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Episode 13 Part 1

By:  Lenady

“What do you mean you can’t lower the bridge?”


Tilly raised her head up to look across the street at Sanrook, who was arguing with a man, or at least what she thought to be a uniformed man… or at least she thought he was a man. Despite Toren having inundated her with random facts and statistics and articles, as well as being planetside for at least a week, she still couldn’t pretend to be completely certain in regards to Desevite gender.


“Sir, we need to leave the city. I’ve neither the time or money-"


She knew enough however to recognize irritation, despite the fact that the Desevites, typically down to earth and pretty relaxed, rarely showed it. You could tell when they were getting tense when the quills, spikes, or whatever the things were that were on the backs of their heads, started moving upwards slightly. This guys’seemed to be at full attention.


“Sir, neither the time or money or life expectancy to- alright, yes,” Sanrook turned to face the small crowd of tourists crowding around the gate, one of which had poked her shoulder and held out a camera, “Yes, I’ll take a picture. Okay,” she continued as the three figures crowded around the guard. “Say cheese. Cheese. Yes. That’s what you say when you’re going to take a picture. Right,” she said smiling, nodding along with the obviously perplexed aliens in front of her. “Cheeese.” A light flashed and Sanrook handed the camera back to the group without so much as a glance, her attention turning once again towards the agitated guard.


Tilly shook her head and leaned back against the rough concrete (or general equivalent at least) wall. It was too hot for this. Or at least too humid, she thought, grimacing as she felt her t-shirt sticking to her skin. One of the bright sides, she had hoped, to leaving earth when she did was avoiding the summer heat. She hadn’t been looking forward to another August in that air-conditioning-less apartment. But it seemed as though wherever they went the heat followed. Well, that wouldn’t quite be it, Tilly acknowledged. More like they were following the heat. First a desert, and now the subtropics, which when she really thought about it she might have lived in the subtropics on earth, she wasn’t sure. But at least she would have had a chance to acclimate to the heat instead of jumping from April straight into late July.


“Hey look. I won’t tell anyone. Just wait a few minutes and- yes I know you said it’s the law, but-"


Tilly sighed and looked around. The city seemed to be winding down, the streets slowly clearing, which seemed odd, as they had been packed pretty tightly during the day. Now that it was finally getting cool enough to feel like moving a bit everyone seemed to be clearing out. Not that it was really cooling down all that much. Tilly reached back and peeled the hair from the back of her neck, using it like a fan for a second before lifting it up and trapping it between the wall and her head, leaving the skin exposed. She would have killed for a ponytail holder. Perhaps the Desevites thrived off of heat though, she couldn’t remember. Maybe they performed better in humid, miserable (well, miserable to her) conditions, rather than cool ones. It still felt slightly odd however, the way the city was suddenly quieting. It emphasized the odd quality the light had taken, and the way everything suddenly looked a little bleached out, as if the vibrancy was slowly being drained away. Of course, a sun as hot as the one this world circled would leave things looking a little bleached and wilted after a while, she thought, glancing down at her reddened arms, but she couldn’t shake the feeling that something was slightly off. There was something in the air that she couldn’t quite place, had no real frame of reference for, but that left her slightly on edge. She evidently wasn’t the only one.  


“Look I’ll- no sir, I’m not trying to bribe you- I wouldn’t have the money to, even if- no seriously we don’t have the money to-yes. Yes. Yes, thank you for your help.”


Tilly stood as she saw Sanrook turn from the gate and walk towards her, and winced at the small limp that was still evident.  “So we’re stuck overnight?” She asked before Sanrook had made it across the street.


“Yeah. Evidently it’s a big tourist thing. A drawbridge. How old is that? I noticed the wall on the way in, but a draw bridge?” Sanrook’s arms flew up.  “See this is the reason we got rid of traditions on Noria. Just deal with it once a year.” Sanrook held up a finger as if to emphasize that point. “Once a year and that’s it.” She paused for a moment, looking off at nothing then shuddered.


 “But really,” she started again, walking down the street away from the guards, “Moats aren’t normally a problem for Norians.” Tilly took a few quick strides to catch up to her friend, then fell into step beside her. “Kind of hard to stop people that will just swim in it and eat your alligators. That or pull out a trampoline and just jump across. It would probably just turn into a giant barbecue. And Norians throw great barbecues so people would probably just give up and let it down so they can join in instead of watching people making handbags in their moats.”


“So, as fascinating as all that is, where are we going?” Tilly asked Sanrook, glancing over as they walked through the clearing streets.


“Well, at this point it looks like finding a hotel or sleeping on a park bench,” Sanrook replied, stopping and pulling the communicator out of her pocket, “Hey Toren.”


“Hi there. I knew eventually you’d ask for me, cause I’m all special and wonderful and you just can’t live without me and-"


“Bye Toren.”




Sanrook smirked down at the communicator. “So we need to find a hotel. Think you can help us out?”

“You don’t have to be insulting.” Toren hummed for a minute, evidently ‘thinking’ about their request. Then kept humming. It took Tilly a moment, but she recognized the tune. It had played on a show they had watched the a few days before, when one of the characters got put on hold. Tilly glanced up at Sanrook, who was frowning down at the communicator and tapping her foot, and wondered if she had noticed. 


“Toren I know you process faster than that, so what’s the deal,” Sanrook asked.


The tune stopped abruptly. “All I’m doing is meeting expectations. It’s not my fault you lowered the bar.” Sanrook opened her mouth, but the computer chirped in quickly, beating her, “There are twenty hotels within a five mile radius. The closest is here.” The screen of the communicator suddenly showed a map with a blinking red light, not far from it was a small irate icon with red hair and fangs.


Sanrook blinked. “What has your microchips in a twist?”


“If you can be pissy then so can I,” Toren said, “It’s too hot and the humidity is messing with my circuits.”


“You’re waterproof and your circuits are just fine.” Sanrook sighed and scratched her head. She took a moment to study the screen and then clicked the communicator shut.


“Okay, so probably better get moving.” Tilly nodded and followed Sanrook, who had started walking again.


They walked through the streets for a few minutes without saying a word. Tilly watched the storefronts and buildings around them slowly change, becoming more sleek and more white and more non-touristy, with fewer trinket shops and more boutiques, less keychains and more designer bags. The same empty feeling remained however, with the white streets clear and the people that were out and about seeming harried and distracted.


“You know, I’ve been thinking,” Said Sanrook suddenly, as Tilly pushed her bangs out of her face with one hand. “You haven’t really had your honeymoon period yet.”


“Huh?” Tilly said, thinking maybe the heat was getting to Sanrook a bit more than she had originally thought. Perhaps she was still dehydrated? How would she even check for that though?


“It was something my sister said before I started traveling around, and I’ve found it to be pretty true.” Tilly barely had a chance to process the fact that Sanrook had a sister, meaning there were more than one of them in the universe, and oh my gosh what a crazy trick that was for the universe to pull, before Sanrook continued. “See, when you go somewhere the first bit is all like awesome and everything’s so cool and stuff, the honeymoon, and then after that you get a few months of hell. And I mean everyone does, you kind of have to go through that part, where everything sucks and nothings right and everything’s awful, but then you come out of that and you’re fine.” Sanrook glanced over at Tilly before pulling her eyes back onto the road in front of them. “But I don’t really think you’ve even had the honeymoon part which is kind of weird.”


Tilly shrugged. “Well, the first place was okay I guess. I mean it was pretty cool and there was definitely that sort of wow feeling going on,” and there was, Tilly realized, the first bit after they had left earth and Tilly had quit looking back and started looking ahead. “But the whole crash-landing, kidnapping, strapped to a rocket thing kind of put a damper on that. And then there were the giant spiders and the desert and the civilization all crashing around us and a city literally crashing around us and the ithig and that stupid ticking and the watermelon and that guy and that weird sudden flash of what in the heck was that I mean what in the heck was that and Sanrook I put a gun to some guys head and I was going to use it Sanrook use it and what does that-" Tilly looked over at Sanrook, who was just sort of blinking at her, and she realized she was rambling and the hand not clenching her purse was shaking and she cleared her throat.


“Um, yeah,” she continued, smiling. She walked a little faster, putting herself a few steps ahead of Sanrook forcibly releasing her hold on her bag and relaxing her shoulders. That was rather difficult when she felt like Sanrook was staring right between her shoulder blades. “Is that the place up ahead?” she asked, pointing towards large fountain and a gate with letters, illegible to her but somewhat recognizable all the same.


Tilly stopped beside the fountain, looking up at the intricately carved statue in the middle. Sanrook came up and stood beside her, pulling out the communicator and looking again at the map.


“Yeah. That’s it. Nice place.” Sanrook said, looking up at the gate and the architecture surrounding them. “Too nice. Okay, next.” Sanrook swiftly about turned, leaving Tilly to catch up with her once again. She already had the communicator out, staring at the screen, “Appreciate you trying to put us up nice Toren-"

“Well, I had to try to find a place at least half as good as me-"


“Right,” Sanrook sighed. “But somewhere a little less nice okay.”


Tilly smiled, “Little less like the ritz, more like ritz crackers.”


“Less like ritz crackers, more like cheap store brands,” Sanrook chimed in.


“Oki! There’s a little place a couple of miles from here.” The red dot was replaced by a blinking cracker and the fangs on the little Sanrook turned to drops of drool.


Sanrook shrugged and began walking. “So I was saying before, you haven’t really had that honeymoon period yet.”


Tilly shrugged and continued looking forward. “It’s been okay. I’m not really complaining. I mean things have been really cool. I’m just trying to prioritize right now, you know. Thinking less about honeymoon period and more about possibility of sleeping on a park bench,” Tilly said, smiling. “Maybe the pragmatism is kind of getting in the way of things.”


“Yeah, but I mean there are scientists who would die to see the stuff you’re seeing.”


“Yeah, I know, but park bench.” Tilly glanced over at Sanrook.


“I mean, you’re actually getting to talk to people on different worlds.”


“Yeah, and that’s cool, but it’s just been a little bit tense so far. Lots of stuff going on.” Tilly looked over at Sanrook and shrugged again. “Maybe it just hasn’t kicked in yet.”


“Maybe it’ll just get better from here.”


Tilly nodded, sticking her hands in her pockets and looking up, trying to take in everything that was new and different and not a little terrifying.  


 They had gone about a mile when Tilly noticed the clouds drifting in, large dark puffy ones, rolling and looking, if not angry, at least displeased. She heard Sanrook ask a question and she hummed a little in response, not completely understanding what the question was. She continued to stare up at the sky for a moment, watching as the clouds grew and joined together, racing towards- her thoughts stopped short as she tripped over a pothole, pitching forward and stomach dropping before feeling Sanrook’s hand grip her shoulder.


“Hey, isn’t being off in left field my thing?”




Sanrook waved her hand around Tilly’s head. “This. You just said you liked pickled bananas. Well, okay you didn’t actually say it, but I asked you and you hummed and that normally means yes, so yeah.”


Tilly blinked and looked up at the sky again, the clouds still dark and moving swiftly, “sorry,” she said absently.


“Hey, I think this is the place.” Tilly looked down at Sanrook’s voice, seeing her point towards a large building. It certainly did look like a hotel, complete with small pool in the back and large parking lot.


“Toren,” Sanrook said, hesitantly. “How much is this one.”


“This is much less than the last one, I promise.”


“Just tell me.”


The look that flashed across Sanrook’s face as she stared at the communicator said everything.


“Sanrook, how much money do we have right now?” Tilly asked, afraid of the answer.


Sanrook waved her over lifting the screen up to show the amount. Tilly felt the blood drain out of her face. “Not enough”.


“Yeah, so…”


“So it’s either food later or hotel, and even at that, the park bench is looking more and more likely.”


Tilly nodded.


“But hey, we’re not to that point yet, and the bench wouldn’t be so bad. I could sleep with my teeth out. That would keep people away.” Sanrook said, grinning and pointing at her mouth.


For a moment Tilly didn’t know whether to feel comforted or horrified, then felt a familiar tickling, as a smile turned into a grin then into a giggle and she found herself a moment later clutching her stomach with tears running down her cheeks laughing so hard her stomach hurt, and her mouth hurt and she didn’t care because she hadn’t laughed that hard in she couldn’t remember how long. She stood up straight after a few minutes, body still slightly shaking, and wiped at her eyes, grin still planted firmly on her face. She shook her head and looked over at a still laughing Sanrook.


“Okay,” she said, “So we’re looking at food or shelter. It’s a matter of finding what’s the most pressing I guess.”


Before Sanrook could respond verbally, her stomach responded for her, or maybe it was Tilly’s. They looked at each other for a second and started laughing again.


“So,” Tilly started, breathing in around her continuing laughter. “I guess park-"


A rumble louder than anything Sanrook’s stomach could ever produce rolled over them and Tilly looked up, shoulders and back suddenly rigid, at dark mass of clouds looming above. Tilly looked down and shifted her weight from foot to foot so if her knees had started shaking Sanrook would never see and she’d never admit.


“Breakfast will be great tomorrow on the ship,” said Sanrook already looking down at the communicator.


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