Waking Gods Page 6

—You must hate every minute of it.

—You think I would, right? But I don’t. It’s a nice routine. We eat well, hotel rooms are great. Jenny takes good care of us.

—Who is Jenny?

—The tour manager. She handles our bookings, special requests. Like I said, we’re an act. I thought I would quit after a month when we started, but I’m sort of enjoying it. I’m horrible at it, though. They have to record my interviews in advance or have someone ready to bleep half of what I say. Vincent does most of the talking now. I’m not very good with kids either. They have no sense of irony whatsoever. I made a sick kid cry once. She had leukemia, I think, and I made her cry.

—I fail to see what you find enjoyable.

—The P.R. part is bad. If it were just that, I…It’s what comes with it. We work a few hours a day. Jenny thinks she’s overworking us, but she doesn’t know we used to pull sixteen-hour shifts in Denver. How do I put this? We travel together. We have lots of time to ourselves. We haven’t tried to kill each other yet. I don’t know. It feels…

—Normal?

—Yeah. That.

—Did you manage to keep Mr. Couture from proposing all this time?

—I guess I did. To be honest, I haven’t really been trying the past couple years.

—What made you change your mind?

—Oh. I haven’t changed my mind. I just didn’t feel the need anymore. I think he’s given up on me.

—Does it bother you?

—Maybe a little. I guess part of me was hoping I would change my mind. I know how much it matters to him. He should be with someone who wants kids as much as he does. I think he finally realized that’s not me. Anyway, it doesn’t matter now.

—What do you mean?

—I don’t know. We’re going over there to face that alien robot. We’re…back. I’m back. That’s how it feels anyway. Am I a horrible person for feeling that way?

—You are likely on your way to a quick death at the hands of a superior enemy, and this somehow makes you happy. Horrible is not the first word that comes to mind.

—Maybe not happy, more…alive. I feel more like myself than I have for a while is what I’m trying to say. Maybe normal isn’t for me. Maybe I was trying to be something I’m not.

—I do not wish to impede your journey towards self-discovery, but I am reasonably certain that there are ways of being yourself that do not require a global crisis. Did you consider the possibility that you might simply be scared at the prospect of a family?

—Hmmm. Let me think…No. I haven’t considered that. But enough about me. Let’s talk about you…Good! Now, can you tell me anything new about that big alien fellow? Dr. Franklin told us he’s bigger than our girl, but that’s about all we know.

—I just left an EDC briefing. Dr. Franklin and her team are still gathering data. There is nothing new to report.

—Has it moved?

—It has not. Its light output is also stable. It does not appear to be receiving or emitting any signal.

—So what are we supposed to do? Just walk up to him and shake his big alien hand?

—It might be as simple as that. For now, you will land at the London Gateway Port and assemble in the clearing behind it. There you will await instructions. Hopefully, we will know more by then. I do not wish to appear pessimistic, but I would like to know more about your combat-readiness in the event a conflict should arise. Dr. Franklin tells me you have discovered how to trigger an energy discharge and focus it?

—Yes, we knew we could trigger the discharge. That’s how we destroyed the lab in Denver. We just had to figure out what buttons Vincent fell on. The rest we found by accident. Turns out if you release the burst with the sword on, it comes out of it. The bigger the sword, the more focused the beam is. In New York, we train on the shores near New Rochelle and shoot at the water. The blast makes a hole about the size of a city block, then it fills up again. It’s pretty cool to watch. We also tried on something solid, made a fairly large rock disappear. I can’t tell you if our weapon would work against that robot, but it’ll wipe anything of this world off it.

You know Dr. Franklin thinks going to London is a bad idea.

—I do.

—Well…What she said made more sense to me than anything else I’ve heard. We assume we were supposed to find Themis, but say it wasn’t the case. Say they came here to get it back, destroy it, whatever. More to the point, there’s nothing you can put in front of that robot that would pose any serious threat to it, except maybe us. Do we really want to make first contact with an alien species by sending the only thing we have—which isn’t even ours—that it could see as a menace? I’m just asking. I’m a soldier, so if they tell me to walk up behind it and kick it in the butt, I will. But if we can avoid the whole me and Vincent dying thing, you know…that’d be good.

—I sympathize. What you must understand is that the powers that be will not let that alien robot sit in the middle of the most populous city in the UK much longer without doing anything. At some point, human nature will take over and they will send something. If that something is not Themis—who, by the way, is also the only thing that might seem familiar to this new robot—it will be His Majesty’s Armed Forces. If I have to choose between the two, I would rather send you.

—Isn’t there anything we can send that doesn’t have weapons attached to it? Something cute, and fuzzy. Send Barney, or a bunch of kittens. Did you see Close Encounters of the Third Kind? We can play keyboards to it, do a light show, teach these guys some sign language.

—The British Government is ahead of you on this one though your ideas are remarkably similar. They have initiated what they call first-contact protocol.

—Do I wanna know?

—They have installed screens around the park and are showing pictures of monuments, animal species, cities, some clips from old movies. They are playing music from the fifties and sixties on a speaker system.

—Why the old stuff? What’s wrong with new music?

—I believe the rationale behind it is that any signals that made it far enough for an alien species to pick up would have left Earth a long time ago.

—So they won’t be disappointed if they came here for Elvis?

—Creating familiarity is indeed the intent. It does feel a little improvised, but you have to understand that scientists believed that finding alien life would mean microbes, or an overly regular radio signal, nothing like what we are faced with today. I realize how futile this all may seem, but at the very least, it does not hinder our efforts and it makes it appear as if the government is doing something.

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