“Big K, you look like shit,” Shepherd put my coffee mug filled with hot steaming caffeinated bliss on the table in front of me. This was my first breakfast with the whole crew since I was allowed to leave the med bay. Of course, I had met everyone while navigating my way through the ship one-eyed. Well, not really one-eyed, but my bandaged one didn’t technically belong to me anymore, so… Yeah.
My mug had King Kong on the side. I looked at grinning Shepherd and then at the mug in front of me. She was expecting a snarky or sassy remark, or something equally condescending. Zoink! Not today! “Huh. Thank you, I guess?” I sucked in the scent. Oh, I missed this.
I looked at each crew member, examining their worried faces. Almost every seat was occupied around the table. Mother sat the head, Pomona to his left, me to his right, Shepherd stood behind Poe, and in the seat beside me was Cricket. She was the engine whisperer, who belonged to the ship, and almost never spoke to the rest of us, the living part of the crew. But she made an effort to meet everybody for breakfast. Each of them moved slowly and cautiously, as if they were in the presence of a predator. With me here, I must be giving them the jitters. I could do better. I could terrify everyone!
My eye itched something fierce under the bandage. I put a hand to my temple, and tried to rub the skin a bit. Shepherd’s grin went bye-bye. I think this was the first time I thanked her for the coffee without any fuss. I rubbed the edges of the bandage some more. It did nothing to ease the irritation, but it did something else. Breakfast stopped with a record scratch. YES! Everybody at the table froze. Did they expect an alien burst out of my chest, or my eye? That thought made me smile. Cricket shifted in her seat. Extra points for the xenophobia I put in them. HA!
Was it really me? Was it the parasite that took the old me over? They will never know. At the end of the day, they will be horrified to the bone, confused, and pitying me beyond, what was natural. They will pity me unnaturally. Well, that was a a bit lame in comparison and a bit of a shameless exaggeration, but who cared? They were already tip-toeing around me, being most polite, and most caring, except for Cricket. She never socialized. That did not change. I was going to take full advantage of the rest of them. Muahaha.”What?” I asked.
“Nothing,” answered Pomona, and everybody proceeded with eating and drinking, still eying me suspiciously. See, what I did there? Eying me? Get used to it, this was a running gag from now on.
It had been Mother’s idea to feign amnesia, and to keep THE eye’s abilities hidden. Yes, I was technically able to see with both of them, but the infected one, showed surprising effects. I could see electrical impulses from muscles and nerves as well as the circuits in the wall. I could see in the dark, but in the dark only. Light of any kind pissed THE eye off. And that pissed me off, caused it gave me migraines. Besides that, I could see more and better than any human, well even better than Shepherd’s cybernetic eyes. My reflexes were above average now. The gifts of the parasite were practical in the best case, I just had to adjust and to exercise, so I could access my new extra features. King Kong 2.0! How sweet was that?
Mother suspected somebody on the ship was responsible for my, uh, condition. ”Think of it as a prank,” he whispered into my ear the day I was able to stand up on my own. “Prank everybody. Go crazy. Metaphorically, of course. Don’t go crazy-crazy on me, okay? Otherwise, I don’t care what you do and say. Just try to stick to the plan roughly.” The ‘plan’ he thought of as risky, had me annoying everyone so badly, that the culprit had to let the mask slip. I was already eager to overdo it. I promised I’d do everything it took to blow all the covers I could find. I also promised to be careful about it, which kind of opposed the original revenge-fueled idea. Mother always wanted the most complex complications.
I sighed and beamed at everybody in the mess.”Tastes good,” I sipped my coffee. “I’m sorry for making this weird. MG told me all your names, and nicknames. I think you never heard my real name though, so may I introduce myself, so we are on the same page?” Nobody moved a muscle. “I’m Koda. Happy to meet you all.” I bowed my head, attempting a respectful bow. All eyes clapped on Mother, then back on me. I think Pomona even let her fork fall. “Did I say something wrong?” I asked as innocently as possible.
Mother sprung in to save the awkward situation. “No. No. Everything’s all right. We are all just a bit surprised. You were guarding your name fiercely, made it a huge secret. We even had a poll going.” I was flabbergasted. Did they? “Huh. I hope nobody lost too much.” I stood up to make myself some scrambled eggs. “Anybody else hungry for scrambled eggs?” Each of them shook their heads, some of them pale and slack-jawed. Except Shepherd, she was the epitome of pale. Behind me clattering and whispering erupted. I hummed to keep myself from laughing out loud.
They talked over each other, until Mother had too much and slammed a hand on the table. The sudden loud noise made me jump. I whirled around, pan in one hand and lost my balance. I grabbed the counter to steady myself. Shepherd sprung to my side and caught me, mid-fall. “Your hand!” Poe exclaimed. I looked and my hand had grabbed the hotplate, which glowed bright red. Funny. I didn’t feel a thing. Cricket fled the mess.
I took my hand away from the heat and looked at it. Mother was by my side, to examine me. “That was weird. Didn’t feel a thing.” I told him, while he looked at each of my fingertips. “Nothing,” he answered. I shrugged, as he released my hand. “Lucky me, I guess,” I turned to everybody else and waved my invulnerable hand around. “I’m ok. Don’t worry friends.” Shepherd glared at me, then Mother. “I’ll clean the mess up afterward.” I tried to get them to settle down, then finished making my breakfast, and put the hot food on the plate. Mother took his place at the head of the table. I sat down too and chowed in.
I hadn’t realized how hungry I must have been. As I was about to finish, Shepherd set another plate of scrambled eggs in front of me. I didn’t bother to swallow before thanking her. The taste was rich and warming as if I had never had eggs. “You’re really hungry, huh?” Her tone was cold and matter-of-factly with no hint of sarcasm or malice. “Uh-huh. Must be my favorite.” I managed.
The next time I looked up, Mother sat in front of me and we were alone. “Still hungry?” I shook my head. “Feeling alright?” I nodded. “Let me take another look at your hand.” I stretched it over the table. He examined it again. His fingers traced and probed each soft padding of my palm. After a while, he seemed satisfied. “You always hated scrambled eggs. Since military,” he sighed. Huh.
“Don’t know why though, it really tasted good. Did you see how scared Cricket was? She shot out of the mess. I think Shep was scared too. The look she pierced me with was fierce. Or was she angry?” I tried to remember how her face looked precisely. “Can’t tell, really.” I shook my head and shrugged. “Women, eh?” Mother frowned. “I didn’t know I was fireproof,” I told him somewhat guiltily. He nodded slowly, mulling something over. I could almost hear the gears turning in his head. “Tell you what,” I said, as I collected the plates and mugs on the table. “You don’t scare me, and I don’t evolve to Superman. Deal?” Mother chuckled and helped me clean the mess.
“Say, when was the last time you saw Cricket?” Mother asked me casually.