**Note: Although the following is part of a previously self-published eBook, portions have been modified. However, it has not been professionally edited and likely contains typos and other errors. It is offered as an example of raw science fiction storytelling.**
Cristina sat outside on the patio of her apartment. It was dark except for the glow from the courtyard lights below. One of the two moons hovered above the horizon, in half phase. The other moon had yet to make an appearance. It was a clear night in contrast to the haze that had dominated the day. Even though the engineers kept promising that the green color of the clouds would soon disappear, Cristina could not discern any difference. She had always seen green clouds in her sky. If that changed, it would seem strange.
Inside the apartment Alix was napping on her couch. He drank a few beers but only a few. They had spent most of the afternoon talking, discussing their shared experience, and lamenting the loss of life for which they felt responsible. It happened long before either of them was born, but they felt responsible.
Alix was sensitive. There was nothing wrong with that. She found it endearing. How could she have been in the same band with him for ten years and not known what a truly remarkable person he was?
In the distance, just above the horizon she could see the telltale fireball from the friction of a shuttle’s descent from orbit, ferrying passengers to New Milan from the orbital platform where interstellar transports docked.
During the last tour Chase suggested promoting their music in other colonies and going on tour in support. She was not averse to the idea, but it seemed a tremendous expense when they were not all that popular on Pravda. Cristina wanted to ensure that their fan base at home could endure their extended absence. Chase thought in the longer term, though. Even if they were going to focus on the nearest colony, it would take more than a local year to accomplish a full tour. They could lose popularity at home in that time.
Cristina turned back toward the open patio door. It was a cool evening. The engineers had installed additional air handlers recently. It seemed an improvement in overall efficiency. Even at the peak of the sun’s heat outside the dome, it was much cooler than she was accustomed. She used to never go out in the heat of the afternoon, but today she had done so. In the middle of the afternoon it was comfortable.
She put on her protective UV lenses and went out to buy more beer. By the time she came back, there was evidence that Alix had been awake, changed some settings on world viewer and having succumbed to the boredom of watching a news show on world viewer, went back to sleep. She put the beer in the refrigerator and went outside on the balcony. There she remained for the rest of the afternoon.
As she stepped back inside the threshold, the apartment phone rang. She reached for the remote to answer it as Alix stretched and then sat up. “It’s Chase,” she said as she read his ID confirmation, wondering why he would be calling again so soon.
“Hey, Cristina and Alix. I wondered if you had heard anything about Paul?”
“Nothing,” Cristina responded.
“I am traveling to Haven tomorrow on business. I’ll check with the authorities while I’m there.”
“I appreciate that,” Cristina said.
“Julie was saying that you should come up for a few days, maybe after I get back from Haven. Of course you’re invited too, Alix.”
“That might be fun,” he said. “There are a lot of good bands and a healthy music scene in Andromeda.”
“It’s why I’m based here”
“Well, I’m all in favor.” Alix looked toward Cristina.
“I’d like to meet Julie.”
“She’s a huge fan of the band and you in particular, Cristina. She loves your voice, but then everyone does.”
“We’ll see. I mean, I have a lot of things on my mind lately.”
“Yeah,” Alix agreed. “We were playing with the orbs earlier.”
“Both of them together?” Chase asked, seeming concerned.
“Yes,” Alix said. “Is that a problem?”
“Well, maybe not after you know how to use them.”
“We saw something,” Cristina said. “It was something disturbing… from the past.”
“What do you know about sand-morphs?” Alix broached the subject.
“Enough to know we shouldn’t discuss them right now. Maybe when you come up we can go out where we can be alone and I can tell you a story or two. But Raven would be the real one to ask.”
Behind him there was movement, and then as she came into focus, Cristina assumed it was Chase’s lady. “Hello, Julie.”
“Hello, Cristina it is nice to finally get to meet you, even if it is via phone. So you’re going to come up for a visit?”
“I am seriously considering it,” Cristina said. “Just I’m still a little tired of traveling and trying to recover.”
“You never recover. You adapt,” Chase offered his seasoned perspective.
Cristina smiled in response. “When are you going to be back from your trip to Haven?”
“The latter half of next week, I’ll give you a call when it’s definite and you can make plans accordingly, how’s that?”
“Okay,” Cristina said. “I should be ready by then.”
“I’ll call you regardless. I’ll let you know what I find out about Paul. Take care.”
“We’ll see you soon,” Julie said.
“Bye Chase; good to meet you, Julie,” Alix said.
Cristina smiled and waved as the call automatically disconnected upon termination from the other end.
“I’m sorry I fell asleep,” Alix said as he stood up. “I should get back home.”
“I don’t want to be alone tonight,” Cristina said.
Alix took her hands and looked into her eyes. “I need to shower and change clothes.”
“Go gather some things and hurry back. We’ll sit on the couch and maybe watch a movie,” she said. “I can make some popcorn.”
“I’d like that.”
“It will be fun.”
“I’ll be right back, then,” he said as he reached the door.
“Hurry. I’ll have everything ready,” she said as she stood there in the open doorway.
“Give me an hour,” he said, starting to leave, and then thinking better of it he turned back and kissed her once more before departing.
She watched him down the hall to the elevator and then as the car arrived for him she closed her door. She returned to the patio.
Outside the dome the night had grown darker. The lights from the streets below had become a more relevant source of light than the two moons in their different phases. It would be three more months before they reached full phase at the same time.
She’d learned in school that although the two moons of Pravda were smaller than Earth’s moon, each of them reflected much more light, due in great part to the presence of highly reflective, white ice crystals covering much of the moons’ surfaces. As a result, except for the periods of no moons or times when each were greatly waned, it was relatively bright at night.
There was a sort of unofficial holiday status given to the nights of the ‘double-full’. On such occasions she enjoyed being out until both the moons set. The brightest of nights were more intense than she might have preferred it but she could endure it. It seemed as if she could see the world in greater detail than during the day, but what was best she did not need UV lenses on her eyes.
On tour they had performed outside on a couple of ‘double-full’ nights. Because of the meaning their band’s name, Chase played it up in promotional efforts. As a result the crowd seemed to be different on those nights, more enthusiastic, in a better mood, maybe a little crazier, and a lot wilder than on any other night. Even the other members of the band had seemed to step it up a notch, doing things that pushed the limits, taking the entire performance to a different level. Likewise, Cristina was guilty of over-indulging her special mood.
She lingered on the patio enjoying the coolness of the evening until Alix called her to say he was on his way back. She began preparing popcorn. When popped she dumped it into a large bowl before continuing with the next batch. When she finished filling the bowl, she set it down on the coffee table in front of the couch. Into large tumblers she poured out sodas and sat the drinks on coasters to either side of the bowl.
Using the pass code Cristina had given him, Alix let himself in. “It smells wonderful.”
“There is nothing that smells quite like fresh popcorn,” Cristina agreed.
He went to the directory on her screen. “You want to see something you have or download something new?”
“You choose,” Cristina said.
“Well there’re a ton of movies neither of us have seen.”
“I know,” she said.
“There has to be something you want to see.”
“That one movie – I don’t remember the title. You know the one about that guy who gets lost in his past on Earth.”
“Oh, I know, I know,” he flipped through the download menus, then finding it. “There, this one.”
Cristina looked at the summary, read a bit of it. “Yeah, that’s it. I heard that is pretty good. Some of it was actually shot on Earth.”
“I didn’t know that.” Alix clicked to download it then after he staged the order, he handed the remote to her. “It need’s your code.”
Cristina leaned over and keyed in her ID sequence and almost immediately the download began.
“Do you want to save it?” Alix asked as he resumed control of the remote.
“Yeah,” she said. “Go ahead. We’ll probably watch it again.”
Alix turned up the volume for the sound system then set the remote to one side. Cristina sat the bowl of popcorn between them on the couch as the movie began to stream.
“This is a really good idea,” he said.
“Thank you, for being here for me,” she responded. “I didn’t feel like going out, but I didn’t want to be alone tonight.”
They exhausted the popcorn while occasionally sipping their sodas as the movie progressed. After about an hour, Cristina had removed the bowl from between them and snuggled in closer to Alix, resting her head on his shoulder as he wrapped his arm around her. He smiled broadly. There was no other place in the world that he would have rather been.
Cristina opened first one eye then the other, before realizing that at some point the two of them fell asleep, missing the ending of the movie. She tried not to disturb Alix, but as she sat up he stirred and opened both eyes. Surprised at first, then realizing where he was, he smiled. “I guess it’s a good thing we saved the movie,” he said.
“Are you thirsty?” she asked.
“I could use a glass of water.”
“Me too. I’ll be right back,” she said, punctuating it with a wink.