It’s Just Biology – Part 2

It’s Just Biology – Part 2

Looking for Part 1? It’s here: It’s Just Biology – 1

When the detective asked her if she had a friend she could stay with, Tamsin lied.

She had no one, of course.  She didn’t even have anywhere to stay herself really, let alone with a friend.  Since she’d arrived on Tashalos Station, she’d lived in a cargo hold.  Alone. 

The address she’d given the detectives was fake – the address of a post office, though she never received mail since you had to have a security number to get a mailbox, and there was no one she wanted to hear from anyway.  It didn’t matter, her lying, she figured. They probably expected it. Didn’t everybody lie to the cops? And anyway, tens of thousands of sentient beings lived under the radar on Tashalos, tucked into the bowels of the station like Tamsin.  Surely the police would never bother to investigate a solitary woman who hadn’t even done anything wrong to begin with, especially for something as utterly stupid as not having a phone.

The cargo hold where Tamsin resided was full of these massive pallets of supplies that were in transit from somewhere to somewhere else and were being stored on Tashalos temporarily, till a freighter could pick them up to carry them wherever they were meant to go.  She lived up on top of the stacked pallets, where she liked to imagine no one would ever be able to find her.  Even though the shipping containers were wrapped in thick plastic along the edges to hold them together and protect them from the elements, up top they usually weren’t sealed completely shut, so she could pull back the plastic and rearrange the boxes to make herself a little nest with walls.  Early on in her residency she figured out how to read the schedules and so whenever a stack of cargo was due to be shipped, she simply moved her things to another stack before the anti-grav forklifts came, and there she would build another nest.  

And that had been her life for the past several years.  She thought she had it all figured out.  

So it was quite a surprise, to say the least, when she clambered up to her nest to find Detective Buchanan already there waiting for her.  She’d spent a good deal of time doubling and tripling back around in case anyone followed, honestly way more worried about the alien who had attacked her than the police. But apparently the detective had spent the same time looking at security footage instead to find out where she really lived and got there before her.  

While he was waiting he had rifled through her things; she could tell because they were in disarray rather than neatly stacked the way she’d left them.  He must have been satisfied with what he found, or didn’t find maybe, and was sitting cross legged on her bedroll, tapping on his phone.  He had her Physhar’s Guide to Alien Life open on his lap like he’d been leafing through it.  The detective looked at her disdainfully, giving off this “I’m so disappointed in you” vibe combined with an air of mental superiority, like he’d somehow won some battle of the wits, when all he’d really won was the battle of having better technology. 

Through her annoyance, Tamsin realized the dude was barefoot, which seemed creepily weird.  But then she noticed he’d taken off his shoes and socks and left them at the edge of her nest, ostensibly to avoid getting the filth of the station on her bedding.

Not that a strange man’s sweaty feet were much of an improvement over station filth.  “What the fuck,” she exclaimed, before she could stop herself.  While people swore constantly off of Kolob, and Tamsin had certainly acquired the habit since she had expatriated herself, vulgarity didn’t seem like the best way to talk to a policeman.

“Your address is a post office, Ms. Pulsipher,” he explained as she slung her aching leg over the edge of the boxes and slithered-rolled into her nest, suppressing the urge to grunt in pain as she did.  “There are only 253 humans living on this station…well, 254, I suppose, yourself included.  Nearly all law abiding, causing me no trouble at all.  Surely you didn’t think I’d be too busy to confirm your story?”  Her heart sank as she realized what a freaking moron she was, believing she’d get permanently lost in the shuffle of the 17 million sentient beings on Tashalos Station. That was not how things worked.  Human beings were answerable to human authorities no matter where they were; answerable both for breaking human laws and galactian ones.  Detective Buchanan was charged with the task of enforcing the law for all homo sapiens on Tashalos, so naturally he would have took the time to find out whatever he wanted to know about her.

“Is being homeless illegal too, or is it just not having a phone?” she said, still laying on her belly trying to recover from the climb, which she could normally do easily, but she was weak from hunger and hurt.

“It’s not illegal, but trespass is, of course.  You’re trespassing here.  Look at the damage you’ve done,” he said, and flipped at the edges of some plastic she’d torn.

“Yeah, I mortally wounded that piece of plastic. That’s gotta be manslaughter at the least.”

“It’s not about the financial value of course. You’re breaking the law. They have homeless shelters for beings in need.  There’s help available for you, Ms. Pulsipher, you just need to reach out and take it.  You don’t have to live this way.”

She sat up as if to prove it to him that she wasn’t a being in need. “I don’t need help.  I’m doing fine on my own.” Tamsin may not have friends, but she’d heard enough from strangers to know that homeless shelters were to be avoided at all costs.

They said you may as well be going to prison as go to a shelter.  You couldn’t come and go freely, someone had to know where you were all the time, there were drug tests and medical examinations, mandatory vaccinations for diseases Tamsin had never heard of let alone contracted, and delousings both internal and external.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, they put you through psych evaluations and anger management classes and counseling sessions and occupational therapy.  If the shrinks found you crazy, they could prescribe medication you couldn’t choose to forgo or even an implant to alter your brain waves if you were fucked up enough mentally.  You weren’t allowed to leave the shelter until you had proof of gainful employment and a place to live and you couldn’t get those things till the experts agreed you were ready to rejoin society. 

All of that was incredibly shitty of course but the more pressing concern for Tamsin was that whatever charitable organization that ran the shelter undoubtedly entered your name and security number into some sort of computer system where anyone could find you if they were looking. Not only would she be trapped, she’d be trapped and easily located.  That was unacceptable.  

He’s forgotten about me, he’s moved on by now, he probably has a new wife and seven children already, he doesn’t care any more, but even as she thought it, she knew it was a lie.

“Oh?  Doing fine on your own, are you?  When was the last time you ate?” the detective asked, only he said ‘eht’ instead of ate.

Since the drink the Sophroid had given her was burning off and she didn’t want to answer the question, she asked him one instead. “Where are you from?”

“I’m Scottish,” he said, and he started putting his socks back on. She must have looked confused, because he elaborated. “From Scotland? It’s a country on Earth? You might know it as part of Britain, even though it isn’t part of Britain any more? Europe? Surely you’ve heard of Europe?”  

She wasn’t confused though, she was amazed.  He was from Earth, like, actually from Earth.  The knowledge rendered Tamsin a bit starstruck.  She had never met an actual Earthling before.  “You mean like Shrek?” she said, because he really didn’t sound Scottish, at least Scottish in the way she knew it from fiction programs.  He didn’t have that stretchy comical twang she identified as Scottish.  His accent was clipped and curt, all work and no play. 

“Scotsmen don’t talk like cartoon characters in real life,” he explained in such a patient way Tamsin realized she had annoyed him by asking him something he was asked all the time.  “And Shrek isn’t Scottish anyway, it’s just someone pretending.” He began to tie his shoes, which were sensible black work boots that reached just over his ankle.  They had “RAN” embossed on the soles in white letters but the letters were starting to wear off.  That meant Reebok-Adidas-Nike; she had had a few pairs of that brand of shoe back on her homeworld when she was a kid.  Her own shoes were falling apart, she had them taped together with duct tape to keep the soles from flapping.  Tamsin felt acutely aware of this fact since the detective looked right at them and sighed through his nose judgmentally.  “I don’t wear a kilt, or play the bagpipes, nor am I personally acquainted with the Loch Ness Monster.”

“Oh,” she replied.  It was odd how human beings all went so far out of their way to avoid every stereotype possible when thinking about alien species, but still bought into the stereotypes of their fellow person without really even thinking twice about them.  Tamsin wondered if there was a guidebook for human beings about the other kinds of human beings in the galaxy; if there wasn’t, someone should definitely write one, it would be a best seller. Unlike aliens, who tended to have one or two or three dominant cultures, humans came in hundreds of varieties. Humans could be as different from each other as two different species of aliens were. She wondered why, and figured it probably had to do with having imaginations since that was the only quality humans had that aliens didn’t.

“You realize, Miss Pulsipher, that it took me hardly any time at all to figure out where you live.  You are, as they say, a sitting duck.”

“I don’t know what that means, sorry.”

“They say it all the time on fiction programs. It’s hardly a rare term.” He was challenging her over it like he thought she was just trying to be difficult or something.

“Whoever says it, I guess it didn’t register.”

“Sigh. It means you’re vulnerable. If what happened to you wasn’t random, if someone is coming after you personally, you simply cannot stay here.  It’s not safe.  You realize that, yes?”

“I’ll be fine, dude, I swear,” she said, but was dismayed to hear her voice sounded weak and defeated.  Then to make matters worse, her stomach gurgled then and gave the game away completely.

“I cannot allow it, in good conscience I cannot allow it.”  Tamsin figured it was more likely because he’d get in trouble if he let her go and she ended up murdered or whatever. In trouble like, maybe he’d have to fill out an extra form or something. Good conscience, boo fucking hoo, the selfish prick was just covering his ass. He stood up and his head nearly hit the fire suppression system above Tamsin’s nest.  “I’m assuming, Miss Pulsipher, since you came back here after I told you specifically not to, you have nowhere else to go?”

“No, I can totally go somewhere else,” Tamsin said, and stood up too. She blushed because what she meant was that she could go to a different cargo bay and set up housekeeping there.  

That was not what the detective meant, and he saw through her ploy like it was transparent aluminum.  “We’ll send someone ’round to collect your things,” he said in a tone that brooked no argument.

Buchanan took her to a human restaurant called Carl’s Jr. which she had never been to before. They didn’t have Carl’s Jr. on Kolob though she had seen tons of advertisements for it. Under normal circumstances she would have been excited to eat there after seeing all those ads her whole life. But being pretty much basically arrested took the fun out of it. He fed her a burger and fries, or some processed substance that approximated a burger and fries, anyway. Tamsin almost fainted when she saw the prices on the menu; she ordered the smallest, cheapest thing available which was a side order of taquitos, but then the detective changed her order and added a burger and fries to it, though he still got her the taquitos anyway, and a cookie, and he upsized her Coke. Probably the guy dislocated his arm patting himself on the back for it too. But whatever, it was food, and she didn’t have to get it from the garbage, so.

It had been so long since Tamsin had eaten anything close to human food, which was megaexpensive on the stations, that she ate way too quickly and embarrassed herself.  Or maybe it was because she was straight up starving that she stuffed her face like a pig. Whatever. She didn’t care what the detective thought of her table manners, or her in general.  She didn’t even care how bad her tongue stung where she’d bitten it.

He said very little aside from “pass the salt”, and he ate slowly; he seemed more interested in watching her eat, which he did surreptitiously out of the corner of his eye when he thought she wasn’t paying attention.  Tamsin’s mouth was too full to make chitchat and she was too hungry to care about going through the empty rituals of politeness.

The detective only finished about half of his own sandwich, which was an approximation of fried fish.  He didn’t touch his fries at all, even though he’d salted them thoroughly like he’d been planning to eat them.  He pushed the remains of his meal across the table at her.  Then he told her, “I’ve got to run an errand, and I expect you to be here when I get back, Ms. Pulsipher.  If you aren’t, may I just remind you that there are security cameras everywhere and I can check them in a matter of moments.”  He walked away, and as he did his phone chimed so he began scrolling on it.

Tamsin obeyed because what other choice did she have?  If he’d really sent someone around to snag her belongings right out from under her, and he seemed like the sort of dictatorial a-hole who totally would, everything she owned was already in the custody of the Tashalos Police.  Starting over again with nothing AND the police after her, not to mention unemployed and broke, felt impossible.  It felt impossible because it WAS impossible.  If she tried it, she figured Detective Buchanan would be rolling back around to put her in a body bag in a week or two, and he would sigh judgmentally and be all pissed off at how stupid she had been to run away, and congratulate himself for feeding her such a nice meal beforehand.

She inwardly raged, furious at finding herself completely reliant on the benevolence of a man, a position she’d vowed long ago never to find herself in ever again.  And then she ate the detective’s dinner, as if that would teach him a lesson or something.

When Buchanan came back to the restaurant, he had a phone.  It was hot pink and glittery, like a little girl’s phone, and Tamsin felt it insulted her intelligence.  “I didn’t want you to forget,” he explained, making air quotes around the word forget, and opened up the plastic anti-theft clamshell the phone was stuck into.  He programmed it for her while she finished eating his overly salty fries, washing it down with the dregs of his drink, which was orange and bubbly but tasted all wrong, bittersweet and spicy rather than the tart citrus flavor she’d expected.  But that cookie, Jesus fucking Christ, it was crazy that something could taste that good when you were already stuffed full of food.

Tamsin expected the detective to ask her for her security number, her birthplace, her mother’s maiden name, the year she’d graduated school, all that bullshit, but he didn’t need any of it.  Her entire life was basically his for the taking, just with a little scrolling and clicking.

The epic unfairness of being born with two X chromosomes in a man’s…well, not only world, but galaxy, washed over her.  Men created a system in which everyone was tracked and monitored and constantly watched in the name of “safety”, including women, even though the men were the ones who did nearly all the crimes and women were a lot of the times their victims.  Then they used that system to ensure that women kept on being victims, that women could never just get away from a man who had hurt them.  No matter how far a woman ran and how careful they were, there were all these intricate political and economic and legal systems centered around nothing but making sure a person like Tamsin, who had done nothing wrong at all whatsoever, could always be found.

Human beings went to the stars and joined a galactic society comprised of 400 quadrillion sentient beings and innumerable unsentient ones, yet still everything was the same as it ever was.  Men owned women and women could never escape them.  Even when you tried, there would always be some other man who would catch you and hand you back over.

Detective Buchanan of course didn’t know any of this, though she wondered if he might suspect, since he had a sympathetic way about him when he held out the phone.  “It’s the law,” he explained, which didn’t help at all.  As Tamsin held out her hand to take it from him, he inhaled sharply through his prominent front teeth with a hissing sound. “You didn’t tell me you’d been hurt,” he said accusingly.

Tamsin looked at her arm and it was bleeding again from where she’d been cut.  She grabbed a handful of uselessly thin paper napkins from the dispenser on the table and held them against the wound.  “It’s just a scratch,” she said.

“They’ll have medics at the shelter,” Buchanan explained.  “They’ll get you fixed right up.”

And the last flickering hope Tamsin had that she might end the night a free woman was snuffed.

The nearest shelter wasn’t that far from the burger stand, only a couple blocks.  Mr. Big Spender didn’t even offer to get an Uber, suggesting they walk instead. Despite being sore from head to foot, and even limping a little from where her hip had hit the floor when she fell, Tamsin was glad of it, since it gave her a little more time, not that it would matter anyway. They made the walk in silence, with Tamsin mentally consumed by plotting out potential arguments she could make, valid points she could raise, heartfelt pleas she could toss at the guy, and doing none of it because she didn’t see the point in demeaning herself when the answer would only be no anyway.  

She couldn’t even guess at what the detective was thinking, though he did seem to be thinking something.  Rather than being implacable and stone-hearted like she’d expected, he seemed kinda torn, which didn’t alleviate Tamsin’s concerns about the homeless shelter any.  Apparently even he thought they sucked and he didn’t want to leave her there even though the whole thing was his idea in the first place.  Tamsin wondered if maybe he hadn’t got an Uber because he didn’t want to leave her there, and was trying to postpone it just like she was. She pushed that thought away as unlikely because she didn’t want to feel kindly disposed to the jerk who was ruining her whole entire life.

Tamsin considered said jerk, who had gone right past kinda into being definitely no-doubt-about-it torn. His eyes, which were brown like she’d expected, were darting around all over the place, rolling around under his thick eyebrows, which were furrowed from what seemed to be anger.  His lips moved as if he was talking to himself.  Occasionally he even muttered something under his breath. The only thing she thought she heard properly was “bloody golden hair”.

Even though Buchanan seemed thoroughly unconvinced he was doing the right thing by Tamsin, when they got to the homeless shelter he didn’t hesitate.  He marched right up to the plump, soft, kind-looking Norigian sister who manned the kiosk in the entryway and gave the creature Tamsin’s new phone.  The Norigian took it with a handless arm; it appeared to the human eye much like an octopi’s tentacle only furrier, but wasn’t any such thing at all.  

The Norigian had been expecting them; apparently Buchanan had called ahead and sold her out in advance.  The sister started downloading Tamsin’s personal information into the shelter’s master computer behind the counter.  There was a poster on the wall of a very cute alien creature that Tamsin didn’t recognize dangling from a branch, with a caption written on the bottom in a language Tamsin couldn’t read.  “It says, hang in there, baby,” the Norigian explained.  “It is good advice, yes?”

As she stared at the platitude, Tamsin felt despair cresting within her.  The shelter was awful, just awful.  Everything was molded from grayish-beige antimicrobial sanitary plastic, rounded and smooth with no sharp corners anywhere for anyone to get injured on if things got rough, and it absolutely reeked of cleaning chemicals with a tinge of shit and vomit and stale food and the syrupy fragrance of medication.  The shelter was soulless and industrial and that was just the entryway which was meant to be welcoming.  Couldn’t they have put out an afghan or something? A plant or two?

Though Tamsin didn’t want to, didn’t intend to waver in front of the assholish detective at all, she felt a tear snake down her cheek and pressed her lips together and breathed through her nose to try and stop more from coming.  All those silly idle hopes she’d had about being forgotten about or given up on evaporated.   Ash would come after her.  He would come after her and he would drag her back to Kolob just like he’d always vowed he would if she ran from him.  Or else maybe he would kill her before they even got there. Honestly that seemed like the better of the two options.  As for him dying, well, some people are just too mean to die.  

“Dammit,” Buchanan said, an angry wince contorting his face.  “God damn it, stop crying!  It isn’t my fault!” he shouted at her, but of course that only made it worse.  

“Believe me when I tell you, it isn’t my fault either,” Tamsin replied. Her voice came out strangled and weird, and two fat tears rolled down both sides of her face simultaneously.

He scrubbed his hand across his forehead.  “What is your security like here?” he demanded of the Norigian. Oh, he knew, all right, he absolutely one hundred percent knew why Tamsin didn’t want her security number being used, and yet he had brought her here anyway, the fucker. Brought her here and then asked about the security like he thought he was being diligent or caring or something. Muh good conscience, hurr de durr.

“Security?” said the Norigian.  Her voice sounded like dozens of birds chirping.  “We have no security here, Detective.  We’ve never needed any.” And because they had never needed any security before, the Norigian, lacking an imagination, couldn’t even envision the need for one; Buchanan may as well have been asking her to guard against elves or fairies or kamikaze unicorns with rabies or whatever.  

“Agh!  God damn it!” Buchanan exclaimed, and winced again, this time clucking his tongue as he did.  The computer pinged, meaning that Tamsin’s information had been successfully downloaded, or uploaded. Whatever it was, she was fucking fucked.  “No security at ALL?” he asked in an incredulous tone.

The Norigian sister ignored him.  “Someone will be along to show you to the medical bay shortly, my dear,” she said to Tamsin. “And then after that, we’ll assign you a cubby!  Your very own cubby, won’t that be cozy?”  Forced cheer sounded the same, regardless of the species.

“The…the medical bay?” Tamsin asked, and she was dismayed to hear her voice quavering like on the verge of hysteria.  She despised doctors, a hatred bordering on phobia.

“Yes, dear.  Our clinicians must examine you thoroughly to make sure that you’re healthy.  We must make sure you have been thoroughly disinfected and treated for parasites.  This is in order to help reduce the spread of communicable diseases and infectious vermin through our population.  This is in order to ensure that you are in optimal health!”

“Examine me thoroughly?”   

“It really doesn’t hurt.  Well, except for the spinal tap.  You might experience some discomfort after the spinal tap.  But it only lasts a short time.  A few hours.  Maybe a day.  Or two.  Unless something goes wrong, and then it might take…longer.  But nothing ever goes wrong.  Usually.”

The detective recoiled and rested both his palms on the kiosk, leaning across to scold the Norigian.  “She’s not diseased, she’s obviously not diseased!  She just needs a bed for the night for pity’s sake! Can’t you bend the rules just this once?”

“It’s the law,” the Norigian explained to Detective Buchanan.  

Buchanan slapped the sister’s desk.  His lips were pressed together and his brown eyes were intense.  “Law this, Sister,” he spat, pronouncing it as “sis-tah”, “just mark her off your list, there.  This one has a place to stay.”  

The Norigian tilted its massive head from side to side in confusion.  Its five eyes bulged.  “But Detective, that just isn’t done,” the sister tried to explain.  “She has been entered into the system!  They are expecting her in the medical bay!  The doctors will be inconvenienced!   I will have to notify my superiors!”  

The detective scowled at the sister.  “Notify whoever you like.  Just find a way.”

They took an Uber back to Buchanan’s quarters, or at least Tamsin assumed that’s where they were going, because she certainly couldn’t afford a hotel.  He hadn’t said a word or given any explanation, just grabbed her upper arm and manhandled her out of the shelter while she scrubbed at the tears on her face with her sleeve wadded up in her hand.  

The detective seemed enraged, boiling over at the inconvenience, which hardly seemed fair. Tamsin hadn’t asked for any of it.  She’d been doing fine, just fine on her own.  If he’d simply let her alone, she’d be drifting off to sleep in the cargo bay right now, hungry perhaps, scared for sure of the alien who had grabbed her, but free.  

I mean seriously, Buchanan had not only failed to catch the being who attacked her, but he’d entered Tamsin’s personal space uninvited without a warrant, totally invaded her privacy, rummaged through and then stolen her stuff, and put his disgusting sweaty man feet on her bed.  He’d dragged her to the shelter against her will, and worst of all he’d forced her to use her security number for the first time in eight years.  Yet he had the temerity to be angry at Tamsin?  The dude was being a complete dick!  

While Detective Buchanan sulked and stewed and swore under his breath, she wrapped her arms around herself and stared out the window, watching as the lights of the station passed by along the skyway. Eventually they drove past what must have been one of the bigger marketplaces, which was so vast it made Market 27 look like a gnat by a watermelon. There was a swimming pool and a park that had real grass and even some trees; Tamsin hadn’t seen a tree in eight years and she craned her neck as she went by so she could keep seeing them as long as possible. In her mind’s eye Tamsin could smell the chlorine and feel the green blades against her bare feet and hear the wind moving through the leaves of the trees. She wanted to pluck a leaf from a tree and rub it between her fingers, feel its waxy texture, follow the veins in it with the tip of her pointer. If only she had just one leaf, she thought, just one leaf, she would keep it forever, even when it dried out and got brown and crunchy.

The market was so huge they drove alongside it for several minutes. Further on, Tamsin was amazed to see a soccer game going on behind a chain link fence, with creatures in colorful uniforms running around a big grassy field in pursuit of a black and white ball, and bleachers packed full of thousands of cheering entities with big lights overhead lighting it all up. Though she shouldn’t have been amazed, really, because aliens loved sports and did them on all their various homeworlds. Sports were different than fiction programs because you didn’t have to have imaginations to invent them, so aliens had them just the same as humans did. The aliens had taken to Earth sports, too, apparently.

Soccer. Detective Buchanan would have called it football, probably. She wondered idly if that was why he was so testy, because he couldn’t make it to his stupid fucking sportsball match, on account of her. He paid a lot of credits for those tickets, she thought sarcastically. Good. She hoped he was really disappointed.

Tears stung her eyes and she kept blinking them away rather than letting them fall.  Despite the fact she had done absolutely nothing wrong, Tamsin was viscerally upset by the detective’s hostile reaction, and she was even more upset over being upset about it.  That was all Ash’s doing, of course.  There was this frightened creature within her that would always react in sheer terror of another person’s anger, even when she deserved none of it.  

Fear was the legacy Ash had bestowed upon her, and she would carry it with her forever.  No matter how much she tried to push it down, not let it control her, it remained.  

Fear was the real parasite. Fear was sucking her dry, draining her life away. It was like on that old fiction program Futurama, the people walked around with brain slugs on their heads and the brain slugs were controlling them; Tamsin was controlled by her fear the same way only it was a lot less cute. She wished there was a way that whatever the Norigian did to remove parasites, that it could remove her fear like that, even if it took a spinal tap.  She wanted to be that normal girl who she had been once a long time ago, someone completely unhandicapped by constant and unremitting anxiety, punctuated with regularly occurring outbursts of sheer panic.  

She wanted to be that girl she used to be, who if someone was unfairly angry at her, she told them to get the fuck over themselves. 

Seriously, Tamsin would have totally loved to tell the detective to screw himself!  She would have loved to tell him to quit acting so butthurt, to grow a pair and deal, put on his big girl panties. She hadn’t asked for this! She had been minding her business and she had been attacked. She was the victim! The only sin she had committed was not having a goddamn phone! I mean seriously, who did he even think he WAS, getting mad at her, anyway?

But the person who would have done that was gone, eaten from the inside out. 

Detective Buchanan lived in one of many identical housing projects in one of many identical residential neighborhoods in Tashalos Station, just a set of windowless boxes upon windowless boxes stretching from the floor to the ceiling.  Tamsin never could have found this particular project on her own, and she despaired at ever finding her way back to her cargo bay again.  Everything in Tashalos Station that looked alike looked exactly alike, and the stuff that looked different wasn’t distinctive enough to help you navigate.  She hadn’t the foggiest notion how to get home from wherever she was, and she couldn’t afford to call an Uber and tell them to take her back to Market 27. 

She was lost in every way it was possible for a person to be lost. It was weird to feel homesick for what was, in essence, nothing more than some blankets on top of a stack of boxes in a large unheated warehouse, but she longed to be back in her nest with every fiber of her being.  

The lobby of his building was smaller than the Carl’s Jr, just a wide place with the front door and some extra room to wait for the elevator. No mailboxes. No doorman. No big fountain, no potted plants, no Starbucks, no McDonalds, not even a Klkhiilhsi Bagels and FroYo like the Quilnauchts had in their building. The galactian authorities must make the lobbies of the affordable housing low budget, no frills, that way they could fit in more apartments, Tamsin figured.

The elevator was out, which did nothing to improve Detective Buchanan’s mood.  On the way up several flights of stairs both too steep and too narrow for Tamsin’s liking, they passed several beings of varying species who the detective apparently knew and who knew him right back.  

Neighbors, Tamsin realized.  It had been so long since she’d had neighbors herself that the entire concept felt foreign.  The detective nodded at the aliens as they passed and they nodded too, or shook an appendage at him in greeting.  Then they looked at Tamsin with shock and/or amusement; it was obvious Buchanan didn’t bring women back to his place often, or ever.  

After they had climbed what felt like a thousand flights of stairs, they turned down a drab unremarkable corridor lined with drab unremarkable doors on both sides.  A gray Chaboreth even bigger than Detective Buchanan was, covered over with fluff that Tamsin’s brain registered as feathers, but that weren’t feathers at all, strutted down the corridor headed towards the steps.  It blurted out “Human woman!” very loudly in surprise, and then started laughing.  “Amazement!”  The translators didn’t work quite as well on some species as they did others.

“Yes, Roybal, it’s a human woman,” Buchanan said ruefully.

“Very nice!” crowed the Chaboreth.  “Impressing for you!”  

“I was almost to the bloody door, too,” Buchanan muttered to himself.  “Almost to the door.”

“Happy day, ma’am!” the Chaboreth said to Tamsin.  “Have much success!” 

Tamsin smiled noncommittally and bobbed her head.  Detective Buchanan headed to the door at the furthest end of the hall.  There was a flash of green light as the Ring scanned his face.

The door swung open and he entered, leaving it open for Tamsin to follow after. 

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