That night they passed a bottle of mezcal around, which Kaylee pulled out of a secret compartment of the cafe racer. She needed to get a better feel for Matteo. Was is possible they might convince him to be experimented on, out of his own free will? Maybe if they explained the situation slowly…
“The best part of Loteria was Matteo getting called a hoe.” She poured a careful portion of mezcal into a small clay cup and handed it to Matteo.
“What?” Matteo winced at the swig he took, “God, did you steal this? You two really wanted to land me back in jail!”
“What did you get?” she asked.
“What do you mean what did I get? Nothing. I’m not a thief,” said Matteo. So principled, this lonely criminal seemed.
“Some criminal you turned out to be. No wonder you let that squat dude in the coveralls get away with calling you a hoe.” Kaylee moved towards some of the luggage. She pulled off the packing tape of one of Jorge’s boxes and pulled out a bag of Takis. She frowned. “Way too spicy.”
“I think you perceived that situation incorrectly. That human, I believe, said ‘Dale ojo,’ otherwise known as the evil eye,” said Jorge, “It’s a local curse.”
“Ludicrous,” Matteo said. Kaylee picked up on his weak bluff. He probably believed in that stuff.
Jorge walked to the bathroom. Kaylee waited until the lock on the door clicked and walked softly over to Matteo. “Hey, Matteo, so by now have you figured out who this guy Jorge is?” she whispered.
“Wait a minute. How am I supposed to know anything about either of you?”
“Sorry, I assumed you knew a thing or two about the underground. Keep your voice down. Me and Jorge met through the ‘net like a few weeks ago,” she said.
“What ‘net, like MySpace?”
“No, the physical ‘net. Just like you. ‘Cept, unlike you, we’ve kept our profiles semi-anonymous. Guy has his ducks in order. I knew it the second I got his first encrypted message. This guy is Jorge…”
“No way,” Matteo whispered half to himself when it struck. He was the stuff of legend. He’d come across an archived html file of a Reddit thread on a physical some time ago. “Citalli,” he breathed.
Kaylee was whispering and moving closer to Matteo, completely engaged in getting the information out. “Well Jorge did this experiment that got his school a ton of grant money from the Mexican government. Nevermind how he is able to get his hands on the physical money, he takes it and burns it all in a bonfire in front of all of his teachers. I mean, some of the bills had to be part of their salaries for the year. People think the dude is some kind of economic terrorist. The authorities throw him out of school and before they can lock him up in jail he escapes through Arizona. At this point, nobody is the wiser to the fact that he pockets a little bit of it, maybe five percent and takes it to Reno. When he’s there, he card-counts blackjack, because he’s some kind of goddang numbers whiz, and wins the grant money back, get this, three times over. Since he’s technically a fugitive, but not an altogether bad guy, he sends the money back to pay for a bunch of science projects for kids in his school and then writes an Op-Ed in the New York Times about it. How he got connected there?” She shrugged, “Well, supposedly that’s how word got out. Nobody has that issue saved on physical far as I can tell.”
“Oh, yeah, the Times article. Yeah, I heard about that, but you never know with East Coast news…”
She could almost feel the alcohol take control of his gaze. He was definitely falling for her. She noticed the scarcity of hairs in his few-day-old beard and found them somewhat cute in an aspirational kind of way.
“Yeah, he says it was a political statement on how even though ninety-five percent of experiments don’t work, the five percent that do work can end up making huge, unpredictable benefits. Stop hogging the tequila,” she said.
“That’s pretty clever, actually. So, uh, what’s your story, you know?” said Matteo as he passed the bottle over.
“Welp. My parents are both super academics. One’s into economics, the other into neuro.”
“Oh, where at?”
“They teach in Houston, but I lived mostly in Dallas,” said Kaylee.
“Dallas. You’re kind of demanding. Don’t drug me again for saying,” he said and laughed a little. She picked up on a genuine nervousness that was lingering in his voice.
“Please… Well anyway, the short of it is, they wanted me to follow in their footsteps and I called bullshit. Academics, at least with what I’m into, biology, is a joke ever since the human GMO ban. It’ll probably get worse and we won’t even be able to sell pan de amor or anything. Anywho, businesswoman that I am, where there is a need for new biotechnology, there is an opportunity.”
“I guess I’m your first employee,” said Matteo.
“Well, after Jorge. Though it’s more of a partnership at this point, to be completely honest,” said Kaylee.
“Speaking of Jorge, the guy is a total geek, though. He pretends he’s an alien but actually acts like you would expect one to act. Everything with any kind of mechanic is interesting to him. He’s been really helpful with getting things set up here… God, I saw him reading a blog about indigenous technology, like fire pits and bows and arrows the other night. He better not put up a dreamcatcher or some ancient thing in this place. I get really distracted if my area looks too organic,” she said.
Jorge walked back in and started up the ladder. “Hey, is anyone going to climb up and close the front door? Maybe we should make a list of duties since we’re all habitating here, now. Having a closed front door is an important first line of defense against Rangers and spies, bros.”
Jorge came back down after an extended moment. “And I heard all that you just said, by the way. My hearing is several times more sensitive than humans’.”
“So what? We heard you. You know, farting. Hmm, you have that look on your face, again. Did you see her upstairs again? Did you get a good looksee at her butt this time or what?” Kaylee blurted at him.
“Who? The neighbor? Yeah,” Jorge took the bottle from Kaylee and drank thirstily.
“Knew you took a few seconds too long up there. Was she an attractive young woman? Or you just saw the butt?” asked Kaylee, as she took the bottle back.
“Only butt. It was a good butt. As good as human butts go. Functional.” Jorge spaced his words apart like tiles.
“Useless, Jorge.” Kaylee passed him the bottle and thought about Matteo — was it proper time to try to sleep with Matteo and his little butt so soon? The wild card was whether Matteo was mature enough yet. Seemed kinda babyish despite his size. Better to not make any moves — it might affect their experiment.
“Geez, you’re rough on him,” Matteo said.
“Useless at scoping out chicks, Jorge. Otherwise I’m sure you’re a… great dude. A real stand-up guy,” she said. “I’m not sayin’ we didn’t end up on top, but what happened back there in Loteria, man? I thought you were good at gambling. Instead, we ended up running for our lives.”
“What? Why would you think that?” asked Jorge.
“Well, I mean, how else would you beat house blackjack in Reno to win back that money of yours?” Matteo said.
“You’re confusing my story or at a minimum received incomplete information in regards to those events. I just had good fortune. Coincidence is not causation,” said Jorge.
“Ssss….” blew Matteo.
“You’re not serious. He’s serious,” said Kaylee.
“I didn’t make my Earthly fortune through probability bets. That activity has always been supplemental,” said Jorge.
“Then how? It can’t be lab stuff, we’ve only just started,” said Matteo.
“You know dildos?” asked Jorge.
“At least two, yes,” said Kaylee.
Matteo looked at her and frowned. She was getting through to him.
“They’re sculpted after me,” said Jorge, as though he was saying what ingredients went into a rainbow raspa.
“No,” said Kaylee and Matteo, together.
Kaylee pushed further. “But, I mean, like, the ones with the extra heads or the ones with the little whips or the tiny rotating beans?”
“All of them,” said Jorge.
Kaylee and Matteo closed their eyes.
“Wait, if you modeled all of them… that means you have many many genitals, where do you hide them all? I mean on your thin alien body… I’m already regretting asking,” said Matteo.
“Don’t be absurd, Matteo, I can shapeshift my penis just like everyone else. Oh, I also forgot to tell you, I managed to get an old Church after you left Loteria. The vendor said he couldn’t get to work, so it was on discount,” Jorge said as he pulled out a wallet-sized, see-through microfluidics machine with protruding hoses and funnels from his back pocket and plopped it on the table. Chuy pecked at it angrily.
“How did Chuy get down here?!” said Matteo
“Wait we have a Church?! Just like that?! Why didn’t say something sooner?” said Kaylee. “Now I’m too buzzed to start playing with it.” She felt her experiments on Matteo were inevitable, now.
“Same,” said Matteo.
“Well, I had a side bet going. I’m not inebriated, so I’ll get to fixing it alone, then.” Jorge pulled a small, high-end tool box from a shelf and got the Church situated under a large rectangular magnifying glass.
There was no way Kaylee could let Matteo in on the plan with Jorge around. She had to find a way to get him alone some time soon. Some place well insulated where Jorge couldn’t hear what they were saying so easily.