Souvenirs From Dead Worlds (boyxboy)

Sam's job is to make a record of cultures before the drones come and destroy them. He's supposed to take artefacts, not people. Kias doesn't know what's going on, but there are metal monsters flying around killing people and he doesn't want to be next, even if to live he has to give up the freedom he's only just reclaimed.

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3. Chapter 3

It was almost pitch black inside the portal, the only illumination the static light that crackled within the foggy edges of the passage. Even on high beam the shuttle's own lights were useless. There was nothing for them to reflect off of.

 

Sam's shuttle steered herself on autopilot through the portal, finding their way home, so Sam didn't have to worry about forging a route through the complicated twists and turns of the portal. He doubted he could have, even if he had been trained for it. Very few people could successfully navigate the constantly moving walls of the portals.

 

Travelling between worlds had always made Sam nervous. Even on autopilot things could go wrong, though technology had progressed to a point where they seldom did. The space in these portals didn't exist in the same way other space did, and that creeped Sam right the fuck out.

 

Just before they broke through the other side of the portal Sam glanced at Kias, who had been completely silent during the journey. Kias was paler than ever and gripping the armrests on his chair hard enough to hurt as he watched them twist through the dark smoky passage.

 

A moment later they tore out the other side of the portal, into Sam's world, causing Kias to let out a startled squeak. Yep, Sam was doing a great job rescuing this guy! Not at all adding to the mental scarring that would likely plague Kias for the rest of his life! Sam was such a fucking hero. Brilliant job. All the awards.

 

The doors to the landing bay opened automatically, allowing the shuttle to enter and land. Kias let out a small, strangled whimper as Sam unbuckled him from his seat, but Sam ignored him. When Sam opened the shuttle door Kias hung back, gazing warily past Sam to the landing bay beyond.

 

"Come on," Sam said firmly, then gave Kias' arm a gentle tug to get him moving out of the shuttle when he didn't immediately comply. Kias didn't resist as Sam led him along, and after a while Sam was able to release his grip without Kias lagging behind.

 

As he couldn't really make things worse at this point, Sam decided that he may as well just stroll to the med bay with Kias in tow without bothering to inform anyone of his incredibly stupid mistake. He wondered how long he could delay getting chewed out. Would the doctor dob him in? Had Keri and Jason already done so?

 

Sam didn't expect, or even hope, to be able to cover things up indefinitely, but it would have been so nice to have a little time to himself beforehand. Enough time to take a real shower and wash the nasty decontamination fluid off of himself. Maybe he could even eat a meal, have a nap...

 

Kias followed Sam down the bare, spacious corridor, wide-eyed but silent, making Sam feel an uncomfortable mix of guilty and relieved. The guy deserved a million explanations, but Sam had no idea where to begin. How could he explain any of this to someone who had grown up in a world that didn't even have electricity? He might as well have simply told Kias it was all magic and moved on. For a moment, he genuinely considered doing just that. It wasn't like anyone would be able to tell Kias otherwise.

 

"I brought you a present!" Sam announced as he swung the doors to the med bay open, trying to force as much disturbing cheer into his voice as possible. "Remember when I brought you that pretty book you couldn't even read? You liked the book."

 

"What," was all Dr Austin said, her eyes fixed firmly on Kias.

 

"He's very well behaved." Sam stripped his shirt off and threw it into the large bin near the door. He was glad to be rid of it. Kais' people had made some really scratchy clothing.

 

"What did you do?" Dr Austin's voice was calm and even, but her strained expression suggested she was struggling to keep it that way.

 

"Something really stupid," Sam admitted as he sat down on the floor to take his boots off. He saw Kias move and glanced up to see him drop to the floor and begin removing his own shoes.

 

Sam hoped Kias wasn't particularly fond of his shoes, because he wouldn't be getting them back; they'd have to be destroyed along with all of his other clothes. Sam noted that Kias' shoes looked more like house slippers than proper shoes, completely unlike the practical boots Sam had been wearing. They weren't designed to be worn outside and, considering they were in pretty good condition, Sam guessed Kias generally hadn’t.

 

"You took him." Dr Austin sounded seriously unimpressed. "Why did you take him?"

 

"Because I'm an idiot," Sam snapped, and then immediately regretted it. He respected Dr Austin, and Kias was beginning to look even more nervous, and he just... he just kept fucking things up.

 

Dr Austin gave Sam a moment to calm down and work on his shoelaces before she spoke again. "Are you two..." She gestured between them.

 

Sam made a face. "No. It's either more stupid or less stupid than that. I can't decide. He's just some random dude who was there when I was leaving and he helped me and... leaving him just felt like a shitty thing to do."

 

Dr Austin nodded and sighed, seeming at least partly satisfied by that answer. She glanced at Kias, who'd removed his shoes and was staring at his toes as he wiggled them. Sam was surprised to see that Kias' feet were clean and hardly calloused at all. The guy was a mess of contradictions. His malnutrition and cheap, threadbare clothing suggested he was quite poor, but he clearly didn't do much in the way of manual labour.

 

Dr Austin eyed the bandage wrapped around Kias' stomach. "He's hurt?"

 

"Yup," Sam confirmed. "One of the drones' lasers. Then my shuttle fucked it up even more... It's kind of a mess."

 

"What's his name?" she asked. "Not that he'd understand me if I spoke to him, I suppose."

 

"Kias," Sam told her, and Kias looked up at the sound of his name. Sam hauled himself up, patting Kias reassuringly on the head before tossing his and Kias' shoes into the bin.

 

"Hmm." Dr Austin walked over to her desk and began to put on a pair of sterile gloves. "Well, I prefer to treat patients privately, what with being an actual professional doctor and all." She snapped the first glove on. "But I suppose I'll need you for translation purposes."

 

Sam frowned at that suggestion. He really wanted to get out of here before word of just how badly he'd messed up reached his superiors. Maybe he could just kind of tell Kias to behave himself and then go and have his decontamination shower while Dr Austin fixed him up? It was worth a shot.

 

Sam addressed Kias in Kias' own language. "Kias. This lady is a doctor. Just... stand there and let her patch you up." Sam kicked off his pants, leaving him in only the ridiculous long underwear Kias' people had been fond of wearing. He wasn't sure why he had to wear the same underwear as the people he was blending in with when none of them would even see it.

 

"Sam," Kias murmured desperately, trying to follow when Sam turned to leave. Sam put a hand up, expression firm, and Kias stopped. Kias stayed.

 

Sam did his best to ignore Dr Austin's annoyed shouting and demands that he come back and headed for the decontamination showers.

 

#

 

The decontamination shower wasn't the relaxing time out Sam needed, but it would have to do. The liquid was cold because it was easily damaged by heat and had a rather strong chemically odour.

 

Sam was glad he hadn't had to take Kias with him; the liquid stung wounds, and Sam would have worried about Kias taking off the required goggles and getting the stuff in his eyes. Showering with the guy probably wouldn't have helped with the awkwardness of their relationship, either.

 

Sam had done nothing but mess up all day. He'd saved somebody's life, yes, but he wasn't sure Kias would be better off for it. What kind of a life could he have here, even if he did manage to get over all the trauma he'd suffered well enough to be otherwise happy? He could probably learn the language well enough eventually, but Sam doubted Kias could ever fit in.

 

Sam, meanwhile, was almost certainly going to lose his job. Though he'd been too young to do much more than sit in on meetings at the time, he had been part of the group that had conceived the very idea for his position in the first place. As soon as he had heard about it, he'd known what he wanted to do with his life. Sam had been eleven at the time. His entire education after that point beyond basic schooling had been targeted at training him for the role.

 

He relied on his job for his income and his housing, and most of his friends were his colleagues. If Sam lost his job, his entire life would be torn apart.

 

#

 

Kias wished Sam had told him what was going to happen here, and more than that he wished that Sam had told him if he would be coming back. He wished Sam had told him that he would be coming back. Though he'd never been to a doctor himself, he'd heard stories from some of the other boys who had. None of it had sounded pleasant.

 

Kias had been shocked to find that one of the boys was not intact and had asked about it later when they were alone again. The boy had been sent to a doctor as a child by his uncle. Usually those who had it done didn't bother with a doctor, but the boy's uncle had been quite wealthy.

Kias hoped that boy had died quickly. All the other people whose deaths he'd witnessed at the hands of the metal monsters had.

 

The first thing the doctor did was unbandage Kias' wound and lean down to look at it, humming contemplatively. She said something to him with a smile that didn't seem quite genuine and then led him to a high, narrow bed and helped him climb up onto it and lay down. The mattress was hard and crunkled when Kias moved.

 

There was a clicking sound and suddenly bright light shone directly into Kias' eyes. Temporarily blinded, Kias reflexively squeezed his eyes shut and twisted his face away from the painfully bright light. The doctor said something that sounded like it may have been an apology and then moved the light source so that it shone down on Kias' wound instead of in his eyes.

 

The doctor retrieved a pair of metal tweezers and a blue package full of small squares of thin white cloth damp with strange smelling liquid. The doctor settled in on a stool next to the bed and began carefully picking out any bits of foreign matter out of the wound, then wiping any blood and dirt off it with the damp bits of cloth. Each time a piece of cloth got dirty, she would take out a new one and continue.

 

The doctor was careful with the tweezers, but they were sharp and hurt when they poked him. Bits of Kias' shirt had burnt off and stuck to the wound, and when she peeled them off it felt like she was peeling off bits of his skin. The liquid on the pieces of cloth made it sting even more. Kias gritted his teeth and stayed quiet.

 

By the time the doctor spoke again and backed away, the wound looked clean and was bleeding only slightly from a few of the areas she’d picked burnt cloth off of. She headed into a side room and Kias waited patiently while she shuffled around.

 

When the doctor stepped back into the room she was carrying a rectangular sheet of... something. It was off-white and flat, like a sheet of paper but with more weight to it so that it sagged slightly when she held it up. She said something to Kias as she approached, smiled, and then took hold of the rectangular thing and began peeling a piece of paper off of one side. Kias wasn't sure what he was looking at until she peeled the paper off the other side, and even then he wasn't sure, but he certainly had some ideas.

 

It looked like a piece of skin. A rectangular sheet of skin, thin enough that it was partially translucent. Kias realised his heart was thumping hard in his chest and his breathing felt constricted. He did his best to calm himself. Panic always led to poor decisions.

 

But how did she have a sheet of skin? Was it skin? What was it for and where did she get it? Had it been cut off of someone else? Were they living or dead at the time? If they had been dead, had they been killed for the purpose of harvesting the skin?

 

One of those questions, what it was for, was answered when the doctor stepped closer and carefully placed the skin over Kias' wound, smoothing it down. It was cold. Kias shuddered involuntarily and the muscles in his stomach jumped, pulling on his wound. He wished Sam hadn't left him. He wanted to ask what the skin was, where it had come from, even though he wasn't sure he wanted to know.

 

The doctor sat next to the bed and talked to him for a while after that, her voice calm and friendly. It just made Kias feel awkward. He didn't know if he was supposed to be responding in some way despite the fact that he obviously didn't speak her language. He didn't know if it would be more appropriate to look her in the eye while she spoke or to avert his gaze. He didn't know if he should act as though listening attentively or whether that would be considered pointless because he obviously couldn't understand. He wished she'd leave him alone.

 

Just as Kias was starting to relax, having realised that the doctor didn't seem bothered by his lack of response, things changed again. The doctor hopped off the stool and went to the side of the room outside of Kias' range of vision.

 

She returned a moment later carrying a bucket which she filled from some strange indoor water pump with a basin underneath it. She then took out a large, translucent jar from a cupboard beneath the water pump and put two scoops of the blue powder from the jar into the bucket of water. She carried the bucket to the middle of the room and placed it on the floor, then took a small dark blue sheet off one of the shelves and shook it out, laying it flat on the floor next to the bucket. The sheet was stiff and didn't appear to be made of fabric.

 

She smiled at Kias and said his name, then went over and helped him down off the bed and led him to the middle of the room where she indicated for him to stand on the sheet. Kias noted that the skin she'd stuck to his stomach earlier stayed where it was, showing no signs of peeling off.

It took the doctor gesturing a few times in a few different ways before Kias realised she wanted him to take the rest of his clothes off, but once he understood he hurried to comply despite the fear tightening in his belly. The consequences for defiance, he had learnt, were always worse than whatever he was trying to resist.

 

The doctor soaked a thick cloth in the blue liquid and began wetting Kias down with it, starting with his hair and scalp while carefully avoiding getting it on his face. It had a strong, strange smell that Kias didn't like, and when she started on his back he found that it stung the few small scratches he'd collected while running from the metal monsters. It was cold, too. The room had been just a bit too cold to be lying around mostly naked before, but now that he was completely naked and being doused in cold liquid he was shivering within seconds.

 

She continued on down his back and then over his ass, swiping the cloth between the cleft of it. Kias inhaled sharply and shuffled, wanting to move away from the sting the liquid caused in the tender flesh it found but catching and stopping himself before he actually did. With all that had happened it seemed like far more time had passed that day than truly had. The sting reminded him that it had been just hours since everything had changed.

 

Though Kias had tried not to respond to the pain, either the doctor noticed or she had intended to examine him more intimately regardless.

 

#

 

"Did you have sex with him?" was the first thing Dr Austin asked when Sam returned.

 

Sam let out a sigh of irritation. He'd just about managed to calm himself down, but he was getting the feeling his efforts were about to go to waste. "I told you I met him when I was leaving, so either you think I lied, or you think I fucked him when he was badly injured. Either way, thanks for your vote of confidence, doc."

 

Dr Austin lifted her hands in a sign of surrender. "Sorry, sorry. It's just..." She hesitated. "Well, someone did. Recently."

 

Sam narrowed his eyes and tried to keep his calm. "So you were accusing me of not just fucking him, but doing it roughly enough to leave visible damage? Nice."

 

"I said sorry." Dr Austin glanced at Kias who was very much completely naked aside from the fresh bandage wrapped around his stomach and looking very nervous. He was shaking slightly, but it was hard to say whether that was from fear or cold. "I didn't think you did, I just wanted to confirm. There are signs of older damage, too."

 

Sam did his best to keep his eyes off Kias, who was looking about as uncomfortable with his nudity as Sam was. Sam knew Kias would have to stay naked while the decontamination fluid dried, but did he really have to just stand there in the middle of the room? It really did not help the awkwardness of the conversation he was having with Dr Austin.

 

The idea that someone had hurt Kias like that, hurt him bad enough to scar, made Sam's heart clench painfully. Everyone who had hurt Kias was now almost certainly dead or would be soon, but Sam couldn't help wanting to beat the shit out of them anyway. They weren't there, though, and Dr Austin was, so she was the one who took the brunt of his anger.

 

"Maybe I should be more concerned about how closely you examined him to find all this shit out," Sam said accusingly, a growl in his voice. "I know you can't have gotten his consent."

 

"No, Sam, I couldn't have," Dr Austin shot back, equally irate. "I wonder how I could possibly have gotten consent for that. If only there was someone who could communicate with him!"

 

"You could have waited for me," Sam said, but he already knew that was a weak argument.

 

"Frankly, when you were gone for thirty minutes doing something that should have taken half that, waiting for you really did not seem to be something I could rely on. Getting things over with as quickly as possible was my priority."

 

Sam was still kind of annoyed at her for doing what'd she'd done and he wasn't sure of the legality of it all, but he knew it was mostly his own fault. She was just trying to do her job and help Kias. He was being selfish.

 

Sam glanced over at Kias again and took in his wide eyes and fearful gaze and the slight shaking of his body and his anger rose again. "He's scared," Sam said. "You scared him."

 

Dr Austin looked unimpressed. "No, Sam, I didn't. You scared him by leaving him alone with a stranger without explaining what was going to happen to him. And you know what? He didn't look half as frightened until you came back."

 

Sam let out a deep breath and tried to calm himself. Whatever Dr Austin had done, she was right: Sam was the real problem here. Arguing with her was only scaring Kias more.

 

"Do you know anything about what might have happened to him?" Dr Austin asked after Sam had shrunk back and stayed quiet, and then hastened to add, "From studying his culture."

 

"The rape of teenage boys wasn't a part of their culture I explored, no," Sam said, trying to keep the deprecation out of his voice as his hackles rose again. "I prefer to find the positive points of a society to remember them by."

 

"Maybe you could ask him about it," Dr Austin suggested. "About what happened."

 

Sam made a face. "Yeah, I'm sure he wants to talk to me about it. That would totally make him feel super comfortable around me." Sam hopped up onto the hard, uncomfortable med bay bed. "I mean, I care, I think hurting someone like that is a terrible thing to do to, but if I tried talking to him about it I'd probably just say the wrong thing and make it worse."

 

Dr Austin stared at Sam silently for several long moments. "I'm not saying you wouldn't be likely to put your foot in your mouth a few times, but he's going to need someone to talk to and he doesn't have a whole lot of options." She went over to the shelves on the far side of the room and began taking things down. "I need you to help me give him a few injections. After that, the Marshal would like to speak to you."

 

Sam stared at her in shock. "You told him?"

 

#

 

Kias had been relieved when Sam had come back, but his anxiety had returned full force when Sam had immediately started arguing with the doctor again. Kias was pretty sure they were arguing about him, and Sam looked angrier than ever. Kias stayed still and quiet and hoped that would be enough to keep the anger from being directed at him. He was going to have to rely on Sam for his protection, and if he displeased Sam he didn't know what would happen.

 

Eventually their argument appeared to have ended, and Sam turned to Kias. Kias wondered if perhaps he should be kneeling instead of standing. Would that be more respectful? Would Sam be more pleased by that? Kias had never been trained to kneel except on request, but he knew some people preferred such acts of submission. He didn't have too much time to consider it, though, as Sam was already leading him back over to the narrow bed and helping him up. Sam sat down on it beside him, close enough that their thighs touched.

 

Sam was now wearing a white cotton shirt and matching pants, but Kias was still naked. Kias wondered if he would get new clothes soon too, or perhaps be allowed to put his old ones back on. He was accustomed enough to being naked around strangers, but it added an extra layer of vulnerability to an already frightening and unpredictable situation.

 

"Remember this?" Sam asked him, showing Kias a device similar to the one that had been used to prick his skin earlier in the strange room.

 

Kias remembered, but he still didn't know why it had been done. He got the feeling, though, that this wasn't the time for questions, so he simply nodded.

 

"We're going to do that again a few times." Sam held out Kias' arm while the doctor readied one of the devices. "And then I have to go somewhere, and you can put some clothes on and have a nap. This'll sting."

 

The prick of pain was only slight, and the only thing that really bothered Kias about it was not knowing what it was for. "I'm not tired." Sam's body was warm against his side, and Kias unconsciously leaned into the heat. He was cold, though he wasn't sure that was the only reason he was shaking.

 

"You will be." Sam held Kias' arm steady while the doctor cleaned the spot the device had pricked and secured a piece of fluffy fabric over it with a piece of sticky ribbon. After that was done the doctor opened the device and removed a small bottle of liquid. She replaced it with another before Sam held Kias' other arm out and they repeated the procedure.

 

They did this four times, twice on each arm, before they were done and Kias was allowed to get dressed in new clothes similar to Sam's. They were soft and comfortable, though not very warm. Sam told Kias to lay down and before spreading a heavy blanket over him.

 

Sam had been right. Kias was beginning to feel sleepy.

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