Monday, April 27, 2015

Me and Aldaris (p32): Secret

Toby shoved some cold spaghetti in his mouth.  He'd wanted to hang out with some friends and catch dinner, but the Korean knocked out cold on the couch of his flat said otherwise.  He'd been excited when Cheonha first randomly showed up in his favorite cafe, but that was before the translation mishaps and Cheonha nodding off at the table.

I forgot the time differences.  Toby shoved in more leftovers and chewed.  Cold spaghetti is my favorite food.  It is right now, anyway.

Toby went around the bar that divided the kitchen and living space, then sat at one of his bar stools and plunked the plastic bowl of spaghetti on the bar. It was easier to keep an eye on Cheonha that way.  Not that she need an eye on her.  Since getting to the flat she hadn't done more than collapse on his couch and pass out.

Actually, Toby was disappointed with more than that.  He'd met an alien, but Aldaris was boring -- nothing at all like the Doctor, or any other alien in media.  Aldaris was no adventuring explorer, sage mystic, or sinister invader.  Toby's life wasn't at all more interesting.  So far, he'd seen two minutes worth of New York, had a nice dinner with a Chinese family, and become the unexpected host of a randomly appearing Korean.  There wasn't so much as one wild space adventure romp.  Toby made a point to ask Aldaris if they could orbit and look at the moon, next time he went up.  At least that would be interesting.

Come on now, Charlie, get that teleporter working!  Why haven't you tried to find Cheonha yet? Certainly you know when your teleporter is being used. Toby stirred his noodles into a tornado around his fork.  And next time I see you, try to be a bit more exciting!


Aldaris was furious with himself.  It was so simple to reprogram the recall unit.  Why hadn't he done so before?  Because of the orbit and spinning of the Earth, he couldn't figure out the variables for making sure that the humans only teleported back on their home world.  Especially when they were from four different locations.  What he could figure out was how to set an alarm for the recall unit, and make the humans only teleport into the room that Bethany for some reason referred to as "the observatory."  Regardless of how she addressed it, it was a good enough place to stash any wayward humans wandering through his ship.  It wasn't as though a lounge was of much use to him.

Speaking of stashed humans, Aldaris allowed his head to turn just enough to catch sight of the prisoners in his periphery.  The light of the stars shone on the pale, silent faces of Bethany and John. They lay still by the window, alive but unaware.  The Protoss didn't bother to spare more than a second of his attention.  One does not become a psychic of seven centuries without being confident in one's ability to psy stun a couple of terrans.

A greater priority was the information the two of them had recorded on him.  If John was trying to take pictures of his ship, then Aldaris had to be sure that he had nothing else.  A brief psychic scan told him much, particularly that no matter how much John wanted to expose the alien, he feared looking the fool, and wouldn't reveal Aldaris' presence without solid proof.

Of Bethany, Aldaris was unsure.  Despite her general acceptance of the situation, Bethany had a tendency to act almost randomly, and at any point she might to something different and entirely inconsistent with past behavior.  She'd attempted to secure the computer chip from John's phone, with only the slightest whiff of reason or logic.  Aldaris had long since dealt with that; the memory chip was destroyed, and after a brief check of what was left on the phone's base memory, he'd put the phone back in John's pocket.  It was easy enough to delete the humans' memories of what had happened, but if the phone were damaged, John's suspicion might prove troublesome.

For the moment, Aldaris sat at his table in the "observatory", with Bethany's laptop before him.  The naive girl had activated it often enough in front of him when displaying Starcraft, and had the tendency to think her computer password very loudly each time she did.  Sure, the keys were a bit small for Aldaris' fingers, and some of the letters on the buttons were worn out from use, but eventually Aldaris got the thing activated.  The loading screen faded into a picture of a peppy sevengill shark, surrounded by the logos of various programs.

"Nafash Itsana." Aldaris muttered.

Now that Aldaris had the laptop open and activated, he could only stare at the screen for several moments.  While his vocal english was nearly perfect, the written word still baffled him.  Aldaris moved a small hand console beside the computer.  He lightly held his left hand over an opaque green panel on the console, and with the other, began to investigate the human technology.

The numbers on the lower right of the screen were clearly time and date, so he guessed.  A round button to the lower right caught his attention, and he moved the mouse over it.  The word "Start" appeared above the button.  Aldaris turned to the Protoss console, his fingers wavering over it slightly.  The human word "start" appeared at the top of his machine's screen, followed by the winding script of the Protoss.  Aldaris clicked the start button.

Up popped an assortment of programs and options, all labelled with unfamiliar words.  Translating all of them would take a long time, and many of them would certainly prove irrelevant to his purposes. Aldaris studied the screen for a minute before making a decision.  There was a box at the bottom, one with a few faded, italicized words.  The first one annoyed him somehow -- he always hated the words with two vowels next to each other.  But this one seemed familiar, as though he had seen it before in his work.  He entered it into his console, and his eyes brightened slightly.  "Search" was such an important word that he had no need to translate the ones that came after.  Aldaris clicked the box. He knew how to spell his own name in english.

A few text files popped up.  While Aldaris wasn't good at recognizing human words, he could tell when they were gibberish.  "TTFVGC" didn't communicate much, but since the search engine brought it up, clearly his name was somewhere in the text of that file.  Of course Bethany would write something about him.  Perhaps it was a journal, or a record of what she saw on the ship so that she could report something to her government.

What surprised him, however, was that she had picture files on her computer.  With reluctance, Aldaris clicked on a couple of them.  One was a nice, though hardly complete sketch.  Another was a strangely colored computer image.  It was recognisably himself, but with grey skin instead of brown, and inexplicable neon orange nerve cords.  He wondered if Bethany had drawn either of them. Probably she hadn't, or only one of them, as they were two different art styles.  Aldaris soured, briefly wondering if there were many pictures of Starcraft characters in existence.

He clicked the x on each picture, completely uninterested.  Instead, he clicked on the first file name that appeared in the search list.  Aldaris blinked.  He scrolled down the screen.  It was a long series of words, too many to translate quickly.  Dispersed in them were several pictures.  The first was of a red, animalian creature sitting atop a giant green jewel.  Another was a monkey with a blonde ponytail chewing bubble gum.  Aldaris recognized a cartoony picture of Raynor, but all the rest of the pictures mystified him.  That is, until he scrolled down to the bottom, where his oddly colored doppleganger appeared again.  His name appeared several times in the paragraphs below.

Aldaris scrolled up again to the top of the file.  A single sentence at the top stood out, and Aldaris again readied his translator.  "Top" meant the uppermost part of something, "Ten" meant twelve*, "favorite" meant the most preferred, "video" meant an image on a screen, "game" meant game, and "characters" meant figures in a story.  Aldaris stared at these words on his translator for a minute or two, running them through his head until they made sense -- as much sense as they were going to make.  Aldaris scrolled through the file again.  He was aware of the human tendency to number ranked items downwards.  Next to his name was "#1".  He was Bethany's favorite.

The Protoss' eyes paled to a faint yellow.  He was not flattered.  Nothing about Bethany seemed impressive or discriminating, and he desired the admiration of no human at all.  Not to mention that his dislike for the species was evident in Starcraft; whatever inaccuracies existed in the game, his opinion on humans was not one of them.  If Bethany was the type of person who could like a character who despised her kind, surely her opinion meant even less than the average individual's.

Aldaris suddenly frowned.  After much struggling with the computer, managed to find out what he was looking for: the date the document was created.  Another struggle ensued, and after much managing of numbers, he managed to arrange the date in a way he could understand.  By all accounts, the file had been created long before his arrival to the human homeworld.  Nearly a full year, so far as he could calculate.

He x'ed out the file and returned to the search list.  Clearly nothing in the first file was relevant, and Aldaris put it out of his mind.  If he took this long to examine each file, his prisoners would wake. He inserted a blank cd into the slot to copy the files.  He could translate them properly later.


*Protoss count in base 8.

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