Ch. 3 *Jinx*
“Zeta, you can’t just waltz into someone’s house unannounced,” I argued, my eyebrows aching from furrowing over my eyelids for so long.
“It’s not like they’ll know we’re there! We do this in public buildings! What makes this any different?” Zeta inquired, looking more confused rather than annoyed.
“It’s someone’s personal space! Their private property! Plus, it’s twice as dangerous. We’re likely to get caught, and you know it. If we were Silver Ranked, this may be a different story,” I explained.
“End of story,” I interrupted. “We’re going to find a way around this.”
Zeta grumbled profusely as he trudged down the sidewalk to get away from me. I rolled my eyes in annoyance. He was too much of an “act first, think later” person.
I walked up to the house we’d been eyeing and rang the doorbell, signaling Zeta to come over before the door opened. He stomped over with a stupid sibling arrogance. The door opened soon after Zeta stood by my side, but slowly and hesitantly.
“Um, hello there sir. We’re students from Lehigh High School. We don’t mean to trouble you in any way, but we’re here to take a survey,” I began, hoping I sounded somewhat convincing.
“Eh, pardon?” the brittle man pushed on the small rubber item in his ear.
“May we survey you as a part of a school project? We’re learning about computers and energy systems and we’d like to see what yours is like.”
Zeta picked up on my plan rather quickly. The old man hobbled backwards and offered us to come inside graciously.
“Thank you, sir,” I faked a smile. The poor gentleman took his cane and guided himself towards his study area where he kept an older looking computer. As he turned it on, I signaled Zeta out of the room.
“Where is your friend going?” he asked, seeming on edge about him leaving.
“Oh, he’s just going to check out the operating system. I hope you don’t mind…” I muttered. It sounded suspicious. I was surprised the man even noticed Zeta leaving. At least to me, he seemed almost blind and deaf.
“Ah, okay,” the man wheezed after turning on his computer.
All I had to do was stall for a few minutes until Zeta finished downstairs and screwed up the power.
“What sort of things do you do on the computer?” I inquired.
“Well, my granddaughter set up a program called ‘Syke’, or something or other…” he paused to catch his breath. “And we can video chat one another on the weekends… while she’s away at college,” he explained as he sat down at the desk chair. His bony hand grasped a hold of the computer mouse beside him. Moving the cursor painfully slow, he clicked on the Skype application conveniently placed near the middle of the screen so he could see it. The video chatting system popped up with only two contacts listed. “Jenna” and “Barb & Mike”.
“I see. So you’re well educated with modern computer programs?” I asked.
“Ah, not really,” he cleared his throat a bit. “I only use this blue one and the electronic mail on the internet.”
I suppressed a giggle from my lips after listening to his response. It was rude to laugh at his simple knowledge of common technology, but it was a bit humorous. “Do you think you could show me your email?”
“Sure, of course,” the man smiled, seeming happy that I was interested in his simple internet programs.
He pulled up internet explorer and clicked on a bookmark saved at the top left corner of the browser page. After clicking it, it brought him to a gmail page with only one email unread.
“Do you check your email often?” I asked.
“Yes. I make the effort to check it every day,” he said proudly. “Oh! It seems I’ve received a letter today,” he said with an excited tone to his voice.
It almost pained me to watch how innocent and happy this little man was, and all the while Zeta was snooping around in his house. It felt wrong.
Before the man could manage to open his new email though, the lights began to flicker and the computer screen went black. This was Zeta’s signal to get going.
“Eh? What happened? Did I do something wrong?” the man asked with a huge look of concern on his face.
“Ah, no, I don’t think so. The lights flickered as well, so I think it may be an electrical shortage or something,” I said.
Zeta quickly came up from the basement and glanced at me.
“Did you guys see that too?” he faked a concerned voice.
“Yes, we did. Did you do something downstairs?” I asked.
“What? No! I was looking at the set up and suddenly a huge spark nearly zapped me. Are you two okay?” Zeta asked.
“We’re just fine. Are you alright, young man?” the man stood back up with his cane assisting him.
“Yeah, I think I’m okay.”
“Well, I apologize for my electricity you youngins. I’ll have to call… oh. Will my phone not work?” he asked.
“Here. Take my cell phone. You can call your electric company to come over and fix everything,” I offered.
“Oh, thank you, young lady,” he said while graciously accepting my phone. He seemed to know the number by heart, which made me feel even worse. If he normally had trouble with his electricity, this was just being rude on our part. “Here,” he said, returning the phone. “They said they’ll be over in about an hour. Sorry if this survey didn’t go the way you wanted it to.”
“That’s alright. Thank you so much for letting us see your computer and such,” I smiled as he showed us to the door.
“Yes, thank you sir,” Zeta smiled before the door shut behind us. The two of us headed down the road before speaking a word to one another.
“Well?” I asked, glancing up at Zeta.
“There weren’t traces of anything. No black dust, no burn marks, nothing. His house was clean.”
“Damnit,” I swore.
“Are we just going to head back, then? Or shall we keep going?” Zeta asked.
“I don’t know… Everyone else is searching for Buigels while we’re out here doing stupid local missions. I’m sure blue tags aren’t the chief’s main concern right now,” I noted.
“I mean, I guess not… But what if finding this creature is a possible lead on Buigels themselves? We could be promoted very quickly, yeah?”
“Not necessarily. We’d have to bring down the whole race itself before a promotion could even be considered,” I grumbled.
“Too much effort then, eh?” Zeta said.
“Hm… Here’s what we’ll do. You try not to be an ass and explore more houses in the area. If you find any black dust, collect it, and bring it back to the house. I’m heading home to do some research on Buigels. If burnt metal and black dust has no relevance to these genocidal dicks, we’ll drop the effort and work lazily on this blue tag quest. Deal?”
“Fine by me,” Zeta smirked. I raised an eyebrow at his contentment with the idea.
“No barging into anyone’s house unannounced, got it?” I shot a glare at him.
He turned away from me, laughing. “Sure, sure. Whatever you say, Jinx.”
I turned the other way, shaking my head in annoyance, as I walked back to the house. Even though it would be rather nice to be promoted to Silver Ranking without having to complete an unnecessary amount of missions, I slightly hoped these Buigels weren’t related to our case. If the Elite couldn’t even track them down, there was no way in hell two Bronze members could.