Friday, September 16, 2011


“This was much better than I had hoped.” Carbon hung on Alex’s arm as they walked away from his parent's house. They were detouring from the direct path back to the shuttle, Alex intent on stopping by an old haunt before they went back to the Sword of the Morning Light. This part of the promenade was nearly deserted despite the sun having set not an hour before. There were faster ways around, but none of them had floor to ceiling windows with a view of San Francisco sparkling across the bay.

Dinner had gone well. Carbon was fairly well versed in how humans went about meals and there were no missteps from his family. No problems from the restaurant or the other patrons, either. Conversation had stayed pretty light, but that wasn’t too much of a surprise either. His family had never discussed big things in public.

“I told you they’d be happy for us.” His mother had been happy for them, at least, while his father and brother seemed to be fine as long as he was happy. Milly was more standoffish than normal, but given the circumstances Alex hadn’t been surprised. Jason was blown away when they finally got him to understand Carbon was an alien. They hadn’t told him they were married yet. Kids had a tendency to talk.

“You did. I am glad; I did not know how much I missed having family. Perhaps I just did not think about it.”

“Probably.” He squeezed her hand. “It’s the easiest thing to do, really.”

“It is. I do not like admitting that, but it was much easier to bury myself in work than deal with those feelings.”

Alex chuckled. “Sometimes, I think you were on the Kshlavo just because it was a lot of work.”

“That... may have had some impact on my decision.” She smiled and then sighed quietly. “On the Schreno, my crew would come to me, try to reduce my workload. Try to make me take a break. I knew how much maintenance a set of drives took, I knew it would keep me busy if I was the only one working on them.”

“That sucks.”

She didn’t say anything for a moment and then laughed. “Yes, it did. But I would not undo it.”

“You say that now.” Alex grinned and gave her a sidelong glance.

She closed her eyes and smiled again. “I do say that now. I should hope to say that forever.”

“Well, we’ll see.”

“We will. Is this the place you spoke of? Benny’s?” She pointed down the promenade, past several business’ that were closed for the day. There was one still open, a few empty tables out front bathed in blue neon.

“That’s the place. Best subs in the arcology. Seriously. Fresh sliced meat and cheese, fresh baked bread. Well, they’re going to close in a half hour, so it’s not as fresh as it could be. Premise of the thing, you know?”

“I am sure. What were you going to get me?”

“An Italian with the works.”

“It sounds thorough.”

“It’s a good place to start.”

They turned into the small shop, currently deserted except for the lone employee. Unsurprisingly, he was not expecting Carbon. The young man looked from Alex to Carbon and then back to Alex. He sounded as confused as he looked. “Can... Can I help you?”

“Yeah. Get two foot long number twelves with everything. To go.”

Carbon leaned over to Alex. “I would like a Coke.”

“They have Pepsi.”

“Is that a reasonable substitution?”

He shook his head. “No.”

“Root beer.”

“And a medium root beer. Also to go.”

“Yeah, sure.” He punched the order into the terminal and by the time Alex had paid, the fountain had produced Carbon’s drink. He slid it across the counter and stepped over to the prep area, firing up the old fashioned meat slicer after prepping two rolls.

He didn’t exactly stare at Carbon while he was working, but he did seem more than a little distracted by her presence as he slid a piece of prosciutto across the cutter without using a pusher, gloved fingers uncomfortably close to the spinning blade.

“I think I will wait outside.”

“That’s probably a good idea.”

Things seemed to go more smoothly after that, if not slowly. The kid seemed new, taking his time checking and cleaning the blade between meats. Not that big a deal, the shuttle had pre-approved access to the diplomatic airspace for another fifteen hours.

Alex looked outside and noticed Carbon talking to some guy. Glowing letters across the shoulders of his body armor said “POLICE,” a solid indicator that he was a cop. Things seemed copacetic for the moment.

“Here you are, sir. Have a good night.” It sounded more like a question.

Alex picked up the bag and headed for the door. “Thanks, you too.”

“You say you are here on personal business?” The cop was looking at Carbon’s ID, the one from the Navy in one hand, some sort of Tslao credential in the other.

“Yes. As I just explained, I was here having dinner with my escort’s family.” There was a hint of exasperation in her voice, things seemed to not be going as well as Alex had thought.

“And who would that be?”

“That would be me. Officer?” Alex smiled set the bag down on the table.

“I’m going to need you to stand right over there, sir.” He pointed to the support column between Benny’s and the clothes store next to it.

That rubbed Alex the wrong way and definitely rankled Carbon. Alex leaned in and read his badge. “Look, Officer Dunne, we are just-”

“You need to go stand over there, right now.” Officer Dunne again pointed to where he wanted Alex to go, his other hand conspicuously close to his sidearm.

“Yeah, sure.” He flipped his Amp on and linked in to the local wireless and pressed a comm link through to the local Police station.

It rang twice before someone picked up. A smooth female voice with a practiced line. “Berkeley Police, Fifth Deck, North Precinct. How may I help you?”

Alex stayed silent and let his Amp synthesize his voice. “Hello. My name is Alex Sorenson with the Office of Naval Intelligence, Section Seven. I need to speak to the most senior person on duty. Immediately.” He pressed his military credentials through to her workstation.

She hesitated for a moment. “Right away, sir.”

Officer Dunne did not seem to like any of the answers a continually more frustrated Carbon was giving him.

“This is Sergeant Ansel. What do you need?” He sounded older, gruff and more than a little harried.

“Sergeant, thank you. I’m over here on 5-D, west promenade, section four. Your officer Dunne is playing ‘who’s dick is bigger’ with the dignitary I am escorting. Since he will do nothing but threaten me, would you kindly make him stop before he causes an incident.”

Ansel heaved a sigh. “If Officer Dunne has stopped-”

“Sergeant, let me clarify something. This dignitary is the crown princess of the Tslao Empire. There is a Tslao super carrier parked in HILEC right now and we would prefer to not have relations sour because one of your boys got bored. Now, get on your comm and call him off or you will both be regretting the choices you’ve made in life.” Alex estimated that Carbon was about thirty seconds away from being out of patience with being treated like a criminal for no reason. He did not think Dunne would like the outcome of that.

Dunne stopped mid-sentence and turned his head, the universal sign for having gotten a call in your ear. He spoke a few times and then set Carbon’s credentials back on the table, nodded at her and walked away. He might have glared at Alex on his way down the promenade. “Thank you, Sergeant. Officer Dunne’s intact body thanks you, as well. Have a good night.”

“This night had been going well.” Carbon was understandably wound up, standing as Alex came back.

“Yeah, I don’t know what the hell his problem was. Got it sorted out, though.”

“What did you do?”

“Called local PD and had them call him off. Only had to threaten raining hell down from on high to get them to do it.”

“So little?” Despite everything, she laughed and slipped an arm around his waist. “I am not letting you take any side trips from now on.”


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. @archnemesis: I'm not sure HOW I removed your comment, but I can't find a way to unremove it now. Again, I curse Google's name.

    Agreed, though... I'm sure Dunne at least will be getting some less desirable shifts for a long time.

  3. A great chapter. With all of the tension going on in Carbon and Alex's life together young Dunne might have lost the swinging #*@! contest, LOL.

    I really appreciate your choice of wording environment. The "promenade" is such a succinct word that I can picture it without many other descriptions.

    As always, a pleasure to read :)

  4. @icallshogun, As long as it was accidental, and I didn't upset you for praiseing your work. :)

  5. @Tummy: Thanks! I suspect that nothing good would have happened... Funny? Sure. Carbon has much more training than a beat cop.

    I'm really glad my language for... places, I guess, works. I fret over that sometimes. Sometimes meaning whenever I write a new place.

    @archnemesis: I'm going to blame a combination of ham-hock sized thumbs, the new blogger back end and checking things on my phone right after waking up. In short: I'm an idiot and shouldn't do that.