Watching the lights of the city twinkling like stars fallen to earth, Chiana sat with her chin on her knees on the edge of the planter outside of the kitchen window of her fourth story flat, absorbing the ambiance of this alien city. The tiny perch offered a great view of the city of Sydney, sprawling away below her for miles until its many inlets sewed it into the ocean. That ragged seam where land and sea met was presently shrouded in some fog, but wasn't too too many miles away or too darkened by night for her alien eyes to follow had it been clear. The biggest limitations to her sight were her own tears. In spite of the bitter tears, she smiled. Smiling was a struggle she had to win.
Many sights, sounds and ways of this world were alien to Chiana. Excitement of the exotic and of discovery were precious to her, holding thrills that she often used to distract herself from fear or to think of as compensation for the often steep prices she could end up paying. Earth wasn't proving to be a favorite and wasn't particularly exciting either. Instead it was feeling familiar in largely pleasant ways to an extent she hadn't developed before. Partly it was a desire in her to belong on John's world and partly it was the unprecedented length of time she'd managed living here without a major incident.
Still, the fact remained that living here had its subtle appeals, which was very fortunate since she seemed to have stranded herself here for life. Little by little she had acclimated to the point she was feeling reasonably comfortable alone, at some times and some places anyway. Not that she wanted to imagine it, but it had crossed her mind that something could happen to John or she could possibly outlive him, leaving her with, she hoped, Jack or to her own devices. Slowly she was beginning to think she might manage. For now she was just starting to feel some sense of stability, aside from the teensy detail that she was a time bomb, ticking away to an unknown time when she might unwillingly blow up the world view of some or all humans at who knows what cost to herself.
Between waves of tears, her shiny black alien eyes followed lights of cars down the hills a mile or so, now becoming used to the idea of these contraptions as transports and how everyone used them. She could even imagine a few reasons why they might be going anywhere. Perhaps a few were going to a dinner or a club, but wherever they were going she doubted the poor humans would have as much fun as she had.
It had been a good time out, despite a few snags and the usual Crichton blind spots. She'd enjoyed the great chances to show off and be shown off, but best of all she felt desired and was able to enjoy several hot and spontaneous encounters with John. Sure she'd had better frells than him in more interesting places than some dirty hidden back rooms at some Earth clubs, but she'd certainly had worse times. Although she wasn't about to go back to his penthouse, she had been so ready for some major frelling back here.
Caring about the partner so much did make comparisons essentially trivial, she was becoming all too aware of that fact. It also turned many times that would've been good or tolerable into a pain in the eema. Sure enough, just her luck, her night out with John soured big time. Worrying and stewing were things she understood and tried to help him forget for a while, but no matter how she tried it seemed that he just couldn't get past it and view her as more than a companion that was stuck with him and which he could use for some recreation. Once he'd had enough frells, he'd had enough of her. So it seemed to her.
To think that he felt forced to be together with her was as bad as herself feeling forced into being with him. The worst part was how good it felt just being around him. That made it so hard now.
Bob's attention was drawn to some raised voices. She looked down, following the sound, and saw two people getting out of a Mercedes. One was the lovely black business lady who had earlier given her the package that John had sent to the wrong address. The other was a sharp looking black man in a fine suit and a bald head. The man was wearing sunglasses, which Bob thought was really ridiculous since it was night time after all, and she knew human eyesight was bad enough at night without sunglasses. His whole posture, though, spelled trouble to her well-traveled eyes.
Sure enough, Bob saw that the lady was trying to get her arm free, and the man responded by yanking her arm and whacking her in the face. The lady hurried into the apartment building, but the guy followed while ordering her to stop with an extra heaping serving of harsh language. Bob slipped back inside and hurried from her apartment.
The couple's shouts were echoing around the place when Bob hurried to the inner courtyard of the apartments. Several other apartments were blasting music she heard Crichton call "rap" and having parties. Nobody seemed to pay any attention to the lady and her hostile mate. The man followed the lady to what Bob guessed was the lady's apartment, on the second tier. The lady, who the man was calling "Lena" when he wasn't using an insult, told him to leave "or else."
Bob just snuck around the corner of the stairs on the second tier, more curious than anything else. The lady, Lena, opened her door, which alarmed Bob, since that definitely wasn't a smart thing to do. Just as Bob thought, the man shoved the lady inside, then went inside himself. Bob knew the body language of the man. He'd do serious harm. Bob scurried to the apartment and knocked on the door.
The man shouted at the lady to keep quiet, then opened the door. He looked Bob up and down, his eyes sticking on the very daring dress. He smiled suavely. "Hey, bitch," he said in a way he probably thought got all the chicks. Bob smirked seductively and very, very slowly, lulling the guy to a slow mode.
His head snapped back from Bob's lightening fast jab under his chin. A kick with her knee made him hunch over reflexively, then she used his movement to grab his head and send it down onto the concrete walkway in front of the door. The man crumpled and rolled onto his side in a daze. Bob slammed his chest and head with a couple of kicks then shoved him away as he struggled to stand.
When the man straightened up against the railing, Bob hopped up close alongside then spun into a high-kick at his neck, sending the big guy falling from the second story and flat onto the grass of the courtyard below. Grabbing hold of the iron railing, Bob flipped over the railing and sailed down to land in a graceful, athletic crouch on the courtyard grass twenty feet from the man.
Lena's jaw dropped open to see the super-Olympian ease with which the strange young lady did her amazing acrobatics. She was still terrified, until the man began to stand again only to get a pounding of rapid-fire strikes. The girl wasn't strong, and the hits didn't have a whole lot of weight to them, but they were so quick and well placed that the man was soon beaten. He took off, bleeding from the nose and hobbling away in a daze, with no further thought of anything but escape.
Before Lena realized it, Bob was back near her door, only somewhat winded. "Nice," Bob said between breaths, "nice male you got."
"Mail," Lena realized, and pointed at Bob. "You're the lady I gave the package to earlier."
"Yeah," Bob replied. "Roberta. Bob. Ah, Crichton. I mean Chevalier. Yeah. Frell. Ah, you okay?"
Lena shook her head and walked inside, leaving the door open. Bob entered after her. Sitting down on a couch, Lena pressed her hand on the aching side of her face and started crying.
"Hope you don't mind my beating your mate," Bob said, standing at the nearer end of the couch and bending over a little to see Lena's face better. "But that fekkik, he hates you. Not even attracted. He just hates. You see him again and you're really frelled."
Lena looked up to Bob, puzzled some at the young lady's weird words. "He wouldn't go, I just....."
"Yeah? Well he almost took you," Bob replied. "For good." Bob knelt down and moved her face near to Lena's. "You're not going to give me some dren about how you can take care of yourself are you?"
"How can I thank you?" Lena said, shaking her head in disbelief into her hand.
Bob stood up slowly, looking over the lady for a moment. "I'll think of something. But look, you better at least stay at my place tonight."
"Are you kiddin'?" Lena asked. "You don't think he'd-"
"-No, with the ladies around here kicking his eema it'd so ruin his street cred to come near here again," Bob smirked. "But he might send someone right? So don't be here."
Lena stood, soberly realizing the young lady was right. "I've got my mother's," the lady began to say.
"Does he know who she is?" Bob asked. "You want to get her in trouble?"
Lena stared for a moment, then nodded, going into the bedroom and grabbing a few things.
"You can use my bed, I've got things to work on tonight," Bob said while they left Lena's apartment. Bob eyed Lena's extra pair of clothes, the business suit and skirt she'd seen Lena in earlier. A crafty grin started coming onto Bob's face.
Folded in a terry bath robe and carrying some tap water, Bob padded out of the kitchen and into the living room. A stylish outline of Louise Brooks in a bob bowl cut hairdo had been embroidered on the chest pocket of the steel gray bath robe and the identity appropriated to Roberta by an additional embroidery beneath at the order of Payne. Her tap water filled an expensive fine china cup which also came compliments of Payne.
With a moan of boredom, she plopped down on the couch in front of a bunch of maps of New South Wales that they had stopped to pick up at a convenience store. Maps weren't much help unless Doug could find some more specific information on the computer. He had returned with his computer only an hour ago, but so far he hadn't found anything.
When Bob looked over to Doug, however, she saw Doug dozing at the computer. She crept up alongside, with a smirk playing on her supple face. Once alongside, she leaned over and put her lips to his ear. "Find anything, gadget boy?" she asked in a full voice.
"Muagk!" Doug said, jerking awake and almost falling out of his chair. "Dude!" he looked around, then checked the clock on the computer. "Sure didn't find much sleep," he muttered.
"Mnot a dude," Bob sincerely corrected him, not for the first time either. "So. Nothing?"
"No," Doug moaned. "There's too many malls and not enough actual details online to....oh wait! D'uh!" he said, sitting up straighter in his chair. "You said he said it was by a bar....?"
"Duffy's Bar," Bob nodded.
"Huh," Doug said, going back to work. "Guess if nothing else we can ask some of the dudes I know that drink like sponges, maybe one of them will know...."
A voice interrupted. "Is this your boyfriend?" Lena asked, walking into the living room.
Bob smiled. "Wha? No, he's a friend of mine."
"This your girlfriend?" Doug asked, teasingly.
"No," both ladies answered.
"Just helping her out from some...." Bob said, watching Lena warily, wondering if saying much was going to hurt, "problems." Bob decided to leave it simple. Still, when Lena sat down on the couch, she put her face in her hands for a moment and had to struggle to recover her formidable poise. "Ah, this....is Doug Knox. Doug, Lena."
"Hey," Doug greeted her with. "Think I got something here, Bob," Doug said. "Okay there's like, a whole bunch of Duffy's, but one here is on a street that goes right next to the ocean, here."
Bob read the name of the street and raced over to the maps. She sat down with an eye on Lena, mimicking Lena's elegant posture and poise. Bob then messily grabbed up a few crumbled maps and started looking. "What street?" Bob asked.
"Walston," Doug said.
"Didn't they rename that to Ubulongolongu?" Lena wondered.
"Yeah?" Doug wondered. "Unfortunate for the bars there."
Lena laughed, which she also did elegantly. "Why, are you looking for someplace there?"
"Yeah, up a ways," Doug explained. "By a shopping mall and the coast line?"
"Hm," Lena said, carefully taking a map, folding it neatly and looking for something. Bob watched and tried to mimic folding the map like Lena did. The map had no intention of folding neatly. Lena soon announced, "Yes, here it is." She held out the map for Bob to see.
Bob peeked out from under the maps she'd quickly become ensnared in. "Mm. Ah, Doug?" she said.
Doug laughed while Bob blew at her bangs in annoyance. Finally he came over and helped her get the maps folded. "You been there?" Doug asked Lena.
"To the mall there, yes," Lena replied. "There are better bars, I'm sure."
"I'm sure too," Bob agreed with a nod.
"Then why you going there?" Lena looked at Bob doubtfully.
Bob gaped dumbly for a moment, then suddenly lit up with an idea. "It's a guy," Bob said. "Ssssooommm....how I gotta see if he's, well, going where he says, I mean meeting, who he's meeting, you know what I mean? Can I ask you for a favor?"
"Sure," Lena said, shrugging with one shoulder. "I owe you one."
"Well, ah, scuse us, Doug," Bob said, giving him a smirk and getting up with Lena. "Can I have your clothes?" Bob asked Lena.
"My what?" Lena asked, walking with Bob into the bedroom.
"Well, if I look like me," Bob explained to Lena, "I can't get close. But I'm, I'm really talented at makeup, and if I can borrow your clothes..."
Doug watched them go and stared at the couch for a moment. It beckoned him. "Oh yeah," he said, deciding to claim the couch right then and there.