|20.20|21|22|22.2|22.22|22.222|23|24|25|Those Extra Four…|1|2|3|4|Back Cover|
Continued Interspecies Mingling
I’m Not Tripping Anymore
–was some kind of subconscious thing.”
Sigmund, intrigued, joins the little huddle around Chuck. Jack almost turns the triangle into a square, but then he hears everybody talking about him and decides to just crack the bedroom door and eavesdrop from the comfort of Chuck’s shag carpet.
“Like, maybe when Chuck told him about the Cee-Bee-Dee, some deep-rooted and misinformed fear of getting addicted to drugs manifested itself into… what’d you call it?”
“A golden… god… head, I guess,” Ace shudders, the memory of those empty, glazed eyes peering through him as if he wasn’t even there still fresh in his mind. “I’ve never seen anything like it, it was larger than life. I know the psyche of the human species is fucked to all hell but… I don’t think it’s capable of conjuring something like that, not on accident. It was way too powerful.”
“And why not? What exactly is wrong with the human psyche?” Sigmund verbally elbows, not wanting to get left out of the loop like his parents would always do to him as a kid.
“Oh, no reason buddy. Hey, can you go grab me a Cee-Bee-Dee juice?” Ace requests with a smile, nodding towards Chuck’s fridge. “I don’t care what flavor, before you ask.”
Once Sigmund is out of earshot, Ace leans in close to Fleurna and whispers, “See what I mean?”
Fleurna simpers. Then, “Oh, by the way, I pinged Zaxus. He and the other two took the ship back into orbit. Apparently the boys had a pretty bad time with the other guy. All things considered, I think we still got the better tripsitting gig.”
Sigmund comes back and hands the juice to Ace. Ace hands the juice right back to Sigmund with a perplexed look on his face.
“Why are you giving this to me? You just said you were thirsty.”
“Huh? No I didn’t, I, yo–”
“Yeah you did,” Fleurna chimes, offering Sigmund a reassuring smile. “It’s okay Siggy, you’re probably still a little shaken up from to–, well, now technically yesterday’s events.”
She winks her purple eye at Sigmund. Sigmund assumes that he did, in fact, get the juice for himself.
Once Ace finishes rubbing his eyes, “So what are we gonna do? Just sleep here, in the city?”
Choosing this as an opportune and hopefully what will appear to be coincidental time to walk out of Chuck’s bedroom, Jack shouts, “No!”
Not meaning to randomly shout at all the new friends he’s made, Jack follows it up with a smooth, “I-I, I mean, you guys can uh, can sleep here tonight but I like, need to get home. I have uh, school, in the morning.”
“Ah, Jack. I was wondering when you were going to come out of there,” Ace says, twisting around to smile at Jack. “Didn’t hear anything you didn’t like, did ya bud?”
Jack’s cheeks take on a rosy tone and his tongue dries instantly. “What? Uh, what-what-whatdoyoumean? I was uh, I was in the bathroom!”
Ace and Fleurna giddily look at each other, each of their minds filled with the other’s laughter. Sigmund looks at them and shares their smile, thinking he understands the whole fucked psyche thing.
“I’m glad you’re feeling better, son.” clap “Well! If Jack has to get home tonight then we should probably devise a plan to get there, shouldn’t we? Fleurna, you have any more circle dust left? We could teleport everyone.”
Jack, his head simulating the thought of his Mom walking into his bedroom when she wakes up at three and then four-thirty in the morning to make sure the room is still empty and finding him, two strange men, and two purple-skinned aliens, says, “Noooono, no we can’t do that. I told my family I was sleeping at a friend’s house tonight. Besides, you couldn’t all fit in my room, so.”
Zerocians ask in unison, about to suggest that they simply stitch a pocket into the fabric of space to make the room large enough to accommodate everybody whilst still appearing, from the outside, to be unchanged. But no, they’re beaten to the punch by a foggy pair of glasses.
“So, it’s a good thing I have the perfect solution!” Sigmund beams, so much more than happy to finally prove his worth to the extraterrestrial overlords.
Ace claps his hands together and points at Sigmund without separating them. “That’s right! You mentioned a pocket-universe earlier, right? Very excited to see the human version of that.”
“Oh, uh…” Sigmund sulks. “That’s actually. Um. My, my team of robots are still working on reverse engineering that. Ah-hahah, as it turns out,
Zerocian technology is a lot more advanced than what I’m used to dealing with.”
Ace, trying to hold his excitement while at the same time feeling the exhaustion creeping up on him, quietly brings his hands together again and says, “Okay, that’s cool. So what’s your solution, then?”
“Well, uh, well you see, we have this… vehicle, of sorts, that Chuck usually uses as a gym and I usually use as a base of operations for the space missions I send Chuck on. It has,” as he counts on his fingers, “four bedrooms and one common room that has a very comfortable couch, so we’ll all have a surface to sleep on. It’s also got a couple closets that feed into and receive from the very early prototype of an invention I’ve been working on called a fabricator. It–”
Sigmund was going to continue but Ace and Fleurna both blurt out, “You have fabrication technology?!”
He waits for them to continue and, when they don’t, he picks up the slack. “Well, it’s a very early prototype but yes… why, is that… is that a big deal?”
The higher lifeforms share an astonished look. Then, out of Ace’s mouth crawls, “Yes, yes it is. The
Zeroc are the only species in this Universe that’s been able to crack the code on fabrication. Nothing else ever has. How did–”
“I figure it out? It’s kind of funny, actually, it came to me in a dream the night after I invented the hemi-atomic nanobots.” Dusting off his spotless shoulders for his entire species, Sigmund continues, “Humans, I’ll have you know, have historically reached quite a few breakthroughs whilst dreaming. The only reason we even have a scientific method is because a man dreamt up the process.”
Jack is surprised at this because all his dreams usually end in one of three ways: with his Mother chasing him through a dark forest carrying a pair of racing shoes with drills where the spikes should be, with his bloody-eyed brother overdosing on heroin, or with Jack himself falling endlessly through a pit lined with snapping needle-nose pliers that can talk at a normal volume but choose to whisper demented nothings in his ears as he plummets.
“That… explains more than you realize. Very, very interesting.” Ace looks over at Chuck, still stoically traversing one astral plane or another, then back to Sigmund. “Well I would love to see it! But what’s this vehicle have to do with getting Jack home?”
“Well it’s a subterranean vehicle, its outer layer is a membrane that’s embedded with octillions of tiny little arms that reposition the dirt around the craft, allowing it to travel underground without leaving a cavern in its wake. Helps to avoid sinkholes, I find.”
Ace nods his head slowly, then looks at Fleurna who is also nodding her head, her face taking on an impressed scowl.
“Very well, Mister Durham,” Ace commends, giving Sigmund that hit of validation that he’s been craving ever since he learned that he had nothing to do with the visitation of these extraterrestrials to his planet. “As soon as Chuck comes out of his trip, we’ll shove off!”
“Oh, I’m not tripping anymore,” Chuck says without opening his eyes or moving in general. The entire setting, including the characters within it, turn their attention to him. “I came out of it yesterday, I’m just afterglowing hard as fuck.”
Ace looks off at the nothing in particular that’s floating above Chuck’s desk in the other wing of the office. Then he stands, gathers himself, runs towards, and jumps out of the large square gap where there was once a wall-sized window, not even so much as yelping as he plummets to the ground below. A few minutes later, after Chuck’s legs regain feeling and he’s left a note on Karen’s desk telling her to order a few replacement windows from a business that Cape doesn’t own and then buy up the company if the salesman, and I quote, “isn’t a douche”, Ace greets everybody when the elevator doors open and they all ride to the most basement-est floor in the building. Then, after a half hour of cleaning up sand, dense fluff, and all the rest of the spilled innards from the punching bags that Chuck eviscerated in his rage earlier and piling said scraps into the fabricator’s IN closet, Sigmund kicks the engine into gear and it starts to warm up.
“How long’ll it take us to get home?” Jack inquires, not nearly as amazed by this marvel of human engineering as Ace and Fleurna are, “Will I make the bus?”
“Well, that entirely depends on what time the bus comes, Jack,” Sigmund answers, irritated.
“Yeah you should make it, it’ll take us abooouuut five and a half hours, depending on traffic.” Sigmund turns to Chuck, who wasn’t paying attention at all, and assures him the return trip home will be much faster once the dirt’s been rearranged once. “In the meantime, can I give you all a demonstration of the fabricator?”
“YES!” Ace shouts, not expecting to be the only being who’s outwardly excited to see the likely underwhelming human version of extraterrestrial technology. He turns around and looks at everyone else’s lack of eye contact with him. “What’s wrong guys? Don’t you want to see some stuff get built at an atomic level?”
“Eyedeekay, I’m kinda tired to be honest,” Jack yawns, looking around and trying to figure out which room is his so he can “sleep.”
“Yeah, me too…” says Fleurna, equally as “tired.” “It’s been a very long and very… difficult day.”
Sigmund and Ace both put their disappointed helmets on, but fortunately SuperChuck saves the day.
“Tell y’all what, how about I just show Jack and Fleurna to their rooms, in that order because Jack is tired and whatnot, and you guys can play with the machine? Or whatever?”
“Sounds like a plan to me!”
Ace and Sigmund, too engrossed in the production of a waffle maker using only the atoms that once composed the shredded-up punching bags, don’t notice the twice repeated dual clicks of doors opening and closing. They spend a good majority of the next hour feeding random creations into the fabricator and getting randomer fabrications out of it for no other reason than the fact that they can. When they start making exact copies of the newspaper announcing the impeachment of Barake O’Ramma, the last elected president of the United States of America before non-violent anarchy gently fell into place, they decide that it’s getting late, pinky-promising to each other to come back and revisit the fabricator another day, after all is said and done with. Then, Ace gives Sigmund the hug he’s been wishing for in his mind all night.
After Sigmund gets changed into the onesie that he always keeps in his back-left pocket – the blue one with the little rocket ships on it, to be exact – he and Ace play a game of rock, paper, scissors to determine who gets the last bedroom. Ace wins, of course, when he puts his hand in the shape of a llama’s head and claims that it has some type of higher significance back on his homeworld of Fuego, Sigmund drooling with belief over each and every word. Following their game, Sigmund wishes Ace sweet dreams before shutting off the lights, noticing that Chuck must have left his bedroom door open. This is very unlike Chuck, he always sleeps with the door closed!
Being a good friend, Sigmund carefully tiptoes over and, not noticing the empty bed, turns the nob prematurely as to not make a click sound when he closes the door. Then he curls up in a not-so-little ball on the couch and gently drifts off to sleep, very thankful to himself for installing soundproofing in all the walls. He would be so freaking embarrassed if the extraterrestrials heard him snoring. Especially Fleurna!