Title: Use Psychology
Nick Temin - January 15, 2012 09:18 AM (GMT)
Valeria, having known Nicki a long time and being generally a rational sort of person, probably had a pretty good grasp on what was going on here. Nick thought this. She liked to think this, at least, and so she was going to try really hard to do so. She had to think it, because as long as she could think it, she had a plan.
As long as she had a plan, she would be fine. The first step was always to have a plan. After that, maybe it failed! Sure. That could happen. The answer then was to make another plan, not to give up on the whole notion entirely because frankly that was stupid it would be like giving up on science just because one experiment hadn't turned out properly the point was that the method had to be respected and adhered to and that meant that she had to stick to this plan because she had no other, and she couldn't just go running about in petrifying scent voids like hospitals without any kind of plan.
That was ridiculous.
In the interests of things being non-ridiculous, Nick had a plan that started with talking to Valeria, who understood both that Nick was very upset in a hospital and therefore could not be effectively evaluated by mental health professionals as long as they were keeping her confined in this place, and that Nick was a reliable and practical sort of woman who could be trusted to make good plans like murdering supervillains using questionably ethical homemade poisonspraying blood guns.
Obviously Valeria would understand.
Valeria wasn't facing Nicki, but Nicki had faced away from Valeria anyway, only occasionally glancing over her shoulder to make sure she wasn't being looked at because even though it was clearly not the case Nick was still fairly sure that somehow people could tell that she'd had sores all down one side of her body and she just didn't want to talk about that she wanted to talk about something else.
I hate myself, she thought. Where did that come from? she thought next. No getting distracted.
Nick had had to come to grips very quickly with the fact that Rick had gotten her underwear, which meant that he had seen her underwear. Her underwear drawer wasn't messy, right? She'd hidden all of those things, right?
She didn't have time to think about that because thinking about that wasn't part of The Plan. The Plan involved getting dressed and making a very important point to Valeria Who Was Reasonable And Knew Her Pretty Well.
"So, speaking objectively and not because this place is freaking me out, but this place is freaking me out and I don't think that they are going to be able to accurately assess my mental state in a hospital. I think that it would be in the best interests of the doctors and the accuracy of their report if they were to maybe try and do that someplace else."
Nick pulled her bra up and put her arms through the straps nonchalantly as though she had made a perfectly casual observation that had no bearing on whether Sable let her walk out of here right now.
"You know, like soon, maybe."
That was because Nick was being entirely reasonable. It was everybody else here who was out of control and being ruled by their emotions. They could not see how obvious it was that it was better for everybody if Veronica left. Right now.
Sable - January 15, 2012 10:20 AM (GMT)
"Why don't we tell the doctors how you're feeling and see if they think it's all right for you to leave?" Sable asked. She had no intention of letting Nick out of professional custody.
"Maybe they'll be able to suggest a place that isn't a hospital room where they'll be able to help you." Where they'll be able to protect you from yourself, she thought.
Nick Temin - January 15, 2012 10:24 AM (GMT)
"The doctors," Nick said carefully, shaking her shirt out from its folded position where Rick had put it because she could smell where he'd touched it and held it which was really fortunate because it smelled like Clean in here. "...were the ones who wanted to keep me in a hospital room. Moving me was my mom's idea."
Moms were great. Nick's mom was great. It was important sometimes to invoke maternal superiority because in her own way Melissa could be as hard to argue with as Deborah, especially when she wasn't even here to participate.
"And Taryn helped me. She was a hell of a lot more use than they were, and now it's her turn to be helped."
Sable - January 15, 2012 01:06 PM (GMT)
"The fact that Taryn is better at physical healing than the doctors doesn't mean they're useless," Sable pointed out. "And you need different doctors now. You need a psychologist, Nick. I'm not helping you leave before you see one, and I'm sure your moms would feel the same."
Was that too blunt? Probably.
Nick Temin - January 15, 2012 09:40 PM (GMT)
It was fine. Some opposition was part of The Plan, and Nick was prepared to deal with it by demonstrated that she was one who was reasonable here.
Nick pulled her shirt over her head and turned around, speaking way more loudly than she'd intended, more so than she even realized while she was doing it. "I already know everything they're going to say!" She took a breath, brought her volume down a notch. "I can have the whole conversation in my head without them. I know what I need and some of it I can have and some of it I can't. I have learned to deal with not being able to have stuff. Everybody else needs to figure it the hell out and get off my back."
She took a deep shuddering breath and her thoughts collided with the realization that it smelled just fucking horrifying in here and everything was getting all smashed and she really had to leave and Valeria might not let her but she couldn't think like that right now she had to stick with The Plan and not do things she had sworn not to do.
Not that that really counted for much.
Sable - January 15, 2012 10:15 PM (GMT)
"Nick, if you really knew how to deal with it, you wouldn't be in here now," Sable said. "Listen to me. I will make sure that you don't have to spend the night in a hospital room. Okay? If I have to break you out, watch you overnight myself, and break you back in tomorrow morning, I will do that. But I'm not going to just let you leave without even talking to anyone."
She didn't think it would come to that. She was quite sure that there was somewhere they could put Nick on suicide watch that wouldn't involve keeping her somewhere that was triggering panic attacks in her. But she was willing to stand by her word if she had to.
Nick Temin - January 15, 2012 10:30 PM (GMT)
Sable was halfway on board with The Plan and halfway not. This was maddening. It was driving her mad. If she was crazy now, this was why, and the next time someone asked she should probably just say that she really was nuts but it was because nobody would listen to reason because they were all crazy and they'd made her crazy, too.
She wasn't sure whether to argue with Valeria's assessment of why Nick was here, or whether to support her apparent willingness to get Nick somewhere reasonable.
"Oh, I won't be spending the night in any hospital room," Nick said, willing to hint at but not willing to rehash the fact that without Rick people would have a hard time stopping her. Her basic human decency was what protected them, since killing them or not killing them wouldn't actually change that she'd already killed someone. She was someone who killed people. She was something that killed people. She'd be that whether she fought her way out or not, because the fight to be a thing that didn't kill people was already decided, already over, and she'd lost on purpose.
"I don't know why doctors think they can just lock people up whenever they want."
Yes. All of them. Not just that one who had done it that one time. This was a systemic problem with the mindset of doctors. They got too used to overriding their patients, and so naturally people like Mertoi would happen. It was the obvious outcome.
Valeria just didn't understand. She hadn't been there. She didn't know.
Sable - January 15, 2012 10:44 PM (GMT)
Sable was Not Happy with the menace in Nick's voice.
"Good, then," she said. "You'll stay here until tonight, and then we'll leave. Why don't we talk to Rick and make sure he knows that's the plan?"
She wasn't going to get into the "doctors are evil" issue. She just wanted Nick to agree to stay here for the night.
Nick Temin - January 15, 2012 11:09 PM (GMT)
Another few hours?
Could Nick do that?
She considered this counter-offer.
Few hours. That would leave her here discussing the Daniel issue with the aliens and the future and the three percent survival rate and perhaps that was good, provided she could keep herself thinking in straight lines. Not that they needed her. They really didn't. No part of this conversation could be eased by Nicki poisoning someone to death.
If both Rick and Sable promised to keep Nick out of this place, then she might believe them. They could probably do it. That wasn't exactly what she was hearing, though.
"You'll want me to come back tomorrow. Contrary to what everyone seems to think, I am not above asking for help, but not if you two are just going to turn on me and drag me back in here tomorrow."
Sable - January 15, 2012 11:17 PM (GMT)
"I will drag you to a psychologist tomorrow," Sable said. "Doesn't have to be at the hospital, though. Is that acceptable?"
Nick Temin - January 15, 2012 11:29 PM (GMT)
That was not precisely a denial of Nick's suspicions, which meant that it was not good enough. Valeria was going to keep the option open of locking Nicki up and that meant that she was still part of the problem. Then there was Rick who was just worried and didn't know what to do with the waste of energy he'd made the stupid mistake of kissing at a red light.
"I don't mind talking to psychologists," Nick said. "I'm a good test-taker and we can do it if you don't mind the great big pointless diversion from this whole alien invasion thing but I want a promise from you and from Rick that you won't let me get held anywhere against my will because that is what we are talking about here and I swear to god I am not going to have that happen and you are either with me on that or you aren't."
Nick wasn't sure if that counted as a whole sentence. It certainly contained enough raw verbal material to constitute a sentence or two but she didn't really have the energy to evaluate whether she'd done it properly. She did not have shoes. This was what she had for clothes. That was fine. It was clothing. It was hers and it smelled like her and it smelled like Rick which meant that she smelled like herself and Rick and those were good smells and he had made a very good call because he was an excellent boyfriend when he was not getting confused about whose side he was supposed to be on here anyway.
Sable - January 15, 2012 11:35 PM (GMT)
Sable turned around and looked at Nick with her arms crossed.
"I can only make that promise if you can make me believe that you aren't going to hurt yourself. And that's going to be awful hard for you to do. You know I'm your friend, and normally, yeah, I'd be with you 100% on that. But I'd rather see you held against your will than dead."
Nick Temin - January 15, 2012 11:43 PM (GMT)
Nick took a deep breath, filling her lungs with as much air as she could get because there was nothing in the room for her to throw and so she needed to take a couple of seconds to stall herself before responding.
She really didn't want to have this conversation but apparently all of her friends had decided that they were no longer equals who respected each other but that Nick had to go to each and every one of them and prove herself to them and make sure that she was up to their standards of whatever the hell.
Why couldn't they just leave her alone? For god's sake she had killed someone for these people and they couldn't just leave her alone.
"It was. an accident. Sable. If I had wanted to off myself, I am a god damned scientist and I wouldn't have ended up lying in my apartment for days with my skin rotting into the tile. I would have succeeded. It would be nice if my so-called friends could give me a little bit of fucking credit for that if you can't give me anything else."
Sable - January 16, 2012 07:15 AM (GMT)
"You accidentally stopped taking your meds?" Sable asked skeptically. "How exactly did that happen?"
You probably weren't supposed to have conversations like this with suicidal people, but Sable did feel like she was obligated to hear Nick out. She certainly wasn't going to help hold her against her will if it wasn't saving her life.
Nick Temin - January 16, 2012 09:47 PM (GMT)
Nicki pressed her hands together, put her fingertips against her forehead, and then spread her hands out over her face.
People were really stupid. She had to remind herself that she was not upset at Valeria; she was just upset. She should not take this out on her, which was what she was doing which was bad because it would mean Valeria would think she was being crazy and irrational and therefore in need of a psych evaluation and probable nonvoluntary confinement.
"I have been phasing off of them for the past few weeks." Nick put her hands down, bracing them on her hips. "That is a ridiculously inefficient way to commit suicide. It is, however, the standard way of responsibly phasing off of medication." Because it had been an entirely rational and careful clinical decision that Nicki had made and in retrospect that much was obvious. She'd only seemed upset at the time, but actually she was behaving perfectly sensibly by lowering her blood levels of the drug gradually by only taking it irregularly. "I just... dropped the dose too fast and I gave us all a scare and that is regrettable but you are all seriously overreacting."
Seriously. Their overreaction was serious. That was the sort of overreaction this was: the serious kind. Sure, it had been clinically non-optimal to go off her meds entirely before she'd spent more time with an irregular dose, but it was going to happen eventually.
"This isn't a failed experiment, because an experiment didn't fail if you learned something, and I did."
Sable - January 16, 2012 10:08 PM (GMT)
"Why would you do that without consulting a doctor? Or telling anyone? Or taking any sort of precaution that would keep any potential negative reactions from killing you?" Sable asked. "That's no way to run an experiment. Why would you try to phase off the medicine that keeps you from poisoning yourself at all?"
Nick Temin - January 16, 2012 10:32 PM (GMT)
There were, on occasion, issues that prompted an immediate and less than restrained emotional response from Veronica Temin. One was trashtalking her parents. The other was... well...
"Well I'm really fucking sorry that the doctor who put me on that regimen went to fucking prison for trying to kill me and whoever else she could use me to murder."
Nick's voice was rising again and she didn't care. If people wanted to know more about this situation than she would damn well finally let them know what they were actually walking into and how poorly their expectations translated when talking about her life and her circumstances.
"I'm the one she worked with. She and I put it together. So unless I want to go get the clinical advice of someone who has already demonstrated that she wants me to die, the second-best expert here is me."
She might have been able to offer an answer as to why she was doing any of this in the first place but right now she was too busy freaking out. Valeria probably wouldn't have been terribly fond of her answer, but as it was she was in a place that smelled like Mertoi and now Sable wanted to talk about Mertoi as well and that meant that she just deserved whatever the hell yelling shitfit she got.
Sable - January 17, 2012 07:49 AM (GMT)
"Wait. The doctor who put you on that medicine was the person who kidnapped you?" Sable asked. "Oh god, Nick, I am so sorry. I had no idea. No one told me. I am so sorry."
No one tells me anything!
Nick Temin - January 17, 2012 07:58 AM (GMT)
Nick, still fuming, felt the process of reining herself in like someone was physically pulling her backward. She wanted to stampede around the conversation some more yelling at Sable, but that had mollified her somewhat.
"I had other meds when I was younger, but when I got to MSU one of the pharmacy professors started working with me. Was fine until she realized I wasn't just poisonous. Then I went from being this sad fucking disabled kid to... well."
She shrugged one shoulder sharply as though she could physically fling off everything she was leaving unsaid. "A problem. So it was either go ask her what she thought I should do, or just make my own decisions."
Sable - January 17, 2012 08:06 AM (GMT)
"But I still don't see why you didn't tell anyone that you were doing this experiment," she said. "You could have controlled the circumstances a little. Had people check on you. Consulted with another doctor, maybe, so that someone else could monitor your state."
Sable thought back for a moment. She thought Boreas had said something like that...
"And didn't Boreas say something about an early warning system that you set up? And you said that you didn't have it on."
Nick Temin - January 17, 2012 08:25 AM (GMT)
"Yes," Nick said, willing to talk about technology instead because that was not awkward. At least, not until they got too far into the details of why Nick wore it.
"Remember that watch I threw into the doorway to Canada?" Why had Nick's life reached a point where she had to make sentences like that one? How had this happened? Where had she gone wrong? "It's a tracking device Rom made me. I can set it off manually, or serious enough pain or fear can trigger it. I asked him after the second time I ended up in the hands of some maniac though honestly Professor Phase really isn't that bad."
Professor Phase, the man Nicki had rushed through a vicious hand-to-hand fight to check on and help if she could, had indeed sort of kidnapped her once. Then he was a puppy and she and Rick had taken him home and he'd licked her mother.
How had her life come to this?
"But I'm too attractive a target. I'm too vulnerable and it's too easy to use me to hurt people, or at least get at my friends. So I gave them a way to track me down, for the next time it happens."
Sable - January 17, 2012 04:23 PM (GMT)
"That makes sense," Sable said, ignoring the mention of Hackley through sheer willpower. "But why didn't it go off when you were in trouble this time?"
Nick Temin - January 17, 2012 06:07 PM (GMT)
This interrogation bullshit was already getting old and Nick hadn't even sat down with one of their fucking doctors to have them poke at her motivations and judge them and see if she deserved her freedom. She was accustomed to going happily unnoticed and this laser-like focus on her every decision was extremely unnerving unpleasant and stupid.
No more long explanations, she resolved. Fuck this. This is stupid.
The real answer was that at twelve and six and twelve and six the watched beeped to remind her that she was supposed to be taking her pills that didn't work, that didn't do what they were supposed to, and that if she didn't she was stupid and didn't care whether she got to be normal and so she'd better drop everything and take her meds.
Hard enough to sleep with the ridiculous poison delirium dreams; she didn't need her watch beeping in her ear every six hours on top of it. Really, Nicki needed sleep to be healthy and it had therefore been a perfectly valid and rational health choice, now that she was evaluating it with the benefit of hindsight.
"Because, the alarm was driving me nuts." She picked up the hospital gown and contaminated blanket she'd dropped on the floor. "I want to go deal with this alien stuff and then leave. So I need a yes or no on whether you're going to get in my way so that I know what I'm doing."
Sable - January 18, 2012 07:40 AM (GMT)
Nope! Wrong answer, Nick. You had me going for a bit there, but there is no way I'm letting you out of this hospital.
"No, Nick. I would be more than happy to work with you and the doctors to try to find an alternate arrangement, but I am not going to help you escape from the hospital."
There's not much she can do besides kill and smell, right? I don't think she'd poison me.
Nick Temin - January 18, 2012 09:41 AM (GMT)
Fuck. Fuck! Why did she have to be like that about it? Why did she have to go and make it clear whose side she was on? After all that talk about how she hadn't wanted to accept help from anybody, even from Nicki, Valeria was still going to side with the doctors who wanted to take everybody's control away? Really?
It was like Valeria didn't trust her at all. Even after going out and risking their lives together, it hadn't been enough. There was probably little if anything Nick could have done or said, in retrospect, that would mean more to Sable than what a bunch of doctors said who knew even less than Sable did.
It was too bad.
Now Nick had decisions to make, and she didn't like any of her options.
Nicki answered carefully, "I am not going to let them or you imprison me." She took a deep breath. "You don't know the full extent of what I can do, and god," she added, rolling her eyes up to the ceiling. "I didn't until I went off my meds. I don't even now. But believe me. I want to get out of here without any of that. Please don't make me have to go through you. It will bother me forever, but I will not let you jail me here just because you were my friend before."
Before wasn't now.
Being her friend before didn't matter. Would Valeria be her friend now? Or would she participate in the misunderstandings and overreactions that took away Veronica's freedom? Would she be part of Nick taking control of this situation, or would she contribute to the doctors' ability to terrorize Nick into submission?
All Nicki could do was leave Valeria the option and hope that she decided to be her friend and not her enemy. Nick couldn't make that decision; only Valeria could decide.
Valeria was her friend before. Before, though, wasn't the same thing as now. Nick couldn't say with certainty whether Valeria was her friend right now. That wasn't up to her. She had no control over it, really. All she had was the question. Was she Nick's friend now? Or was she going to be more obedient to doctors than she was loyal to Nick?
And how far would Nicki go to get through Valeria if meant the difference between confinement and freedom?
Sable - January 18, 2012 05:54 PM (GMT)
That was not good at all.
"Nick, I'm your friend now," Sable protested. "Can we at least try to go through legitimate channels first? Talk to the doctors, explain things, see if they have any ideas? I told you I wouldn't let them keep you here overnight. I'm not trying to jail you, I'm trying to help you, and so are they!"
If she yelled, would any of the others hear her? Was she going to have to fight Nick? That would be terrible. She'd do it if she had to, though. For Nick's own good.
Nick Temin - January 19, 2012 01:12 AM (GMT)
Nick dragged her hands up her face, around the back of her head, and knotted her fingers together behind her neck. She stared at her elbows mostly because they were right in her line of view now and also because they were not being frustrating. They were just bending where she said and hoping it all worked out for the best. Nicki would rather look at them.
She didn't know how to explain her position to Valeria any better than she had. Nicki knew that what she was saying was entirely reasonable because it made perfect sense in her head, but she couldn't get it to come out that way, probably because she was scared and frustrated and anything short of Daniel telling everybody that Nicki needed to be allowed to leave for the sake of saving the future was just going to frighten her more.
Actually that would be awful, too, because it would mean she was significant in some way she'd never asked to be.
"I can't talk to them. Nobody listens to crazy people and they all think I'm crazy."
Sable - January 19, 2012 03:43 PM (GMT)
"But I'm on your side, and as far as I know, they have no reason to think I'm crazy," Sable pointed out. "We can get our friends and your family on your side, and then all of us can convince the doctors togther."
Nick Temin - January 19, 2012 04:10 PM (GMT)
Strictly speaking, Nicki didn't need all of her friends and family and general whole support circle. Nicki needed the backing of just enough superheroes that it wasn't worth CAPE's time to hold her here or drag her back if she found a way out. It was a good thing, too, because Nick didn't really know how many of these people she could rely on.
Funny the circumstances under which people really had opportunity to betray their friends. She and her friends had been through a lot together, a lot of danger and violence. That had just been one mission, too. What about this alien thing? She could trust them all that far.
The real test came, though, when they were deciding whether to trust her.
Nick answered, but didn't move. She liked having her hands braced on the back of her neck; it felt more secure somehow, like it would only take a bend of her waist for her to curl herself into a ball to occupy as little space as possible. The smaller she was, the better she'd feel. That was how it worked.
"I can't tell you everything that's going on, and I know that isn't fair," she said. "But I'm not trying to do anything like what everybody thinks. I had..." The rest of the sentence broke off and fell away.
Lawrencium. Nobelium. Mendelevium. Um. Fermium. Einsteinium.
"I had birthday cards and everything."
Sable - January 19, 2012 04:36 PM (GMT)
"Is there anything else you can tell me?" Sable asked. "I want to believe you, Nick. But you must see how hard that is right now."
Wait. This was stupid.
"Would you be willing to say that you weren't trying to kill yourself and don't want to die in front of Seraph?"
Nick Temin - January 19, 2012 04:49 PM (GMT)
Now there was an interesting question.
Nick had been perfectly comfortable just giving her opinion of the situation, but now she had to think about whether she really thought what she thought. The layers of reflexivity there were baffling. How could Sable expect Nick to just say with certainty whether she wanted to die or not? These were important questions, and a lot of weighing had to go into an answer.
Valeria didn't want a hasty answer, did she? Surely she did not.
Her clothes smelled like Rick. Nicki closed her eyes and thought about his place on the break room couch, about his fingers on the bare skin of her back, about waking up in her old bedroom at her parents' place to find that he'd slept in there too, about him holding her while she cried, and how she didn't know what was in that box of his yet except that it smelled like it had come from a place that made sweets.
"I wasn't really thinking about it one way or the other. So it wasn't like a goal or anything. But I don't want to talk to Taryn because there's stuff she can't know."
Sable - January 19, 2012 04:55 PM (GMT)
"All I need you to say to her is 'I am not trying to die.' I'm not trying to infringe on your privacy, but if I'm considering helping you bust out of a hospital, I think I have a right to know that."
Sable wondered what these secrets of Nick's could be. There would have to be some explanation for why this clear suicide attempt was not a suicide attempt.
Nick Temin - January 19, 2012 05:04 PM (GMT)
Nick tightened her fingers, crushing them together behind her neck.
Could she say that?
It was in the present tense, which was notable and useful. Wouldn't be the first time that she'd used other people's trust in Taryn's lie detection to get them off her backs. This wasn't nearly as much of an out-and-out lie as the first time, either, as when she'd lied to Boreas to get him to report the lie back.
Of course, everything would have falled apart if Taryn had asked him what he thought, because apparently Boreas knew. How the hell did he decide when to pay attention to people, anyway? How did he decide when he should actually give somebody else the spotlight in his thoughts for a few seconds?
It was risky to do it with Boreas there. Nick had already lied to him once, and he knew it.
It was risky, but the payoff was to have a small pack of people willing to vouch for her or throw some weight around or even just promise to keep an eye on her somewhere else. That was too good to pass up.
"I can tell her that." Nick pulled her hands back around in front of her face.
BerkeliumCuriumAmericiumPlutonium then the other planets Neptunium Uranium.
"I owe her an apology for the bed sores."
Sable - January 19, 2012 05:14 PM (GMT)
"Great." Seraph was incredibly useful. Sable wished she could put her in a bag and carry her around to detect lies. "Shall we rejoin the others, then? Or do you need a minute?"
Nick Temin - January 19, 2012 05:21 PM (GMT)
I need Rick, she thought, but didn't say it.
Nick took a deep breath and nodded. "I need to deal with this alien thing. Which means that I need to go be on task as soon as possible or maybe just get out of the way. I don't know."
She swallowed hard and turned, bent, and picked up the pile of white fabric that had previously been serving her as clothing. She had to go talk to Taryn, and apologize for the fact that now Taryn had open sores all over her left side and it was Nick's fault.
Sable - January 19, 2012 05:58 PM (GMT)
"We have months to worry about that," Sable pointed out. Not that she wasn't itching to get started, but Nick was important too. "Five minutes won't hurt. Is there anything I can do to help? Anything that doesn't involve breaking you out, I mean?"
Nick Temin - January 19, 2012 06:03 PM (GMT)
Considering that Valeria was one of the people that Nick really didn't want to talk to about Skeptic because of how personally she'd take all of this, that was a really ridiculous question. Valeria didn't know that it was, but it so was.
"No. There's actual work to do."
Shame on you, Valeria! Worrying about your friend who almost died because maybe she attempted suicide! Where are your priorities?!
Nick wadded up her blanket and starched papery hospital gown under one arm, and reached past Sable to turn down the door handle. Its lock clicked back open.
The hallway would be bad, but if they got it over with quickly then maybe Nick could have Rick there and then find out that Daniel needed her to go get out of everybody's way and then she would go home and all of the problems would go away.
Step one: hallway.
Sable - January 19, 2012 06:10 PM (GMT)
Sable shrugged and followed Nick. She knew that she would have the same reaction if their places were reversed. The aliens were important, after all.