Holden Daniels paced the tiny cell maneuvering so that his sour scowl continually faced the Colonial Security Force officer on duty. He was a mechanical engineer, not a social butterfly. That rat Nielsen always got on his back, if he had just left the hovering and criticizing to management Holden would not have jammed a screwdriver into the man’s torso three times. The colonial starship had departed from Earth years ago, and Daniels had no idea how he would make it until he could put his feet on soil again. Luck had held back in Hartford when he pushed Cooper, his former coworker in front of the commuter train after second shift. Holden’s luck waivered only slightly when he smashed Turner’s nose into pudding, which landed him in anger management training. Now Holden Daniels suspected his luck had run out completely.
Outside his cell, the CSF officer opened the barred door and a woman whom Daniels had been vaguely acquainted with entered, flanked by two more officers.
“I’m Doctor Erin Jeffries, Mr. Daniels. I’ll be in charge of your rehabilitation today” she said. Dr. Jeffries stood a few inches taller than Daniels, her strawberry blond hair swept back to her shoulder blades. Holden guessed her age in the mid-forties and she looked disarmingly attractive to the lone man who often went weeks without interaction with the fairer sex.
“More anger management then? Like it paid off last time,” Daniels said with a chuckle. “I thought I’d be spending my foreseeable future in this room,” he made a grand gesture to capture his meager surroundings.
“Please have a seat,” Dr. Jeffries said, and cocked an eyebrow at a rigid arm chair in the back of the room. “I’ll explain your treatment while you get comfortable.”
Holden Daniels gave her a long, almost hungry stare, and then plopped into the seat. He quickly adjusted and realized there were straps from top to bottom. He raised a hand to object, but the two CSF officers were already at his sides, and began securing the bindings.
“Anger management is excellent for those who apply the techniques Mr. Daniels. Imprisonment was practical for individuals with your aptitude back on Earth. Frankly, we have not got the space, or resources to provide you with a free ride. We are living in a closed artificial ecosystem on this starship, and we need every resource and every person to perform optimally. We will be covering for poor Mr. Nielsen while he recovers from your assault, but thanks to my little modified friend here you will be back to work tomorrow.”
Holden Daniels took his eyes off the woman’s figure and saw that she held what looked like yellowish tongue with beady black eyes at its tip, and pointy limbs tucked close to its underside.
“Cymothoa Exigua or the Tongue Biter is a crustacean that eats a fish’s tongue, latches onto the stub, and performs the missing organ’s task.”
Holden Daniels opened his mouth to protest, but the CSF officers to either side jammed a device between his teeth and cranked until his jaw popped. Daniels began to hyperventilate.
“Relax Mister Daniels this may seem frightening, but it’s actually a blessing in disguise. This little guy here has been a project in my lab for the last eighteen months. I’ve modified his body to allow for human speech, and he is as intelligent as you or I. I’ve designed him to have the very thing you’ve proven deficient in Mister Daniels, a conscience.”
Dr. Jeffries approached Holden, who thrashed against his restraints. His screams muffled the sickening sound of chewing as the Cymothoa Exigua ate its way into a new home.
The following night passed in a blur of rage and pain for Holden Daniels, at some point the man thought he had snapped and begun hearing voices.
“You aren’t crazy Holden, there is someone else here with you, in your head,” his Tongue Biter said. Only the voice wasn’t heard aloud, it came across like a stray thought.
“I will kill that doctor and the guards for this.”
“Let’s not be hasty pal, I’m going to help you get along from now on.”
Holden felt a strange sense of comfort at the prospect.