*Chapter 7: The Talk*
Shadow sat across from Gerald in the lab, wondering what the talk would be about. Shadow doubted that Gerald would talk about Widow killing the innocent human. Gerald poured some warm tea in the cup and took a sip. Shadow stares at him in silent, waiting for him to speak. Gerald sighed a little after a drink.
"Shadow, I know it might be too much for you to know, but...you need to know." Gerald said. "Veldon and his creations. My family. Everyone else up here."
"Tell me about Veldon." Shadow said. "I'm concerned about him. And...does he ever come here and try to cause harm to any of you?"
"Hardly comes here. Only to steal my files. He wants to use my secrets for evil." Gerald said. "He and I have a history, and...it's a long story to tell, but I will give you a short one and that's it."
"Of course." Shadow said with a nod.
"When I was young, as a doctor, I have a patient. Veldon. He was sick, and I helped him. He was bitten by a snake, and he was close to be dead. After I cured him with the antidote, he...he wants to return the favor." Gerald said. "He was a professor of finding any cure for those who are dying of cancer. And...he failed to find one. He tries to create one, but...it was impossible. But, we discovered the rarest disease of them all. A Neuro-Immune Deficiency Syndrome. NIDS for short."
"...What kind of sickness is that, professor?" Shadow asked. He remembered that disease mentioned in the tape. Maria has it, and Shadow wanted to know what the disease is doing to her. Gerald sighed a little.
"It's...the most incurable disease. Hardly anybody got it. You can be born with it and last for a couple of years." Gerald replied. "Veldon and I thought we can find the cure for that disease to help others. While I was in the hospital, studying this disease, everything said the same thing. No cure. But, I don't know what happened, Veldon started to steal my files of my original projects. I was creating the Space Colony ARK to change the world forever."
"Why was Veldon betraying you?"
"After I became a grandfather, Maria was born, but born with...an NIDS." Gerald said. Shadow doesn't know why, but he felt like he could be angry. Maria is sick. No cure. "Shadow, Maria survives this disease for 12 years now, and...I don't know how much time she has left."
"Are you searching for a cure now? You didn't give up on her, did you?" Shadow asked. Gerald shook his head.
"Never. Ever since I had her, my wife...she left me because she couldn't stand me being obsessed either finding a cure, or creating one." Gerald said. "Maria couldn't be alone, and...I have to call for those who can help her have some friends. Like Mardic and Abraham." Gerald got up from the chair and went over to his desk to take something out of the drawer. A book with pictures. "I always keep this." Gerald said and coming back and gave Shadow the book. Shadow opened it and found photos of Gerald's family. There is a photo of Hope pregnant with Maria.
"That woman looks like Maria." Shadow said. "Is she the mother?"
"Yes." Gerald said. "Hope Robotnik wasn't around since Maria was born. Because of the disease, Hope tries to help me find a cure on Earth, but...it was too late." Shadow flipped the next page and see Maria as a newborn, then a toddler, and then to a young 7 year old. "Maria was a handful back then, and she always wanted me around. And...there are many accidents happen when families come here for the holidays, and...Maria wasn't the same since. But...she's still a happy child, Shadow." Gerald said.
"Hmm. I guess with that disease, it's so hard." Shadow said. "I'm so sorry about her, professor. If only I could help..."
"Oh, Shadow. I'm continuing the search of the cure." Gerald said. "I don't want to lose my only granddaughter. I can't let down my son and daughter-in-law."
"Professor, is that why Maria couldn't go down there? To Earth?" Shadow said. "Because...she said that...she had to wait."
"It's true, Shadow." Gerald said sadly. "She cannot go down to Earth with that horrible NIDS. She will get anyone sick down there. But up here, the disease slows her down, but she does have some side effects. Every once in a while, she must be in the nursing room." Shadow look down at the floor in silent. Poor Maria. She had to go through so much. "Shadow, it's your job to protect Maria and everyone aboard the ARK. Since Maria was growing fond of you, I can trust you that you can take care of her for me since I am experimenting." Gerald told him. Shadow stares at him.
"Of course, professor." Shadow said. "I will protect the ARK and its people, including Maria." Gerald place his hand over Shadow's shoulder.
"Thank you, Shadow." He said. "I can always count on you."
Maria is reading a book in her room, trying not to think too much about the murder that happened. As she was reading, she heard a knock. She got up and opened the door and see Shadow there.
"Oh, hello Shadow." Maria said. "Is everything okay?"
"I'm fine. I want to check on you. The professor was worried that you're not afraid of what happened." Shadow replied.
"Ohh, I'm...fine. I was...shocked of what happened." Maria said. "I guess I forgot to tell you about-"
"Widow. I know." Shadow said. "I met her back at the armory after you and Mardic left." Maria let Shadow in her room. They both sat on the bed. Shadow turned to the girl who is holding a book. "What's that you're reading there?"
"Oh, just a story I love." Maria said by showing Shadow the cover.
"The Phantom of the Opera?" Shadow wondered. "What's that?"
"It's a drama, but a sad love story." Maria said. "This Phantom, Erik, loves this diva named Christine, and...he tries to kill this man who was also in love with Christine, but the Phantom failed. Raoul and Christine are meant to be together, and the mob are after Erik, and they killed him. I feel bad for the Phantom, because...he's not like the rest."
"Hmm." Shadow murmured.
"I guess it's not your type to read, Shadow. Maybe romance is not your thing, huh?" Maria asked with a smile.
"Romance? Love?" Shadow wondered. "I don't understand."
"Well, love is...complicated." Maria said. "There's different types of love. Family love, couple love, and...fan love. I don't know. I never got into a relationship with someone, and I don't know what love is like. Like I said, it's complicated."
"I see." Shadow said. He will have to let that one slid since it's hard for Maria to explain. Someday he will find out. "And the professor mentions about the holidays too."
"Like Thanksgiving and Christmas or different holidays?" Maria asked. "What about them? What did he tell you?"
"Well, when we talked, he said that you have some families and friends come up here to spend holidays with us." Shadow replied. "Is there more of you down at Earth?" Maria looked down at the floor in silent. Not much family left. Some are dead, most are killed.
"I...I don't want to talk about that, Shadow. I'm sorry." Maria said. "But, I can tell you about the holidays we mostly celebrate."
"To gather families and friends we are close to, we have Thanksgiving and Christmas. And Easter as well, but it's kinda complicated. Anyway, every year around Christmas, we have a party in the grand hall where we have meetings once in a while. We dress up, and...dance, and..." Maria trails off for moment. "We don't get a tree or decorations for the ARK. No snow, no ice skating, no presents..." She said in a sad tone. Shadow stares at her, feeling bad.
"Sounds like that holiday is your top favorite." Shadow said. Maria nodded.
"We only got a month until Christmas, and it's still the same as last year. A party with no tree, or presents, or anything. And no one plays those Christmas songs. It feels so lonely and quiet without those fun things." She said. "I wish it will be a fun Christmas for you, Shadow. Your first holidays with us. Once we all go down to Earth, we can see the snow for the first time, and experience everything I have dreamed of." Shadow turned to see the book shelf, and there is one book about Christmas. He went over to it and read the title. A Christmas Carol.
"Maria, may I borrow this?" He asked. Maria turned to him and nodded.
"Oh, sure. That's a great story. Spooky, but good for your taste I believe." She said. "They made a movie out of it too. We can watch it sometime." Shadow held the book and told Maria that he will be in his room for the night since it's getting late. After they said goodnight, Shadow looks at the book cover. Snow behind the Scrooge character. So that's snow.
'We're in the month of November. So this Christmas holiday is in December which is next month. Maria wanted something more than just a plain party. Perhaps...I can help her get the spirit and same goes with everyone up here.' Shadow thought. Then, Mardic is walking down the corridor. Shadow caught up to him.
"Mardic, can I speak with you? It's kinda urgent."
"Huh? What's the problem?" Mardic asked.
"Well, I was talking to Maria earlier and...she told me about your Christmas up here. All you do is have a party and that's it?" Shadow asked.
"What?" Mardic asked. "Oh, you mean a Christmas Party. Yeah, we do. But...gotta agree with Maria though, the party was boring. Just everyone has a few days off of working in labs." He said. "Why do you want to know? And what's with that book you got?"
"I...need your help. And maybe the professor's help as well." Shadow said. Mardic raised his eyebrow in confusion. What is Shadow planning?