Venom peered at the tiny newscaster. WHAT IS THIS.
“T.V.” Eddie said. “Remember? I told you we could watch shows on here.”
IT IS TWO-DIMENSIONAL, Venom observed.
“Um. Yeah. What were you expecting, a hologram?”
YES. Venom extended a tendril to poke at the screen. YOUR SPECIES IS SPACE-FARING AND YOUR DISPLAYS ARE STILL TWO-DIMENSIONAL?
Eddie flipped between the usual depressing evening news, some nature documentary about urban wildlife, and a drama that was already three-quarters through and too convoluted for either of them to follow. After about thirty minutes of browsing, they gave up and went to bed.
YOUR PHONE HAS CHANGED ITS CODE.
“Don’t change my pin, V,” Eddie said tiredly.
I DID NOT CHANGE IT, Venom insisted. IT CHANGED ITSELF.
Christ, how was it that Venom could be four years old and seventy at the same time? “Phones don’t do that.” He took the phone from Venom’s tentacle and tapped in the pin. It unlocked. “See? Like that.”
I DID THAT, Venom said sullenly. IT DID NOT RESPOND.
“Well obviously you did something wrong,” Eddie said. Venom sulked for the next hour.
Eddie had to fly out to Portland for work. He wasn’t looking forward to taking Venom into a pressurized tube thirty thousand feet in the air—hell, he wasn’t looking forward to being thirty thousand feet in the air—but at least the flight was only an hour. It’d be fine.
The TSA agent waved him forward into the scanner. It was at that exact instant that it occurred to Eddie that he’d overlooked a more serious risk right here on the ground.
The panels swung around them. The alarm blared.
The TSA agent pulled them aside for a pat-down. Eddie hoped to God the machine wasn’t sophisticated enough to detect that the anomaly was inside him.
The anomaly stirred defensively at the agent’s invasive touch. No! Eddie thought sharply. This is the worst possible place to start a fight, V.
WHAT HAPPENED. WHY DO THEY SUSPECT US.
That machine there is a kind of scanner.
Yeah, it’s a way of seeing—
I KNOW WHAT A SCANNER IS, Venom snapped. WHAT DOES IT USE? X-RAY? SPINDULAR CHARGE? GRAVITATIONAL DISTORTIONS?
Uh, sure, probably one of those things.
WHATEVER, Venom snarled. I CAN OUTSMART ANYTHING HUMAN TECHNOLOGY CAN THROW AT US. MAKE THEM SEND US THROUGH AGAIN.
You sure you wanna risk that?
But it was too late. The agent, finding nothing out of order, was already pointing them back to the machine for another pass. Eddie stepped inside and felt a warm rush throughout their whole body, like blood flowing back into a stiff limb. The panels swung around again. The light flashed green. The agent seemed to accept it as a glitch and waved them—him—through.
That was a close call. What did you do?
SPREAD MYSELF EVENLY SO THERE WAS NO VISIBLE CONCENTRATION OF MASS. WE ARE LUCKY THIS ASS-BACKWARD PLANET DOESN’T HAVE SPINDULAR CHARGE METERS, Venom grumbled.
Eddie snorted, snatching their bag off the conveyor belt and trying not to rush away too quickly. We’re lucky I’m white.
“We need to set the oven to three seventy-five.” Venom reached for a knob at random. “No, not that one, the one with the numbers.”
WHAT DO THESE GLYPHS MEAN?
Eddie squinted at the little boxes around the knob. One of them appeared to have a hazard sign in it. That seemed unlikely. Maybe it was supposed to represent a fan? What would an oven need a fan for? “I dunno, just don’t touch it.”
They set the oven to 375 and left it to preheat while they mixed the brownie batter. When they opened it ten minutes later, the oven was still cold.
IT IS BECAUSE WE DID NOT ADJUST THE GLYPH KNOB.
“Maybe it’s not plugged in right. Can you reach back there?”
AND DO WHAT.
“There’s a thing back there that needs to be plugged into a thing.”
SO HELPFUL, Venom grumbled, but it stretched a tendril behind the oven and groped around for a bit before pulling it back coated in crumbs and grease. It shook the muck off in the sink. IT IS PLUGGED IN.
“Are you sure you got the right one?”
THERE IS MORE THAN ONE PLUG? Eddie sighed. WHY DO YOU NEED SO MANY WIRES ANYWAY?
“How else’re we gonna get electricity?”
MICROWAVE BEAMS, Venom said in an exasperated tone that suggested this should have been obvious to a second-grader.
"Yeah, well I'm fresh out and this thing's still not heating up. You musta got the wrong plug.”
IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE PLUG, Venom pronounced.
“Like you know how ovens work. You can barely work the TV.”
I AM NOT INCOMPETENT, Venom growled. YOUR TECHNOLOGY IS JUST SHIT.
“Fine. Try the glyph knob,” Eddie said, certain there was a more human name for it that he was forgetting.
It didn’t work. Venom fiddled with different controls for a minute before they finally gave up and went to read a book.
They were six minutes and forty-three seconds in when they heard a piercing chirp. A brief, stabbing pain shot through their entire body. Venom had covered Eddie and had half a dozen tentacles out in seconds, ready to defend, but there was no one there. The beep sounded again. It was coming from the kitchen.
A tiny screen on the oven was displaying a flashing red 0:00. “I think you turned on the timer by mistake, V,” Eddie said, pushing random buttons until the beeping stopped.
IT IS WARM, Venom observed.
Eddie cracked the oven open and put a hand inside to verify. “I guess you have to turn on the timer for the oven to work?” Eddie mused.
BUT WE HAVE A SILENT TIMER ON YOUR PHONE.
THIS TIMER IS REDUNDANT. AND PAINFUL.
“Hey, I didn’t design it.”
God, the brownies were worth it though.
“No. I need them.”
“I’m almost done.”
Venom dropped the phone on the table with a deliberate thunk and slid back inside Eddie. Boredom radiated through the bond.
Eddie rubbed his eyes. “Fine. You can use the hands for fifteen seconds; then I’m going back to work.”
Venom snatched their hands, rapidly unlocking the phone and pulling up a YouTube video before placing them back on the keyboard.
“You really need to find a way to work a touchscreen,” Eddie grumbled. Venom had tried changing its texture to be more like human skin, but neither the phone screen nor the computer’s touchpad recognized itstouch.
MAYBE NEXT TIME WE HUNT WE SHOULD KEEP A FINGER.
“Human body parts do not come into this apartment.” Let’s see, where was he? Congressman Liszt, taxes, income br… Hang on a minute. A finger. That was an idea.
Venom glanced up from the—Wait, was it watching a slime video? Why would it— WHAT IDEA.
Eddie thought briefly about keeping it a surprise, but he knew Venom wouldn’t appreciate it. “A stylus. You could use the phone if we bought you a stylus. And maybe a USB mouse for the computer.”
YES, THAT WOULD BE CONVENIENT. Venom pretended not to care too much—it maintained that humans’ primitive devices were beneath it—but Eddie could feel that it was thrilled.
“What are you doing?” Eddie mumbled into the pillow.
TYPING. The symbiote had extended at least a hundred tiny tendrils, each of which was resting on a different key.
“Why do you need so many? You can make yourself hands,” Eddie pointed out.
THIS WILL BE MORE EFFICIENT.
“If you say so.” Eddie dozed off as he watched Venom practice, one keystroke at a time, still lifting its tendrils periodically to peer at the letters.
Eddie squinted at the YouTube homepage. That’s just creepy.
Check out this recommended video. “Reinstalling Your Audio Drivers.” How the hell does YouTube know we were having problems playing audio?
He felt a ripple of humor from Venom. BECAUSE I WAS LOOKING UP SOLUTIONS LAST NIGHT WHILE YOU WERE ASLEEP. I FIXED IT, BY THE WAY.
How’d you go from not knowing how to turn on a phone to being tech support?
DO YOU REMEMBER THAT TIME I ARRIVED HERE ON AN ALIEN SPACESHIP I HIJACKED?
Do you remember that time you crashed in a flaming wreck?
THAT WAS AGONY'S FAULT, Venom retorted. THE POINT IS, I AM AN ASTRONAUT. WAS AN ASTRONAUT. BASICALLY.
I thought you were like a soldier or something.
WELL, THERE ARE A LOT MORE FIGHTS TO THE DEATH IN KLYNTAR NASA.
Mm. Yeah, that tracks.
It somehow gave the psychic impression of a questioning hum.
You realize it’s been a year?
Since you saved the world.
SINCE WE MET, it pointed out.
Yeah. Figured I might get you something to celebrate. A gift.
The phrasing was strange Venom. YOU MIGHT?
Well, I haven’t gotten it yet. Thought you’d wanna pick it out. You'd probably know what to look for better than me these days. Besides, I know you don’t love surprises. Before I— I want you to know, this isn't a separation thing. And if you don't like it, I'll get you something else. It's just, you don’t really have anything that’s only yours and… I thought you might like having your own phone. We can’t afford anything fancy, but…
Venom wrapped its tendrils around them and hugged. Eddie smiled. You’re getting good at those.
HM. I THINK I AM GETTING THE HANG OF THIS PLANET.