Your best friend tells you the she is actually the heir to the throne of a large intergalactic empire that was destroyed by an oppressive dictatorship. She presents you with a futuristic looking exosuit and asks you to be her knight and help her reclaim her throne.
“You don’t want to be here anymore. You’re bored. Disconnected,” Guin said, reclining on that strange white throne. Her brown hair flicked like the crowns of a fire, disconnected from the flow of the wind. “This’ll fix that. You’ll have a purpose.”
The festival of wires surrounding her, a few passing into her skin without a hint of pain, now that was what was getting my attention.
That, and the offer.
“You know that’s true, Mad,” she finished.
Her skin was paler than it’d ever been before in the pictures, anemic. Eyes brown, flecked with amber flecks hanging in suspension in the chroma-fluid.
I took a slow step back.
The secret room in her house was ice cold; uncomfortably so. Kept that way by who knows what, and by the look of her eyes, she’d known she’d struck me just as cold.
She was right, after all. She’d been the recipient of too many late night text conversations about how much I hated my degree. Too many screaming complaints about teachers. Girl-friends. Roving things that ranged from dislike of the system to how few hours my job gave me. Days of almost starving to death only interrupted by the flow of words to my most distant online friend.
Just because we’d been friends once in elementary school, and always kept each other’s numbers.
She leaned back, her hands resting on the keyboard festooned with wires, affixed in place, and gestured. “They’re coming for me, Mad. I’ve gotten word that a scouting ship’s nearby, looking for wayward daughters of the old king. We were scattered out like buckshot across the stars, and now they’ve found me. I just know it.”
I took another step back. Enough that I could see the eerie flicker of Guin’s too human house. Paintings hung from the wall, liberated from dollar stores. Her human eyes looked too large for her face in the single photo she kept in the kitchen, barely visible despite the pounding pulsing lens of the fluorescent over head.
“What hesitates you?” She asked.
This had not exactly been what I’d had in mind when I said I was dropping by for a few days.
The lab’s card in my back pocket felt like a lead brick. Been twisting it back and forth the entire way up her winding drive way, hoping that maybe it’d make more sense.
This internship up north might be my last shot for doing anything in a lab; borderline grades had kept me out of most of the biology programs that mattered in the slightest. Parents weren’t too accommodating about the idea of moving back in, crashing pointlessly.
But there she sat across the white throne, too regular for anything except industrial make.
And more important than even that was the armor sitting against the wall. Suspended upon wires, etched with various designs, sigils, emblems that hurt my eyes to look upon for too long.
“You don’t just tell people you’re an alien and you want them to help you on some intergalactic thing!” I stammered.
“I just did,” Guin pointed out, not exactly unkindly. “To you.”
I swallowed. Eyes flicked from her, then to the armor, then to the wires swallowed up in her skin, then to the mess of machinery stretched around her. Edges like it’d been in a fire. Faint smell of char despite the intense cold.
Fingers slid down to the card in my pocket. Took it out. A chance to be something here.
A chance to be something there. Long term friend; always been there for me in the past.
“What do I have to do?” I asked, looking down at the armor again. “What… is it that we’re going to do?”
“Is that a yes?” She asked, head tilting to the side. Pale ice skin. Shivers down my back, goosebumps raising on my arms. Something alien in her posture.
She’d always been weird in text.
Guin’s eyes sharpened. “Is that a yes?”
My eyes flicked over to the armor.
Business card crumpled in my hands. This wasn’t a good idea.
But by god, I guess I was doing it.
“It’s a yes.”
Guin leaned forward, her smile as wide as a cat’s. “We need to find a good enough mechanic to get us off of this rock; we’re sitting ducks if we’re stuck planetside.”
Planetside. Holy shit.
“First off,” Guin said. “We need to find Merlin.”