Chapter 25, "The Aftermath"
My hands burned. They felt like campfires attached to the ends of my arms, perfect for roasting delicious marshmallows, but crappy for performing fine motor tasks like writing and fondling.
That's the first thing I noticed. And then, as I woke up further, I realized my arms ached as well. They throbbed painfully, sending whooshy currents of ouchiness up to my shoulders and into my neck.
After that, I realized my tummy was cold. With a quick glance down, I discovered Xlormp rubbing his flipper across it gently, watching me with most of his eyes. A couple of his eyes were focused across the room.
My room! I was in my room at Lou's place. Sitting around the room with me were Klaxie, Schmeertz, Mr. Leader, Christopher, Hector 2.0, Lou, and Candy.
"Where are the robots?" I asked, and everyone jumped abruptly.
"You're awake!" Lou leapt up from the floor to run to my side.
"What happened?" I querried, my brain sorting out the events that I could recall. The last thing I remembered was a blue cloud of Tallybonkers threatening everyone I gave a crap about.
"You were brilliant," Lou said, grabbing my hand.
"Ow ow ow ow ow ow," I sputtered painfully.
"Oops, sorry," Lou apologized, dropping my appendage.
"Your reflective surface caused the trans-dimensional beam to bounce back to the Tallybonkers, sending a great number of them elsewhere while keeping your brain in tact," Xlormp explained.
Christopher, sipping slowly and deliberately on a mug of something warm and steaming, picked up the relation of events. "By that time, I was pretty worried about you since you weren't replying on the walkie-talkie, so I left my group to come check on you. You'd managed to thin the numbers enough for me to take them out." Her voice lacked its typical lusty enthusiasm.
"The robot army and I managed to deal with the remaining forces," Hector 2.0 monologued explanitorially.
My stomach swooped curiously. "Cliff?"
"Taken care of," Christopher stated, her voice solid and cold. She squeezed her mug, white forming on her knuckles.
I felt a strange wave of sorrow pass through me. Sure, Cliff wanted me dead, but he was adorable and fuzzy. I'd grown somewhat attached to him, what with never having an arch nemesis before.
I then thought of something I immediately wished I hadn't. "What about..." I began, but I couldn't finish.
"What about what?" Lou prompted.
I forced myself to produce the word. "...us?"
Klaxie, whom I realized had said nothing this entire time, let out a pathetic alien sob.
"Monica didn't make it," Xlormp said, his voice low.
"They got her brain?"
He shook his head. I realized with harsh clarity what Xlormp was saying. Klaxie shrieked in agony. Mr. Leader put a flipper around him and led the anguished, street clothes clad alien out of the room. Schmeertz followed behind, and I noticed he seemed uninterested in trying to kill me right now. Candy trailed behind her alien lover.
I felt a stinging on the back of my throat. I didn't want to deal with this kind of thing. "How?" I asked. "I thought she and Candy were staying at the Haberdash's in the basement."
"They found us," Lou said. He had been in charge of the group taking care of the front of the Haberdash's house. "Monica got in the way of a laser beam. Mr. Haberdash tried to save her, but..."
A charred hand flew involuntarily to my mouth. "Mr. Haberdash is dead, too?"
Christopher's mug hit the floor with a loud slam. "I'm going to check on Klaxie," she squeezed through her clenched jaw, standing up and leaving the room.
Once she was gone, Lou continued. "He's still alive. But they got his brain before I could take them out."
I shook my head. "Where is he?"
"He's at his house, the robots are keeping him company."
Company. Lou's companions. "Did we get Larry, Limbo and Lamp back?" I almost didn't want to know the answer. My eyes stung with this uncomfortable pain, my stomach threatened to expel its contents yet again. I hated everything right now. But this was a different hatred. I hated that someone had lost their mind, someone had lost their life, and someone had lost their love, because of my stupid brain. Was it worth all that? All I did with it was bitch and moan about junk that pissed me off. And occasionally love on a hot alien. It all seemed so wasteful.
"Did we get them back?" I asked again.
Xlormp shook his head. "The Tallybonkers didn't have them."
"What? Who did?"
"We have been unable to ascertain that information," Hector 2.0 clanked. I trained my eyes on him. What could he possibly be feeling right now? Anything? Did he care that his father's brains were gone? Did he understand what was going on with Lou? Or was he only concerned about my safety, my life, and everything else became trivial and insignificant?
I couldn't keep it in anymore. I let the hot tears leak out from my eyes as I let out a weak whimper. Xlormp wrapped his tentacles tighter around me, and Lou stroked my hair.
"I love you, Frig," Hector 2.0 said in his robotic monotone. It seemed so incongruous right now.
"Hector," Lou said gently, "Why don't you go check on your sister?"
Hector 2.0 nodded, his neck mechanism clunking with the movement. He motored his way out.
Left alone with my alien and my hobo, feeling their concern, my whimper shifted to open sobbing. My face grew wet with painful tears, my stomach aching with sorrow and confusion. And they held me.