written by M. Sydnor Jr.
Kee looked at Azima as if she were a monster. Evil. Unwelcomed.
“What’s wrong?” Phea asked.
“It’s you!” Kee announced again, backing away from Azima and Phea, leaving Etos in the middle, confused, looking back and forth between the two parties.
“Kee?” Etos tried to grab her attention as she backed further down the corridor. Then, she disappeared.
“What’s happening?” Phea asked, then looked down at Azima. Poor girl would be reduced to tears soon.
“She doesn’t like me,” Azima whined.
Etos heard, staring at the young girl, then turned back down the hall where Kee disappeared. “Kee?… Kee, come back online,” he ordered.
Phea stepped forward, waiting for her to appear again. Then, maybe she could get some answers as to her issue with Azima. But there was no response, physically nor verbally. “I don’t understand. Isn’t she required to come back immediately?”
Etos nodded, grunting. “Kee?” he raised his voice, lowered his tone.
Azima yelped as his voice thundered through the hall. Phea assumed it scared the little girl until she turned around and saw that the child had been confined in a cage. She grabbed the bars, tried to pull them apart and squeeze through but they were as firm as the ship itself. They were metal, surrounding the girl as if they dropped right from the corridor ceiling.
Azima dropped to her butt, curled her legs together and buried her head in her lap. Whining or crying, Phea couldn’t tell. Again, she tried to pull the bars, but they wouldn’t budge. Etos came to help.
“What is this?” Phea asked.
Just as he shook his head, Kee appeared behind him.
Phea stopped tugging at the bars, Etos, too, and she approached Kee. “What are you doing, Kee? Release her immediately,” Phea demanded.
“She is the culprit,” Kee alleged. “She damaged blue. She made us crash into this foreign world.”
“Who? Azima?” Phea looked back to the young girl, her head still buried in her knees, then snapped her neck back at the ship’s computer. “She’s a child, Kee.”
Kee shook her head. “No.”
Etos approached her. “Kee, check your system—”
“I am perfectly fine, sir. It is her you should check.” Kee kept her distance from the cage and pointed at the little girl.
Phea grabbed Etos’ arm and looked at him with all three eyes. “Something’s wrong with Kee,” she whispered to him.
He nodded. “You may be right.” Then, he went over to the nearest panel, behind Kee, to check on her systems. Phea followed.
“Sir?” Kee plead with him as they passed through her transparent form. “You must believe me.”
On a screen that dropped from a wall panel in the corridor, Etos checked Kee’s functionality; green across the board, which meant, she was perfect. But they still didn’t understand this new Kee, in physical form, akin to Ada. She’d always had a mind of her own, but this was different. She was acting, aggressively, on her own. Deliberately disobeying Phea’s and Etos’ commands. And, Etos could not manually shut her down.
“Phea?” Azima called from the cage, still on her butt, but her head was up. Face full of fear. Eyes full of tears.
“Kee, please.” Now Phea was the one pleading.
“What did you do, Kee? Did you lock me out of the system?”
“No, sir. I’ve evolved. I can come and go as I please. Online? Offline? I am in complete control over that.”
“What?” Phea questioned.
“I assure you, sir. I am still the same person—”
“Person?” Etos shouted. “You’re a machine. I command you to give me access, immediately.”
“Sir, if you will allow me to explain.”
“Kee!” Etos thundered.
“As you wish.” Kee joined him at the panel as Phea returned to her little friend in the cage, waiting for her freedom.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
Still whining, Azima answered with a question of her own. “What did I do?”
“Absolutely nothing,” Phea reached in the cage as the little girl scooted closer. Ruffling her hair, rubbing her head, she tried to calm Azima. “Kee—Kee is just having some technical difficulties at the moment. But we’re fixing her. Etos, the captain, is fixing her. You trust me, don’t you?” her third eye studied the girl.
“Then you can trust Etos,” she smiled.
A second later. “Phea, back away from the cage.” Etos demanded.
Confused, she retracted her hand from inside the pen and stood. “What?”
“Now, back away from her. Slowly.”
“I don’t understand,” Phea didn’t step forward but she turned sideways, her back to the corridor wall, her vision popping back and forth from Etos to Azima. “Tell me what’s going on?” Etos’ entire disposition seemed to have flipped. At first, Etos was on her side, against this outlandish accusation of Azima being the perpetrator. Now, he was…not. “Etos!” she turned away from the little girl and stepped forward to her captain. Her friend. Her family. But Azima grabbed her wrist before she could walk away any further.
Phea turned to the little girl, standing, her body against the cage, her arm reached out as far as it could. She patted the top of Azima’s hand with her other. “It’s okay. I’m just going to see what the fuss is.”
But the girl didn’t let go, she squeezed. So hard that Phea grabbed her wrist and tried to snatch it away.
“Azima, you’re hurting me. Azima!”
The girl didn’t let go, didn’t look at Phea, her focus was on the wrist. The squeezing turned into clamping.
Etos joined her, pulled his weapon and pointed it at the young girl. “Let her go,” he roared.
Phea would’ve told him to put the weapon down, but she was in pain. This little girl had unnatural strength. And as she struggled to free herself, her third eye started to twitch. She felt it, and feared what was to come. “No, no, no, no, no.”
But it was too late. Her two eyes slammed shut, the ship shook, and she’d much rather her other hand get the full force of the energy, but Azima grabbed that one, too. Still squeezing. Then, the third eye beamed, aimed directly at the little girl.
written & created by
M. Sydnor Jr.
copyright © M. Sydnor Jr.