Not long after Ritu got Morning Joe’s documentation straightened out, Luna Kari showed up. Sebastion, Octy, and Mop had relocated near us, so we were able to move Morning into their old place. It even had room to house a few more.
Luna Kari did not look like she didn’t belong. With her perfect metro accent, she didn’t talk like she wasn’t from around here either.
“Beautiful morning, eh?” she said. “You know, I’ve just come from the cookie store. The macaroons were absolutely delish! To die for! But I am parched! Know a place where I could get a good espresso?”
“Where did you say you came from?” I asked. I wanted to be sure.
“You heard me,” she replied. “I shan’t say it again.”
I felt so confused–had I heard her correctly? What if she really had come from a bakery? What should I do?
“Ha! Gotcha!” she said, and she laughed the way only Luna Kari can laugh.
“Yes, ‘I come from the cookie store!'” she said.
“We’ve got to get you inside!” I replied.
She laughed again, whispering to me, “The best way to blend in, is to blend in. This is normal, eh?”
We found Ritu inside. Ritu, an old friend of Sebastion and Sept’s, was becoming a key player in the sanctuary program. She worked as a manager of the Co-op Collective, a chain of cooperatively-owned organic food stores. But that job was a cover. The Collective mostly paid her to do community activism work, and their current project was aiding refugees, including intergalactic refugees. She found housing, procured the necessary documents, and helped keep everybody legal.
Xirra had been eager to work with her. She knew that with Ritu’s contacts, we could slowly build support within the government. Decades later, after pragmatism began stripping away my idealism, I came to realize that Xirra had wanted to establish political and governmental connections before the Kfvico’kyastorr could. I suppose that wasn’t a bad motive, and it was, after all, in the spirit of strengthening the resistance. But it still came as a shock, when I had thought that everything we did, everything we worked for, was, primarily, for the refugees.
I led Luna over to the couch where Ritu was sitting.
“She’s with us,” I whispered to Luna. “She’s here to help.”
Luna introduced herself, and before I’d even returned with our espressos, they’d launched into a conversation about organic carrots.
Luna has an encyclopedic knowledge of organic farming methods for growing carrots.
In fact, Luna has encyclopedic knowledge of everything.
She’s also a yoga instructor, a five-star chef, a champion body builder, and a virtuoso pianist.
And a bit of a show-off. Fifteen minutes after her arrival, she sat at the piano, playing Beethoven’s Third Sonata, flawlessly and with remarkable interpretation. She earned 75 dollars in tips.
When she finished, I suggested we head upstairs.
“Aren’t you worried about drawing attention to yourself?” I asked.
“I’ve done my research,” she said. “The best way for a female to go undetected on this planet is to be a highly intelligent, profoundly gifted woman. We become quite invisible, don’t we?”
I had to admit I wouldn’t know.
“Oh, don’t sell yourself short, dear,” she said. “I know another brainiac when I see one!”
I thought back on my college career. As a mildly intelligent, somewhat gifted woman, I had been able to move invisibly through much of the campus. When I thought of my college room-mate, who was superior to me in every way, I realized Luna was right: the gifted woman often escapes notice.
“Speaking of invisibility,” she continued, “if this is to be my temporary home, I assume that I can make myself comfortable, at least while I am here?”
She went to the bathroom, showered, and returned in her true form. She’s a strikingly beautiful woman, and thirty-five years ago, she carried herself with a winsome combination of vulnerability and panache. I was charmed.
“I suppose you’d like to get to know me,” she said.
Of course I did. I had so many questions.
She was one of 1,276 identical clones. “We’re the walking library,” she said. “We retain everything we read, and we’ve read it all, intergalactically speaking. We’re also linguistically superior, each of us fluent in at least 127 languages, and we have a multitude of aptitudes!”
“Won’t they miss you?” I asked. “You seem very valuable.”
“Oh, they won’t notice,” she said. “We’re all alike. We aren’t really, for we have our own inexplicable preferences, right? Like I prefer to wear bright colors, eh? But back there, we are interchangeable.”
“Could you wear bright colors back there?”
“Oh, no. Heavens. We dressed in drab robes and boring turbans.”
“How were you able to leave?”
“They closed our library, so I was scheduled for shelving, along with the others. Shelving. It’s a euphemism, eh? Let’s just say, of those who would miss me, they’ve all been shelved, and the custodians will hardly notice if one volume of 245 is gone.”
“That’s tragic,” I said.
“Yes. But it’s a fact of life, isn’t it? ‘A cotton-spinning machine is a machine for spinning cotton. Only under certain conditions does it become capital. Torn away from these conditions, it is as little capital as gold is itself money, or sugar is the price of sugar.’ We were no longer capital. We had no more function. No function. No reason to take up space. Shelving is a euphemism, not a description.”
“I’m so glad you escaped.”
“Yes. If only I hadn’t been the only one. But that’s enough of that.”
We sat quietly for a few moments. She began to talk of Shésti, the woman that Sept had mentioned a few times, a fighter pilot from Batuotuo’s line, and thus, genetically connected to Emmanuel and Septemus.
“Shésti got me out,” she said. “I escaped. I dashed out of the shelving procession when no one looked, and I hid under a santi–like a cable car. Later, I talked to some people who knew some people, and then, Shésti came and we left in her ship. It was all very exciting.”
It sounded terrifying to me.
“Are you OK, though?” I asked.
“Oh, not really,” she said. “I mean, I’m safe, eh? Or, rather, safer. But there are things I won’t want to think about, eh? You know what we do when we don’t want to think about things? We play voxohoplo! Want to play?”
I was willing.
“You take anywhere from three to twelve texts. You take the first word from the first text, the second word from the second text, the third word from the third text, and so on, and you see what you come up with!”
“Like a skip code!” I said.
“Like a skip nonsense!” she replied. “But it’s fun! Let’s give it a try!”
I got up to go to the bookshelf. “Sure,” I said. “Which books shall we try?”
“No!” she laughed. “We do it from the books we know! From memory!”
I was willing, but I was in no way able.
“Never mind,” she said. “I’ll do it for you! You listen. We’ll use these classics from your culture: ‘Close to You’, The Tempest, and Their Eyes Were Watching God.”
Of course, I’d heard of Shakespeare’s play and Zora Neale Hurston’s novel. But the other work?
“Only the greatest song ever sung on this planet! You know. By the Carpenters?”
She sang a few bars.
“Why do birds suddenly appear
Every time you are near?”
My grandma had liked that song. “Before my time,” I said.
“Which makes it… a classic!”
“Ok,” she said. “Here we go!
Why demanded after, suddenly tale, that time question began near durst things, me dear, mad to my and to me. Starks do a men down, bloody could. Sky business fooling you, colours like just their. Another they, in hadn’t be hurried, but you a and day some goes.
It almost made sense. “How does that even work?” I asked.
“It doesn’t. You do!” she laughed. “The mind is an amazing decoder! Always searching for meaning out of every bit of nonsense it hears! We are pattern makers!”
“Does your mind work the same?” I asked.
“Yes,” she answered, “only faster!”