Sunday, June 24, 2012
Science Fiction Sanity
Diners at the Memory’s End
Copyright 2012, Raymond Frazee, All Rights Reserved.
Note: this is is being written as you read it. It is a first draft, and as such, it may be presented with typos. Please excuse these, and remember that everything will be nice, clean, and near perfect, when you buy this story. Remember--you get what you pay for.
Friday, 17 September, 3183
Albert entered the flat and dropped his backpack on the floor next to the sofa. He was halfway across the living room, heading for the kitchen area, when he heard Cytheria step out from the hallway. “Oh, I was wondering when you were coming home.”
“Keeping tabs on me, Mom?” He headed to the kitchen processor and dialed up a cold tomato juice.
“Was just curious, is all.” Cytheria moved towards her favorite chair, which Albert, long ago, had christened, “The Throne”. As she sat she said, “After all, today isn’t a class day. Yet, you were out of here rather early.”
“Yeah.” Albert stepped from the kitchen area, careful with his now half-filled glass. “I had a project that needs to be turned in on Tuesday, and we wanted to make sure it’s up to par for ol’ Winnie.”
Cytheria fought to keep from smiling at the mention of Professor Koltzer’s nickname. I didn’t figure it would take long for him to dip into the grand familiar, she thought. “I’d be careful how you say that; Winfrieda’s very protective of her name.” She shot Albert a warning stare. “And she hates being called Winnie.”
Albert nodded. “Yeah, we don’t throw the name around in public.” He returned the stare. “I know how to keep my tongue in check, love.”
Cytheria didn’t break the stare right away. However, she did begin slowly smiling blinking. “That’s twice you said that.”
“’We’.” The smile softened as Cytheria slid back into here oversized chair. “You’ve not spoken much about class.”
“Not much to say,” Albert said, shrugging. “It is what it is.”
“My biometrics—the one’s I can pull up—indicate I have a good grasp of the material.”
Cytheria nodded slowly, then asked, “And who is this ‘we’ you speak of?”
“That would be my study partner.”
Seeing how Albert was being coy as hell, Cytheria was temped to jump into his head and look around, but she understood him pretty well after a year. She knew he needed to be pushed in the right direction, but once he received a little nudging, Albert was always ready to talk. “Does your study partner have a name?”
She half expected him to say, “Yes,” which would force her to ask another question, but instead Albert came to the point. “Her name is Meredith.”
“Oh?” Cytheria almost had to bite the inside of her cheek to keep from smiling too broadly. “Her name is Meredith.”
Albert wasn’t taking the bait, however. Just as Cytheria fairly understood his moods, he felt he knew most of Cytheria’s. He knew she wasn’t mad or jealous, but rather, she was trying to provoke him to do something that would, in the long run, make him look silly. “Yes, her name is Meredith, and she’s a very good study partner.” He stuck out his tongue, then finished off his juice.
Cytheria’s domino turned slightly more serious,but not by much. “You know I’m only taking the piss out of you.”
Even though she was a Duchess, and had been schooled as a “proper lady,” Albert always found it amusing to hear her use that expression. “Oh, yeah.”
Cytherria kept the mood light. “So what is she like?”
“Nice person.” Albert debated getting up and getting another tomato juice, but knew he could wait—particularly since Cytheria wanted to talk. “Smart. She’s got a good grasp of science, so she picks up things quickly. She admits astronomy is a weak subject for her, so I help there where I can—”
“You do understand the subject.” Which is what I told him from the beginning, she thought.
“Yeah, it’s getting pretty easy for me now.” He sat back as well, a satisfied grin on his face.
Cytheria didn’t want Albert to suddenly start patting himself on the back for a job well done, so she guided the conversation in another direction. “Where’s she from?”
“Not curious?” She knew Albert to be fairly gregarious once he decided to open up, and this seemed a little out of the ordinary for him.
Albert shook his head. “Thought it best not to ask—” He set his juice glass on the table next to him. “Least I get asked about where I’m from.”
“Ah.” Cytheria had this conversation with Albert weeks before, but only wondered if it had stuck with him, or if he’d decided to try and lie his way through a history. She did know his understanding and knowledge of University was good enough that he could probably pass himself off as a native, but she knew there was always the possibility that whomever he was telling might find a way through Albert’s deception.
“I didn’t want to try and make something up,” he said, his words mimicking Cytheria’s thoughts.
“Yes, you do need to be careful.”
“Yeah, I don’t want to get burned.”
A dense silence fell over the room, with Albert running a finger along the rim of this glass, and Cytheria keeping her eyes locked upon him. “So where were you studying?” she finally asked.
Not taking his eyes from the glass, Albert said, “We found some study space over in the Science Center.” He turned away from it and slowly pushed himself back further into the sofa.
Cytheria wanted to push him just a little, to see what was making him so uncomfortable. “So were you and your little friend there the—”
Albert softly moaned, “Oh, for God’s sake,” confirming Cytheria’s initial belief.
“—There the whole time?” she asked, finishing her original statement.
“Yes . . .” Albert sighed loudly. “We were there the whole time.”
“Until you were finished, that is.” The right corner of Cytheria’s mouth curled slightly. “Where did you go after study?”
Knowing it was useless to try and bullshit a psychic, Albert answered truthfully. “We stopped off for a drink at the Lusty Librarian.”
“Yes, I know that place.” Cytheria suspected he might be stopping there. Albert enjoyed relaxing with a pint—though his problem was that he often didn’t stop at a pint. “You know what I’m going to ask next—”
“We each had two pints.” Albert appeared sufficiently chagrined. “And pretzels.” He shook his head. “Nothing else.”
Cytheria allowed a moment of silence before saying, “You know I’m not monitoring your behavior. I only want to be certain that . . .”
While she sought the words she needed to make her statement not sound so harsh, Albert decide to end it for her. “I’m not getting fucked up in public?”
“Something along those lines.”
“I know you are.” Something told Cytheria she should get out of her chair and go sit next to Albert, but she felt that would be . . . overtly dramatic. “Since returning from Sadalbari, you’ve curtailed your substance abuse a great deal. There are times, however . . .” She leaned against the right arm of her chair. “I just don’t want Meredith to see you like I’ve seen you.”
Albert snorted. ‘You’ve never seen me that bad,” he said with a sly smile.
“True.” Cytheria’s tone changed, became even softer. “Then I don’t want her to see you the way Callia saw you.”
At the mention of the name of his friend—a friend that in all likelihood he would never see again—Albert’s grin disappeared, and was replaced by a mask of grim remembrance. “Yeah.”
Cytheria knew she’d pushed matters a little too far by injecting Callia’s name in the conversation. With his mood obviously trending downward, she knew she had to do something to lighten the mood, and quickly. “I’m getting a bit hungry—” Which wasn’t a complete lie; it was getting on toward 17:00, and she hadn’t eaten since before 11:00. “You up for a nosh?”
“In or out?” The last few nights they’d eaten in; with it being Friday, it was customary for them to go out to dine.
"I have an idea.” Cytheria stood, straightening her blouse. “I’ve never been to Xianggang—at least with you. Why don’t we make an evening of it.” Her smile broadened quickly before she dialed it back, least Albert think she were forcing her enjoyment. “Maybe you know of a few places?”
“Oh, I do.” Albert, too, stood. As he returned his glass to the kitchen, he said over his shoulder, “Most of the places I know, though, served opium as an appetizer.” He stopped and turned, then broke into a soft chuckle. “You might enjoy the main course, thought.”
Even Cytheria couldn’t help but laugh at that last. “Oh, I’m sure.” She forced herself to slouch a little, so she didn’t come across all stern and demanding. “But do you know of any other places?”
He nodded. “There’s a few up on the Peaks. I’ll have Winston make reservations.”
Finally, Cytheria moved next to Albert. She hugged him. “Thank you, love.” She planted a kiss on his cheek. “Make it for 19:00 if you can: that’ll give me plenty of time to get ready.”
As Cytheria walked away, Albert said, “Use your name?”
“Only if you have to.” She turned left into the hall and vanished.
“No problem.” Albert dialed up another tomato juice. He enjoyed the taste, particularly after a couple of pints of ale. And I’m not getting loaded, he thought. Not with Meredith around . . . I’m not that stupid.
“And now you want to go to Xianggang for dinner,” he whispered. “Ah . . .” He looked about the living room. “You wanna keep me away from temptation, that’s the last place we should be going.”
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