Enioreh spent the next day wandering the university park. There were pretty things there – birds, and trees with open flowers putting honey in the air. If Hedoniet got a Chrono-juice, she’d have to leave.
It wouldn’t be long now, by the look of it. From Faisal’s excitement, she knew they must be close to something big. “Maybe it would be better,” she argued, to the orange-gray cat who paused at a park bench to stare at her. “Hedo says we can end the war. If it works, maybe the whole world will wind up nice and peaceful, just like this. It’s worth trying to make the jump, isn’t it, if we can change the world?”
The cat didn’t move, but it seemed to be looking at her less sternly, which must be cat-code for agreement. Enioreh tried to pet him, but he wrinkled his nose and then jumped away after a sprinkle of dandelion dust. Sighing, Enioreh took a sloping path out of the woods, and toward the book museum.
She was nearly halfway there when Jesse’s white car screeched to a halt beside her.
“Hey,” said Enioreh, trying to figure out whether Jesse looked angry or not. “How’s it goin?”
Jesse didn’t blink. “Enioreh,” he said, arms folded. “Is there something you want to tell me?”
“Um,” said Enioreh, and her heart began to sink. “Like what, do you mean? What would I have to say?”
“Who you are. Where you’re really from. What you’re doing here.”
“Oh,” said Enioreh, relieved he’d finished with an easy one. “I was just wandering around, talking to cats and crap. How about you, how did your day go?”
“Just fucking peachy, doll!” Jesse laughed bitterly. “I took your advice and brought your ornery little partner to Liolaoc corporate headquarters. Asked to speak with Mr. Ortiz. He was too busy to discuss paternity until I pulled the ten-million-dollar-ring card – then they showed us right into his office. Ortiz looked at my ring, said it was lovely but that he’d never seen it before. I might have believed him, if he hadn’t looked so fucking much like me – and I know he noticed the resemblance. He kept doing double-takes the whole time we were standing there. Of course, if he really did give that ring away secretly, he might not want to admit it in a room full of strangers and security and office managers. Maybe he was planning to contact me later, on his own terms. But your little friend ruined it – fucking prick. He pulled out that crazy future-holographic-manual and started going on about how he was Ortiz’s descendent from the future and could take a DNA test to prove it. And then he started talking about Faisal’s work.” Jesse fixed Enioreh a piercing sideways stare.
She coughed. “That’s…bad.” It should have come as a great shock, that Hedoniet would do something like that. But, somehow, it didn’t.
“I tried to make him shut up. I tried reminding him of everything we’ve done for you two – letting you stay with us, cooking for you, cutting his fucking hair. Hedoniet just smiled and said Liolaoc can develop a time-serum faster. That’s when Ortiz’s eyes lit up – he was very interested in what Hedo had to say, and when I kept trying to cut him off and drag him away, Ortiz asked me to leave. I doubt he’s going to believe me now, about my estranged-son theory, or care.” Jesse sighed. “The suggestion might even seem like blackmail after the way Hedoniet went on about wanting Liolaoc’s support. Faisal’s going to be devastated when he finds out.”
Jesse’s eyes were lightning on Enioreh’s skin.
“Jesse,” she said. “I hope you don’t think I had anything to do with that. I mean, I like it here – I don’t care how long it takes Faisal to make chrono-juice.”
“Well,” Jesse sighed, looking at her, then putting the car into drive. “You can help me break the news to Faisal, then.”
* * *
They could hear the Prince’s voice down the hall long before they reached the lab.
“Just think of what you could accomplish with the greatest minds of the era at your disposal!”
Jesse pushed through the door and Faisal looked up; he stood facing off Hedoniet and two men in dark suits.
“Don’t listen to it, Faisal!” Jesse yelled, shouldering past one of the suits to get between the Prince and the scientist. “He told Ortiz what we’re doing – the snake!”
“It’s all right Jess,” said Faisal. “I don’t need Liolaoc. It’s my vision they wish they had. All Hedoniet did in showing us that hologram was give me proof that my own ideas are real.”
“It was not my intention to cause a row,” the Prince sighed. “I came only to thank you for your hospitality. My dear ancestor has kindly invited me to stay with him, and I have accepted.”
“Oh, yes,” said Jesse sarcastically. “I forgot how important family is to you. You’re not into using people, or anything.”
“Jesse – terribly sorry, again, that things did not work out as you’d hoped. I certainly wish you the very best of luck.”
“It didn’t work out because you fucking butted in and made the meeting all about your goddamn holograms!”
“That’s it.” Faisal jerked his thumb angrily at the Prince. “Get out.”
The Prince cast dark eyes on Jesse as he glided out, followed by the suits.
“You too, Princess.” Faisal was looking at Enioreh. She left, with a sorry goodbye-glance at Jess.
* * *
Enioreh didn’t want to go with Hedoniet after the way he’d ruined things, but still she thought it was rude that he didn’t invite her. He and his suits hurried down the hallway in front of her, pretending not to hear when she loudly called his name.
She went to the book museum until it closed, and then to the park, not knowing where else to go. The night passed, and the next day, and she stayed there in the woods, getting thirsty. She found a half-full water bottle behind a tree at one point, but it turned out to be straight vodka. She drank it and laughed her way over hiking trails, then stopped and started crying. She didn’t know where to go. She didn’t have money and she’d learned from TV that sooner or later you’d get chased by police and have to drive a car really fancy to get away, only she didn’t know how to drive. She was screwed.
The sun went down again and she stopped laughing or crying. She fell asleep, and woke up when college kids were tramping through the woods with loud guffaws. After some painful thrashing through the bushes, she found the way back to flat grass and climbed shivering onto an empty bench.
It was daylight when she woke again. This time it was because of Jesse’s hand on her shoulder.
“’Sup,” she croaked.
“What are you doing out here?”
Enioreh shivered, and shrugged.
“Please don’t tell me this is where you’ve been sleeping!”
“Well, not if you keep interrupting me.”
“Enioreh…” Jesse shifted his weight to one leg, then the other. “Don’t you know how dangerous it can be for you, to sleep outside?”
Enioreh shrugged again.
“How should I know?” Enioreh rolled over on her stomach to avoid Jesse’s eyes. He moved to the other side of the bench and looked at her intensely through the wooden slats.
“Do you promise me that you had nothing to do with Hedoniet selling us out?”
“How could I?” Enioreh scoffed. “He’s the Prince. He does what he wants and doesn’t ask for opinions.”
“Ok, then.” Jesse took a deep breath. “You come home with me. That’s final.”
* * *
Jesse called Faisal to tell him what he’d seen while jogging, and then they had a loud conversation about it through the phone. When they got to Faisal and Jesse’s house he looked angry, for a second. But his face changed when Enioreh stumbled through the door with her hair full of twigs.
“Ok,” he muttered. “Enioreh, you can stay. Just because you introduced a sociopath to our fragile socio-political scene at a keystone moment of technological innovation doesn’t make you a bad person.”
“Yeah,” said Enioreh, sucking air apologetically through her teeth. “Sorry, you guys.”