(wow, this is getting repetitive…fourth installment, DUH) Believe it or not, (c) 2011 Lydia DeWolf sharing is for preschoolers! 😉
Spike and I were friends, we said. On one level, it was true—we did enjoy one another’s company from time to time. But this state of affairs wasn’t brought on by any common interests or particular understanding… more like she scared the heck out of me but I was still in charge of her.
We were being friends at the moment, replaying a conversation we had often, and never got anywhere with it.
“Regulations, regulations,” one of us would start. This time it was me, fussing with the piles of paperwork. “I swear, does HQ have to sign off on every breath I take?”
“What kind of breath?” She shuffled a stack into order. “If you’re breathing in, I’ll need you to file this permission-to-intake-regulated-quantities-of-necessary-gaseous-molecules. If you’re breathing out, the permission-to-expel-necessary-gaseous-molecules-which-have-been-processed-and-partially-depleted. If you yawn, there’s a whole different set of permits.”
I stuck out my tongue and made a face.
“Whoops!” she said, holding up her hands. “Where’s your authorization-form-for-extending-an-appendage-rudely?”
“There’s another appendage I’m about ready to extend rudely!” I shook my fist. “Let’s hope Raleigh made enough of a scene to avoid any more mishaps for a while. It kills a lot of trees somewhere!”
She rolled her eyes and stapled a stack, popping some very contraband chewing gum. I touched my hair absently, comparing it to her cropped blond head. She kept hers short for convenience, and probably to scare recruits with the wild spikes. Mine was growing, but slowly, and curled…my body, strangely, still relearning this function. I shook my head, tucking strands behind my ears, and bent over the tabletop.
“I don’t really see why they do this to us,” she said suddenly, her voice muted and flat.
I looked up, almost uncertain if I’d heard her. “Sorry?”
“Look at what they make us do.” She gestured toward the reams of memos. “Why the rules? Why the forms and permits and official notices? Why the curfews and uniforms?”
“We’re a military operation, Spike,” I said.
“We’re technicians, for gosh sakes!” Her eyes were bright, a strained smile of disbelief stretching the corners of her mouth. “What war are we fighting with our missing negative signs and our derivatives and our rotating line segments? Is there a reason we can’t do this crap at home? In chairs? With—with gravity?”
“I’ve never seen you like this,” I began, calmly.
“Maybe because I like it! Maybe I like wearing the uniform, being a part of something, maybe I like playing the role!”
“So you like playing the role, that’s no big deal.” I smiled. “You do it well, Raleigh was ready to fall over in fear.”
The light went out of her face, and I didn’t know if it was a good thing—the ice crept back into her eyes.
“We’re an expeditionary force,” I continued. “I don’t even give the orders on this metal box. We just do what they tell us to. We’re not much more to them than our vectors. They make us do…all of this,” I waved my hand toward the table, toward our uniforms, “because they want us to be safe. We don’t know what’s out there…and we don’t know if it’ll like us if we find it.”
“Extraterrestrials are a myth, Zee.” She shook her head at me.
I half-grinned. “I’m not an alarmist, and I’m not talking about E.T. You know what I mean…by the time we find them, if we do…they may no longer be part of us, you know?”
A red light blinked on behind me, telling us Deck 4A was closing for the set of hours arbitrarily deemed the “night shift.” It reflected in her eyes, two gleaming spots that turned her irises purple.
“They’ll be part of us,” she said, her words barely above a whisper. “They’ll still want us.”
I heard it hovering, unsaid, in her throat. In the husky tones, “He’ll still want me.”