Fresh air, cake, sunshine – what more could a woman want? Lissa opened her eyes and looked over at her wife and son, who were debating whether or not her son’s shirt counted as ‘too low cut’ or not. Personally, she thought that if any top of his should have sparked that question, it was his exercise one.
“Lissi! Come over here and look at it properly.”
She got up and moved to the other side of the sofa and made a show of examining his shirt. Lor had decided that his pancakes were more important than their opinion on his fashion sense, and was trying to mop up as much maple syrup as possible with them before actually eating them.
“Sorry Momo, I’m going to have to say that it really isn’t that bad.”
“You betrayer! Fiend!”
“You love me anyway.”
Morgan’s phone rang, and she picked it up with an apologetic smile. “I’m sorry, I’ve got to take this – it’s work.”
Lissa knew that Morgan loved her job, but she couldn’t help wishing that she would retire soon. It wasn’t a very safe job, and the risks she took were things that even as a young adult would have been dangerous. Now? Almost foolhardy. It was nerve-wrecking, but she had to trust that Morgan would always come home to her.
“Mama? Are you ok?”
“I’m fine, Lor, just thinking about all the weeding I’m going to have to do today. How’s work going?”
“Pretty well, actually. Making things, breaking things, trying to fix the things before anyone notices…”
Lissa snorted with laughter at the image. “And how are your colleagues? They aren’t picking on you, are they?”
“No more than I deserve, what with the ‘breaking things’ habit I have.”
“By the way,” Lissa said, her grin turning sly, “what’s it like being the only man around so many lovely ladies?”
Lor thought about it for a moment – he hadn’t really considered it before. “Actually, it’s quite nice. There are fewer distractions this way.”
“Didn’t that Yuki girl flirt with you, though?”
“She was under the influence of an experimental serum. That hardly counts.”
Lissa looked at him, hesitating to ask the question on her mind. Then she remembered that there was another way to find out what was going on.
“Lor, I’m going to do something. I’ve not done it in a while, but I’m going to try.”
“What was that?” Lor asked, holding his head in his hands to try to stop the world from spinning.
“It’s an emotion transfer. I’m really focused today, and I thought it might help with your job..”
Now that his head was clear, he could actually feel the difference – it was strange, but in a pleasant way.
“Thanks, Mama. Do you think I’ll be able to do that one day?”
“I don’t know, dear.”
She kept the fact that the ability also gave her a glimpse of his emotions to herself. He was happy, but there was something else there too. She wouldn’t pry just yet. It was enough to know that he was content.
“Professor, can I borrow that chair for a moment?”
Cassandra eyed the contraption in his hands dubiously, but got up and moved aside.
That was definitely a chair. A slightly different chair, but a chair nonetheless. Maybe he still needed to tweak some of the circuitry.
Thirty minutes later, he was back again.
By the end of the shift he was tired, but triumphant at last.
“So, Mr Centauri, are you done confusing our poor furniture?”
Lor rubbed his neck sheepishly. “I got it right in the end.”
“I noticed. However, if you could find a way to turn the potato back into a chair before you leave, I would appreciate it.”
“Hahaha yes… turn it back…”
Cassandra rolled her eyes.
“Oh, Lor! I saw this really cool rock at the Emporium a few days ago – you might want to take a look. The store owner says it’s from Sixam.”
“I’d love to, but-”
“Look, Lor, the owner is an old friend of mine. I know for a fact that he won’t give you any trouble. Just stay in the promenade and you’ll be fine.”
“I still can’t believe they were just selling this.”
Lissa ran her hands over the cold, smooth surface of the crystals and sighed. “It sounds like my old home.”
“Listen carefully, you’ll see what I mean.”
Lor put down his cutlery and closed his eyes, focusing on the sounds around him. The was the soft rustling of the leaves outside, the quiet ticking of a clock in the background and… a low, soft hum. It was coming from in front of him. He opened his eyes in wonder, and Lissa smiled at him.
“See what I mean? I used to fall asleep to this every night. The bigger the crystals, the lower the hum. Sometimes I would pretend that they were singing to me.”
“It’s beautiful, Mama.”
“I hope you’ll be able to see Sixam one day. You’ll be able to hear the same song, I’m sure of it.”
There was a knock at the door. Lor paused, shirt half over his head before sighing and and pulling it back down. Sleep would have to wait. Glasses back on, he pasted a smile onto his face and opened the door.
“Mal? What’s wrong?”
“It’s my sister, she’s driving me crazy. I know it’s late but I had to get away – at least for a while. I was just going to walk around but I ended up here, and…” he trailed off. Lor highly doubted that, seeing as Malik lived all the way over in Willow Creek, but who was he to turn away his friend.
“I didn’t wake you, did I?”
“No, I was still up.”
“Thank goodness. I mean, I know she’s my sister, but she’s completely evil.”
“You mean evil as in ‘keeps playing music too loud’ or ‘leaves a mess everywhere’, right?”
“I mean actually evil. She tried to set my room on fire this morning.”
“I’m lucky I’m such a light sleeper, otherwise I might not be here right now.”
Lor just stood there in horror.
“How long has this been going on?”
“Since she became an adult. I think she’s working on a device that allows her to make people sick using subliminal messaging. Mum’s vanished, too, so it’s just me and her.”
“I’m so sorry, Mal.”
“She’s going on tour with her band at the end of the month, so I’ll have some time to myself then. Maybe I’ll be able to get my own place before she gets back.”
“Well, you’re always welcome here. I don’t want you hurt, ok?”
“Thanks, Lor. That means a lot.”
“S’up, nerds. Guess who just got promoted!”
“Now, if you two want to come inside, I’ve bought some fancy chocolates to celebrate. Lissi’s not asleep, is she?”
“Mum, it’s Eleven pm, of course she’s asleep.”
“Well, lets wake her up. She won’t want to miss these.”
Morgan walked past the two of them and opened the front door. She looked back over her shoulder and grinned at them.
“Lor, Malik, stop letting the warmth out. We’ve got chocolate to eat.”
“Well, I can’t say no to chocolate” Malik said, winking at Lor.
“After you, then.” he said, holding open the door. Then he remembered the last time he had done that for someone. He braced himself for the inevitable shout of-
“Yuki? Look over here a sec.”
Yuki’s face went blank for a second, and then she found herself moving against her will.
“Lorcán, did you just use mind control to make me change into party clothes?”
“Well you had better run, young man, because,” she swiped the ray gun from his hand and pointed it at him “Cassie told me all about your eyeliner. I think I want to see it for myself.”
“No! Have mercy!”
Cassandra watched the two of them run around the lab with a smile on her face. It was nice to see some liveliness around here again. Still, she had appearances to keep up.
“Lor, Yuki. Don’t you have jobs to be getting on with?”
Lor pressed the button on the control and watched as the satellite dish whirred into life. Hopefully they’d be able to pick up Sixan channels, now. His mama would be thrilled.
Lissa was in a world of her own. With the house quiet for so much of the day, she’d been able to pick up her guitar again without fear of disturbing anyone. It was almost too quiet without it. She heard the sound of footsteps approaching the front door and put the guitar back on its stand.
“Don’t worry, mama, it’s just me.”
“Welcome back! I’ve got a fruit cobbler in the oven if you’re willing to wait a bit before eating.”
“Sounds great! I’ll just-”
Lor stopped as his phone began to ring. He didn’t remember setting that ringtone for anyone – maybe someone at work had messed around with the settings when he hadn’t been looking. He fished it out of his pocket and put it to his ear.
“Hello? This is Lorcán Centauri speaking. Who is this?”
“Greetings, Mr Centauri. Your signal has reached the Sixan Information Office. We were unaware that your planet had such technology. How may we help you?”
Lor hung up the phone, stunned. He’d made contact. It had started.