Startled, the guard looked up. He looked like he was about to chew her out when he noticed her lack of mouth. “Oh,” he mumbled. “Right.”

Friends at Colossus Massive

Solaria stood at the gate of Tryden’s residential quadrant. With her hands clasped together against her chest, she approached the security checkpoint.

              Because so many species resided on the Colossus station, residential quadrants were closely monitored. Many species possessed specific environmental needs or aversions to certain organic compounds. Strictly regulated residential quadrants prevented many accidental deaths, or so they said.  

              Thankfully, Solaria was biologically compatible with the residents and the environment of Tryden’s quadrants.

              “Name?” The green-skinned security guard muttered without looking up from his datapad.

              Solaria retrieved her identification chip and placed it on the counter in front of the window.

              “Name.” The security guard repeated slowly. He said it in a few other languages for good measure.

              Solaria clenched her fist and slammed it against the window.

              Startled, the guard looked up. He looked like he was about to chew her out when he noticed her lack of mouth.

              “Oh,” he mumbled. “Right.”

              He used his suction-cup like hands grasped her chip and inserted it into his system. On the panel beside him, a green light lit up for every quadrant requirement she met. Once they were all green, the main door opened.

              Solaria collected her chip and entered the quadrant.

              Tryden’s home looked like all of the others. A pure white pod dotted with chrome-lined windows. It wasn’t too different from Solaria’s home. They were biologically compatible, after all. It wasn’t a surprise their homes shared similarities. A slightly different outcome from the system which assigned living quarters might’ve put them in the same quadrant.

              Solaria knocked on his door.

              No answer. She couldn’t hear any movement inside, either.

              Was he not at home or was he simply ignoring her?

              She knocked hard and kept knocking until she was outright banging on the door.

              “Enough!”

              Tryden’s neighbor poked her head out from the window nearest his pod.

              “He’s obviously not home,” she snapped.

              Solaria stared at the woman, wide-eyed. She was too far away to establish communication through touch. She made gesture after gesture, hoping the neighbor would understand.

              “Last I saw him, he was going to the lake.”

              Elated, Solaria attempted to gesture her thanks.

              With an annoyed grunt, the helpful neighbor shut herself up inside her pod once more.

              Lake was an over-generous term for the quadrant’s reservoir. One clever resident set up holographic projectors that make the reservoir look a shimmering purple lake on a planet with three moons and an impossibly orange sky.

              Solaria and Tryden often sat near the water’s edge together.

              Sure enough, there he was.

              He didn’t look up when Solaria approached but she knew he heard her.

              She settled down beside him.

              “Don’t touch me,” he warned her. “I don’t want you in my head.”

              Solaria looked at him with pleading eyes, but he didn’t glance her way.

              “I’m going to talk,” he said. “You’re going to listen because you don’t have a choice.”

              Solaria nodded even though Tryden wasn’t looking at her.

              “Love isn’t common among my people,” he began. “Elndrix only love once in their lifetime. Familiar bonds produce fondness, but not love. The only love we feel is from our destined mates.”

              Solaria’s breath caught in her chest.

              “Should a mate die, the surviving Elndrix will spend the rest of their lives in isolation. Love isn’t discussed openly among my people. We believe the more love is flaunted and spoken about, the more elusive it becomes. True love arrives when no one is paying attention. The celebration at Novalight might as well have been a protective shield keeping love away.”

              Solaria didn’t believe love worked that way, but Tryden clearly did.

              She reached for his hand but stopped herself. He didn’t want to be touched.

              “That angered me because I feel love for you but I feared that display in the club would drive the love away. I retreated so that I might meditate.”

              Solaria wished she could murmur her apologies. She should’ve left him alone.

As she started to get up, he grabbed her wrist and held her in place beside him.

“I do believe the meditation worked,” he smiled. “I do love you.”

The fluorescent bulbs on the end of her antenna lit up a brilliant shade of pink. If she possessed a mouth, she would’ve smiled from ear to her.

I love you too. She sent the words right into his heart.

His smile shone brighter than the perpetual sunset surrounding them.

Produced by: Eugenio Zorrilla

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