"Yes," she breathed quietly, and pressed the red switch. Nothing happened. She touched the white switch, waiting impatiently, a crook developing in her neck from the awkward angle. Still nothing. She shifted her position slightly, pressing her left shoulder against the cage to free both hands, then depressed the white switch and the red one together. There was a faint click and suddenly Jilene cried out and sat back on the floor with a thump, her hands clutched to her head. Images flooded her brain, so fast that she couldn't block them or distinguish one from the other: Unfamiliar animal faces, humanoids with strange helmets, light (pain, fear, hope)— all whirling madly together. It was as if someone stood beside her shouting painfully and rapidly in her ear.
"No, wait, stop!" she protested, staggering to her feet and backing away from the cage. She stumbled against a box, threw out a hand to steady herself and rapped it sharply against the edge of the counter. She hissed at the stab of pain and the images ceased abruptly, as though a switch had been thrown.
She stood there a moment, breathing as though she had been running, her sore hand cradled to her stomach, the other still held to her aching head. She belatedly snapped her block into place to shield her thoughts. Cautiously, she raised her eyes to the occupant of the cage, removing her hand slowly from her head and turning her palm toward the creature. "Wait," she said shakily. "Just wait a moment."
She didn't dare initiate any further mental communication just yet. He looked back at her—she had gleaned that "it" was a "he" from the brief chaotic rapport—and, although he stood, trembling a little in eagerness or perhaps fear, his ears brushing the top of the tiny prison, he made no further contact. As the pain in her hand faded to a dull throbbing and her breathing eased, she approached the cage once more, staring at him in amazement.
"Slowly now," she said, not knowing whether or not he could understand her, but feeling the need to talk. She pushed the cage back from the edge of the counter, gathering her scattered thoughts together. She had never made a contact even remotely resembling the one she had experienced with this creature. She couldn't call it an animal—its mind was far more complex than any animal's she had ever touched. This was a sentient being!