C H A P T E R 3


By the time Eyrin comes back to the living room, just about an hour later, T’kri is gone. Eyrin is oddly disappointed.

He’s a bit worried, too. Their injury seems mostly healed, at least? He also has Eyrin’s clothes. Guess he won’t be seeing those again.

Eyrin plops down on the couch with a sigh, grabbing the tablet under the top glass surface of the coffee table. “Call Silas,” he says.

The screen lights up as the tablet obeys his command. The call rings only for a few seconds before it’s picked up, and Eyrin sees his cousin sitting at his desk, leg propped up. His long black hair is tied back in a lazy ponytail, and his black rectangular glasses sit upon his face. “Eyrin,” he says, smiling. “Long time no see.”

Eyrin rolls his eyes. “Hey, Silas. It’s only been a week.”

“Nine days! That’s more than a week.” Silas draws his hand through his hair, brushing his bangs back. They fall right back into place. “How could you leave me alone for so long?”

“I’ve done worse.”

Silas snorts. “True.” He props his head up on his palm, elbow on his desk. “So, what do you need?”

Eyrin lifts the corner of his mouth up in something like a smile. “What, I can’t call you just to chat?”

“We both know that you try to scrounge up at least three reasons to call me, or one big one. So, which is it?”

Called out. But not incorrect. Eyrin sighs, tapping on the edge of his tablet. “Did you get hit with a blackout last night?”

“I did. Almost all of the city went down for a bit, actually. It’s rather fortunate that we have backup generators and failsafes, or plenty of people could’ve been in a rather… suboptimal position.” Silas blinks, tilting his head in an almost birdlike motion. “Did something happen to your legs?”

“Mhm. They got disabled for a bit. Actuation came back pretty quickly, but I couldn’t feel them much for the rest of the night. I’m going to have to hold you responsible for my bruised arm. From when I fell. Because the legs you told me would never fail stopped working for a bit.”

Silas holds his hand to his chest. “I take full responsibility for your bruised arm.” He lowers his hand, looking off to the side with a contemplative expression. “That is strange, though. There were reports of loss of sensation, but no one else complained about complete failure.” He turns back to Eyrin. “Is it fine now?”

“Yeah. I can’t feel anything wrong with it right now. Can wiggle my toes and everything.”


Eyrin worries his lip, looking out the door to the front yard. “Maybe it’s because I was closer to the impact site…?” he mutters.

“Impact site?”

Oh. Whoops. “I—I heard something that sounded like an explosion? The ground shook a bit, too. It might’ve been, uh… a crash? A meteor?”

Silas gives him a contemplative look. “That’s quite a leap of logic to make. Not to mention the fact that I don’t believe a meteor impact would emit an electromagnetic pulse.”

“Fair point.” Eyrin shrugs, looking off to the side. “Maybe it was something else, then.”

A few seconds pass. “Did you see it yourself? Whatever it was.”

Is he that transparent? “Yeah,” Eyrin says, closing his eyes. “I did.”

“And? What was it?”

“What if I told you an alien crash-landed at my metaphorical doorstep?”

Silas snorts. “Sure, Eyrin. Next thing you know, Area 51 will be knocking on your door.” He sighs, stretching back in his chair like some kind of cat. “Well, keep it to yourself, if that’s what you want.” He pushes his glasses up as he leans back in. “Come over to Headquarters sometime, will you? I’d like to take a look at your legs. As confident as you are in the hardware, I’d appreciate being able to see it for myself.”

“Sure, Silas,” Eyrin agrees, smiling wryly. “How about tomorrow?”

“Fine by me. See you tomorrow, then.”

“See you tomorrow,” Eyrin echoes, and Silas ends the call.

Eyrin sighs and lets his head rest on the back of the couch. He’s not quite sure what to do, now. Maybe he could tinker? But… he’s just not in the mood, somehow. His mind wanders back to T’kri—with the state their ship was in, Eyrin doubts they’ll be able to leave that soon.

He’s not sure how long he sits there, unmoving, but he’s eventually pulled out of his daze by the ringing of the doorbell.

Strange. He never gets visitors, and he hasn’t ordered anything. Maybe it’s the government, he idly conjectures.

When Eyrin makes his way over and actually opens the door, though, he instantly thinks that he might be correct. There are two people standing in the doorway, both wearing black suits and black ties. The one on the left looks like a slightly older lady—though Eyrin tries not to assume gender, given his own situation—with faded red-brown hair and pale green eyes.

The one on the right is—“Jaden?” Eyrin asks, incredulous. Silas’s brother, which makes him Eyrin’s cousin as well. The short black hair, black eyes, and slightly peeved expression are just as Eyrin remembers, though the scar over his left eyebrow is new.

It’s been years since Eyrin properly talked to him—the last time was before the incident. They never really got along; Eyrin suspected for a long time that Jaden might resent Eyrin for having a better relationship with Silas than he did.

“Should’ve known it was you,” Jaden sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose. “I’m leaving this one to you, Drea.”

“Yang,” the one Eyrin presumes is Drea says. Jaden ignores the words, sitting back in the car.

Drea sighs. “Sorry about him. The two of you know each other?”

“We’re… cousins,” Eyrin concedes.

He’s rewarded with a soft snort, stifled behind a black-gloved hand. “You have my condolences.”

Eyrin’s mouth twitches up in a smile. Looks like he still has that insufferable personality. “We haven’t talked properly in a long time,” Eyrin says, tapping the side of his door. “In any case… it’s nice to meet you.” He bows his head slightly. “I’m Eyrin Kal. I use he, him pronouns, but neutral terms otherwise.”

“Andrea Leifer, but please call me Drea. She, her pronouns.”

Eyrin nods. “Hello, Drea. Was there something you needed?”

“Yes,” Drea says, straightening and clasping her hands in front of her. “Did you happen to see anything last night?”

Eyrin realizes that this is the moment that he picks a side.

“I,” he starts, “have prosthetic legs.” That’s a start. That’s the truth.

Drea’s brows furrow, face pinching with… confusion? Pity? Eyrin isn’t sure.

“When the blackout happened, it also disabled my legs. I fell.” Eyrin looks off to the side, not wanting to see if she looks down to see his bare, mechanical feet. “I couldn’t get up and I couldn’t feel my legs for a while. I live alone, too… there’s no one to help me.” Silas was very unhappy when Eyrin told him that he wanted to live alone—his cousin even offered his own place. “I didn’t know what caused it,” Eyrin continues, “though I did hear something and I felt the ground shaking.” He shrugs. “There was only so much I could do, anyways.”

“Sorry,” Drea says, frowning slightly. She looks uncomfortable. “Are they alright now?”

“Yes. I woke up this morning and they now seem to be functioning normally.”

“Did you go outside this morning, then?”

Eyrin shakes his head. “No… I just finished eating breakfast and calling my cousin.” He pauses. “A different cousin. Not Jaden.”

“Hm. That would make Yang related to them, too, wouldn’t it?”

Eyrin blinks. She doesn’t know who Jaden’s brother is?

“You look surprised,” Drea says dryly. “We have a very professional relationship. We don’t pry into each other’s private lives.”

Interesting. “Fair enough,” Eyrin says. He worries his lip. “Are you investigating what happened?

“Yes,” Drea confirms. “From what we’ve observed so far, we presume that a conductive object crashed over the hills near the front of your house. It’s gone now, so we were wondering if you’d seen what it was.”

Eyrin smiles wryly, gesturing to his legs.

Drea tightens her lips in what might be a smile. “Right.” She pulls a card out of her blazer pocket, holding it out. “I’ll leave you my number. If you see anything strange, don’t hesitate to call.”

Eyrin takes in. Andrea Leifer, Department of Homeland Security, it says, in addition to a phone number. “Homeland security… isn’t that for terrorism and such?” Eyrin looks up at Drea, very seriously. “I promise I’m not a terrorist.”

Drea snorts loudly, not managing to stifle it this time. “Of course. Don’t worry, that’s not what we’re here for. We just want to make sure the object isn’t a danger to anyone—it could have been a satellite from another country, for instance.”

Makes sense. Eyrin nods, slipping the card into the pocket of his sweatpants. “Well… if I do see anything, I’ll keep you in mind. Hopefully it isn’t anything bad.”

“Agreed,” Drea says. “Thank you, Miste—ah, Mx. Kal.”

Eyrin huffs out something like a laugh. “Eyrin is fine, please.”

Drea blinks, surprise in her expression. “Of course. Thank you, Eyrin. It was a pleasure to meet you.”

“Likewise,” Eyrin says, relaxing slightly. Drea nods, but as she turns to leave, Eyrin adds, “And, um… Can you tell Jaden I said hello?”

Drea looks at him, raising an eyebrow. “Certainly. Goodbye for now, then,” she says, and walks primly down the entryway in her fancy dress shoes.

Eyrin closes the door, but can’t help peering through the peephole. Drea slides into the car and says something to Jaden, who turns to look at her and then at Eyrin’s house. He crosses his arms and scowls—rather, Eyrin guesses he does by his body language. It’s hard to tell with how far he is. Drea shrugs, and then they start pulling away.

Before Eyrin even starts pulling away from the door, however—

“You didn’t tell them about me.”

A U T H O R ' S N O T E

Mx. is a gender neutral honorific, pronounced “Mix.”



[on-DRAY-uh LY-fur]

Age: 52
Gender: Female
Pronouns: she/her

An employee of the Department of Homeland Security in the United States in, Eyrin presumes, some sort of leadership role. She prefers to be referred to as "Drea" [DRAY-uh].


[JAY-den YANG]

Age: 34
Gender: Male
Pronouns: he/him

An employee of the Department of Homeland Security in the United States. He is also the brother of Silas Yang and a cousin to Eyrin, but Eyrin has not seen him in years.