Lucien doesn’t need to lie in the sun to thermoregulate. Despite appearances he’s not really a lizard, hot mammal blood pumps through his veins just like the rest of us. Most of us anyway. He doesn’t lie in the sun because he needs to, he does it because it feels good. The feeling he gets is not a sensation he can describe to anyone. Until he was turned into a lizard monster, he had no frame of reference. It’s like a dog trying to explain what a patch of grass smells like – it wouldn’t make sense to anyone but another dog. And there’s no one else like Lucien.
The sensation is especially cherished because Lucien doesn’t feel much anymore. And not in some metaphorical emotional way, literally he can’t feel very much. Because of his thick skin and altered nerve endings it takes a significant amount of force for him to feel anything. It’s another thing that only makes sense in context. People don’t realize how much they’re feeling things all the time. Your brain edits it into background noise. The air on your skin, someone brushing past you in a crowd, a handshake, the rustling of your clothing – unless something strange is going on, you don’t even notice how much you feel things.
Until it’s gone. It’s not exactly like waking up blind but it’s not unlike that either. Not being able to feel the ground under your feet, or the chair you’re sitting on, or someone tapping you on the shoulder. Lucien doesn’t often even feel a strong blow from a normal person. More than once, someone has attacked him in Madripoor and he didn’t notice. So the time he spends lying in the sun, actually feeling something, is extra special. Particularly because Madripoor is not a place where you feel special often.
As he was basking on the edge of the building, Lucien opened an eye to peer at Ela under their “home” – that is the tarp. Ela dragged a wooden chair she stole from somewhere up there and was sprawled out on it dead asleep. It didn’t look very comfortable to Lucien but Ela was always worried about bugs crawling on her so she would never lie on the ground. Most people could never sleep in a chair like that but Ela was out cold, Lucien had never met someone who could sleep so well. Ela is a world champion sleeper. She had a pack of cigarettes grasped in both hands in her lap like a primate holding onto a baby asleep in a tree.
Watching her sleep, Lucien was reminded about a furry white and black cat they had back on the farm. It slept like that too. Sprawled out in the sun on the porch dead to the world. That cat had unwittingly taught young Lucien a valuable lesson. It seems like the laziest beast in the world but whenever a bird or critter came into its eye line, there was an instant change. That furry little ball that sat on his chest and rumbled its purrs turned into a killer.
That lazy beast became totally focused, totally engaged – and when it made its move it was faster than you’d ever believe watching it laze around as a ball of fluff. Sometimes the field mouse or ground squirrel would run into a hole or get away, but not often. That soft fluffy sunseeker was merciless and quick. And it didn’t even eat them, just killed and left them lay and went back to snoozing. Death for no reason other than to do it.
Lucien didn’t smile because he can’t smile physically – you need lips for that – but he was smiling on the inside. He never had a friend like Ela before. Truth be told, he never had a friend before. In the service he kept to himself because of the horrible secret that he didn’t like girls. After that he was working with criminals he couldn’t stomach, no friends there. And working as a mercenary? Not a lot of comradery there either. Not unless you’re a real piece of shit.
Ela is something else though. She is completely self-absorbed and demanding, and she seems to have an addiction to mouthing off to the exact wrong people. But she is also disarming and fun and at her core cares about people. Cares about Lucien. Which was something he isn’t used to. It’s been a long time since anyone care about Lucien. Maybe never.
Just the other day someone asked Lucien “Who’s that you’re always hanging out with it?” and all he could think to say was “So that’s this woman, Ela, you see . . . . and uh . . . I think you’d like her.”
She’d hate it if she knew how much Lucien wanted to protect her. She’s strong enough to push over a building but she seems so fragile – Lucien feels that if he put one finger on her she’d burst apart like a dandelion and the bits of her would float away. Lucien sees her as a cannon made out of ice, dangerous for sure, but not able to withstand its own power. And that’s just the physical part, she’s lived a soft life in the CSA, she isn’t ready for this kind of shit. Martialla is wrong about her, Lucien thinks, she does complain a lot, but she’s adjusting well to her new reality given the givens and assuming the assumptions. Most people like her wouldn’t have lasted a day kidnapped and dropped in Madripoor.
Some of it she brings on herself, but Lucien would be the first to say that Ela seems to be a magnet for disasters and bad luck. Sometimes it seems like she can’t walk down the street without being accosted by someone or something. Maybe the Shaow Lords are the ones behind all her “bad luck”.
Martialla was already gone when Lucien woke up. She doesn’t seem to sleep much. Two or three hours at most, and even when she’s asleep she seems kind of awake. Lucien wishes she and Ela got along better. Even though they came from different places and served in different ways and she speaks French with a terrible accent, he has so much in common with Martialla. He loves talking to her, even more than Ela sometimes, Ela didn’t know anything about guns or vehicles of military history. Plus Martialla has way more amusing stories about grenades and bloody ribcages.
Lucien’s first stop of the day was breakfast with the Nightwitch. They don’t do it every day, but they often check in with each other to trade news and gossip. She’s much more plugged in of course, but Lucien fulfills the friend in really low places niche and usually has a few tidbits that she doesn’t know. Lucien has found that his real talent lies in networking. As “hired muscle” he can interact with pretty much anyone. And because of his appearance people have a habit of thinking that he’s stupid and say things around him they shouldn’t. Although in their defense, the only two other lizard guys Lucien has met were dumb as bricks.
After business was done, Lucien delicately apologize to the Nightwitch about how things went down with Serpentina. The Nightwitch played it graciously, but Lucien knows that he owes her one now. He’s racking up the favors owned and calling in what few markers he had trying to keep Ela alive.
Next was a meeting with a smuggler who might be willing to take them out to Baron Iorgu’s island. After that, some light collection work for Devil-Tail Lucy. Lucien has a lot more cash than he lets Ela know about, she’d spend it all in a day on something or other if she knew. After that, Lucien made the rounds of all the restaurants and food carts that they hadn’t already burned to see what scraps he could beg borrow or steal. One place gave him a giant bag full of day old buns, a good score that Ela would go through in one sitting and still be hungry.
Lucien wondered, if he and Ela were to turn themselves over to some eggheads to study them if they could come up with a scientific explanation why he was huge and barely needs to eat anything while Ela has to each as much as an entire platoon every day. And still she looks like she’s losing weight. And she didn’t have a lot to lose to begin with. Sometimes Lucien is shocked when he notices how skinny she is now. It reminds him of some PSA they used to run on channel 4 about anorexia. Lucien hates the people that did that to her almost as much as the aliens that turned him into a monster. Their day is coming, all of them.
After that, Lucien headed over to shoot the breeze with a crew working on a new hotel on the border to uptown but on the way he bumped into an old comrade from his days in Africa. Lucien always liked Amerigo. Amerigo had a reputation as being slippery and untrustworthy, which is an odd thing that happens when you’re a total pro but keep to yourself. If you’re not into the jocular back-slappery of men, they feel like they can’t trust you even when you always do your job. Lucien knows what that’s like. Amerigo didn’t seem too happy with whatever he was doing there but then he never really seemed that happy.
After a few more stops to chat and arrange and network, Lucien was back on the roof to get a last little bit of sun before Ela woke up. He wasn’t really asleep, he never would have felt her kick if he was, he was just pretending.
“Wake up you lazy lizard! It’s time to get to work.”