Asterion – Chapter Two, Part One

Still posting some of the opening chapters so far.  As usual these are drafts and subject to change.  I will be getting proofreaders involved, but still feel free to comment with any questions or suggestions or mistakes you may have found.  Other stories are available around the internet.

Asterion – Chapter Two, Part One

The lighthouse was as usual unlit.  The bulb did function, but as the lighthouse itself was not in a position customary for a lighthouse most people had no idea it existed and activating it would only lead to a spike in UFO sightings, Jen chose to leave it off.  Only her own van’s headlights illuminated the way as it wound up the hill, through the gates and into the garage opposite the cottage.  Moments later Jen whirled into the living room and fell into an armchair.

“Oh, it’s good to be home,” Jen whinnied as a pair of softly padded mechanical arms stretched over the chair to massage her neck.

Kaya squeezed one corner of her mouth as she slowly shook her head.  “You were only gone a few hours.”

“Too long.  I always feel like Sam Beckett who’s just leapt into the middle of a shoot-out and has no idea who is firing at who or why.  He’s just suddenly got a gun in his hands and about eight seconds to figure it out.” After her moments peace, Jen looked up and around frowning then briefly checked a tablet in front of her.  “Tenley hasn’t come back yet…”

“Don’t worry about her,” Kay sat in another chair, but this one was not equipped with a robotic masseuse. “She’ll come back when she needs to, like a cat or something.  I’m more worried about you.  You’re like a criminal who’s gotten so used to prison she keeps breaking the law and letting herself be caught just to go back there.”

“This is hardly a prison,” Jen said, realising there was little she could do so attempted to relax again.  “I can leave whenever I want.  I just prefer not to if I can help it.  This is just the only place where I can be me,” she explained, smiling contentedly as she hunched her shoulders, the robot gently rubbing her neck.  “What was it Sartre said?  Hell is other people.”

“Yeah,” Kaya mulled, “but all his friends were philosophers.  You just need to be used to people.  All that stuff you read online about every single person you meet probably being a child-killing-serial-lobotomist… you most of that stuff is BS, right?  Scaring people just gets them to stay at home and click more.  Most folks out there are basically okay.”

“But some aren’t…”

“Statistically, isn’t something bad more likely to happen at home than anywhere else?”

Kaya using facts against her did not sit well with Jen.  She suddenly bent forwards, convinced that she was the facty person in this relationship. “Well, it’s true that more accidents happen at home, but… ow!” Jen jumped a little, turning to frown at the robot that had been so gentle up to that point.  It must have been because she’d moved suddenly.  There were still a few kinks to be worked out.

“And most homes aren’t stocked with as much heavy machinery or explosive devices as yours,” Kaya said. “How do you afford so much junk anyway?”

“Oh, just this and that,” Jen responded nonchalantly.

Kaya her feet as a little scuttled under with a couple rotating brushes attached to it as it continued just eternally cleaning all the floors in the cottage.  Kay didn’t know how much things like that would cost, or the goggles, radios, vortex canon, supercomputer or the many other bots set up for every chore, but she imagined they probably all costed more than the little robot dogs you got in toy shops that just wagged their tail and sang Wonderful World or something.  Furniture was nice too, the cottage having a real antique rustic feel in contrast to the singularity happening all through and around it.  And yet Jen just spent all her time reading, studying, and tinkering but had no actual occupation.

“This and that?” Kaya repeated.  “What, hacking?  Black mail? Contract killing?”

“I’ve never stolen money,” Jen insisted.

“Oh, but you have stolen other things?”

“No!” Jennifer protested. “I mean… maybe some candy when my mother took me shopping when I was little, but that kind of thing is normal, right?”

“Sure,” Kay shrugged. “I once just stole the truck that delivers the candy.”

“T-that… that isn’t normal…”

“Well, I promise not to turn you in if you won’t,” Kaya grinned.  Her eyes lit up as she spotted unopened mail on the coffee table in front of her buried under some science and history magazines.  “Ah-ha!  What’s this?”

Jennifer’s eyes widened in… not exactly horror.  Somewhere between surprise and dread.  Kay had discovered her bank statement and was already in the midst of unsealing the envelope. “That’s private!” Jen declared, jumping out of her chair.  Kaya did the same, and a strange dance ensued around the room with Kaya spinning and Jen running around her jumping as she tried to snatch the envelope back.  Being slightly taller, Kay could just about keep it out of Jen’s reach until it was pried open.

“Holy zounds,” Kaya gasped. “You must be the richest lighthouse keeper in the world.  And it’s not even a working lighthouse….”

Defeated, Jennifer stepped back, standing straight as she straightened her blouse.  “If you must know,” she conceded, “I’ve licensed a few inventions and code I’ve written to different companies around the world and do quite well from the royalties.”

“Really well.  Don’t know why you’re embarrassed about it.”

Jen didn’t really know either.  She shrugged and said, “I don’t know.  I guess I was afraid you’d think I was some capitalist bourgeoisie princess only interested in jewellery and fashion.”

“Jen,” Kaya sighed, “I would never think that you were fashionable.”

The dowdy sweater and plaid skirt wearing librarian lighthouse keeper blinked.  “Was… was that an insult?  I-it felt like an insult, but I…”

They heard a window slam shut upstairs, Kaya looking up and saying, “well, that’ll be our little ray of deadly ultra-violet sunshine.”

The pair moved to the bottom of the stairs just as the girl appeared at the top.  Tenley seemed distracted, not even acknowledging them until Kaya asked, “where’d you run off to?”

“Nowhere,” Ten curtly answered.

“Well, you must have been somewhere,” Jen pointed out.  “You don’t just cease to exist when we can’t see or hear you.”

The girl tilted her head up and squinted again.  “How do you know?”

“I was worried,” Jennifer shrugged.  “Cogito ergo es.”

Tenley obviously had no idea what that Latin bit meant, being that she was an eleven-year-old girl and had never much interest in either Latin or philosophy except where it applied to snapping someone’s neck.  She didn’t have the energy for that now, so she just yawned and said, “you don’t have to.  I told you.”

“I know.  I’m afraid I can’t help myself.”

Ten was far too exhausted to deal with all this concern and caring.  Her own mother had never worried about her this much, and honestly she wasn’t sure how it made her feel.  “I’m… kind of sleepy,” she admitted.  “I just came down for a drink.”

“Little tipple before bedtime, eh?” Kaya beamed.  “Sure, what’s your poison?  Whiskey? Gin?  Martini?”

“Chocolate,” Tenley answered firmly.

“Chocolate Martini… adventurous.”

“Hot Chocolate,” the girl insisted loudly, rolling her eyes.  “I hate martinis.”

But Jen looked at her pensively.  “I-I’m not sure you should have anything sugary before bedtime…” to which Tenley replied by slightly lowering her head like an animal about to charge, making a stern V with her eyebrows and flashing her dark eyes up at the adults.  “O-oh-kay,” Jen smiled nervously.  “Chocolate it is.”

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