Feeling a bit more comfortably numb, and relaxing on a faintly vibrating lounger Iain repeated his last question to the pair.

“They come, they go. Mostly they go,” Arc offered, then added bitterly, “Often they don’t give us warning either. Other consentients are so rude.”

Iain wasn’t too surprised, especially if the two were telling the truth. He was starting to believe everything he’d heard. The gravity had failed again on the way over. Even with it on, he felt like he was a good twenty kilos lighter than his usual 85.

Twenty thousand years. It was a lot to take in, at least sober. He took another drink. Maybe it would sink in better smashed.

“All right,” he said. Then stopped, suddenly filled with concern. Who was going to feed Dusty? Then he relaxed. Peter. Then he was alarmed again. Rent was due on Friday. Wait. That was twenty thousand years ago. It was all gone. Peter, Mandy, Dusty, human civilization probably. Hell, global warming had probably wiped it out nineteen thousand years ago. He finished the drink, then felt much better. Alcohol always had that effect. It made him chatty as well.

“All right,” Ian started again. “Lets go over a few things. First. How can we possibly communicate? Your aliens from the distant future. What’s the thing? Nanites? Fish in the ear? Convenience?”

“That’s an easy one,” Arl said. “The ‘Zos.”

“The what?” Iain asked.

“Protozoans, idiot,” Arc said, then pointed at his own head. “Quantum-tunneling parasitical life-forms. We injected a new batch in your brain yesterday. That is where you keep your brain, no, it has to be, or we would be able to talk.”

He followed that up with a giggle.

“You injected parasites into my brain?” Iain started felling around his head. His head felt a little soft. That drink was strong. He put down his glass.

“Just the latest,” Arc said, reaching over to pat his shoulder. “Obviously we didn’t have to do the whole treatment, ‘cause you responded to Basic right off. You must already have something compatible in there.”

“You’re saying I already had parasites in my brain?” Iain wasn’t sure what alarmed him more, new parasites or old.

“Sure,” Arl added to the patting. “Most intelligent species do. You’re a consentient aren’t you? Someone explorer or visiteer probably visited your world at some point. Although its odd, since mimes don’t have them, and they’re from the planet you said you were picked up from.”

“I don’t think he’s a Mime, DNA variation’s too great.” Arc chipped in, then suddenly appeared filled with excitement. He grinned widely “Maybe he’s a Clown! No one’s seen a Clown in ages!”

“I’m not a Mime and I’m not a Clown,” Iain protested. “I am not any kind of circus freak!”

He suddenly felt sad, angry, afraid, and terribly, terribly alone. His vision blurred.

“I’m not here for your amusement!” he finished, wiped his eyes. Wow, Iain thought to himself, in that detached way he did when he was drunk. That sounded really petulant. Alcohol didn’t usually make him so maudlin.

“Calm down,” Arl advised. “It’s not going to help your adjustment. You have parasites in your brain, you have to. Come on, think about it.”

Well, he did have a cat. And had been living around cats most of his life.

“Toxoplasma gondii?” Ian squeaked out.

“Oh, yeah, that’s it!” Arl laughed, and then narrowed his eyes. “Are you a cat then. Mimes have cats. They’re scary.”

“No,” Iain told them. “I’m a homo sapiens… sapiens. I had a cat, though, for a while. How do you know all this stuff, anyways?”

“Oh, the ‘Zos make the universe go-round,” Arc said quickly and proudly. “An intergalactic community linked through quantum entanglement. Turns any species into an interstellar one whenever they want. Got ‘Zos and you have access to the annals of the entire galaxy.”

Arc smacked his partner.

“You stole my points!” he complained. “This was my turn.”

“Evolution goes to the quick,” Arl said, then added pointedly at his twin – “extinct!”

“I’ll show you extinct,” Arc warned, raising a fist.

Go to Chapter Five

Go to Chapter Seven

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