Lor loved his job. Sure, Mal teased him about being a ‘Mad Scientist’, but he actually found the title rather useful. It meant that he was allowed to work on whatever he wanted, no need to explain. Everyone expected Mad Scientists to have secret projects, and he rather suspected they would have been disappointed if he didn’t.
Of course, he still had to oversee the running of the lab. Making sure everyone stayed on track wasn’t the easiest thing in the world, but he did his best to keep things running smoothly and morale high. Some of the newer employees were taken aback by his looks – indeed, some of them had transferred pretty soon after arrival. It had been awkward for a while, especially for the first month after ‘The Incident’, but the atmosphere had finally settled down. He could almost forget that it had ever happened.
His project, however, was not going so smoothly.
“I just don’t understand why it isn’t working,” Lor said, glaring at the circuitry as if it could tell him what was wrong and was just holding back to annoy him. “Any ideas?”
“I have many ideas.”
“Very helpful, Steve.”
“I will need further data if you would like me to be more specific. Can you link me into the portal?”
“Is that safe?”
“I am unsure, but I wish to find out.”
Lor smiled. Steve was becoming more confident in himself every day. He was beginning to let himself want things – not because it was his job but because he simply did. That, more than anything, convinced Lor that he was doing the right thing. Steve deserved to have a chance at happiness, just like everyone else.
“I’ll see what I can do.”
“Thank you. Lor?”
“Why does your son want to get married?”
“Because he fell in love, Steve.”
“You love him.”
“I do, but that’s a different kind of love.”
“Then why are there not two different words for it?”
That was a good question, actually. “I don’t know. Right,” he said, placing his hands on his hips as he looked down at his work, “that ought to do it. Can you connect?”
A low hum began to echo around the room as Steve’s systems began to whirr. This could take a while.
Lor really did love his family. He loved his husband with all his heart, even when he was grumpily napping on the sofa and everyone had to tiptoe around him. He loved his children. They were a handful, the twins especially, but he wouldn’t change them for the world. Possibly because they were his world. He would do anything for them. Even, he shook his head sheepishly, redesign the garden for a simply family get-together.
He wanted to make a good impression on Yaritza’s family, but he had to admit that he might have gone slightly overboard. Still, it was too late to change things now. The meeting was tomorrow.
Lor picked up the screwdriver and moved towards the panel. “Excellent. What’s the verdict?”
“We are, as you like to say, ‘screwed’.”
“In it’s current state, the portal is unable to connect to Sixam because there is no portal on Sixam. It is impossible to have a door that leads nowhere, so it does not work.”
“Let me get this straight. You’re saying that in order to go to Sixam, we need to have been to Sixam.”
“That is correct.”
He swore. Steve repeated it, and Lor groaned. He really needed to be more careful.
“Steve? That’s a bad word. You probably shouldn’t use it.”
“Why did you?”
What was it with him and good questions today? Lor sighed. He might like the fact that Steve wanted to know everything, but being on the receiving end of all that curiosity was tiring after a while.
“Lor? I have had an idea.”
Lor slowly spun around in his chair to face him. “Ok, lets hear it.”
“The portal cannot work as it is. However, I may have a way around this. I do not know if you will like it.”
“It means ‘Tell me your idea’.”
“I can adapt the technology to fit a rocket. Once the rocket has been upgraded, the portal will be able to take the rocket to Sixam, as long as it has the co-ordinates locked in. If you can get me the co-ordinates, I can do the modifications needed. You will need a skilled pilot, however, and a ship big enough to carry a second portal in cargo.”
“You truly think this will work?”
“I have calculated the odds, and they come to 76.983% probability of success. Can you fly a ship, Lor?”
“No, I can’t. But I know someone who can. I can’t promise they’ll help, but I’ll see what I can do.”
“I’ll get them.”
“Helen? I was wondering if your husband might be willing to talk to me.”
“I don’t know. I mean, he’s still pretty angry about what happened.”
Lor winced. Of all the Sixans that had made their home on Earth, August had taken the news backlash the hardest. Whilst the few others were able to keep up their disguise, he couldn’t. His child would be born soon, and everyone would know just by looking at them that one of the parents were not from here. He couldn’t let Helen take the fall.
Major had taken his family to Sixam a few years earlier, so August had been the only one unable to avoid the sting. It had hit him hard.
“Helen, you know you’re all welcome to move in with us. We have a spare room now that Ellie has moved out. We can even get a house sorted for you in Newcrest.”
“You’re sweet, Lor. We’ll be ok for now, but when the baby grows up…”
“The offer will always be there. You’re my friend. Even if this weren’t my fault, I would want to help.”
“I know. I’ll ask him to talk to you, ok?”
“By the way, have you seen those weird craters around the lab?”
These weren’t Earth life forms. They were alien, and they were dead.
A bath couldn’t solve all his problems, but it helped. Lor sank back into the warm water, moaning softly as the heat soothed his muscles.
“Welcome back,” Lor called through the bathroom door. “How was work?”
“Really good, actually! A developer contacted me to test run a new game, so I had a great time. There were a couple of bugs, but lots of potential.”
Lor shuddered. Ew. Bugs.
“Why are there dead creatures in jars by your jacket? Is that one a tiny whale?”
“Honestly, I don’t know what they are. That’s why I’ve brought them home – I need to find out.”
“Well, please, keep them out of sight. I think that weird slug thing is staring at me. Is it dead, too?”
“Mal? I need to talk to you.”
A decade or so ago, those words would have sent him into a panic. All those romance films he’d consumed growing up had taught him to fear those six little words, but hearing them from his husband, Malik found that he didn’t have to worry. They loved each other, and whatever Lor had to say would not change that.
“Sure. What is it?”
Lor reached out and stroked his cheek. How he had such soft hands after working with all those chemicals was beyond him, but Mal wasn’t about to complain.
“Its about my project. The AI one.”
“Ok… do you need my help with the programming again?”
“Not yet, but I will soon. It isn’t your help I need, this time, but I wanted to make sure you were ok with it before asking them.”
“Why wouldn’t I be? It’s not an ex-boyfriend or something, is it?”
Lor laughed. “You know you’re the only boyfriend I’ve ever had, and now you’re mine I’m definitely not looking to change that. So no, not an ex-boyfriend.”
“Our daughter. Ellie.”
Mal felt his jaw drop. It was one thing to accept that Lor was working on such a dangerous project, but to bring in Ellie…
“She wouldn’t be doing anything she doesn’t already do for work. I need someone who can fly, that’s all. She’s a wonderful pilot, Mal. The best I know.”
“And where, exactly, do you want her to go?”
He sat down on the floor with a thump. He hadn’t expected this.
“I promise, I’m not having her do anything dangerous. I’m going to be contacting the Council for permission first, so no one will try anything with her. All she would have to do would be deliver something.”
“I can’t believe you want to drag her into this! After what happened to her last time she decided to go off course.”
“She wouldn’t be off course! Steve and I have invented something to keep her on track the entire time. It would even monitor hazards and steer her away from them.”
“How long have you known about this?”
“Just today. I swear. If there was another way, I would take it in a heartbeat.”
Malik massaged his temples, groaning. He didn’t understand why this was so important to Lor. He’d been willing to add his own expertise, but his daughter..?
“I’d be monitoring her the whole time. She wouldn’t be out of contact for even a second. I’ll supervise the upgrades to her ship, triple check all the figures, adapt her suit and everything. I promise, I wouldn’t do this if I thought it would put her in danger. I love her.”
“Then why are you asking me?”
“Because I love you too much to go behind your back. She’s our daughter. Not my daughter, ours. If you say ‘no’, I won’t ask her.”
“She won’t be doing anything she doesn’t already do at work?”
“You can ask her. If she says yes, I won’t stop her.”
His life might not be the most normal, but he was loved and respected. He wouldn’t trade it for anything.
A/N – The families are meeting next chapter, ahhhhhhhhh~ I’m actually really nervous =p Anyway, that wasn’t the point of this note. The point is to show you this, because it cracked me up:
Dead grandma inviting small granddaughter out drinking. Sounds legit.