Monday, December 5, 2016
Chapter 79: Like a Canary
It's dark, it's rainy, and Lela's umbrella has holes in it, but it's too late to run from crazy now.
"You have the meteorite," she says. It is not a question.
"No, I agreed to meet you here for my health," Carlos grumbles. "Yes I have the meteorite."
"I know. I can feel it. Taste it, maybe."
"I'm not licking the thing."
She sighs quietly. "You misunderstand."
It's not often that Carlos can't follow a conversation. That's how he knows this woman is nuts. "Oh."
She gives him the money, the exact sum they agreed upon, and holds out her hand, expectant. Carlos shakes his head and takes a step back, using his foot to nudge over a crate. The crate contains the meteorite fragment. He could have just taken a small sample, but he decided to go all the way, and got her a pretty big one.
What happens next causes Carlos to recoil in shock.
"This is different than last time!" Lela whines, as she somehow levitates the meteorite and transforms it into energy, which she rapidly absorbs.
"What happened last time?!"
"It was not so intense!"
Lela shudders and pants. The meteorite is dust within seconds, but she is unharmed.
"Alright what is going on?" Carlos demands.
Lela smirks. "Do you want me to start leaving you alone now, or...?"
"Are you a witch?"
Her smile vanishes. "I was hoping you could tell me."
"You don't know. Okay, you're not a witch. Witches have to be trained. Umm."
"I hunger for these space rocks. I weaken without them. This has only been a problem since... around my last birthday... but I can't pretend it isn't true anymore. You saw what happened. And I feel rejuvenated."
"But..." Carlos protests weakly.
"My condition is not medically recognized. Everyone thinks I am insane. The only person who doesn't think I am insane runs a UFO conspiracy website... and... well..."
Carlos feels his shoulders slump. "You think you're an extraterrestrial."
"Yes." Her lips draw together in an adorable frown. "What will you do with this information?"
"What... am I supposed to do with it?"
"You work at the observatory," she reminds him. "You know something."
"I know you don't look like an alien."
"So you know what one should look like? You have been through the entirety of the universe, catalogued all life, and you know?"
"I also know aliens haven't been visiting us or pollinating us for... well, a really long time." He is not supposed to talk about this. "I'm not supposed to talk about this."
"Do you have contact with them?" she asks.
"No. I'm not that important, and I don't know anyone who is. I mostly look for gravitational anomalies. That means I know about alien junk that's in space, so I'm not alarmed when our equipment sees it. Also... I really don't think you're an alien."
Lela has a big spiel for him about how she doesn't think her eyes are normal, and she isn't sure if her parents are her parents anymore, and they just think she's crazy and her relationship with her family has suffered greatly. She has believed for a while now that there is some massive government coverup, and now that she has someone admitting there is, standing right in front of her, she has no idea how to proceed.
"Would you be willing to take the flash drive," she murmurs, "and at least look into the observatory computers for us?"
"Who is us?"
"My hacker friend. He needs an in. He's gotten into some of their systems before, but..."
"Lela," Carlos interrupts, "right now I just want out of the rain. We can talk about this later."
"Do you promise?"
"Yes. I promise. But you need to stop drawing attention to me."
Ceth fusses over her appearance backstage at Fine Fellows Hall. The cute double buns she tried for her hair worked out well last time, but experimenting with them further may not have been so successful. She's due out on the stage in mere minutes; there is no time to correct mistakes now.
She makes a dramatic entrance.
And sings her soul out.
The crowd loves her. They always love her.
Ceth often thinks about doing other things with her life, but the adoration of her fans makes it hard to want to stop living like this, skipping from performance to party to performance day in and day out.
The cold rain puts Milo in a melancholy mood. Not even turning a pineapple into a cup for its own juices could keep away the weird loneliness that creeps in when his brother and Ceth are both out of the house. Kirstin keeps her own weird schedule; as much as Milo wants to be with her, she enjoys her independence, and doesn't want to live with him, even though they are going steady now.
She says her place is way too small and crappy; she says she doesn't want to sell her place. His place is too crowded; he doesn't want to buy his own place because it would be expensive and too quiet. Quiet like it is right now.
Kirstin also can't move in here because Carlos would be a total Aunt Izzy about it. Carlos is very protective of their shared secret, and living with someone who doesn't know would be a recipe for disaster. Milo was hoping to get Kirstin on board first, and then foist the situation on Carlos and hope for the best, but that brilliant plan fell apart when Kirstin just didn't want to live here.
Carlos and Lela meet again at Buckshot Lake, ostensibly for chess.
"You may not like what I have to say," he gets right into it. "Or maybe you will. I don't know. The government asking us to snatch up all the meteorites around here is just as suspicious as you thought it was. The policy was put in place several generations ago in a failed attempt to draw out a some alien-sim hybrid they knew was in the area. The trail went cold, but the policy never got changed."
Lela tilts her head, waiting for him to continue.
"See, the aliens feed off of a particular kind of radiation." Carols tries to put what he has learned into words even a child might understand. "Meteorites striking Earth have a high chance of being soaked in that radiation, since nearby Boonitz... kind of puts out a lot of it."
Lela's eyes widen. Somehow. "I am a Kryptonian and I get my powers from the yellow sun."
His eyes go half-lidded in annoyance. "Boonitz is a planet, not a star, but okay."
"It was a joke. If I were to get strength from the sun, I would not want the meteorites."
"Right. What I saw you do is pretty much what the alien hybrid would have done to the meteorites. Someone wanted the alien desperate enough to reveal itself, but that hasn't happened... until now..."
"I trust you, Carlos."
She shakes her head. "I'm not psychic, or anything like that, but I'm good at reading people. I'm a PI, after all."
Carlos feels his chest tighten. "You're a private investigator?"
"Yes. I just sort of... fell into it. I do low level police work, most of the time, but I've had a few clients. None of them wanted me to gather information on you. Don't look so worried."
"Not here to rat me out to my bosses, then."
"Carlos, what would your bosses do to me if they caught me?"
"I'm not sure. You're not the alien they were after. You'd have to be a descendant."
"But you will not risk revealing me," she observes.
All the stories he was told as a child about murderous fairies working to police strange creatures like himself rise back to the surface of his mind. He was never cursed to be silent, as his grandfather was as a child. Carlos was terrified into being silent. "No. I won't."
He has reasons. She won't pry for now, but eventually, she promises herself, she will figure out what is so strange about Carlos. Aside from the obviously not fake fangs.
Carlos sets the flash drive under one of his rooks and slides it across the board to her slowly, knocking over her last bishop. Lela smiles. He must have copied something onto it, after all.
Etc.: The description of one of the Showtime objects (All Three Planets Sculpture) suggests the planet Boonitz is in the same solar system as sims Earth. Sims is a strange game.
More about Lela next chapter.