**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.**
Across the table from her, Cristina’s physical beauty captivated him more than the first time Alix had met her. Her intensity he could feel in the look from her eyes. There was a connection between them, something she offered and willingly he accepted, knowing there could be no secrets between them.
There was nothing left that she could not know. She had but to ask. He’d told her most of it already. He lacked any desire to keep anything from her in the future. What was the point? She could read his mind and he offered it to her anytime her eyes probed. Where ever she delved and whatever she found, when she returned she smiled and the love they shared seemed reinforced.
He was well aware what an act of providence it was, their being together at all. He was completely out of her league. What could someone like her ever see in someone like him? She was the most amazing person he had ever known. She was talented, gifted with a voice that was indisputably one of the key components in the Duae Lunae sound and the band’s popularity.
Though still limited, success did not come overnight. At first there were language barriers. The only languages spoken in New Milan were Italian, Creole, Spanish and English. From the outset the only one in the band who spoke English exclusively was Tim. Cristina and Alix spoke English as a second language. Cristina’s primary language was Italian. She also spoke Spanish. Alix spoke a variant of Creole and English but also could get by conversationally in Spanish and French. Pete knew English as did Keith but they were also fluent in Spanish. Moreover, expect for the band’s ability to communicate in multiple languages, they would have never made it out of the urban subculture of the various ghettos of New Milan. In fact, it was likely the band would have never met one another when all of them except for Cristina were forced to attend the same public school.
Alix waited patiently at their table for Cristina to return from the restroom. He was just beginning to become uneasy about her when she emerged, two people with her, both of them females. She immediately snatched up her purse and obtained a digipen from it and then proceeded to digisign Mods for the two ladies. Then one of them recognized Alix and offered her Mod. “Can I borrow the digipen?” Alix asked Cristina.
“Doesn’t it feel good to be appreciated?” She asked him as she handed it to him.
“What’s your name?”
“Okay, Lynn. You’re one of our fans, right?”
“Yeah, I’m like maybe the biggest fan in the city.”
“Who’s my best friend in the band?”
She paused thoughtfully, but then smiled. “Well now it’s probably Cristina, but it used to be Pete.”
“Well actually they both are still my best friends. It is just Pete isn’t as pretty as Cristina. He tries hard, but even with a shave and a splash of cologne he still has a long way to go,” Alix said with a laugh.
Cristina joined in the mirth as Alix handed Lynn’s Mod back to her.
“I really appreciate this. It’s always an pleasure to meet someone who likes what we do,” Alix said.
After seeing what Alix put her friend Lynn through, Sheryl was a bit tentative about approaching Alix, but figured since he was in the band as well she needed to get her Mod digisigned as well. Alix looked up at her. “You know me right?”
“What instruments do I play?”
It was a trick question and Sheryl realized it. Obviously, in the band Alix only played bass guitar, but as she thought about it she guessed that maybe he played guitar as well.
“He is actually quite good on the guitar,” Cristina said. “He just suffers from an inferiority complex around Keith.”
“Well considering the competition in the band, yeah, I can do bass good enough to get by,” Alix said. “Look, I really appreciate the support. Please keep it up and spread the word. The way things have been going lately we need your support.”
“It’s all a bunch of crap because no one in control of the music industry in this city wants your single to go to number one. The irony is that the measure is based on orders not retail sales,” Lynn said. “I work in a store. I know how many people have bought advance copies. I’ll be very surprised if you guys aren’t number one next week.”
“People are buying air based on a promise,” Cristina said.
“Yeah, well you guys are ‘kewl’ in a huge way,” Lynn said. “That’s why you are a hit here, even if you are not from Andromeda. Your music’s unique. It doesn’t sound like New Milan pop or the commercial crap that’s promoted heavily in the local music community. Your material is cutting edge, trendy stuff like the avant-garde local bands offer.”
“Thank you,” Cristina said with a smile and then hugged first Lynn and then Sheryl.
“We really are fans for life,” Sheryl said.
Alix leaned over and kissed first Lynn and the Sheryl on their cheeks.
“We were just getting ready to leave,” Cristina said. “I mean we’re out on the town in my friend’s coach. We’d like to hit some clubs with live bands.”
“Desperado,” Lynn said. “Overt Expression is playing there. I think you’d like them.”
“I’ve heard of them,” Cristina said. “Let’s go.”
Sheryl looked at Lynn, and then looked to Cristina, “With you?”
“We need to keep abreast of the trends here,” Alix offered.
“Well, yeah, okay,” Lynn said. “I mean, we can show you the way to the club if you want to follow us. It’s on the other side of town.”
When they arrived at the doorstep and docked their coaches, they queued up in line behind ten other people that were waiting to go inside.
“You know none of my friends will ever believe that I was hanging out with you guys.”
“Especially standing in a line to get into a club to see Overt Expression play,” Sheryl said. When she saw the bouncer at the door, she called out, “Karl!”
“Hey babe. Where’s Lynn?”
“Right here,” Lynn waved.
“Come on up,” he said. “I need my hug.”
“What about our friends?”
“We can make room for them too.”
“What about the ten people in line ahead of us?” Cristina asked.
“They have to wait,” Karl said.
“Then we can wait with them,” Cristina said.
“I think Donnie will be pissed if he knows we’re out here,” Lynn said.
“Who are you?” The person directly ahead in line turned to ask her.
“I’m Cristina,” she offered her hand and received a handshake. “And you?”
“Marcia,” she said.
“They’re in a band,” Lynn said.
“Yeah which one?”
“Duae Lunae,” Sheryl revealed.
“No! Really?” She stepped back. “It is you!”
Immediately, the people around them sought framecaps or digisigns from Cristina.
After observing the confusion for a few minutes, Karl waved Sheryl to the front. The two of them talked for a few minutes.
When she returned she explained, “Okay, here is the deal. The four of us can go inside and take four others right now.”
“We’ll wait,” Cristina said.
“His worry is for your safety, Cristina.”
“Maybe he needs to address that with his supervisor. I am sure the club is not close to exceeding the fire code yet. I’ll even bet you could take the next fifty people in line.”
“I don’t know about that.”
“I do,” Cristina said. “Trust me. Tell him everybody in line goes in. Ask Donnie if he has to.”
Sheryl flashed a smile and returned to Karl. After hearing the counter proposal, he waved Cristina to the front of the line. “Are you nuts? I’m trying to keep you safe.”
“I’m safe where I am. Everybody in line is my friend.”
He chuckled. “Here’s the deal: you and your boyfriend with me in a framecap. And I know Donnie will want one too for the wall of fame inside.”
“Everybody in line, then?”
“Yeah, we can do that.”
Lynn and Sheryl separated from them while Cristina and Alix posed for framecaps for Karl and Donnie. Once inside the door, Cristina and Alix attempted to migrate toward the stage, but it was far too congested and so they ended up in the back, sitting on a couple of vacant bar stools as they listened to the band that was playing. After twenty minutes Lynn came to find them.
“Donnie gave us a table up front,” she said.
“Great,” Alix said as he stepped off the stool. Taking Cristina’s hand he followed Lynn as they wended through the crowd. The table wasn’t the best place to view the band, but Alix had observed them playing as he and Cristina approached the dance floor. He could tell they were highly competent musicians. Maybe they were not quite there their lead singer was very good, just as Chase said.
Cristina needed to take a trip to the ladies room. Alix took the opportunity to relieve the growing pressure on his bladder as well. Then they rejoined Lynn and Sheryl at their table.
As Cristina continued her conversation with the two fans she realized they were more than just friends. They were a couple. It was not a surprise for her so much as she wondered why she did not notice earlier. Andromeda had a reputation for being open-minded and tolerant of alternative life styles. As much as Emerald, New London and New Paris might embrace cultural diversity there was no other colony quite like Andromeda. It prided itself in being unique and independent in it’s thinking.
“How long have you been a couple?” Cristina asked.
The query startled Lynn. Sheryl answered, “Two and a half years.”
“How did you know?” Lynn finally asked.
“I see it in your faces, how you look at one another, how you seem to take care of one another. You’re in love.”
Lynn smiled. “We’re a couple but we might entertain a threesome or foursome at times for fun.”
Alix who had been sipping his drink almost choked on it.
“I’ll take that as a no from Alix then,” Sheryl said, and then laughed. “Pity.”
He cleared his throat and then looked up at her. “It was just unexpected,” he offered to her as an apology.
“So, you might be interested, after all?” Lynn asked.
“Never without Cristina,” Alix said.
Cristina looked directly at him, seeming to want a further explanation that was not immediately forthcoming.
Then after a few moments of sitting in Cristina’s glare, he smiled. “I would never turn down the offer out of hand, but I’m totally with Cristina.”
Cristina shook her head at him, and then smiled toward Lynn and Sheryl. “I guess we will decline the offer.”
“It could have been fun,” Lynn said, seeming a little disappointed.
“Alix and I are not all that settled in our relationship, yet. There are still too many surprises ahead of us. We are still learning about one another,” Cristina explained. “Frankly, I am surprised at his response. Maybe after we have discussed the parameters of our relationship we will be more resolute and can better assess different possibilities.”
“You’re both straight,” Sheryl said. “I get that. Guys and gals have completely different perspectives about multiple partners.”
“Well, Alix and I will need to discuss our relationship much further.”
“Understood,” Lynn allowed.
“Regardless, anytime you are in town, the offer is always open,” Sheryl said. “And, of course we can hang out.”
Cristina smiled. “That’s great! I guess we can let you know.”
Alix smiled, but then as he made eye contact with Cristina he could tell she was not really happy with his interest in the two other young women. She was being polite to the fans. She was not in the least attracted to their lifestyle or their offer while at the same time being tolerant.
Immediately, Lynn let out a scream of recognition, hailing a friend who was on the dance floor. She ran out to the floor to say hello and embrace him.
“Her ex,” Sheryl explained. “Oscar and his newest heart throb, Toni.”
“They all seem to be on good terms,” Alix said.
“Well, they’re still friends and she was dating me at the same time as they were still together. He’s been seeing Toni for a couple of months. He’s bisexual too. We all went out together a few times before Lynn broke up with him. It was amicable.”
Lynn brought him and his latest friend over to the table to meet Cristina and Alix. They posed for framecaps and chatted for a few moments before Alix looked at his chronometer. It was not all that late but there were other places he wanted to check out. He was sure he had to broach the subject, but didn’t know how to do it gracefully without offering an invitation to Lynn and Sheryl to join them in going elsewhere. He could tell that Cristina was uneasy about the current situation and probably just wanted to be alone with him. Still, they couldn’t just walk out on Lynn and Sheryl. They were the ones who suggested coming to the club. Maybe now that they were with other friends it was okay.
He recalled a similar uncomfortable situation with fans in Star City. Chase had leaned over toward Cristina, and said just audible enough to be overheard, “I know you have forgotten but…”
At the time Alix didn’t know whether Cristina’s response was rehearsed or spontaneous but it was perfect.
Alix decided to play it the same way
“I haven’t forgotten. We still have time don’t we?” Cristina asked.
“No, we’d better go,” Alix stood and allowed her to say goodnight to the fans and leave that club. The only complication this time was that he and Cristina had been the impetus to come to the club.
“That’s okay. Oscar and Toni are here. We can hang out with them,” Lynn said.
“Yeah, sure,” Oscar said. “It was great meeting you.”
Cristina gathered up her things. “Honestly, I really forgot about the dinner. It’s with our manager and one of his friends.”
“That’s fine,” Lynn said as she reached across the table to shake first Cristina’s then Alix’s hand. Sheryl followed suit.
“It was nice to meet all of you,” Alix said.
“We’ll really have to get together later on or next time you’re in town,” Sheryl said, as she reached into her bag and produced a contact card. “Here,” she offered it to Cristina. “This is how to reach us.”
“Great,” Cristina said as she looked at it. “I’ll send you a note over the global network and you can put me in your address book.”
“That would be great. That way you can let us know when you’re scheduled to appear in Andromeda.”
“We really need to go,” Alix prodded.
“I know, I know,” Cristina said, her eyes sparkling. She locked her arm into the crook of his elbow and allowed him to lead her through the crowd.
Once they were outside, Cristina kissed Alix’s cheek. “That was amazing. I didn’t think you knew that trick.”
“I observe well. I was hoping you’d remember.”
“Where are we going?”
“I was thinking of hitting one of the clubs we’ve played at when we were on tour,” Alix suggested as he summoned the coach from the dock.
“Yeah, that might be fun. I just hope we don’t end up in the same place as any of them.”
“Yeah, that would be awkward,” he said as the coach arrived and the door opened.
“To say the least,” Cristina said as she stepped inside and waited for Alix to slip in at the console.
As they navigated the rather vacant downtown streets, Cristina engaged the subject that bothered her.
“You would have really been okay with a foursome, you, me, Lynn and Sheryl?”
Alix really did not want to answer. She would believe the truth even if he knew how to express it. He did not want her to think he was a total pervert, but he had thought about multiple partners. It was something he had never done, something that he was unlikely to do considering the manifest strangeness of the attributes.
Still the silence extended past a few awkward moments until Alix admitted, “I really don’t know what to say. I mean, I have fantasies about it, but it isn’t like I would ever do it. You know, for some of the same reasons you have I’m sure.”
“I’ve never had fantasies about it,” Cristina stated.
“Their offer took me by surprise, mainly. I’m being honest. I have thought about it. I think a lot of guys do. Obviously, some women do, too. It still doesn’t change who we are or any of that. I’m not going to have multiple partners – unless it is something you want to do. Then yes, I would be okay with it, even if it was uncomfortable at first.”
“And it is only because of our differences from other people.”
“Well that’s a large part of it,” Alix said. “But I don’t want to do anything to hurt you.”