-legal activities. Crimes. This went on for some time, but eventually, he was arrested by the authorities. He was sent to prison.”
He spoke in a calm, measured tone, one that Caitlin had called ‘weird’. Or perhaps it was the content of his message and not its delivery that she had found so objectionable. He was not sure, but he thought inquiring at this point would be counter-productive.
“One day some people arrived. They said he was being transferred to another facility. He was brought onto a spaceship and after a long flight, he arrived at this new facility. But it did not seem like a prison at all. Everything was white, and there were no cells, only small rooms with beds that had restraints. He was put into one of these rooms and strapped down. That is when they started the experiments. They began with shining lights into his eyes, and taking his blood.”
He let that last point sit for a moment, then went on. Rian rolled back his jacket sleeve at the wrist, and held out his hand, palm up. There, around his wrist were horizontal scars, red marks upon more red marks.
“Here is where the restraints cut into his wrists when he struggled. We have similar marks on our ankles and hips.”
He showed them his other wrists, were similar marks formed dark keloid scarring. Then he pushed back his jacket sleeve further, and showed them in the soft skin on the inside of his elbow. Many small dark dots marred the skin there.
“Here is where they stuck the needles, and injected drugs into Rian Mallory’s body.”
Rian showed them similar marks on the opposite arm. Then he tugged at the hem of his shirt, lifting it to show his navel. A particularly dark scar ran from below his belt straight up his belly. It was healed, but still fairly fresh, the angry sort of scar that had not yet faded in time.
“They cut into him here, to continue the experiments. As you might imagine, this was agony. Torture. Rian begged them to stop, but they paid him no mind. He cried and screamed and shouted, but they just continued. Eventually, they brought out the surgical lasers, and cut into his head.”
He turned to Delvin and reached for his hand, keeping the movement very slow and obvious. When Delvin did not pull away, he took his brother’s hand and placed it on his own skull, guiding Delvin’s fingertips to feel the scars under his thick hair. They ran around the base of his skull, above the temples, and at the crown. If he shaved his head, the scarring would be obvious – it was only because he had the same thick hair that all the Mallorys had been genetically gifted with that the scarring was hidden.
Rian let Delvin’s hand go as gently as he’d taken it.
“At that point, the second part of the story comes into relevance. The other entity that is us now was also in this facility, and was also undergoing experiments. This entity is what you would call ‘an alien’, but its nature was unlike what most would think of as sentient life – without a ‘body’ as you would term it, without a gender or a name that can be spoken by a human tongue, without other physical attributes. Still, the entity had a family that it was separated from. It had a life it wanted to return to. This entity was severely weakened, but it managed an escape from its confinement, though it was still trapped in the facility. Then it found Rian Mallory.”
He cocked his head slightly, studying Caitlin, Delvin, and Jaden, wondering what they were thinking. Trying to judge their thoughts by their body language.
“Rian Mallory and this entity found they were able to communicate with one another. Separately, they would not be able to escape the facility. But together, they could. If they joined. And so that is what we did.”
He paused, bowing his head.
“And that is who you see before you now. Two that joined willingly with each other to become one. There is no ‘infection’. There is no possession. Nothing is wrong. Yes, we are unalterably different than we were before. We are not denying this. A test of our blood would show this, but we will not consent to such test, for reasons you hopefully understand now. Nothing can change the fact we are different now, and furthermore, we do not want it to change.”
A strange sort of emotion started creeping into his voice, and it surprised even him.
“We cannot go back to our other family. We would not be able to…interface…with them, in this form. But we have you.” He paused again. “If you will have us.”