Sunday, 7 February 2016
Michael Lee Harker, Intergalactic Sim of Mystery: Chapter Thirteen - Old Paths Cross
As it turned out, Michael didn't have to go very far to find Crystal. When he crossed the road and entered the local park, he spotted a familiar face in the communal gardens.
As he had expected, Crystal started to run. However, it took him by surprise when he realised she was moving towards him, not away.
"Michael!" Crystal cried, anxious. "Yuri... is - is he OK? I... I heard he was sick..."
"Freeze!" Michael yelled, in no mood for small talk. "I know you were involved in those robberies. I know you know Max Stapleton. And I know something else, too. You, Crystal Cross... are an alien."
Crystal stopped, initially stunned, but after a few moments, she sighed, shrugged her shoulders, and tapped the pendant on her necklace - revealing her true form.
Her flocking multi-coloured locks sunk back into her head. Her grass-green skin glowed in the moonlight, and her casual outfit morphed into a bright white spacesuit. As Michael examined her real body, she chuckled.
"Brilliantly deducted, Michael," she said. "A bit slower than I expected, yes... but at least you had the brains to figure it out eventually. But I know something too. You're an alien as well, are you not?"
"Well, half-alien, at least. I've shown you mine... perhaps you will show me yours?"
Michael tapped his watch obediently: his own human disguise melting away in an instant.
"I must admit, you hid yourself well," he told Crystal. "You even abbreviated words whilst speaking. I could never bring myself to do that."
"It takes a lot of practice," she said. "I must resist my natural urge to correct myself all the time. But I have found that it helps me blend in better."
Michael found himself smiling... but then sharply reprimanded himself. After all, there was serious business to discuss.
"Why did you do all this?" he asked, keen to remain in control. "Why did you come here? Why commit all those crimes?"
"I was commanded to," Crystal replied. "I am a member of a search party sent from Sixam... our home planet. Everything I've done, I've done under orders."
"Does that include courting my brother?"
Crystal's face fell.
"That, I confess, was not exactly part of the mission," she admitted. "However, I will admit it was a fun distraction."
"Distraction?!" Michael yelled. "Do you not care for him at all? He fell apart when you went away!"
"Of course I care for him!" Crystal shouted back. "Would I have come back here if I did not? I was ordered to go into hiding once the crimes began to be noticed, but the moment I found out Yuri was ill, I knew I had to see him again - even though the Commander insisted that I had already fulfilled my mission objective."
"And what precisely was that objective?"
"To seek out and infiltrate the Lee Harker family by any means necessary."
This did nothing to subside Michael's anger.
"What?! Why? Why are my family a target? What have they done to you?"
"Nothing," Crystal insisted. "This is a peaceful mission - we have no intention of harming them. What's more, we were sent to track down one family member in particular."
"Who? My father? My mother? Yuri?"
Crystal made no reply. Suddenly, the lightbulb went on in Michael's head.
"Me?" he gasped.
"Yes," Crystal told him. "Not for any dangerous purposes, though, I assure you. I do not know the specifics, but the Commander was eager for us to find you and bring you to them unharmed."
Before she could explain any further, she was seized by anxiety.
"But never mind all that now!" she cried. "I will answer any questions you want later! "
Michael's phone beeped in his pocket. He reached for it and examined it quickly.
"I will go to the police station and hand myself in!" Crystal continued, frightened. "But please, I beg you, tell me... what is wrong with Yuri?!"
As she looked at Michael, she noticed the sullen expression on his face. The detective looked at her coldly.
"He is on his way to the hospital right now," he told her.
"Hospital?!" Crystal screamed. "Oh, sweet Sixam! What has happened to him?"
"He has gone into labour."
Crystal stood frozen to the spot, statue-like. It was a while before she could speak.
"L-labour?" she asked, her voice little more than a whisper.
"Yes," Michael told her. "He is carrying your child."
Crystal's hands flew to her mouth. Twin streams of bright blue gel - alien tears - began to leave trails on her cheeks.
"A baby?" she said, stunned. "Yuri is having my baby?"
"Yes," Michael confirmed. "It was he who sent me to find you. As much as the family is supporting him, he still feels alone and very frightened by the prospect of fatherhood. He wants you to be there with him - to play your part in the life of the child you two created."
Crystal was too emotional to speak.
"However," Michael added, in a grave tone, "I refuse to put my future niece or nephew at risk. Before I let you near them or Yuri, I need to know a few things."
"And what is that?"
"Do you truly love Yuri and your child? Do you promise not to run away and abandon them again? Will you always support and be a part of our family? And finally, do you swear that you will turn your back on crime forever?"
Crystal nodded eagerly.
"Yes," she insisted. "Yes to everything - I promise. I swear it all on my very life. May the sandworms of Sixam devour me if I prove false."
"Very well, then," he said. "I hope you will not let me down."
"I will not," Crystal answered. "And now, before I forget, I think I should give you some information of my own."
Closing her eyes to focus, she placed her fingers to her temples, and concentrated hard on something. As he watched her, Michael suddenly sensed a flow of information rushing into his brain.
"There," Crystal said, opening her eyes once more. "I've just telepathically given you all the information you need about the Commander. I suggest you visit them right away. They have been waiting a long time to see you."
With those words, Crystal transformed back into her human self. Michael swiftly followed suit.
"Oh, and one more thing," Crystal added. "When you find the Commander, greet them like this. Do as I do."
She outstretched one of her fingers. Michael mirrored her action, and Crystal touched her own finger to his.
"That is the traditional greeting of Sixam," Crystal explained. "Rather like a handshake is for humans. Sixamians use it here to privately confirm our alien status with one another. Do this, and the Commander will know you are one of us."
The demonstration over, Crystal threw her arms around Michael, and embraced him tightly.
"I am so sorry for everything I have done," she said. "But I assure you, I never meant to harm anyone - especially not Yuri. I will treasure him and our child forever... and will consider you my brother always."
Michael returned her embrace.
"I am sorry too, if I frightened you away," he told her. "I was merely trying to do my job - and more importantly, protect my family. I may still need to question you about the robberies, but I will try and do what I can for you - since you say you were working under orders."
They broke apart, smiling at one another.
"Well, I think we'd better get to the hospital," Crystal said, beaming with happiness.
"You go on ahead," Michael answered. "I will catch up."
"Why? Where are you going?"
"Tell Yuri I will be there as soon as I can. I have... a house call to make first."
Michael looked up at the small cottage before him.
It was, by all accounts, a normal-looking residence - the last place you would normally consider a crime hub, or an alien hideout. However, according to Crystal's "transmission", this was where the Commander lived. Adjusting his hat and drawing in a breath, Michael approached the front door, rapping on it quickly.
A few moments later, the door was opened by an elderly woman in a cardigan and floral dress. She looked like a kindly grandmother out of a children's storybook - a fact which took Michael somewhat by surprise.
"Ms. Moorcroft, I presume?" he asked.
"Yes," the woman replied. "How may I help you?"
Michael outstretched his finger. The woman smiled knowingly, and put her finger to his.
"My name is Michael Lee Harker," Michael explained. "I am a detective. I am afraid I need to ask you a few questions."
The woman gasped. However, it was an expression of joy, not fear. Trembling, she threw her arms around the young detective, hugging him tightly.
"Oh, Michael..." she breathed, overwhelmed with emotion. "Michael, my son..."