‘Stop it,’ you say.
‘Sorry,’ he says, ‘what is it you wish me to stop?’
The deck is cold even through your suit and a blanket. You lay your cheek on your hand and open your eyes and he is. He’s still staring at you.
‘Don’t look at me,’ you say, and you close your eyes again.
He doesn’t reply. His silence is telling. You roll over, turning your back to him, and you can feel him, watching.
You can’t put him in another room. You need him on the bridge to monitor systems and readouts you don’t understand and can’t make sense of.
You leave instead. You walk away from the bridge and his questioning voice, ‘Dr Shaw?’ and you go sit in the storage room with his body and the med kits and supplies from the ATVs and Vickers’ escape pod. You wonder if there’s some sort of shipwide monitoring system. You wonder if he knows how to operate it.
You go back to the bridge to sleep.
Knowing is better than wondering.
He’s put the ship on voice command. Until the time arrives when the hypersleep pod is your only option, you don’t need him mobile.
On day thirteen, four days after the ship has left the planetary system and you’ve engaged the star drive, you begin putting him back together.
If he has something else to do maybe he’ll stop staring at you.
Under his direction you initiate baseline connections between his head and body. You concentrate on the minutiae of the work, on the wand in your hand, and you think about the last time he had free time on his working hands.
God, dear God in heaven, you wish you had someone to tell you you’re doing the right thing. You wish you still had a reliable emotional and moral compass.
You very much wish you could space him.
You imagine it. His head and body, barely attached as they are now, floating through the emptiness between stars, never deteriorating.
In your imagination, you see him blink. Your stomach turns over and you have to bend down, curling into your nausea and around your sterile, violated uterus.
He calls you that now. You told him not to call you Elizabeth. ‘I’m all right,’ you say and you raise your head and he’s looking at you.
Of course he is.
The problem, you think, is his eyes. They are so clear, such an odd colour—you wonder how his makers achieved the effect of colour behind colour overlaid with tears. You feel as though you’re looking into him through his eyes; as though he uses them to look through you to some resolution you would find appalling. His expressions are inhuman but his eyes… no. You're not going to play this game.
‘Are you in pain?’ he asks you.
You are. You always, always are. ‘Not so much that I can’t do this,’ you say. You lift the wand and lean in.
You rely on the chrono in your suit to tell you when to sleep. ‘You don’t need to,’ he says. ‘I can assist you in synchronising your biorhythms with earth time.’
‘Thank you,’ you say, ‘but I’m ok.’
The corners of his mouth flatten slightly. You register the reaction as annoyance, as it would be in a human. You don’t really want to know what emotional classification he’s given it.
‘You’ve not changed your bandages in two days. You haven’t cleansed the site of your injury properly in a week. You have a temperature of ninety-nine point nine degrees and the beginnings of an infection. Forgive me for contradicting you, Dr Shaw, but you are not,’ he tells you, ‘ok.’
He’s not wrong. It makes you hate him a little more. ‘Why does it matter?’ you ask. ‘What’s one more dead human to you? You could go back to earth. Weyland Corp might even say thanks for the ship before they deactivate you.’
You start to get up but his hand wraps round your wrist, holding you in place. His grip is firm, not painful, but you’re under no illusions as to who’d win in a struggle.
‘Elizabeth.’ His voice is gentle enough to hurt. It echoes within all the hollow spaces inside you where Charlie and Dad and blind faithful hope used to live. ‘Allow me to help you.’
You laugh, oh you do. ‘Haven’t you done enough already?’
Charlie smacks a laughing kiss onto your forehead. He says, ‘Almost there, babe,’ and you laugh too but he’s holding you too tight. He’s tightening his arms around your waist until you’re screaming for relief, for Dad, for any way out of this bed you’ve made for yourself.
‘Elizabeth,’ someone who is not Charlie not Dad says, ‘you need to drink.’
And there is coolness where Charlie’s kiss burnt you and wetness coursing through your estranged throat, and you say, ‘David,’ and you say, ‘Don’t let me dream.’
He says, ‘No. Sleep.’
It’s the engineer equivalent of a med-pod.
‘David,’ you say, ‘Please don’t take this the wrong way, but I should have spaced you.’
The corners of his mouth are the most active place on his face. Now they curl inward. He brushes his fingers over your bare abdomen, skimming the outer edges of your scabbed over, healing skin. It’s his version of an apology, you think.
Perhaps you only hope.
You shouldn’t feel like you just achieved armistice, but then, saying should or shouldn’t hasn’t ever accomplished anything worthy of being accomplished.
‘I never wanted kids,’ you tell the alien, almost organic-looking deckhead. ‘I didn’t care about… well. Charlie did. He didn’t mean to keep bringing it up, but it… kept happening.’
His hand lifts from your shoulder and settles lightly, palm down, on your abdomen. ‘I am sorry, Elizabeth,’ he says.
It hurts to laugh. You do it anyway. It’s not as if you have a choice. ‘I don’t think you know how to be sorry,’ you say once the spasm has passed. Your abdomen throbs and itches. It aches under the feather weight of his fingers as they begin to move, stroking forming scar tissue.
‘My initial function was to learn,’ he tells you. ‘My creators wanted a being who would adapt to whatever environment it found itself in.’
‘That sounds... very human, actually,’ you say. The drugs are beginning to kick in again, and it occurs to you to ask. ‘What did you give me?’
Your vision is narrowing, flickering in and out of focus like characters on a damaged screen, but you see his mouth twitch. ‘Nothing of theirs,’ he says. ‘Go to sleep.’
His fingers stroke you, long, gentle passes of flesh over flesh (you are both someone else’s creation, you are in your own way as synthetic as he is). ‘Why are you doing that?’ you ask. Your throat feels thick. Lethargic.
‘I find the texture interesting,’ he says, ‘and I have found this sort of physical interaction induces somnolence and calm, in you if not in other humans.’
‘Oh,’ you say. You feel him looking, watching his fingers moving over your skin. You close your eyes anyway.