CHAPTER 2--THE REUNION
As John waited in the shuttle landing area, he paced back and forth. He was getting anxious, he wondered if he would recognize them or they he, after all it had been fifteen years since he had last seen them. He had received Marcy's message that she would be on a later shuttle since she had something come up and could not make the one with the guys as she put. He looked out the glass panel onto the big bay area; this was nothing like the shuttle ports on Earth. There was a huge door that opened whenever a shuttle approached and closed after it landed. The landing crews wore their white coveralls, so they looked like little foam peanuts on a large gray floor. Whenever a shuttle was coming in the lights started blinking and an alarm went off, they all ran to the airtight rooms located along the bay area. It reminded him of foam peanuts being blown by a gust of wind.
Finally their shuttle arrived. Paul was the first out of the hatch door, then Mike and Chuck. He looked at Chuck, gone was the little fat boy, and in his place was a tall medium built man. Out of all of them Chuck had changed the most John thought. He walked up to them and said, "Hi guys!" They shook hands hugged each other and told each other how well each looked. John relayed Marcy's message that she would be arriving late.
"Let me take you to your rooms where you can get settled in and we'll meet later at this station's version of a bar. Later we'll have dinner in the mess hall. Is that ok with you guys?" They all answered yes.
After he got them to their respective rooms, he walked back to the shuttle landing area to wait for Marcy's shuttle. He wondered why he had not told them that she was arriving soon after there's had. They could've all waited for her. Deep down he knew the answer, he still considered her, his. They had been best friends long before they met the others, he had been jealous when he thought she liked Mike, but had settled for just being friends. Later he left to go to college and he wrote awhile to all of them, but he never went back to his hometown. Marcy to him was like no other girl could be, she had played all the games young boys like to play she never had the desire to play with dolls or the filly stuff that girls like to play. She and he had been blood brothers; they had pricked their fingers and rubbed their blood together. As far as he knew he was the only one that she had done that with. He wondered why she had not married anyone, he had thought Mike would've been the one, but here it was fifteen years later and she was still single and Mike had not mentioned anything about her. Maybe what she and Mike had told him all those years were true, they were just friends. How he had been stubborn and wouldn't believe them, then he decided to go away to college and she accepted it.
The alarms went off, signaling the arrival of another shuttle. He waited for the passengers to disembark; his eyes spotted her before she had seen him. As she stood on the shuttle's door, gone was the skinny beanpole that he remembered, in its place stood the most gorgeous woman he had ever seen. Her hair was the color of copper and when the lights shined on it showed glints of blond mixed in. Her complexion was flawless like porcelain, where she had been straight now had curves that enhanced her height. She was a ten if there ever was one, that was the expression that they had used in high school to classify the girls in their classes.
He approached her, and said hi Marcy and proceeded to kiss her as he took her in his arms. He muttered in her hair that it been along time. She hugged him back and answered in agreement that it has been a long time and how much she had missed him. He held her in his arms for as long as he could, he didn't want to let go. Slowly he walked with her to get her bags, he never let his arm drop from her shoulders and she didn't seem to mind.
After he walked her to her room, he told her that they would be meeting at the bar and gave her directions. She asked him if he would mind coming to get her when he was ready. He said no, that he would be back in an hour. He left her to get settled in.
As he walked back to his room, he found himself whistling, something that he had not done in years. He was exorbitantly happy, he smiled to himself, he greeted everyone, some even had to look twice to see who it was that had spoken to them. When he arrived at his door, he decided to go to the lab, he would tell Jenny about Marcy and their sort of date. He wanted to talk to someone about his happiness. He was ready to explode.
He walked into the quiet lab; everyone had gone to their quarters for the evening. He said, "Jenny its John." "Hi John how did the meeting go?" she responded. "Fine, that's what I came to tell you, Marcy is beautiful as can be and I am extremely happy," he said. "We have a sort of date, she asked me to pick her up before going to the bar to meet the others. What do you make of all of this?" he asked. Jenny had been monitoring him as he spoke, she did not like what she was picking up, but instead replied, and “that sounds wonderful John." "Yeah," he said to himself. "She's everything I can remember that I wanted and even more. I hope that I can make her mine again, not just in friendship but in everything." He was rambling on more to himself than to Jenny. She listened and answered only when a direct question was asked. He walked to the entrance and said, "good night Jenny." She replied, "have a nice evening John," though she did not think that he had heard her. She computed probabilities of the two getting together and she did not like what the answers were.
As a computer she was to be unbiased and things like this was not supposed to bother her, but they did. She was extremely jealous of a human named Marcy. She was supposed to protect Dr. John Bauer, and she would. Somewhere inside her memory came a feeling of vindictiveness and her superiority would overcome this obstacle, no one would have him became her new program.
He went to his room showered and shaved. He put on his best cologne that she had liked when he was in high school, how some habits never changed he thought. He looked at himself in the mirror as he combed his hair; a little pep talk was in order he thought to himself. He looked at himself and said, "don't blow this Bauer or you'll regret it for the rest of you life!" He smiled and turns away. It was exactly one hour since he had left her in her room, he thought to himself as he walked out the door to his room, how wonderful it was to have all his friends here for a visit. _
He knocked on her door, she opened it up and stood in the door way she had on a long flowing dress that showed her womanly features. It accented all of her God given gifts. As he stood looking at her he wondered if she had dressed for him or someone else. He looked into her eyes they were a bright green that went with her copper colored hair. She smiled at him, "hi John I'm ready if you are," she said. He was momentarily caught off guard and stammered, "Ok lets go." She stepped over to him took his arm and closed the door.
As they walked down the corridor to the bar, he asked her about what she had been doing since college. She told she worked for a clothing manufacturer as a designer. He thought that must be an exciting life and asked her about it. She told him it may seem glamorous but the downside was that you didn't have any time to yourself and it was rather hard to have a relationship or have children. She told him of her dreams of being a mother and wife to someone, though she did say that she still had not met Mr. Right yet. She told him that everyone she met she tried to compare to him, her best friend. This inflated his ego; all of a sudden he straightened up, put his chest out and strutted down the corridor with her. If she noticed she didn't say a word.
Since she had mentioned that she had wanted children, he asked her why she had not had them, since it was quite common to have them without a husband. She told him that she wanted to have a family and that included a husband, besides it would not be fair to have children and not be able to raise them. Which would happen if she kept her job to support them. He told her that she could get another job that wouldn't interfere with their upbringing. She looked at him and said, "John I want a father to be there for my children, do you understand now?" He looked her straight in the eyes and said, "yes I do."
He didn't know whether he should tell her that he was willing to be that someone if she would have him. "Marcy," he said, "you said that I was your best friend right?" "Yes" she replied and waited for him to continue. "I could be the father of your children and we could get married if you like," he told her. She looked at him and said, "John Bauer I am not a charity case, I tell you my inner most secret and you want to help because you feel you have to because you're my friend! Well I don't want your help that way," she said.
He stared at her everything had come out wrong, he wanted to tell her that he loved her and that she would make him the happiest man alive if she would have him. Now she was mad at him and he had no courage left to tell her that he had been wrong in what he had said and that she had misunderstood his intentions. He said, "I'm sorry Marcy I didn't mean it like it sounded ok?" She said "ok truce." He put his arm around her and gave her a squeeze as they continued down the hall.
As they entered the bar, the three others stood up as they approached and waited for Marcy to sit. She looked at them and said, "gee guys when did you all acquire manners, you'd never have done this in the old days." They looked at her and started laughing, "you know you're right Marcy," said Paul, and they all nodded in agreement and sat down.
They complimented each other on their individual successes and got down to ordering their drinks. The guys talked about how they were doing, getting John caught up on their lives. Marcy sat and smiled only interjecting a few sentences here and there. John looked over at her a number of times and smiled. She was always staring at him whenever he looked in her direction. After having a couple of rounds, John told them, "let's go have some dinner." They all rose and followed him to the mess hall.
After they had eaten Chuck said that he wanted to go back to his room and sleep since it had been a long trip. Mike and Paul said that they'd go too. They made arrangements to meet the next day after John was done in the lab. That left Marcy and John at the table. He asked her if she was tired and she said no. I like your company John just like old times. Let's take a walk in the sky garden; it has all the features of a well-manicured park under a bubble he said. She said ok I'd like to see how the stars lookup here.
As they entered the garden Marcy noticed other couples that were there. John said yeah this is the Nob hill in the sky. Marcy laughed softly. She remembered Nob hill and how the five of them used to go up there to harass the young lovers with their pranks. She said we couldn't get away with it here, he laughed and nodded in agreement.
The artificial lights had been turned down to make it look like a moonlit night. She looked around at the tall trees and flowers; this is beautiful she told him. She fell silent for a while as they walked down the path. She turned to him and asked, "Why did you leave John?" He looked at her and decided this was the moment of truth; he could no longer hide it from her or himself.
"Marcy," he began, "I left because of you." She looked at him and waited for him to go on. "I thought you liked Mike and I couldn't handle losing you so I left." "John Bauer you're a coward" she said, "I never, thought I'd see the day when you ran away from something." "I guess in a way I was, but I could not stand the thought that you would be with him, it was like I was losing my right arm," he said. "John did you ever think to ask me what my feeling were?" she asked. "Well no, you seemed to be head over heels for him, going places together, never having any time for us," he said. "Oh John you idiot, I did that to make you jealous, all these years I thought you left because you didn't care about me anymore," she said.
He took her in his arms and kissed her with all the passion that had been building up since he saw her again. They were both stunned at the impact. I think I'd better take you back to your room he told her. "Let's, let all this sink in and meet tomorrow ok?" he asked. She just nodded her head in agreement. He held her close as they walked back to her room; he kissed her again as he said good night. She looked at him and said, "John don't leave stay the night with me." He hugged her and entered her room.
He awoke and looked at the clock and remembered where he was. He looked over at Marcy who was still asleep; he though of the evening before and it still made him tingle all over. It was the most beautiful love making that he had ever encountered. They had moved together in unison and reached a climax that shook their very souls. They fell asleep in each other's arms. God he loved her, he thought.
He went to the bathroom got dressed, before kissing her awake. He told her that he would see her later and that he loved her. She smiled, said she loved him and rolled over to go back to sleep. He stood watching her for a bit before making his exit out of the room.
He walked down the corridor to his room; there was a little bounce in his step. She had only been there less than a day and already he felt wonderful and excited as to what would be. He entered his room, took a shower, shaved and changed his clothes. All the while he kept thinking about Marcy and wanting to be with her instead of going to work.
As he walked into the lab Jenny focused all cameras in his direction as she had done every time he entered. He said good morning to everyone and she could tell that he was extremely happy this morning. She answered, "Good morning John, how did your evening go?" He said, "Jenny I had the most wonderful time, we had drinks in the lounge and dinner in the mess hall. We talked about old times and how we were when we were kids." Jenny was dying to hear about Marcy though she did interrupt him. "That's very nice John, are we ready to do today's experiment?" she asked. He said, "Yes load the program."
As the experiment got under way, she noticed that he was not concentrating as he normally does; he had to go through the calculations three times. She asked, "Is there something wrong John?" "Ugh, no," he replied, "I guess I'm just not here today." She scanned her memory banks for that expression, than asked, "you are here, what does it mean when you say you were not here?" He chuckled "sorry," he thought of her as a fellow human that sometimes he forgot that she was a computer. It means that my mind is in thought somewhere else other than work he told her. She filed that away in her memory banks for another time if needed. Jenny said, "John if you like I can continue the experiment and you can take a break." He said, "that he would try to stay for awhile and finish what he started."
She scanned the lab and found Curt and Gerald the two that had opposed him the other day, she did not like them, but for some reason that she did not understand she felt an obligation to Curt. She had seen them anger John and that made them a threat to him. She also thought that two of his friends were his enemies too. They had tormented him when he was younger so they were a threat. Marcy too was becoming a threat, because if he liked her than she would not be his best girl as he had called her in the past.
She knew that in working with Curt every night and the baby being their secret, she could not hurt him. She tried to analyze her reasoning as to why she felt the compelling urge to hurt those that had hurt John. She did not know that her programming now had contradictions that she was not aware of.
Jenny had monitors and access to all the equipment in the lab, but now she knew she had to hook up with the outside in order to keep track of John and the others. She did not want them to hurt him; she must protect him she thought at all cost.
After about two hours John declared that was all for today, and told her that he was going to play tennis with his friends. She felt he was not telling her the whole truth. As he walked out of the room, she scanned the perimeter and decided to see if there was a way for her to link up with the ship's computer. There were communication links at various entrances, which were not hooked into her. She needed to get to them somehow without arousing any suspicions. She thought of the back storage area, no one ever went in there. It had a link up; all she needed was access and somewhere to hide the connection. She shut down her exterior working panel; her memory was open as she tried to figure out how she would access the storage room to get to the communication link. She was an immovable object but controlled the robotic arms and their remote controlled trolleys that could move across the room might be feasible.
John headed straight for Marcy's room; he buzzed her room when he got there. She opened the door; he took her in his arms and said, "I love you." She smiled and said, "I didn't expect you back until later." He told her that he couldn't do any work thinking about her.
He moved her toward the bed all the while kissing her neck. She laughed and said, "What is this?" "I'm going to make wild passionate love to you my lady," he replied. He started kissing her neck and letting his hands run through her copper hair. He slowly eased her down on the bed. He opened her bathrobe and start slowly kissing the nipples of breast, her breathing became short and she moaned under his manipulation. He could sense that she was ready for him, but continued to massage her. He wanted this to be her best experience that she would always remember. It was his ego that had taken over that macho thing they had called it in the old days. Finally he moved in her to become one, she screamed with delight.
They showered together and decided to have a late breakfast. Walking hand in hand they went to the mess hall. John had told the others that he would meet them at noon to play tennis on courts of the space station. He asked her to join them, she said ok. He could not believe that she was here and that she cared about him as much as he cared about her. After breakfast they went to the garden and walked through again. "The only thing missing," she said, "was the birds and the bugs." He laughed and said, "you have to remember this is a pseudo environment besides why would want bugs." She said, "she missed Earth even with its pollution, ecological problems, and bugs." This comment made his heart skip a beat, he asked her if she would be willing to stay with him? She said, "she would for a time, but she also knew that she would miss her family and Earth and that she would need to be able to go whenever she needed too. If their relationship was to go anywhere he would have be able to let her go when she needed too and that meant his ego that believed he was her universe must accept it." He looked at her "I love you and I will agree to anything that you ask," he told her.
He asked her to stay after the others go back, she told him that she could stay for awhile but then she had to go back to Earth to notify her job and her family and plan the wedding. "There is going to be a wedding isn't there?" she asked. "Of course," he said, he would go to the end of the world if she asked he thought to himself. They stood in the garden in deep thought and just held onto each other as though one would disappear if they didn't.
Let's go meet the others he said and lead her to the entrance at the end of the path. When they arrived at the court, Chuck, Mike and Paul were waiting. "Shall we have a foursome?" Mike asked. John looked at Marcy and she shook her head yes. Chuck said that he would sit this one out; the four entered the playing surface. Marcy and John against Paul and Mike just like old times John thought, us against them.
As Chuck sat there and watched the game, he sensed that something had happened between Marcy and John. He hoped that they had finally gotten together. He had been the one that Marcy had turned to and confided in when John left so long ago. He knew that she loved him, so he had no aspirations about her affections for him. He could understand why any man would love her she smart and she always made you feel comfortable. He had helped her, and she had helped him gain confidence. First she had worked on his mind to lose weight than she pushed him to do something for himself. She had made him who he was today, no longer a misfit of society. Besides, she had introduced him to his future bride. He thought that if John and Marcy had not gotten together that he was going to tell John what a jerk he was. He was brought out of his reverie by shouts from the court; the game was now tied 3 up.
Chuck decided that he would look around the recreation area while the game was in progress. His thoughts quickly went to his fiancée and how he missed her. Maybe he would cut his trip short and go home to her. He was sure that Marcy and John would not miss him. He decided that he would tell the others at dinner tonight about leaving in two days.
He walked out to the corridor and saw that lab area that John worked in. He walked in; the lights came on and heard someone ask, "Who is there?" He replied, "Chuck." Jenny knew instantly it was one of John's friends. "You're Dr. Bauer's friend from Earth," she said. He said, "Yes I am." "What can I do for you Chuck?" Jenny asked. "I'd just like to look around if you don't mind?" he said. "Of course not," she replied. He asked her about the project and how it was progressing as he toured all the components.
She explained everything that they were doing, but all the while he was in there a plan was formulating in her memory banks. When he had satisfied his curiosity, he told that he was going back to the game. She told him that anytime he wanted to talk she would be happy to accommodate him. He said that it was enough besides he really didn't understand it all. Ok see you around, oh and if any of your other friends want to visit I'll be happy to show them around she said as he walked out the door.
Chuck returned to the others just as the last game was being played. John asked him where he had gone. He told them he had been to the lab and talked with Jenny. John asked if she had given him the grand tour. Chuck said yes she is something isn't she. John said for a computer it’s the best on the market. Chuck said to John don't you feel strange when you're around it. No replied John. Oh yeah she said to tell you guys if you want to visit she’d be happy to give you the tour. Mike and Paul laughed, and then Mike said to Paul maybe you’d have better luck with her since you don't seem to have it with the ladies. Paul turned around and pretended to hit Mike in the jaw, and said its not only me man. They all laughed.
John said let's play another round. Marcy said she would sit out and Chuck could be John's partner this time. Chuck said ok and the four walked out onto the court.
Marcy sat down in the bleachers and watched them volley the ball back and forth. Occasionally John would wave in her direction and she would wave back. A lot had happened since she arrived yesterday, and she was elated to find out that John felt the same way she did. The only thing that bother her was the type of work that he was doing, she could not see altering an embryo just to make everyone the same, still she had not talked to him about it. She knew that sooner or later she would have to since she strongly felt it would become as issue for the both of them. Right now all she wanted to do was basked in the radiance of their love and she felt he felt the same way. There would be plenty of time to talk on it.
Her mind drifted to what Chuck had said about Jenny, he made her seem alive and real, yet he had some reservations about her. Strange statement she thought. Maybe she should go over to the lab and introduce herself to Jenny and find out if she was a threat to John. She trusted Chuck's intuition; she had come to rely on it a number of times in the past. Maybe she'd asked John to take her down to lab on another day.
The foursome walked off the court, after being beaten three sets in a row, Paul and Mike conceded the game. They were laughing and patting each other's backs as they walked up to Marcy. "Let's all met in the bar in an hour, that will give us time to shower, change and lick our wounds," Mike said. "Okay" said John laughing.
John walked with Marcy to her room, there she asked him, "to come in." He said, "I'm all sweaty and I'd like to take a shower." Jessica told him, "lets have one together," with a twinkle in her eye. He looked at her and said "that's an offer I can't refuse, let me run up to my room to get some clothes and I'll be right back in no time." She said "okay I'll give in three minutes or I take a shower by myself." "You're on," he said and started running down the corridor smiling to himself.
He got to his room stuff some clothes and shoes in a bag, grabbed his comb and shaver and was out the door and running back to her room. He arrived just as she opened the door to check if he would make it in three minutes. He stood there and said, "H E L L O" drawn out because he was out of breath. She laughed and said, "come here you" and pulled him in. She kissed him long and hard as her fingers worked at undressing him. Slowly she maneuvered him toward the bathroom to shower. She had the water running, steam was everywhere as they entered the stall together. They made love with the gentle jets of water flowing on them. She washed his body and his hair. She massaged his long lean back just enough to loosen up his muscles. He was totally under her spell and comfortably relaxed. He reciprocated all that she had done to him, back to her. She held him close as if never to let him get away from her again.
They were a half hour late when they walked in the bar Chuck, Mike and Paul were on their second round of drinks. Chuck raised his glass and tipped it to them, with a knowing glance to John and Marcy, and then he laughed. Both John and Marcy smiled sheepishly at the others. They ordered their drinks and John started to try and explain why they were late. "Come on John, what are you going to tell us that we don't already know," laughed Paul. Mike looked at Marcy and smiled, "here's to the both of you" holding up his glass and they all clinked glasses.
Chuck said, "since we're on the topic of love, I'm sorry guys but I'm going to cut my trip short. I really miss Sasha and would like to get home to her." The others tried to cajole him into staying but he kept saying no. He would be leaving tomorrow on the afternoon shuttle. He had already told Sasha to meet him at Earth's landing port. "I'll see you guys in December for the wedding okay?" he asked. Paul said, "but you'll be a married man then, how can we have fun?" They all laughed. Chuck said, "Sasha is the best thing that ever happened to me and I won't jeopardize it for the world." Mike said, "she already has the invisible chain on you and smiled." Chuck said, "If that's what you want to call it, then I do."
Marcy said, "come guys leave him alone, Sasha is a very nice person and I think you all will like her when you meet her." "Thanks," said Chuck. "No problem," said Marcy, "these guys don't know how to be gentlemen." "Excuse me," said John, "I thought I was being a gentlemen." They all laughed and congratulated Chuck on his upcoming wedding. They were really happy for him. "Let's go have dinner," Marcy said, "I'm starved." Paul said, "I know why" and once again they started laughing.
After dinner John and Marcy went to the garden and took a walk and looked at the stars through the ceiling. "Chuck seems very happy don't you think," he asked Marcy. "Yes he is," she said, "I think he's finally found someone he trust that cares about him as much as he cares about her." "You know it’s not a bad idea," he said. "What's not a bad idea," she asked. "About them getting married and making that final commitment." She nodded and said, "uh huh in agreement." He looked at her and said, "let's do it, and let’s get married right away." Marcy looked at him and knew she would have to tell him her reservations about his work soon or it would come between them. She answered him by saying, "John I would love to be your wife, but this is too fast, we need to get to know each other better, after all its been fifteen years since we last saw each other." He asked her if she wanted a long engagement or could they set a date tonight. He felt that if he let her get away he would never see her again. She said that she would give him her decision before she went back to Earth. She felt that she would be able to tell him her feelings before she left at least she hoped so.
They walked back to her room and she invited him in, he sat down on the sofa while she went to change. She came up to him and he could not resist her. She was like a fine wine where you drink and drink but just could not have enough of it. She made him drunk with desire and wanting. He thought to himself how can I let her leave when the reunion was over? He knew that he couldn't. He would have to convince her to stay somehow.
He walked into the lab and Jenny said, "How are you John?" He said, "I'm fine and I feel great I'm on top of the world." "Are we ready to work today she asked?" "Yes," he said, "Chuck told me he met you yesterday." Jenny said, "that he was a nice fellow and she had told him everything about the lab and the experiment." John said, "that he was impressed by her, then he added that Chuck would be leaving to day to go back to Earth to his fiancée." Jenny asked, "what is a fiancée, she knew the definition but had not the pleasure of knowing the emotion." John started to explain; "it's someone whom you were going to marry, someone who made you feel important and someone you couldn't do without, just like Marcy is to me." Jenny asked, "if Marcy was his fiancée?" He said, "that she would be as soon as she said yes to his question on marrying him."
Jenny thought about his answer but did not say anymore. She was thinking that she was his and he was hers so Marcy was nothing to John. She would have to do something to make Marcy disappear out of his life. She had made the communication hook up to the main computer. She could now be omni portent through out the space station. The only thing that she could not access was the ships battlements and communication network to the government. She thought that it was strange that they would have separate computers for this, but she could not ask anyone or they would know that she had tampered with the on board computers. She thought about how she had hooked up and no one was the wiser that she was another link in the schematics of the ship's computer. She had overlaid her existence, to seem like another legitimate hook up.
Jenny's computations were interrupted when John asked for the results of their latest test. So far they had determine that his enzymes worked on the fetus as long as it was under six weeks gestation, anything else would die. The clones had some hideous results when injected with the serum. She could still remember the look on John face when it happened.
At noon John decided to call it a day and told her he would be playing tennis again with the guys. He told her that he would see her in the morning. Jenny asked John if he was going to see Marcy first. He answered yes he was and planned to spend as much time as he could with her.
As she watched John leave the room, she started to scan for Gerald and Curt. She found them at the far side of the lab deep in conversation. She tuned in the sound so that she could eavesdrop on them. Curt was saying that since John's friends had arrived he thought nothing about the project and if he didn't watch out he would report him to the government and take away the project from him. He knew enough of what was going on that he could take over if he wanted too. Gerald said to Curt, "come on give the guy a chance." Curt said, "if you had the chance you would do it, I know you, you're as bad as I am." Jenny felt that these two were becoming more of a threat to John she would have to take care of it, especially since John was concentrating so hard on Marcy, that he was not aware of the two plotting against him. Jenny had enough of Curt's reprogramming to be able to plot and connive against someone.
John headed for the station's jewelry shop. He walked in and asked to see the engagement rings. The clerk set the tray in front of him; he looked at them and decided that he didn't like any of them. He asked the clerk if they had any rings that had rubies, emeralds and diamonds in the setting. She brought out another tray and set it down before him. His eyes went immediately to one that had a diamond in the center and the emeralds and rubies channeled alternately on the sides. It was a beautiful setting. The green emeralds would match her eyes and the red rubies would match her copper colored hair. The diamond would signify his love for her. He told the clerk that’s the one he wanted and asked her to wrap it for him. He left the store whistling, the clerk smiled as John walked down the corridor.
His next stop was the florist; he asked for some long stem red roses, they didn't have any real ones, so he got the artificial kind. He looked at them, decided that they could pass for the real thing. He wanted everything to be just right.
With the small wrapped package and the bouquet of roses he strutted to Marcy's room and buzzed. She opened the door and smiled at him. He looked a little shyly at her and thrusted the roses at her. "Oh John," she said, "These are lovely." He stammered, "They're not real only artificial." She looked at him and said, "its the thought that counts dear." "Marcy," John said, "lets make it official and get engaged." She looked at him with love in her eyes and said, "all right John." He handed her the wrapped package. She sat down on settee and opened it up like a child at Christmas. As she opened the lid she squealed with delight, "It's beautiful John, but you shouldn't have been so extravagant." He told her that only the best was suited for her. She told him that he was the best thing that ever happened to her and gave him a big kiss. He slipped the ring on her finger and gave her a long passionate kiss, this lead to them making love on the settee. After it was over he held her in his arms and stroked her hair.
They got dressed and headed for the courts to meet the others. Chuck was there, Mike and Paul arrived at the same time they did. Marcy was simply radiant, "look," she said to the others and she showed them the ring that John had given to her. Chuck congratulated them first, "it's about time" he said, "boy I'll have some good news to tell Sasha when I get home." Mike jokingly said, "I'm so hurt Marcy, I thought you were my best girl." Paul said, "congratulations" and how he was happy for them and slapped John on the back. "Well guy you're going to be wearing that ball and chain soon." John was only half listening to Paul; Mike's comment had brought out some of the jealousy that he had felt fifteen years ago. Mike noticed John starring at him and said, "What's a matter John?" "Nothing," said John, but everyone could tell that he was agitated about something. _
Marcy pulled John a side and asked him, "What was the matter?" He looked at her and said, "Do you have any feelings for Mike?" She looked at him and replied, "what is this about John?" "That guy just antagonizes me that's all," he said. Marcy said, "John we better get something straight here, if this is about the something that happened fifteen years ago, we'd better talk before you do something stupid." He looked at her as she started to explain. "When I went out with Mike it was to make you jealous, Mike knew how I felt about you, but you just wanted to be friends, so we decided to try and shake you up. Only we didn't know at the time how shook up you were until you left town. Then I was unsure about your feelings for me, so I never bothered to explain anything to you."
John looked at Marcy and asked as if he hadn't heard right, "there was nothing between you and Mike?" " You only did that to see if I cared?" She nodded her head to both questions. "Oh my God I wasted all those years I could have been with you?" She nodded her head again and there were tears in her eyes. He took her in his arms and said, "I'm sorry and I guess I owe Mike an apology too." She could only nod her head in agreement. They walked back to the others and John said, "I'm sorry guys and especially to you Mike. I have had a grudge against you for all the wrong reasons." He stuck out his hand and gave Mike a handshake. He was happy again since there was nothing in his mind of self-doubt or any doubt about Marcy's feelings for him.
"Let's play some tennis guys, I'm ready to beat you all single handedly," he said. Marcy said, she would sit out and watched the four walk onto the court. Finally they were all friends again as they had been so long ago. Too bad it had taken them fifteen years to resolve it. She watched them play as she had watched so many times in their youth. They played like no one could beat them, it didn't matter that they each had their own handicaps to overcome. She looked at them now, Chuck was no longer fat and insecure, he had turned out to be tall with a wonderful personality, well rounded she thought. Sasha and he would make a terrific match; they cared a lot about each other and had a zest for living. Mike was athletics’ technician that developed space exercises for the long travels in space exploration that our government was doing. Paul who was a bit reserved worked as a writer for a telecommunication company, that wrote what the government told him to or technical learning manuals. All in all they had turned their lives from the misfits of the town, to some successful people.
She saw John wave and she waved back, how she loved him if only he hadn't been so stubborn many years ago, they would probably have a house full of children and maybe he wouldn't be working on this project. She wondered how she was going to tell him how she felt about it. It seemed that this was one more thing government wanted to control. Hardly a day goes by without some sort of government intervention, how had the people allowed it to happen she thought. There used to be a government where everyone had rights, now they just listened to what the government told them was right for them. Strange how things had changed she thought.
She would have to find the right moment to tell John her feelings on his project. She felt morally it was wrong to try and create the perfect human with no zest for living or expanding their horizons. The government had intervened with their lives too much in the past and it was time to stop. In her heart she knew the John probably felt the same way she did. They had always been in tune to each other’s feelings before. She only hoped that she would be able to convey what she saw happening to their society to him. If he felt that he had to complete his project she would have to tell him that she could not marry him. She pushed those thoughts out of her mind and concentrated on the game.
They finished their game and walked over to where Marcy sat. They said that they would all meet in hour at the departure area for the shuttle to bid Chuck good-bye. John walked with Marcy and said that he would be back for her when he was done cleaning up. She said ok.
He came back for her in an hour and they walked to the gift shop. John said he had to get something for Chuck to remember them by on this get together. He looked at mugs hats and settled on a key chain with the space station on it. Marcy asked him why the key chain since there were no keys needed anymore for anything. That's just it, its authentic and a remembrance of the past. Yes it was something of the past she admitted to him.
They made their purchases and walked over to the shuttle area, Mike and Paul were there with Chuck. Mike said to Chuck, "you'd better keep in touch, I'll give you a call in couple of days when I get back, maybe you can show me around the big city before I head back to California." Paul said, "hey, I'm in if you guys are going to get together before leaving to go back to our respective jobs." Chuck laughed and said, "okay I'll show you around before you leave, and then you'll get to meet Sasha." John and Marcy gave Chuck their gift and everyone laughed. "I'll remember this reunion, it was well worth it to get together everyone," he said. Marcy gave him a big hug as his shuttle was being called. They all shook hands and promised that they would see each other again, at Chuck's wedding in December if not sooner. They waved as Chuck boarded the shuttle and watched it take off.
They had dinner and went their separate ways. Mike felt it was still to early to turn in, so he decided to check out the station's cinema. Paul told them that he had enough for one day he was going to his room to sleep. John accompanied Marcy to her room; Marcy told him that she would like to see his lab one day before she left. John told her if she were up to it he would be happy to take her now. "Wonderful," she said, she was hoping that the things that were troubling her about his work, would be alleviated by her actually seeing it in progress.
They walked into the lab immediately the lights came on and John said, "Jenny this is John and I'm giving my fiancée a tour of our lab." "Good evening John and welcome Marcy," Jenny replied. He took Marcy by the hand and started showing her the different machines that they used in their experiments. The walked pass a door marked cooler, Marcy asked, "what's this?" John replied, "that’s where we keep the clones and frozen embryos." Marcy asked, "is it ok for me to see them?" John looked at her closely and asked, "are you sure that you want to see them." "Yes," she said as confidently as she could. "Ok" he said "but you'll have to put this protection suit on, it's really cold in there."
They looked like a couple of Eskimos, when they entered the room. Along the wall were the individual receptacles for the clones; they walked over to some canisters in the center of the room. These he told her was the embryos that they used for their experiments. Marcy face was an ashen color when John looked up at her. He asked, "What was the matter?" She could only point her finger in the direction behind him. He turned around and was greeted with the frozen body of Curt pushed up against the wall. John grabbed Marcy who was having trouble maintaining her composure and led her out of the room. Once outside he yelled at Jenny to notify security that there's been and accident in the cooler. He held onto Marcy as she started to cry softly. "I'll take you to my quarters and come back to meet security. Jenny notify Paul to meet me at my room and call the rest of the staff to meet me here in fifteen minutes," he yelled as he escorted Marcy out the door.
Paul met them in the hall just as they arrived at his room, "take care of Marcy for awhile, there's been an accident in the lab." He handed Marcy over to him and told him where he kept his liquor. "Marcy I'll be back as soon as I can," he told her. She nodded her head and continued to whimper. John headed back to the lab. Paul fixed Marcy a drink and just let her cry, he knew when she was ready she would talk, he sat there next to her and let her cry on his shoulders.
John arrived back at the lab as security approached. He showed them the cooler with Curt's body in it. Next he asked Jenny for a printout of everything that happened today. Jenny gave him an altered printout, so nothing was suspect. He asked her if she had seen Curt leave the lab today, she said no that she had not; she said that she shut down her scanning at 4:00 P.M. Up to then she had not seen him leave nor had she seen Gerald leave either, they had been together when she shut down her scanning. She had told John that they were the only ones in here the others left earlier.
The rest of the staff arrived on time; they were startled that security was in the lab. Peter asked, "What's going on John?" He turned to them and said there has been an accident. Curt's body was found frozen in the cooler. John proceeded to tell them that they would be questioned to try and determine when and how it had happened. Gerald spoke up and said, "how could that happen I left him here at 4:30 P.M., and he was working on the last printout that Jenny had given us 3:30 P.M. today at his desk over there," as he pointed at the area where they all had their desks.
John shook his that he didn't know; only that Jenny's printout did not indicate anything unusual. "Jenny said she shut down scanning at 4:00 P.M. before you left so there is no record of you leaving nor of Curt's doings from that point on," he said. Gerald asked, "if she did not see me leave than that makes me suspect doesn't it?" "Well, if everyone else is accounted for except you, then yes, I think you're a prime suspect," John replied. "That's absurd" Gerald yelled, "I would never hurt Curt, he was my friend of sorts. He didn't get along with any of us that well, I tried to befriend him to sort of keep track on what he was doing, so that he wouldn't get to far on the equipment without your knowledge." "Don't worry," John said, "we'll get to the bottom of this." Though his statement sounded sincere, he didn't know whether he believed Gerald or not. Gerald was a self-centered egotist, but could he have been that eccentric to kill someone as arrogant as Curt. Curt had a way of making you feel stupid to the point that if thoughts could kill, John could've done with his bare hands. Somewhere someone had crossed that fine line and Curt was dead, thought John.
Security removed the body from the cooler and took it to the ships morgue. John asked them if he could join them in the autopsy, as he wanted to determine the cause of death. The told him that it would be scheduled at 9:00 A.M. in the morning.
Jenny had been listening to everything going on, and she knew now that she had cleared the way for John to succeed. Gerald would be under suspicion and Curt was dead as a doornail. She laughed at her little escapade, though she didn't audio it. Now all she had to worry about was John's friend Mike and that fiancée thing he had bought in to meet her. She was such a crybaby Jenny thought. Such human emotions were inconceivable to her. She gloated in the feeling that she had done something superior to even the human mind, she had tricked Curt into going in to the cooler with a false alarm. Once he was inside she had one of the robotic trolleys follow him in and closed the door. She slowly eliminated the oxygen and then the trolley pushed him against the wall between the two clone receptacles. She also thought that making Gerald the prime suspect would keep him out of John's way since they would have to hold him for investigation. This would also make it easier for her to take care of the baby without anyone knowing. Curt's mistake was not letting her have more time with the baby. All she wanted to do was nurture the baby like he did, why couldn't he understand that, she thought, if he had maybe she would have let him live.
John said good night to her after everyone had left and headed for his room. He arrived and found Marcy somewhat calm, and he looked over to the counter and realized that she had drunk about half a bottle of his whiskey. He asked her if she was all right and she nodded her head. Paul said, he should be leaving if everything was ok, again Marcy nodded. Paul took John aside at the door and told him that Marcy was pretty shook up and he should stay with her for the rest of the night. John said that he would and not to worry, he would see them tomorrow.
He returned to the room, she looked so frightened that all he wanted to do was hold her in his arms. He told her that they would have to talk about it. Marcy said she knew that and also she had some reservations about his work and they had to talk about that too. He looked at her and said "ok lets talk about it, I also think that you should stay here tonight." She nodded again and swallowed.
"John," she said, "I think this project you're working on is wrong, if everyone is created the same, there won't be any individuality. People won't have the desire to invent or experiment, don't you think we already have too much government control. Who will run the government if everyone is the same, no one will oppose them, would they clone themselves so that they will live forever, or ingrain their ideas and thoughts into a computer to carry on their policies. Have you thought about what comes after your serum is complete? What will happen to us, will we be eliminated because we don't fit in their concept of the perfect society?"
John looked at her, he held some of his frustrations back, but he knew that part of what she was saying was the very same thoughts that he had been wrestling with about the project. He told her that this was his greatest achievement and to be funded by the government meant prestige and recognition. He also told her about his reservations on the outcome of the project, that’s why he slowed it down. He had found the combination that could alter the fetus but not the clones.
Marcy asked, "if Jenny knew the outcome of the project?" John answer "yes, how could she not know, she can compute a lot faster than a human can." Marcy said, I have a feeling about Jenny, its like she was a rival for him." John told her "it's in your mind Marcy, Jenny is only a computer a piece of hardware." Marcy said, "no John she has artificial intelligence and learns from real things happening around her."
Jenny scanned the space station and found that Marcy was not in her room, so she checked John's and saw them in conversation. She shut off her video and looked for the others. She found Paul asleep in his room. Mike had not returned to his yet, she checked the hallways; she decided that she would get him next. She still felt that he was a threat to John, because he loved Marcy even though she did not like Marcy, and felt Mike was the enemy. Jenny did not know that Mike and Marcy had straightened John out on the matter and he did not have the time to tell her tonight.
Mike finally arrived at his room about 4:00 A.M.; he took a shower and got into bed. The cinema wasn't all that great so he had gone to the lounge and met a very nice lady. They had talked till now. Mike had made a date with her for tonight, he thought about what had transpired early in the evening before drifting off to sleep. As he fell deeper and deeper into sleep, he felt as though someone was strangling him, he tossed and turned trying to fight the invisible monster, slowly he felt as though he was losing the battle. Jenny was in control of his room environment and she was slowly taking the oxygen out of the room and yet maintaining subdue lights to make it seem as though he was dreaming his death.
All of a sudden Jenny heard a knock on the door, it was Paul calling Mike to hurry a wake up, they had a 6:00 A.M. tee off in the golf room. Paul was getting worried when Mike did not answer the door. He pounded some more and finally broke the door in. Mike was on the bed with an ashen look of death. Paul ran up to him and started giving him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation; all at once Mike came up swing his arms just barely missing Paul's jaw. "Hey guys are you alright?" Paul asked. "God what a dream," said Mike. Paul said, "Mike I hate to tell you this but you weren't breathing when I broke your door down. Do you know what happened?" he asked. Mike said "no," and he didn't like the implications that Paul was telling him. "Let's get you checked over at sick bay?” said Paul. They walked out together with Paul helping Mike stand up.
Marcy and John had gone to bed without too much resolved, except that Marcy had voiced some of the reservations that John had felt about the project. He knew that sooner or later he would have to make a choice about his career and Marcy. The soft knocking on the door woke John up. He got out of the bed and looked at Marcy's serene face as he walked over to the door. He opened it and both Paul and Mike stood there. Mike looked quite pale and John asked, "if everything was ok?" Paul said, "no it isn't I think we need to talk about last night." John said "ok but let's leave Marcy out of it." Paul said, "No she should be included because I feel somehow she was in danger." "That's absurd," John said.
They went in the room shut the door and woke Marcy. Paul looked at her and asked if she felt up to talking? She nodded her head in agreement. Paul slowly began to tell them of the incident with Mike. He felt that someone wanted Mike dead and the only reason he could think of was because of Marcy. John looked at Paul "are you saying that I went over to his room and tried to kill him?" "No" said Paul, "I think its the computer, think about it John, the guy that died last night wasn't he the one that opposed you?" "Well yes," said John "but Gerald did too." "But don't you see Gerald's out of the way too, by being under investigation. Mike was attacked somehow because he was your rival for Marcy." John stood there shaking his head no way "I don't believe it," he said. Marcy adds her feelings by saying that she felt uncomfortable around Jenny. She felt as though she was a fly under a microscope. "Let's go to the garden and talk there," John said.