Auberginne Falcon’s homeworld was beautiful. It had taken over a hundred and fifty years to find it after the fateful day of her death.
Byzantine had a perfect memory. Every second of the screaming of the crew of the G. S.S. Explorer 951, the cries of both friends and people that were merely polite, was permanently engraved in memory. The starship had been attacked by another vessel, and destroyed in the onslaught of laser fire. Byzantine was made of essence. The essence was like gas. Perhaps more like plasma, or simply just energy. Something that could absorb laserfire without harm. But that didn’t make saving people possible, not when the gas was incapable of trapping air around people when wrapping around them.
Byzantine sighed. Some of the crew had died like that. Auberginne…
Byzantine shook away the memory, and peered out from an alley. This was a marvelous city. If only Byzantine had known about it, back then…if the people could’ve been teleported to safety into this city…
Byzantine slid to the ground.
The sound of thunder began to rumble in the sky. Lighting crackled. Byzantine looked up at it, recognizing a similar weather phenomenon that other worlds had. Rain was awful, reacting poorly to their strange hair… Although Byzantine had learned to mimac foreign skin tones, that utterly alien true nature was ever present in the hair. But, Byzantine thought the suffering of being rained on was deserved.
The rain had just begun to fall, sizzling as it hit that hair, when something blocked it from above.
Byzantine looked up, misty orange eyes meeting a pair of empathetic green ones.
“Hey, kiddo. Are you ok?” A young woman stood over him, tilting her umbrella to keep the rain from falling onto him. She was very surprised to encounter the child crumpled in the alley. This simply didn’t happen on Ornith. No one abandoned precious children in the streets like this, not when they were so hard to have. No one would have such a unique looking child without them being blasted on social media either
Byzantine’s head slowly shook. “Nothing’s ever “ok”… but… I guess so.”
The woman shook her head. “Are you all alone out here?”
She pursed her lips. “That’s not good. What happened to your family? If I may ask?”
Byzantine looked down. “I …….”
“You don’t have to talk about it. Hey, let’s get you to the police, they can help out.”
“No government!” Standing up, the oversized shirt was almost comically large on the small frame.
The woman looked very sad, for some reason that Byzantine couldn’t understand.
“The government won’t hurt you.” She said.
“It has before, and it will if I let it again.” answered Byzantine.
“Well….” the woman hesitated. She looked over at Byzantine once again. “If you don’t have anywhere to go, come and stay with me and my roommate for now. We’ll figure this out together.”
“You would welcome me into your home…?” asked Byzantine.
“What can a kid like you do to two adult women?” The woman held out her hand. “I’m Eva’la Serafinski. What’s your name and pronouns?”
“My name is Byzantine. Please call me ‘Zany.’ I’m a boy.” Despite the chilly air, Byzantine’s hand was oddly warm in hers.
Together, the two walked along the Ornithian sidewalk in the lightly pattering rain. Zany came up to about the height of Eva’la’s waist when standing, so he didn’t have to reach his hand high to hold hers. Yet, it was enough to make his oversized sleeve slide down to his elbow. Eva’la glanced at his arm, finally comprehending the complete lack of feathers on his body. If there were a few feathers mixed with his hairs, he could have passed for being part birrlin, the people of Ornith, but there were not. Zany had settled on this form long ago, and he had not thought to change it to better blend into this world.
“You’re not from this planet either, huh?” asked Eva’la. Clearly not birrlin, Eva’la had a full head of hair.
“No, I’m not.” Zany said, not offering more details.
Eva’la was brimming with curiosity, eager to look this child up in the system once they got to her apartment.
Zany could sense some of what Eva’la was feeling. He could look into her mind and see her exact thoughts, but he wasn’t to pick through a person’s private, jumbled thoughts. He had learned others disliked that. He couldn’t stop himself from sensing her feelings though, unlike how mind reading was an active power he had to focus to use, sensing others’ locations and feelings was instinctive.
Lost in thought, Zany noted that Ornith was a relatively advanced world compared to many he had seen. The paved pathways that he and Eva’la were walking on were broad, consisting of sweeping sidewalks bordering some form of metal vehicle tracks. The sidewalk portions of the pathways were studded with patches of vibrant purple plant life. Occasionally, a long and sleek vehicle would swoosh down the tracks. The tracks were electromagnetic, Zany could sense it. He sensed the essence…no, they called it energy… flowing through the tracks. In a way, all energy called to him. He could absorb it and make it part of his own form, or he could manipulate it in any way he wished. It was an ability he had avoided using most of his existence though, because he hated feeling different from the mortals. He could never be one of them, but that didn’t stop him from pretending his very best. Zany looked up at Eva’la. She also appeared lost in thought. They walked in silence until they reached one of the many tall, glossy buildings on the street. Eva’la took out a small, glossy card from her pocket, and tapped her to the doorknob, unlocking it. She led Zany to an elevator. They took the elevator to the 235th floor and walked down a hall. Eva’la tapped her card to one of the doors in the hall, and it slid open as well. Eva’la ushered Zany into the unit and closed the door. Eva’la had tried to pry about Zany’s origins a few times during the walk, but once it seemed he was close to running away, she stopped, and they had walked in silence.
She now cleared her throat. “My place is only a one bedroom, but I’m sure you can have the couch. We’ll have to ask my roommate when she gets home. Now… I’ll get us some hot beverages, then we can really talk about where you came from and who you are, huh?” After saying that, the door made a soft locking sound, closing Zany into the unit with Eva’la.
Zany was slightly afraid, feeling the excitement in Eva’la’s aura. He struggled to remain in control of his own emotions. One of the many flaws he had, which was probably a trait of his species, was that he instinctively wanted to radiate his emotions. He didn’t know whether it was due to his species or just a unique trait of his, since he had never met another of his kind. If his fear emanated from him, and she felt it… who knew how she would react.
The easiest way to solve this would be to see what was really in Eva’la’s mind.
It could be awful. But, he had to do it.
Zany reached his mind out to Eva’la’s. There was very little resistance, and then he could navigate her mental space.
This little kid is so interesting looking… I need to know how it’s possible for his hair to look like it’s got actual stars in it. Wonder if it would freak him out if I touched it. That’s rude though, right? For sure. When’s this kid last eaten? What does he eat? I’m so curious!
“Don’t touch it.” Zany blurted.
Eva’la blinked. I shouldn’t touch his hair, huh? Weird that he’d say that right when I was wondering.. Somewhat suspicious.. Her eyes narrowed. Don’t some species have mental abilities? It’s illegal to use something like that, but, maybe the kid doesn’t know.
Zany suppressed a sigh, as well as a new wave of fear that nearly emanated out of him.
“I should go.” Zany looked pointedly at the door.
Eva’la shook her head. “Do you have mental abilities?” she asked outright. Not that anyone would admit to it. Maybe I can get him in a corner where it’s obvious. Oh, hang on, he could be dangerous. He could be a spy! I should’ve brought him into the lab instead of into this home. Kestrel’s going to be SO angry with me.
Zany’s hands clenched a little in his oversized sleeves.
“What are you?” Eva’la asked. Seriously, I’ve never heard of a species with stars in their hair. I have to know how that works. I have to know if those are real. I’ve got to get him into the lab!
“I… I’m a Celestial. I think.” His voice was really small. A little bit of fear radiated from Zany in a small wave, permeating the air around him for a moment.
Eva’la almost fell to her knees in shock. She reached for Zany, gripping his shoulders. “What was that? What was that?!” Was that a mental ability? No.. my mind wasn’t affected.. I don’t feel fear? Was it an ineffective mental ability?
Zany looked up at her. “Eva’la…” For a moment, Zany considered teleporting away. There was still so much of the planet to explore. But, he could feel her deep joy and curiosity. She seemed intrigued by him… which made him intrigued by her.
It was so rare that someone was anything but afraid of him.
“It was my own feelings.” Zany answered honestly. “But, I’m not afraid anymore.”
“Your own feelings? How..?”
“Um… it’s hard to explain. My feelings don’t stay in my mind unless I’m trying to keep them to myself. And, that’s hard to do!”
“I’m really sorry! I do my best to keep them inside, but sometimes the feelings get too big, and… And they… spill out..” Zany hung his head a little.
Eva’la looked gently at him. “It’s ok. It wasn’t mind control, so, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Just don’t do it in public. If someone thinks you have the ability to control people, that would end poorly. Do you have the ability to control minds?”
“No! I can see what others are thinking and feeling, and share my own thoughts and emotions, but I can’t affect others. And I wouldn’t want to either.”
“That’s good. There’s another thing I’ve been curious about… your hair. It looks like it’s got small stars in it, unless I’m mistaken?”
Zany touched his hair. “You’re not wrong. That’s what it looks like. It…” he trailed off. If only he could wear a hoodie. But the hoodie would be singed where it touched those stars.
Eva’la was intrigued. “Could I have a sample of it?”
Zany flinched. “No!” Pain, the feeling of being held in a small enclosure, energy drawn from his burning form. Stars produce energy, they said. Energy can be used as fuel, they said. He wasn’t a person, he was just fuel. So he burned and burned, fueled and fueled a powerful starship. There was no feeling besides agony from the cramped tube ripping his very essence apart. Fission, they said. Nuclear fusion in a living thing, no, in a sentient fuel? Pain, until the starship was destroyed and he was finally free and was Byzantine again, not just energy and pain.
He came out of the fierce chokehold of memory when Eva’la splashed water onto him. She was shaking lightly. Zany hated water. He was shaking too.
“Your hair!” exclaimed Eva’la. “It’s moving! And… you’ve been radiating sadness and fear, I think? It… what happened? I’m sorry that I asked for a sample. I won’t take anything from you without your consent!”
Zany’s orange, star-flecked “hair” had begun to resemble gas. The edges of each strand was slightly blurred. In addition, his skin had taken on an orange tint to it, with the impression of stars visible beneath the surface.
“Sorry….” whispered Zany. Then he smiled. “You’re so nice..!”
What exactly have I brought into my home? Eva’la wondered. “Kestrel’s going to be upset…”
“Oh. My roommate, Kestrel Falcon. So, I do have to get her permission before you can actually stay here, but I’m sure she’d be up for it.” Eva’la suppressed her next words. You’re just so interesting. She swallowed. I can’t let you get scared away. I’m so lucky to be the one who found you.
“Falcon..?! Like, Auberginne Falcon?” Zany lept up, floating for a split second before landing. He composed himself fully, his hair and skin somehow losing their alien aspects. Then he cleared his throat. “Are birrlin a species in which names are passed through families?”
“Well, are names passed on in your specie’s families?” asked Eva’la. Does he have a family? Is he naturally born from some species we’ve never seen, or was he made?
“I don’t know…” Zany frowned, wanting an answer to his own question. Again, he was tempted to simply check her mind.
“You don’t know?”
“Is Kestrel Falcon related to Auberginne Falcon?”
Eva’la held up her hands. “I don’t know her whole family. You can ask her when she comes back.”
“I’m going to make dinner. What do you eat?”
Zany shifted a bit. “I don’t eat.”
Zany bit his lip. “I…I.. don’t. Solid food is…gross.”
Eva’la leaned in again. Would he freak out if I took notes during our conversations? “How do you live without food? Are you alive?”
“I.. I think I’m alive?” his voice got small. “I grow… I talk… I make friends… I feel pain… what makes something a someone? What’s the difference between people and fuel? Just because I.. I’m not…” he trailed off.
“Living things grow, reproduce, and die. If you don’t eat, how do you get carbon and electrons?”
“I don’t die…” his voice was barely audible.
The moment of silence grew.
“I think you’re alive.” she said after a moment. “You could be too young to understand death. If you’re not alive, you’re an amazing AI. With an incredible holographic projected form. I’ve heard about that kind of thing, in another sector.”
“I think I’m alive too. Because it hurts to think about not being alive.” Zany reached for his hair, playing with the wavy ends of it, looking so much like a lost child. “Carbon… electrons? Electrons are part of electricity, right?”
Eva’la took out the glossy card that had let them into the building and unit. “Have you seen one of these before?”
Zany shook his head, eyes widening. “No? Wait. The people… the people in starships have them, right? G-cards?”
Eva’la nodded. “G-cards, also known as Galactic-cards, because anything in the galaxy that you need to get done can be done with these things. Have you ever used one?”
“Um… no. I can’t have one because I’m not a citizen.”
“You have interesting levels of knowledge about our society. Knowing that only citizens can have G-cards is already unusual, because everyone on every planet is a citizen and gets one once they reach school-age.. And you seem passionate about one of our long-dead historical explorers. But, you’re not from any world in the known systems, and you haven’t been to school, or else you’d know what carbon and electrons are.”
Zany waited while she thought out loud. Not saying anything. Not denying anything.
Eva’la tapped the card twice, causing an opaque hologram screen to pop up. There were many colorful icons on it.
“These are games,” said Eva’la. “This is the Gifi app, which you can use to access the Galactic Intrinsic Free Internet and learn about stuff.” She tapped the icon for the app. A plain screen popped up, with a box in it. She tapped it, and a rectangular grid popped up beneath the box, with letters on it. “Can you spell? Hang on, can you read and write? You speak our language very well.”
“I can read and write, yes.” Zany looked transfixed. He typed out “c-a-r-b-o-n?” into the search box of the Gifi app.
“That’s good! Read about carbon while I cook myself something to eat. If you want to go backwards, hit the tiny arrow in the lower left. If you want to go to the main screen to try some of my games, hit the circle in the lower right.”
“Ok!” Zany said. His eyes were glued to the hologram screen as Eva’la gently set the G-card into his hands. “Carbon is an element highly abundant in all known living things..” he read quietly to himself, as Eva’la went into the kitchen.
Zany was beating the 105th level of Grumpy Asteroids 2 on the G-card when the door to the unit slid open. A birrlin woman stood in the doorway. She had a mass of red feathers on her head and smaller masses of red feathers above her eyes, drawn close in a confused frown.
“What in the galaxy?” she asked.
“Hi… I’m Zany…” Zany kept playing the game while he glanced shyly at her. “Are you Kestrel Falcon? Are you related to Auberginne Falcon?”
“What in the galaxy??” she repeated. She stepped inside. The door slid shut soundlessly. “Eva!!”
Scrambling sounds were heard in the kitchen.
The red-feathered woman stomped past Zany and into the kitchen. “Is this a kid? Why’s there a kid in our house? What’s with his head— is that hair or not? What are you doing?”
Eva’la was writing up notes by hand on the side of a box. “I gave him my G-card, so I had to put my notes from my conversation with him on something. Kestrel, please don’t be upset. This is a fascinating discovery for science! That kid’s hair looks like it can move on its own, and he said he doesn’t eat!”
“With you trying to cook, we might not get to eat either.” Kestrel sullenly turned off the food de/rehyrator that had been beeping since she entered the unit. “How can you even burn anything with this? It’s so easy to use!”
“Ah?” Eva’la registered the burnt odor in the air. “Oh. No. I didn’t burn the food. That… must’ve been… uh…?” She was confused for a moment, then remembered. “I think the kid, Zany, burned his clothes when he was freaking out earlier.”
“What exactly have you brought in here?” Kestrel asked again.
“Stop asking, and let me explain.” Eva’la answered.
In the other room, Zany paused the game, and set the Gcard on the table. I guess I can’t stay here. I don’t want people to fight over me. And the way Eva’la looks at me sometimes…
When Eva’la and Kestrel walked out of the kitchen, Zany was gone.
Kestrel was scowling. “Why was he asking if I’m related to Auberginne?”
“I don’t know.” Eva’la picked up the Gcard. She gasped. “Kestrel, he was almost finished with this game.”
Kestrel turned towards her. “So?”
“The game’s got a lot of puzzles. Without them, and if you skip reading the storyline, the playthrough is only an hour. I’ve been cooking for a little over an hour.”
“Kestrel, you can’t skip the puzzles. And this item equipped on his character can only be gained as a reward for completing bonus puzzles you get if you read the storyline. This kid is a genius! A genius, new species we’ve never seen before! And he slipped through my hands..!”
“Our hands. I’m not letting some strange child run around in this sector.” Kestrel laid a hand to her hip, where a laser-blaster was comfortably strapped. “I’ll find out what’s going on here.”
“Don’t shoot him!”
“I won’t. I don’t want to shoot a kid.” Kestrel turned and walked outside. “Now, he can’t have gotten far.”
Eva’la looked at the de/rehydrator a little longingly, thinking of the food inside. Then she hurried after Kestrel. She didn’t think Kestrel would use her weapon, but couldn’t be sure Zany wouldn’t be intimidated.
On the other side of the massive city of Avia was a museum. All museums on the planet Ornith were free, as Zany was discovering when he walked in without objection.
Not that Zany truly understood money.
He drew his new hat a little more over his head, the price tag swinging off the back.
“Go Blue Boys!” exclaimed the hat, in colorful text that was decidedly not blue.
Zany had no idea who the Blue Boys were, only that this hat was easy to grab without gaining attention.
The material was a little tough too, so it would hold up for a while before his hair burned through it.
He wandered in the museum, amazed at the skeletal remains of species that had once walked on this planet. Many planets were like this, Zany realized. They started with very small lifeforms, then got bigger ones, then sentient ones. Some species stopped existing, and new species took their place. It was how life was on planets.
“Excuse me?” A man came up to Zany.
Zany turned to him, holding onto his hat. “Hi! Do you have any information on Auberginne Falcon here?”
“Yes, we do, on the sixth floor. Where are your parents?”
“Thank you!” Zany began to walk briskly away.
“Kid..!” The man rushed after him.
Zany ducked behind a corner, focused, and vanished. He reappeared on the sixth floor. A group of kids stared at him. A finger raised to point.
Quickly, Zany went to some exhibits outside of their line of sight.
After a while, he found what he was looking for. “Auberginne…” Eyes brimming with misty tears, Zany remembered fondly the woman who had found him lost and alone in space, and given him affection.
157 years ago.
The G.S.S Explorer 951 was in the midst of an extremely dull 5 year mission of gliding through an unexplored sector for mapping when the crew suddenly experienced more than they thought they would, particularly after having been conditioned for 2 years of boredom that nothing happened on these missions.
The starship had momentarily detected something unidentified before the signal vanished. The crew were terribly nervous.
In one of the engine rooms, the reason for the nervousness was nervous itself. A small clump of what appeared to be orange, sparkling gas had slowly pushed its way into the ship through one of the engine exhaust vents. It had been so long since it had crossed paths with other beings, and couldn’t resist the lure of interacting with them. But it had learned from previous encounters. Simply appearing to these beings from outside of their protective container— a starship, they called it— would merely result in them shooting things at it, not communicating. It was better to go closer to them, absorb their language, take a form similar to thiers, and then, finally, finally communicate. Unsure about its chances if it moved around the starship prior to this process, the gas hid in a corner as someone came in to inspect the engine. An alarm was blaring, the engine wasn’t suited for such hot gas to force its way through those specific components.
The junior engine technician wrung his hands. “Honestly, I don’t know what happened—it was so weird. The engines did … something…and orange exhaust came out?”
The senior technician frowned. “Orange exhaust.”
The junior nodded.
The senior technician gestured at the orange pressed into a dusty corner. “That….?”
Gasp. “Yes, exactly. It’s so sparkly! No, hang on. It looks like it has stars and black holes in it?”
“Huh, that it does. That’s obviously not part of the ship, we should stay away from it and notify the captain.”
The gas slowly swirled as it began to comprehend the thoughts in the solid beings’ minds. Feelings were always easy for it to pick up from foreign minds. Images and sounds were something that now made sense after it had learned to take a solid form and experience them on its own, long ago. Words were difficult at first though. Eventually, by associating words in beings’ minds with the feelings and what their senses experienced while the words were in their mind, it was able to understand what meanings were associated with words. And based on images in their minds, it could tell that the beings in the ship came in a variety of forms. It chose one that reminded it of its favorite species from the past, and began to force its gas into the form.
The junior screamed as the gas began clumping and forming a body. He practically lept behind his senior. The senior wasn’t less unnerved, but hid it better. She closed her hand on her laser gun, prepared to level it at the unknown …thing. It wasn’t yet clear if it was a weapon or entity.
“Identify yourself!” She shouted.
Where the gas had been a moment before, there was now a tangle of limbs and hair. Two legs neatly folded beneath the cascading orange hair. Two arms carefully parted the hair from a softly featured face. The being’s skin was a shade lighter of the orange that its gas had been, the color that its hair now was. The stars and black holes from its previous form were still present. A shy smile broke onto its face, as if oblivious to the deadly threat a laser gun could pose. Gentle eyes belied an ancient mind, far older than the young form in front of the two engineers.
It worked its lips for a moment, remembering how to use them, and then spoke with words it had found in their minds. “Hello! I am not…” there was a momentary pause as it searched again. “Not hurt you! Greetings, peace.” It held up its hands.
The junior officer slipped a shiny metal card out of his uniform, and pressed the logo on the front, enabling a holographic screen to pop up in front of him. He tapped at it, sending a warning alert of an intruder to the rest of the crew.
“You come in peace…through our engine?” The senior frowned.
The being felt her displeasure. “Apologies…. Want.. I want friends. I …did not want to hurt you or ship.” At its moment of distress, the being’s hair became a little gaseous, the ends of it floating.
Alarms were blaring through the ship.
“We don’t have time for this, security can question it. We have to fix the engine quickly.” The senior rapidly changed focus to open a panel on the wall.
The being floated a little, moving closer. Some of its skin changed, the top layer seeming to separate to form what appeared to be a skin-tight outfit, an imitation of the uniforms of the crew, except that it retained the same star flecked appearance as the rest of its body.
The junior shuddered. “Stay back!” He drew towards his senior to help her work on the ship. Of course a vessel that wasn’t intended to encounter others didn’t have a large crew. There were no other engineers to assist them.
If they didn’t fix this, the ship wouldn’t fly anymore. They would be adrift until another ship found them, which, this far out from civilization, would be upwards of two years… that would use up a lot of their supplies. It would be close.
“Apologies… I …I’m sorry…” the being’s voice wavered as the ship’s alarms blared on.
The captain strode in and began speaking frantically to the engineers. Then she turned to the orange being rocking in the corner, repeating itself over and over in its soft, tiny voice.
“It’s….a preteen child.” She stated, frankly. “A child of an unknown species that damaged our ship, but can grasp that and is upset….but, child, can you help us? We won’t point our weapons at you. Do you understand?”
The child lifted its head. Seeing the tears in the captain’s eyes, and sensing the connection between the feeling of sadness and the liquid in her eyes, the child made some of its own eye liquid. Or, it tried. It appeared gaseous.
“I want to help! How?”
The captain gestured at the engine. “They say you’ve melted some components in the right engine. So, it’s having a meltdown. We can survive without this engine working, but we can’t survive if it keeps going critical and explodes. So, maybe, if you could go in and remove the melted parts…” she trailed off, watching the child’s confused but earnest expression. It turned its head to the engine, and then the entire thing vanished.
The people in the room gaped.
The child suddenly looked shy, becoming very aware that now the scale of power difference between itself and these people was even more apparent.
They’re nice people. I shouldn’t have come here though, it thought.
“Where are you from?” The captain inquired, as the engineers began to debate how the engine could’ve gone away, where it could be now.
“What are you? Who are you? Why are you here?” She continued raining down questions.
The child smiled, a small flash of happiness that didn’t reach those sad, old eyes. “I want friends…but you will die someday. All friends do. It’s so sad. I’m …” it grappled for a word. “Don’t want to be sad anymore.”
The captain reached for the child, wanting to pat it, but it quickly dashed away. It watched her carefully.
“I’ll be your friend,” said the captain. “I don’t know what you’ve been through, but right now you can claim asylum on our ship as our guest.”
The child’s eyes teared up again. “Ok. I’ll stay with your ship until you die!” Its lip wobbled. “What’s your name?”
She smiled. “I’m the Captain of this vessel, so that’s what you can call me. But my name is
AuberginneFalcon, from the planet Ornith. What about you, do you have a name?”
The child’s face lit up.
“Yes! I am Byzantine, and what you can call me is Zany!”
“You’ve very interested in my great-aunt, aren’t you?” Kestrel said, looking at Zany, who was gripping the display of Auberginne’s contributions to space exploration before her disappearance.
Eva’la was a little behind her, lost in reading a plaque.
Zany looked at Kestrel. “So, she is your family?”
Eva’la came forward, stepping in front of Kestrel. “Did we scare you away earlier? We’re sorry.”
Zany’s expression wavered. “I shouldn’t stay with you.”
Kestrel spoke up. “Eva says you’re not a citizen.”
Zany looked up at them. His eyes were faintly tinged with an orange haze, similar to tears. “I’m not a citizen of your planetary confederation. I’m from both outside it… and before it.”
“A homeless child claiming to have come from beyond the known star systems is quite a story. Eva believes it, but I’m not sure that I do.”
“It’s ok if you don’t believe me or not. I don’t care.” Zany turned back to the exhibit on Auberginne.
“Why are you so interested in this Ornithian explorer?” asked Eva’la.
Zany shook his head. “She was my friend…”
Eva’la slowly shook her head. “How? If the government knew about you then, how come there’s no record of you anywhere?”
“No government. What I am scares the government…” his eyes brimmed with misty orange tears again, remembering discovering the identity of the ones who had attacked Auberginne’s ship. One of her own crewmates had reported that the ship housed a “dangerous being,” and so, another government vessel had attacked them.
Kestrel grew silent for a moment. “Kiddo, I am the government.”
Zany whimpered a bit.
Eva’la lightly hit her arm. “Don’t scare him again!” She turned to Zany. “Auberginne worked for the government, yet you called her a friend. We want to be your friends too.”
“You might be nice to me, but what about her?” Zany shyly peered at Kestrel.
“I’m tentatively interested. Let’s put it that way,” said Kestrel. “I don’t mind if you stay on our couch, solely because I’d rather have you where someone responsible can keep an eye on you than have you fall into the wrong hands.”
“Harsh…” Eva’la mumbled.
“I might be heavy handed with my words, but it’s better than mincing them,” sighed Kestrel.
“Wait. You want me to stay with you? Isn’t it dangerous for you? What if other people find out?” Zany’s eyes were wide.
“It’s fine, it’s fine,” Eva’la said, waving her hand a little.
Zany broke into a grin. For a moment, the feeling of happiness flooded their vicinity.
Kestrel stood, frozen. Eva’la laughed.
“It’s not as weird the second time!” Eva’la elbowed Kestrel. “He’s so interesting!”
“I’m so happy to make new friends.” Zany kept smiling.
Kestrel stared at him, then sighed. “Let’s go, before someone investigates that mental push of emotion.”
Eva’la held a hand to Zany. He took it.
“Cool hat, by the way,” she said, teasingly.
“Is it?” asked Zany.
“The Blue Boys are an underdog music team in a music drama show. If you like, you can watch it on Eva’s Gcard,” responded Kestrel. After a beat, she took Zany’s other hand. After confirming that it felt like a regular hand, she relaxed some.
“Why not yours?” asked Eva’la.
“Some of us are busy and need theirs,” answered Kestrel.
“I’d love to watch it!” Zany beamed.
The three of them walked out together, hand in hand.