Disclaimer: Characters and situations were created by Roger Damon Price and are the property of Thames Television and Freemantle Media. No copyright infringement is intended.
Author's notes: This was written for Heidi8 in the Yuletide 2008 Challenge. Thanks so much to Meg F for the lightening fast beta so I could get it in by the deadline.
"Thanks," Mike said as he accepted the fizzy drink he'd ordered at the disco bar. He returned to the table where the rest of the band was sitting and discussing the gig The Fresh Hearts were playing there later in the week.
"It is just me or is there something different about this place?" Derek asked. "We haven't been here in a year or so, right?"
"You walked in and the class level went down by fifty percent?" Jamie teased.
"Ha ha," Derek said sarcastically.
Mike shrugged. "The new owners painted. Can't you smell the paint, Derek? At least there aren't cracks all over the walls now. Makes a huge difference, a bit of paint."
"Isn't that thing new?" Bill asked, nodding towards a painting that Mike hadn't noticed over the door.
He jumped in shock when he recognized the spotted horned scliavad of Avraxis 26. What was a painting of an alien doing in a disco?
"Oi!" John Pinkerton--the Fresh Hearts guitarist, not John, the Tomorrow Person-- said as the majority of Mike's drink ended up spilling down the table and into his lap.
"Sorry," Mike said, absently, tearing his eyes away from the painting and grabbing napkins out of the dispenser in the center of the table.
"You actually sleeping at those new digs, Mike?" Jamie asked.
"Yeah, why?" Mike asked, absently, as he tried to mop up the spilled soda.
"You're usually not this clumsy," Jamie pointed out.
Mike wasn't sure how to respond to that. After all, telling Jamie that he wasn't at all used to seeing paintings of aliens in Earth discos would probably create more questions than it answered.
What worried Mike was where that painting had come from. The trick was managing to ask questions without attracting too much attention to himself or jeopardizing the band's gig there on Friday night.
He knew that John--John the Tomorrow Person, not John Pinkerton--would be very interested in hearing about the painting, but... He really didn't feel like talking to that John. That John would probably tell him he was being silly.
"Earth to Mike," Jamie said.
"Huh, what? Sorry," Mike said. "I drifted off there for minute."
"We were talking about the set list. Are you sure you're all right?"
"Fine," Mike said. Whatever it was, it would have to wait until later. After all, it could just be some kind of coincidence, right?
* * *
Later that evening, after the band meeting had broken up, Mike decided to go take a look around in the disco after closing; it shouldn't be a problem. He didn't think.
At one in the morning, Mike jaunted to the disco. The lights were out and the chairs were upside down on the tables. Knowing he wouldn't find anything in public view, Mike quietly crept into the back room.
He wouldn't put it past alien invaders to be sleeping back there, but he'd "borrowed" John's life scanner watch and it was showing life content as nil, even through the door--Mike wouldn't put it past them to have shielded the back room from scans either.
He searched through the filing cabinets, finding nothing but a stack of spiral bound ledgers, so he turned his attention to the desk. In the top drawer, he found an appointment book and flipped through it. Most of them were names and times, but he found an entry for the next day, written in Chinese. Wait, no, he squinted at it. It wasn't Chinese; it was a language that he'd seen on the Trig, though he'd be damned if he could remember what language it was.
Mike now wished he'd paid more attention to whatever Carol was telling them as she'd led them on a guided tour of the Trig.
The time, however, was thankfully written in numerals he understood. It was odd. 10 AM on a Wednesday? Why would a disco have an appointment at that time? Very odd.
He scanned the writing with John's scanner watch, intending to take it to TIM. If he could trust TIM not to rat him out to John. John would probably want to check it out by himself and not let Mike help him. If Mike wanted to investigate this, he had to do so by himself.
* * *
Mike jaunted back to the new lab. It was still under construction, not what he'd consider homey, but TIM was up and running--though he still wasn't sure what had possessed John to move him onto a mobile table.
"Are you all right, Mike?" TIM asked. "You're back fairly late. Even for you."
Mike was sixteen, not living at home, and John wasn't breathing down his neck quite as much as he'd imagined--he seemed rather busier than usual of late. Mike was enjoying the lack of nagging while it lasted.
"I, um, was out, TIM," Mike said. He paused, wishing, not for the first time, that there was some way he could talk to Stephen or Tyso. Something of the thought must've leaked out of his shields, because TIM materialized one of the odd tasting milk shakes that Stephen favored so much without being asked.
"You miss them, don't you Mike?" TIM asked, light from his domes reflecting onto Mike's face.
"I think everyone leaving is a conspiracy to make me hang out with John more."
"You know that making the new lab is important."
"I know, TIM," Mike said. "It's just first Stephen and Tyso leave for the Trig, and now Liz is away too."
"Elizabeth is not gone forever. She is on a very important mission."
"I know, TIM, but I need someone to talk to about this."
TIM made a sound that was akin to someone clearing their throat.
"Someone who won't rat me out to John that is," Mike said.
"I assure you Mike, that I am quite capable of discretion if need be."
Mike bit his lip, not sure how to respond to that. TIM, at least, wouldn't laugh at him. Nor would he hesitate to tell John if he thought Mike was in over his head--assurances to the contrary aside.
What was worse, though, was if TIM decided his metric should be whether or not John would think that Mike was in over his head. If that was the case, TIM would tell John for sure--John always thought Mike was in over his head. No, better safe than sorry.
"It's nothing, TIM," Mike said. "I'm going to go to sleep."
* * *
Contrary to his assurance to TIM, however, Mike was still very bothered. And he didn't go right to sleep. He spent a long time lying on top of his bunk, staring at the ceiling.
[Mike,] TIM 'pathed at, what felt to Mike at least, the moment he had just gotten to sleep. [It's time to get up.]
[Are you all right?]
[Yeah, TIM,] Mike replied as he hauled himself out of bed. [Just didn't sleep too well is all. Can you make me some extra strong coffee?]
Mike rolled his eyes as he started rummaging through his closet for good stealth wear. [Can you please make me some extra strong coffee?]
Mike hurried to get dressed.
* * *
By 9:30, he was safely hidden in a wardrobe in the office of the disco. He could hear the owners moving about, getting things ready. They were fretting about an inspection.
Mike wondered if he was staking out something as mundane as the annual visit from the health inspector.
When ten o'clock rolled around, he felt someone jaunt in.
He nearly fell out of the wardrobe. It wasn't just *someone*. It was *John*.
[Mike, what are you doing here?] John asked telepathically.
[I'm staking out a potential alien invasion,] Mike replied.
He could practically feel John rolling his eyes at him. [They're not invading, they're emigrating. Please go back to the lab; if they find out you've been spying on them, there will be no calming them. We can talk about this later.]
[Great,] Mike said, and jaunted back to the lab.
* * *
"You should have told me, Mike," TIM said as Mike brooded over his second cup of hot coffee of the morning. "I would have told you that we knew about the owners of the disco. For that matter, how did you find them anyway?"
"I saw a painting they had over the door of Avraxis 26 in the disco the other night," Mike said. "And got worried."
"That disco is rather a new haunt for you, isn't it?"
"We played a couple gigs there a year or so ago," Mike said. "The new owners asked us back."
"I'm surprised John didn't mention it when you told him," TIM said.
"I didn't tell him," Mike replied, trying to keep the bitterness out of his voice. "I mean, John's really not into pop music. You'd have thought he was being tortured over having to come see us over the whole Sogguth incident."
TIM didn't comment on that. Mike suspected it was because John *had* hated the concert, and probably complained about it bitterly in his absence. So typical of John, not to understand his music.
* * *
John jaunted back to the lab about half an hour later, sat on the couch opposite Mike, and crossed his arms.
Mike blinked, eying John suspiciously. "What? No lecture?"
"I'm waiting for you to explain yourself first."
"I saw a painting of a real alien in the disco the other night," Mike said. "So I went poking around after hours and found an appointment for today that was written out in an alien language, so I figured I'd do a bit of cloak and dagger work..." Mike started.
John glared, interrupting him. "...and had that been something other than a simple immigration check up you could have caused an intergalactic incident, Mike. Not to mention the reaction of the Vendallias if they'd found you spying there. Why on Earth did you go off half cocked by yourself instead of coming to me first?"
Mike sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose. Then shrugged.
"Mike, I would hope that after that nasty business with Pavla Vlaslova last year you would have learnt not to go off half cocked on your own."
"Maybe I assumed you'd learnt to tell me when we had things going on."
"As the immediate representatives to the Galactic Federation on Earth, we have any number of responsibilities that would bore you to tears, Mike."
"All right," John said. "There are several dozen relocated aliens living on Earth that I have to keep track of, and then there's managing all the requests to travel through the solar system."
"I thought that Earth was a closed world," Mike said. "Why would anyone want to come through the solar system?"
"It's the fastest way between Cassiopeia and Alpha Centauri," John said. "It didn't used to be a major trade route, but lately..."
"TIM can help you with that, surely?" Mike asked.
"I can manage it, but a Tomorrow Person must approve it," TIM said.
"Liz was helping me before she went on her latest peacekeeping mission with the Trig."
"Why didn't you ask me to help?" Mike asked. "If you're feeling so overburdened, I mean?"
John frowned, crossing his arms and studying Mike carefully.
"What, don't you trust me?"
"I could ask you the same thing," John said. "You shouldn't have been lurking around that disco by yourself. What if they weren't just a couple of harmless asylum seekers?"
Mike shifted uncomfortably.
John sighed. "This is a real problem, Mike."
"What do you want me to do? Blindly trust you on everything like Stephen and Kenny do? Tyso always wanted to know more, and it never bothered you as much."
"Tyso never set up an elaborate scheme to set up Colonel Masters and Professor Cawston either," John said.
Mike just glared at him.
"And no, Mike, I don't expect to fix the problem by telling you off. However, ignoring the problem isn't going to solve it."
"Why do I get the feeling that this is going to mean spending more time together?" Mike asked miserably.
"It might help if you didn't treat this like a punishment, Mike," John said kindly.
"Well this means what? Museums? History readings? It'll *feel* like a punishment--or at least school."
John looked at Mike appraisingly. "What if I taught you how to fly my glider?"
Mike's jaw dropped. "What, seriously?" He'd wanted to ask John about that, but had been too afraid.
"Yes, Mike, seriously," John said.
"I presume the catch is that I have to learn how to approve all those ships passing through?"
"It probably wouldn't hurt," John said. "And you did practically volunteer yourself."
"I guess," Mike said.
"Want to start now?" John asked, smiling widely at Mike.
"Okay, hit me," Mike said. "Can I have a pad of paper please, TIM?"
TIM materialized a pad of paper and a pen.
John grinned widely. "You might want your coat, Mike, it's quite chilly."
Mike's eyes lit up. "We're starting with the glider?"
John nodded. "I think we could both use a break from working on building the lab, don't you?"
Mike beamed. "Be right back." And he ran to his cabin for his coat.
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