Spacer Firestorm 126
  | Asymmetry | Role-Playing | Villains & Vigilantes | The Revolution | Story So Far | Firestorm |





    Then we took a look at the object Scott had taken from Gordon's office. Analysis meant taking our connection to the base computers offline, but ten minutes later we had ourselves a copy of whatever was on it. That was the good news. For the bad news, our midrange decryption software took one look at it and gave us the computer equivalent of, "yeah, right." We decided that when morning came we would hand the project over to our riddle-master, the Sphinx.
    Scott plugged himself in to recharge and ran his usual self-repair procedures, made sure everything was ship-shape. I took my cue from him and curled up in a corner.
    I woke the next morning to a "What?! Who said it was okay? What the fuck!" from Phoenix, who had found that Scott had been reading his comic books. And staying in his room, no less. I groaned and curled up tighter, but it wasn't any use. It was morning again. When this is over, I vowed, I'm going to sleep for a week. At a spa. In Arizona. Where no one will know who I am and I can actually start feeling human again—I'll worry about meeting the qualifications later.
    "My stuff!" Phoenix continued to protest, pacing violently. "So what were you reading, anyway?"
     "All of them. I don't sleep."
    Lucky was back, looking somewhat haggard under her usual cool. Albert was still up, still hunched over his papers with a half-bottle of wine and empty wineglass. I couldn't remember when I last saw him sleep.
    Lucky picked up the wine and wrinkled her nose at its sweetness. "What?" she responded to Albert's look. "I'm thirsty."
    "I have brought in some water, it is over there." He muttered something in French.
    "Nobody has any respect for property around here," Phoenix chimed in, resettling himself. A moment later his gentle snores echoed through the cavern.
    "Can you find me an address for Billy Frascatore?" Lucky asked Albert.
    "I do not use the computer unless it is absolutely essential. You can use it as well as I."
    "Fine." She did a quick check and apparently didn't find anything, headed into the quiet of the hall and went to sleep. Must be hell having senses like hers sometimes.
    "Good morning everyone!" Scott "woke up," slid over to the radio and turned on NPR.
    "We follow the annual yak migration, today on 'All Things Considered.'"
    I watched this faintly ludicrous series of events unfold and muttered, "We have to get reinstated." This is no way to live. For one thing, there's no coffee maker in the cave. A solution presented itself for that, at least. I glanced at Scott. "I was thinking of swinging by the office and checking in on the guys. Want to come?"
    "It's a little harder for me."
    "I'm sure you can get there somehow." It was still early enough that he could avoid being spotted if he was careful enough. He left a note for Lucky to call him when she woke up, and we headed out into the appallingly bright early morning.
    Muse was there ahead of us; he gets in early and leaves late. "Excellent, how are you?" he greeted us with that million-watt smile. Newton rubbed up against me, meowing reproachfully, then proceeded to ignore me, punishment for my long absences lately. He seemed healthy, at least; I presumed the guys had been taking good care of him.
    "Quite well, and yourself?" Scott, as always, matched Larry polite for polite.
    "Not too bad, not too bad. Unfortunately I'm going to have to cut myself down to half hours starting two weeks from now. Just so you know, I have my usual summer theater circuit. You understand, my calling, as always."
    "Of course."
    "What will you be putting on?" I asked.
    "Almost anything that gets me out of the house," he averred.
    "I have the perpetual hope that some community theater somewhere will pay me to do Hamlet, but it hasn't happened yet. Instead they keep doing the comedies." He sighed. "And Our Town. And can I play Willy Loman one more time?"
    "Sorry. Coffee?" I asked hopefully.
    "There was a notice of some activities last evening, it seems that you were quite busy," Muse noted, pointing me in the direction of the pot.
    "Really? What's in the paper?" Scott inquired.
    "Some sort of altercation between Phoenix Talon and some local thugs, a rather extensive chase scene with what I presume to be Miss Charm...."
    "Miss Charm?" I raised an eyebrow at the appellation.
    "Well, she is charming,"
    "In her own unique way," I allowed.
    "Everyone is charming in their own unique way. Even you, much as you might try and deny it."
    Touché. I wasn't quite sure how to take that.
    Our break-in had not made deadline, or had been deemed inconsequential, or was being covered up. The Paranormal Investigation and Tactical Squad from Rhode Island has been called in to replace us. Must have been their chopper the previous night. They're corporate, not state-funded—much better equipment than we ever even dreamed of getting our hands on. They handle variant menaces only, which in this case I suppose means us, even though from what I hear most of them are normal humans. We updated Muse a little.
    "This is certainly a sticky situation," he admitted. "How do you think you're going to get out of it?"
    "Track the villains back to their lair," Scott answered promptly. "Confront them there."
    Muse clapped his hands. "I love listening to you, youth. You're the only one who understands!"
    "That's because Scott's education came from comic books and television," I threw in.
    "A diet that we must feed to more youngsters, apparently. I had hoped that high art, literature, education would work, but if comic books and television produce something like him, so be it."
    "I think he came out of the box that way, actually."
    Stephanie showed up, made more coffee, brought doughnuts. I inhaled some of both. She doesn't seem at all fazed, wasn't looking at the two of us like we're monsters the way the rest of the city had been lately. Maybe she doesn't read the papers. Then Muse reminded me that there was a shower in the bathroom—this had once been an apartment, after all.

[Perspective switch: Scott and Muse]

    "Hello, Needle," Sphinx greeted me as I emerged from the bathroom. "How are you today?"
    "Much better now, thank you." A shower and change of clothes had gone a long way toward improving my attitude.
    "I like you with your hair up in a towel, it gives you a certain foreign feel."
    "Um, thank you." I guess. Caught in a room with two men who are entirely too attractive for their own good but don't behave the way my memories insist most attractive men do, I felt an irritating level of uncertainty. "So how's everything going?"
    "Everything is going... just fine." As usual, he spoke without taking his eyes off whatever he was doing on the computer screen. "No one has bothered us here, other than the ubiquitous idiot outside. There have been no further arrivals by that other artificial life form."

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© 1999 Rebecca J. Stevenson