An Enchantment: The Ice Maiden

Chapter Six

The minute the sound of running water greeted Connor's ears, he rushed to the SID and dialled in Dr. Byrd's connection. It was a straight line that bypassed the receptionist; available to Connor because he was an Assistant Doctor – a position of importance. He had been given instructions to only use it in the case of an emergency, and although this wasn't really an emergency, he did not have time for procedure. Connor needed to consult with Dr. Byrd before Alisa returned.

As Connor was about to give up on the unanswered line there was a click and Dr. Byrd's round face appeared in front of a sterile, white background.

"What can I do for you, Connor?" he asked, his voice tinted with worry.

Connor suddenly felt a little bit ridiculous using this line. Maybe he should have taken the chance and gone through the receptionist. At least then he wouldn't be worrying a good man who could, if he decided, take Connor through disciplinary action for dismissing procedure.

"Sorry to bother you, Dr. Byrd, but Alisa has asked to search more about her life and, well, I've discovered some things…" Connor drifted off, unable to say the words.

Dr. Byrd rubbed his chubby fingers across his eyes and took a deep breath. "Yes, I've found out some things too, Connor. That was a very eloquent way off putting it."

"So you see my problem then…"

"I certainly do. Listen, Connor, I don't think that it would be wise to tell Alisa everything straight up. I believe that it would be too crushing in her emotionally unstable position. It would be better for her to work out some of the details herself first, before we fill her in."

"I agree," Connor said. "Do you think that she could come visit you today, sir? She was a little shook up last night about something, and she wouldn't say what when I asked her."

"That certainly is interesting, but I don't think she should leave your apartment. She is still causing quite a stir out here. There's a petition going around to have her Reversed."

Connor gasped so quickly that he choked on the air. Coughing and rubbing his throat, he stared unbelievably at Dr. Byrd. His mind had gone blank at his words.

"What?" he managed.

"You heard me, son. They're not happy about her breathing the air that was not intended for her. As you well know, none of the other men have been revived and there's only one left. And he hasn't even been found yet. They are undoubtedly upset," he said.

"What do I tell her then?"

"Well… the truth, but maybe not the whole truth about why she can't visit me." He smiled sadly. "This truly is a sad business, my boy. Take care of her."

Connor nodded and the connection was cut.

Slowly she let herself slide down the wall of the shower to sit on its floor. He had come to her again – the man. Alisa could still feel the places where his hands had touched, the ache from when her body had responded. It was all the same. She felt the same; aroused, yet confused and angry with herself for not knowing anything about the man who was touching her.

Alisa closed her eyes under the pounding water and tried her hardest to recover the man's face again. She wanted to remember him; his name, his connection to her, everything. Had he been someone special to her or no one to her? Was he a regretful part of her past? Was that why she couldn't remember? It felt like a betrayal to forget someone she loved, but, then again, she couldn't remember anyone and surely she loved someone.

The face eluded her but the feelings didn't. She felt passion, want and need. Though, there was something else under the surface of those feelings. It wasn't quite recognisable. Alisa struggled to gain it as it slipped away from her prying thoughts. Then it was gone. Though, with a certainty, Alisa knew it was not gone for good.

From the door came a soft rapping and Alisa heard Connor's voice through the door, muffled as he asked her if she was alright. Wearily, as if her energy had been spent while sitting at the bottom of the shower, Alisa rose and turned off the stream of water. She drew back the curtain and stepped out, wrapping the nearest towel around her, above her breasts. Alisa opened the door a few centimetres.

Connor looked back at her, his hazel eyes worried. His broad hand rested above him on the outside of the door frame as his other came to rest on the door knob. He leaned forward while his eyes intently scanned her face, not once looking at her body, to her reassurance and disappointment.

"What's wrong?"

Alisa once again hesitated. She wanted to tell Connor what was bothering her but it seemed inappropriate to tell this man whom she was attracted to and who seemed slightly interested in her, that she was hallucinating about another man touching her. Moreover, she was a little more than embarrassed at the idea of describing how her body had come to life under his hands.

"It's nothing, Connor," she lied. "I was just trying to remember and I must have lost track of time."

It must have been obvious that she was lying because his eyes did not lose their concerned look, though he did not press her for answers. He merely nodded, pulling away from her and Alisa got the distinct feeling that he was hurt by her rebuff. It was in sharp, brief words that he informed her that Dr. Byrd would be stopping by to speak with her later today.

Alisa closed the door as he left. She couldn't help feeling a bit disgusted with herself for being such a coward about the truth, and because of that, hurting Connor's feelings. Though, Alisa knew that there was no point in beating herself up about it now. Connor would find out soon enough when she got the chance to tell Dr. Byrd. She would ask him to stay. Then he would understand her hesitancy in telling him.

It was with that conclusion in mind that Alisa pulled on a pair of light, blue jeans that fell well past her short legs to cover her feet, and a soft, pastel pink t-shirt over her underwear. With a last rub with the towel, Alisa flicked her blonde hair back over her shoulder and opened the door slowly.

Connor was not sitting on the bed waiting for her when she left the bathroom and she wasn't sure why she thought that he might be. Maybe it was because she was hoping that he still cared about her and that she hadn't hurt him too much. For some reason she had felt it would have been a good sign to see him waiting for her. His absence made her upset.

Tossing her pyjamas on the floor by the bed with the rest of her clothes, Alisa left the bedroom and emerged slowly into the lounge room. She searched the area hard for Connor but she needn't have bothered. He stood in plain sight in the kitchen, his back to her. Alisa moved in his direction.

"Would you like a drink?" he asked, without turning.

"Um, yes. Tea, please."

"How do you have it?"

The ordinary conversation threw Alisa. She expected the same sharp attitude from before but that seemed to have evaporated. Now he just didn't look at her. Alisa didn't know which was worse.

Connor turned to look at her. It was then that she realised that she hadn't replied to his question. She mumbled out the words, "Black, no sugar," before slipping back into her thoughts. The fact that Connor had looked at her stumped her. Maybe he wasn't upset with her and it was just all in her head because she was upset with herself. Alisa's hands gripped her head as she cursed the confusing agony of her brain.

"Are you alright?" Connor asked again, placing the cup in front of her.

Alisa immediately dropped her hands and looked up to him. "I'm sorry. I'm just so confused." At least this time it was the truth.

They sat in silence for several minutes and in that time Alisa's brain felt like it were tearing holes in itself, trying to explain away everything. It was all too much to comprehend. For the second time, Alisa almost wished that she had not been revived so that she didn't have to deal with this confusion. However, the thought was childish and pointless and selfish – all of which Alisa knew. She turned to Connor for distraction.

"So," she started. "Tell me about yourself."

Connor looked slightly surprised when he asked, "What do you want to know?"

"Anything and everything," she said.

"Ok. Let's see… I live here by myself, as you know. I'm a Assistant Doctor, but like everyone else I also do manual labour on given days for the Station."

"Manual labour?" Alisa interjected. "What's that involve?"

Connor shrugged. "Can be anything – whatever needs doing. There's garden tending, cleaning, water recycling and purification, animal tending, coal excavation, just to name a few. The list is pretty endless when it comes to keeping this Station self-sufficient. We all have to pull our own weight for the good of the Station. If everyone doesn't help out, then this place would crumble.

"There just aren't enough people for each one person to do only one job. People must learn to do many. This is for many reasons. The first and most obvious is that not all manual labour is a year-round job and some types of labour are not as hard as others. Also, the importance of multi-skilled people, comes in handy so that we are never short of qualified people. If we only had the one person who understood how to purify water and then they died, well, in short, we'd all be in a lot of trouble."

Remembering the muscular little boy who had delivered her clothes, Alisa suddenly made sense of his appearance. "So, when you say 'everyone', you actually mean everyone, don't you? The children do this manual labour, don't they?"

"Yes, that's exactly as it is. Everyone does it – men, women and children. It has to be that way."

For some unknown reason, the thought of children doing manual labour upset her. "At what age do the children start manual labour?"

"Age 10. Look, I know what you're thinking, but you're wrong. We don't treat them poorly. They still have their childhood where they are carefree and innocent, and we don't ever give them jobs that they can't manage. They start out on small easy tasks such as errands, watering and cleaning. It's only as they mature and grow older and stronger that we provide them with more work. Even then, some aren't smart enough to handle complex jobs, so they don't get complex jobs. It's not bad – I grew up with things that way and I have never felt used by the Station. The people here are really understanding – about most things," he added.

Alisa nodded, accepting this. She would examine more closely her feelings about it later. Right now she wanted to ask more questions and get more answers. This place felt strange and she knew instinctively that it was different to her home; her time.

"Are the women as muscular as the boys? Is that how you knew that I wasn't from this time period?" Alisa questioned.

"Yes, they're muscular – nothing like you. You're so petite… its different," he finished lamely. "It doesn't make them unattractive, just strong," he added hastily.

Alisa laughed. "That's ok. I'm not going to tattle-tale on you. Please continue. You were telling me about yourself."

Connor shifted in his seat as though she had made him uncomfortable but he continued anyway. "I have an older sister. Her name is Nora. She is married and has two children – twins, a boy and a girl. They're two years old. Maybe you'll get to meet them someday; they're really big trouble-makers."

Alisa heard the vagueness in his voice. There would probably be no meeting at this rate. If the people were still angry with her like they were at the laboratory, then there was every chance that his sister felt the same. She wondered how his sister would feel about her being in her brother's apartment.

"Is there anything else I should know? Old girlfriends, ex-wives?" Alisa asked, injecting her voice with the right amount of playfulness. She did this to cover up her depressing thoughts, as well as to hide her interest in his answer.

He laughed. "Very few old girlfriends and definitely no ex-wives."

"And current ones?" she asked, continuing her playful questioning.

Connor's hazel eyes wondered away from her. "I happen to still be looking for the perfect woman."

Nina Bruja: How could her stomach have shrunk if she were frozen? It's a good question. When she was unfrozen, herorgans would havebeenstrained by the process (wear and tear) and stomach would have shrunk underthe process. It would have also noted a lack of nutrients ie. lack of food. This was the reason for the fluids. Ok, after saying that, this story is not necessarilymedically correct, but its fiction and my storyso I'm gonna stick with that. LOL. Ihope that answers yourquestion, Nina. Thanks for reviewing.

And a big thanks to those others that reviewed. It is always a pleasure to get thanks aswell toRaven O'Connor, LaLa-the-Panda and Dying Flames.