Thursday, May 5, 2011

Blown Cover

It had been a busy few days, if you counted writing reports as being busy.

Alex did not, at least not in this case. It was an insufferable chore, knowing that the military had thousands of hours of sensor data that told them exactly what they wanted in the reports... but he was still on the hook for condensing it down into neat, easily digestible documents.

At least things had calmed down. He got up, showered and ate, worked most of the day in a flex office, went back to his room and met with Carbon, had dinner and then started over again the next morning. Structurally it was not much different than life on the Kshlavo, but it still felt much less rewarding.

Carbon was not burdened by the same workload and spent most of her days poking around the station. Things had changed. News of the disaster on Schon had been released a few weeks after they had departed. As long as she was wearing her CPP badge, she seemed to have no trouble around the station. There were still odd looks and some people still prefered to keep their distance, but the overall attitude was more curious now.

They were even friendly on occasion. Carbon had been ambushed by a group of tourists in the museum. As she had explained to Alex later that day, it is supposed to be less busy just after it opens. It was, having been nearly empty the entire time she was there. Still, she attracted a group of older ladies all wearing the same hat who were very apologetic about what had happened and kept giving her hugs and she was the first alien they’d ever met and could they take a picture with her? She believed she understood their actions well enough, but was unsure how she felt about it.

He asked around, apparently there had been a few other Tslao through the station. They weren’t really common in system, but they weren’t unusual anymore. Vegas station apparently had a Tslao restaurant, or a restaurant run by Tslao. The guy he got the information from wasn’t too sure. It gave them a little more leeway in public. They could go pretty much anywhere and no one would give a second thought to an escorted alien.

Alex had been unprepared for how excited she would be when she found out that he needed to go shopping and she could come along.

His transfer to ONI went unnoticed by the world at large... He almost didn’t notice it, for that matter. The main indicator that anything had changed was a request from the CPP to turn the clothing they had issued him back in - a standard security practice. He did get to keep his t-shirts, but that left him with just t-shirts. There were several stores that sold clothes on station, though.

He found himself sitting in the elevator lobby in the promenade, waiting for Carbon to be done talking to Rear Admiral Argueta. His head would swivel from one elevator to the next as they arrived, watching them disgorge people getting off from work in the late afternoon. She arrived well after he did, hidden behind a load of Navy personnel. She looked a bit perturbed.

“So how’d it go?”

Carbon sat down next to him and huffed, straightening her jumpsuit out. “It was fine. She was very reconciliatory and I believe she means what she says. I will still not help them directly any further.”


“There is nothing to add about my meeting.”

He rolled his eyes. “You seem bothered by something, what is it?”

“It was crowded on the elevator and I had several people I did not know touching me at once.”

“Ah. Are you going to be all right?”

She gave him a sidelong glance, a little frown pulled tight on her lips. “I will be fine. I was just surprised when they did not stop getting into the elevator and it was upsetting.”

“Well, now we know not to use elevators during commute time.” He smiled and stood, stretching his back. “Shall we be going?”

Carbon exhaled and nodded, managing a faint smile before she got up. “Yes, that sounds good.”

“Alright... There’s an Uncommon about a half-kilometer down, they’ve got some pretty good stuff.” He directed her clockwise down the arc of the promenade, standing about a foot away from her. That had become a sort of game for them. Look casual so no one notices while trying to catch the other looking.

If someone had told Alex that they did that or he had seen some other couple doing that, it would have been met with a dismissive roll of the eyes and some grumbling about how sickeningly saccharine they were. When he and Carbon did it, it was adorable.

By the time they had strolled down to the store Carbon was in a much better mood. He tilted his head at the entrance with a smile that was dangerously close to being flirtatious. “Come on, this is the place.”

Alex picked up a basket and slung it under his arm, heading back towards the men’s clothing. Each store of the ironically named Uncommon chain was roughly the same. He had been here before, just not on McFadden station.

Cabon lingered behind him, slowing to inspect the women’s cloths but never stopping. She hurried to catch up with him, voice low as though they were conspiring. “I think I may want to try something. But at a different time.”

“Alright. We can come back next week? I might even be done with my reports by then...”

She nodded, smile returning as they passed into the men’s section. “Yes, that will be good.”

“Excellent.” Alex pushed through the formal wear and into casual clothes. He’d never enjoyed dressing up, he wasn’t about to start now. He wasted no time, picking several pairs of jeans and cargo pants off the shelves before turning his attention to a few tables of t-shirt and polo’s.

Carbon bumped his elbow, caught his eye and glanced down at a stack of blood red t-shirts. “Mmn. This one.”

He shrugged mentally and picked out two in his size. It wasn’t a bad color and he was inclined to indulge her anyway. They worked their way around the rest of the corner of the store in a similar fashion, glances and nods surreptitiously selecting the rest of his gear.

She had stepped back from where they had been silently considering belts and bumped into someone. They both turned and apologized amicably. Something about his voice was familiar.

“Oh! Ed, it is good to see you again.” Carbon said, quite cheerfully.

Alex pressed his eyebrows together as he processed that. He distinctly recalled Ed leaving the station before the Kshlavo arrived to take care of a death in his family and they had departed before he returned. Carbon had never met Ed... Not outside of Alex’s memories, anyway.

1 comment:

  1. Uh oh... nice ending.

    When Carbon inspects clothes, you have "cloths"