56. Subject to fits

“Shh,” Michel said, continuing to speak in soft, clear tones. “It’s a secret,” he added. “I thought humans are always propping up misfits and crazy people and telling them to follow their dreams, especially when it’s really inconvenient or dramatic or will look good on the TV.”

George sat up and reassumed his human shape, much to Cy’s relief.

“Ten minutes,” he said. He sucker-punched Michel, who had expected it and vaulted over the gazebo railing backward, bouncing to his feet in a boxer’s stance.

They were still linked. In the language of light, George said, “My mother wanted this for me. Our species belongs in space.”

“I’m fine right here,” Michel said.

“I’m not. I’ll tell my human companions what I want to tell them, and when.  You stay out of it. It isn’t what you said about my mother that goes against my interests, it’s that you said it in front of him.”

“That’s me told,” Michel said aloud in English. He dropped the link.

“What happened?” Cy asked pointedly.

“Michel hurt my feelings, and I locked up.” Michel thought about snickering, and got a savage pinch for his telegraphing his amusement. Normally it would have started a full-on wrestling match, but Michel kept his peace.

“Oh,” said Cy. “Is that what you call it.”

“Yes. It lasts a minute or two.  After very bad news, I can lock up for the best part of an hour.”

Cy tried to express his doubts with as much sensitivity as he could. “During critical operations, or an interview, this — er — neurological condition — could put an end to your career in space before it even starts.”

“I have every hope that a treatment for my condition will be found, or that it will be ameliorated through natural processes.”

Disbelief, in every key, rang through the silence that followed.

Michel said, forestalling Cy, “What he’s trying to say is that he’s not in the correct format, currently, and that once he is in zero gravity all will be revealed.”

Cy blinked a few times. He had a face that issued each blink with the force of a thunderclap, without disturbing the neighbours.

Michel, who’d seen a lot of hard guys in his life, was impressed.  Cy had a keen stare.  Keen stares, Michel thought, as his simulacrum gazed into Cy’s red and blue eyes, can be creepy or compassionate, toddler heya or curvy perkiness, but this stare belongs to an adult who longs to understand the world beyond appearances.

Somehow this man, like a specially subsidized grade of moron, was running it while — how the hell would Jesse say it? —  factually disadvantaged? It never occurs to me to push myself to the front if I’m not competent.  Human stupidity has more layers than labels. It’s a marvel of the universe.  Somehow having all these grades of stupidity co-existing is how the human race evolves.

It makes me glad that somebody planned me.

Cause I’m fucking strong and I fear practically nothing and nobody, and my fears are rooted in death, not humiliation or regret.

Aloud, he said, “How do I translate those blinks?”

Cy said, “My eyes are very dry.”

Michel said. “Hold still. I mean it, hold still. This is going to feel cold, weird and brief.”

Cy said, “You touched me without consent.”

Michel said, “Prove it.”

“I don’t have to prove it in a court of law,” Cy said, chuckling with disbelief and reaching his hands up to his eyes with the air of someone who knows he should know better. “I needed to know you’re the kind of person who’d do that, going forward.” He started rubbing.

Michel waited for George to jump in, but he was still pretty loopy and was keeping all of his many pie holes shut to cover it. ‘Let silence serve where speech will not.’ Eh George?

“You want a reputation as being capricious. You want to be a hell-raiser. But the prank you pulled on me — don’t worry, George more than amply warned me — is to pull crap out of my eyeballs? My vision’s all blurry now.”

“You rubbed too hard,” George said. It sounded very funny, if you didn’t know it was all he could manage.

In the firm and cutting voice which had ended the hopes of many a litigator, Cy said, “You have a neurological condition which manifests symptoms that prevent you from hiding it for long, and you want to be an astronaut. You want to achieve this goal by secretly controlling all the important aspects of governance in Vancouver and environs for two to five years prior to announcing your presence, setting up a network of graft and counterbalancing interests which will prevent the world powers from turning it into a smoking hole.”

Since George was able to hold himself together or speak, but not both, he stayed quiet.

“You’re still woozy from your little wax-job there, I suspect,” Cy said. His voice became fretful. “Goddamn, I’m cold.”

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Born when atmospheric carbon was 316 PPM. Settled on MST country since 1997. Parent, grandparent.

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