9/29/2012

Cosmic Flash - Chapter 7: Sex, Soldiers, And Skyscrapers



After careful explaining, Zach was informed of the problem by Soter and Doctor Stihl.  He wasn't exactly married to the girl, who's name was Opera Fiendeye, at least not by the earthling standards of marriage, but it worked the same way, the title she held to him was still "wife" and his title to her was still "husband."  And the term was still referred to as "marriage."  So basically, he was married to Opera Fiendeye.  The only difference was that it wasn't a holy union, only a legal union but because the concept had been introduced to Earth-Humans through an Ave, the humans put two and two together with the religious aspects due to its introduction through an "angel" and so it became the holy union between two lovers.  Zach found it difficult to wrap his mind around it all.

The group had grabbed one of the rental vehicles they approached after their encounter, which Soter referred to as Overgates.  The vehicle's entrance opened from the back and they walked in, taking one of the four seats inside as Doctor Stihl took the pilot's chair in the front and activated the vehicle.  The Overgates had been in a row along the sidewalk but were directly in front of the opening to one of the many winding highways trailing across the city.  When the Overgate was activated, Zach could feel the vehicle lift into the air and hover a few feet above the crowd that walked in front of it.  Doctor Stihl pulled back on the gear and the Overgate shot forward directly for the highway ahead.  As soon as it reached the half-silver/half-transparent road, Doctor Stihl pulled back on another gear and the Overgate lowered back down closer to it as it trailed along side the other Overgates, continuing onward to their destination.

"So what am I going to do about this whole marriage thing?" Zach asked worriedly.  "I barely know that woman."

"Honestly, I'm not sure, Zachary," Doctor Stihl said with a sigh.  "You can always get a divorce."

"Well, I don't want to do that.  She still seems like a nice lady.  I'm just not in love with her."

"Well you could always try and see if you like her.  She will show up again soon, I'm sure, now that she knows you're back.  You might find yourself infatuated with her."

"Maybe," Zach said, looking away in thought.  "So what's at the Monolith?"

"An Earth city's worth of inhabitants, a plethora of young cadets training to become the government's next generation of soldiers, and the leader of our civilization."

"And that's where I'm supposed to be getting my 'Memory Log' thing?"

"Correct.  We have to get authorization from Chairman Tome himself, but he will almost certainly approve.  He has a deep admiration for you."

"Charming.  So what is this Memory Log thing and how's it supposed to help me find my pin."

"After every Shore Leave, every Star Crest soldier is given the option of having their mind scanned for a Memory Log, in the event of any kind of mental injury such as an amnesiac episode or anything of the sort.  It basically stores all of their memories but it stays locked in a confined area where only authorized personnel can access it.  Then there's what we know of as the Cesspool Log, which is the section of the Memory Log that not even authorized personnel can gain access to.  It is basically the place where soldiers store the memories that are private or that they'd much rather forget but still need to hold on to.  No one can gain access to them without the soldier's permission."

"I'm guessing I'm probably not going to get to see what's in that then."

"Probably not," Soter said.  "It's probably best that you didn't.  But I'm not even sure if the Zach English we know even had a Cesspool Log, so its really nothing you need to concern yourself with.  All you need to focus on is keeping your eyes open for that pin."

"Oh okay," Zach said, nodding.  "....So, how do I do that?"  Soter looked back at Zach with a questionable gaze.  "Like, you haven't told me what I'm supposed to be expecting.  Is it some kind of computer or something?  How am I supposed to find the pin if I don't know what to look for or what I'm going to be looking at when I get there?"

"I believe there was one of those moving plays from Earth that probably explains it," Soter said.  "What was it called?  Gosh, I can barely remember any of the popular culture from that place."

"Well first of all, what's a moving play?"

"You know a moving play.  You sit in a big room in the dark and consume hot expanded seeds while your electronics provide you with a previously recorded play.  Its a huge part of Earth culture."

"You mean a movie?"

"Right, that's what they're called.  Its the one with the....oh gosh, your phrases are so strange, I can't remember what they translate to in Agnathan.  It had something to do with them going into a virtual program-"

"You're talking about Tron?"

"I believe that's it."

"So its like that.  I travel into a virtual world?"

"Kind of.  But instead of a program, you'll be traveling into your memories essentially."

"Oh...okay.  Sounds exciting."

Soter shrugged.  "Might be."

The rest of the ride was uneventful, but it was easy for Zach to lose himself in thought as he rode quietly at the back of the Overgate.  Once again drawing comparisons to his old self and his new non-earth-toxin-filled self, he knew that he probably would not have traveled this far with these two had he not went through the change; given his impatient and belligerent nature, he probably would have attempted to bail on them from the moment they tried to get him to board the Taxicruise and probably would have dragged to Arias from there.  Now he was riding in the back of one of their hover vehicle things and headed even farther down into the rabbit's hole.  It was definitely a lot better than handling the whole thing on his own.  But he had no idea what this was all leading up to.  He knew he needed to get access to his account in order to live a stable life here, but from that point on, there was no telling what he would do.  He didn't exactly have any experience in anything here in the North Circuit to help him get a job, except for apparently expert military prowess that he never remembered having.  A military job was out of the question, unless they were willing to teach him from scratch how to be a soldier, something of which he didn't see himself being very enthusiastic for at all.  He would rather be some type of lawyer or have some kind of input on a political scale; they were bound to have those kinds of professions and studies of those professions here, hell, they probably originated from here.  But after this vital step was taken, there was no telling how his mind might be changed.  The trip into the Memory Log just might allow him to remember an entire life he had lived here and be set back on the course he'd left off on.  Whatever it all led to though, he was much more likely to take it in stride than he would have been just a few hours ago.

The highway they traveled on had an express way leading straight for the Monolith, which was even larger in person than from the Taxicruise.  From this point, Zach could see it stretch beyond the purple clouds and disappear behind them.  It was bulk from the bottom but grew increasingly slimmer in width the higher it got until it was as thin as a radio tower once it broke through the planet's atmosphere.  The winding road led into a large tunnel that seemed to run under the Monolith area and as soon as they entered it, they could see that security had grown exponentially.  They were forced to stop at a terminal before entering the tunnel where Doctor Stihl had to verify his identity to get through before continuing on.  Zach hadn't seen many enforcement officers of any kind on the way there but here, they seemed to make up the population of the area.  Soter wasn't kidding when he said this was the headquarters of that Star Crest thing.  There were multiple groups of soldiers walking along the walkways beside the tunnel, wearing various forms of armor and some clad in only uniforms but still walking with a degree of professionalism.

"The ones in black are the Orbital Police," Soter explained, referring to the soldiers that walked with blocky black protective armor covering their bodies and unique helmets that sort of resembled the riot cop helmets back on Earth, only they were equipped with a much more rounded shape over their heads.  Only a few actually wore helmets, most went without them.  "The ones in uniform are actual Star Crest soldiers.  You can tell their division by their uniform.  The ones in the red and black are Artillery Corps, the equivalent to the US's Army, the ones in blue and black are Motor Infantry Epsilon, the equivalent to the Navy, and the ones in purple and black are the Steel Wing Reserve, similar to the Air Force."

What about the ones in the silver and black?" Zach asked, though he could only see a few wearing those colors among the sea of men and women in arms beside them.

"They're from Cosmic Flash," Doctor Stihl answered.  "The Intelligence Branch of Star Crest.  They are like your CIA."

"Interesting," Zach muttered, as they continued onward.  After a while the crowd of soldiers thinned out, most of them taking their own route into several doors that ran along the walkway they traveled along.  After a while, Doctor Stihl turned the Overgate down another road which led to what looked to be a parking deck with many other identical Overgates organized neatly in rows throughout a rather large cavern-like area.  The Overgate finally found a space, where there was a large open tech platform jutting up from the white "pavement."  Zach hadn't seen it when they first took off, but it looked like some type of charger that the Overgate was supposed to fit on when left dormant.  Doctor Stihl pushed the gear forward, lifting the Overgate into the air once again as it hovered over the parking space, then pulled it back once more, lowering the vehicle onto the platform with a loud click as it locked into place.

The three of them exitted from the back and walked out into the large cavern-like parking deck.

"This place is huge," Zach said, his words echoing throughout for what seemed like miles.  "I hope we're taking one of those lightlift thingy's to get where we need to go."

Doctor Stihl chuckled.  "In a moment.  Only a short walk before we get inside."

Once they reached one of the many doors that ran along the wall closest to where they'd parked, Zach realized that he was right; they were walking along a large orange-tined corridor in no time.  After a few twists and turns, the three of them emerged into a lmassive atrium-like lobby, filled to the brim with tons of soldiers walking past them and minding their own business, all of them of different origins and species, a few of which were human while the rest were of the same variety of species he'd seen on the streets back in town.  There were various desks scattered across the massive area where individual visitors were being helped, the entirety of the area lit up with more dim bulbs hanging by the ceiling, giving off the same orange tint that had covered them in the corridor.  The floors were slick and there were massive pillars located every few yards down the lobby.

"So this is where all of the soldiers in Star Crest live?" Zach asked, watching them socialize among each other and walk by him, only a few noticing him at a time but otherwise paying his acute wonder no attention.

"When they're not on duty, but some do, some don't, its a personal choice," Doctor Stihl answered.  "Star Crest does provide free housing access to cadets and certified soldiers, but this is mainly where the Star Crest Academy is located and where future operatives are trained and educated to their peak, then they graduate after four Arian years of training.  The first ten floors of the Monolith belong to the Academy."

"And from there?"

"From there starts the actual Star Crest Headquarters, split into Epsilon, Artillery, Steel Wing, and Flash, in that order from bottom to top.  Everything above that belongs to the Parliament and the Chairman himself.  The Parliament consists of representatives from various branches of our government."

"Right, basically Congress, gotcha."  In the center of the atrium-like lobby, there was a single desk that ran into a complete circle with various male and female employees behind it addressing whoever walked up for assistance.  Behind the desk and the employees was a giant holographic image of the symbol that had been branded onto Zach and Soter's arm, the diamond with the circle and the four stems, shining from that spot.  As Zach noticed through closer observations, there were more of these help centers along either side of the lobby.

As they approached one of them, Doctor Stihl turned back to the others.  "I scheduled an appointment with Tome before we left the hospital on Ichthios.  He's aware that I'm on my way, so I'll just let the receptionist know I've arrived."

"Okay," Soter said, crossing his arms.  "We'll hang back.  But remember what I told you."

"I understand," Doctor Stihl said assuredly, before turning back to the circular desk and addressing the Ave woman who's station was open.  After a few minutes of waiting, Doctor Stihl returned and nodded.  "Everything is set.  But you know how security is, Soter.  They are only going to let me in and after I authorize it, Zach will be able to enter.  I doubt they will let you in without a good reason."

"That's fine," Soter said calmly.  "I will just wait outside.  As long as everything works out."

"Fair enough," Doctor Stihl said.  "Let's find a lightlift and we'll head up."

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Considering the sheer size of the Monolith alone, it took a lot shorter of a time to get up to the Parliament Levels than Zach expected.  By the time they reached it by use of the lightlift's split-second floor phasing, they were at about the same height Zach had been on his trip to the top of the Empire State Building in New York, only times two.  There was a window by where they were let off and he could see the entire cityscape from the view but it still stretched onward.  From his view on the Taxicruise, nearly the entire surface of Arias was covered in the skyscraper metropolis of the planet's seemingly endless city, so there was no telling if and when it actually ended.

Because of the large space and the lack of general use of the lightlift in the Monolith (there were lots of floors where people simply walked), it could only be used to take them to the level they needed to be on and then from there they had to walk.  Before long, they reached a set of double doors currently being guarded by a pair of men, one Dark Alfimese, one Human, standing in front of it vigilantly.  They were clad in armor, a slick dark orange with a tint of black.  They were standing with their hands behind their backs, but there were some rather large dangerous looking weapons by their belts.  As the three of them approached the two, Doctor Stihl, pulled out a transparent tablet resembling one of the many he'd seen others in the city handle.  

"This may be a while.  If you two would like to relax for a moment you can and I will tag you, Soter, when he's ready to see Zach."

"Tag?" Zach repeated.

"A little like your paging concept, only slightly more advance.  Soter will let you know when to return."

"Right, okay."

"Let me know how it goes," Soter said sternly.  "And don't forget"-

"I won't, Soter, I know what we're here for," Doctor Stihl said, turning back to the guards.  He pressed on the tablet a few times ldelicately and a few light images swirled around on it.  When he turned it around for the guards to see, Zach noticed that the light from the "screen" could only be seen from the side he used it on, but when it was turned away from them, the lights disappeared, most likely to preserve privacy.  The guards examined the screen intently and then nodded, one of them pulling out a small button and pressing it, which allowed the doors to slide back and Doctor Stihl walked in.  Zach could only get a brief look inside, but there wasn't much to see; just another corridor, this one small, that led farther into the building.  When the doors closed, the two stood in the hallway alone.

"Well, I'm going to the cafeteria to see what they've got," Soter said, beginning to head off.  "You can walk around if you like, just meet me in the lounge in twenty clicks.  Follow the signs on the wall to get there or ask for directions.  You want anything?"

"Um," Zach muttered, suddenly realizing exactly how hungry he truly was.  He hadn't eaten since he left the Frat House, which was approximately a day or so ago.  But when he thought about the exotic weirdness they probably dined into here, he didn't feel like there was much of an appetite for it.  He could only hope that some of the food would be among the many things they'd have have in common from Earth, at least.  "Do I?"

Soter laughed and shook his head.  "I'll bring you something you might like, Mota.  I'll see you later."

"Okay."  Soter headed off and Zach decided to go in the opposite direction.  Now he was alone for the first time since he'd arrived in the North Circuit.  Not wanting to stay in the hallway and get stared at by the mean-looking guards standing by the door, he headed off around the corner and tried to look as much like he was from there as possible.  It was hard for him to blend in but at the same time easy, since one of the reasons why he didn't blend in was because many of the people passing by were messing around with those transparent squares that seemed to capture their attention so interestingly, but because their attention was elsewhere, they barely noticed him as he walked by.  With no aim in particular for a destination, Zach decided to just head for this lounge that Soter had mentioned and stay there until he arrived with the food.

Unfortunately, the holographic-looking signs that Soter had referred to were of little help.  They showed that the lounge area was a floor below and without a lightlift, it didn't seem like there was any other way to get there.  This complicated things, since asking someone how to use a lightlift would be a lot more conspicuous than asking someone for directions.  Back at the Bank in the courtyard area, he'd seen children and preteen aliens using it by themselves, so it was obviously very simple.  He just didn't know where to begin.  Zach decided to head to the cafeteria area and just meet up with Soter, who would be able to show him how to use a lightlift and they could head down to the lounge together.

Following one of the signs to the cafeteria, Zach turned a corner and began to head down the corridor when he spotted a young Alfimese woman sitting down by the wall by herself with her legs crossed, simply looking around curiously.  She was a Light Alfimese, so her skin was the same glowing light green complexion as the rest, her hair dark blue, long, and tied into a high ponytail with her tall ears carrying small piercings along the outer edges.  What stood out about her was that she was wearing the same skin-tight jumpsuit that he was wearing, except hers was grey, while his was blue.  She was also wearing a headpiece placed carefully over her forehead, the emblem of which was uniquely designed into what looked like a star with jagged ends.  When he walked by, she caught his eye and he attempted to look away and try not to draw attention to himself.

When he was about to pass in front of her, she called out to him.  "Hey!"  He turned to her and she smiled at him.

"Um, hey," he greeted back.

"Who are you?"

"Um..." Zach was a little wary about saying his name around this area since there was always a chance that he might get called out, especially now that he was so close to the guy he'd apparently saved to make himself famous in the first place.  He decided to dodge the question.  "Just a guy wandering the hallway half-lost."

"Are you a recruit?" she asked with an American accent, eying his jumpsuit.

Zach looked down at it.  "Oh no, a friend of mine gave this to me.  I'm not exactly from around here."

"I figured as much," the girl said.  She tapped her hand on the spot to the left of her.  "Come sit down with me.  I need a talking buddy.  Unless you've got somewhere to be?"

"Uh," Zach wasn't sure of what to say.  He did have somewhere to be, in about twenty minutes.  But he guessed maybe he could spare the time.  Maybe she could help him find the lightlift that would take him to the lounge below.  Zach walked over and sat down on the floor next to her.  She smiled at him once again.

"My name is Jeila," the Alfimese woman said, introducing herself.  "Jeila Halos."

"Does your mother work for a Bank just across town?"

"Yeah, how'd you know?"

"I was just over there.  She mentioned she had a daughter named Jeila.  She's under the impression that you don't care about her."

Jeila chuckled.  "Yeah, she gets upset with me when I don't contact her every day."

"What are you here for?" Zach asked her.

"I'm an Intern for Cosmic Flash.  You have no idea the kind of mess I had to go through to get this far.  And I'm still not guaranteed a position.  I haven't even started training yet."

"What exactly do you do there?  As an Intern."

"Just sit around and watch people do desk work.  If we're lucky, we'll get to watch some of the Field Operatives at work on a Video Feed, but because we're not yet apart of the service, we're not allowed to see them ACTUALLY at work, you know with it being so clandestine and what not, so most of what we see are authorized clips they are allowed to show us that don't feature much more than a punch and a kick here and there.  The whole thing can be so boring sometimes.  I mean, I don't mind it, I would just like to know that its going to all be worth it in the end, you know?"

"Yeah, I could see how that would be frustrating.  So what are you doing up here in the uh...Parliament...level thing?"

"My dad works for Blackgriffon."

"Oh," Zach said without any understanding.  "Blackgriffon, that's um...um..."

Jeila looked confused.  "Maxim Blackgriffon, current King of Alfheim."

"Right, right, I-I knew that.  I have horrible memory, sorry."

"It's okay," she said, chuckling.  "Yeah, so by my dad being apart of the King's Court, I'm allowed to be up here whenever I want.  Diplomatic Immunity, you know.  What about you?"

Zach looked surprised now that the subject was once again turned to him, though he realized he shouldn't have as it was bound to come up.  "Uh...I honestly don't know why I'm up here."

"Oh.  Well you know you can't be on the Parliament levels without authorized permission, right?"

"Well yeah, I actually came here with someone but they left me alone for a while and I guess I don't have any way to show that I'm supposed to be here."

"Oh okay," Jeila nodded.  "Well if anyone asks, I can just say that you're with me.  No big deal."

"Oh, thanks."

Jeila nodded again and the two sat in silence for a little while.  Before long, a group of men in uniform walked down the hall, all of them wearing the red attire that meant they belonged to MIE.  When they passed the two sitting by the floor, one of them, an Honarian with long brown hair to his shoulders, black circles around his eyes and no pupils looked over at them.  He said something aloud in another language that Zach could not understand because he only knew Agnathan and Korian, as he was told by Soter, but he could tell by his inflection and the way the others that walked behind him, a Light Alfimese and another Honarian, laughed at his joke, that it had been an insult hurled toward them.  Zach decided to ignore it but when he turned back to his right, he could see that Jeila had stood up.

"Hey!" she called back to them, as they turned around casually.  She lifted her finger and beckoned for the one Honarian that had insulted them to walk back to her.  He looked back at his friends with a smile and headed over to her without a loss in stride but when he was within a few inches of her, she pinched him in a specific spot on his abdomen with her thumb, middle, and index finger.  The Honarian immediately froze as the expression on his face twisted into a mixture of agony and shock.  When Jeila spoke again, it was intense.  "I've been here for two Arian years and I know a fresh face when I see one.  You think because your daddy helped you get those three badges you carry, you can walk around like you own the place?  That's not how shit works here, exto.  Next time you come around here again with that arrogant trash, your ego won't be the only thing imploding in on itself.  Do I make myself clear?"

The Honarian nodded weakly and Jeila let go of his abdomen quickly, then punched him in the chest, sending him flying off his feet and onto his back.  The Honarian got up quickly, holding the spot on his torso and walked back to his shocked friends embarassed as they disappeared around the corner.  Jeila sighed comfortably and sat back down next to a bewildered Zach who was now slightly intimidated by the young Alfimese woman.

"Sorry about that," Jeila said, not losing a beat.  "I kind of hate Honarians.  Sorry if that sounds racist.  They're always so arrogant."

"What exactly did he say?"

"Nothing important.  Just being disrespectful.  I don't tolerate lack of respect.  From anyone."

"Duly noted," Zach said with a surprised chuckle.  "I was already going to, but I'll definitely make a conscious effort to treat you with the respect you deserve."

"Okay, no need to ass-kiss," Jeila laughed.  "I'm not that bad.  I've just got a temper when it comes to that kind of thing and I have a habit of losing it when someone fucks with me."

"Right, I understand," Zach said.  He was starting to like this girl.  She had a lot of energy and she seemed to exude a contagious optimism in her attitude that made her appealing.  "So, like I said, I'm not from around here, so I'm not that familiar with some of the lingo.  What exactly is an exto?"

"They used to be an Alfheim beast that was once the dominant species on the planet billions of years ago, you know, before us Alfimese grew intelligent enough to take their place.  Many years later, after they were long extinct, through our research we learned that Extoes were notoriously stupid and it was a miracle of nature that they managed to actually become the planet's dominant species when they should have died out in their early stages.  So the term just kind of stuck to mean anyone who's such a tool, they shouldn't have even figured out how to live.  I only really hear the Alfimese use it often and its not really socially accepted in general conversation since its technically a swear, but its not like I really give a fuck anyway."

Zach laughed.  "I get you.  Who gives a shit if we swear?"

"Exactly.  I'll say whatever the fuck I want, whenever the fuck I want, however the fuck I want...Unless its in front of my Cosmic Flash superiors - then I'll shut up because I want the job."

"So what made you want to get a job with Cosmic Flash?" Zach asked curiously.

Jeila shrugged.  "Well I'd be lying if I said it wasn't because I wanted in on the action.  When I was little, I was really into Earth culture and I got into this series of movies called 007, not sure if you've ever heard of it.  But it was so great and I really liked how cool and glamorous it looked.  Then one day, my uncle, who is a retired Cosmic Flash Operative, told me that Cosmic Flash was almost just like that with the explosions and gun battles and everything.  So from that point on, I've sort of had an obsession with Cosmic Flash.  I just see it as like, my dream job.  I mean, I know he was just trying to impress me; I'm not a kid anymore and so I'm not so much looking for the glamour of it, I just want to be apart of something bigger.  My parents are very wealthy and they always have been, that's how I was able to watch media from Earth in the first place, but up until that moment where I realized I wanted to be apart of Cosmic Flash, I aspired to be a street Rhythic performer."

"What's that?"

"Rhythic Performer.  You know, the guys that do physical music."  Zach was still confused.  "You've never seen a Rhythic Performer?"

"Never."

"Man, you really are out of touch.  Basically, if you get close enough to them while they're playing or you're in a Reverb Room, it allows you to physically feel the music they play, like it alters your atomic structure and everything to where the pressure from the soundwaves gives you this soothing organized massage that works just like it would if you were to hear music.  Its way ahead of anything they've developed on Earth."

"Sounds incredible."

"Yeah, but Rhythic performers make a lot of points off of street shows and that's what I was going to go for before I realized Cosmic Flash was my calling.  My point is, I never saw myself being a doctor or involved in politics like my mom and dad.  I want a career that's either something simple or balls out insane.  I'm a unique case of crazy.  I can't settle for in-betweens.  Its all or nothing for me.  So I guess Cosmic Flash is my idea for the ideal job that has that balance, either I end up with a simple desk job or I end up with a totally outrageous Field Op position, whichever one I'm more qualified for.  Really I can't lose...unless they pass me up for the job entirely.  And there I go again, spilling out my life to somebody I barely even know.  I always do that, why do I always do that?"

"Its okay, really," Zach said.  "You're a really interesting person, so its fine.  I just think patience is the way to go, I'm sure that's a vital part of the job.  You've just got to embrace that part of it as apart of the learning experience and I don't know, maybe it'll make it feel more enjoyable.  If they see that you're attentive at all times, even through the boring parts, they may be more inclined to think you're much more dedicated than the other interns."

"That's a good idea," Jeila said with a smile.  "You give really good advice."

"Yeah well," Zach said, rubbing the back of his head shyly.  "I try."

"So anyway, do you want to have sex?"

Zach didn't hear her at first.  "I'm sorry, what?"

"Would you like to have sex with me?"

"You mean like - where, you like - have sex...like sexual relations-type sex?"

"Yes."

Zach began to stammer stupidly.  "Uh, uh, we - uh - um"-

"Its a simple question."

Zach didn't know what to say, so he said the only thing he could think of.  "My name is Zach English and I lost my memory and the only thing I remember is how Earth works."

Jeila looked back with a smile.  "I knew your face looked familiar."

"Yeah, um."  Zach shook his head, weirded out by his own sudden outburst and how it had nothing to do with what she said to him.  Then he realized why he'd done it.  "Yeah, so...sorry, I'm just not used to someone outright asking me a question like that.  Because they don't do that kind of thing on Earth...from what I know."

"Oh okay," Jeila said, nodding.  "I understand.  I think.  Not sure about the amnesia part but I get why you're hesitant.  Well see, here in the North Circuit, we do things a little differently.  The Earth-Humans like to make sex this sacred thing that you have to involve love with, otherwise its morally wrong to do.  That's a load of Cransak.  Here's the thing, in the North Circuit, sex and love are two entirely different things.  Let me see how I can make this easier to understand...oh I know.  You ever hear about an Earth-dog giving another dog flowers before they get it on?"

"No."

"Exactly.  They just do it.  Its a natural part of nature.  You look like you have good genes.  I know I have good genes.  So you and I should fuck."

"And this is how things are done all the time in the North Circuit?" Zach said in complete shock.

"Yeah, pretty much."

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There were specific rooms in every building in the North Circuit similar to "excrement rooms," the NC equivalent of bathrooms.  These rooms were called "mating rooms," and they were specifically made for two beings to have "mate" in.  Like going to the bathroom, it still wasn't socially acceptable to do it out in public despite its frequency, but when it is done, no one really cares.  As Jeila put it, its seen as a natural part of nature for everyone.  Zach kept wondering why everyone in the North Circuit wasn't just getting it on 24/7 by this logic and after thinking about it for a while, he realized: sex here just isn't that big of a deal.  Earth-Humans make sex out to be this ultimate thing and whenever you make something out to be more than it actually is, it becomes everyone's desire, Zach new that from the pointless consumeristic tactics of corporate America.  Here, sex was more like a slightly more intense hug; if you want to do it, you do it, if you don't, then you don't.  Because of this, things like rape didn't exist; no one here considers sex to be that important.  There were many other things to worry about.

Jeila assured him that they weren't going to concieve.  That had been Zach's main concern from the beginning, but she let him know that there were fool-proof ways of preventing breeding if they didn't want it to happen.  Jeila took him to the nearest mating room, relinquished their clothing, and entered Phase 2.  Being that this was Zach's first time, the experience was new to him and he hadn't initially even tried to think of Jeila in a sexual way after seeing her: 1. Because she was of another species from his own, so it didn't directly cross his mind that she'd be attracted to him anyway and 2. Because she was so unbelievably attractive that he didn't think she'd be attracted to him anyway.  But his genes were apparently enough to impress her to the point where she was willing to engage in sexual relations with him, if only to let nature run its course.  Somehow, the thought of that alone made the situation even hotter.

As amazing as it was, Zach did notice that she didn't make any moves to kiss him at all during the encounter.  He didn't know if it was just that people in the North Circuit didn't kiss or if that went along with the whole "love thing" which was absent here.  It got awkward when all he could do was stare into her face without being able to break the tension by locking lips.  She didn't seem to mind it and although it made the entire session strange, it was still nonetheless satisfying.  When they were finished, they laid across each other naked on the soft matress-like cushion jutting from the floor with one dim yellow bulb floating in the corner.  Zach was still in shock.

"Well," he said aloud but mostly to himself.  "That was...interesting."

"I hope that's a good thing," Jeila replied with a laugh, rubbing his chest as she laid in his arms.

"It is," he said, still a little out of breath.  "Well I think it is.  Well no, the sex was fucking amazing, but I'm talking about just being here and seeing everything around me.  This whole thing has been...interesting.  That's the only word I can say to describe it and its still not enough to accurately express how I truly feel.  I've probably pinched myself like twelve times since I got here."

"Yeah, I'd imagine if the only thing you know is Earth, the North Circuit would be like one hell of a culture shock."

"Tell me about it," Zach said, before looking down at Jeila, her magnificent green nakedness on full display.  There were various abstract tattoos and/or markings trailing along her thighs, back, and ribs.  "You know, I never said anything about being from Earth."

"Wait, you're actually from Earth?"

"Yeah, but you said...wait - crap," Zach said, leaning his head back on the pillow-like cushion.  He had thought she'd been inferring that she knew he was from Earth, but when he thought about it, he did tell her earlier that all he could remember was Earth.  The Post-Virginity loss shock was getting to his head.  "Okay, truth is...I actually am from Earth.  At least I think I am.  I have the memory of an entire life there and then I accidentally brought myself here and I'm told I've been living an entire life in the North Circuit the whole time."

"Wait," Jeila said, looking up at him.  "How did you bring yourself here if you knew nothing about the North Circuit?"

"I found a spacecraft in the woods, got curious, accidentally turned it on and it sent me straight here."

"Woods?"

"Yeah, like a forest."

"Oh.  That sure is strange."

"I know."  Zach rubbed his face in exhaustion and then once again realized that he was insanely hungry.  Then he remembered.  "Wait, how long has it been since we were in the corridor?"

"About thirty clicks or so, why?"

"Shit, Zach said, leaning up.  Jeila got off of him and he scooted off of the cushion, grabbing for his jumpsuit.  "I was supposed to meet someone down at the lounge ten minut - uh, clicks ago.  Actually, do you think you could help me get down there, I don't know how to use one of those lightlift things on my own."

"Sure," Jeila said, pushing back her hair and Zach felt his heart melt.  Oh man, he thought to himself.  I hope I see her again.  "You need a Cosmer to access the lightlift on your own."

"What's that?"

Jeila, who was already in the process of putting on her own jumpsuit, reached into the pocket of it and showed him her own slick transparent tablet that he'd seen so many North Circuit residents handling.  

"It connects to the S.I.N., the Shared Information Network, which is like a global system of mini-networks where people share media and information."

"Sounds very socialist.  We don't have anything like that on Earth."

"Actually, I think the Parliament offered it already.  Earth-Humans developing it into something called the Internet."

"Its probably just gonna be one of those pointless trends that'll pass in a couple of years like party lines," Zach said, his jumpsuit back on, fitting comfortably over his body.  "So you can activate a lightlift with one of those things?"

"Yeah, it gains access to the Monolith's CNS, the Central Networking System, and allows you access to it.  Most buildings have their own lightlifts that move on their own, but in certain buildings like these you can access it if you have a Cosmer."

"That's pretty cool.  Do I look okay?" Zach asked, displaying himself for her when she was finished dressing.  When she stood, he realized exactly how tall she was to him.  He was pretty tall himself and Danielle had come up to his chest but Jeila stood pretty much at eye level.  She walked over to him and flipped up the small collars that had been folded into the neck of the suit, which he'd forgotten were there.  When they were sorted out, she pressed her hands over his suit and smiled.

"Yep, you look fine.  You ready?"

"Yeah, let's go."  As soon as they walked out of the mating room, Zach heard a voice call his name.  He turned in the direction of it and could see Doctor Stihl heading down the hallway in his direction.  Accompanying him was a rather large group, two of which were the guards by the door, others were men in MIE Uniforms trailing along behind him.  Walking beside the doctor was a reasonably handsome middle aged man with short white closely shaved hair and a thin beard, walking with a relaxed but authoritative posture and an instant charm to his dimeanor.  He looked human at first glance but as he began to approach them, Zach could see that there was a hint of green in his complexion and from the silver glare in his eyes and his partially erect ears that only traveled halfway up his head, that he was unique.  Zach figured out who it was by the massive amount of security alone.  Tome Knightgrief.

"Zachary," Doctor Stihl said, approaching Zach and Jeila as they stood outside of the mating room with the congregation behind him.  "It is my pleasure to 're-introduce' you to the Chairman of the Unity of Stars, Tome Knightgrief."

"Its so great to finally see you again, Zach," Tome said with a bright and genuine smile, holding out his hand to shake.  "I'm glad to see that you're doing well."

Zach shook it and smiled back.  "So you're the famous Chairman I've been hearing about."

"Its true, I am the one and only.  Doctor Stihl and I go way back and he told me about your predicament.  I'm sorry to hear that you're technically not the same Zach English who saved my life two years ago, but my gratitude and respect for you hasn't diminished one bit."

Zach had expected for Tome to be much more tightly wound, like a carbon copy of every US President or authority figure he'd seen before.  But Tome was just the opposite; he felt just as, if not more relaxed than the people of which he governed far below the Monolith outside.  His clothing was casual, resembling a slightly classier vibe than the normal civilian attire in the North Circuit but still completely laidback.  It was some type of leisure suit, like something he'd see in a movie, like Al Pacino's Scarface, only it didn't seem like he was wearing it to be flashy, only because it was comfortable.  The look combined with his natural charm made him seem like a pleasant man to work with.  Zach could see why he had been elected Chairman of the UoS.

"Who's your friend here?" Tome said, motioning towards Jeila, who stood behind Zach.

Jeila smiled shyly when everyone turned to look at her.  "Oh, I'm nobody," she said with a modest smile.

"Nobody's nobody sweetheart," Tome said warmly.  "I recognize you.  Your father is an Lance Halos, Ambassador of the King's Court on Alfheim and your mother is Doctor Kizni Halos of the Arias Circuit Points Bank."

"Yeah, that's right," Jeila said enthusiastically.

"I figured.  I'm really good at remembering faces and yours just happened to match your parents, so I just put two and two together.  We aren't interrupting anything are we?"

"Oh no," Zach said.  "We were just on our way to go see Soter.  He wanted me to meet him at the lounge on the floor below."

"Oh well, we can always catch up with him later," Doctor Stihl said, slightly more on edge than usual.  "Chairman Knightgrief just gave us the 'okay' to access your Memory Log, so we should get going soon."

"Right.  Is it all right if we get something to eat on the way there?"

"Sure, that's no problem," Tome answered as he turned back to Doctor Stihl to discuss other matters and Zach turned back to Jeila.

"I wish I could come but I've got to be heading back to the CF Floor before they realize I've went well over my break time," Jeila mentioned.  "I'm such a slacker."

Zach smiled.  "Well it was really nice to meet you."  There was so much more he wanted to say, but that would have to do for now.

"Don't say that like its the last time we're ever gonna bump into each other!  You should come down to the CF Floor one of these days if you can get authorization and we can hang out.  If you don't, I have absolutely no problem hunting you down.  Don't even try me."

Zach laughed.  "Understood.  I'll do my best."

"Goodbye, Zach English," she said before turning on her heel and heading down the hallway out of sight.  Zach watched her walk off and sighed heavily before turning back to Doctor Stihl and Chairman Tome, now with a definite reason for staying here.

"All right, I'm ready.  Let's go find out who the real Zach English is."


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