Howard rode a lift to the deck that the observation room was on. Sam had suggested this one personally. He thought it had a good view of the rest of the ship.
As he walked through the hall, he saw Sam standing by the door to the observation room. It wasn’t really a door, more a two level lift. The room was a clear dome with some seating inside.
‘Hello Sam. Decided to show up a few minutes early?’ Howard said.
‘Yes. I can’t say I’ve been looking forward to this.’
Howard glanced down the hallway and saw Ayla and her mother, Ira, coming hand in hand towards them.
‘Apparently we weren’t the only ones who decided to show up early.’ Howard said softly to Sam.
They all walked into the observation room, and took seats facing each other near the centre of the room. It was both a observation room and a lounge.
The adults looked at each other in a awkward silence for some time, but Ayla just smiled at Sam.
Ira broke the silence, ‘I’ve given this a lot of thought. I just wanted to say no. So badly I wanted to say no. But, I know what happened to Tim wasn’t something he could control. And he did exactly what anyone could hope he’d do.’
‘It was more then anyone could have hoped,’ Sam offered.
Ira smiled sadly, ‘I know. I also know that Tim wouldn’t have wanted me to fear the choice he made being made by our daughter. He would have made the choice at her age too. I’m just afraid for my daughter.’
‘That’s understandable Mrs Geer. If the application is approved by Axion HQ, I’ll personally watch over her. No step in this process will go unwatched.’
‘I’m sure you will Samuel. And I appreciate it. Ayla honey, why don’t you tell them your choice?’
Ayla beamed at Sam, ‘I want to be an Advocate just like you.’
Sam knelt down on the floor and looked in her eyes, ‘It’s going to be hard work, Ayla. You are going to have to have some doctor’s appointment and there will be surgery. Do you know what surgery is?’
Ayla nodded, her smile gone, and a look of seriousness on her face.
‘We’ll need to add some things to your body. Things that will let you talk to the Guardians that you will work with.’
‘Will I get to work with your Guardian?’
‘He’ll help teach you about Guardians.’
‘Cool.’ she said happily.
Sam got back up and sat in his seat and looked at Ira, ‘I’ll fill out the forms and send them over to you for you to look over and sign. After that, I’ll send it to Axion and they’ll approve it. Then we’ll start the process here. We’ve got all the needed equipment here on the ship. I’m afraid you won’t be able to be part of any of the medical procedures, due to the possibility of a conflict of interest.’
‘I know that rule. I’ll abide by it. I’ll want to be present for it all though.’
‘Of course,’ Sam stood up, ‘I believe that’s all we needed to cover. Is there anything else?’
Ira stood up as well, ‘No, I think that’s everything. Thank you Samuel, and you too Captain Fredrick. I’ll be waiting for those forms.’
‘I’ll keep Sam on his toes for you.’ Howard said as they all got up to leave.
Sam separated from the group and headed for his quarters to get the forms ready.
‘Sam. Are you sure about this child?’ Exo questioned.
‘She’s eager. There’s not much you can judge on at this age.’ Sam replied.
‘She is not top of her class in grades. She is above average yes, but there are better candidates.’
‘You know I failed math class at her age. ’ Sam replied.
‘I did not know... I have never accessed your personal file. ’
‘We’ll you have my permission if you’d like. As for the child, she’ll do fine. There’s not many Advocates that have ever failed in the process. ’
‘But the few examples we have had have been quite detrimental.’
‘What exactly is your concern Exo?’ Sam asked pointedly.
‘I have watched Ira Geer for some time. She suffered from psychological pain. I am concerned that Ayla will also suffer. She has lost a parent. My analysis shows that losing a parent at a young age has the potential to unsettle humans to a great extent. Sometimes the extent won’t even be visible at first.’
‘You’re getting awfully observant these days.’ Sam said.
‘You have taught me to answer my own questions. ’
‘To the best of your ability. Frankly, I don’t think she will be a problem. It will be a stressful time, but with her Mother on the ship and me to guide her, she won’t be facing it alone.’
‘Fear of loneliness is a driving force in human interactions. ’
‘Very observant again. Yes it is.’
‘I will keep an eye on their psychological health and let you know if I discover anything new.’
‘Very well Exo. Also, if you would be so kind as to forward the necessary Advocate authorization forms to my personal terminal, I’ll fill them out as soon as I get there.’
‘Yes Advocate. And you remember your dinner with Sarah tonight?’
‘Wouldn’t want to miss that. Did you find a place I could get my package?’
‘Deck 13, section A, room 24. Your order was placed ahead of time. It’s not quite as you requested, but those kind of supplies are not abundant here. The proprietor will be expecting you. ’
‘Thank you Exo.’
‘Good luck Advocate.’ Exo said.
Sam just smiled.
Sam knocked on the door to Sarah’s quarters. She shared it with two other women on the ship, but they were both out for the evening. Sarah and Sam had been looking forward to this for some time. It wasn’t often people had a moment alone on this crowded ship. He quickly put one of his hands behind his back to hide what he was carrying.
The door swished open and Sarah looked at Sam with a smile. She was wearing a sky blue blouse and a black skirt. Sam noticed she was wearing some light makeup and had had her hair done up.
‘Wow, you look amazing Sarah.’
She smiled, ‘Thanks Samuel. You don’t look so bad yourself.’
Sam looked quickly down at himself. His button up red shirt was neatly ironed and his shoes were freshly polished. He looked back at her, ‘We thanks, I tired. Though I’m sure my natural good looks helped.’
She laughed at this, a genuine laugh filled with warmth.
Sam felt his heart swell in reply. He remembered the package he was hiding and moved his hand infront of him.
Sarah’s eyes went to what he was holding and she inhaled in surprise.
‘Tulips and chocolates Sam? How did you manage that on this ship?’
Samuel smiled, ‘I had been hoping for roses, but those were just impossible. I had Exo place a special order with the agricultural department head. I had to promise him that I’d get more seeds from Axion for him. Had to call in some favours on that one.’
‘They’re beautiful Sam. Thank you.’
‘Seemed appropriate given our mutual love of old things. Nothing says old school romance like flowers and chocolates at the door.’
She took the flowers and the chocolate and stepped back from the door, ‘Do come in Sam.’
He stepped inside and looked around. This wasn’t his first time inside her quarters, but it was the first time without her roommates, and it was clear she had taken the time to make it special. The table was set with care and had a cloth draped over it. The dishes were plain, as the kind of fancy dishes that would normally be used, just weren’t present on board.
It was neat, it was cozy, it was warm. It was more than Sam would have been able to pull off.
‘Have a seat Sam, dinner is almost ready.’
‘Anything I can help with?’ He asked, leaning against the wall so he could watch her.
‘No thank you, I’ve got things under control.’
Samuel nodded. He looked back at the table and noted there was a candle in the centre of the table. It was unlit, for now.
‘How did you manage to get your hand on a candle?’
‘Do you like it? I brought a few with me in my personal items,’ she looked over from her cooking, ‘I had hoped I’d have a chance to use them. Never thought it would be this soon.’
‘Was this the kind of use you had in mind?’ Samuel asked, smiling again.
Her cheeks flushed slightly and she looked down, Sam could still see her face melt into a new smile, ‘Yeah. Something like this.’
‘I consider myself very lucky.’
‘Good. We’ll see if you keep that thought after we eat, though. It’s been a while since I last made a meal. My roommates here have been doing most of the cooking on this trip. Though I used to do some back home in Idaho.’
She lifted what she had been cooking off of the cook top and walked it to the table, setting it among the other dishes that were already present.
Sam walked over to the table and pulled out a chair. She smiled demurely and sat in the offered seat. Sam helped pushed it close to the table, and then walked around and sat down across from her.
She reached towards the candle and lit it with a small fire starter.
They looked at each other for a moment, and then down at the candle.
Sarah giggled and covered her mouth, ‘It’s not quite how I imagined it. Maybe it’s because the lights are still on full. I always pictured it dimmer, more moody.’
‘More intimate?’ Sam said helpfully.
She nodded, ‘Yeah, but there’s no dimmer switch. Just on and off.’
Sam leaned back, ‘Hold on a second.’
’Exo, dim the lights in Sarah’s room. Cut power 70%.’
’That will be against regulations Advocate.’
’Humour me for tonight. I’ll explain later.’
’Very well Advocate.’
The lights in the room dimmed noticeably, making the flickering light of the candle stand out far more powerfully than it had before. Slowly, Sarah’s face lit up in a smile, and then she leaned forward in her chair and looked intently at Sam.
‘That’s more like it. Thank you Sam.’
Sam raised an eyebrow and wave a fork towards her, ‘No thank you, for inviting me to dinner. Without this oppurutnity, I could never have wooed you with my light dimming powers.’
She laughed and Sam felt relax at the sound. She was beautiful, and Sam found it hard to look away for long, and yet had to force himself to do so he began to feel embarrassed by his staring.
‘Please Sam, eat, enjoy.’
‘I do so most eagerly Sarah.’
They began to put food on their plates.
‘Do Advocates need to eat as often as the rest of us?’
’Not really, we can go for longer without food. Not only that but we actually have to occasionally eat a kind of nutritional paste, so that we have the balanced nutrition we need. Normal diets are sometimes deficient in one way or another, ’he leaned forward conspiratorially, ‘Though truth is told, the paste is flavour deficient. But don’t tell Axion that.’
Another giggle, another feeling of warmth and relaxation for Sam, ‘I won’t tell if you don’t.’
There was a momentary pause. Sam looked across the table and caught Sarah doing the same. She looked back down at her plate quickly, but then raised her head again, in a lopsided grin.
‘We’re both adults here Sam. We can look if we want to.’
‘I do. Frequently. It’s been one of my favorite things to do on this trip.’
‘You like what you see that much?’ She asked carefully.
‘More than just what I see, but what I can feel too. You are amazing. Look at you, a farm girl from Idaho on your way across the stars for a new start on an alien world because you thought it sounded like a challenge.’
‘I love a good challenge.’
Sam was aware that his heart was beating faster. His Advocate systems flashed an option in his vision to slow it, but he ignored the option. This feeling was addicting.
’I’m getting some s-strange readings from your systems. Are you all right?’
’It’s all part of the human experince, or at least as much as it can be when you are half human. Don’t worry Exo, everything is fine.’
’Is everything alright with you?’
’I believe so.’
‘Sarah,’ Sam said carefully.
‘I just... wanted to say that I think you’re incredible.’
She made a face at him, ‘You think so do you?’
Sam smiled uncomfortably, ‘Yeah, pretty incredible.’
‘Glad you think so. You don’t really have a lot of experince with women do you?’
Now Sam laughed, caught off guard by the question, ‘That obvious?’
‘No I haven’t. I haven’t found anyone who would make me want to take the chance before?’
‘Most Advocates date other Advocates. If anyone at all. We’re just so different.’
‘We have some simalar tastes don’t we?’
‘Yeah we do, but I mean like different on a deeper level than that. I am almost not human anymore.’
Something like anger flashed across her face, Sam paused.
She said, ‘You’re one of the more human people I’ve met. Earth is full of humans with less humanity than you show. You care about people Sam, genuinely care. You want to give people the best of yourself. That’s very human of you.’
Sam felt a warmth come over him, and smiled softly, ‘Thank you Sarah. Thank you.’
‘I’ve come to really care for you too Sam. You’re becoming very special to me.’
Sam nodded, ‘And so are you. I love our time together.’
‘Just our time?’ She said, that lopside grin coming back.
Sam returned the look, ‘And more.’
‘How much more?’
‘All of you. You are intoxicating. Fascinating. And so beautiful that you’d be breathtaking if my lungs still worked that way.’
She let out a short laugh and shook her head, ‘You really can’t keep it serious for too long can you?’
Sam looked down at his plate for a moment and then looked back up, ‘I suppose not.’
‘And yet I’ve still fallen for you.’
A thought for another joke flashed across his mind, but he suppressed it and replied, ‘And so have I. So what now? Are we serious about this?’
‘That’s awfully direct.’
‘I... can’t afford not to be. Where other people might be able to forget a failed relationship, it will stick with me in perfect clarity forever. I won’t be able to forget. And... truth be told, I’m rather old fashioned when it comes to relationships. I don’t want a fling.’
‘Neither do I.’
Sam swallowed nervously, ‘So we’ll see where this goes?’
She nodded, ‘I’d like that.’
‘So what now?’
She laughed fully now and stood up from the table. With one hand she motioned him forward. He stood up and walked slowly towards her. When he got close enough, she wrapped her arms around his neck, and gave a little pull, brining him closer.
‘Now you kiss me,’ she said softly.
Sam reached a hand up to her face and gently cupped it. He tilted her chin back and leaned in close as she closed her eyes.
Sam, lovingly, obliged with her request.