Chapter 13, "Mr. Haberdash"
I really planned on having nothing whatsoever to do with anything anymore, except for hanging out with Lou, since he was the only one who really cared about me, really. But then one day in school, Christopher came up to me in the hallway.
"Hey," she said stoically.
"Hey," I repeated repetitively.
"So. Um. I miss you," she said with sadness.
My first thought was to tell her how I didn't care, how she could fling herself off of a moving cruise ship, one of the fancy Disney one, even, and I wouldn't even blink. Unless my eyes needed moisture, but only for that reason, and not for the cruise ship flinging.
But I noted with delicacy that Christopher wore something around her neck. A crudely crafted sign, a construction paper identifier, wrinkled on the edges but still proudly proclaiming, "Hello, My Name Is Christopher". And I felt my heart flip over in my stomach, which is weird because I'm pretty sure hearts don't live in stomachs. But anatomy did not mean a damn thing here. What meant a damn thing here was...um...something emotional, I'm sure.
The point is, I was entirely unsure how to respond. So Christopher kept talking.
"Hector isn't really good for any conversation anymore...and nobody else really likes me..." Her eyes drifted to the floor. Not literally. I mean, she looked down at the floor, but slowly, meaningfully.
I finally, after much consideration, arrived at the perfect response, and that response was: "Oh."
Christopher glanced up at me, scouring my deepest inner thoughts with the Brillo pads that were her eyes. "Do you...want to come home and meet my dad?"
I stopped myself from saying, "Not really." This alarmed me. What could be the motivation behind still wanting to be nice to this jerky girl who shuns people for no reason? All of a sudden, I heard a familiar voice...a familiar alien voice...
"Go meet the father figure, Frig. He is a formidable foe."
Startled, I grasped Christopher by the arm and she made a pleased "mmmmph" noise.
"Christopher!" I wailed. "Did you hear that?"
She shook her head no and said, "No."
I chagrined balefully. "I'm sure it was..." but I felt silly even thinking it. Because that buttface was long gone. Foolishness, that's what it was.
"I didn't hear anything," Christopher reaffirmed, now clamping her own hands down around my previously clamped hands, hands which were clamped around her arm, and it was a cycle of hand clamping, and frankly, I felt uncomfortable with it, so I wriggled away best that I could.
"Anyway," I said, "I think I'll meet your father after all." I guess, somewhere in my heart (stomach?), I believed that Xlormp was still out there, watching me, telling me things in my brain, creepily ogling me in the dead of the night. Maybe this "father" could tell me some useful information about Zmeephish-Quian telepathy.
** ** **
Christopher and I sat in a room I had never been inside before. A room belonging to the Haberdash home. A room lined from ceiling to floor entirely in bright orange fake fur. A room that gave me a headache.
In front and slightly to the left of us sat the weirdest looking man I'd ever seen. He wore a viking helmet, which I'm pretty sure was authentic, based on the mold growing on its disorientingly large horns. Aside from that, the man wore little else, save for a loin cloth made out of pink leopard skin, and a bunch of crazy beaded necklaces in varying lengths. He considered me and Christopher silently, as he inhaled a puff of smoke from a cigarette at the end of a long cigarette smoking stick device thing. Which was aquamarine. The weird looking man exhaled, crossed his arms, and spake thus:
"I'm sure you know by now, Frig, that my son is a robot."
My jaw fell open. "Holy crap, for real?" I turned to Christopher, who seemed nonplussed by this information. "Did you know that?" I asked her. She nodded. "Well, huh!"
The crazy man, who, by the way, was Christopher and Hector's father, merely inhaled a new lungful of smoke and blew it out casually. "It came as a shock to me, too, that he got selected. Especially as he is one of the newer models. Those old ones were so clunky. So...boxy."
Another marble clacked into place on the Chinese checkerboard of my brain. "The boxy creatures! They are robots!"
Mr. Haberdash nodded.
"What the crap do we have all these robots around for?"
The man ashed in a small bucket shaped like Hulk Hogan's head. "Safety."
"From what?" I pondered inquiringly.
Abruptly, Mr. Haberdash slammed his hand down on the desk in front of him. It made me jump in alarm. "Are you blind, girl?" he yelled.
I opened my eyes and looked around, just to be sure. "Nope."
"Aliens. It's always aliens." He leaned back, his anger apparently subsiding quickly. "Always aliens..."
I have to be honest here, I had no idea what was going on. I waited, hoping someone other than me would say something. Eventually, Mr. Haberdash did.
"I heard that Hector and Christopher had begun teaching you the ways of the alien hunter. However, due to Hector's accelerated robot programming, he could only run through grade level lessons, mere child's play compared to what you really need to know."
Oh, okay, this could prove quite interesting after all! "What do I really need to know?" I asked.
Puff. Puff. Ring of smoke. "Everything."
Christopher sighed. "Okay, dad, can I just tell her why Hector's a robot?"
The man shook his head. Christopher barreled on anyway. "Hector's a robot because robots are the only beings logical enough to defeat extra-terrestrial species."
"Why can't you just build robots instead of turning perfectly good humans into robots?" I asked.
"That would make too much sense, and also be less interesting," Christopher replied.
Mr. Haberdash stood up and spun in a superfluous circle. "Aliens are planning something. Plotting something. Something devious. We need our robots out in full force. We need an army." He grabbed my wrist, and looked deep into my eyes. "I believe you've aleady met one of the aliens."
"Dad, Frig's met a bunch of aliens," Christopher attempted to interject.
"Shush, insolent child," Mr. Haberdash retaliated. "Frig, are you ready to face reality? The reality of aliens? Of robots? Of strained robot-alien relations?"
I nodded. "I guess so. I already have the uniform."
The loin clothed man stood up grandly. "Well, then," he rhapsodized. "Let us meet...the army."
Chapters. (I'm not feeling terribly clever today.)