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PostPosted: Mon Jan 31, '11, 8:22 pm
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The first thing Andi saw as she stepped out into the streets of Oputa was Gabe waiting for her across from the teleportation station. She approached him and, as always, ignored the expected formalities. “Why are you wearing a scarf? It's pretty warm outside!”

Gabe was gradually getting used to the mannerisms of the capricious student and jumped right into the conversation with her. “You never know when the weather will change, and I have to walk home tonight.”

“Oh, you don't live here in Oputa?”

“No, I live in the housing the lab provides for its full-time staff. I can't argue with such a short commute!” He adjusted the bit of red fabric around his neck. “Have you eaten yet?”

“No, I must have woken up too late for that,” she said with a sly smile. “I am a little hungry, actually.”

Gabe led the way to a food station around the corner from the teleportation station. As they ordered their meal, he saw the glint in Andi's eyes that meant she had come up with another one of her ideas. “Can we take this outside? I mean, outside of Oputa? It's so pretty around here, and I haven't been here in a long time, and we could have a little picnic, and...”

“Sure,” he said, assuming it was useless to try to argue. “Sounds like fun.”

The sympathetic employee provided them with bags for the food and they started walking westward out of the town. When Oputa was barely visible behind them, Andi finally plopped down next to a tall evergreen tree. “Isn't it so much nicer being out here?” Gabe had to agree.

“Let's keep walking,” she suggested when they were finished eating. “I haven't been out here in years!” Gabe obediently followed her as she led them around trees, over a bridge, through tall grasses, until she finally decided on a small clearing. He watched as she gathered wildflowers of all shapes and colors, ignoring the light breeze that tousled her petal pink hair.

As promised, the biologist described the Biosystems Lab to his companion, trying to think of all the details her artist's mind would want to hear. Andi listened intently, asking intelligent questions here and there, and tied her flowers into chains of various lengths. Gabe couldn't help but smile as, when he was in mid-sentence, she draped a crown of small white daisies over his deep purple hair.

“The Biosystems Lab sounds like a fascinating place,” the student said. She thought for a moment as she fiddled with her botanical jewelry. “Part of me is still surprised that it's still open and functional.”

“What makes you say that?”

She wrinkled her nose. “Well, first of all, I think it's great that you still have enough people interested enough in science to keep it running. So many people don't even have jobs anymore.” Even though they were alone in the woods, far from any of the towns, she dropped her voice to a whisper. “I'm surprised that Mother Brain lets you keep experimenting and creating new things. It somehow seems strange that she lets the lab operate without her direct control.”

“If it weren't for Mother Brain, there probably wouldn't be a Biosystems Lab,” Gabe responded. “Before she came to Motavia, the people were more concerned with feeding their families and fighting to survive. Now that we don't have to worry about that as much, we're free to do whatever we want, including genetic research.”

The sky began to grow dark as they continued their debate, but neither appeared to take notice. “Unfortunately, there aren't enough people like you. What if something happens to Mother Brain? We, as a society, have grown so damn lazy, we'd probably die before we figured out what to do,” Andi argued.

“We might have died anyway. See this grass you're sitting on?” Gabe ran his hands over the soft green blades between them. “It used to be miles and miles of nothing but hot, dry sand.”

Andi wasn't convinced. “But what's the point of being here if we're not going to do anything? Remember what I said about the declining enrollment rates at Motavia University? While there are still some people like you and me who have goals and plans, it seems like half the planet is content to just sit around, twiddling their thumbs.”

“And if that's what they want to do, why not? They're not hurting anyone.”

She frowned. “It just seems like such a waste. I'm not claiming that I'll be making any great contributions to Algolian life with my art - “

“You're not?” he interrupted, pretending to be surprised.

“Maybe sometimes,” she admitted with a small smile. “ Anyway, my point was that even if my art doesn't directly benefit people in a tangible way, at least I'm doing something with my life. Some days, though, I just feel like I'm in a growing minority.”

“Well, if I'm in that minority with you, at least I'm in good company.”

“How flattering.” She graciously accepted the compliment. “But it doesn't sound like I've convinced you of the validity of my point of view yet.”

“Do you have to?”

Andi pretended to give his question great thought. “I guess not. Not tonight, anyway.” A playful grin pierced through her previously serious expression. “I may wear you down though, I can be awfully persistent.”

“I'm sure,” he chuckled. Gabe turned his gray eyes up towards the sky and realized that the sun had practically disappeared. “Wow, it got dark out here pretty fast. Shall we head back?”

Andi followed his gaze upward. “Oh, look! The stars are just starting to come out! Can't we stay out here a little longer? They look so much different from here than in the city!”

The easy-going scientist agreed, as it had been a long time since he had taken the time to appreciate the beauty of the glimmering constellations. Despite the setting of the sun, the evening was unseasonably warm, and he removed his scarf and folded it up. Placing it on the ground, he reclined and rested his head on the makeshift pillow to get a better look at the night sky. Andi, having no other alternative, chose to rest her head on Gabe's stomach, her body perpendicular to his.

They were able to locate Palma and Dezoris with ease, and Gabe knew the names of a number of the other objects in the sky as well. They discussed the planets of Algol, space travel, and various other subjects. Conversation eventually meandered from the history of their solar system to the more intimate histories of their own lives and there was never a quiet moment.

After many hours, the stars started to fade. “I can't believe we stayed out here all night,” Gabe said, rubbing his eyes.

“Oh, don't tell me you never pulled an all-nighter in your college days, I refuse to believe it!” The familiar twinkle made another appearance in Andi's eyes as she sprung to her feet. “Come on, let's go! We don't have much time if we're going to make it!” She grabbed his hand and pulled him to his feet.

Gabe didn't bother asking about her plans, as he barely had time to grab his scarf before she ran off into the woods, never letting go of his hand. They darted around trees and raced through the open plains, Andi's giggles leading the way. Ahead of them, Gabe could make out where the land suddenly stopped, a sharp drop down to the crashing waves below.

Andi finally stopped running as they reached the edge of the great island. There was nothing in front of them but the expansive ocean, an endless display of deep blue. The first trickles of light had started to sneak out over the horizon, but she didn't mind. “Oh good, we didn't miss it,” she said in between deep breaths.

“You must love things like this, I bet you wish you had your paints with you,” he observed.

She shook her head, disturbing the few last flowers that had managed to cling on for dear life during their rush to the water. “I never paint the sunrise. I know I'd never get it right.” She pointed out towards the ever-brightening sky. “Let's watch.”

Almost as if some divine hand had pulled back a curtain, Algol suddenly revealed itself to its two onlookers. The fiery sphere of their beloved sun glowed in the distance, spreading its essential light out over the brilliant sea. The two admirers watched in silence as Algol made its daily gradual climb, completely eradicating the darkness of the night. “I sometimes feel better knowing that no matter what happens, Mother Brain can never control everything,” Andi whispered.

Gabe turned to face her as she spoke and saw that she had closed her eyes. Her chin was lifted slightly as her face was bathed in sunlight and Algol's gentle rays wove themselves through her flowing hair. The paleness of her skin, the pink hues of her messy locks, and the golden light that was radiating around them all seemed to swirl together into a glorious palette, and for the first time, the serious scientist felt as if he was seeing the world through the eyes of an artist.

His breath caught in his throat as he watched her and he felt an indescribable urge to become part of her perfect picture. Without thinking, he stepped closer and pressed his lips against hers. The shock of feeling her skin against his own was enough to make him immediately pull away and blush furiously. “I...I'm...so sorry,” he stuttered. “I don't know what came over me.”

Andi's initial look of surprise quickly mellowed into one of satisfaction, perhaps slightly tinged with a hint of amusement. “Don't be,” she returned as she reached up to pull his head back down to hers.

The light of the new day pushed them to explore each other, hesitantly at first, but gradually increasing in intensity. Andi pulled the taller man closer to her, wanting to feel every bit of him against her. He felt warm, from a combination of their run to the cliffs, the new sunlight, and perhaps an indecent thought or two. She ran her hands over as much of him as she possibly could, wanting to feel every line, angle, and plane of his lean body.

Though he was fully enjoying the moment, the ever-cautious Gabe was conscious of the nearby cliffs and tried to lead her away from the edge. Distracted by far too many things, they tumbled backwards and landed with a jolt in the dewy grass.

Startled by the fall only briefly, Andi propped her head up on one hand as she looked at Gabe lying next to her and laughed. “See? I knew you knew how to have fun,” she said slyly as she pulled him in close again.
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