Prologue (5) Collateral Damage

After much screaming and freaking out, Derek finally regained his cool enough to analyse his current predicament.

The first thing that caught his eye was a huge hole in his space suit at the chest level. The contours of the hole had burn marks all over it and there was a lot of purple jelly on both his suit and the dead bodies.

That meant that the purple jelly was coagulated alien blood. Derek turned his head to see the spot where he had woken up, noticing a lot of blood and even something that he found safe to assume were some kinds of splattered viscera.

'This makes no sense.' He thought. 'All the evidence points to the fact that this body was as dead as Julius Caesar until I somehow happened to inhabit it. For whatever reason, it's also fully healed.

'Oh man, this means all religions are dead wrong! Luckily, I never believed in any mumbo jumbo, otherwise I would be really disappointed right now.'

Derek then proceeded to examine his new body. It had four arms and two legs but all the limbs were long and skinny. The legs were reverse jointed like those of a cat. Both hands and feet only had three fingers and toes respectively.

Derek was really curious about his facial features, but there was no reflective surface in sight. He tried to feel his face with his fingers, but the suit apparently came with a helmet which somehow did not impede his senses at all.

The only thing he could determine by touch was the shape of the helmet. Derek found out that his new head was something akin to a shark's dorsal fin.

Then he tried to speak.

"Test, test. Derek McCoy. One, two, three." He could somehow do it, but he was still speaking English. That meant that he didn't inherit the muscle memory nor the intellect from the body's previous owner.

Derek tried getting up, but the center of gravity was too different from his old body's, so he had to give up and resort to crawling like a baby.

He examined the corpses to make heads or tails of what was happening around him. Judging from the suits, there were two factions at war.

One had a red colored space suit, and the other, which Derek was wearing, was grey. He had no idea which side was winning, but it would not make any difference to him anyway.

Unless the suit was equipped with a universal translator, he was incapable of communicating. Enemies would kill him on sight and Allies would probably ditch him like garbage.

'Who would ever want a rambling idiot incapable even of walking during a life or death situation? I've not even been here for a day and I am already as good as dead.' He thought.

Derek refused to give up without a fight. He managed to stand up by leaning on the walls and explored his surroundings.

The corridor had many doors, yet his choices were painfully limited, since he could only go through the open ones.

Derek had no idea how to open the doors nor how to operate the control panels that he found along the way. He tried pushing buttons at random but nothing happened.

To make matters worse, he was getting hungry.

'Will I die like this? Starving in a goddamned space ship, alien planet, or whatever this is? I don't know what this useless pile of flesh eats! Even if I stumble on a mountain of food, I have no way to know what is what. Even if I did, I don't know how the heck to remove this helmet.'

After walking for several hours, hunger and frustration drove him to hysteria. Derek screamed and kicked at whatever was within reach until exhaustion made him fall asleep.

When he woke up, his mind was clear again.

'This is a nightmare. I am all out of options to the point that even if I wanted to kill myself, I would not know how.' He banged the back of his head against the wall to keep frustration at bay.

'I never thought about this, but being reborn in a sci-fi environment is truly the worst-case scenario. Alien body, alien customs, complete lack of the new species common sense and to add insult to injury, everything here is so high-tech that I cannot even open a door.

'Heck, every goddamn button could be tagged and it would still be useless to me since I don't understand their language.'

Derek's hunger kept growing and he was getting weaker by the hour. Having no time to lose, he started wandering again. This time he banged and screamed at every door he met, trying to draw attention.

Derek was on the verge of fainting again due to hunger and exhaustion when finally a door opened up.

The shock was great enough for him to lose his grip and fall onto the ground. On the other side of the door there were grey suited aliens in a wedge formation.

Every one of them was holding some kind of long metal staff as if it were a rifle. Derek didn't even attempt to get up, he just waved a right hand, hoping it was a sign of peace.

*"Captain! That's Xa'rk! His life signal coming back online wasn't a glitch in the system, he is still alive."* (from this point onward * marks words that Derek does not understand)

The formation opened and a taller and bulkier alien closed in. The soldiers never lowered their weapons nor did they lose focus, waiting for the attack order.

*"What are you doing on the floor, soldier? How in Thrak's name did you survive that ambush?"* The captain asked with a hoarse voice.

"Dude, I have no idea what you just said."

*"What is he rambling?"*

*"It's not any dialect in the empire."*

*"Medic, any reading on that blaster wound?"*

A purple dressed alien walked forward while scanning Derek's body.

*"None, sir. The scanner confirms that the hole in his armour is definitely from a Corellan blaster. I have no idea how he survived it unscathed. It's a miracle."*

*"It's a liability."* The captain's tone was grim. He took a staff from one of his soldiers' hands and pushed a button. It turned into a glaive, but its blade was made of pure energy.

'Well, it seems like I'm going to die from a lightsaber. It's cool, one hit and I'll be turned into dandruff. Lucky me, another painless death incoming.' Derek thought.

When the captain plunged the glaive into Derek's chest, it did not make any burning sound. It pierced him from side to side, bleeding him to death.

The blade was not a laser-based weapon, but a hard-light construct, making it no different from an ordinary glaive.

*"Listen up, soldiers. Xa'rk was a good soldier. When and if we get out of this alive, we will remember and mourn him as such, but that thing, whatever it is, is a risk we cannot afford to take.

"Not with Prince Rek'hart in our care and those Corellan rebel scum still at large. Better some collateral damage than a spy among our ranks. Now shut that door and check the perimeter again."*

This time, death was far from painless for Derek. He felt like his chest was on fire, but what really hurt wasn't the wound but rather his lungs.

Derek was struggling to breathe. Every breath was shallower and more difficult than the last. Blood started gurgling from his mouth as he felt like he was slowly drowning.

His throat kept contracting, trying to draw in air, but to no avail. It took Derek less than a minute to die, but to him it seemed to last forever.

Once again, he found himself basked in the blinding light and pulled towards it. Just like the last time, he felt all of his worries and rage fade, but instead of enjoying the feeling he was simply annoyed.

Derek had never believed in any god, hence he never believed in heaven or hell.

'Humankind has always been a terrible race.' He thought. 'It's impossible to define someone as truly bad. Most of the time, the bad guys are simply people who never got a chance to be anything but criminals.

'Then there are people, like me, whom life had pushed and pushed until they broke. Not to mention psycho and sociopaths. How could someone that is born bad be sent to hell simply because his head is malfunctioning?

'Hence, I have always believed that either there was an afterlife for everyone or no afterlife at all. Death is supposed to be the final spirit level, good or bad, rich or poor, the destination has to be the same.

'Instead I got this cheap excuse for a reincarnation screwing with me.

'What purpose could be reborn possibly have if I retain all of my memories?

'Whatever body or planet I would end up in, I would still carry my baggage, so once outside the light all my pain, rage and contempt toward humankind would prevent me from learning whatever lesson I am supposed to learn!'

Inside that otherworldly space, he had the clarity to see that his psychologist had been only half right. He could only change if he wanted to, but because of all his past experiences he had no will to.

It was a perfect example of a catch-22 paradox.

Suddenly, he was pulled downwards and away from the light.

His vision was a blur, but he could still hear a lot of commotion around him.

Giant hands were holding him still while he was puking god knows what, and judging from the breeze on his buttcheeks, he was naked.

'I don't know what the heck is going on,' he thought, 'but I bet I am in deep sh*t again.'

When Derek was finally able to see again, he discovered that the hands were not gigantic, the issue was him being a very small creature. A baby, to be precise.

*"He is alive! I did it! I managed to save your boy's life."*

A further inspection revealed that said hands belonged to some gibberish-rambling old hag. Derek was currently inside a wooden shack, surrounded by people dressed with rags that could be called clothes only if they were part of a 1000 CE themed renaissance fair.

'Man, I hate always being right!' He thought.

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