Chapter 18

First Contact

The death of Don was a hard blow for the family. The house feels empty and quiet without his broad shoulders and booming laugh.

Daniel in particular is struggling. Grandpa Don was his best friend.

Daniel was allowed to choose whether to stay in his old bedroom or move into Don’s room, and he chose Don’s. Zane often finds his oldest son crying under the covers when he comes to tuck him in at night.

Zane is also grieving, he was very close to his father-in-law, and his heart hurts for his family.

Eric is too young to fully understand, so he just cries and asks for his grandpa.

One night, after tucking in the boys, Zane finds Cora crying quietly in the living room.

“You okay, honey?”

Cora wipes her tears away.

“Yeah, it’s just… Everything.”

“I miss him too, Cora.”

“It’s not just dad. It’s… I feel old. And like I’m running out of time. I need to find a way to get to Sixam, and we’re not getting any younger. By the time Eric goes to university, we’ll be close to retirement.”

“Honey, we’re not that ancient. And you’re making progress at work, right? I don’t understand half of it, but even I have heard of wormholes. And if you can’t solve it, no one can.”

“Sorry, honey, I know I’m being too pessimistic. It’s just hard dealing with my own feelings and trying to cheer up the kids… I don’t know, maybe we should get that dog they keep begging for.”

“Another brilliant idea from my brilliant wife. We’ll go check out the local animal shelters tomorrow. Now come to bed.”

“DAD, IS THAT A DOG? Is that the surprise? Can we keep it?”

“That’s the plan, buddy! This is Maggie, she’s going to live with us now!”


“Yes, Eric. She’s our dog now.”


“And she’s a good doggie, Eric! Look, she can shake! The rest we will have to teach her.”

“Can I help teach her, dad? This is the best day ever!”

Maggie quickly becomes a beloved part of the family and Eric in particular is very attached to her.

Maggie seems to understand that he’s just a toddler and she is very gentle and patient with him. He is allowed to do anything to her, and she usually stays close and protects him.

She is also happy to watch a movie with Daniel, especially because he allows her to get on the couch.

Zane starts running again, something that he had stopped doing without Don, and takes Maggie out every morning – even when it rains.

Cora prefers evening runs. Maggie is just happy to be included.

Everyone is happier than they have been for a long time, and the wounds left behind by Don’s death are slowly healing.

At the lab, the rocket project has been abandoned. There are certain physical limits to the speed of a rocket, and Cora is investigating other options.

“Hey, honey, it’s me. Yeah, I need to stay late. Yes, again. I know, I’m sorry… I promise it’ll be the last time this week. Love you too. Kiss the boys goodnight for me.”

Several of Cora’s colleagues have joined her new project. They all want to help, not just because they care about Cora, but because it’ll be a huge technological breakthrough if they succeed.

Cora is working like a maniac, staying late at least every other day. Her colleagues are getting a little worried about her.

“Payton and I are leaving now, Cora. You’re the last one left.”

“Thanks, Elsa. Have a good night.”

“You too. Remember to go home, Cora.”

“I will.”

“Just… not yet. I need to finish this.”

At home, poor Zane falls asleep on the couch while waiting for Cora to come home. Caring for both of their sons and a dog while trying to become partner at the law firm is exhausting. And he needs the sleep, because tomorrow is a big day.

Grandma Morgan and grandpa Wolfgang are the first to arrive for Eric’s birthday, followed shortly by aunt Isabelle and her husband Conor.

Isabelle is pregnant with their second child. Their first son, Caiphus, was born less than a year after Cora and Zane’s wedding. Luckily, Conor’s parents has agreed to babysit him for the day.

“Anyway, Caiphus got such a unique name that I’m not sure we can do it again. Conor likes the name Jordon, but I’m not sure it’s really special enough for my taste.”

Morgan is extremely proud of her son and his little family. But then again, Zane was always the more responsible of her children.

Isabelle is happy for her brother, if slightly jealous of his obvious happiness. Her marriage with Conor is fine, but she might have preferred someone a bit more… exciting, if he hadn’t gotten her pregnant shortly after Cora and Zane’s wedding.

Wolfgang, of course, is mostly preoccupied with complaining about the dog.

Brie and Shawn has also left their kids, Jaxen and Alyson, at home. They claim it’s just for the convenience, but Zane suspects that they’re a bit worried about the dog.

“Happy birthday, Eric! Can you blow out the candles? Okay, let mommy help.”

“… it was really funny when Eric asked my father why he was always so grumpy, though.”

“Yeah, poor Wolfgang did not like that. Eric’s getting sassy. Before we know it, he starts school and then we blink and he’s getting married.”

“Cora, you’re doing it again. He’s only three years old. Relax.”

“Sorry, honey. I don’t know why I’m so worried. It just feels like the last few years flew by so quickly.”

“Cora! Are you saying I’m boring and forgettable?”

“No, you’re a huge dork.”

“Well, you’re a huge nerd!”

“Oh yeah? Would a nerd do this?”

“Mmmmguess not.”

“Stop worrying so much, Cora. We have all the time in the world.”

“I hope you’re right, honey.”

“Everything will be fine, my love.”

“So then I told her what the teacher said, and then -“

“Boys, there are three bathrooms in this house. Do you really have to wait for this one?”

“But, dad, the others are all the way upstairs!”

“The horror. Hurry up, or you’ll be late for school.”

“Yes, dad. Anyways, then she said…”

Daniel has grown into a charismatic young man, who has somehow managed to make being smart a cool thing in his school.

At first glance, Eric is growing up to look very similar to his father, but on closer inspection he does have mainly Cora’s features. The nose, however, is clearly Zane’s.

Daniel, always the popular guy, often hangs out with his friends after school, and tonight is no different.

The close-knit group of friends from school consists of three guys and three girls and they often go out for coffee and hot chocolate.

The beefcake is Colten, a self-assured guy with a tendency to brag. He and Daniel are best friends and work out together. Behind him is the equally blonde Lydia, who just so happens to be the daughter of Cora’s colleague Elsa. Lydia refuses to talk about her mother after she left to live with Payton, though.

There’s also Deon, the closeted environmentalist, and Maliyah, who spends most of her time sending Deon longing looks while pretending she’s not interested at all.

Finally, there’s Kailani. She’s very cool and confident, and would be the obvious leader of the group if it wasn’t for Daniel’s magnetic personality.

Daniel and Kailani always joke around in a somewhat flirty way, but both insist there’s nothing between them.

Especially when Lydia is around, because she has a huge crush on Daniel, which is very much a secret, and so of course everyone knows.

The evening is winding down, and the teenagers are debating whether to go home or stay a little longer.

Suddenly, Daniel gets up and stares across the café, looking confused.

“Hey, Danny? What’s up, you look like you’ve seen a ghost?”

“Danny? Are you OK?”

6 thoughts on “Chapter 18

  1. He’s back! From Outer Space! You know, it’s always interesting to see everyone’s interpretation of aliens. Like, I don’t think Star Trek even knew what their legacy would be when they started (lol forehead ridge aliens). Like, I know–for a fact–that Orville designed Moclans around jokes 12 year olds tell (Jaloja? Bortus lays eggs? come on) and retconned it into something serious. I like your aliens; I think they’re well thought out, with, like, genetics and a council. Like Orville, my aliens are based on jokes. Unlike Orville, my aliens will continue to be jokes, lol

    Liked by 1 person

    • Honestly, I wish I could pee just once a year! So much time for activities!
      This final meeting wasn’t even planned. I had a whole storyline going for Daniel with his friends, which is why they got such a detailed introduction (Lydia is the daughter of Lucas Munch – who is the brother of Wolfgang, Zane’s father, so while Daniel and Lydia aren’t related by blood, it’s close enough that it’d be WEIRD for Daniel’s stepdad’s cousin to date him)
      But then I was in the middle of taking screenshots and suddenly Tomnu was just standing there, smiling like an idiot, and I had to roll with it. At least I get some use out of Colten and Kailani later.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The staging of Cora talking on her phone in the garden makes it look like she’s talking into a cactus. I want to grab her and say, grieving is hard, research can get frustrating, but if she wants to play pretend phone there are less pokier options.

    Cora’s always had a self-centered streak and it’s on full display in this chapter. I ain’t even talking about staying late at work: that’s understandable, given the obligations she has. But for her primary reaction to Don’s death to be “what about me?!” followed by Zane doing the majority of emotional labor around the household? Doc. Extract head from ass.

    But can we talk about the space-themed room though?! And the pictures of Don with the kids in full display in the background?!

    LMAOOO THAT IS BEFORE I GOT TO DANIEL’S SPACE-THEMED GETUP. I guess it’s not just a tone-deaf thing his non-alien parents did for their alien kid and he’s actually super into it. I hope he gets to mess around in a rocket ship. So much potential for one-liners there.

    Liked by 1 person

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