Ms halo, p.1
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       Ms. Halo, p.1

           Consito Ramirez
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Ms. Halo


  Ms. Halo

  Copyright 2017 Justin Streight

  Ms Halo

  ***********************************************************

  Sweet Pea stalked two women from a plastic bush a quick sprint away. It was a good time for stalking. The day had just dawned, and the growing sunrise cast long shadows that created plenty of hiding places.

  The middle-aged man was watching the most beautiful women in the known universe. They each had the kind of figure that was only achievable through a lifestyle of exercising ruthlessly through pain, sweat and exhaustion for a few hours every day and then doing almost nothing the rest of the time. Cuddles had jet-black hair and green eyes. Her partner, Patches, was a shorter red-head. They appeared fresh from the hairdressers, a permanent condition thanks to non-invasive medical procedures done on a distant world.

  They had plenty of stalkers in the colony, but most were old married men trying to keep their fantasies alive.

  Sweet Pea was a little less pathetic. He had tried his best with them decades ago, but he knew just how futile it was. He was interested in something else.

  The two approached the door of a massive domicile. To the people in the colony, it was part palace, part castle, and part temple. It glittered in the dull sunlight like gold, and its peculiar contours and outcroppings gave it an imposing animal-like quality. Parts of it looked like they were reaching out into the countryside to grab something.

  To the home's owner, it was cozy.

  Most importantly, it was big. So big that its back wall constituted one border of the colony's territory, and it had only one way through - an unimpressive metal door.

  "Yahoo!" Cuddles yelled. She swung around her partner. The two giggled and kissed - an attention-grabbing tactic they perfected as teenagers.

  The door opened.

  The women entered, and Sweet Pea shot out of the bush. After sprinting as far as he could in time, he threw his spear, a pole covered in foam and attached to a long string, and caught it in the door right before it shut.

  He creaked it open and looked inside - no signs of movement. He investigated the handle and the shutting mechanism. He had tried simply to open the door before the women arrived for hours,, but he couldn't get it. No person could.

  Sweet Pea's explorations were never satisfying. He discovered a kitchen, a parlor, and some closets along with several dozen rooms he could not identify, but there were only two rooms he wanted to see.

  The first was Cuddles and Patches' private living space - he believed they had the greatest living quarters in the known universe. He was correct, and the two women wanted to make sure no one knew that for sure.

  The second was the greenhouse. The plants that created most of the colony's food couldn't grow in the dirt outside. But Sweet Pea believed the greenhouse had soil they could use to start self-sufficient farming. He was correct about that too.

  Sweet Pea had searched for an hour before his reasoning overpowered his determination. It was time to leave before the proper authorities found him. He plundered the kitchen for his consolation prize - some food bought at a store light-years away - and went back to the door, hid his tracks, and returned to the colony.

  The home's master, Ms. Halo, had been watching on the internal monitors and saving the video footage. She titled the piece "Naughty Sweet Pea" in a language created many millennia before a person ever uttered the word "oook" and distributed it across the galaxy at a speed faster than light. By the end of the day over 10,000 diverse shadowy creatures would indicate their approval.

  ***********************************************************

  Cuddles and Patches had a special room in Ms. Halo's expansive home that was just theirs. The color scheme on the walls and carpet looked like unicorn vomit after a full meal of lipsticks. It matched the cast of stuffed animals that had been part of their lives since childhood. The bed occupied a good portion of the room, and they thought it was the best part. Soft. Warm. Even silk sheets from alien death worms (famous for crawling into the cranial orifices of sentient life forms to take control of their minds... and delicate fabrics). The two women were also first to pick out any entertainment items, which were also scattered about.

  They had more than any other human being, and they decided not to talk about it, especially with Sweet Pea.

  The two had duties too. They were part of the colony's leading council and took that job seriously enough to go outside in the dirt and the heat and be with people. Just not on that day.

  Instead, Cuddles was just waking up from a mid-day nap.

  "Good morning sweetie," she said to no one. Several seconds of patting the sheets indicated that Patches was missing. She wasn't anywhere in the room. Cuddles went into the vast mix of facilities, corridors, and living spaces that made up Ms. Halo's home.

  Cuddles occasionally answered outside colonists' questions about the building. A common one was why Ms. Halo, a being a bit taller than a typical seven-year-old girl with the speed of a seven-year-old fungus, would need enough space to house a small nation.

  People didn't understand just how much stuff Ms. Halo had. Loaded bookshelves. Paintings. Rugs. Dressers. Chairs that no one ever sat in. Chests that were never empty. Bric-a-Brac and antiques. Some of the objects were worth piles of gold. The rest you'd have to pay people to take away. Most things were from alien planets and had no names that people knew.

  If anyone asked, Ms. Halo would say she's not a hoarder, just that she compulsively acquires objects and then cannot bear to part with them.

  It made things dusty, but more importantly, for Cuddles, it made finding a short red-head difficult.

  Cuddles started with the main parlor, where she and Patches would sometimes stare blankly at the creatures on the main room's viewscreen. She wasn't there. Cuddles checked the kitchen, which was filled with three classes of things - stuff they didn't know how to use, things that could vaporize people, and food. Her wife wasn't in there either.

  She finally found her looking out a window that faced the opposite side from the colony. Patches was staring at the red desert; there was a sand storm brewing with winds strong enough to change topography maps.

  "Hey, what's up beautiful, I've been looking for you everywhere," Cuddles said. She hugged Patches from behind.

  "Sorry, I woke up and wandered around for awhile. I'm bored."

  "Is this helping?" Cuddles said while staring at the winds.

  "Some sounds would help, I guess."

  "Oh! I think I figured that out." Cuddles tapped the lower-right corner of the window, and an half-transparent control panel appeared. A few buttons later, the full roar of the winds outside blasted at a few decibel points below deafening.

  "I changed my mind," Patches yelled while covering her ears. Cuddles didn't hear what she said but had a good idea. She hit the panel until the noise stopped. "So that's what the outside sounds like," Patches said into the new silence.

  "Shit!" Cuddles said fishing the tinnitus out of her ears.

  Patches said to herself, "I guess the border barrier blocks sound for the colony too. That was awful."

  The two thought they heard something. They actually heard a lot, a freeway's worth of noise, but even the ringing wasn't enough to cover the bustle of whatever was getting closer to them.

  "Honey, where is Ms. Halo?" Cuddles asked.

  "I don't know. I didn't see her. But, there are two ships in the bay."

  "Let's get back to our room."

  Cuddles put her palm to the window; it turned back into a gray metallic wall, like how most of the walls in Ms. Halo's house were underneath the junk.

  They started walking, then speed walking, then jogging. They knew the labyrinth of hallways like a first language; what they didn't know was what ha
lls had shadow-barriers - their name for the invisible shutters that could turn any corridor into a dead-end. They used to be ubiquitous throughout the home, but many were too old and badly maintained to work.

  They hit an intersection and felt the air tremble. Instinctively they jumped back, almost avoiding a trap.

  "My foot's stuck," Patches yelled, but it was obvious enough. Her foot was stationary in mid-air while the rest of her was cringing on the ground. She tried kicking at the force-field with her free foot. Cuddles didn't bother trying to pull her lover out.

  The shadow-barriers were made to keep people out of certain places. An artifact from when plenty of folks came in and out. When someone got caught inside the force field itself, the experience was never pleasant. The barrier was immovable and tight enough to cut off circulation.

  "Ok, it's ok, hold on," Cuddles said to her wailing partner.

  She ran back, took some paintings off the wall, and felt around. She found a metal panel, inside there were controls. But first, she needed to open it.

  "Wait, just wait, I swear I'll be fast."

  The greenhouse was near. She ran in and searched through the gardening instruments, coming up with something close to a trowel. She ran back ready to pry something, but stopped short and shouted "HEY!"

  Her lover was now unconscious, and a black-haired, six-limbed monster was loading her onto a floating contrivance similar to something Aladdin would ride but less colorful. The creature rolled its three eyes.

  "Grandma told you. 'Leave. Us. Alone.'" Cuddles said.

  The alien's name was unpronounceable to people. All of his nicknames involved vulgarity, except for one - "squid."

  Squid tried to ignore her for a moment and finished laying Patches down.

  "Hey! We are not going anywhere! You're not going to fuck with us or force us into the desert or whatever the fuck you're planning to do!"

  "Fine!" the alien said to stop Cuddles' tirade, "Your woman passed out. It must have been the pain from the force field. You can take her back to your room - where you should stay. We can't afford it for you to break anything." He stood back, inviting Cuddles to take the hovercraft.

  "We don't break things!" She said, knowing they occasionally broke things. Cuddles walked up to Patches.

  Squid was hiding a device. He sprayed a substance into Cuddles' face. She staggered back and coughed, which was not the intended reaction.

  The alien creature had terror in its eyes (terror for his species was expressed through technicolor sparkles in their black sclera and defecation). He dropped the canister and put his hands up in a frantic but silent negotiation.

  The lava behind Cuddles face was about to burst out.

  "GRANDMA!"

  "Argh."

  A moment later a roar came over the intercom. It was like the sandstorm outside, but more condescending and less reasonable. Once it stopped, a slight tremor stirred under the fur rug from Planet Teplor 6. Another hovering entity thundered forward pulling along any air particle or antique furniture piece unfortunate enough to be hanging about. It came to a complete stop, blowing wind through the two rivals' hair.

  Ms. Halo then crept off the craft with Cuddles' help.

  "I told you not to do this." She said to her son in an alien language. It didn't ease Cuddles' frustration or her suspicions when Ms. Halo talked to her son. She couldn't understand a word, so she filled in the blanks with conspiracy theories. Sometimes she was right.

  "Grandma," Cuddles finally burst out crying, "What was he planning to do?"

  "Nothing dear," Ms. Halo said, "I swear."

  She held Cuddles close. Close to both her and her son.

  Cuddles gripped the trowel tightly, clenched her teeth, and shoved the metal through the son's thin arm and out the other side. Blue blood splattered onto the floor.

  "Dstyliehcx!" He said.

  He moved to retaliate but Ms. Halo blocked his advance.

  "I told you they're dangerous." He said in an alien language while pulling out the gardening instrument. He held the wound, and Cuddles smiled.

  "Cuddles go to your room. And take Patches with you. Once she wakes up, I want you both out of the house."

  Cuddles pushed her lover away on the floating platform, like a week's worth of groceries.

  Squid looked under his palm to check on the injury. It was gone.

  "What were you thinking?" Ms. Halo asked. "I'm not going to put them down; it's not that I want to but don't have the courage. It would be wrong. And especially not those two."

  "They're dangerous. That much should be clear, and you can't afford them, not anymore."

  "..."

  "I won't hurt them if that's what you really want. It's ridiculous anyway," Squid said, "I've got a life, and I'm wasting it trying to help you. But those two will die one way or the other fooling around with all the things in here."

  "They're smarter than you think."

  "Yeah. Well, they outsmarted me," Squid admitted, "But when I say they're dangerous, I don't just mean for us. They're an even bigger risk to themselves."

  ***********************************************************

  The Phillip family's traditionally-minded patriarch, Fluffy, was always a bit bothered during the family's weekly picnic in the park. It was the statue of Ms. Halo they sat under. To him, it just seemed too tall.

  Of course, statues are usually bigger than the person or creature they're made to represent - it would be far less impressive if the Sphinx were the same size as an egotistical house cat. And Ms. Halo's statue was accurate in nearly all other aspects. Her kind three eyes were there. The tentacles on her four legs were perfectly-scaled replicas. Her thin arms' three joints appeared to bend the right way. The two hands had only 13 fingers, but that was because two broke off and would soon be repaired.

  The statue did make her look taller than she really was, but Mr. Phillip didn't understand that was because the monument was made over 200 years ago and Ms. Halo became shorter and more hunched over as she aged.

  The extraterrestrial's diminishing condition caused anxiety for more knowledgeable people. They knew if she aged, then she must die; there wasn't much use for age other than that. And if she died, what would they do?

  All that seemed trivial for now. What was important is that the family's only son, Mittens, could play in the green grass and the dark red sun with the other 23 children known to exist in the universe. He was the fastest one there. Most of the children suffered from a genetic disorder of one kind or another, but Mittens was extraordinarily healthy. Most people had tried to avoid having a spouse with the same last name, but there were limited choices, and there was far too much free time.

  The park had actual green grass - a luxury most of the colony lacked. Plants, as they understood the word, meant green plastic things that provided shade from the red sun. Aside from real grass, there were a few real bushes, but the colonists grew up admiring factory-made trees and were at peace with never knowing better.

  The park also had swings, slides, and the rest of the standard playground equipment. It wasn't that big, nothing in the colony was, but it occupied prime real estate. The colony's unelected council leader for life, Buttercup Cleveland, lived facing the park.

  He was compromising, but firm and logical, and had a special place in Ms. Halo's heart. She posted more pictures of him than any other person thanks to his leadership in group construction projects. She found that to be adorable.

  His home was famous, in a way. It was a replica of the 2135 Spring Edition Home and Gardens' cover house. White paint, verandas, and gray shake roofing was in that year. All the homes in the tightly-packed community were clones from that magazine.

  But Buttercup wasn't greedy, nor did he seek power to obtain a nicer house than everyone else, that was just tradition. To make up for it, he gave away his claim to the treasures that would occasionally trickle down from Ms. Halo. Fireworks. Boardgames. Viewscreens. Lawn Darts. Narcotics. Stuffed Animals. Video
game sets. Few things really matched, but they were entertaining enough. Buttercup didn't keep more than a deck of cards for himself.

  It didn't matter much anymore. Fewer toys came. Maintenance on the centuries-old houses was also intermittent. There was only so many times builders could reuse alien, rotten wood. Buttercup did the repairs. There were few homes without a hole patched with mud, the only building material available.

  The park was also close to the border of the colony far from Ms. Halo's home. At the edge, there was a scaled-up version of a shadow-barrier. It surrounded the community and a few sections of countryside. A storm of red dust raged while the children played. It wasn't unusual.

  They were safe. They had all they needed for the day, except food. And that was coming, just slowly.

  Ms. Halo arrived to deliver the picnic supplies in her hover mobility device. She stopped and began the complicated process required for her to move all four legs out and descend to ground level. The Phillip family forced out a smile while waiting in line.

  "Do you have any sandwiches today?" Fluffy Phillip asked.

  "I'm sorry dear, but I just couldn't afford it this cycle. But I have some tasty stew for you."

  "We had stew last week," eight-year-old Mittens whimpered.

  "Don't be rude," Mrs. Philip said, "I'm sure Rex..cgler did her best."

  Ms. Halo had many names among the people, none of them correct. Her real name was unpronounceable to them. Although Mrs. Phillip tried, most avoided the embarrassment by calling her by a nickname. Sometimes it was Grandma. Less needy people just called her Ms. Halo for the aura of light given off by her luminescent thinning hair.

  Though Fluffy tried to hide it, he was a bit disappointed too. The three-person family had agreed to share their home with Cricket and Boots Johnson, a newly married couple, in exchange for some special rations. Ms. Halo apparently forgot. They were too shy to remind her.

  Ms. Halo left in her hovership. The family resigned themselves to the pot of stew.

  "The sandwich stuff right?" Sweet Pea shouted, approaching from his hiding spot. He handed them bread and re-hydrated deli meats cut from an unidentified, but delicious, creature. "It's my fault. I took it while I was looting from the food storage unit."

 
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