The Amazing Adventures of Sara Corel
A novel by Toomey
Book Two, Part Two
Chapter Twenty-one: Attention
As it turned out, NASA
didn't really care. Alex had anticipated some resistance from
the bureaucracy of the vast government agency, not really
expecting them to fling their arms wide open just because some
scruffy musician showed up with a teen-aged girl and said,
"Got an alien for you."
Dinah was slumped
over her desk, reading and re-reading another official-looking
letter with the Space Agency's seal on it, obviously unhappy.
Alex peered at it over her
shoulder. "What's it
"Says maybe we
should talk to Immigration and Naturalization," said Dinah
really funny," said Alex. "What's this make,
now? 'Bout the dozenth time they've told us to go away?"
Dinah crumpled it savagely and hurled
it at the trash can. An angry Dinah was
not a pretty sight. Well — actually a compellingly awesome sight in a certain way. But nothing to trifle with.
Alex dutifully retrieved
the wad of paper, straightened it out and carefully filed it
in a thickening folder with the others. "I don't
get it. It's been a year or so since Jimmie figured out about
Sara from the Web, and there've been all kinds of stories floating
around — hell, half of Houston has seen her, or at least seen something.
You'd think the geniuses out in Clear Lake would have snapped to
this by now. Dammit, they oughtta be writing to us."
aren't getting my letters. It's all gatekeeper stuff. There's
nothing in their job descriptions about greeting
extraterrestrials, so they blow it off. And anyway," she
went on, "everything I've seen in print or on the 'Net
sounds like Area 51 crap. Ninety percent of it's bogus, which
makes the truth a lot less obvious. There's not a whole lot of
people like Jimmie out there, you know."
said Alex teasingly, "I'd a thought a big ol' famous
lawyer-lady like you woulda got their attention."
"A loony is a loony, as far as they're concerned."
Alex stared off into
space for a while, like he was trying to make up his mind about
something, maybe come up with Plan B.
Finally, he cocked an eyebrow at her. "So
much for your way?" It was a challenge.
"OK. You win," she nodded. "What do you have in
mind? I assume you're going to sic Sara on 'em."
"Not directly — just want to get their attention. I mean, it would be
cool if she flew up there in full costume and launched that old
lawn Saturn they got on display into orbit. I just don't think
that's — oh, I don't know — dignified. Not how I
think Sara should come out of the closet. I want them to
announce what they've learned about her at a press conference,
with TV cameras and everything. I
want everybody to take her seriously, not like some weird
comic book creature suddenly come to life. You know, credibility
and respect and all that."
Dinah looked at him.
She could practically hear the gears turning lopsidedly in his
"Come on, Alex.
I know you too well. You've gotta be up to something. You're
just too much of a prankster to let an opportunity get by
no," he objected. "This is serious."
She looked at him suspiciously, nevertheless.
went on, "There's no reason for them to take us at face
value just because we claim to have a Martian living with us.
From all the weirdo crap they get in the mail, it probably looks
like everybody believes they've
got a Martian living with them, so nobody pays attention. We
gotta do a demonstration — one that's obvious, but
subtle, so they'll know for sure that we've got something and
get back to us. Then we can talk. You get to do your lawyer
thing and make sure they don't take advantage of her or get too
carried away trying to open her up or whatever…"
"That was the
whole point of trying to contact them through official channels," Dinah said, "I
already have a contract drawn up to try to protect her
"Yeah, I know,"
said Alex, "That's important. Otherwise I suppose the
government could claim her as a thing and God knows what
would happen to her. If she let 'em, of course."
your, uh, scheme?"
moon buggy she brought back as a souvenir? She could drop it in front of the Admin
Building some dark night along with the video tape Jimmie made of her trip. We just
make sure there's our return address all over it."
Dinah looked dubious.
"That's it? Not much of a plan."
"You can't just drive into Johnson Space Center because you
feel like it. There's gates and guards and stuff. So the
Director trips over this thing on his way to the office one
morning. Major mystery. It should be obvious to them it's the
real McCoy — there's serial numbers and stuff — they'll wonder how it got there, then they'll play
smugly, "We'll hear from them."
Sara and Jimmie
were in Fort Solitude, not doing much in particular. Which
couldn't be more dangerous — at least for Jimmie.
For Sara was in a
determinedly curious mood. As quickly as she had 'grown up',
there were a few things she'd yet to experience. Mostly, these
things had to do with boys — and Jimmie was, to her mind, a
more than suitable subject for experimenting with the strange
powers and abilities granted to most girls her age. He was her
best friend and greatest challenge, something that even her
computer brain didn't truly understand. As close as they were in
so many ways, they weren't yet as close as she would like to be.
She'd prepared for this encounter in a most irresistible manner,
looking every bit the very picture of wide-eyed innocence.
Not that she, of all
people, was in any way ignorant of what went on behind closed
doors in the world around her. But that was theoretical. She
wanted to know what it felt like to be close to somebody, to
share some hidden, private moments, to touch and whisper and
have secrets. Nothing more than that — and nothing less.
Jimmie had a
different agenda. Oh, certainly he liked Sara — a lot. He
liked talking to her, he liked doing things with her, he liked
just being around her. And she certainly had the traditional
effect on his exuberant young hormones.
It was a little
complicated. Yeah, he liked her. Yeah, he was fascinated by her.
And — oh, yeah! — there were certain… You know — urges.
But his appreciation of her ran more deeply than that.
He was acutely aware
that her specialness made her different in a way that put her in
a whole 'nother category from the kind of female girl-type
person he would actually entertain any amorous designs on. He
couldn't help but think of her physical being as utterly
non-human. He understood her workings too well to think of her
in any other way.
He was also acutely
aware that there was a very real person inside this magical
machine. An idealized person whose love and trust he would never
betray by even thinking about her in any base manner.
Well, maybe thinking. But just that.
Besides, even if she
was in fact what she appeared to be, there was the age thing.
After all, he was nearly twenty now, contradictorily
surprisingly mature and yet hopelessly hung up in geeky
adolescence. She would be — to put it indelicately — jail
bait. Even if she might eventually happen to be hanging around
our planet until the sun went out, she would always be a
tempting but ultimately unthinkably unobtainable Lolita, or
maybe something like the girl-next-door's
dangerously sweet kid sister.
So he kept his hands
to himself, his eyes straight ahead (when she was looking) and
his mind on his 'work' — for he was an honorable and dedicated
kind of guy.
In other words,
And it was this
specialness that made him all the more attractive to Sara. This
was going to be one heck of a frustrating experience for the
both of them.
concentrating on some obscure bit of meaningless hacker trivia.
Sara had been watching (mostly Jimmie) when she decided
that he'd been ignoring her long enough. She came up behind him
and to one side, casually putting her hand on his shoulder.
"Nah. I can
She peered at the
monitor briefly. "Wup. You got a curly bracket there,"
she noted, reaching just past his ear to rather elaborately
point out the offending spot in his code, 'unconsciously'
brushing against him in a carefully calculated way.
Jimmie kept his focus squarely on the
screen, showing no sign
he'd noticed. Well,
except for the surge in blood pressure, sudden deep breath, perspiration spike, subcutaneous capillary dilation, tightening
abs, pupillary fluctuation, brain wave activity, curling toes,
hand tremor, follicle contraction, increase in stomach acid and
core temperature changes that Sara duly noted.
"Thanks," he grunted non-committally.
She scooted a chair
around next to his, facing him and partially blocking his view.
He craned his neck a little to the side, pretending to be
slightly annoyed. She leaned toward him little bit and turned her
head as if looking for something important on the other side of
the room, giving him a long opportunity to surreptitiously
redirect his attention — which he couldn't help but do.
She shrugged her
shoulders as if giving up on finding whatever it was (as if she
actually had to look), which produced another round of
polygraphic responses in Jimmie — whose eyeballs almost audibly
snapped back to the screen as she slowly turned back around. He
forced himself to remain impassive and calm, though his eyelids
looked like they were being propped open by toothpicks.
She appeared to look
absently around the room, as if she were a trifle bored waiting for
Jimmie to finish his little chore, while he did his best to
screw things up enough to make the moment last as long as
possible. Sara could tell from kreening his keystrokes what he
was doing and smiled just a little as she casually let her arm
fall from her lap to rest her hand on his adjacent knee. It
seemed the natural thing to do — no big deal, right?
Right. Jimmie seemed
to be having trouble swallowing, though he did his best to hide
the fact. He sensed something was different about this
particular close encounter. The moment had lasted long enough —
it was time to break the spell.
Turned out not to be so easy
life-form was inexorably bearing down on him, unstoppable,
merciless and purposeful. Things were happening too fast, and not as
he had expected. He found himself wanting to run away, to hide until
reorganize his thoughts. But the Voice within him told him that it was too late, that
did not have leave to go. He sensed Her awful power, commanding
his utter obedience. Her unspoken command burned into his brain
You cannot run.
evaporated, though he understood his own acquiescent complicity
in accepting Her mastery of him. He was helpless, yet he
allowed himself to be helpless.
Beautiful She was,
precious and perfect, unearthly and pure. But it was not mortal
beauty and he knew himself to be unworthy. This was not what he
wanted, but it was everything that he wanted. Desperately, he
tried to tear himself away from the inevitable.
You have no
And he did not. It
was if he had forgotten how to control his own body. The pathways in
his mind were
hidden — or he could not make himself find them. He tried to
remember all the damned good reasons he'd thought of to avoid
this very eventuality, but they seemed stupid and unimportant
Now She revealed
Herself to him, now She leaned over him, and now the
awe-inspiring sight of Her overwhelmed him. She reached out and
picked up his trembling form with casual strength, bringing him close to the
blue gaze of Her infinitely deep eyes, stripping his soul naked as
his heart hammered and his chest heaved, unable
to look away.
Their kiss was
perfect — slow and tender, deep and lingering — and while it
lasted, the rest of existence faded into insignificance. It endured
forever in its own special dimension of time — ageless, never
dimming entirely from memory, forever after unattainable.
She settled her head
in his arms, clinging to him gently, savoring the closeness. The
almost undetectable pressure of her hand on his chest filled him
with longing, yet calmed him with peaceful fulfillment. There
was no need for words.
His mind gradually
ceased its frantic whirling and returned to sanity. As if waking
from some altered state of consciousness far away, he realized
that this could go no further. The unalterable core of reason in
the deepest recesses of his mind told him that this was
fundamentally wrong and that he must put a stop to it. The helpless, unreasoning desire that she had inflamed threatened
something far more valuable to him, something he treasured
beyond anything her playful exuberance and his secret dreams
might yet succumb to.
For that would endure
past the whims and needs of the moment, he prayed. He might age,
still in rapt wonder at her unchanging magnificence, but the
bond he felt they shared would transcend his physical weakness
and her unyielding endurance.
They would always
share this moment, but it was an aberration. It had to be. They
were not meant for each other in this way. There was no future
in love between them — it probably wasn't even possible.
God, he was stupid.
He pulled himself
away and regained his composure, at least outwardly. Getting up
from the floor he couldn't remember how he had gotten to, he
dragged himself to his feet and plopped back into his chair.
Sara looked a little puzzled.
managed to squeak, clearing his throat noisily a few times.
"That was…" he struggled for a suitable word.
That wasn't the kind
of response Sara had been looking for.
looked at him as if he had just said something nasty.
yeah," he answered lamely. "I, uh… It was… I mean,
uh, you know…"
"Sure. I, uh,
hope you enjoyed it as much as I did." He felt lake an
She nodded her head
dumbly. "Oh, yeah…" Oh, come on. Nice, she
thought, feeling a little stunned. What the hell is wrong
with him? What the hell is wrong with me?
She got up slowly
and slowly straddled his knees, facing him, taking his hands
in hers. She leaned into him, closing her eyes.
choked out. "Wait a minute. We gotta talk."
don't," she whispered. She knew — she knew — it
was more than nice. She could tell from the responses he
could not hide from her.
he practically pushed her off his lap. Anyone else would have
fallen on their butt.
Sara," he nearly pleaded. "I really, really like you
and everything. Believe me. And I want to… Well, uh… Go on…
Jimmie wasn't choosing the right words.
"We can't do
She looked at him innocently.
kiss?" she said, like it was playing Monopoly or something.
"Why not? Isn't it nice?" she emphasized, maybe
a little too much.
Jeez, it's hot in
here, he thought. "OK. Better than nice. Much
better. That's what I'm afraid of. That it could get a whole lot
nicer and it's already gone too far already."
"What do you
think I'm trying to do?" she asked him, as if she maybe
didn't understand what was happening.
"I don't know. I
don't want to find out."
kissing, Jimmie. You won't catch anything, I promise. And I'm
not trying to do anything bad or weird or anything. Hey, birds
do it, bees do it…"
He didn't want to go
there. "Depends on what you mean by 'it'," he said.
"What do you
thought, she's persistent. "I'm older than you,
Sara. I'm supposed to know better, and I do. You're sweet.
Really. But I'm a guy…"
Sara interrupted him,
"And I'm a girl…"
The look in his eyes
invulnerable to that.
thought. Monster. Robot. Alien. What was I thinking?
Jimmie realized he'd
said the unforgivable. He felt himself falling over the
edge of something.
Words gushed out of
him the way a falling man's arms flail about uselessly in sheer
panic. "I didn't mean it the way it sounded, but, I mean,
it's true. You look like a girl, God knows, and far as
what you are inside, you're definitely a girl. A girl
that I like a lot. And respect. I don't ever want to lose you —
and I don't ever want to do anything that would make me lose
you. If we went on like this, I don't know what would happen,
but I know how it would end up. It would end up badly. There's
no other way it could. We are not made for each other in that
way. We just aren't, and there's nothing either one of us can do
about that. You gotta understand that someday I'll need to have
a girl who will grow old with me. When it happens, I don't want
it to come between us."
Sara looked like she
would faint, or maybe explode, or tear the building into very
small pieces, or lie down and never get up.
So Jimmie said the
worst four words anyone can ever hear from someone they care for.
"Let's just be
He held out his hand
like a salesman glad-handing a prospect. She took it
automatically and said, woodenly, "Oh, sure. That's a good
idea." The self-control it took at that moment to keep from
crushing his hand to pulp would rank with the greatest
super-feats she would ever perform.
They stood awkwardly
for a few agonizing moments until Sara finally looked down at
her feet and mumbled, "I gotta go."
all alone in the Fort, feeling like he'd just stabbed his best
friend with a dull knife. Recriminations washed over him in a
flood. He shouldn't have acted that way, he was convinced. He'd
been a complete moron. Why couldn't he have just kept his mouth
shut and let nature take its course? No matter what might
have happened, it couldn't really have been any worse that what did
happen. What had started to happen was really what he had
desperately wanted to happen ever since that night in
downtown Houston when he watched her gliding across the deserted
streets and sidewalks like a phantom of perfection.
But he knew he'd said
what had to be said. It was true, and it would have come between
them no matter what.
So here he was,
needing a shower. A cold one. Not that that would actually take
care of the little problem she had left him with, that wouldn't
go away on its own. No matter what his mind went through, his
body still had its own strident agenda.
He flipped a switch
and checked a monitor that was rarely used. It was connected to
a battery of receivers that were tuned to every frequency he
knew she used for her kreening. Sure enough, she was far away —
too far to detect. He even wondered for a moment if she'd
come back, but he knew she would. She had to, eventually. And
she'd get over it — she was too human not to.
The pressure was
beginning to become painful. He slipped out of the Fort and
headed for his private little suite, shedding clothes as he
went. This wouldn't take long, and he planned to sleep around
the clock if he could.
But when he turned
the corner in the little hallway that connected the warehouse to
the front of the office, he bumped squarely into his almost
ridiculously curvaceous secretary. The one he'd hired in spite
of her woefully inadequate skills at anything resembling office
work. The sweater-enhanced, elaborately coiffed red-headed
bombshell he overpaid because he was, after all, a teenaged boy
who could afford to do it. The nail-polishing, empty-headed
cipher who could barely manage to make coffee in the morning
that he didn't drink anyway. The one whose name he couldn't even
bother to remember.
The door slammed shut
behind him and locked, keys in his discarded pants on the other
side. She blocked the hall in front of him,
bent over the water cooler. He was trapped. It couldn't be more embarrassing.
"Mister Oldsen!" she exclaimed, straightening up, eyes widening.
yelped, ineffectually trying to cover himself. "What are
you doing here?"
"Like, I work
"Isn't it kinda
late? I live here, you know. I don't usually…"
"That's OK. I
forgot something. S'pose I should have knocked before I came
back here." She seemed to be handling the shock pretty
well, an amused smile playing on her lips as she made no effort
to avoid looking at him.
"I was just
gonna take a shower and I… I, uh, had to get something from
the Fort." He tried to edge past her, but she wasn't about
to move. She seemed to be enjoying his discomfort.
"You mean, the
little Martian girl?"
"Sara's not a
Martian," he said defensively.
"Then she's just
a little girl. A bit young for you, isn't she?"
was becoming unbearable. He was completely bumfuzzled, paralyzed
and beside himself. It was agonizing, and the girl in front of
him was loving every minute of it.
she went on almost as if discussing the weather, "I must
say I was a little disappointed in the way things have gone
around here, since you obviously didn't hire me to actually do
anything. I thought you were some poor little rich kid computer
whiz who couldn't buy a date. So you sorta bought me, instead. Which is OK by me. I kinda like
you, you know. Pissed me off that you spent all your time
with that kid."
She had one hand on
the water cooler and the other hand on the opposite wall. He'd
have to physically push her aside to get by. She seemed to be
inviting him to try.
"Bet I know what
you guys were doing back there," she said. "Research,
huh." She looked blatantly down at him. "Looks like
you must notta finished your experiment."
His head was swimming
so badly, he was helpless. He just stood there, trying to stay
on his feet.
age, you know," she said. "And at least I'm human. Or
have you noticed?"
He just stared.
"I can prove it
He knew what was
going to happen now, and he accepted it. In a way, it would make
things better. Because he knew why he had really hired
this girl. And he knew that this was right
she told him, her hands moving to her buttons.
help but watch as she slowly joined him in nakedness. And when
she was done, she took his hands unresistingly and pulled him
into her irresistible embrace.
It wasn't long before
she told him, "I think we could both use that shower
Sara was on the roof.
She knew Jimmie was tracking her the second he turned on his
monitor, and her computer brain just automatically changed all
She'd kreened the waiting secretary as soon as
she left the Fort, and 'saw' her wedge herself into position by
the water cooler like a spider waiting for a fly. Her mind's eye
followed the path through the ceiling of
the wire that connected the tiny TV camera in the Fort to
Jimmie's office computer, and followed the wire that networked
his to the secretary's computer. She didn't need a computer brain
to tell her what that bitch had been watching.
A few days later, Robbins slapped
a report on Wayans' desk, then stood there while his chief read
it. He didn't have to wait long.
"This is… It's
unbelievable," he said, finally looking up at his
it," the younger man replied. "This is directly from
my source. It's impossible, but you've seen all the other
reports. She's for real."
The older man was lost in thought for a while. "Where is
your source now?"
there," answered Robbins.
Wayans sat for a long
time in the shadows of his subterranean office. He had been
thinking about this for longer than even Robbins knew, for he
had other sources as well. He came to a decision that had
crystallized as he read the latest report.
resolutely, he turned to Robbins and told him, "This
© Patrick Hill, 2000