Moreau-Walter Amalgamated

 

1994

 

            Three years had passed since the Lollapalooza incident. In that time, Lilah settled in to life in Kazooland much easier than she thought she ever would. 15 Plum Street had three subterranean levels of laboratories and workrooms that kept her occupied while at home, and she signed on for two committees at the Cavalcadium: Jones’ Cryptotechnology committee which dealt with the research and discovery of lost and ancient technology, and Blue Matter committee, of which after the first year Lilah became the chairman. This latter committee didn’t often meet, but she found it familiar and her knowledge useful to its members.

At first, Lilah was slow to accept and adapt to the ways of society in Dandytown. The people were diverse and strange compared to those on Earth--her servant was a poltergeist, some of her fellow members of the Cavalcadium were half-animal people, magic-users, mimes, and mythical creatures--but the social rules and structures were much stranger. There were certain, flowery ways to speak to people depending on who they were, what time of day it was and what was going on. For certain types of people, it was expected to speak freely. With others one had to speak in either riddles, jokes or questions only. For her own social status, it was expected that Lilah had to learn to speak proper English without the Earth-based colloquialisms she’d grown up with, which took the longest time to adjust to.

            At first, she only grudgingly wore clothes in the style preferred in Dandytown--a sort of Victorian or turn-of-the-century style involving many layers, accessories and hats--but she had little choice, having not brought her own wardrobe with her. She entered Dandytown society-proper after attending her first Cavalcadium grand ball and soon found it to be both fun to dress up every once in a while, and irritating to have to learn the politenesses and decorum befitting an upper-class woman such as herself. Indeed, the Moreau-Walter family had a sizable endowment set up to maintain the house at 15 Plum Street, and pay Gilmore’s salary. Another large chunk of funds in various accounts had been accumulating interest for the last thirty years which had reached an astounding £2.4mil. and was available for Lilah or any member of the family to use in Kazooland.

And it seemed that everyone knew it.

            From practically the first day when she said her name aloud, heads turned. People wanted to meet her. They were polite (as social propriety dictated) but forward, and sometimes the questions about how the rest of her family were faring were unnerving. Gilmore comforted her one day when she returned home reduced to tears from the stress of having to field a number of these sort of questions and taught her how to twist the conversation away from subjects she’d rather not discuss effectively and without offending the asker. He taught her how to greet strangers, how to use the excessive cutlery at the formal lunches and dinners she had to attend, how to dress for what event. Three years of practice later, no one could tell that Lilah hadn’t been born and raised in Dandytown, though the behavior never did come naturally to her. Without GIlmore’s expert and patient instruction on the ways of this society, she told him one day, she would be lost. He was so pleased by the compliment that he glowed pink for a week.

 

            Meanwhile, on Earth, the remainder of the Moreau-Walter family got by without the eldest daughter. Alex devoted himself to a fellowship at the California Institute of Technology. Peter entered Cal Tech himself shortly after his sister’s disappearance. Deelia graduated from the Francis Parker School, having skipped a grade, and entered the Haas School at Berkeley for a business degree. She took her assistive robot and best friend Pi with her and they lived in a sumptuous apartment in town. It was a much needed break from the often oppressive atmosphere of the manor house, especially after the last incident with her mother.

 

            Months before Deelia’s graduation, Peter and Alex were both (in their own ways) proud of her achievement and excited for her future. She knew that, but still, if she could, Deelia would have started packing the moment she got her acceptance letter from Berkeley. Her mother’s condition seemed to be getting worse.

            Even in her earliest memories, Deelia knew there was something wrong with Eliza. She could hug her and coo over how cute she looked in a frilly dress one moment and the next be a crying, screaming mess about the same thing. Her older siblings or the automatons were usually there to scoop her up and her father would be called in to deal with Eliza’s outbursts. As the years went on, the swings became more violent. One day many years before, Lilah, Deelia and Eliza were sitting at the table in the kitchen together. Lilah spilled a glass of iced tea - it slipped out of her hands and the glass shattered on the floor. The sound of shattering glass seemed to flip a switch in their mother’s head and she flipped the table, shrieking that someone could have gotten hurt and that Lilah was so careless, etc. In moments, The Spine appeared and pulled the girls behind him. His strong, titanium-alloy body took the blows as Eliza threw everything she could get her hands on at him before she was sedated by her nurses.

            In the years following Lilah’s departure, Eliza was more medicated than she had ever been. She existed in a fog, rarely speaking, and when she did, she often cried softly, miserably, unable to communicate any of her feelings. Secretly, because she hated the fog, she stopped taking the copious medicines the nurses gave her, and unbeknownst to the family, her mania was once again close to the surface.

            On the day of her graduation from prep school Deelia was getting ready in her suite of rooms, chatting with Pi about all the awards she’d won at Prize Night. The door swung open and her mother, dressed sloppily in a suit with her hair just as it was when she awoke, entered the room. Usually, she could not walk unassisted and usually she was not dressed in anything more complicated than a nightgown and bathrobe. Deelia was not a fool and so stood up, alarmed and defensive. Eliza’s voice was shaky as she greeted her daughter, saying something about how she looked forward to attending her graduation - something that the girl knew was definitely not part of the plan. Pi turned and faced Eliza, its hands open in a gesture of passive greeting. As it was programmed to assist those in distress, Pi could not resist asking Eliza if she was alright and if it could help her, even though everything about this woman’s posture sent up dangerous flags.

            “Robot…” Eliza growled and snapped. “Another damned robot! Is this what you replace me with, Deelia! You, too! You, and your sister, and even Alex replaced me with robots!!” she screamed and launched herself at Deelia, but Pi stood between them.

            “Mom, no!” Deelia shouted.

            Pi stood, unable to move against a member of the family. Eliza’s eyes darted around the room, settling to her left on an iron and brass Victorian door-stop holding the connection door between the foyer and bedroom open, the kind with a heavy base and a handle to make it easier to move. She snatched this by the handle and swung it at the robot, but Pi did not move. Deelia screamed as she watched the blunt object smash the light-weight body and aluminum frame of her best friend over and over before assistance finally arrived in the form of two orderly nurses armed with syringes full of sedatives. When it was over and Eliza had been carried from the room and Peter and Alex had arrived, Deelia got up her courage and steadied by her brother, circled the robot, still standing with one arm slightly extended (the other hanging, limply).

            “Remarkable,” Alex said, examining Pi. “It’s been knocked offline, but hasn’t released this defensive posture. Deelia, this little robot was ready to give its life for you. I believe I’m quite impressed.” He sniffed, and Peter and Deelia stared at him. It was the kindest, most moving thing either of them had ever heard him say, especially about the robot that he and the daughter that ran away had built together.

Tears poured down Deelia’s face as she took in the dents, exposed wiring and darkened photoreceptors. “Dad, can you fix Pi?”

He nodded. “Of course.”

She wiped her face with the back of her hand and squared her jaw. “Can I help?”

 

.x.

October 2nd, 1994, Dandytown

It was a bright, warm, fall Wednesday. Gilmore had prepared Lilah a boxed lunch and she took it to the park on the way to the Cavalcadium branch office. She sat on the tall steps leading up to a fountain that featured a statue of a famous cat-person who had done something-or-other to deserve a statue made in her likeness. It poured water from the palm of her outstretched hand. The sky was clear and the sound of the splashing water and light din of traffic and chatter from the city gave a pleasant ambiance as Lilah ate her cucumber sandwich and sipped from a brass-plated thermos full of tea. The sun warmed her back through the brown denim jacket she wore over a short, grey dress. Tall brown leather boots came to her knees which showed a glimpse of open-work stockings as she sat. A small, black cap sat over her now long blue-black hair worn up in a roll at the neck. Lilah made a soft, contented sound and watched the people pass by on Broadway before her.

One of these passers-by caught her eye, if only because he caught the eye of several other young ladies as he stopped and turned in place, glancing from a map to the signs around him. Instantly, she knew what he was doing. She’d done it herself the first time she walked to the Cav. He was of average height, slightly stocky weight and impeccable dress which indicated to her some amount of wealth. He had brownish-red hair cut short and his facial hair was neatly trimmed in the VanDyke style. The man looked up in her direction through small, wire-rimmed glasses and Lilah shuddered.

Almost as soon as she was introduced at the Cavalcadium, men and women alike had swarmed her. They were all so pleased to meet her. They wanted her to come to their lunches, on their air-cruises, to grand balls. Men wanted to take her to dinner and for the first time since her mother had told her Patrick Reed burned for her, she realized that men were attracted to her. Unlike Reed, these men did not know her. They hadn’t watched her grow up or seen what she could do with robotics, and she learned very quickly that what they saw in her was primarily one thing--her family name. Delilah Moreau and Peter Walter were legends. What man wanting to stand above all others wouldn’t want such a name to add to his status, her friend Georgia Jones had advised her. “It’s so annoying, having famous ancestors” she had drawled. “I don’t gotta worry too much anymore. People don’t always make the connection these days, but I first arrived here I had t’ beat ‘em off with a stick!” Georgia put her hands on her hips and laughed, but Lilah sometimes wondered that she actually loved the attention she derided.

Of all the men (and women) who pursued her, Lilah had felt nothing, no spark of interest or excitement, perhaps because she knew that they knew her name; they knew what they wanted before they got a chance to know her at all. Approaching her now was a nice-looking man of a few years her senior who didn’t know her from Adam. All she had to do was stand, descend the stairs and ask if he needed help finding the Cavalcadium.

Not finding it on the map was an easy mistake to make, being that there was an arterial route around the lake and park breaking the main road into East Broadway and West Broadway. The Cavalcadium seemed to enjoy playing around with people by advertising only that they were located on Broadway, the exact location of which was actually across the large park from where this man stood on the western arterial between Rex Marksley Boulevard and Elm Street. Lilah stood and watched him wander toward the fountain. She had never done something like this before and the idea of being forward with a complete stranger made her a little light-headed, but three years of working at the Cavalcadium and meeting hundreds of new people certainly helped. With her heart pounding in her chest she walked down the steps, carefully packing the remains of her lunch away into the satchel she carried. “Excuse me, good Sir?” her own voice startled her with its confidence. The man turned to face her and smiled on her with sharp, green eyes. She stepped down and stood a few feet from him. “Looking for something? Perhaps I can help.”

“I would be humbly obliged, Miss,” he said, removing his bowler hat to reveal a receding hairline, brought a gloved fist to his mouth and coughed lightly three times. “I am in search of the Cavalcadium.” His voice held an accent that she couldn’t place.

“I thought as much. They like to hide it,” she said, smiling back. “I was heading there myself. May I show you the way?”

He replaced his hat, folded his map and stuffed it in the breast pocket of his jacket. “I would be most appreciative. Are you a member of the Cav?”

“I am,” she answered cheerily. Introductions were coming, fast.

“Splendid! My name is Morton Greene,” he said, tipping his hat. “I am in your debt.”

Delilah Moreau-Walter did the same. “Not at all. Call me Lilah.”

 

.x.

            One week later, Georgia Jones emerged from the Hall of Knowledge into a grey, fall afternoon and zipped her bomber jacket up against a chill in the air. She turned as she heard her name called. “Well, holy shit, Lilah Moreau-Walter as I live and breathe,” she said jokingly. “Where you been hiding?”

            Lilah grinned to split her face. “Around.” She wore a grey tweed suit, gloves, and a smart felt hat with an upturned brim.

            Georgia hooked her left arm around Lilah’s left shoulder and walked with her. “Out with it! Who is he?”

            Lilah laughed. “Morton Greene. He’s applying for membership.”

            “Cute?”

            “Handsome.”

            “Smart?”

            “Incredibly so.”

            “You like him?”

            “Do I ever.”

            Jones laughed. “Oh, that’s good to hear. ‘Bout time you found someone you could put up with. Well, I’ll miss you, but I’m happy for you.” Lilah play-hit her and she released her shoulder. “Greene, huh? What’s he into?”

            “Conservation, natural sciences, and rare materials.”

            “Blue matter?”

            “Not so much. He’s concerned with the misuse of all matters and their effects on the environment.”

            “Oh, hippy, huh?”

            Lilah was a bit taken aback at the use of the Earth-based term, but laughed. “Yes. Total hippy, but not the drugs-and-music kind.” Her mood darkened a little as she remembered why she had flagged Jones down. “Georgia, did I hear right that you’re involved with this business with the new alliance?”

            Jones stopped walking down the steps and sighed. “Yeah, Kid. It’s messy stuff. Don’t worry about it too much.” She looked back up at Lilah with a sheepish expression.

            “I’m not thrilled that one of my friends is concerning herself with the inevitable application of lethal weapons, is all.”

            “Oh man…” Jones stuffed her hands in her pockets. “Look, I’m not thrilled, either, but if I’m not involved, these morons are planning to use the tech I’ve uncovered in ways it was never intended. I’m trying to keep the carnage to a minimum, I promise.”

            Lilah pouted. “Georgia, is there really going to be a war?”

            “No,” Jones affirmed. “No, there hasn’t been any threats outright, but certain things I can’t talk about have raised concerns…

            Lilah made a face, but didn’t reply.

            “Hey, if you’re so worked up about lethals, why not help with non-lethals?”

            “Non-lethal weapons?”

            “Yeah, there were some ideas about goober rounds, net guns, pulse-weapons and even using portals somehow in combat, but the only people interested were pushing lethal.” Georgia grinned a little when she saw Lilah’s eyes brighten at the mention of portals. “How about it?”

            “I’ll have to think about it.”

            “That’s the spirit. So when do I get to meet this Greene guy?”

            “Are you going to the Cindi Mayweather show tomorrow?”

            “Oh, that android from the future? I was thinking about it. Guess it’s pretty rare and she’s supposed to be awesome.”

            Lilah glowed. “She is! We’re going, you can meet him then. Oh, and Georgia,” Lilah lowered her voice and descended the steps. “When you meet him, try not to say my full name.”

            Jones cocked a brow. “Why’s that?”

            “This is the first man I’ve met who didn’t know me, so I’ve sort of avoided telling him.”

            Jones grimaced. “Ok, but that’s gonna bite you in the ass.”

            “I will tell him! I just want to wait a little longer, is all. I want him to like me for me, not who he thinks I should be. Just a little longer, until I’m sure of his feelings.” Lilah continued down the stairs past her friend and Jones rolled her eyes and shook her head.

 

.x.

            Lilah met Morton for dinner ahead of the show at a small restaurant that offered a romantic atmosphere of almost nothing but two-top-tables and candle light. They spoke in hushed tones about anything and everything and enjoyed a lovely and simple dinner. Only a week and three days had passed since they first met, though anyone who saw them would have thought they had been together for a long, long while.

After dinner, they walked slowly to the nearby Tesseract Palace Theatre in the fading light of day, arms linked in perfect Dandytown decorum. They were impeccably dressed (he in a dark green tuxedo and she in a royal blue ankle-length gown) and heads turned to take in their perfection. As they entered the theater’s foyer, filled with cheery concert-goers enjoying a pre-show drink, Lilah’s stomach flipped. There were several dozen Cavalcadium members in close proximity to the front doors and no way to avoid any of them. She clutched Morton’s arm tighter and he asked her if she was alright. Before she could speak, an ample-bodied older woman with orange, scaly skin in a dazzling white gown turned to face them and chimed “Delilah Moreau-Walter, why, aren’t you stunning tonight!”

Lilah laughed nervously. “Mrs. Kinsakana, you’re looking radiant as well,” she quipped, as was expected. Mrs. Gloriosa Kinsakana was one of the foremost socialites in Dandytown and there was no way Delilah could blow her off and not suffer the social consequences. Morton’s face lost all of its color and he stared at his date as if her head were on fire. Lilah, trapped by custom and forced to proceed with formalities faked a smile and introduced her date. “I’d like you to meet Mr. Morton Greene, applicant to the Cavalcadium. Mr. Greene, this is…” before she could finish Morton started coughing. Loudly. Terribly. “I’m so sorry, Mrs. Kinsakana! Please excuse us. I think Mr. Greene needs some air!” Lilah grasped his arm tightly and pulled him through the crowd and back out of the glass front doors.

In a minute or so, Morton caught his breath and red-faced he begged her pardon quietly.

Lilah stared at her shoes. “I’m so sorry that I kept my name from you,” she said.

“It is…” Morton chose his words carefully and watched her apprehensively. “Quite a shock.”

“Oh, Georgia was right, this sure did bite me in the… Ugh. I’m sorry. I just wanted you to like me for me, that’s all.” Lilah folded her arms and turned away from him.

“You did?”

“Yes, but now I’ve upset you. You practically choked in there.”

Morton cleared his throat and was silent for a moment. He nodded to himself quickly. “Well, I’ve had trouble with my lungs for many years. I am so sorry that I caused a scene--I suppose the shock triggered a bit of a fit. But I think I can identify with you. I too have detached myself from my family, in my case in the hope to attempt to impress who I truly am upon the Cavalcaduim.”

Lilah turned back and raised a brow. “You have?”

“Yes. I do not wish to associate myself with my horrid half-brother--the only family I have left--ever again. I came here to find new friends and to pursue my ambitions on my own. I assume you kept your name from me in order to prevent me from assuming certain things about you based on the accomplishments of your family?”

She nodded.

“Then I am beyond pleased to know we are even more similar than I thought we were before I knew your full name. I am quite taken with you, Lilah,” he said, stepping closer to her. “And I promise you that I will never compare you to or hold you up to any sort of standard because of it.”

The sound of applause drifted out of the theater and Lilah smiled broadly and extended her hand to him which he took in his, brought it to his lips and kissed it. “Thank you,” she said. “I am quite taken with you, as well, Mr. Greene.” She blushed and slowly, they made their way back to the glass doors and enjoyed an amazing concert together.

 

They parted ways for the night in front of the theater and their photograph was taken several times by social column reporters. As Morton Greene helped Lilah into the carriage that would take her back to 15 Plum Street, he repressed a few coughs and kissed her hand once more before the door closed. She waved good-bye and he turned and walked back to the Vesper Arms--the hotel he was calling home in Dandytown. On a whim, he turned left and entered the park, meandering along its paths under the soft gas lights. “Oh, this changes everything!” he said softly to himself once he was alone. “Moreau-Walter,” he laughed incredulously and coughed a few times. “Of all people. Of all women! Oh, providence. Oh, fortune. Oh, hell.” He stopped on top of a bridge over a lazy stream and leaned over the rail and looked at the dark water moving below. “Hell. Why not? What’s in a name, really? And if I never return, who’s to be the wiser, eh, Greene?” Morton asked his shadowy reflection. “Right. I love this woman! That is plain. How else could I make such an insane decision?” He laughed and coughed again and wandered his way back to the hotel where he found it very hard indeed to sleep.

 

.x.

            “Oh, Gilmore!” Lilah sang as she entered her home late that night. “I think I might be in love!”

            Her ghostly butler took her hat and clutch as she danced through the hall toward the stairs. “With Mr. Greene?” he asked.

            “Indeed! I think so! I don’t know, I’ve never been in love before. Have you?”

            “Oh, yes, Miss.” He blushed faintly purple.

            “What’s it like?”

            Gilmore raised a brow. “Can you go an hour without thinking of him?”

            “No.”

            “Are you imagining what Delilah Greene sounds like?”

            “...” Lilah covered her mouth with her hands. “I am now!”

            “Congratulations, you are in love.” He floated after her as she ran up the stairs. “Beware, Miss! This is a most dangerous condition, prone to all sorts of foolish behavior!”

            “Oh I think that’s a given. You might even see it in the papers tomorrow,” she said, thinking of his coughing fit just before the concert.

            “Ah… What!”

            “I’m kidding!” She flopped down on her bed and removed her shoes. Gilmore moved them into the closet with his spectral abilities and turned down the covers for her. “But seriously. Besides you and Georgia, I don’t have many people who are close to me. No offense, but until I met Morton, for the last three years I’ve had this sort of… empty spot.” She pursed her lips for a moment and her eyes glistened. “When I lost my friends, they left such a void. Morton is just so wonderful. He believes in peace and proper handling of matter and he’s so smart and classy and listens to me and makes me feel like I can just be who I am and I feel like…” She trailed off and apologized for rambling.

            Gilmore smiled. “I know. I am very glad for you, Miss. Will that be all for the evening?”

            “Yes, Gilmore. Thank you so much.”

            He bowed and gave her another sly smile as he dissipated.

 

            Rematerializing in the kitchen to finish up his chores for the evening, Gilmore hummed happily to himself. When the idea of his mistress marrying and perhaps starting a family entered his mind he flushed cerulean, giggled like a schoolgirl, and a shower of tiny but brilliant sparkles exploded from the top of his head as he bounced around the kitchen as if he were in a pinball machine.