Nysh looked over her steaming pile of—she didn’t know what—to look at Trill. Something was wrong. Her scales must have been communicating this despite her best efforts because Trill was looking at her expectantly. The kind of look that made her scales twitch, she voiced her discomfort with a low growl. Trill looked quickly away, and began once more, to suck down his own meal; the whites of his crooked teeth flashing in the east suns light, the west sun hanging heavy over their heads.
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After a moment of silence Trill lifted his head from his platter. His neck muscles bulged with the effort, “What’s wrong?” he asked. “You haven’t even touched your,” he looked down at Nysh’s own platter, obviously he had no idea what it was either.
Nysh clicked her scales together in irritation, trying to send a wave of iridescent across her face but failing. “That’s what’s wrong,” she hissed.
Trill reared his head slightly, but caught himself.
“This place is far too nice for us,” Nysh said looking around: The shade was spaced evenly, allowing for the prefect amount of light, and the air was scented with a delicate aroma. She nearly thought he was trying to intoxicate her; what with all the misters around. It was unacceptable; she swung her head back, snapping, “We can not afford this.”
Trill dipped his head down quickly, averting his eyes, “We can—“
“Silence,” she said, snapping once more for effect.
Trill began to roll backwards in fear but Nysh stopped him with a flick of her deadly tail, “How can we afford this?”
Trill looked briefly up, and then away, “I have found an extra line of work. Very lucrative, very simple.”
Nysh could hear him gurgle in the back of his throat. It must be good, she thought to herself. “No such thing. Nothing is easy, not anymore.” She could feel her body heat drop as her mood shifted from anger to worry.
“Yes yes. There is.” Trill said, raising himself to his full height.
“What is it,” Nysh hissed, “tell me.”
She looked at her own food. Bending forward she allowed her chin to drop into the fluid that covered her meal. It was warm and pleasing. She gurgled as her tongue swept across. The flavor was very pleasant, very subtle. She hoped Trill was right, she could get used to meals such as these.
She looked at Trill once more; he was waiting patiently for her to finish. Raising her head she flicked her tail, a sign for him to begin again. There was time enough to eat.
“I have found a loop hole.” He said calmly.
Nysh felt her body heat rise once more, “No such thing—“
“Yes.” He said quickly, “there is, and I have found it.” His own scales were flashing blue and green with pride; the colors where so deep that Nysh couldn’t help but believe him.
Nysh looked about the room quickly, there was no one listening.
“How?” she asked.
Trill was at his food again, he halted mid-bite, raising his chin just above the sauce he said, “I can not tell you, but I can show you once we get home.” He flicked his tail quickly indicating Nysh’s meal, “its getting cold. Eat.”
Nysh looked at her platter: The steam was no longer rising into the air. She gave her scales one quick rattle of irritation, then one more allowed her chin to dip into the luke-warm sauce and began to eat greedily.
Michael watched as finger pushed the doorbell, the tale tell ring echoing inside the enormous house. He hated the house. Hated how large it was, hated that his cousin was so well off. Hated how weird it was to hang out with an older cousin that you had nothing in common with. Above all though, he hated his mother for making him come over.
He would have to ring it twice more, just like always. He thought about just leaving. Just like always. Brian wouldn’t care. Brian wouldn’t notice.
He jabbed at the doorbell twice more, quickly. He hoped his uncle was home. His uncle always sent Michael away early; couldn’t stand having children about. Not even his own.
Two quick clicks of a double bolt being opened snapped Michael to attention.
“Michael,” squeaked an overly excited woman’s voice.
The over excited woman was Michael’s aunt to be. She was a slightly overweight, very under-intelligent woman of about thirty. Her name was Beverly. Beverly was marrying his uncle for money, and everyone knew it. No one cared though, not even his uncle.
“How are you today?” She asked, her blue eyes glinting with an excitement that Michael feared was real.
“Great. You?” he asked.
“Always so polite.” She said patting his head. She moved to the side, motioning for him to come in.
Michael looked around the living room. Brian was normally there cluttering it up with pieces of things that Michael could only guess at. He was surprised to find the living room tidy, the couches lay un-strewn, and the white carpet wasn’t covered with plastic chunks. “Where is he?”
Michael counted to ten in his head. “Brian. Where is Brian?”
“Oh, yes of course. Poor dear. He’s downstairs.”
“Poor dear?” Michael asked. Beverly didn’t even notice the sarcasm.
“Oh, his leg. But you know all about that don’t you?” She began to push Michael towards the basement. “He’ll be so glad to see you.”
“No he won’t. I mean, what happened to his leg?”
“Of course you do. You’re so funny, go have fun now.” She said as she slammed the door behind him.
Michael counted to ten once more, this time out loud, and then began down the steps. They weren’t lit, and there wasn’t a banister to hang on to. All Michael could make out was a bright glow coming form the bottom of the steps. A glow that turned out to be a computer screen, Brian’s silhouette was securely in front of.
Michael slowed his step, forcing himself to be quiet as he came up behind his cousin. “What’cha doing?” He screamed trying to get his cousin to jump, but he didn’t.
“Nothing,” said Brian’s in his monotone voice, “what are you doing?”
“What happened to your leg?” asked Michael, not bothering to answer.
“Your mom didn’t tell you?” He asked, turning away from the screen slightly.
“That’s what I said.”
“How? You don’t do anything physical.”
“Shut up. I do to.”
“No you don’t.”
Michael heard his cousin sniff slightly, whether in agitation or to clear his nose he couldn’t say. “I was climbing a tree.”
“So I fell out.”
“What the hell where you doing in a tree?” asked Michael.
This time Brian turned all the way around; his glasses glinting as the screens reflection slid evenly across the frames. “Shh… you shouldn’t swear. She may hear you.”
“We are downstairs, she can’t hear us.” Michael looked around the dark room, “Why are you downstairs anyway?”
“She doesn’t want me to strain myself.”
“So she stuck you downstairs?”
“I had to fight for even that. She was going to keep me in my room all day.”
“What about your dad?” Michael asked.
“Again?” Michael felt his stomach lunge; there would be no going home early. Worse yet, there would be no going home early until he returned.
“He left me with her.” Brain stuck his thumb out, jabbing it towards the stairs. “Said it would be a good time to bond, but…” Brian turned his thumb, jabbing at his caste.
Michael wanted to change the subject, so he moved forward trying to see what Brian had been doing on the computer. Brian must have noticed because he reached back quickly, flipping the screen off.
Michael felt his face split into a grin. “Did I see what I think I saw?”
“No.” Brian said, flipping on a desk light. His face was bright red.
“Come on, I wanna see too.”
“You’re too young.”
“You're not?” Michael asked, trying to push past to get to the screen.
“All I have is the internet. What else is there to do?” Brian said, pushing Michael back.
“Exactly,” said Michael. “I’m bored. We can look together.”
Brian shook his head furiously, and then said, “I’ll make it up to you. What do you want to do?”
Michael felt a rush of hope, “Video games?” he asked.
Brian shrugged. “Don’t have any.”
“Nothing? It doesn’t have to be new, just something we can blow things up with.”
“Nope. Dad says it rots the brain.” Brian spread his hands.
Michael’s heart sank. It would be an even worse day than he thought. Then a horrible thought came to him, “How long is the cast on?” he asked.
Michael felt like crying. He would have to come over everyday and do nothing. It was unbearable, absolutely unthinkable.
Just when Michael felt he would burst into tears Brian perked up. “Wait. I know what we can do,” said Brian. “We can actually blow something up.”
“Yeah, we can make gunpowder or something. I am sure we can find a recipe on the internet.” Brian spun to face the screen again. Switching on the monitor he closed out several windows with a few quick clicks. More windows opened in their place, and Brian began to type.
Michael edged closer trying to get a glimpse of what his cousin was doing. He had worked with computers at school, but the time had always been restricted, and you could only work with pre-approved sites. His mother had never purchased a computer, she felt they were dangerous.
“What are we going to blow up Brian?” asked Michael. He had never considered blowing anything real up. He couldn’t think of anything that he would want to.
Brian came to an abrupt stop; Michael could see a brief look of puzzlement on is cousins’ face, after a moment his face cleared and a dark smile took hold of his features. “The tree, we’re going to blow up the tree.”
It wasn’t a bad idea, thought Michael. It would be really cool to watch a tree explode in real life. “Okay,” he said feeling a rush of excitement, “but I think we are going to need more than gunpowder.”
The clicking stopped once more, “Yeah,” said Brian “We’re going to need something like T.N.T.”
Michael wasn’t sure what T.N.T. stood for, but he knew he had seen it in old cartoons, and it was a reoccurring theme in some of his older video games. “Yeah, that sounds right.”
T.N.T. stood for Tri-nitro-toluene, and Brian couldn’t find anything that told you how to make it—at least nothing that made any sense to either of them.
Michael had sense pulled up a pillow from the couch, and was sitting on the floor, occasionally checking to see if Brian had found anything interesting. A couple minutes passed, and Michael noticed that the clicking had stopped. When he looked up he saw that Brian had closed all the pages.
Brian turned to face his cousin, “It’s too hard. I can’t figure out how to make it. It would take days.”
“So? Where do you think I am going to be tomorrow? Where are you going to be?” Michael thumped the cast with his forefinger.
Brian looked down at the caste, “Good point.” He said, sighing. “Still, it’s too hard. We can’t do it.”
“Let me try.” Michael said, standing.
Brian glared at him a moment, then slid off the chair onto the pillow, pulling his leg behind him. “Go for it.”
Michael sat. The computer wasn’t too different from the ones at school. Brian directed him to the proper search pages, and he went to work. He tried everything he could think of: How to makes bombs, how to blow things up, T.N.T. easy. He was becoming discouraged after the first few moments. It didn’t seem like anything was out there, but it was worth it just to play on the internet. After a while, he tried all of the links he could, it was one of these links that spawned a pop up that read: “Big explosions made easy”, in flashing yellow and red letters.
Perfect, though Michael, and clicked. A barrage of windows opened and closed rapidly; after a few seconds only one remained: It was a simple page with step by step instructions, and ingredients. It even had links to other sites where you could get the ingredients.
I can even do this by myself, he thought, following the first few links. It only took a few moments to get to the final step, but when he did he noticed that he required a credit card number. Michael felt the fear of boredom creep back into his mind.
Michael turned to find his cousin asleep on the floor. Michael nudged his cousin with his foot. “Wake up” he said. Brian groaned a bit, but rolled over. Michael kicked him this time.
Brian sat up with a yelp, his eyes fluttering in surprise. “What the hell?”
“Shush… she may hear you.” Michael said mockingly.
“Shut up. Why did you kick me?” Brian asked, his nose flaring slightly.
“I need a credit card number.” Michael said matter-of-factly.
“What?” Brian was rubbing his eyes. “I told you not to get on those sites.” He was craning his neck to get a look at the screen.
Michael felt the twitch of a smile. “Do you need a credit card to get on those sites?” He asked.
“The good ones do. Which one are you on?”
Michael leaned back so Brian could get a better look. “I am buying some stuff for our bomb. I need a credit card.”
“What? You found one?”
Michael handed him a paper with the instructions on it. That was step two.
Brian looked over it quickly, and then said: “I don’t even know what half this stuff is.” He passed the instructions back. “I am not giving you a credit card number. They are just trying to get you to buy their crap.”
Michael couldn’t be stuck at his house with nothing to do, “If you don’t I’ll tell Beverly about how you are using your dad’s credit card.”
The blood ran from Brian’s face, he attempted to glare at Michael but failed. “Fine,” he said, “I’ll go get it.”
Michael had the day after, and each day been disappointed. The day after was no different. He been sent to the basement each day, each day he had watched his cousin mope around on the internet. On the third day the packages showed.
Michael was elated; his cousin even seemed to be in high spirits. The packages were surprisingly small, and had come from several different companies. All with names that neither Michael nor Brian could pronounce. It didn’t matter; they finally had something to do. Beverly didn’t even ask where they got the money for the packages, she just seemed happy that they were happy. She sent them straight downstairs; she even helped carry some of the boxes down.
Brian was in charge of the instructions, Michael in charge of construction. This was due to Michael’s obvious mobility advantage.
The pair set to work; Brian was pleased that the directions were so well written. Michael didn’t have any problems putting them together, despite their obvious complexity. It was as if they were made for just this purpose.
It took most of the day, but moments before Michaels mother arrived they finished.
“Wow,” said Michael.
“Yeah,” agreed Brian.
“It’s kinda small don’t you think?”
The finished product was about the size of a basketball, which was also its shape. It was all metal and black plastic. Except for a few flashing lights that seemingly came on and off at random.
“Do you think we did it right?” asked Brian.
Michael looked around the room. “Had to of. We’re out of parts.”
Michael glanced about. “Yeah, guess so.”
“Tomorrow?” asked Brian.
Michael gave a quick nod.
Michael couldn’t wait to get over to his cousins house. The car ride was impossibly long. Michael didn’t even tell his mother goodbye, he just ran for the door. He rang it three times. Before the third rings echo died away Brian was opening the door. He seemed just as excited as Michael.
Without words Michael ran downstairs, his cousin followed awkwardly. The bomb was sitting in the middle of the white leather couch. Its lights flashing serenely. Michael wondered briefly how powerful something so small could be, but pushed the thought from his mind. Any explosion was a good explosion.
He snatched the thing from the couch, and grabbed the directions. His cousin was just to the bottom of the stairs, Michael ran by him, pushing the directions into his chest.
“Come on.” Michael yelled.
When Michael got outside he looked around for the tree. His cousins’ backyard was just enormous, opening up into a natural area. It could be any tree, he thought.
Turning he saw his cousin coming through the door, he had grabbed a pair of crutches, and was moving quicker.
“It’s over there.” Brian said pointing to the very back of their lot.
Michael followed the line of his finger, a cottonwood; it was a monster of a tree, reaching at least one hundred feet in the air, and at least four feet in diameter. This is going to be so cool, he thought.
The pair made it back to the tree, Michael getting there just moments before Brian.
“Where should we put it?” asked Michael.
Brian seemed to consider for a moment, “I think we should put it on the side away from the house. That way it will fall into the nature area.”
Michael gave a quick nod, and then made his way to the far side of the tree. He placed it in a natural nook that had been created from a past injury. “What does it say to do?” He yelled at his cousin.
Michael could hear the rattle of paper, as Brian freed the instructions from wherever he had put it.
“It says to hit the blue light, then the red light for however many seconds, then the green light to arm.”
Michael pushed the blue light; a light beep confirmed the contact. “How long do you think?” Michael asked his cousin, craning his neck to see around the tree.
Brian shrugged, “I don’t know, a couple minutes at least.”
Michael began pushing the red light until he felt it was enough to get away. “Here we go,” he said, more to himself than to Brian. Licking his lips he pushed in the green light, a long beep began to emit from the bomb.
Michael began to run away from the tree. Brian saw him coming and began to hobble away as quickly as he could. When the two finally stopped, they were about a hundred yards away from the tree.
“Here, lay on the ground and cover your ears.” Brian said, doing so.
Michael did the same, propping his head up so he could get a good look at the enormous cottonwood.
The pair waited on the ground for a minute. Then two. Nothing happened.
“How long did you set it for?” asked Brian.
Michael shrugged, “I don’t know, I hit it until I thought it would be safe.”
“Crap,” said Brian “you didn’t even count?”
“Brian, did you just swear?” asked the sugar sweet voice of Beverly.
Michael felt his stomach flip. He didn’t even consider Beverly being a problem. He looked over at Brian; his face had gone completely white.
Nysh watched as Trill tapped the button with his tail that would turn on the holo. The equipment was old, but it eventually flickered into life. Trill sang the command that would bring his programs up.
Nysh watch as a medium size blue planet came into the view area.
“I placed a sub-orbital body above the target a few revolutions ago.” said trill, “We should be able to see how things are coming along.” His scales flickered in puzzlement, and then pleasure.
“What is it?” Nysh moved closer to the holo, trying to see what had interested Trill so.
“They are much further along then I thought they would be.” He sang a quick tune, and the planet flashed off screen, being replaced by what appeared to be a grove of flora, and three animals.
The animals were horrid creatures, two very small in comparison to the third, which had four tails. Two of them were flailing stiffly in the air, bending in the middle. The other two were intimidated in some way, but did not attempt to flee, for what reason Nysh could only guess at.
“What are they doing?” She asked, truly curious.
“They must have been the ones who assembled the cleaner.” Trill said, turning to face her. “Maybe they have figured out what it is for.”
Nysh reared back in surprise, her scales momentarily out of her control.
“They assembled the cleaner?”
Trill gurgled pleasantly. “Yes. They did.”
Nysh swayed for a moment in confusion, then realization swept over her, and she gurgled as well. “Perfect.” She hissed.
“If they do it, we are not responsible for breaking the code. The funds are merely finders’ fees for the new hosts, and no one is the wiser.”
The holo sang a quick song; Nysh and Trill snapped their attention towards the projection. The cleaner was about to go off.
Nysh looked once more at the grotesque animals. They were better of dead, then what they were anyhow. They were doing them a favor. She gurgled as the holo flashed white for the brief second that it took.
After a moment the holo sang once more. All animal life had been eradicated; the planet was now clean, and ready for its new hosts. The bids would be with so few worlds available.
Nysh felt Trills tail wrap around her own. She nearly snapped, but caught herself. Nysh gurgled as she moved closer; the coupling would be pleasant tonight, and very fierce.
"It is considered rude to silence a fool, but cruel to let him go on."