“The Lower Circle…” Fence murmured in a sotto voice. “Of course. That must have been it.”
Bristling, the Terran glared at the green-haired male. “Try not to presume too much.”
“Then you’d deny going against Mun’ahsa-jo’s kind advice?” At her stubborn silence, Fence chuckled, his lips slowly curved up into a teasing smile. “Poor Mun’ahsa-jo. How ever would our resident genius feel had he known it was his own words that send you right to Er-na’s local crime watering hole?”
May shifted her eyes away from those knowing gaze. “He doesn’t need to know.”
With another chuckle, the local crime lord took pity on the young woman. “I assume after your homecoming, once he had his guards down, you slipped away into the night and began your search for truth among the dregs of society?”
Blinking at the intense interest aimed her way, she sincerely commented, “You’ve watched too many crime dramas, Milna-jo.”
Fence clicked his tongue and motioned for her to resume her story.
“It’s nothing as complicated as that. I only began from the source closest to me,” May revealed.
“Certainly not Mun’ahsa-jo,” Fence confidently deduced, forehead crinkling as his mind ran through other possible alternatives.
Restraining an eye roll at how transparent the amber-eyed male was about using her life story as the night’s entertainment, May decided to string him along a bit longer.
“No, but he led me directly to it.”
“A high-speed pursuit in Nimuth’s Middle Ring by the City Guard ended in a tragedy that cost two lives and landed one officer in a critical condition. This afternoon, two unidentified suspects managed to rob the Paragon, headquarter to the galactic-renowned jewel-makers MirmiMani. The company has yet to release a statement on this incident, but from what we can see of the crime scene, experts estimated a rough sum of – ”
As the news droned on as background noise, May surreptitiously watched her warden family friend as he paced up and down in the next room. Seeing that whoever designed the penthouse – hers apparently – did not believe in opaque partitions, May could easily see Kajakh gesturing wildly as he spoke on his comm.
He looks pissed, May accurately deduced.
Kajakh had been at it for a while now, having received the call not long after they arrived. After he refused the first call, his comm rang again. Whatever message he received then made him relocate to the next room where he could answer it in peace.
Most probably something to do with the company, that also belonged to her, apparently, for the most part at least. Kajakh and his father both had their own stakes in it, but before their death, May’s parents had owned the largest shares combined.
Shares that she inherited along with their properties, savings, investment, so on and so forth.
There was a list; Kajakh said so.
She just…hadn’t gotten to it yet.
Not because she felt uncomfortable pawing at a dead person’s things, especially when she was still wearing the body like a skin suit. Not at all.
May had been busy.
Busy recuperating from a three-week-long coma. Busy undergoing reconstructive muscle therapy (not that agonizing physical therapy; yay advanced tech!).
Busy convincing herself that no, she wasn’t crazy; yes, this was real; yes, this was happening, so keep up!
Well, that was what she’d be telling people if the question ever came up anyhow.
Shaking her head as if it would clear her thoughts, she didn’t even bother concealing her blatant staring.
There, right there, pacing back and forth, was a mine filled with ‘apparent facts’ that could solve most if not all of her questions in one go.
Except said mine clammed up like an oyster sensing a predator whenever she poked a topic even remotely related to her condition.
So far, she made more progress forming hypotheses from things he refused to go into details about.
Such as her parents.
Such as her company.
Such as the reason he kept treating her like she was a glass doll that would shatter at the slightest touch.
The last one she had originally attributed to how she’d – the original May Ling at least – died on the operation table, but afterward, the attitude didn’t lighten, rather the opposite.
In their short journey ‘home’, May’s observation of the dark-haired, orange-eyed, six-fingered, non-confirmed human-alien-hybrid yielded two contradicting facts.
Fact one: Kajakh looked forward to the day she regained her memories; this he did not hide despite having toned it down to avoid pressuring her.
What a considerate man.
But that only made the second fact all the more confusing: he dreaded the day she regained her memories.
He hid it well. Very well indeed. Until his hesitation to leave her alone betrayed his anxiety, along with his insistence on concealing the truth 'for her own good'. He never put it as such in words, no, but that was the feeling she got from him.
What had been an indiscernible feeling at first finally took shape after they entered the sky city. Once she had managed to get her awe under control, she caught his foreboding expression just before he turned to her and smiled, offering a tour of the city.
Without waiting for her answer, he’d brought her around – a scenic route, he’d claimed, to show her the wonder of Nimuth’s Jewel in the Sky – but May had done enough strategic prevaricating in her line of business to recognize a play for time when she saw one.
Kajakh had circled the city’s gigantic octahedron piece de resistance that hung majestically in the center of a cluster of spire-like structures that resembled upturned unicorn horns. The wave-like pattern carved into their surfaces reflected the celestial bodies’ colors in the best way possible, lending the whole area a divine bearing.
Her driver cruised between Atmos’ grandiose gravity-defying architecture, explaining how the city worked, until he couldn’t delay and finally made towards the periphery where less impressive yet still lavish cylindrical towers that suited her idea of a sci-fi building more: intimidating, unyielding, and gleaming metallic cold in the sunlight.
‘Home’ was located within a triad of hexagonal prism towers connected to each other via encased skywalks. May admitted to gawking when she entered the suit for the first time, from the sheer size of it all. For a family of three, the penthouse must have been something of a mansion, futuristic style.
Then she discovered, with the sleek abode, came the most pleasant of surprises.
“EVE,” May murmured, tasting the AI’s name.
“Yes, May-sa?” a dulcet female voice responded promptly.
EVE, the housekeeper AI.
Kajakh had introduced (or reintroduced, depending on how one looked at it) the housekeeper first thing after they arrived in the house.
During his daily visits, Kajakh had mentioned that the AI would be waiting for her return. At that time, May attributed his choice of words as a comfort for an orphan who no longer had anyone to look forward to at home, but now she found herself reconsidering it.
The AI might be a little more than just a collection of data. Digitized servants couldn’t possibility sounded so human.
“Who is Kajakh’s talking to?”
“Kajakh-jo has activated privacy shielding for his communications,” EVE informed her, sounding half-regretful, half-chiding.
Nodding in acknowledgment, May pressed on, “Is the same function available for every guest in the house?”
“No,” the AI replied. “In your absence, the Seneschal Protocol was activated. Kajakh-jo now holds a secondary access to the house’s functions and security.”
Seneschal. The first Earth-native word she heard since this whole blasted thing started. Swallowing hard, she forcibly halted the urge to find out more about it to focus on a more important matter.
Exhaling explosively, May leaned her head back, wondering just why she was surprised by this turn of event. A big part of why Kajakh even bothered with her had been their families’ close relation. May dared to bet the original May and he had been childhood friends.
However, it highlighted just how much the Ling couple had trusted the Mun’ahsa.
“Has anyone else been to the house since I left?”
“Other than Kajakh-jo and Ozi-jo, only the Nimuth City Guardians. I have confirmed their official orders for investigation and Kajakh-jo was present during the period they were here. Any objection on my part will be taken as obstruction of justice and incompatible with the law-abiding protocol.”
May’s eyes narrowed at that. “Oh. What investigation?” she asked, tone deliberately light. A quick glance at the other room assured her that Kajakh was still engaged in his heated debate.
“I cannot divulge that information,” EVE said. “Information related to an ongoing investigation is strictly confidential until the law enforcers deem it suitable for release.”
“Not even to the house owner?”
“As Kajakh-jo had been present during the investigation, he has been informed of all relevant information,” informed the AI.
Meaning if she wanted to know more about this, she’d have to ask him.
Groaning, May slumped in her seat, tugging her hair in frustration at the futility of it all. Every step she took, Kajakh would be there to obstruct it.
How could I find a way home like this?
Speaking of obstructing…
A sudden thought occurred to her, making her jerk up in her seat, heart hammering anxiously. “Will he still have access to the house’s security now that I’m back?”
“No. Kajakh-jo’s access has been reverted to his usual second-home level.”
A ‘second-home’ level? “And that means?”
“He has his own key code to enter the house at will,” the AI explained. “Also unrestricted access to all non-core facilities in the house, except for private rooms.”
“Just making sure, he has no access to surveillance.”
“Only May-sa has that access now,” EVE confirmed, much to May’s relief. She didn’t ask to live alone just so he could remotely monitor her.
Swiveling her head towards the other room, her eyes met orange ones, making her heart skip a beat. May donned a big smile, hiding any trace of guilt for seeking ways to subvert the man who had done nothing but assist her every step of the way. She received a reassuring one in return before Kajakh returned to his conversation.
With a sigh, May turned back to watch an inane commercial on the 3D holographic projector. The living room she sat in was a circular area, filled with so many unidentified things that she didn’t dare touch, with a deep depression in the middle that served as the seating area. At its center was yet a deeper depression where holographic projection shot up to show just about anything available on the Collective Intergalactic Network or CINe.
CINe acted as a curious amalgamation of TV, internet, and mobile network packaged into one convenient package accessible from just about any communication devices.
May poked the floating spherical glass containing her lunch – the delectable nutrient solution – that Kajakh had managed to prepare before he absconded. Wrinkling her face, she took it in her hands and sipped on it, grimacing at the alien-quality that neither tasted good nor bad.
Flicking her finger as if swiping on touchscreens back on Earth, May changed the CINe channel.
“…king news: our very half-Ernan actor Giliga Metiz was spotted exiting the Huma-huma Starhill in the small hours, wearing a hat and a mask. Speculations run rampant as to whom he has been visiting, but the most popular theory to date is the Medelonian actress Siraguna Mina who has been rumored to have bought a suite in this prestigious sky-condo last year. Though we have sent inquiries to –”
“ – and he comes! Our reigning champion! Give a waaarm welcoooome to the dazzling GOLIATH!! Despite his Terran descend, GOLIATH has managed to climb up the ladder and occupy one of the three top positions in the Wreck-Cage Intergalactic Race for five years in a row! What a star-defying feat! And today, my dear gentle-sentients, we get to witness for ourselves his –”
“ – so in my opinion, unless drastic action is taken, the Ling Interstellar Freight is done for.”