There's a humming in her head, a buzzing nestled deep within her skull. Like radio static wrapped around her, holding her safe within a blizzard.
Renée, everything is completely fine, the static whispers, and she doesn't actively believe it so much as feel it settle inside her bones, moulding her into part of its truth.
She watches her body move. Two sets of fingers punch security override codes into the observation deck's lockpad.
"Warren, do you like my new pet?" There's a moth-flutter in her stomach, but she doesn't even wonder what it means.
"Renée, you're happy, aren't you?" And she hears a voice reply, "Yes, Mr Cutter."
She shuttles between pieces of the station. Blink, she's looking at somewhere new.
Sometimes there is shouting. Electronic crackles. It might be words if she listened. She doesn't. The humming blocks it out, blocks out the wanting to listen.
Other voices reach her as if by radio transmission. Jeez, Lieutenant, they did a number on you, didn't they? I really am sorry about that.
Radio transmissions. Receiver somewhere behind her ears. There's no impulse, most of the time, to acknowledge them. Even to pay much attention.
Marcus, you moron, you do need to tell her to eat at least once a day!
Really? She can't take care of herself?
Did you want independent higher-level functions or did you specifically not? Happy Christmas, here's your new puppy, now you have to look after it.
"Renée, you forgive me, don't you?"
"Yes, Mr Cutter," someone says.
"Good girl. See, she's fine."
She sleeps wherever she is when her body runs out of energy, and there is music in her dreams. It hurts her.
Renée. "Renée! Are you listening?"
She drifts, drifts. "Listen carefully."
Blink, the view outside her eyes is the opening airlock. Her brain matches the image just given to her. A face. Name, rank, accepted speech to. He advances — there is an unexpected pressure around her shoulders and chest. She waits for it to pass.
Everything just goes by.
These are unimportant words being semi-caught by her ears, so she doesn't process them. They have familiar cadences, though, ones which stretch her lips into a smile.
"Everything is completely fine," she hears herself say, and she is suspended in certainty, no more or less now than at any other time.
She doesn't question her muscles bunching, her arm pulling back. There is a dull ring of pain through her hand, and she is breathing harder. "Everything is going to be all right."
It is all right already. Other possibilities do not exist.
Renée, everything is better now, isn't it?
Of course it is. She's forgetting already.
Her vision is briefly distorted by liquid globing in her eyes. Unexplained by the soothing, static hum. But blink, blink, and it's reabsorbed. Never there.
Everything is under control.