This is some random passage recalling some time MK and Alistair are working a criminal-type job for allies of the UFIM (US intergalactic military). Alistair is MK's co-pilot, an escaped member of Maniac society, he refused to obey maniac society's laws, refused to accept that maniacs were a separate race from humans, and let MK buy him off from a Maniac Mercenary ship in order to escape working for "the man." MK and Alistair are best friends and they work together making money off criminal jobs that the UFIM lets "slip" to aid the allies in the fight against the Resistance, a conglomerate of alien forces trying to force the UFIM back onto the planet earth. That's enough backstory.
I woke up this morning around four in the morning to find Alistair strumming an electric guitar softly. It wasn’t plugged in, and I could only barely hear it as I woke, so I wasn’t sure how long he’d been there. He was sitting in the co-pilot’s seat with his feet kicked up on the dashboard where the drink holder was, the only place without any buttons or levers on it. He was humming softly. When he noticed me open my eyes he stopped.
“Not safe for you to sleep on your shift.”
“We’re deep in a neutral field with no asteroids or traffic- and autopilot is on. Our course should have no incidents for the next four hours. Plus, I’m not operating a mission. I’m already a criminal on this ship.”
Alistair pulled out a nail file and started working away at his thumb. “In my culture we hold ourselves to the highest standard regardless of the institution we’re assigned to work for. We are perfect at what we do because it’s the only reason we have to live. We must be the best. You should try it sometime. Its very rewarding.”
I really loved listening to the way Alistair talked, his high mindedness and his valor. But it was four in the morning and all I wanted to do was go back to sleep. For all I knew, if I didn’t get enough sleep tonight it could be the difference between life or death tomorrow.
“Yeah… Well we can talk about the merits of my captainship later. Is there something else you’re here to talk about?”
Alistair began studying his fingernails with vicious concentration. “I need to tell you something personal, in case I don’t make it out of this mess.”
I was shocked. I had no idea Alistair had anything to hide. “Sure, your secret’s safe with me, although if you don’t make it out alive chances are I won’t either.”
Alistair nodded in understanding. “I’ve got a girl someplace that’s in love with me.”
I almost burst out laughing. “I think there’s about a hundred of them that would pay me just to touch you. That’s not some deep dark secret Ali. You had me excited for a minute though.”
Alistair shook his head. “Not like that. One that I know, that I grew up with. She’s got green hair and grey skin. She’s one of my people. We grew up in the same camp.”
I couldn’t believe it at first but then it seemed natural that the only person to resist being totally brainwashed in Maniac “Society” was the only guy with a girlfriend in the complex. I began to think this story was more of a cry for help. “Do you know where she is? We could probably steal her out or buy her if you want her that bad. We have the manpower.”
“I don’t know where she is,” he admitted. “If I did I would have stolen your ship for my own and saved her myself. I have the manpower.”
I grinned. “You know that wouldn’t work. Plus Maniacs aren’t designed to fantasize like that.”
Alistair resisted a smile. “I’m free of that, MK. I’m free but I still feel very alone without her.”
I could hear the remorse in his voice. Who knows what happened to her, she might not even be alive still. Maybe she was worked to death in a sweatshop, or given a weapon and sent into the front lines. It would be a miracle if the two ever met again. But knowing Alistair, if he could work a miracle for justice, he would do it. And this to me seemed like the perfect form of justice for Alistair. He still looked concerned though.
“Is something still the matter?”
“Yes. If I ever did see her again I don’t know what I would do. We were never in a ‘real relationship’ like you call it, I can barely conceive of what that even entails.” I understood what this conversation was about now.
In some ways, having Alistair as a co-pilot was a lot like having a son. I had to prep him socially for the “real world,” empower him and show him how to be appropriately in tune with his emotions. “Well she might know about as little as you do, so you just have to go slow. You have to talk, you might go on a date together, maybe take a trip someplace… You don’t try to invade her space, but if she seems willing just go for it. If you really love her, you’ll feel something instinctive kick in eventually and everything will fall into place. You were raised a maniac but you know you’re a human. It comes naturally to humans.”
Alistair looked at me with an empty stare. “I don’t understand and I can’t imagine this at all.”
Despite his stony face, I could hear the frustration in his voice, and I completely understood. Meg told me about this all the time when I was UFIM training school. She said she studied crime management for four years without a single relationship or ever meeting anyone she ever liked in a sincere way. Then the one time she met someone meaningful, he disappeared after a few months and she never heard from him. She could never be sure if he really felt the way she did, and they never had many opportunities to meet together or be close. That’s what Alistair was going through: unbearable doubt and confusion that cannot be resolved by anything but seeing and being with someone in person again. This was the plague of the modern era; friends and family were scattered so far and wide that valuable physical closeness and actual in person interaction was rare and precious. Sometimes it was so rare that one felt completely alienated from all of society- estranged from what was supposed to be a more universal and connected society. The more we expanded our horizons, the more fractured and cold we became. Alistair was the gleaming product of this universe, and he knew it. He didn’t like it, and I was willing to do what I could to help him; In many ways that helped me too, because in all these years I’d lost mostly everything that ever meant anything to me. Holding onto Alistair was holding onto myself and everything I wanted to be.