Robert lay in bed, frowning. He kept wondering why he had gotten stuck in the room with the glowing closet. First the mosquitoes, then the snakes, then that bully Williams, and now, this.
He frowned again, and sat up.
He walked to the closet and thrust the door back. The small, wizened, old camp gardener sat on a stool watching something like a grainy-screened, portable television.
Robert blinked in surprise. "What are you doing in here?"
The man looked around at Robert, scrunching up his nose to push his glasses farther up his face. "Eh? Oh, I get better reception in here." He pointed at the rabbit ears on the device.
"That's not a t.v."
The old man shrugged. "Yes it is."
"I have to sleep."
The old man seemed to notice Robert's official Camp Hibiscus pajamas for the first time. "Give me five minutes?"
Robert frowned. "Five minutes." He slid the door closed and walked back to his bed, taking off his slippers and laying down. Robert sat back up and put the slippers back on.
He shuffled back over to the closet and whipped the door back. The old man glared at him.
Robert said, "What are you really doing in here? Really?"
The old man sighed. "I'm trying to contact any passing aliens to come get me out of here."
Robert, still frowning, said, "Oh."
"Any luck so far?"
The old man said, "Not yet."
Robert said, "Ok then. Goodnight."
Robert slid the door shut again and shuffled back to bed. After a few moments he got up and walked back to the closet. The old man looked at him.
"Can I go too?"
The old man nodded, once. Robert went back to bed, smiling.
Lost to Translation
"Ma'am, I'm sorry but I have to take the child."
"No!" Theresa knelt in front of the Translation Services trooper, clutching the child to her. "He's my nephew. I have papers that say so! You can't take him!"
"Ma'am, we know he is your son." The trooper frowned in professional sympathy. "I promise you that no harm will come to the boy. He will lead a full and active life in the service."
"He'll be all alone out there, with the Xylth." Theresa continued to hold the child to her, rocking him gently.
"Ma'am, I am a Translator myself and I can assure you he will grow up with many friends and will fulfill an important role in society."
"We'll never see him again. He'll never know his family."
A second trooper sneered. "You should have thought of that before you had him then, huh?"
"Garcia, outside, now!" The first trooper turned back to Theresa. "Ma'am, I'm sorry, but it is the law."
"But our boy was killed so we thought we could just…"
"Ma'am, I'm sorry for you loss but the Breed Law is for there for the protection of all of us and there are no exceptions. I'm sorry."
"You were a translator?" Theresa's hold on the child gradually eased.
"I am a translator Ma'am. I grew up on Waith. I am fluent in the languages and the cultures of the Leeth Empire and consider it home."
"You will look after him?"
"I am his transfer officer, Ma'am. I will see him safely established in his new home."
"But will you care for him? Play with him? Read him stories?"
In answer, the trooper knelt down and reached out to the child. "Hi. I'm Sam. Do you like spaceships?"
The boy nodded and Theresa let go.
Caught Out, Again
"Where the hell have you been?" Angela said, her voice flat and hard with anger.
"Out. With the guys." John looked down at his feet and tried not to sound petulant.
"Yeah." John straightened. "Really."
Angela walked forward, a quick two steps, and slapped John across the face, leaving a hand print and a sting. "Then why," she said, her voice rising with each syllable. "Is there", she pushed him. "Lipstick", she slapped him again. "On your," she said, her voice breaking as she screeched "collar".
"Aw, c'mon. It's just the guys pulling pranks." Anger made John's voice high and brittle. "She didn't mean anything!" He backed away from Angela, hands clenched at his sides.
"She? She?" Angela's eyes welled with tears and John's anger vanished.
"No…I mean, the guys hired…what I mean is…"
Angela turned from him and put her hands in front of her face, muffling the sound of her crying. "John, how could you."
"It was a mistake baby. C'mon baby. Baby?"
Angela had not moved. John walked over to her and touched her lightly. Angela still did not move. He stepped in front of her, and peered at her eyes for a while. Then he sighed.
John reached into his pocket and pulled out a small phone. "Jerry? Yeah, look, she shut down again. Yeah, right before the good part, wouldn't you know. Anyway, you think you'll be able to get her up and running before the weekend? Ok, just charge my accont? Thanks."
John walked to his bedroom closet and turned on the light. He brushed past several pressed suits and shirts until he found a bright white dress shirt. Sitting down on the edge of his bed, John took the shirt from its protective covering and began smearing lipstick on the collar.