Chapter 14: Lessons Learned

Chapter 14: Lessons Learned

A Chapter by Reese P. Holmes

“Two adult tickets please,” Charlie requested of the museum volunteer, and then turned to Pen. “Something I like about this place is that they still have human ticket masters. There's just something so nostalgically charming about it.” The spaceman listened while open mouthed. He winced and then looked down, suddenly sneezing very wetly into his hand, “Hachoo!”

The shorter man ducked, “Ew! That's disgusting! You spit on me!”

“I'm sorry,” Pen muffled as he attempted to pull his hand away. Charlie pushed the hanor's hand back up onto his face. “Yuck! There's snot everywhere! Don't you dare remove your hand. Teller, do you happen to have some tissues?” The tall, drippy faced man sniffled and then sneezed again into his hand, some of it inevitably escaping onto Charlie's, who winced and released his grip in disgust, then shoved a tissue onto Pen's face before he wiped at his own hand and arms with another tissue.

Afterward, he shoved their tickets and extra tissues into his pocket and led them out of line. “Don't tell me you're getting sick, because I swear to gob if you're getting sick there's no way I'm nursing you back to health. What's worse is Nicole will find some way to blame me for it! 'Charlie! What were you thinking, taking him outside where there's people? I don't care if it was his idea!'” he mocked.

Pen pursed his lips in thought, and then dismissed the idea. “No, she wouldn't blame you. That would be silly.” The redhead shook his head violently. “You underestimate Nicole's ability to be irrational. She can and will blame me if anything were to happen to you, regardless of whether it was actually my fault.” The alien breathed in heavily and let out a tired sigh. “Even so, there's nothing to worry about; I don't get sick. It's probably a reaction to the pollution in this city,” he explained. Charlie's brows raised in curious surprise. “Oh really? You don't get sick at all?” The alien nodded in confirmation. “Nanobots take care of foreign invaders far more effectively than we hanor would on our own,” he assured, then coughed dryly into the tissue and offered an embarrassed smile. “Allergens, however, still at times get the best of us.”

“That's pretty cool though. It almost makes me wish we had nanobots. We're all going to end up with them pretty soon ourselves, but I just don't know if humans are ready for that sort of thing,” Charlie mused. “So, anyway, where would you like to go to first?”

“I've got to see human evolution, then everything else as well,” Pen asserted. Charlie shrugged his shoulders, “Alright. Off we go then,” he announced as he began to walk up the stairs. The lanky man leaped ahead of him, pulling him up along impatiently. “Let's go!”

On the way, despite his initial rush, Pen's curiosity caused them to deviate several times. At first, Charlie found it annoying, but the alien's fresh sense of wonder was infectious, and pretty soon, Charlie was starting to enjoy himself, and even his company.

Charlie had come to realize that to Pen, rather than science being a boring set of abstract facts, it was a way of viewing the world from a perspective beyond one's small speck of existence. Science represented opportunities for a better tomorrow, adventure and exploration, art and expression. He could finally see what Nicole saw in him. Sure, he was a little full of himself, got way too much attention from the ladies for his comfort, but this eccentric alien was so passionate and smart that it more than made up for his flaws.

Finally, they wandered into the Evolution section of the museum and were greeted by a life size replica of one of the great ancient dinosaurs, its bones reconstructed alongside for comparison.

Pen stopped in his tracks to gape up at it. “Whoa! What a monster!” he declared as he fumbled with his glasses and took another picture for the trip. Charlie let out an unimpressed sigh as he caught up with his friend. “Yeah yeah, the dinosaurs, very scary. Too bad they're all dead now.” Pen pulled a tissue from Charlie's pocket and wiped at his running nose, his eyes never leaving the amazing sight. “Just amazing. Dinosaurs! What strange and powerful creatures they must have been. I would give nearly anything to observe how they lived!”

Charlie chuckled, starting to grow amused. “Yeah, a lot of people say that. There have even been arguments over whether we should try to bring them back to life, but most scientists don't think it would be ethical, considering they no longer belong here.”

As he stood there, Pen covered his face and let out a muffled yawn, and then he began to massage his temples with a pained look on his face. “We hanor have had similar debates, and yeah, unless you've got some vast ecosystem for them to live in, it'd be pretty cruel I agree, but it's a huge universe out there and I'm sure there's a place for them to live.”

“Tired? Headache?” the human inquired.

“I think the din of the crowds is starting to hurt my head,” Pen groaned. Charlie tilted his head with a little hum. “Do you want to go back? You can take a nap on my sofa if you like, or even my bed if that would be more comfortable.”

Pen rubbed at his throat as he gulped, then blew his nose. “No, not yet. I haven't finished what I came here for,” he declared stuffily.

“Are you sure you're not sick? If anything happened to you, I'd be in so much trouble,” Charlie demurred. The alien frowned and shrugged his shoulders, prompting a full stretch and yawn. “Well, maybe not one-hundred percent certain, but I can assure you it's nothing to fuss over.”

“Okay, but after we see what we came here for, you're returning to my place. Deal?” Charlie implored. Pen gave a little nod of his head. “Sounds fair. Alright, you've got yourself a deal.”

They headed through the dinosaurs exhibit and started up the stairs towards the second floor portion of the exhibits on evolution. Rather than last time, Charlie found himself at the next level first and waiting for Pen, who had stopped half way up the stairs to choke out a long string of coughs as he held onto the railing for support.

“You gonna be alright? You look absolutely knackered!” Charlie called back. The scientist shook his head as he gasped, “I just need a break.” He forced himself the rest of the way up with weakened body and the two trudged to the nearest bench.

Pen carefully sat himself down as if he were uncertain on his feet and wrapped his multicolored scarf around his neck and buttoned up his pea coat. Charlie bit his finger anxiously as he took in his new friend's condition. “Feeling cold?”

“Yes, a little bit chilly,” Pen confided as he hugged himself, eyes drooping. “It's really not that cold. Can't we go back? You don't look well,” Charlie insisted. Pen shook his head and then held it with a groan as if the motion rattled his brain. “We had a deal,” he insisted. “I'm seeing the human evolution exhibit and then we can leave.” Charlie chewed on his lip thoughtfully. “I suppose, but you're taking a rather sudden turn for the worse, I just know it.”

As if Charlie predicted it, when Pen stood back up, he visibly blanched and stumbled to rest against a wall with a surprised moan, his vision swimming. Charlie gasped in horror, pushing himself underneath Pen's arm for support. “Oi! I promise we can come back. I swear, okay?” He sat the sick man back down on the bench.

“No, the exhib-,” Pen murmured, interrupted by another, worse sounding coughing fit. Charlie shook his head. “You're utterly shattered! The exhibition will have to wait. I'll call us a cab. We're heading back home right now.”

© 2014 Reese P. Holmes

Author's Note

Reese P. Holmes
Pacing, good or bad? Is the illness believable? What do you think of Charlie and Pen's relationship?

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Added on January 20, 2014
Last Updated on January 20, 2014
Tags: Singularity Effect, War, Aliens, Teleportation, Space travel, Adventure, Action