It seemed like it had been years – no, a lifetime – since she had been in a real bed, with real sheets and blankets, enough to keep her warm, and more if she wanted them. The bed was against the wall, shoved into a corner, where she sat with her knees drawn to her chest, ankles crossed, with two walls converging against her back. Through strands of light brown hair, unblinking eyes remained trained on the door in the garish light of her quarters, watching for the door to slide open to admit a Yuuzhan-Vong, evaporating the illusion of safety that was trying to trick her into thinking that it was all over. Or maybe in would walk Inylik, and he would still think she was his little girl and tell her stories to calm her fears and tell her that everything would be all right, that he would take care of and protect her and one day they would escape and find mother and they would all go home.
Feeling a lump rise in her throat, she fought it back and distanced herself from his memory, from everything. Finding that blank room inside, she shut herself in and felt better and still she stared at the door.
A faint knock spared her the surprise of it opening unexpectedly, and instead of a Vong or the alien being that had saved her life and thought of her as his own lost offspring, a human being entered the room, bearing a tray of something edible. She watched as the stranger that was becoming familiar slid the portable table close by and arranged the tray on it so it was facing her. Uncovering the dishes, an appetizing aroma filled the room. Asya’s mouth began to water, but she did not budge from her place so long as he was there, nor acknowledge the friendly greeting or the sympathetic smile. When he’d gone, she crept to the edge of the bed. Dangling her feet to the floor, she dropped her gaze to the meal set before her. Off to the side utensils gleamed, and remembering what they were for, she picked up a fork, loaded it with food, put it in her mouth, chewed, swallowed, then repeated the routine. Though the food smelled good, no taste registered in her mouth. Neither the food nor room was hot or cold. It just was.
She’d been examined, handed from one command to another – the more familiar General Rendar – and was asked a gazillion questions, about her survival, about her adventures, about the Vong craft she’d commandeered; a few she answered in a quiet, cautious voice, many she didn’t feel up to answering. Leaving her in peace for a few hours to rest did little good; sleep was something she yearned for but avoided out of habit borne of the necessity of vigilance and the horrors that visited her dreams. It was a habit she was loathe to set aside, even now. When she opened her eyes again, would all this have disappeared? The line between nightmare and reality seemed so indistinct anymore.
Tag would be back with more of her questions, and her repeated promises of contacting her family just as soon as they appeared in-system, being yet unreachable as they were en route from Atad. How excited they would be, how overjoyed, to know their Asya was still alive – so she’d been told, about those people from another life, the memory of whom held her together and kept her going during those first terrible days of fear and terror, but faded over time into a fairy tale, to a star she would wish on but could not see. Though she tried to visualize their faces, all she could imagine was a vague recollection of the smiling faces from the family hologram hanging on the living room wall. She had to remind herself that those people really existed. It seemed unreal that she would be seeing them again. Wrapped inside by a strange numbness, she finished her meal.