Thursday, November 7, 2013

Me and Aldaris (p20): Total Recall

It was a boring night.  I had just finished a whole bunch of Quickbooks homework, and had about forty percent of it left.  Yeah, I'm so looking forward to next semester when I have to do income taxes.  The teacher gives a crap ton of homework, including a discussion board every day.  But that's next semester. For that moment, I was completely done with homework.  I'd been sitting at my kitchen table for the past three hours, and while admittedly some of that I was watching Minecraft Quick Builds, that's way too much time to sit in one place. I stretched and got out of my chair to get some tea.  And then facepalmed.

"Oh crap." I groaned.  "I haven't planned out what I'm writing for November."

You know, National Write a Novel in a Month, where you write 50,000 words for the month of November.  I'm going to win this year!  I swear it!  Or I will if I ever sit down and make plans for what exactly I want to write.  I've got this primary story I'm working on, but there's alternates too, and I want to get my Starcraft choose your own adventure novel on its way to being finished by the end of the year.

"But not now!" I announced to my imaginary audience.  Sheesh, even when I'm not writing these journal entries, I'm talking to you guys.  "Now I...I sleep.  I'm tired."

Actually, I wasn't that tired, but my eyes were starting to hurt from being on the computer so long, and that's kind of like being tired.  It's really hard to think when your eyes are groggy.  But I had so much homework to do, and I wanted to get as much as possible done for November so I wouldn't have to think about it.  I've got a report on franchising to do, and that's not going to take two minutes.  So I lay down on the couch, expecting to just sit with my eyes closed for ten minutes, or at least until my anxiety about getting everything done nagged me into working again.

Well, that's what I intended.  Anxiety had hold for only a minute or two before sleep took over, and off I was on the sleepy train.  I don't know how long it was, but it felt like only a minute later that I was awake.  And instead of having my face half-smushed in the purple cushions, my nose found itself stuck against something cold.  I wasn't sure what it was at first, as it was so dark.  Not completely, though, as after only a few seconds of blinking the cold stuff was obviously a metal floor.

Suddenly something heavy started nudging against my side.

"Get up!  Get up at once!"

I rolled over and blinked to find an extremely angry Aldaris kicking at me. 

"Charlie!" I spluttered.  "I was trying to sleep!"

"Not on my vessel, you are not!" he snapped.  "Rise now!  On your feet!"

I did, but only to keep Aldaris from kicking me more.  Seriously, the guy could punt for the Broncos, and I don't want my lungs to score a field goal.  I was up on my feet pretty quickly.  Huh, apparently I'd been asleep longer than I thought, as my elbows were pretty sore.  I rubbed them as I followed Aldaris through the darkened halls.

I was never very familiar with the layout of Aldaris' ship (next time I see him I'm going to ask him what its name is), but with the lights out it was even more obscure than usual, and I could barely see the dark mass of the Protoss leading the way.  About then my mind started to wake up, and I realized that something must be seriously wrong.  Whatever I was supposed to do to help was beyond me -- or wait, maybe this was his ship acting up again.  I looked around, but there were no more random Earth things scattered about.  So the ship just beamed me up randomly?

"Get in."

I was looking the other direction, so it took me entirely by surprise when he grabbed my arm and practically threw me into a room.  I stumbled in, barely managing to keep from falling on my face.

"Stay there."

Despite turning to see what was going on, all I got to see were two halves of an iron door slamming into each other.

"Uh...okay..." I called out for no reason.  "Not like I've got a choice."

Well, that was annoying.  I didn't think of it for long, though.  The view was just too nice.  Even in the dark of the apparent power outage, light streamed in from three massive windows on the far side of the room.  I immediately went closer.  The sun wasn't visible at that angle, but the stars certainly were.  None of those golden metal beams characteristic of Protoss ships blocked these windows, so the expanse of space was only interrupted by Earth itself, hanging happily in space just a little lower down.  Guess he wasn't hiding behind the moon anymore.

Some people say space is boring, but I have a theory that everyone has a type of environment that they're drawn to.  Mine is space, the empty expanse with nothing but neon colors and mystery dotted every so often.  Sometimes I wish I could fly through the whole of space, drifting from world to world...but that's just silly.  I turned away.

The rest of the room was hung heavy with shadows, so I didn't get to see much.  Though possibly I wouldn't have seen much more even with the lights on.  Where the leftmost window turned into wall there was a huge table, covered in some odd papers and other things that couldn't clearly be seen.  I could have climbed onto one of the nearby chairs to get a better look, but the stuff seemed private, so I left it alone.  It sort of looked as though it was a place Aldaris would sit and draw things.  The cranky Judicator is an artist?  Well, alright.  With this room having such a good view of things, I'd pick it to be my art room too.  The large shadows on the wall nearest to the table I took to be storage for his papers and such.

The rest of the room was fairly empty.  The door he'd so impatiently stuffed me through was beyond the table, and the only notable thing about the room, that I could see, was a small computer console on the wall near the rightmost window.  A tubular device folded in the wall looked sort of like a telescope.  So maybe this place was supposed to be an observatory or something.


"Annyong?  Aldarisu-shee?"

As I turned to the table, I saw the last glowing bits of the recall's tentacles fade away from Cheonha.  For a moment there, I didn't quite realize it was her.  Her cheeks had filled out, and she wore a colorful shirt with a teddy bear on it, as well as a blue skirt and red leggings.  Dang it, why can't American fashion be as cool as Korea's?  She had some notebooks under an arm, and in the other was a plastic shopping bag, full of something.  Apparently the teleportation interrupted her going somewhere.  Home, I hope.  It would be awkward if a friend was expecting her and she couldn't show up.

"Lee Cheonha!" I exclaimed.  "Annyonhasehyo!"

Cheonha just nodded and frowned.  I don't think she was mad at me, but with irritation she got out from behind the table and joined me by the window.  She said something.  I don't know what.  Okay, confession time: I've been slacking in learning my korean.  Sorry.

"Uh...." I thought hard about the right words.  "Aldarisu-nun an ship'oyo."

She rolled her eyes, but I think she got the message.  I think.  The words were right, but not the grammar.  In any case she just shook her head and sat down beneath the window and spread out a notebook.  Only it wasn't a notebook, but a drawing pad.  She pointed out the window and said something.

"Ihaehaji." I shrugged.  "But that's the Earth down there."

"Yes...Earth." she said.  "America?"

Oh cool, she'd been studying english.  I looked out the window, and despite partial cloud cover, the United States and Canada clearly faced us.  Very peaceful.

"Ne, America." I answered.

"Aldarisu odee-ehyo?"

"Morugessawyo.  Uri-nun yogi kidarisehyo."

Cheonha pointed to the ceiling and said something else, which I didn't catch.  She pointed again.

"No lightu?"

"Ne.  I think it's a power outage.  Or, um, Kongangpeh-nun chalmot iree-ehyo."

Cheonha nodded and shrugged.  I guess she's used to things being outside of her control.  In any case, she was way more prepared than I was for being stranded in a strange room (why did I forget my adventure bag?).  From her bag she pulled out a pencil case shaped like a toothpaste tube, which she placed by her notebook.  Dang, that thing was cute.  It even had a pencil sharpener in the "cap" of the tube.  The bag also held two packets of cookies, a liter of juice, and a small bag of those really tiny cups that Koreans use for some reason.  Haven't they ever heard of "Big Gulps"?

"Both of you!  Immediately!"

That was a voice that couldn't be ignored.  The double doors opened, allowing two more barely obedient subjects to come in.  We barely got a glance of Aldaris' glowing eyes before the doors slammed again.  One of the newcomers was a disgruntled but not upset John Statkus.  The other, and the more interesting of the two, was a very groggy Toby, standing there rubbing his eyes in a "wife-beater" T-shirt, plaid boxer shorts and no shoes.  Me and Cheonha burst into giggles.

"Hey, it's the middle of the night for some of us." Toby awkwardly clutched his arms.  "Brr, it's cold in here."

"Yeah, I bet."  That laugh deserved a snort, and I gave it one.  "Nobody has a spare jacket or something for good ol' Toby, huh?"

"Not me." Statkus casually strolled up to us girls.  "Looks like not you girls either."

"I'm okay." Toby sighed and walked up too.  "I just hope our dear friend Charlie can get the heat going."

"I don't know." Statkus looked up at the still deadened lights.  "We might be out of power for a while."

I scratched my nose.  "If the ship is out of power, then why did it beam us all up?"

"Maybe the teleporter sucked out all the power on the ship." Toby suggested.

As we spoke, Cheonha paid us little attention.  She carefully unwrapped the first packet of cookies, making sure to take it apart only at the seam.  She lay the now square sheet of plastic on the floor between me and her, then smoothed out the edges.  She then passed out four of the cups around each corner of the cookies and poured a little of the fruit juice into each.

She gestured toward the guys.  "Anjuseyo."

"Aw, that's really sweet!" Toby eagerly sat down.  "Cheonha's our own little Martha Stewart.  Hey Bethany, how do we say 'thank you' in korean?"

"You say kamsa-hamneedah."

"Alright, gamsa-hameedah!"  Toby smiled at Cheonha.

"You are welcome." Cheonha spoke with careful emphasis and only a slight grin.  She then went on pouring, and said something.  I'm not sure what it was, but I recognised "Starcraft" and "nolli", so the meaning was easy to guess.

"Yeah, we play Starcraft." I answered.  "Uri-nun Starcraftu-rul nolliehyo."

Cheonha just nodded and waved her hand over the cookies.  Well, you don't have to tell us twice.  Toby didn't have any cookies, though.  He just yawned and went for the juice.

"I was hoping to get a chance to talk to Charlie again." Toby elbowed me.  "He seems to like you the best."

I scoffed.  "Hardly.  He just talks to me because I both know about Starcraft and I'm not cranky like Statkus over there."

"Maybe you should have told him to check in with all of us." Statkus thoughtfully munched on the sugar cookie.  "I don't like getting all my information secondhand."

"He barely even talks to me." I said.  "All he does is let me know he's there and then leaves.  He hasn't even said as much as a word about Wings of Liberty."

"Yeah, and he hasn't got Heart of the Swarm from me either." Toby nodded.

"Can't blame him on that one." I winced.  "Someone warned me that Heart of the Swarm was even worse, and they were right -"

"Stop!" Like a musician, John made a pinching gesture insisting on silence.  "Listen!"

We stopped munching on the cookies.  Cheonha also got quiet, and we silently waited for something to happen.  Nothing did.

"I don't hear anything." Toby whispered.

"Exactly." Statkus whispered back.  "Since we got here, there was a humming noise, you know like the sound a computer makes.  It's not going anymore."

"Oh!" Toby nodded.  "That's right, I notice it now!"

I blushed.  I almost never notice those kinds of things.  "Uh, does that mean our orbit is going to decay?  Like we're going to burn up in the atmosphere?"

For a moment, the lights flickered on, and the humming noise they noticed came back on again, so suddenly and loudly that I noticed it too -- it's hard not to notice digital screaming in your ears.  I also noticed when both the lights and sound went off again.  They flickered once more, like lightning indoors, and then went off again.  All four of us lay on the floor with our hands over our ears for several seconds before daring to get up again.

"Aigoo!" Cheonha huffed.  She'd spilled the last bit of her juice on her shirt.  It wasn't much, but who knows if pomegranate and plum stains come out?

The doors suddenly slid open, and there once more was the extremely livid gingerbread man.

"I need the assistance of one of you.  Quickly!" Aldaris scowled.  "Not you, Bethany!"

Aghast, I sat back down.  Statkus, however, was on his feet in a moment.  He'd suddenly turned on "professional mode", and it was like watching a robot in operation to see him go.  The door slammed shut, and the three of us remaining sat in silence.  Cheonha looked back and forth from Toby's face to mine.

"John....John okay?" she asked me.  "Gwenchanna?"

"Ne.  He's helping Aldaris."

Hm.  I guess Cheonha's english language class wasn't on the word "help" yet, because she just stared at me goggle-eyed.  But since me and Toby weren't freaking out, she didn't either.  We just chatted for a while.  It was a little difficult with language differences, but Cheonha really wanted to practice her english anyway.  I had a feeling she didn't know enough of our language to ask the questions she really wanted to, though.  After a bit, she got a little frustrated and scooted over to the window for enough light to draw in her notebooks.  That was fine enough with me.  Practicing my korean is cool and all, but I'll admit a certain impatience with language barriers.  They just irk me, probably more than they should.

Anyway, me and Toby started talking Starcraft, when all of a sudden the lights flickered on, and the humming the guys noticed before went on full.  With all the silence from before, the once invisible humming hurt my ears.  Ow.

"Oi!" Toby gasped.  "Look at that!"

And I did look, just in time to see a little, brown rodent scamper next to Cheonha's leg, its little cheeks stuffed full of something.  Cookie, I guess.  Toby's shout scared it, and the thing ran alongside Cheonha's leg, tickling her.

"Hold still, Cheonha-"

I reached over to grab it, but Cheonha gasped and jumped out of the way before I finished saying her name.  She almost flipped over to get away from the critter at her knee.  It scuttled out of my reach before I could even get near it.  I dove right at it and slammed a knee into the ground, but chugged its tubby little paws and headed for the table -- before it disappeared again into the shadows as the lights went out.  In the silence, Toby and Cheonha clearly heard the crunch of me stepping right into the middle of the cookies as I got on my feet again.  It was dark, okay?



The lights were on again in a minute.  Cheonha shoved me out of the way and wiped up the cookie crumbs into the bag.  I tried to help, but she pushed me away.  I could barely get her to let me hold the bag.  Thankfully though, it was all more or less wiped up before Aldaris got back.  The big doors opened again, and in came John, wiping some greenish-black stuff from his arm with a rag.  Aldaris followed not far behind, keeping a wary eye on Statkus.

Huh, Charlie was wearing the most boring thing I'd seen him in since he got to earth.  Just a really long, green robe and a dark green...uh, I don't know what you call it....a sleeveless tunic, I guess, with no embroidery.  Seriously, Aldaris likes his embroidery.  In any case, his authoritarian eyes glanced the three of us over, as if expecting that me, Toby, and Cheonha had conspired to do something bad in his absense.  Well, even if we wanted to, there was still the language barrier to deal with, so yeah.

Besides, what kind of mischief could we do in a room with almost nothing in it?  Aldaris seemed to think there was some.  He backed over to the chair closest to us, making sure to sit between us and the table as though he were guarding it.  Great.  I really regret not investigating the table when I had the chance.

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