The Order of the Draconis Serpentine part 21
Len entered the small computer room, where her husband, Sunni, was at work, bearing a steaming cup of highly-caffeinated tea and an energy pill which he had requested.
“Thank you, my love,” Sunni said, placing a hand on Len’s cheek, but still not taking his eyes from the computer monitor. He took a sip of the tea. His tongue drew back from the bitterness. His head gave an involuntary spasm. It was as bitter as baking chocolate, just the way he had requested it. If it was too sweet, it might lull him into sleep, which he couldn’t afford at the moment. He needed to stay awake. He had to remember the sequence.
“Sunni, dear,” said Len. “This is starting to worry me. It can’t be healthy for you to be this overworked.”
“I have to remember that boy’s alien DNA sequence,” Sunni said. “I saw the entire length of it, which means that the key part is recorded somewhere in my memory. But I have to find it somehow.” He took another weary sip of his tea. “I should have used some kind of memory aide while I was there. It would have made this so much easier.”
“Have you tried to recreate the scene?”
“Yes, but that didn’t help. I couldn’t reciprocate the odors properly. That clinic smells exactly like our commune; it smells like sanitation. I can’t use an odor that I’m so used to.”
“I know, dear husband, but the harder you work on this, the more strained your mind will become, and the harder it will be to search your memory.”
Sunni switched out another link in the digital DNA strand on the computer screen. Once again, he had a slight feeling that it might have been right, but there was no revelation. No feeling in his mind that said: Aha! This is the right one! He let out a small sigh. “Perhaps you’re right, my dear heart. But I feel as though I’m very close. I would feel so dissatisfied if I left right now.”
“Sunni sweet, you’ve gotten so little sleep during this past week. Only twenty hours during these last seven days! Come to bed now, and you can resume your search once you’ve rested.”
For the first time since Len entered the room, Sunni turned his gaze from the monitor to look Len directly in the eyes. “May we procreate before retiring?”
Len gazed upward for a moment considering his question, then said: “Yes. I think we can manage that. Perhaps it’s best for you to be thoroughly exhausted before you sleep.”
“Very well, then.” Sunni ejected his thumb drive, pocketed the energy pill for later use, and followed Len, who had taken Sunni’s tea.
It didn’t occur to Daniel until he’d left Quetzalcoatl and reached the main part of the citadel, that he didn’t know where Sloan, Michael, and Angeline had gone, nor how he was to find them.
But, there was always the traditional method--ask around. After a few minutes, he finally came across a motherly-looking, female white leopard-anthro who had the information he sought.
“Two twins with blue and green hair, escorting a small cat girl, eh?” the leopard repeated in a soft voice, gazing off and rubbing her chin. She hummed deeply as she pondered, then visible realization spread across her face. “Oh! Yes, I remember seeing those three. It’s hard to forget hair like that. I saw them walk into ballet hall just a few minutes ago.”
“Ballet hall?” Daniel asked. What on earth are they doing there? he wondered.
“Yes. C’mon, I’ll escort you,” said the leopard holding out her free hand-- the other was carrying a heavy-looking bag-- for him to take.
She led him over to a set of grand doors on the other side of the level. “Right through there, sweetie.”
“Mhm.” She walked off, her bag clinking as she swung it merrily along.
Daniel turned a funny look upon the grand doors. Ballet? Why did they go to a ballet hall? That seems kind of odd. Regardless, he proceeded on to the double-doors and walked through.
He was once again struck by how immense the hall was in spite of its outward appearance; almost as big as the room in which he had been interrogated. The ballet hall, to him, looked more like a ballroom, with fine Victorian decoration [more speciic], marble floors, and clear, though not over-loud, acoustics. Daniel spotted Angeline immediately across the wide floor, being led by Michael in a quick-paced type of waltz which looked like it required a great bit of flexibility.
Just as he was starting to wonder where Sloan was-- They’re almost always in sight of each other-- a movement in the corner of his eye caught his attention, and he turned just in time to see Sloan as the green-haired twin took him by the hand and led him into a quick dance, which Daniel followed almost automatically.
“So nice of you to join us,” said Sloan. He performed a quick lift with Daniel, turning him 150 degrees to the right. “Oof!” he grunted. “You’re heavy! Lay off the pound cake!”
Before Daniel could retort, Sloan spun him out, and his hand was caught by a furry paw which he recognized by its feel. He spun back to its source and came face to face with Angeline, who continued the dance which he’d been performing with Sloan, but now she was adding in a few steps which required him to stretch himself further.
“Hey, Danny,” she said. “How was your flight?”
“W-- ah! Wonderful,” he said as she made him bring his leg up father than he might have liked. Sloan and Michael, he saw, had joined hands, and were now performing the dance, but straining themselves even further and going at a nearly manic tempo.
“So what did you two talk about?” Angeline asked.
“Just... different stuff,” Daniel said.
“That’s specific,” Michael said in the middle of a spin.
“Well, who asked you?” Angeline spat.
“Tut, tut,” said Sloan. “No need to get mad.”
“So, why are we doing ballet?” asked Daniel.
“Because,” said Sloan in a lecturing tone. “Ballet encompasses all three of the bodily virtues: balance, strength, and flexibility.”
“But isn’t it a bit... effeminate?”
“Hardly,” said Michael. “Ballet takes a great amount of strength.” To demonstrate, he lifted his brother up off the ground and held him for a few moments before setting him back down on the ground. “The reason ballet dancers are so graceful is that their muscles are so strong. With the amount of energy it takes you to lift a finger, I can lift my entire arm.”
Daniel nodded. “Yeah. I noticed that you and your family are always so graceful. So, this is why?”
“That’s right,” the twins said in unison, as Michael dipped Sloan, and Sloan showed off his flexibility by pointing his leg out and upward at a perfect 45 degree angle.
Sunni bolted upright in bed, having just awakened from a dream that was already slowly fading in his mind. It’s here! Sunni screamed in his head. I have it! He leaped out of bed with an agility that defied his age, grabbed his robe and thumb drive, and dashed out of the room while still tying up his robe.
Len meanwhile, stirred, but did not wake. In her sleep, she mumbled: “Settle down, Cadence.”
Sunni practically slammed the thumb drive into the port and scrambled at the keyboard, fumbling with the mouse as he tried to recreate the DNA sequence that was vanishing even while he typed. Almost... he thought.
It finally slipped before he could finish, but he’d gotten almost all of it. He could extrapolate the rest from there. He leaned back in his chair and gave a sigh of relief.
“Are you alright?” asked a voice from behind him.
Sunni turned the swivel chair around to see his sister-in-law, Pity, standing in the doorway, holding a clipboard.
“Are you nocturnal?” Sunni asked.
Pity sighed in exasperation. “That’s the twenty-first time, in counting, you’ve asked me that same question, and my answer has not changed since the first time; I’m not nocturnal. I’m just a night-owl.”
“I’m just fine,” said Sunni, returning to her original question. “I finally remembered most of the alien DNA pattern. Enough that I can figure out the rest of what I don’t have.”
“That’s good,” said Pity. “Now go to bed, or I’ll advise the elders to speak to you about your working habits.”
“And what of your own working habits? You’re always up this late.”
“Yes, but I’m nocturnal.”
A rare but brittle laugh broke through Sunni’s restraints.