A couple of days passed before I heard from Aldaris again. Honestly, I wasn't so sure it was a good idea to be around him anymore. The guy's hilarious, but I would really rather not be at risk of strangulation or whatever when I'm on his ship.
Not much remarkable happened in the meantime. I passed my math final, and somehow managed a B out of that class. I'm just glad it's over. Algebra/trig is not my friend, and I will never see it again. I've always been jealous of people who can calculate things (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn could calculate latitude on a Soviet prison convoy), and it stinks that my mind is more geared toward boring things like alphabetizing books. I guess I'll never be a Mythbuster. So Jamie, Adam, none of your myths involve organizing books?
So while waiting on a call from two guys I will most probably never meet, I was just cleaning my house, and ironically working on a Starcraft choose your own adventure story, even though I'd just found out that fanfiction net guidelines don't allow CYOAs. I just looked at it, and it's literally right there. But I'm still working on it anyway, whenever I don't feel like slacking. I don't know, maybe it'll get exposure someday.
There it goes. I mentally made a note of where my survival bag was. "Yes?"
"I admit my behavior earlier was perhaps....excessive." Aldaris went on. "I would like to...apologize."
"Okay." I answered. "How about now on I have a guarantee of my personal safety every time I'm on your ship?"
"I swear it."
"Good. Apology accepted." I chuckled. A forced apology is is better than none. "Think you can handle a little more?"
"Yes." Aldaris said, still in "I'm trying to be civil" mode. D'aw. I wish he'd stop it, though, because honest angry people are less annoying than fake nice ones.
"Okay, give me just a second."
I went upstairs to get my bag. I should probably keep that downstairs from now on, but whatever. As soon as I got my stuff, Charlie went ahead and teleported me back up. The storage room was much the same as before, except the huge pile of junk was gone. Was this another storage room, or did Aldaris get rid of all that stuff? Dang. I guess it was sort of a fantasy that I was going to be able to dig through it anyway.
I had the computer set up by the time that Aldaris got there, and was patiently waiting on him on that same tattered leather seat.
"Annyong!" I wonder if Aldaris was annoyed that I always greeted him in korean. "You ready for this stuff today?"
This question proved a real stumper for the Judicator. After a minute of trying to come up with a decent retort to the insolent little human, he just rolled his eyes.
"No. I begin to question why I must endure this at all."
"Well, what I can do is just skip the last few Zerg missions, and then it's onto the Protoss missions and since you're in those you can confirm their accuracy. Not a whole lot happens in the Zerg missions that you don't already know. The mission we didn't get to last time was one where Kerrigan attacks the Dark Templar, and it's sort of implied that Kerrigan is still fighting them or has captured Zeratul when the Overmind heads for Aiur."
At this point Aldaris' eyes darken, and I try not to let my thoughts wander to why it is the Overmind found Aiur. "After that," I go on. "It's just two missions where the Overmind destroys the Xel'Naga temple and nabs some of the khaydarin crystals. There's no important details, and in fact not much besides the Overmind's embossed ramblings. I know how much you love those."
"Ugh. If it will make this nonsense end the quicker, then I will not object." Aldaris did seem at least a little relieved as he went to his seat. "By all means, continue."
"Okay, here we go." I clicked on the Starcraft icon. "Hmm...uh, 'Starcraft is unable to read the required file'? 'ensure the disc is in the CDROM'...I thought I put it in already. Weird."
I opened the drive again, but there it was, the little blue disc with a Protoss zealot on it. Confused, I checked it for scratches. Finding none, I pushed it back in again and clicked the little wraith icon. "Starcraft is unable to read the required file". Facepalm.
"Looks like this disc drive is officially kaput." I told Aldaris. "Crap. Or maybe there's something wrong with the disc. Uh, maybe I can restart the computer...."
So I did. There's nothing quite like that awkward moment when an impatient, cranky Judicator is waiting on you to get something done that you're not quite sure how to make work. To be fair, Charlie was actually being half patient as the computer booted back up. I kind of got the feeling that he was doing it just to "prove" his Protoss superiority, but whatever keeps the giant reptile monster happy is fine by me.
"Okay, now, my little computer." I clicked the start icon. "You've served me well for many years, don't fail me now!"
"Starcraft is unable to read the required file."
"Son of a bleep." I just can't facepalm enough. "Okay, so it looks like this cd is bugged. I think I remember where my other Starcraft disc is, but I'll have to find it."
"I am almost relieved." Aldaris rose from his chair with the 'Toss equivalent of a sigh. "I will return you. Prepare yourself."
What else could I do? I unplugged my laptop from the projector and put it all back in my bag. Dang this was annoying. I hate not being ready for this, and watching Aldaris' reaction to himself is bound to be pretty funny. As soon as I was back at the house, I ran upstairs and dug through my closet, making a huge mess as I looked for my cd notebook (is it called a notebook?).
"Ah, here we go!" I tossed the holder on my desk and unzipped it. "Okay, music...music...korean language...karaoke....no Starcraft. Star-Crap. Wait, what's this?"
It was a little white sticker with several numbers on it. My cd-key!
"Hey Aldaris," it took a great effort of will not to call him Charlie as I thought my message at him. "I found my cd-key, so I'm just going to go ahead and install it on my newer laptop."
"Very well. I will call you again later. There is a problem with my ship that is of more immediate importance."
Installation didn't take long at all. My newer laptop, my good baby, took care of it. I'm kinda sad that I have to bring my new computer on the ship, as I really don't want anything to happen to it. Oh well. Charlie does seem like the kind of guy that would keep his promises, so maybe it'll be fine. Of course, he only promised I would be safe; he didn't say anything about my computer...
"Is the installation complete?"
"Yeah, it is. Did you get your ship fixed already?"
That got more of a reaction than expected. A fairly annoyed Aldaris growled, "No. And it will not be for some time. As it appears I shall have all the time necessary to complete repairs, and in fact more time than I desire, then perhaps the repairs can be delayed a little further."
As I got beamed on the ship, I couldn't help but feel a little doomed. Promise or no promise, hanging around a cranky giant doesn't sound like my idea of a good time. Oh well. I said I'd show him Starcraft, and at least I know he's not going to strangle me this time. Hopefully. In any case, it was back to the storage room, and I set up the projector. Aldaris entered the storage room silently and sat. Without waiting to be prompted, I hit the Starcraft icon.
The game looked like crap. Instead of a background of stars, the menu screen had several green blotches instead, and weird red sparks flooded out all the icons, resulting in a huge cacophony of neon madness. Nothing about the screen made any sense, and the "single player" option was barely legible. Aldaris facepalmed.
"It is clear I will complete nothing even moderately useful at this time." Aldaris snapped, rising from his chair. His glaring gaze turned to me, but for the first time it was (mostly) without annoyance. "Bethany, perhaps you may...eh, never mind. Can this problem be corrected?"
"I'd be surprised if it couldn't." I said, somewhat doubtfully. "I can't be the first person this has happened to. It's probably just something going on because my laptop is pretty new, and Starcraft isn't. Maybe I'll have to download something."
"And this will take long?"
"I don't think so. The solution is probably something fairly simple, like downloading a new program.
Aldaris just shook his head. "I have already recalled you too many times in the past few hours. Confident as I am in the superiority of Protoss technology, it is perhaps wiser to wait some time, and avoid drawing attention to my vessel."
"Okay." I said, getting the idea pretty quick. "So you want me to help you fix stuff?"
"If possible." the air was thick with Aldaris' contempt. "Are you at all an engineer?"
"Not in the slightest. What I know about technology can fit into a thimble."
Despite not knowing what a thimble was, Aldaris understood, and surprisingly seemed a little happy about it. "Good. Now follow me. Leave your computer here."
I winced, glancing at the beloved machine. Leaving my poor little baby all alone in a stranger's spaceship? I went ahead and turned it off, patting it atop the monitor and silently promising it that I would be back.
"It will be fine." Aldaris retorted. "Now if you please, let us continue."
We went down the halls together, and despite the fact that I walk pretty fast, I trailed behind him for most of the way. Not that I was complaining. I have a "thing" about people walking or standing behind me, and even if I know the person, it freaks me out and I go into survival mode where I have to either get away or start a fight. I can only imagine how bad this would be with a person several feet taller trailing behind. ...I have problems.
We went a familiar path to the front of the ship, where the bridge was. It was an utter mess. The whole left side of the room was taken up by a table that came up to my shoulders and various technological whatnots that apparently belonged to a machine on the table. I think it was an observer, but it was sort of hard to tell with half of its armor gone, several wires sticking out at every angle, and long power cords hanging off the table and dripping grease onto the floor. Other machines were under the table, and I guessed that Aldaris was using those for spare parts.
The rest of the room was likewise disheveled, and a panel was removed from the front console where the "captain's chair" (What do Protoss call it?) stood. It revealed to me nothing that I understood, just like the several opened areas to the far right, where a series of monitors and corresponding keypads lined the walls. The only thing that made any sense was a long tunnel in the front right corner of the room, to the leftmost side of the opened panels. As soon as he entered the room, Aldaris went straight for this jefferies tube (yay for Star Trek).
"What you must do is simple enough." Aldaris didn't add "for a human", but his disdainful tone sure did. "Crawl here in this tunnel, and when I ask, tell me if the power is activated. But do not touch anything."
"Okay. Sounds easy enough." I didn't relish crawling into there, but I sort of like dark, cramped places. At least I wasn't wearing clothes I care about too much. I rubbed my hands together. "I don't have to mess with anything, do I?"
"Allow me to repeat myself: DO NOT TOUCH. The workings of this vessel are complex, even for someone who has been trained for many years to work with it." Aldaris scornfully and very reluctantly stepped out of the way. "If you feel able to remember and obey this one, solitary command, then proceed."
"Dude, it's cool." I said defensively. "I have a rule: don't touch anything you don't know won't blow up. It's fine. If I'm protective of my own laptop, I'm not going to be a jerk about someone else's machinery."
Aldaris appeared doubtful, but just went over to the main console and started puttering around with it. I didn't bother waiting around for him to yell at me again, so I just crawled in. I didn't have go far. There was another open area on the left side of the jefferies tube. The entire side of it was gone, opening into a strange, technological cavern. There I sensed an internal cue from Aldaris that that was where I was supposed to be.
So I waited. The area on the left was frighteningly large, presumably to be convenient for Protoss workers. For a little human, it felt like hanging desperately onto a metal platform all while knowing there's a manufactured cave nearby, where one false move means rolling down into a large pit of unfamiliar and dangerous technology half-hidden by darkness. I peeked over the side, but could see only several bar-like things going more or less parallel to the jefferies tube. These power conduits (so I guessed) extended far into the ship, and from the odd sound that echoed down there every once in a while, I knew that the area beneath had to be bigger than I first realized. Yay.
Suddenly, some of the bars lit up that weird blue color that everybody associates with 'Toss. Yep, power conduits. With their light, I got a better look into the ship. All I saw were more power conduits, other than a few big blocks of...technological... box-like things hooking several of the power conduits together. You try describing an alien machine and see how you do.
"Bethany, how many are lit?"
"Just a few. A lot of the lower ones aren't coming on at all."
"How many of the arcane power couplings are activated?"
Maybe he meant those weird boxes. Two were lit up, sparkling a few pleasant neons. "Uh....three. One near the front is lit, but it's only glowing red."
I heard something unpronounceable from Aldaris, which probably was a swear or something. He went on with whatever it was he was doing. Thus ignored, I scooted closer to get a better look. One of those arcane power coupling things was close to the jefferies tube, a little lower down and at the right height to mess with when needed, presuming the mechanic is a Protoss. It wasn't activated, but I could see it in the light of the others. Whatever was wrong with it, I couldn't tell. But when I scooted closer, I could see a little lower down.
"Oh yuck." I wrinkled my nose. "Well, there's your problem, I think, anyway. There's a smashed bag of moldy oranges in there, and it looks like they've been dripping on stuff. It's not that far." I rolled closer to the edge, sticking my hand down as far as I could without touching anything Protoss. "I think I can reach it."
Suddenly I practically flew backwards, a tug on my leg pulling me straight out of the jefferies tube. A soon-regretted roll brought me face to face with a very pissed off Protoss.
"Did I not tell you not to touch anything?" He snapped. "One false move and I would not be able to rid the stench of your corpse from my vessel!"
"The power wasn't on..." I feebly protested.
"Yes, and you know enough of the workings of arcane circuitry to know when stupidity will not lead to certain disaster? Now get up, and stay out of my way."
I did so, and quickly. The seating on the back left wall was blocked off by the table, so I just stood near the door and felt stupid. Aldaris did something at the control panel, then went into the jefferies tube himself. Moments later, a bag of nastly, moldly oranges flew out of the tube, expelling a cloud of green dust through a gash in the plastic as it hit the floor. They were soon joined by a flying bicycle wheel, rusted and with half the spokes broken. Aldaris backed out a few seconds later, sitting on the floor and staring with disgust at the mold and orange drippings on his hand.
"Dude," I said. "I would have-"
"Keep silent." he muttered, shaking his head. "I do not wish to hear it."
There was no way Aldaris was going to wipe that on his robe, so he was forced to go use the oily rag next to the dismembered observer on the table. It didn't do much to clean his hands, and the green mold sort of congealed with the grease. However, most of it did come off his hands, and could then start typing at the computer. Charlie smacked at the keys, and several images popped up on the monitors. The image on the largest monitor showed several blinking red things in the hull of the ship. Aldaris almost facepalmed, barely remembering the orange grunge in time.
"Oh." I said. "Your recall ability normally has a safeguard against things appearing inside sensitive areas of the ship, right? I'm guessing that whatever brought you here messed up those protocols."
Protoss, just like humans, apparently don't like anyone stating the obvious. Aldaris turned and glared at me for a moment before going back to the computer and lifelessly tapping out a little more on the console. With a heavy heart he started typing in commands.
"Bethany," he said, still focusing on his work. "It may be some time before I call for you again. These repairs will require my full attention."
"Maybe at some point you'll need a break."
"Not to watch a Terran bastardization of the Koprullu Sector's recent history." Aldaris hmphed. "Return to your home, and perhaps fortune shall prove more convenient at a latter time."
Hey, he wasn't yelling for once. Not bad. And when he teleported me back, he remembered to send my computer, too. But I wasn't going to fix it just yet. Instead, I went to the kitchen and had some ramen. Ramen is tasty.