Sid was so absorbed in his book that he didn't notice someone standing on his patio, only an arms-length away, until the guy cleared his throat.
"What are you doing here?" Sid asked sharply. The guy had a short blond beard and a big tattoo on one arm. He also wore a holster with a gun. Sid tensed.
"Her Majesty needs skating lessons," the guy said, as if that was an explanation. Sid reminded himself of what Jen told him about dealing with crazy and potentially violent fans.
"Why," he began, and that was when the guy unfolded his wings.
Caine said he was an alien (holy shit.) He levitated them up to a spaceship (holy shit) to take Sid to his queen, who apparently ruled the Earth. Given that, Sid thought his disappointment was justified when they landed in front of an ordinary old house in the middle of green fields.
The door opened. A young woman ran out, then stopped when she saw Sid. She blinked.
"Caine, did you kidnap Sidney Crosby?"
"You know him, your Majesty?" Caine asked.
"My uncle is a Blackhawks fan. No offense," she added politely.
Sid smiled and hoped Jonny never found out.
Caine wasn't a good teacher, Jupiter explained, because he wasn't human and had different reflexes. When she'd become frustrated by her slow progress and mentioned that she'd never had the money to go ice-skating, Caine took that as a suggestion.
"It had to be someone good," Caine explained his choice. "Adapting to three dimensions can be hard."
Sid could confirm that. Learning how to regulate his strides when they could take him not only forward but also up was difficult. But it was more than worth it for the feeling of being able to skate straight up to the sky.
Later, over the course of several days and increasingly successful training sessions, Jupiter and Caine told him about the universe: about dragons, different planets, and starships.
"It's sort of terrifying," Jupiter admitted, spinning the hologram of Ourus around with her hand. "But also so beautiful. You can't even imagine."
At first it had been hard to see her as a queen. But when she flew with her arms spread wide, bees all around her like a shimmering golden honor guard, it seemed perfectly natural.
"I wish I could show my friends," Sid said.
Jupiter shrugged. "They'll just think it's Photoshop."
When Kris checked his email he found a picture of Sid jumping five meters up into the air.
"Cheating!" Geno had commented.
"Add a cape next time," Suttsy suggested.
The next picture, taken from somewhere up high, showed Sid in a cape, flying Superman-style.
"now I'm impressed," Sunshine said.
Kris studied the pictures with narrowed eyes. Then he went to his safe, took out his old phone, and dialed a number he hadn't needed in years. He still knew it by heart.
"Yes," she greeted him brusquely.
"Diomika, tell me how my human captain got a pair of antigravity boots…"