Brig, Ricky Bobby, Tangki System
Eddie paced back and forth in front of the bars of the cell. They’d had this area of the brig cleared out of any other prisoners, knowing that was for the best. On the other side of the metal bars, his partner, Commander Julianna Fregin, stared back at him, a doleful expression in her eyes.
“Eddie, how much longer are you going to keep me in here?” Julianna said, her tone seeking to cut him. “I love you, and you’ve locked me away. What? Are you afraid of me? Are you afraid of my love?”
Unable to control himself, Eddie launched his fist into the wall as he strode the other way. The metal of the ship crunched, caving in from the assault.
“I realize you’re angry, but I’m not trying to hurt you,” Julianna pleaded.
“Dammit! Shut up!” Eddie yelled, heat rushing to his head.
Julianna covered her face, weeping from behind the cold, metal bars. “Why are you so hostile? All I seem to do is disappoint you. No matter what I do, it doesn’t matter.”
Eddie gritted his teeth together, pressed his fingers into his palms. I am stronger than this, he told himself.
“Tell me what I want to know!” Eddie yelled, his breath hot, spilling over his lips.
Julianna pulled her hands away from her eyes, tears streaming down her red cheeks. She grabbed the bars on either side of her face. “I love you, Eddie. I love you.”
Eddie let out a guttural scream, feeling the metal deck reverberate under his feet.
The door to the brig shot open, and Julianna, the real one, stepped through. She halted at the sight of her doppelganger behind the bars, her eyes narrowed. She halted beside Eddie, shaking her head.
“She’s fucking crying,” Julianna stated. “Please tell me you’re not falling for that bullshit.”
Eddie pressed his hand to his forehead, shaking his head back and forth. “It’s hard not to. It gets into your mind, and you forget what’s real and what isn’t. This isn’t something easy to compute.”
Julianna pulled her pistol from her holster and aimed it directly at the Saverus on the other side of the bars.
The monster held up its hands, real fear in its eyes. “You wouldn’t shoot yourself, would you?” the Saverus asked.
“Wouldn’t I?” Julianna asked matter-of-factly. “You may look like me, but you don’t know shit about what I’m capable of.”
The Saverus morphed again. It was like looking at a watercolor painting while on LSD. It took on the form of Eddie.
The imposter blinked back at them, hands up in surrender. “Hey, now. Julianna, you should shoot me. I’m not a bad guy, but I’m definitely not a good one.”
Julianna lowered her weapon, sighing.
“It’s a mindfuck game, Jules,” Eddie said, trying to console her. He’d been interrogating the Saverus for an hour and had gotten nowhere. The giant snake kept morphing into different humans it had encountered since being taken aboard Ricky Bobby. He and Julianna had really thought that, on the other side of the bars, they could resist the ploy, but it was incredibly tough to look at your partner crying and demand they answer your questions.
Looking as defeated as he felt, Julianna swiveled around to face him. “Maybe we have to give this up for a while.”
“Maybe we give it up entirely and throw this monster out the airlock,” Eddie said.
The Saverus morphed into the dog figure of Harley, looking up at them with large, brown, begging eyes.
“Fuck, when did it see Harley?” Eddie asked, throwing an arm at the thing.
Julianna let out a weighted sigh. “He was with me when I delivered its food.” She pointed to the uneaten tray of roasted chicken and boiled vegetables.
“That’s it,” Eddie declared. “Only you or I come in or out of here from now on. We don’t need it cataloguing others on the ship it can impersonate.”
The Saverus shifted into the form of Lars, the only other person it had met, when it woke up on the Q-Ship, before being sedated. “I’m not an ‘it’. I’m a ‘she’,” the Saverus said, using Lars’s voice, which made the whole thing even creepier.
“She. Oh, right,” Eddie said. “Because I want to ensure that I get your gender correct, you fucking snake.”
“As you should,” the Saverus said, an entitled tone in her voice that sounded all wrong in Lars’s usually humbled tongue. “And while you’re at it, you should know that I prefer my meat uncooked. And no vegetables.”
Now that did sound like Lars, Eddie thought.
“How about we feed you when you start talking? Tell us why the Saverus want the Tangle Thief,” Julianna said blankly.
The Saverus shifted into the form of Eddie again. The imposter gripped the bars, pressing Eddie’s face between the metal. “I’ll tell you anything you want to know, Jules. Anything. But I can’t tell you that. Don’t you get it? I can’t talk. I’m bound by an oath older than you or me.”
The real Eddie laughed. “Apparently you don’t know how old Jules really is.”
“Wait,” Julianna stated, staring at the replica of Eddie. “What did you say about an oath? What does that mean?”
Eddie shook his head. “Nothing that imposter says is real. What’s the point?”
Julianna didn’t look deterred, though. “She slipped up,” she said to Eddie before turning her attention back to the Saverus. “You’re bound by an oath, is that right? That’s why you can’t talk?”
“Well, and because she’s the fucking enemy,” Eddie stated at Julianna’s side.
Ignoring him, Julianna said to the Saverus, “Your kind, what they are trying to do, will have horribly devastating effects on our galaxy. If they get ahold of the Tangle Thief, then—”
“When they get it,” the Saverus said, cutting her off.
“You’re not listening,” Julianna stated, shaking her head at the form of Eddie.
Julianna turned to the real Eddie. “We need to know more about the Saverus. This is getting us nowhere. There’s something preventing this one from telling us anything.”
Eddie agreed with a nod. There was something strange about this species, and more than the fact that it could become anything at will. “Maybe Marilla will know.”
Julianna turned for the exit, Eddie at her heels. At the door, he turned around and cast a last look at the species that had created more headaches for him than all the alcohol he’d drank in his lifetime. “Just so you know, we will let you rot here. You can’t manipulate us. We will figure out how to make you talk.”
The Saverus morphed into a version of Julianna and then collapsed. She extended her hands through the bars, sputtering out a cough. “I don’t have much longer, Edward,” the Saverus said using Julianna’s voice, her tone hoarse. “Save me. Please. Don’t allow me to die.”
Eddie shook his head at the attempt to manipulate his emotions. Although he felt cold wrap around his insides, he pursed his lips.
“Ricky Bobby, you might be the only one safe from this monster,” Eddie said to the AI.
“I’ll keep a watch on the prisoner, and I’m more than happy to interrogate her when you have new questions,” Ricky Bobby said overhead.
This produced a deep scowl on the Saverus’s face. An expression he’d never seen so prevalent on the actual Julianna’s face.
“That’s a good idea, RB,” Eddie said, firing his finger at the ceiling. “Thanks.”