“What can I do for you today?” Robin asked the Comet King.
He was in his study, sitting at his big desk of Colorado pine. On the shelves he had gifts given him by various ambassadors and heads of state. A medieval orrery from the European Communion. A Faberge egg from the Cyrillic Union. An exquisite bonsai tree from the Harmonious Jade Dragon Empire. From Israel, a lovely turquoise sculpture with a microscopic listening device planted in it – which he usually covered with a piece of Scotch tape, but into which he spoke clearly and distinctly whenever he wanted to pass false information on to the Mossad.
And of course books. Books lining the walls. The walls were fifty feet high here, so high they looked like they could break through the top of the mountain and show him blue sky on the top. He had filled forty feet with shelving, and it was growing all the time. When he needed a reference, he would speak the Ascending Name, float to the appropriate level, take the book, and then sink back to his desk. He worried that in a few years he would have exhausted the available space.
His one-year old daughter Sohu was curled up at his feet, grasping her Bible, trying to memorize the thing. She was up to the Song of Songs already, more than halfway done. He approved of this. It kept her quiet.
“I just wanted to spend some time with you,” he told Robin. “Get to, uh, know you better. Since we’re…getting married, and all.”
She was in a light blue dress. It was, he noticed, the color of a robin’s egg. He wondered if that was intentional. Was it okay to ask if that was intentional?
“I read your book,” he said, handing her back the work by Singer. “Would you like to talk about it?”
Robin looked skeptical. “Aren’t you busy?”
“No. Well, yes.” He pointed to a map stretched out on his desk. “There is much to do, but many years to do. Like with Moses, this generation cannot be the one to enter the Promised Land. There are too few of us. We have no heavy industry. The collapse and the wars have hit us too hard. We need ten, twenty years to rebuild and reproduce, increase our numbers before we can take the war back to Hell. And there are other things to do in the meantime. Defeating Hell will mean nothing if I cannot destroy it. I must find the Explicit Name of God. They say that only those who can chase down Metatron upon his golden boat can obtain it. I think with enough knowledge it may be possible. I am designing a ship, but it must be perfect. It will take years to get right. And then the war itself. I will need guns, tanks, airships. Strategic nuclear defense systems. An economy to support all of this. And logistics. Marching a million men from Colorado to Siberia will not be easy, even if I can part the Bering Strait, Moses-style. Which I think I can. And…yes, I am busy. But not so busy we cannot talk.”
“But why are you telling me all this? I thought the whole reason we were getting married was so that you wouldn’t have to talk to people.”
“I just…wanted your input.”
“Don’t you have better people to give you input? Generals? Rabbis? Advisors? I can find some people if you want, I have some connections, I can get people from DC or Sacramento over, I’m sure they’d be happy to help you. ”
“Of course I can talk to them. But I wanted to talk to you too. We’re going to be married soon. We should talk.”
“I thought we were getting married so you didn’t have to talk to anyone.”
“I know I don’t have to. I want to. I…hold on a second.”
The Comet King turned into a lightning bolt and flashed out of the room. He materialized again in front of Father Ellis, who was eating lunch in the dining room with little Caelius and Jinxiang.
“Father!” he said. “How do I tell Robin I like her?”
“Repeat these words,” said the priest. “Robin, I like you.”
“Are you sure that works?” asked Jalaketu.
“Positive,” said the priest.
Another flash of lightning, and Jalaketu materialized in the study, sitting in front of the pinewood desk. Sohu was reciting Song of Songs to Robin, who was cooing approvingly. “Daughters of Jerusalem…!” Sohu incanted, in as theatrical a voice as a one-year-old could manage. The Comet King glanced at her, and she went silent.
“Robin,” he said. “I like you.”
“Okay,” said Robin. “Is something wrong?”
“No,” he said frustrated. “Robin, I like you.”
“Oh,” said Robin, suddenly understanding.
An urge to curl up and hide somewhere safe underground, only partially relieved by the knowledge that he was already in a nuclear bunker two thousand feet beneath the Rocky Mountains.
“Oh,” she said again. “Well, uh, how can I help?”
“I don’t know!” said Jalaketu.
“What if I did something really unattractive? I could dye my hair some kind of awful color. What if I gained weight? Or lost weight? Would that help?”
“Probably not,” said the Comet King. “It’s deeper than that, more like an appreciation of your fundamental goodness as a person.”
“That sounds tough,” Robin admitted. “I could travel to the opposite side of the world.”
“No,” said the Comet King glumly. “I would probably just hunt you down.”
“Hmmmm,” said Robin. “I could just refuse to talk to you.”
“No,” said the Comet King. “I would probably court you with some kind of amazing magical music or poetry.”
“Hmmmm,” said Robin, and thought for a second. Then “Hmmmmmm”. Then, tentatively, “We could kiss.”
The Comet King thought for a while. “I don’t see how that would help.”
“Well,” said Robin, “my father told me a story about how he once dated a girl he knew, and he really liked her, and then he kissed her, and she was a terrible kisser, and he stopped being attracted to her at all.”
“It is worth a try,” said the Comet King.
And he leaned in and kissed her.
A few moments. Then a few more.
“That did not help at all,” said the Comet King.
“That did the opposite of help,” said Robin.
“We could try again,” said the Comet King.
“It can’t hurt,” said Robin.
“DO IT!” said Sohu.
The two looked at her. They had forgotten she was there.
“Sohu, leave the room.”
“Leave,” said Jalaketu.
Sohu took her Bible and left the study. The Comet King shut the door behind her, and she heard a little click as he turned the lock.
She shrugged and went to the command center, where she curled up on an empty chair and watched North American airspace for a while. Then she retrieved her bookmark and got back to the Song of Songs:
Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you:
Do not arouse or awaken love
until it so desires.
Then place it like a seal over your heart,
like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire,
like a mighty flame.
I am a wall,
and my breasts are like towers.
Thus I have become in his eyes
like one bringing contentment.
Come away, my beloved,
and be like a gazelle
or like a young stag
on the spice-laden mountains.