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Episode 24

“You can’t allow this,” Ferdinand says calmly from behind me. “He’s a danger to all of us.”

Caliban twitches, his head down, and scratches at his arms. I recognize the movements from the last four years—the Hooks beneath his skin are shifting, tormenting him. Pity drives me to speak. “It isn’t his fault. He can’t help what Prospero has done to him.”

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s his fault or not,” Ferdinand says, his tone hard. “He’s a threat to the survival of this colony.”

I turn a cold gaze on my once-lover. “And what would you have me do? Turn him out of the colony? Exile him to the dark and the cold?”

Ferdinand pauses, considering, and I think for a moment that he’ll back down, but his eyes harden. “You said he survived out there alone for two years. He can do it again.”

Protectiveness makes me ready to do battle. “Living out there alone destroyed him. I won’t let that happen again.”

Ferdinand looks at me with contempt; he thinks I’m acting irrationally out of love for Caliban, and I want to set him straight, but I can’t do that in front of the others, not now. I’m the captain; I have to stay above all the interpersonal stuff that threatens to undermine me.

I harden my heart against Ferdinand, and I say again, slowly, coldly, “I won’t let that happen.”

He doesn’t say anything. I break eye contact with him and look at the others. “I don’t believe for a moment that Prospero has been here to our colony. He couldn’t have passed through the cocoons with no one noticing. Whatever is happening is taking place only in Caliban’s mind. So we’re going to sedate him at night so that whatever it is, it stops. Caliban, you have no choice in this.”

Caliban seems not to hear. He scratches his legs through the thin polymer pants.

“Caliban,” I say louder. “You will have to be sedated at night.”

He looks at me for just an instant, his face crawling with pain, but I take it as acknowledgment. And I can see that he’s suffering, and I want to hold him, but there’s no privacy now. And not enough Crawler sap to spare to relieve his misery.

I feel like a monster when I say, “And you’ll have to be restrained the rest of the time. Antonio, please make a set of manacles.”

Antonio nods.

I cast my gaze over the rest of the colony, all sixteen of them. “Let’s get back to cross-training.”

Everyone goes. But I don’t want to leave Caliban alone. He’s hurting, and I hate for him to be alone when he’s hurting. I stay beside him, touching him as lightly as possible so that I don’t make the Hooks hurt him worse. He keeps his face turned away from me, and I can’t help but remember how he tried to have sex with me last night and how he forced me to tell Ferdinand I can’t love him anymore.

Why does everything have to be so difficult, so confusing, so complicated? I’m so tired, too tired for any of this. I blink back tears of helpless frustration.

Stephano shoves aside the door flap and even though he’s forced to crawl like the rest of us, he somehow manages to do it with a swagger. He gives me a smug look, and I tense up. He has a right to be in here, it’s his cocoon along with Caliban’s.

He comes right over to Caliban, and I shift back to give him room.

Stephano leans over Caliban and croons, “Poor, sad ‘Ban-‘Ban. The bad man has been coming to him.”

I cringe. The dripping condescension makes me want to punch him in the face. I can’t believe Caliban doesn’t scream at him.

Stephano puts his hand on Caliban’s face and turns it toward him, and Caliban lets him.

“’Ban-‘Ban needs someone to protect him, doesn’t he?” Stephano says. “Stephano is here to protect him.”

Caliban smiles at him as if he’s not being insulting and horrible.

I cannot believe Caliban is putting up with this bullshit. But then he shoots me a look, and it’s triumphant and cold at the same time, and at once, I get it. Welcoming Stephano’s attention is punishment for me. It’s retaliation because I wouldn’t sleep with him.

I can’t endure another moment. I go back to my and Domenico’s cocoon and pass out in utter exhaustion.

It’s the next morning, and Domenico and Matteo eye me, waiting for my verdict. But I don’t have to give it a lot of thought before I approve the mission to find medication for Alonso. The agony felt by him and Ferdinand is unbearable for them and everyone around them.

The medics have been able to determine that the gel in Alonso’s pod—the insect pod we found him in—contained a type of parasite that wasn’t in the other pods. Bad luck, I suppose. They think the parasites have lodged in his brain in the center that governs visual recognition. And they’re optimistic that they can extract a medication from the hemolymph of a certain type of giant bug.

We call these bugs Weathervanes, because the elaborate structures on the tops of their heads look exactly like that. The creatures here are so weird, although I’ve seen the pictures proving that Earth’s bugs were just as bizarre. The bugs here are just bigger. Weathervanes reach as high as eight feet.

“I’ll go, and I’m going alone,” I say. “In fact, I’m the only one leaving the habitat from now on, and always alone from now on.”

They look at me wordless but with questioning in their gazes.

“Prospero didn’t kill me,” I said. “I think he wants me alive. But I’m convinced that anyone else who leaves the habitat will die like Piero did.”

I don’t want to watch anyone else die.

Continue to Episode 25

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