The aircraft landed at JFK International a little over eleven o’clock. They took the airport limousine to a five star hotel at New York Times Square. As usual, the ECCEC booked the hotel penthouse for Tark.
Susan took the residential suite. Not the fanciest of rooms but it wasn’t bad either. The room had an attached bathroom with flatscreen and a minibar. It was more than enough for the woman to clean herself and rest up.
“Remember to take your adaptive drug.” Susan reminded when they stepped in to the elevator. She then glanced at the young flight attendant clinging to his arm. “Remind him.”
“I will take it, Susan. You need not worry.” Tark said.
“And tomorrow, half past twelve, wait at the lobby.” Susan added impatiently.
“Roger that.” he nodded and turned to the young attendant. “I hope you won’t keep me up all night darling. It seems I have an important meeting tomorrow with the President of The United States.”
“Really?” the young woman squealed in surprise. “Well then. I won’t want you to be late for that meeting.”
Susan rolled her eyes and let out a sigh. She was beyond tired. She didn’t get any sleep during the eight hour flight, not when the young attendant kept screaming in pleasure from time to time. If she had to put up with another of this lovey-dovey bullshit, she might consider first degree murder. Fortunately, the elevator reached her floor before she could attempt the deed.
“Good night.” she muttered and stepped out of the elevator.
When she got in to the room, she unceremoniously dropped her bag onto the floor. She felt like she could collapse right then but she forced herself into the bathroom. She needed a quick shower. She didn’t bother washing her hair.
After putting on a pair of fresh panties and t-shirt that covered until her knees, she leaped onto the bed and shuffled herself under the thick comforter. Her body was already aching at the physical exhaustion. Her head was about to crack open by the headache. Sleep didn’t come easy, not when she was aching all over. She had to toss and turn for a bit and waited until the pain was numbed by the passage of time. By then, it was already one in the morning.
Susan woke up nine hours later. When she did, she knew something was terribly wrong. Her throat was sore, her body ached at the joints, her chest felt right, and she felt cold. Knife prickly kind of cold.
“No. No. No.” she muttered frantically as she palmed her forehead. “Damn it.” she hissed before letting out a torrent of cough.
She had a job to do. Who knows what Tark would do if she failed to accompany him to the meeting with the president. This was not the right time to get sick!
She scuttled off the bed and went to her carry-on. She had brought some paracetamol with her. It would only be a symptomatic relief. She took two pills and went for another shower. This time, she turned on the heater. She couldn’t afford showering in cold water.
When she got out of the shower, her symptoms became worse. The pounding in her head was barely bearable now. The ache all over her body exacerbated. It was as though her body was yelling at her to stop doing what she was doing or about to do and just go to bed.
But that wasn’t an option for Susan. She needed to make sure Tark meet the president. Should there be any disruption with the meeting, it could be view as a deliberate act on behalf of her country to prevent the US from getting diplomatic engagement with the Jovi Nithrakians. The relationship between UK and US was already tense, the last thing Susan wanted was a diplomatic meltdown between the two.
Furthermore, the Chinese premier and Russian president was already en route for the dinner tonight. This wasn’t just about her. It never was. This was about the whole world getting a fair share of opportunity to communicate and establish economy trade ties with the newly discovered race. Trades that could potentially give everyone on Earth a better life.
She put on her working attire and wore some make-up to conceal the paleness of her face. Since trusting Tark Luda with punctuality was like trusting a thief with the key to a gold vault, Susan went up to the penthouse to find him. The guards this time didn’t even bother to whisk her. They had seen her enough of times to know that if she wanted to kill Tark, she would have done so.
The penthouse was very different that the one in Paris. It didn’t have the cultural richness one would akin to the renaissance period. Instead, everything was clean and modern looking. Black and white tiles dominated the floor. A chandelier hung at the center of the room. The couches and carpets were of similar monochrome hue as the floor. Several paintings and pictures of buildings dotted the otherwise dull white wall.
When she got upstairs, she was surprised to see Tark sitting on the edge of the bed. Although he was naked, certain part of the human male anatomy was not formed. The young flight attendant was no where to be found. Susan could only assume that she had already left.
“Good morning.” she said while trying to suppress a cough.
“Susan, there you are. Come here for a bit.” he patted on the bed, telling her to sit there.
“What is it?”she sat down beside him. She felt a chill down her spine and her stomach began to twist into knots. She wasn’t sure if it was the fever or the proximity to him that caused it. This was, indeed, the first time they were on the same bed together. Granted, it was only sitting down.
“This picture. It’s…rather queer isn’t it?” he nodded at a painting mounted to the wall.
“The Starry Night by Van Gogh.” Susan informed.
Since the original was at the Museum of Modern Art, this one was no doubt an imitation.
“Where is this place?” he asked curiously.
“I’m not sure.” she coughed. “Some monastery he lived in.”
“Lived? He doesn’t live there now?”
“He’s dead. A long time ago.”
“Ah, I see.” When he turned to her, he did a double take. “You don’t look well.”
“I’m fine.” she brushed it off. “Where’s she?” she changed the subject.
“You mean Tessa?” he smiled.
“Yes. Whatever her name is.” she couched again.
“She left this morning. Saw my true form when the drug wore off.” he shook his head, as if the memory was somewhat amusing.
“I guess that explains. But they must have known how you look underneath…” she gestured at his body, “…this.”
“Well, most of them do. But seeing it in pictures and seeing it in real life are two different things.” he shrugged. “Although I must say that they do enjoy a little tentacle action from time to time. Humans have such sensitive areas.”
“I’m sure they do.” Susan sighed, remembering the loud cries of Tessa in the cabin lavatory. A flush of heat rose to her face as explicit images of her under his arms formed subconsciously in her head.
“Why won’t you sleep with me then?” he asked out of the blue.
“Because…” she choked, “I’m not into octopus.”
He laughed. “Touche. Susan Mayers. Touche. But it is consider a disrespect to decline such an offer in my culture.”
“Well, this is not my culture.” she quipped and rose arduously from the bed. “Breakfast?”
“Yes. I’m famished.”