Disclaimer: Thank you Gerry and Sylvia Anderson and the CGI team for creating such a beautiful playground! The characters are not mine, I'm having a great time writing the stories, and no profit is intended from this.
And as always, a huge thank you to my beta-reader Skybase Girl, who (as usual) ended up juggling with this beta-reading, yet more plot bunnies thrown her way, and her own writing projects.
"Excursion vehicle 16, we can see you on our screen. We should reach you in about ten minutes."
"You have no idea how happy we are to hear that, ma'am."
Captain Ochre smiled. "We have to go around a large rock formation, but you'll probably be able to see us shortly," she said. "Stand by for further communications."
She sat back in her seat, riding out the bumps as Captain Magenta maneuvered the yellow Bison around the rough terrain. The cabin was silent, except for some indicators from the instruments. They hadn't heard from Scarlet and Blue since they had split up from the other Bison. Hopefully that didn't mean trouble. "Can you imagine, one minute, you're enjoying your vacation, the next minute, you're stranded in the middle of nowhere, and you're slowly running out of air? At least on Earth, you can get out and get help," she mused.
"Can't say I'm enjoying myself much at this moment, either," Magenta commented in a low voice.
Ochre looked at her field partner. His expression was serious, and now that she thought of it, he had been more silent than usual ever since the mission had begun… was he scared?
She was excited at the prospect of such a special assignment, but then, she had more space-flying experience than he did. This was his first actual mission outside of simulation rides; while he was trained to do what he was told and would do his job with the professionalism that was expected of him, he clearly couldn't wait to go back to Earth. "Think of all the ladies in distress you're going to save," she said, to lighten up the mood.
He smiled. "Try not to be too jealous when they all fawn over me."
"I'll do my best," she assured him, smiling back.
Well, good old Mario was still under there somewhere. She had gotten used to the cheesy flirting comments. It was so much a part of him that she didn't think he could stop even if he wanted to. But if one looked beyond that, he was a great field partner, reliable and efficient. She had been partnered with Captain Blue in the past and although it had been formative and exciting, she preferred Magenta, who was more forgiving and less of a "my way or the highway" type of guy. Of course, she made sure she kept that tidbit of information to herself. Wouldn't want to give Mario a swelled head…
They finally spotted the bus. "I wonder what the malfunction is?" she asked.
"Must be mechanical, otherwise, they would have gone back to Tranquility."
"I can always take a quick look to see if we can repair whatever's wrong, but we'll probably end up towing them."
She contacted the excursion bus and discussed the problem with the driver, trying to get hints about what could be wrong. When they approached the bus, they could see the tourists through the large viewing bays. One of them, a little boy, waved at them. Magenta waved back. "I'll prepare the auxiliary generator. Maybe all they need is a boost. Talk about AAA service!" he said, stopping the Bison and rising from his seat.
"You idiot!" she commented, but couldn't help but smile.
They donned the rest of their EV suits and Ochre exited the Bison first. She half walked, half bounced towards the bus, her tool pack making her slightly off-balance. She was soon joined by the driver, who was holding a portable computer. "You know, we train for situations like these, but we always hope we don't have to put those skills to use," he greeted her, connecting the portable to the vehicle and positioning it so they could see the screen.
"Don't worry. We'll have you back to Tranquility in a tick," she assured him in a confident voice.
She saw Magenta arrive to connect the generator to the bus. He went to the other side of the vehicle and was about to connect the cable, when his eye caught something. He frowned, then tapped the control on his suit to switch to his private communication channel. "Elaine, come here," he said.
Ochre obeyed, holding on to the bus so that she wouldn't bounce too far. "Did you find something?" she asked.
"Look." He pointed at some cables between the driver's cabin and the passenger area.
The cables were supposed to go all the way to the top of the bus and connect with the solar panels on the roof. Some of them were obviously slackened, and one had come apart. "That was done on purpose, and you know as well as I do by whom," he continued.
Ochre looked askance."Why would the Mysterons care about an excursion bus? That doesn't make any sense!"
"To split us apart from Scarlet and Blue."
She knew he was right. "And since they know we'll stay here to help those people, Paul and Adam are on their own," she concluded with a sigh, crossing to the other side of the vehicle to talk to the driver and retrieve her tools.
In the meantime, Magenta tried to raise the other Bison and Tranquility, but to no avail. Why must it always be a game of cat and mouse with the Mysterons? Don't they have any better things to do? He wondered.
Ochre returned with her tool box. "They tampered with the whole power supply system. We'll have to connect the auxiliary unit from the Bison to jumpstart it until the solar cells take over. And even then, the bus won't be at full power," she said as she began working on the loose cables.
"Is there enough oxygen to go back?"
"There should be. We're about an hour away. They plan to have plenty of reserves so that when something like this happens, there's time to do a rescue." She connected the auxiliary unit cable that Magenta was holding. "Of course, usually the communication systems still work."
To their relief, a light turned on where the panels were connected. As they walked back to where the bus driver stood, Magenta gave Ochre an appraising look. "Honestly? This just convinces me I wouldn't take a vacation here. You want sunshine and a beach and a change of scenery? I have a few ideas. Seychelles, Hawaii, Sicily… ever been to Sicily?" He asked her.
"I'll have to take you."
"I didn't know we’d planned a vacation together."
"Well, we should."
She snorted in disbelief, then switched communication channels. "How are we doing, sir?" she asked the bus driver.
"We'll be up and ready to go much faster with your auxiliary unit. We have to reach 25% to go back safely. The solar cells will hold on and continue charging if we don't go back to full speed and we leave some of the instruments out."
"We can't leave the Bison connected while we move, but it's always going to be close by," she replied. "You should go back inside and reassure the passengers. We'll take care of things here."
The man nodded, then went to the small airlock to reinter the bus. Magenta tried once again to raise anyone that could hear them. "Looks like it's just you and me," he said to Ochre when no one answered him.
She held back a biting retort, aware that he was probably using the corny remarks to keep his anxiety at bay. "Once we're done boosting the bus, one of us should get in with them while the other follows with the Bison," she commented.
"You can go. If something breaks down, you'll be closer to help."
"Okay." She pressed a few keys on the portable computer and a map of the area appeared. "Perhaps we can trace a shorter route that would take less time to get back," she said.
They both were looking at the screen when they heard the driver’s voice over the communication system. "Spectrum? I can see you in the Bison. Is the power scheme charged enough to move out? My indicators tell me here that we have about two hours of oxygen left…"
Both captains looked at each other, frowning. Magenta opened his mouth to say that they were not in the Bison, but another voice cut him off: "I guess you'll have to make do with that."
"What!" Ochre uttered in a disbelieving voice as they saw the Bison, driven by Captain Black, pull away from the bus at a good speed.
The generator, still connected to both vehicles, sprang upwards as the cables tensed. Then the link to the Bison snapped, and the generator changed direction, hitting the side of the bus in slow motion as it crashed to the ground.
Ochre and Magenta watched in horror as the bright yellow vehicle moved away. The fact that the whole ordeal had happened in complete silence added to the eeriness of the situation. "Spectrum?! What are you doing?" The bus driver's voice was edged with panic.
"We're still here," Ochre replied.
"What the hell is going on?"
The Irishwoman turned towards her field partner. He was looking at where the Bison had disappeared from view, his face pale and his sharp features clearly showing distress. Then, in a surprising display of self-control, he said in a rather calm voice: "Something came up and we'll have to head back on our own." He switched to the private communication channel. "I couldn't really tell him an alien stowed away on his bus, sabotaged it to lure us in, and stole our Bison, could I?"
"It does sound slightly more alarming when you put it that way," she replied.
They pursed their lips at each other, grasping what little courage they could by the fact that they weren't completely alone. "Sir, the charge is up to 19%," Magenta informed the driver.
"Could we wait a little for the solar cells to pick up more energy before we move out?" Ochre asked.
"Maybe ten or fifteen minutes. We'll be stretching it."
"We don't have much of a choice. Shut down everything you can. Captain Magenta and I will go look to see if there is damage to the bus before we join you."
"Your guy was in a real hurry, he forgot the generator was still linked," the driver muttered.
"We'll make sure that situation is settled once we get back to Tranquility."
Ochre and Magenta made their way to where the generator had landed. He bent down to move it aside and they saw part of a metal plate which had apparently fallen down from the impact. He picked it up, and held it up so that the driver could see it. "It was part of the big, round, structure on the side," Magenta explained.
"That's the protection for the radiator. It helps to keep the moon dust away. Otherwise, everything becomes clogged with the stuff," the driver explained.
Ochre didn't need a translation from Italian to English to figure that the word that came out of her field partner's mouth was not very nice. "We can try to put it back the best we can, but it won't be a perfect fit," she said.
"It's going to be better than nothing."
They both climbed on the large wheel, bringing the tool bag, the broken part and the cables that had been attached to the generator. After a few failed attempts, they managed to set the part relatively back in place, holding it with clamps and the cable, which Magenta used as a rope.
They entered the bus one after the other, since the tiny airlock could only contain one person at a time. Ochre went to the driver, looking at the instruments with him, while Magenta turned to the passengers. He mustered his most winning smile as he took off his helmet , trying to look confident about the situation. "Ladies and Gentlemen, we're about to return to Tranquility. Sit back and relax," he said.
Behind him, he heard Ochre and the driver talking about not turning on the headlights and other instruments to try and start the engine. Sure enough, the vehicle began moving slowly forward, and Ochre made a small, happy sound. The look of relief on everyone's faces was a really nice thing to see. "Can you imagine the tales you can tell your friends when you come back from your vacation?" he asked the little boy who’d waved at him earlier. The child shook his head, a look of awe on his face.
He wiped his sweaty forehead, pushing a lock of his dark hair back and leaving a trail of black moon dust. One of the passengers, a young, attractive redhead, rose from her seat and came to clean it with a pre-moist napkin she had in her carry-on bag. That kicked his own confidence level up a notch and soon he was in full-blown Magenta mode again, doing small talk and distracting the ten people in front of him with tales about work at Spectrum.
Ochre smiled to herself. Magenta had a knack for storytelling; he left out the more sensitive parts, or twisted them around somewhat so as not to reveal too much, but everyone was listening.
After a short while, she tried to raise Tranquility through her own personal communication device. She didn't want to use the bus system in order to save energy. There was still no response from anyone, but at least they were making progress toward their destination. The driver made sure to remain at a speed hat allowed the solar cells to charge and keep the batteries on the vehicle from draining too fast.
They followed the wheel tracks they had made on their way out; even with the headlights off, they were still visible. After crossing a large open area, the driver turned to engage the bus between two larger rock formations. "I know we'll lose some sunlight that way, but it's a shortcut. Each five or ten minutes we can save are welcome," he explained to Ochre, before concentrating on the terrain to avoid fallen rocks.
He was somewhat successful, but the bus jolted to the left and right a few times. "Perhaps you should sit down with us, captain," the redhead told Magenta, who had to brace himself against the wall so that he didn't fall over.
She scooted over to make room for him. He seriously considered her offer—he was not about to ignore such an invitation from a lady—but finally declined, saying he was fine where he was. In reality, he would have liked to sit down, but the way he was standing provided a screen between the front of the bus and the passengers, who didn't need to know everything that was happening and how dire the situation actually was.
The journey between the rock formations seemed to take forever. Ochre and the driver were watching the gauges nervously, talking in low voices. According to the man, after they came back out into the sunlight, they would have to go straight ahead for about thirty minutes before they had visual contact with Tranquility. By then, surely the communications would be working again, or they could launch one of the emergency flares to attract attention. Ochre wondered a moment if it was better to keep the oxygen tanks from the flares to add to the supply for the bus instead, but they were very small and designed to burn for a short amount of time. She seriously hoped she wouldn't have to make such a decision at any point on this trip.
She held back a sigh of relief when they emerged on the other side of the rock formations. They had about an hour and a half’s worth of oxygen left in the tanks, for a trip of more or less forty-five minutes, so it was still quite doable. The path was straight and maybe they could even pick up some speed.
Her relief was short-lived. Suddenly, the bus began to shake and slow down, while an indicator on the driver's console started to bleep insistently. "What's going on? Did the batteries drain?" Magenta asked, turning around to look into the driver's cabin.
"No. Dust is most likely blocking the system," the driver replied.
The bus came to a stop. Ochre saw Magenta swallow and his face grew pale. Oddly, behind him, no one said anything at first. Then, one of the passengers stood up and looked out the viewing bay. He flattened himself as best as he could to see the side of the bus. "Looks like the part you fixed fell off," he said
"Probably back there when we hit those rocks," the driver replied.
"That was a while ago," Ochre commented.
There was a pregnant pause. "Should we go back and try to reattach it?" Magenta asked. "We know it works for a while. I couldn't tighten the cables as much as actual rope, maybe we could use something else to secure it."
"We don't know where it fell, we could lose a lot of time looking for it."
He frowned. "We could lose a lot of time sitting here doing nothing, too." He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "What if… what if I went out and took the dust away? Could we continue then?"
"For a bit, and then it's going to fill up again," the driver replied.
"But we'll be closer to Tranquility."
The other man nodded reluctantly. "You'll need to brush it off the grid."
"Right. So, is there some sort of brush I could use?" Magenta asked while he put his earpiece, then his head cover back on.
"No…" the other man began.
"The cover isn't supposed to be smashed into by a generator, you know!" the driver protested.
"Perhaps we can use something else? A cloth?" Ochre suggested.
"I'll use my hand if I have to," Magenta grumbled.
The passenger who’d given him the cloth to wipe his face waved her hand at him. "Captain? Could this work?" she asked, pulling out a hairbrush from her capacious bag.
Magenta looked at it; the brush was made with boar bristles. "That would be perfect, ma'am. You're a life-saver, literally," he replied.
The woman put the brush in his hand and leant over to kiss his cheek. He smiled his thanks to her, then hurried back to Ochre, who was holding his helmet. "Be careful," she said.
"What, no kiss from you?"
"Wouldn't want to ruin your chances with your admirers," she whispered, reaching up to put the helmet on his head.
He went into the airlock, then exited the bus. "What if you never see me again?" he continued the discussion on their private communication channel, as he climbed onto the wheel.
Ochre snorted in return. "I'm sure I'll be stuck with you for a long time yet," she replied, but not without a hint of fondness in her voice.
Magenta remained quiet while he used the hairbrush to move the dust away from the grid and tried to bend the remaining part of the cover in a way that would slow down any future build up. He saw the little boy in the viewing bay, gave him a thumbs up and climbed down from the wheel. "Let's see if that’s done the trick," he said.
"The gauge went down. It should help," the driver replied "Get back inside, captain."
Magenta walked to the airlock, trying to dust himself off. He had been careful with the brush, but the dust was settling everywhere and clinging to his suit. He stepped into the airlock, closed the door, but did not activate anything else. "Move out. I'll stay here," he told the driver.
"What?" the driver replied.
"Mario…" Ochre began, but Magenta cut her off.
"I'm covered in moon dust. I'll contaminate everything inside and clog up the air system. Besides, it's going to be quicker when I have to go back out."
She hesitated, but gave in. There was no use arguing, not in the situation they were in. "S.I.G.," she finally said.
She nodded to the driver, who put the vehicle in motion once more. The ride wasn't very smooth. The airlock was tiny and dark and Magenta was very uncomfortable. "Now I know how Conrad must have felt when we buried him," he murmured through the private channel.
"Don't say that!" She looked up, startled by her own outburst and turned away from the passengers to continue in a lower tone of voice: "Besides, Conrad died. You can't die. You have your fans right here, rooting for you. Think of how disappointing that would be for them."
"I suppose… how long do we have to go?"
"About 40 minutes."
There was a pause. "How much oxygen do we have in the bus?" he asked.
She peered at the instruments. "Seventy-six—no seventy five minutes."
"And the gauge?"
"Doing well so far."
"Good." There was another, longer pause. "This is not exactly what I expected from my first trip to the Moon."
"It's probably not what you’d expect from any trip to the Moon."
The cabin grew silent. They went a little further, and she tried to raise Tranquility again, trying not to be discouraged by the silence at the other end. Too soon, the bus began to slow down and she looked at the gauge. "I think it's starting to build up again," she said.
"Should I get out?" Magenta asked.
"Not yet. We'll try to go further."
"We can't wait for too long, we'll choke the whole thing up."
"We'll try to reach the thirty minutes mark."
He grunted. "I thought we were farther than that already."
The bus eventually stopped with a worrisome shudder. All of the passengers moved to one side to watch Magenta climb on the wheel again to brush the dust off. He was already more agile about it and his moves were quicker. He worked in silence, concentrating on his task, then went back inside the airlock. The driver started up again almost immediately. "So? Did we make it?" Magenta asked.
"Thirty minutes away, fifty-five minutes of air."
"Guess I'll have to pick up the pace the next time I go out, huh?"
"You're doing fine, Mario."
One of the passengers yelled: "Thank you, Mario!"
"Did you hear?" Ochre asked into her microphone, smiling at the comment.
"Yes. Tell him he's welcome."
The young woman relayed the information and somehow, the general mood in the cabin improved. It was as if everyone had figured that panicking wouldn't help. A quiet conversation started, with Ochre talking in a way that would let Magenta follow. She made more unsuccessful attempts to raise Tranquility, or Scarlet's Bison. "Still no luck?" she heard in her earpiece.
She sighed. "No…"
"I think 'our guy' might have something to do with that."
"He probably didn't expect us to come back."
"I don't know… sometimes he shows a warped sense of respect for us. Remember that time when Scarlet was stuck under the ice with him?"
"I guess he did leave us with a vehicle, and plenty of oxygen. Technically."
"We're still okay to go b—," she began, then the bus shuddered to yet another stop.
Magenta didn't even wait for any further instructions before he opened the airlock and went out again to brush the dust off the grid. "Please tell me we were going faster and we covered more distance," he said.
Her silence was his reply. He completed his task with grim determination, then returned to the airlock. "Still good?" he asked as the bus picked up speed.
"Twenty-two minutes away, forty minutes of air."
"Could be worse, I guess." He paused. "Boy, am I going to need a shower after this," he added.
She smiled at the comment, and at the fact that he wasn't giving up on the situation. "I'm sure you'll be able to take one once we get to Tranquility."
"Care to join me?"
"Ack, no!" she squeaked.
"Don't call me that!"
He chuckled. "Have pity on me, I'm stuck in a wobbly, dark, tin can. I deserve something in return!"
"I can throw you into the lake," she offered.
"From where I stand, even that sounds good."
"It will be my pleasure."
She turned forward to look out towards the front of the bus. "Will we see the lights from Tranquility at some point?" she asked the driver.
"Well, since the light in general is quite harsh on the Moon, you won't see a glow, like when you approach a city on Earth. But we should be close to seeing the installations. They will be a little to the right," he explained, pointing in that direction.
The bus began shaking again. The driver looked up at Ochre. "Should I stop?"
"The shaking isn't too bad yet. Maybe we'll be able to reach the point where we can see Tranquility."
He avoided a few larger rocks, and slowed down. Both were looking intently towards the horizon and gasped loudly when they saw a sudden flash of orange. "What? What?" Magenta asked urgently, alarm in his voice.
"There was an explosion in the direction of Tranquility," Ochre replied, trying to remain quiet so as not to alert the passengers.
"An explosion…? We're on the Moon, Elaine. How can there be an explosion?"
"There was most likely an oxygen tank on whatever exploded. Some parts went flying up."
"Do you think Black caught up with Scarlet?"
"Either that or Black got to Tranquility."
"God, I hope not. Did the passengers see anything?"
Ochre looked back through the cabin door, and saw that the passengers were sitting quietly. One of them smiled at her. She turned back quickly so that he didn't see her worried expression. "I don't think so. It was to the front and they can't see much towards there."
"Well, no need to alarm them further if we don't have to. Yet."
She grunted in response, then attempted to raise Tranquility. "Please answer, please answer, please answ—" her eyes opened wide as she heard sounds in her earpiece. There was some crackling, but it was already more than what she had been getting any other time she had tried. "Tranquility! This is excursion vehicle number 16, do you copy?" she said in a strong, excited voice that made the driver and the passengers look up.
The bus jolted and then stopped again. Ochre heard Magenta grunt as he was tossed around the airlock "I'm going out," he announced, while the young woman was listening intently for any sign of life on the communication channel.
Magenta was becoming used to what he had to do, so he was back into the airlock quickly. The driver put the vehicle into motion again. It covered a short distance, then shuddered to a halt as several indicators went off. "We just lost the radiator. It was probably too hot without the protection cover," the driver announced, then hit the dashboard with his fist in frustration. "We're not even fifteen minutes away!"
Ochre looked over the man's shoulder to see the gauge. About twenty minutes of oxygen left. "What if someone went back by foot to get help?" she asked.
He shook his head. "It's going to take too long."
"We could hook up the oxygen supplies from our EV suits…"
"To buy ourselves what, twenty minutes more for the whole bus?"
"It could make a difference!"
The man stared at her in a way that meant she should have known it wouldn't make a difference. She blinked in the silence that followed, then spoke into her microphone. "Mario, come on up."
"I'm covered in dust, I shouldn't…"
"I don't think it's going to matter much at this point," Ochre insisted in a soft voice.
"Okay," he replied after a pause.
The airlock was pressurized and Magenta came out of it, removing his helmet. His face was sweaty and he looked tired. His suit was darkened with the dust. Sitting on the side-seat in the cabin, he let Ochre remove his head cover, then asked: "Can we send a flare from here? Would Tranquility see it?"
"We can try," the driver replied, and pressed a button on the dashboard.
The flare shot up, the canister of oxygen with it creating a bright, red ball of light for a few moments. "Does this mean we're going to die?" the little boy asked from the cabin door.
Magenta leant his forearms on his thighs. "It means we're telling the base we need a tow."
He felt Ochre's hand on his head. It was a comfort gesture, and a thank you gesture. He leant his head against her stomach, ignoring the scratchiness of the moon dust on his forehead. The fact that she didn't push him away told him a lot about what she thought of the situation. "So, we should get a call in soon?" the little boy asked again.
"Well, they already knew we were stuck, so they're probably looking out for signs from us," Magenta replied, unsure of how he could weave out some reassurance for him.
Ochre's hand grew still on his head for a second. Then, it clenched, pulling on his hair painfully as she yelped in surprise and put her other hand over her earpiece. "Tranquility! This is excursion vehicle 16! We require immediate assistance to tow us back to the base!"
She sagged against Magenta in relief and he had to hold her by the waist so that she didn't fall down. She was listening to whatever the person at the other end was saying and did not pay attention to him.
"Excursion vehicle 16, this is Tranquility, was that one of your flares? Can you send us the coordinates of your location? A vehicle is on its way," the dispatcher said.
"Roger that, I'm letting the driver take over. It's a true pleasure to hear your voice, sir," she said, allowing the driver to turn his communication channel up to talk to the dispatcher.
She puffed out her cheeks, then lowered her head to Magenta's, as if to hug him, but moved back almost right away. "Oi! You're right, you do need a shower," she exclaimed.
She went to stand in the cabin doorway. "I take it that you have already guessed that I just got a message from Tranquility," she announced with a smile. "They should be here any minute now."
The passengers broke into spontaneous applause and the little boy, feeling the general happy mood, hugged her legs. He grinned at Magenta, who smiled quietly back, enjoying not having to stand anymore. The passengers began talking together, trying to figure out what they would be doing once they were back at the holiday resort. Magenta turned to the driver. "Did the dispatcher mention anything about the other Spectrum agents?" he asked.
"He's trying to reach them, but when the explosion occurred, it became a little chaotic."
"Was the explosion at Tranquility itself?"
The driver had turned around in his seat to face him. He shot an apologetic look at him, then at Ochre, who was also listening. "It was your vehicles," he said.
"The Bisons? Both of them?" Ochre asked in a worried tone of voice.
The man nodded. "They were on top of the ridge surrounding Tranquility."
Stricken, Ochre covered her mouth with her hand. "Please, tell me the guys made it out in time," she said.
"The dispatcher didn't mention any deaths, so there's hope," the driver said, trying to be encouraging.
The console behind him beeped and both captains looked on hopefully as the driver pressed the button to open the communication channel. "Excursion vehicle 16, this is Tranquility base, one of the Spectrum officers is here with us."
Before anyone could reply, another voice cut in. "Ochre? Magenta?"
"Blue!" Ochre exclaimed.
At the same time, they saw the maintenance vehicle arrive right in front of them, its headlights a relief for everyone, who broke into applause and cheers once more.
"Wow, I feel special!" Blue exclaimed, hearing the commotion through the communication channel.
"No offence, old buddy, but they're cheering at the rescue vehicle," Magenta indicated.
The driver got to his feet and motioned for Ochre to take his place before putting on the rest of his EV suit. "Should I go with you?" Magenta asked him.
"You did your job, sir, I'll handle this," the other man replied and entered the airlock.
Magenta went to stand behind Ochre so they both could talk into the communication system. "What happened out there? We saw the explosion from where we are," he said.
"Well, we were here in Tranquility when we saw that the excursion vehicle wasn't in the quadrant it was supposed to be, so Scarlet went out again to investigate and bring it back. In the meantime, as you already know, Black took your Bison and went on a little mission of his own. When he failed to destroy Scarlet a first time, he came back to blow Tranquility up, but Scarlet was able to chase him down, and used his Bison to stop him. You saw the final result."
"So, where's Scarlet now?"
"He ejected just in time, then came back on foot. The wreckage isn't too far from the base. The rescue vehicle came out right after to go get you. I take it you were able to repair the bus?"
"Somewhat. Magenta played emergency Mini Maid a few times." She ignored the man's nudge of protestation against her shoulder, but added: "We couldn't have made it back without him."
She didn't protest when she felt him kiss the top of her head as a thank you for her unexpected praise. Outside, the driver and another technician secured an auxiliary oxygen tank to the excursion bus, providing a more than ample supply to cover the remaining distance. Then they proceeded with hitching the damaged bus to the other vehicle so it could be towed. "We should be back to Tranquility base in about half an hour, perhaps less," Ochre told Blue over the communication channel.
"Okay, I'll tell the others."
"Do you know what happened to Black?"
"Scarlet said the explosion was pretty violent, so we doubt he survived it."
"We'll have to retrieve the remains of the Bisons," Ochre said.
"If there's anything worth retrieving. We'll see about that when you get back."
Ochre and Magenta saw the driver go into the airlock and soon, he was back inside the bus. "We're all set. All that's left to do is put us in neutral," he announced.
Ochre looked at the controls, and shifted the gears. She gave a thumbs-up to the technician in the other vehicle and they finally began to move forward. "We're on our way, Adam," she said. "I'll switch places with the driver so he can communicate with the towing vehicle. If there's anything else, just reach us on our com. channels."
"S.I.G. We'll see you all soon," Blue said, before signing out.
Magenta sat back down on the side seat. He patted his thigh as an invitation to Ochre to sit as well, but she gave him a half stern, half smiling sideways glance and walked past him to the passenger cabin. He shrugged in a way he wanted to look nonchalant, then leant back against the wall and closed his eyes.
The ride was not as bumpy as when they were limping back on their own, so he was able to rest a little. The whole convoy tilted to one side when they turned to go around the ridge enclosing Tranquility. He opened his eyes, but he could not see outside, so he looked up in surprise when Ochre moved quickly to look out the front window. "The yellow Bison," she murmured, "It's right there…"
The large vehicle was lying on its side at the foot of the rock formation. It had taken quite a bit of damage, but a part still looked relatively intact. Magenta stood up to look over her shoulder. "I'm surprised there's anything left considering Blue said it was a big explosion," he commented.
"Do you think there's a chance…?" Ochre asked.
He knew what the question was. "We can never take anything for granted when it comes to Black," he answered with a slight shrug.
She looked a little further away, to where Tranquility lay in the distance. "The base's not far. I think I'll go have a look," she said, before turning to the driver to have the convoy stop and let her out.
Magenta sighed. When she had something in mind, there was no stopping her. He motioned to her to help him with his head cover. "You don't have to come," she said.
"I'm not letting you go alone," he replied, securing his helmet on his head.
They told the passengers why they had stopped, and that they would see them again later, then exited in turn through the airlock. They backed away from the excursion bus and watched the convoy leave, lifting a cloud of moon dust behind. "Thanks for staying," Ochre said to her companion. "I know the base isn't far, but looking at them go is still a little unnerving."
"We just have to take a quick look. Then you can go and throw me into the lake," Magenta said, walking ahead.
"Can't wait," she replied with a smile and followed him.
They saw a seat lying down some distance away from the main wreckage. Upon closer inspection, they found that it belonged to the red Bison. "Now we know how Scarlet escaped this," Ochre said, with a small shiver as she imagined her colleague’s injuries on impact.
They left the seat and proceeded towards the wreckage. The side of the vehicle was smashed in, but the front had held on. They approached it carefully, remaining away from the windows as much as they could in case Black was still in there and moving about. Magenta arrived first, and gestured for Ochre to stand back before he could peer inside the cockpit…
It was completely empty. Not a trace of Black anywhere. "I think 'our guy' was in a hurry to leave after failing his mission, I can't see him anywhere," he said, climbing on the Bison to have a better look.
"I'll try the hatch," Ochre replied, going to the other side.
She climbed on one of the wheels and reached the location of the manual override for the hatch. After a short struggle, she was able to open it halfway and slip inside. She had to move sideways to pass the damaged location—it was so narrow she doubted Magenta would have been able to go through—and entered the cockpit from the rear access. She waved at her field partner from the other side of the window, and made an "empty" gesture. "There's nothing. You'd expect a body, or, well, parts." She grimaced at the thought. "And there's no way he escaped from where I entered."
"I’ve looked around a little," he replied. "There are no footprints other than ours."
"Besides, they would have noticed a guy running around. It's not like there are many hiding places close by."
Ochre walked forward into the cockpit and pressed a few buttons. Nothing was working. "Should I contact Adam?" she asked.
"'Might as well update the others on the situation."
She went back to the damaged part and tried to access the rear compartment while she spoke to Blue. He told her to come back to Tranquility when they were done and that they would organize the retrieval of the Bison once they were all together.
She signed out and looked around her, already knowing she wouldn't find anyone there. However, her eyes fell on something else. "Mario, I have good news for you!" she exclaimed.
"You'll join me in the shower later?"
"Stop, my ears are bleeding. Where are you?"
"I'm right by the hatch."
He saw her appear at the entrance. She was pulling on something. "I found the storage trunks! They're undamaged! Here," she said, handing him his own trunk.
"You mean I can actually burn what I'm wearing now?" he replied with genuine enthusiasm.
She laughed as she gave him her trunk, then Scarlet's and Blue's. They were bulky, but with the gravity difference, they would probably be easy enough to carry. She jumped out of the hatch and landed unsteadily; she would have fallen down if Magenta hadn't been there to help steady her. "Careful, it takes a little while to get accustomed to moving around," he advised.
"And you have tons of experience now that you saved the day with your mighty hairbrush."
"Actually, I did pick up a few tricks. The dust is slippery, so you can't make wide moves. You almost have to stomp around, but not too hard so as not to jump too high and lose your balance."
"Right." There was a smile in her voice.
"And with the trunks, you’ll have to move carefully; don’t swing your arms too much or you’ll fall over." He grabbed two of the trunks confidently and began half walking, half bouncing away towards Tranquility. "See? It's easy once you get into a rhythm."
She picked up the two remaining trunks and followed at a slower pace, finding her own technique. Magenta was going faster than her, but at that point, she didn't care much since Tranquility was close by. "Come on, Lainey!" He urged turning around slightly to see where she was.
By doing so, he didn't notice a small rock in front of him. His foot caught in it and he tripped. He tried to regain his footing by breaking into an awkward run, but failed miserably. Ochre watched in fascination as he fell forward with an undignified cry and flopped to the ground, both trunks dropping like dead weights on either side of him.
When she heard him swear in her earpiece, she knew he was all right, and did the only thing she could at that moment. She laughed.
On Tranquility's balcony overlooking the lunar lake, Lieutenant Green looked on as Scarlet and Destiny stood hand in hand by the water's edge. As she watched them move into each other's arms, she sent up a silent prayer. Please, Elaine and Mario, don't come to the lake right away, give them some time, too, she thought, a sad little smile on her face.
They needed the break. They should have gone on vacation together, Green thought, although Tranquility probably wasn't Scarlet's idea of an interesting location… except maybe for the part where Destiny would be wearing a bathing suit. Green bit her lip to hide her broadening smile, then murmured a soft "Aww…" when they started dancing. "Just look at them," she whispered to Blue, standing by her side.
"I'd rather look at you," he whispered back, bumping her shoulder gently with his.
She gave him a sideways glance, her stomach fluttering despite the lameness of his comment. The fluttering increased as his right hand "casually" moved until he could entwine his little finger with hers. He leant over until his lips brushed against her ear. "Did you want to dance?" he asked, punctuating his question with a light kiss on her temple.
"Maybe," she replied, bending down to put her glass on the floor so it wouldn't be knocked over by accident.
He had done the same apparently, since both of his hands were free when he pulled her away from the railing to take her in a close embrace. She settled in comfortably, her head in the crook of his neck, listening to his heartbeat. "This is nice," she whispered after a while.
His reply was a low grunt that she felt as a rumble in his chest. She raised her head to look at him. "Are you going back tomorrow?" she asked.
"Probably. Ochre and Magenta said there was nothing in the Bison and we'll only have to organize its retrieval. So unless Scarlet wants to dig a bit deeper, we're pretty much done."
She nodded, her arms going around his neck. In a way, she hoped that there would be more to investigate, but usually, once the Mysterons were done with a replicant, or if their plan had failed, they didn't tend to stick around.
"I spoke to Ava Gordon on my way here," he continued, leaning his forehead against hers.
"I think she expected us to leave right away, she told me all of the villas were full. Really? Inadequate security, a dubious welcome for people who actually saved her establishment… I hope you didn't pay a whole lot for this vacation… Anyhow, I told her you'd be happy to share with us," he said.
"Did you?" she asked, smiling despite herself.
"Yep. Problem solved." He kissed the tip of her nose for good measure.
"Sunshine, there are only two double bedrooms in our villa," she pointed out. "There are six of us with Elaine and Mario. How will we manage?"
"There's a pull-out couch."
"Okay… and how do you figure that's going to work?"
He shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly. "Easy. I bunk with you. Everybody else can do whatever they want."
Green laughed. "I see you gave this a lot of thought."
"It's not very hard to figure out. Either they have a little boys' room and a little girls' room, or they mix and match. They're old enough to know what they want."
"What if they find either situation embarrassing?"
He rolled his eyes. "In case you haven't looked down by the lake during the last few minutes, I can tell you that there won't be a problem. They can always build pillow forts if they're afraid of getting cooties! Or sleep on the beach like some sort of bums! Jeez!"
"What if Ochre doesn't want to be with Magenta and she wants to stay with me instead?"
She had to bite her lip so that she wouldn't laugh at his look of pure distress at this thought. "I'll fight for my spot," he stated, hooking his finger on the small chain around her neck and pulling the sapphire pendant out from under her shirt. "Elaine can handle being in the same room as Mario for one night… what?" he asked when he saw the strange little smile on her face.
She was going to respond, but Scarlet and Destiny chose that moment to arrive on the balcony. "Have you seen Elaine and Mario? Are they back yet?" Scarlet asked.
"They should be. I talked to Elaine a little while ago. They'll join us here after they’ve cleaned up. She said she was going to force Mario to go see the medic because he looked like Bert the chimney sweep from Mary Poppins with all that moon dust on him," Blue replied.
"I hope he didn't breathe in too much of it. Some first space mission he got!"
"Well, we've had a few winners ourselves."
"That's true," Destiny added with a smile.
Green made a small sound of dismay. "Stop that, I'm jealous!" she complained.
One of the great frustrations in Green's life was that she hadn't been able to follow in her father's footsteps, and couldn't participate in such missions. Blue looked at her pensively. "What if I took you to the retrieval site tomorrow? We'll go with the towing vehicle to see what we can do to bring the yellow Bison back with us."
"I failed the physical to be an astronaut, remember?"
"I'm not talking about a fully fledged space mission with hyperflight and all that stuff. We'll just go out for a little while, close to the base, in EV suits."
Green looked at him, then at Scarlet and Destiny with hope in her eyes. Scarlet smiled. "Why not? I'll just keep Simone company in the meantime."
"Thank you!" Green exclaimed with a smile, huddling against Blue, who returned the hug.
"Of course, we might forget to tell Colonel White about that tiny detail," he commented.
"In all of the action, you know, some things slipped out," Scarlet added.
"You’ve never been good at filing reports, Paul."
"I know, Adam. What a shame." Scarlet paused, then frowned. "Wait. The yellow Bison was pretty banged up, I doubt there’ll be much left to retrieve. It exploded when I rammed it."
"The red one exploded. The yellow one is still in one piece. The way it fell makes it hard to see unless you're close to it. I guess it could be repaired, but there’s a lot of damage: and we'll have to get it upright first," a voice said behind them.
They turned around to see Ochre coming towards them. She looked around in awe at the setting. "Nice choice, girls. Under normal circumstances, it must be very restful."
Destiny and Green smiled back at her. Blue tilted his chin forward. "Where's Mini Maid?" he inquired.
Ochre chuckled at the name. "When we left the medical facility, he said he was going to find a way to burn the clothes he was wearing. At first, I thought he meant it as a joke, but apparently, no. Good thing we found the storage trunks."
Scarlet wasn't interested in their small talk and cut in: "So you went to the wreckage? Did you see Black?"
Ochre shook her head. "There was no sign of him. It's as if he never was there in the first place."
Scarlet’s expression hardened. "So, you're telling me I didn’t get him after all. I failed."
"Paul, you didn't know…" Ochre began, laying a gentle hand on his arm, but he shrugged off her placatory gesture with an angry shake of his head. "I'm going back out," he said flatly, before leaving the group and walking briskly towards the entrance to the dome.
Swearing, Blue went after him, managing to grab his arm and pull him to one side. The others watched as they saw him remonstrate with a sullen Scarlet. They were too far away to hear what was said, but it was clear that they weren't exchanging pleasantries.
"I hate it when he gets like that," Destiny commented, a worried look on her face. "He can brood for days."
"Adam will get through to him," Green said, trying to be encouraging.
"And then you can step in and be the comforting, understanding girlfriend," Ochre piped up, giving her friend a gentle nudge.
"Oh yeah, girls, that reminds me…" Green began, biting her lip as the other two looked at her suspiciously. "You're all sleeping in our villa tonight."
"Let me guess…" Ochre began, pursing her lips knowingly. "The comforting, understanding girlfriend in one room with the brooding brunette and Lieutenant Obvious with Captain Sunshine in another, which leaves me with the hero of the day in what, the living room?" When Green looked back at her with pleading eyes, she gave a noisy sigh. "I hope you realize how much I care about you girls to accept this arrangement."
Green put her arm around her friend's shoulders. "There's some room, we can set something up," she assured the Irishwoman.
Magenta arrived at that moment, giving his arguing colleagues a wide berth as he approached the three women. "Do I get a hug too?" he asked when he saw Green and Ochre.
He didn't wait for an answer and engulfed the two women in his arms. Destiny tried not to smile when she saw Ochre put her arm briefly around his waist, then act as if nothing had happened.
"So, what's going on?" Magenta asked, nodding towards Scarlet and Blue.
"Paul was ready to go back out all guns blazing because Black escaped," Green explained.
"Black isn't going to wait around for us to find him. I can see how this is frustrating, but at least we thwarted the attack, Tranquility and the other moon bases are safe, and no one got hurt."
"Not a bad day's work," Ochre agreed with her field partner.
They saw both men fall silent and Blue took a stance as if he was expecting an answer from Scarlet. When the dark-haired man nodded, either in understanding or defeat, his friend smiled, and gave him a slap on the shoulder before they headed back towards the group.
Scarlet shot them an apologetic look, but seeing their smiles and welcoming expressions, he looked relieved and told himself that a victory was a victory, and that anything chipping away at the Mysterons' resolve to have their revenge was a step in the right direction.
"… So that's how we got back." Ochre concluded her retelling of her adventures aboard the excursion vehicle; she accepted the mug Green handed her with a smile and a thank you before continuing: "The passengers were still around when we arrived with the storage trunks, and they applauded when they saw Mario!"
The man shrugged. "I couldn't just sit there and wait. Anyone here would have done the same. You were ready to go yourself," he replied.
They were both sitting in comfortable armchairs in the living room of the lunar villa. Scarlet, Destiny and Blue had settled on the couch across from them. Green, carrying a mug of tea for herself, perched on the couch's armrest, next to Blue. "Did you actually burn your clothes?" she asked, sounding amused by the idea.
Magenta smiled and nodded. "Yep, I threw them right into Tranquility's incinerator. It was a liberating experience! I was so confined in that airlock, with the heat and the darkness, I think I lost ten pounds just in sweat. It was gross."
"It was," Ochre agreed.
Destiny made a disgusted face. "That's more information than I needed," she muttered.
The Irishwoman chuckled as she took a sip of her tea. "But seriously, though, I was wondering what our official story is for the whole incident," she said thoughtfully. "The excursion vehicle driver thought another Spectrum agent was in the yellow Bison. How can we explain what really happened? Is Spectrum going to risk being sued over damaged property and endangering Tranquility customers?"
Green thought for a moment. "Well, the best thing would probably be to contact the Spectrum legal team requesting their input. Send them the report of what happened, and see what they have to say. With the time difference, we should get a reply overnight, and we can be prepared tomorrow for any questions."
"I can handle the report and the request. I'll do it right before we go to bed," Blue said, but turned to address Scarlet. "Unless you want to do it, Paul?"
Scarlet, who had been rather silent since they had arrived at the villa, looked up as if he had been startled. "No, that's fine," he said simply.
Both men exchanged warring glances, until Green touched Blue's knee in a calming manner. The blond man took the hint and merely said, "I'll just send the essentials, anyway. We'll complete the rest tomorrow." He addressed Green: "We'll have to take pictures."
She nodded. "I'll bring my camera." She looked up as the door bell chimed. "That must be the extra bedding I asked for," she said, rising to her feet to answer the door.
She spoke to the attendant who handed over blankets and pillows. Arms full, she staggered, laughing a little, and plopped everything down on Magenta, who protested half-heartedly. "I presumed you didn't need anything?" She asked Destiny, who shook her head, a faint blush darkening her face.
Having sorted the extra bed linen, Serena gathered up the remains of their light meal and took it the kitchen area of the small villa. Destiny got up to help her, glad of an opportunity to cover up her awkwardness over the impromptu and potentially embarrassing sleeping arrangements. After they had washed up, the rest of the evening was spent in pleasant conversation, discussing the resort, and their holiday. They all agreed to go have breakfast together by the lake the following day before continuing with their duties.
Ochre unwittingly gave the signal that it was time to go to bed by trying to conceal a yawn. Blue stood up, grabbing one of the portable computers they had taken out of the girls' rooms and declared he was going to start working on the report and let the children sleep. Green started to follow him into her room, but stopped and asked Ochre: "Do you need help settling down?"
"No, we'll manage, thank you," the Irishwoman replied with a smile.
"Okay, then, see you all tomorrow."
"Night, Serena," Destiny replied, before heading for her own bedroom. She gave a goodnight wave over her shoulder to Ochre and Magenta but not before saying pointedly to Scarlet, "Are you coming?"
Both men looked startled and confused at this unexpected turn of events; the sleeping arrangements were news to them. Neither said anything, but Scarlet, who had been quiet for most of the evening, obediently rose to his feet and followed Destiny, leaving the two remaining captains alone in the living room.
Ochre and Magenta remained where they were after both bedroom doors closed. "Um…" he began, as they exchanged side-glances, "Were you aware of this?" He made a sweeping gesture around the room, but clearly meant the current situation.
"Yes, I was."
"And you agreed to it?" he asked, disbelief in his voice.
She said nothing but gave him a look that he couldn't interpret before getting up to move the coffee table away from the couch. He scrambled up to help pull out the bed once the space was cleared. When they had made up the bed with sheets and pillowcases, Ochre rolled a spare blanket into a tube shape and laid it down the center of the bed, a set expression on her face. The implication was obvious.
"You worked hard today. You deserve a bed. But if you do so much as think about crossing that line, you’ll be in big trouble," she announced, punctuating her words with a few sharp jabs of her finger into Magenta’s chest.
He grabbed her hand gently to stop her from poking him and replied: "What if you can't help yourself and you cross the line?"
"That won't happen," she assured him, pulling her hand free "And you better not snore either," she added, throwing pillows on the bed.
"Good. Do you need a warmer blanket?"
"No. I probably won't even need any. I was standing in a furnace earlier, remember?"
She shrugged and settled the warmer blanket on what he presumed was the side she had chosen for herself. He sat on his side, kicked his shoes off with a jaw-breaking yawn, and lay down on his back. "What, you're not asking for a goodnight kiss?" she asked with a crooked smile, before snuggling down into her blanket cocoon and turning the lights off.
"You're welcome to give me one if you want to, but since you threatened to sock me if I breathed in your direction. I'm not taking any chances." He turned on his side, facing away from her. "Night, Lainey." .
"Don't call me that!" she exclaimed in a stage whisper. "Good night, Mini Maid."
He grumbled something that vaguely resembled "oh, what the hell", but otherwise said nothing. The bed moved a little when she fidgeted around—he had to agree with her that it wasn't very comfortable—then the room became silent, save for the low hum coming from the air system.
He was almost asleep when he heard them. Faint sounds coming from behind him. He frowned, and cocked his head to the side to listen more intently. "Elaine?" he asked, becoming a little worried when the sounds increased and it was obvious that the young woman was trying to suppress them by covering her mouth. "What's wrong?"
She let out a strangled groan and gasped for air, but he realized that she was trying to stop laughing. "I'm sorry, I keep thinking of how you fell down when we were on our way back to Tranquility," she managed to say, but she was obviously losing her battle and snickering at every two words.
"I'm glad you find me so entertaining," he replied, smiling at her mirth and admitting to himself that he had probably looked quite ridiculous.
"You screamed like a little girl!" she added, and began to giggle uncontrollably.
"I did not!" he felt he had to protest, but it only made her laugh harder.
"Yes you did, you went 'Aaaiiiiiee'… and then the storage trunks…" her sentence ended with a full-blown hoot.
He tried to shush her, but since he was beginning to laugh himself, it was rather ineffective and they both ended up being unable to stop until Ochre could take a few deep breaths to calm down somewhat. "That was a workout and a half, my stomach hurts!" she complained, but her tone of voice was still happy.
"That'll teach you to laugh at your poor partner who went all out to make sure you came home safely." His sentence ended in another big yawn.
"I know, I'm sorry," she replied, chuckling.
She fidgeted a little more, unable to find a comfortable spot, pushed away the blanket she had added, and ended up with her head against the rolled blanket. "That thing's rather bulky and warm, isn't it?" she commented in a low voice.
Magenta replied with a noncommittal grunt. He was probably half-asleep and not really listening. "Will you behave if I remove it?" she asked.
No answer. By the regular sound of his breathing, he had dozed off. Well, if he's sleeping, he won't notice, Ochre reasoned to herself, then proceeded to carefully take the roll away so as not to wake him up.
She lay back down on her side, away from him, but already more comfortable because there was extra room to bend her legs. When she was certain that he wasn't awake and wouldn't take the opportunity to make a move on her, she relaxed her guard and allowed herself to fall sleep as well.
"I'm surprised you agreed to file the report," Green said to Blue as he sat at the small worktable in her room, typing away on the portable computer he had set up there.
"I have to do my part. The others were busy saving everyone while I was trying to find the stupid nerve agent."
"You did all kinds of coordination work with the other moon bases, had some of the material retrieved from the shuttles, you didn't remain idle," the young woman commented, stopping behind him.
She put her hands on his shoulders and began to rub. His typing slowed down noticeably, but he didn't protest. "I knew Paul would be angry when he learned that Black got away," she said after a moment.
"He's gotta stop thinking this is his fight alone. He shoulders it and takes each setback personally. I'm sure if you asked him, he'd tell you he should've been able to stop Black in the first place, and prevent this whole mess to begin with."
"Who knows what could have happened?"
"Exactly! But he's just so stubborn. I came this close to decking him earlier." He brought his fingers up close to each other. "You know? To knock some sense into him. But then I figured he'd get back up almost instantly, and probably punch me in return. So I tried to make him see there was nothing he could do for the moment and that running around like an idiot wouldn't help. When I pointed out that he hadn’t felt woozy at all, which meant the Mysterons had probably left, he agreed, although I suspect it was just to shut me up".
"Paul doesn't realize how lucky he is to have you as a friend," Green replied, giving him a hug. "Well, as Elaine said, now it's up to Simone to be the comforting girlfriend."
He snorted. "Good luck to her."
"Now, don't be pessimistic," she chided kissing his cheek. "I'll let you write your report," she added, then picked up her things and walked to the en-suite.
He worked in silence for a short while, then closed the laptop when he was done. Getting to his feet, he went to stand in the en-suite doorway, where he watched his lover do her "before bed routine". Not that she did much, but he enjoyed the homey, intimate feeling of it, of her letting him be around. "I could say I'm sorry your vacation was ruined, but in a way I'd be lying," he said.
She smiled at him through the mirror as she put some lotion on her face. "It wasn't totally ruined. We still have a few days to go, and you're taking me out tomorrow." She turned around to face him. "Too bad you can't stay longer."
"Yeah, but I'd be bored out of my mind after half a day." He reached up and wiped a small dab of lotion on the side of her chin with his thumb. "You like sitting around and doing nothing. And that's fine, and that's why it's great that you came here with Simone. Especially since we didn't have leave together this time."
She kissed the palm of his hand, which he had left against her cheek. "I guess now we'll have to find some way to crash your vacation with Paul when you go to the Grand Prix."
"You'll be welcome."
They smiled at each other, then Blue closed in to give her a gentle kiss, which quickly became more passionate. He touched her thigh where the hem of her nightshirt was resting and moved his fingers upwards to lift it, but hesitated at the last moment. "Maybe you'd rather not…" he murmured, but he had his answer when she shushed him softly and he felt her tug at the drawstrings of his sweats.
Destiny closed the door to her room and turned around to see Scarlet look about silently. When his eyes ended up on her, she offered him a shy smile. As close as they had become over the last few months, they had never taken that next step in their relationship. She had often wondered about it, at how they would go about it, what it would mean for them.
Who knew this unforeseen turn in the girls' vacation would have brought such an opportunity? Considering how close she had felt to Scarlet when they had been near the lake earlier, this felt like a natural continuation, even if it was a little nerve wracking.
She moved towards him. "So much for the relaxing vacation," she said with a smile.
"We're Spectrum, what did you expect?"
She leant in to kiss him. He kissed her back, but was almost hesitant. She couldn't help but feel a little disappointed, but reminded herself that the situation was unexpected for him as well. She broke the kiss but remained close. "Um, I think I'll get ready for bed," she said in a low voice, welcoming the strange, thrilling feeling of anticipation in her stomach.
He nodded, but said nothing. No hinting at "helping" her get ready, no gesture to undo her hair, or remove anything… perhaps he was trying to be respectful by waiting for her permission? She loved him more for that, but wished he was more forward. Oh well. He might get a clearer message once they were actually in bed…
She went to gather her things, but stopped. "Did you need to go?" she asked, tilting her head toward the en-suite.
He shook his head. After assuring him that it wouldn't take long, she entered the smaller room and closed the door. Scarlet watched her go, then after a short hesitation, walked to the bed. He pulled the covers away, then sat down to remove his shoes and socks. He wiggled his toes, uncertain of what he was supposed to do next.
The room was silent. He sat, waiting, his mind going back to the events of the day. He wasn't really tired—he supposed nerves had a bit to do with that—and he was still upset about the fight with Black. The Mysteron agent had escaped right from under his nose. He didn't even have the excuse of being so badly injured he needed time to recover. "I should have gone to check on the other Bison right away," he said aloud with a hint of frustration in his voice.
"You had just ejected from yours, the impact was violent enough for you to believe he wouldn't come out of it, and, if my suspicions are right, you were injured, even if you didn't tell anyone." Destiny's reply came from the other side of the en-suite door.
He shrugged, even though she couldn't see him, then swung his legs onto the bed. Lying down properly, he put his hands behind his head. "I was healing as I came back. Why make a fuss about it and involve the medics if all that would have done was raise awkward questions? I could, no, I should have gone back," he said.
"And then what?"
He looked at her as she came out of the bathroom. She was wearing the same lavender tank top and darker shorts she’d worn when the girls had had their sleepover a while back and her hair was loose on her shoulders. She stopped in her tracks when she saw him, and a faint blush darkened her cheeks, as if she were suddenly self-conscious at his gaze.
She padded barefoot to the entrance, where she played with the switches to turn the lighting down to a subtle level for the sleeping area. "I see you made yourself comfortable," she commented.
"Is that okay? Did you have a preference in sides? I presumed it was all right?" he asked and made a move to get up, but she shook her head and came to settle down on his right.
She put her hand on his chest. "What's done is done, Paul. The people are safe and you've done your job. We're all here to fight another day."
"I know. Adam let me have it earlier." He smiled despite himself. "I can't repeat some of the things he said."
She smiled back. "He cares about you."
"Oh, I'm sure he used the word 'knucklehead' in the friendliest way!" he exclaimed.
Destiny chuckled. "That leaves me with the nicer role of comforting you. Not that I mind."
He put his hands on her arms. "This isn't exactly how I thought…"
She shrugged. "Me neither," she murmured, cutting him off and kissing him again.
He was still holding back, she realized. Why? It certainly didn't help to make her feel desired… She moved away slightly to see if he would try to pull her into his arms. He didn't. "What if someone barges in?" he asked.
That's what it was. He was worried about being disturbed. She welcomed the feeling of relief his words brought. "I doubt it," she assured him before kissing the cleft in his chin.
"What… what if they hear?"
"Then we'll just have to be careful."
His hand slid from her arm to the hand she had put on his chest. "Simone…" he began.
She made a small sound of acknowledgement, kissing his throat.
"Simone, I hadn't planned for this to happen…" He seemed hesitant. "I don't have any protection with me."
She stopped and looked at him. He blinked and gazed back at her in the dimmed light. "Don't worry about that," she murmured, sensing his embarrassment.
"… Of course I worry about that. I take this very seriously."
An uncomfortable silence settled down in the room. "I won't become pregnant, Paul," she said quietly, hoping he would not expect her to elaborate on the subject of contraception; that would certainly put an end to any romance.
"How do you know?"
"I do. We're here, we're close. Can we just—"
"You know we can't risk having an accident, for several reasons."
She moved away from him and lay down on her back, trying to hide her disappointment as he went on: "For one, the timing would be the worst, considering we're in the middle of a war with the Mysterons. We can't afford to have anyone unavailable for such a long period of time, and the risks—no the certainty—that they would find out and try to either kill or take back any child… not to mention the risks for you. I mean, we don't know what the actual consequences of a modified DNA markup could be… And then there's the fact that…"
She had spoken in a soft, almost tired voice. He glanced at her profile. "You're right. This isn't the best time to have this discussion," he said.
Destiny sighed. "What discussion? From where I stand, it sounds like you’re just ticking off items from the 'How to keep clingy Simone at bay' list!"
"That's not true!" he protested, trying to keep his voice down so as not to alert the others.
She fidgeted with the hem of her shirt. "Earlier, at the lake, it… we were close. We were dancing. I thought… you'd be happy to learn we were safe for that… and that we had a natural opportunity to…" her voice faltered. "You said nothing earlier when we were in the living room and the sleeping arrangements became obvious… I figured you were agreeing to this…" She snorted softly. "How ironic that I thought I'd be covered with affection and instead, I'm pushed away."
"Simone, I'm not…"
He stopped in mid-sentence. It had exactly looked as if he was pushing her away. And he had no idea what to say to make things better. The silence that followed was extremely uncomfortable. He felt her shift around and turned his head again to look at her. Her arm was over her eyes and she was making an obvious effort to take deep, even breaths. He tried to ignore the feeling of dread welling up inside of him as he asked: "Are you crying?"
She took another deep breath with her mouth open. She was crying. He sighed. "Do you want me to go and switch places with Elaine?" he asked.
As if on cue, they both heard Ochre and Magenta laugh aloud at something they obviously found hilarious. It made Destiny sob and she turned on her side, facing the wall. "Leave them. They're enjoying themselves," she said.
Scarlet realized that asking for a swap at this point would also alert the others to the fact that something was wrong, making matters even worse than they already were. He lay still on his side of the bed, listening with growing distress to Destiny’s soft, but telltale sniffs. He couldn’t understand why voicing his genuine concerns over their situation should have had such a disastrous outcome.
Reaching out, he touched her shoulder with the back of his fingers. When she shrank away, he didn't insist. He got out of bed and settled down in the armchair close to the viewing bay. As far as physical comfort went, he'd had worse, but he didn't fall asleep until much later, after the young woman had quieted down herself. He had no idea how he could improve things come the morning. And it scared him.
Ochre woke up slowly, slightly disoriented by the unusual setting. I must have moved in my sleep, I'm against the blanket roll aga—her eyes opened wide in shock when she remembered that she had removed the blanket. Oh my God, NO!
She was leaning into Magenta's back, with her forehead and nose between his shoulder blades. This is horrible, I'm actually comfortable! Oh my… She felt her face heat up in mortification.
He was still sleeping. With any luck, he wouldn't have noticed. She would never hear the end of it if he found out. In all fairness however, she couldn't accuse him of having crossed the line, because he didn't seem to have moved much. How was she going to get away without him noticing? Her arms were tucked in against her chest, so she could not brace herself much to push. At least, they were not angled downwards, which would have put her hands right against—she forced herself to think about something else.
What if she rolled away? She backed her leg up and moved slowly, feeling silly and hoping no one would open their doors at this point. After what seemed like an eternity, she reached her end of the bed and slowly stood up. To her relief, Magenta was still sleeping soundly.
She rummaged quietly in her trunk to find her toiletries bag and padded softly to the small bathroom. After a quick shower, she put the coffee machine on to brew and set up the other portable computer on the kitchen counter. Taking her hairbrush from her bag, she ran it through her auburn locks while she checked her mails, then connected with Central Control. Lieutenant Silver appeared on-screen with a smile and a greeting. "Good, um, afternoon? I'm not sure with the time difference…" Ochre began in a low voice, putting her brush aside.
"It's a little after lunch time here," Silver confirmed. "What can I do for you, Captain?"
"Has the information from the legal team arrived? Blue sent his report last night."
"Yes, I'm sending the data to your account," Silver said, typing something as she spoke. "Why the hushed tones?" she asked, instinctively speaking in a low voice as well.
"Mario is still sleeping and I don't want to wake him up," Ochre replied, then turned a deep shade of red when she realized how that must have sounded.
Silver gave her an impish little smile. "Well, that's… interesting," she commented.
"It's not what you think!" Ochre hurried to justify herself, praying that Colonel White wasn't in the vicinity to add to her embarrassment.
"Denial isn't just a river in Egypt, you know…"
"Was the data sent?" Ochre asked, trying to divert Silver's attention to another subject.
"Yes, captain, you should have it soon. I'll also notify the ISA of your impending return."
"Thank you. We'll keep you posted on our progress. Please don't smile like that."
"Does he snore?"
"No, he does—Bethany!" Ochre protested while the other woman laughed out loud.
"You walked right into that one! I'm not sure why you're protesting so much, Rebecca is right, you do look cute together."
"We don't! We're work partners and that's it. It's not because we kissed once in the gym that—"
"I thought he kissed you because he managed to trick you?"
"You said 'we'."
"My tongue slipped."
Silver bit her lip in a valiant effort to stop grinning. Ochre threw her arms up in defeat and went to pour herself a cup of coffee. When she came back to the computer screen, the other woman asked: "So, is this resort worth a visit?"
Ochre took the peace offering. "It's an easy way to feel like you're away from everything, that's for sure. The water in the lake is kept at an ideal temperature, and they have a dome specifically designed to cut off the harmful UV rays, but still offer sunlight. You can see the Earth in the dome. It's beautiful."
"Will you be able to swim there before you come back?"
"Maybe. They probably have outrageously pricey swimwear at the tourist shop. I'd borrow something from the girls, but it wouldn't fit."
"Don't forget to buy a gaudy souvenir."
"I'll find the gaudiest thing in the shop and bring it back just for you." Ochre saw the notification at the bottom of the screen that her files had arrived. "Got the data, thank you."
"Will that be all? The colonel should be back in a few minutes. Did you want to tell him something in particular?"
"No, that's fine."
"Okay, then, I'll await your status updates."
"S.I.G., lieutenant. Ochre, out."
She closed the communication channel, then opened the files she had received. She looked up when she saw movement in the corner of her eye. Magenta had turned over on his back. Well, that confirmed it, he didn't snore after all. She was about to return to the computer screen, but the door to Green's room opened silently and the young woman's dark head popped out.
Ochre waved at her in greeting, then pointed at the still-sleeping Magenta. Green nodded and walked carefully into the living room. Behind her, Blue wasn't as subtle. "Everyone decent?" he asked half-jokingly, striding in.
Ochre gasped in outrage, and in a reflex, threw the nearest item she found—her hairbrush—at him. The man deflected the object easily with his forearm, but in doing so, redirected it towards poor, unsuspecting Magenta, who received it square in the face. The dark-haired man sprang up in groggy surprise, mumbling "I didn't do it!" while Blue burst out laughing.
"Adam!" Ochre exclaimed in a reproachful voice and rushed to Magenta, who was holding his face.
The blond man rolled his eyes and walked to the counter, where Green was looking at the computer screen. "That wasn't very nice," she scolded him gently.
"I didn't do it on purpose!" he protested.
"I meant what you said, not what you did."
"It was a joke…"
"It was a very bad one."
He bent down so he could whisper in her ear: "He's not really injured you know, he's pretending to get her attention."
She glanced up and saw that he was probably right. "Leave them alone, Sunshine" she commented with a smile.
"Why doesn't she just kiss it and make it better," he muttered, looking over her shoulder at the data.
"It's more complicated than that," Green said in a low voice.
He seemed confused by her statement. "No, it's not!"
"Yes it is. You have to understand that she doesn't like him."
She gave him a pointed look. Blue frowned. "Yes, she does," he stated bluntly.
Green made a soft shushing sound and shook her head; Blue mumbled something in return about failing to comprehend girl logic.
Magenta stood up to go see the extent of his injuries—a very small red mark under his right eye—in the bathroom. Ochre watched him go, then gave Blue an evil look. Green, who was still looking at the computer screen, reached down discreetly and gave her lover a warning pat on the butt. Blue wasn't sure how she could be aware that he was about to say something since she wasn't even looking at him, but he accepted the warning and kept quiet. Until he realized she was working. "Step away from that computer!" he said in an authoritative voice.
"It's my vacation, I can do whatever I want," she replied, not budging. "Besides, who do you think will have to go see Ava Gordon with this?"
Blue made a face that showed he agreed with her point, kissed her temple and headed for the bathroom to apologize to Magenta. Ochre watched him go, then turned to Green. "Are you excited about your outing later?" she asked.
Green smiled happily. "Yes! I know it's not much, but I'll cherish this moment for sure… Adam is such a sweetheart…"
"That's not what I would have called him earlier," Ochre replied.
Green chuckled. "Poor Mario…." She shut down the computer and headed for her room. "Do you think I'll have a hard time with the camera in an EV suit?"
She retrieved her camera and showed it to Ochre. "You might want to take a few practice shots to get used to the feeling with the gloves, but it should be fine. The one thing I'd do is put it in something, a container or a bag, until you need it. Otherwise you'll get dust on it. That stuff is really bad."
Green nodded in understanding, then snapped a picture of the two men coming back to the living room. She smiled at the result, which was rather bad and looked up when Magenta said: "I'm beginning to feel hungry… Do you think Scarlet and Destiny are still sleeping?"
"I'll go check," Blue began, but Green stopped him and stated she would do it, ignoring him when he stuck his tongue out at her.
Scarlet opened his eyes. He blinked, chasing the foggy remains of sleep from his mind, and looked across at the bed. Destiny was still lying down, facing away from him. She was silent, so either she was sleeping, or she was just laying there and avoiding him. He hoped it wasn't the second option.
There was a gentle knock on the door. He hurried to answer it, but saw that it had startled Destiny awake. He cracked the door open to see Green's smiling face. "Good morning," he greeted her.
"I'm sorry, did I wake you up?" the young woman asked in a soft voice.
He prayed that she didn't notice his distressed expression. "It's all right," he assured her, smiling at her.
"The guys are hungry and thought of heading out for breakfast. Should we wait for you?" She paused, and he knew she suspected something was off. "Maybe you'd like a few more moments to get ready and you'll join us there?" she added.
Scarlet glanced over his shoulder at Destiny, who was now sitting up on the edge of the bed, then turned back to Green. "Yes, please. We'll meet you there."
"All right. Take your time."
He nodded his thanks to her and closed the door. He heard the voices of his companions fade away and realized that they had left the villa. When he turned to face Destiny, she was still sitting on the bed, looking at the floor. Her unbound hair was partially covering her face, but he could see her troubled expression.
He took one step in her direction, then another one, and another, until finally he stood in front of her. She didn't look up, or say anything. He took a deep breath, then knelt at her feet.
She tucked her hair behind her ear absentmindedly, then put her hand back on her lap. He resisted the urge to touch her, in case it made her cringe away. "I find you very attractive and beautiful," he said quietly.
"You didn't make me feel attractive and beautiful last night," she replied in the same manner.
"No, I did not," he agreed.
"I felt I was begging for your attention, that I was desperate and rejected. And I don't understand."
He winced. "I didn't want any of that."
"It's as if you had switched off! As if you were afraid of a bigger commitment than just…" she made a helpless gesture with her hands.
"Simone, I take our relationship very seriously. To me, this is not just fooling around, it matters; and I want to get it right. But last night caught me off-guard. Yes, we were close by the lake. But considering there were four other people with us, I honestly didn't think we'd end up in the same room; I thought I'd be on the couch with Mario while you girls would be in here. When you made it plain you expected us to be together, I got a shock. I wasn't ready for that. I didn't think you'd agree to it; that you'd make such a statement in front of the others."
"It's not exactly a secret that we're involved. I thought it was a perfect excuse," she replied with a sad little smile.
"The setting was all wrong… I was angry. I could not have given you the attention you deserved."
"Isn't making love a good way to relieve tension?"
"How can you think I'd use you like that!" he protested, then his voice softened: "It was not what I expected for the first time I made love to you. I wanted it to be perfect, in a place where we'd be comfortable, free to do what we wanted, and that we wouldn't have to hold back in any way because someone was on the other side of the door!"
He was not looking directly at her, but she saw that his face was flushed. He scratched the back of his neck, and continued: "You told me you're not worried that there will be consequences. In a normal situation, I would have trusted what you said one hundred per cent. And it's not you that I don't trust, it's me. I'm not… I wanted to have some tests done first. And I still do."
"And what kept you from taking those tests before now?" She could not help but ask.
"You mean besides the embarrassment of actually asking to have them done and the message I'd be sending the medical team about my private life?" He rolled his eyes and muttered almost as an afterthought: "Although they've poked and prodded everything else, I'm surprised they haven’t already taken samples…"
He shrugged. Glancing at her quickly, he sighed, then blurted out: "I'm utterly afraid of the results."
"Paul…" Her voice was gentle.
"So, in a way, not knowing was one less thing to worry about. And since I was sure I would have the time to manage an appropriate, um, occasion, such as a vacation where we'd be alone, I chose the cowardly way out."
She pursed her lips. "And you didn't think I could understand all this, and that knowing how things actually were could only help us adjust if we needed to? That you could have explained that last night?"
"I didn't know how to bring it up without it being disastrous."
"How about 'Love, I'm delighted to spend the night with you, but I want to make sure everything is all right before I can worship you the way I want to.'? And then I would have asked why, and you would have explained. And we would've probably ended up in each other's arms, snogging to our little hearts' content, and then having a good night's sleep. Anything would have been better than doing your impersonation of a puppet that had its strings cut off!"
She watched emotions play on his face as he knelt there. Her anger ebbed away and she ended up feeling rather miserable. And so did he, from what she could see. "We had a crappy night. Can we have a better day? Can I get a good morning kiss?" she asked.
He looked at her and she saw a spark of hope in his blue eyes. "You're willing to give the string-less puppet a chance? After this fiasco?"
She leant forward. "It turns out I'm rather fond of the puppet. And although I'm saddened that he didn't think I would understand and be there for him when he needs me, and could have figured out a way to spend a very enjoyable night despite his legitimate concerns, I hope he knows better now."
"I think he does," he replied, giving her one of his boyish, devastating smiles. "Good morning," he added, straightening up and capturing her mouth with his.
She cupped his face with her hands, welcoming him and kissing him back with equal enthusiasm. He pushed against her gently, and at first she thought that he was simply leaning into the kiss, but when he put his hand on the mattress next to her and raised himself off the ground, she realized he was trying to lie her down. "Let me back up a bit to give you room," she whispered against his lips.
His reply was a low sound of acknowledgement in his throat that sent thrills down her spine. He followed her without breaking contact, kneeling to one side of her. He sucked gently on her lower lip, nibbled at it, his mouth playing with hers. My goodness, where were you last night? She wondered silently, putting her arms around his neck to bring him closer.
He let his hand run up the side of her thigh to her hip. It lingered there, its warmth spreading all over her, then went up again, on her waist. She felt his fingers slide under the hem of her tank top—whether by accident or not she wasn't sure—and gasped at the sensation.
Scarlet pulled away slightly from her lips, almost reluctantly, to look into her eyes. "There's no one else in the cabin…" he murmured.
His hand moved a little and she looked down at it, feeling her heart pound faster in her chest. "You're right," came her answer, barely above a whisper.
He kissed her forehead, his hand stopped moving. "Love, I'm delighted to spend the morning with you, but since I still want to make sure everything is all right before I can worship you the way I want to, I'd like to worship you in another way, if you'll allow me?"
She took a deep breath and nodded, and could not help a moan of anticipated pleasure when she felt his hand brush against her breast.
They were walking slowly along the corridor leading to the dome, hand in hand, their fingers intertwined. Destiny was aware that she probably had the silliest smile on her face betraying the reason why they were so late. When she looked up at Scarlet, she saw that she wasn't the only one.
He had made love to her with his hands and his mouth. Twice. The first time on the bed had been a little urgent, almost desperate, even though he had been gentle and attentive. The second time—in the shower when they were supposed to get ready to join the others—had been more playful, and even more pleasurable for the both of them.
Destiny was fully aware that even though their morning had turned out much better than their night, they still had a lot of talk about, to figure out. Not only about the physical aspect of their relationship, but also where they wanted to take this, and how Conrad's shadow would probably always loom over them… She pushed the thought away, tightening her fingers on Scarlet's, smiling at the warmth that filled her whole being when she felt his lips on the side of her head.
There were already several people in the dome when they arrived there. Some were swimming in the lake, some were sitting on the beach. The tables where breakfast was served were on a terrace overlooking the water. Green saw them from afar, and waved at them to get their attention. Destiny waved back.
When they approached the table, they saw only Green and Blue there. "Good morning," Destiny began and squeezed Scarlet's fingers. "Sorry about the delay, it was my fault." She felt the man's fingers squeeze back.
Scarlet held a chair out for his companion to sit. "Where are the others?" he asked.
"They were done, so they went down by the lake," Green explained.
Destiny noticed that neither Blue nor Green had plates in front of them. "Did you wait for us?" she asked, looking embarrassed.
Blue stood up. "We were taking our time and enjoying each other's company," he replied in a surprisingly tactful manner, considering his rough behavior earlier. "Come on, Paul, let's be chivalrous and go get some food for our ladies"
Destiny and Green watched both men make their way to the large buffet table a few feet away. "Is that Adam's subtle way of giving us time for girl talk?" the Falcon pilot asked.
Green laughed. "No. He's just hungry."
"I'm really sorry about that."
"I told Paul to take the time you needed. Besides, all you really missed was Elaine bickering at Mario for half of their meal, so no big loss there." Green put her hand on her friend's. "Did you want to have girl talk?"
Destiny leant her chin in her other hand, still looking at Scarlet, and shrugged. "Honestly, I don't know what I'd tell you… things happened a little fast and there's some sorting out to do first."
Green nodded in understanding. At the buffet table, Scarlet and Blue both laughed heartily at something. Destiny could not help the broad smile on her face at the sight of them, nor the clearly enamored look she gave the dark-haired captain. She glanced at Green. "I feel like leaving with them," she said.
The other woman smiled. "So that's what it was," she commented.
Destiny frowned. "What do you mean?"
"Earlier, when I went to see if you were awake, Paul looked a little dejected, but now, all is clear, you were saddened to be apart—aww, Simone! Maybe I'll start sticking paper hearts on your door!"
The colorful paper hearts had been a running gag for months now, with a few new ones appearing randomly on the door to either Green's or Blue's quarters, sometimes both. Green had kept the original "Adam and Serena—a match made in Heaven," and put it in a small frame to hang it next to her door. Blue had kept one that said "Captain Sunshine," and another one that said "Totally besotted and proud of it."
"You like the paper hearts, you look for them," Destiny replied, happy to see an escape door open so easily to cover up the real reason for their tardiness.
"Does this mean I can expect some new ones at our doors in the near future?"
"As soon as we can find a dreadful pun about the Moon, I promise you'll get something."
Green chuckled. "Looking forward to it. So… you want to leave?"
"I'll stay if you want to, but let's say the place has lost a little of its charm compared to what's elsewhere."
"Don't give me that! You've been ogling Adam ever since he stood up!"
"I'm not ogling! I'm… okay, I'm ogling. And I don't really feel like staying, either." She paused and thanked Blue who had just put a plate of food in front of her, then continued when he left to get his own: "And honestly? From the way Ava Gordon was acting when I went to see her, she'd be glad if we left as well. She didn't say so precisely, but she'll probably be happy to collect the compensation from the legal team and the insurance, and never hear from us again."
"Can you blame her? She'll probably have to deal with angry and worried tourists…" Destiny took a slice of melon from her plate. "So it's settled then?" she asked before biting into the fruit.
"Do you think Tranquility Resorts will lend us the EV suits for the trip back?"
"If you say Ms. Gordon wants us to leave, she'll probably agree to it. We'll simply hand them back once we land on Earth. You already need one for your space date anyway."
Green smiled. "Space date, I like the sound of that. I'll have to go pack my things beforehand, though."
"Just do your bags and I'll take care of the rest."
"Thanks." Green began eating as well. "Would you prefer that we went on the other shuttle?"
Destiny hesitated. This could be an opportunity to sort things out, but was it too soon? She looked up at Scarlet, who arrived at that moment and sat down next to her. "I may want to consult with someone first," she said to her friend.
"Sure. Adam and I will go with whatever you decide."
Blue, who sat down as well, rolled his eyes. "We left them alone for too long, they had time to plot something," he commented.
"But you'll like it!" Destiny assured him.
At that moment, a gleeful Magenta ran past the table, soon followed by an apparently furious Ochre, who was yelling at him using rather colorful language. "Or maybe not," she finished with a smile, making Green laugh and Blue look slightly worried.
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