82 A moist thought glistens, or this might be that moment’s notice. From TimeSensitiveMaterials

“So it has context, content and closure,” George said.

“Same diff,” Jesse said dismissively.  “You just say it prettier.”

George heaved a great sigh.  His deft representation of eyes, large, liquid, brown and guileless, gazed with reproach upon Jesse. 

He would never have laid the burden of being his human conscience on anyone; Jesse was the person who came closest to taking on the role voluntarily. The man with the rolodex had been correct when he said George’d have to work, at a job, with human beings, before he could understand them well enough to trust them. Figuring out how to hawk artifacts for various kinds of money, and then working through proxies, would only get him so far.

His new friend had been the emblem of hospitable calm. He’d taken George into his home. Normally this wasn’t a problem, but if his hair said it was a problem, there’d be mayhem and possibly injury, and loath as he was to admit it, possibly even the death of a someone like his new friend here — until his hair said it was all clear and went back to sleep like a great unsnoring hedgehog who lived on your head.

He had to live with the terror that it would happen. It hadn’t happened yet. Most of the time he had to yell at it for fifteen minutes on an internal, private channel, before it would even wake enough to shudder and acknowledge its own existence.

Every once in a while, like on the night Jesse first got a gun shoved in his face, it would quietly partner up and help! and keep a perimeter — and keep an eye on Jesse. Being so useful and welcome and wonderful that he felt awestruck and happy and filled with the certainty that everything would be fine.

It was the way he felt when he embodied mania. It was a run of emotion and sensation that made the normal barriers between himself and others dissolve; he felt in that crystalline state of perception that no problem was insoluble, or behaviour unacceptable, because wasn’t he required by history? Who needed him more, humans or the planet most of them squatted on like a plastic turd? He rarely got that honest with his human friends; the man with the rolodex died, four days after he met him. The grief he felt was not assuaged at all by the gift of the connections on that whirling piece of paper and plastic; he threw the grief into investigating every one of the connections he’d been left with; there’d been cryptic and hilarious annotations, so he knew where to start.

And Kima had said, “It’s a loss. A profound loss. You wanted his oversight.”

It was terse, but so kindly meant that he came close to locking up every time he thought about it.  At the time, he had approached her and awkwardly started to pet her the way he imagined Michel did it.

“You hate being underwater so much,” she chided. “It breaks your ability to concentrate.”

He admitted to himself that she had gotten much better at criticizing him.

“I know it has to be on land,” she said with one of her diaphragms. He pulled away from the link. The language of light and the Greek were completely at odds with each other.

Nothing like the way his new friend had accepted his story with calm, his true appearance with a sincere, “Wow, do you ever look cool!” and his request for assistance with consideration.

In four days he’d done more to help George than any of his Sixer friends and, as he liked to think, allies.

It’s their planet, they can help pay for defence, he thought, and it was under that operating principle that he first started co-opting humans.

That friend was gone, and now, as if humans would continue to mindlessly and mechanically make offerings to him, it was Jesse, Jesse with his sly, self-deprecating humour, his almost unquestioning acceptance of the consequences of his friendship with George, his delicious-smelling sister, (and sooner or later he’d have to make his confession about that), and his thoughtful attitude toward work, and kindness, and complete and utter laziness when he wasn’t working, or working out, which made him seem more like a Sixer than virtually any human he knew, it was Jesse who sat in front of him, a man fondly smiling at a hurricane for being so awesome.

“I hope,” George said sadly, “That you will bring a somewhat more serious frame of mind to the ceremony.”

“You haven’t told me what I’m s’posed to do yet,” Jesse said, scratching himself in a way he wouldn’t have done with more people present.

“Refrain from scratching your ass, for starters,” George said.

“I can behave myself in public,” Jesse protested, “And this won’t be public.”

“Fine. We’re going to gather together, say why we’re helping each other, pledge to keep doing it, and then go eat,” George said.

“With effects storyboarded by Michael Bay,” Jesse said.

“Who’s Michael Bay?” George asked, to annoy Jesse. Then, cutting him some slack, he said, “He’d be taking notes from us if he was attending.”

“So in the middle, explosions?”

“I asked Kima to go easy on replicating the surface of the sun. It’s amazing how much light she can make when she’s linked to Michel.”

“The sun?”

“There’s a brief bit where the attendees cruise around the solar system and fall into the sun,” George said.

“Show me, don’t tell me,” Jesse said, annoyed.

“You’ll see,” George said placidly. Jesse’s knuckles itched.

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

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