Sorry for the delay. I have been writing but the chapter got way to long, perhaps to much description/detail for some. Trying to cater to a few requests, it will take time to accommodate some. this is how it is. You don't like my style, read something else please.
As requested by a few, this chapter is set in the past.
It was almost last week when they got a message from their professors. Due to the extensiveness, they were going to be reviewing their project after classes the following day. Neither of them was concerned. Overall they were done. All they were doing now was maintaining it.
“Daniel,” Cynthia called from the other side of the room. She had that little playful tone she used when she wanted him to agree to something.
“As long as it’s not dangerous or costly you may as well do it,” he said as he finalized one of the report entries for the section he was at. She came over and ran her hands across his chest before fitting her arms around his neck. She leaned in kissing him softly at first then a little more deeply.
“Well I am a girl we should get our way with you men.” She said breaking away and laying her head on his shoulder. “We should get something after all you’re so big and strong and…”
Daniel started laughing, and pulled her into a tight embrace before walking with her back to the desk. “Now I know it’s something you think I might disagree with. You’re starting the ego boosting.” He sat at the desk and forwarded the report to the professor. Cynthia sat in his lap and caressed his neck before kissing him on the nose.
“Sometimes you’re no fun,” she wrinkled her nose at him. “You could have at least played along and ask what wanted before letting me have my way.”
Daniel gave her a little squeeze. “Yes, Cynthia? What is it you want of me today.”
“I can think of a few things, but you’re not ready for that yet.” She gave a soft smile as she lay against his chest. “I was thinking that maybe we could give my parents the first bottle.” She ran her fingers across his chest , she loved the feel of his chest hair. “I know it’s not fair to ask but I think they would appreciate it.”
Daniel shifted her and let his hands run over her back and he kissed her forehead. “No,” he said outright. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.” He added s she looked at him to see if he was playing or serious. He actually had a serious look.
“Really?” she asked pulling away a little shocked. “Why, I mean like I said I know it’s not fair to ask, but you don’t think your parents would want it do you? You have to admit it’s not their kind of drink, Daniel. Why can’t I give it to my parents?
Daniel struggled to keep a straight face as she tried to break free from his embrace. He grinned as she tried a few times to get up and he just held her tighter. “Well it was my idea,” he replied trying to kiss her cheek but she pulled away.
“So what,” she jumped in cutting off anything else he was to say. “I did as much here as you did Smart Boy. And to play the ‘it’s my idea’ card is really low.” She huffed finally giving up the struggle. Though she was a mad at him, she did enjoy the feeling of being against him.
Daniel laughed and put his hand behind her head and drew her in. She didn’t really fight him much as he kissed her lips. “If you let me finish, I was going to say it was my idea that you should give them the first four bottles.”
Cynthia looked at him in the eyes a little surprised. “Four?”
Daniel nodded. “Yes, four. As you said, they would appreciate it. We managed to make more than enough for our needs and have some left over when we finish. I was thinking that maybe they could put a bottle in a safe place, as a remembrance. Maybe they can keep one we will have it when we graduate and celebrate. They can have one them to enjoy together when they choose. The fourth they can share with my parents. There is just one problem you have to solve.” She cocked her head and waited. “You have to pick which first you are talking about.” She looked more confused and he laughed. “The very first bottle we made or the first of a particular flavor or maybe the first of a type or the first of a flavor of that type.”
“It’s wine it doesn’t have a type.”
Daniel lifted her up and set her on her feet. He wrapped his arm around her waist as they walked. “Maybe today it doesn’t, but I think at one time it did. However, that’s not what I mean by type. By type I mean which kind of drink.” He let her got and helped her as she slid off his lap. He led her over to corner of the room and opened a small cabinet. “For every wine we made I made brandy and a few other things. The brandy should age some more but the strawberry will be just under fifteen weeks old. I would rather have it age a bit more but it’s drinkable now. Be a bit strong but tolerable.”
Cynthia looked at him and shook a finger. “Daniel the Dean isn’t going to like that. We never told her we were going to make brandy.”
“Actually it was her idea,” he grinned. “She even arranged to get some of the fruits we needed. All she asked is that we didn’t blow anything up and that she gets a bottle of cherry and blueberry.”
She slapped him in the chest and snuggled in close. “So all the times I told you to go rest and relax after I went home you came here and made alcohol.”
Daniel grinned. “I did go rest and relax. Believe it or not, I found all of this it relaxing, restful and fun, once we got through the hurdles. I’ll be sorry to see it all go.”
“The session had to end eventually, my darling Smart Boy. You’ll have to come up with a new project for the next one. Speaking of which, we need to meet with the advisor and select our classes. I have a suggestion for the elective. Professor Crème was right about the weight gain and I really want to lose it. Maybe get a little more in shape. The teacher already spoke to me and he told me he only teaches partners. He’s also particular on who he teaches accepting only those he thinks will put the effort in and not abuse the teaching.” She smiled and he rolled his eyes knowing something was coming. “It’s a very hand on class and a varied workout routine. I really like what it offers. I need you to do this though. It will be good for you. You could stand to lose some poundage yourself.” She said as she rubbed his stomach.
“So now I’m fat?” his eyes went wide and he reached out and grabbed her.
“If the shoe fits fat boy,” she laughed rubbing his stomach again, laughed and ran. He was laughing as he tried to catch her. He finally grabbed her. He quickly found those special spots and laughed even harder and he started to tickle her. She held up beautifully in the short term but he kept going and she buckled. She regretted ever telling him where those spots were. He finally eased up and they backed up to the cot they had set up. She fell back on it and pulled him down beside her.
They stayed there a few hours to care for the few things that needed attention daily. They then went back to Daniel’s room to make lunch and watched some old entertainment programs. It was getting late, Cynthia had fallen as they sat on the sofa. “Cynthia, wake up. You need to wash up and then head home. The shuttle leaves in twenty minutes.”
“Not going home,” she mumbled. “My parents said it was okay I stay here if it got too late.”
Daniel chuckled to himself. She had conveniently needed to be later than usual at least once a week. He wasn’t sure they approved her staying with him or just staying on station one. He didn’t ask. He just picked her up and carried her to the bedroom. He put her on the bed and took off her shoes before turning and setting the alarm. He then grabbed the blanket from the closet and went back out to the sofa. He cleaned up before he turned on some low music. He sat and tried to think just what they were going to do the next session. It was a few more hours before he laid down to rest.
“Hey sleepy head, wake up” Cynthia tossed a pillow at him. “Breakfast is ready.”
“No flights remember, they put us on no call so we could concentrate on school.” He tossed the pillow back, not even getting close to where she was standing.
“I know but I want you to meet up with the professor I was talking about. He does this evaluation thing before approving students to take his class.”
“Just when I was able to sleep. I should have sent you home.” He moaned.
“Just get up, lazy boy” she razzed.
With extreme reluctance, Daniel got up and headed for the bath. He stopped at the door. “If he so selective of his students, your out of luck. I don’t fit well in those kinds of classes as it is. Almost missed getting out of high school on schedule because I didn’t do gym class I don’t care for cocky teachers.”
“You just need to talk to him, be nice and do this for me.” She batted her eyes and blew him a kiss. “So hurry up and get ready.
The meeting went better than he thought it would. Daniel admitted it wasn’t they typical workout class he was expecting. The teacher talked to him without Cynthia in the room then he spoke to them together. Daniel could see the seriousness in the teachers face and understood to a point. He had to be honest and said he wasn’t so sure he was suited to it. He wasn’t the physical type and didn’t want to take a spot from someone that would be more suitable for the class. They didn’t get an approval then. He simply said he would let them know in a day or two. Good thing they didn’t need to register right away for it.
The classes flew by as professors were doing reviews and offering help with studying. Professor Kingston announced that students that finished early enough could go to the lab and have additional time to complete that final.
Professor Crème’s class felt like it was the longest. She had caught them before the start and reminded them that she would be joining the other professors to view the projects they did. She was impressed with the documentary they did for her class and wanted to see the other projects first hand.
Daniel paced nervously as they waited in the project room. Cynthia tried to calm him but he couldn’t he acted as if he didn’t even hear her. He ran things over in his mind, double and triple checked each class section. She finally had to step behind him and wrapped her arms around him to keep him still. He wasn’t paying attention and she stumbled when he stepped away. “What are you doing?” he asked as he helped her steady herself.
“Trying to get you to calm down, you’re making me more nervous just watching you. Just hold me a minute okay.”
Daniel’s mind was still racing but he felt the warmth of her against him and it slowed just slightly. They stood there more than a minute, breaking apart only when the door chime rang.
Professor Kingston and Professor Crème were the first to arrive. The professors not arriving all at once made the waiting worse. As they arrived, Cynthia told them to have a look around and ask any questions before they got the detailed tour.
Professor Kingston stopped near the chemistry equipment and started looking through the experiment notes. “Daniel, is this setup expandable?”
“Yes Professor. In fact, this is just a scaled down version of what is already in use. With the larger scale there is more room and more equipment. We are currently burning off the methane produced by the livestock, but we didn’t have the space to have equipment to convert the gas to liquid. Fortunately, we weren’t using it as a fuel source. We needed the long chain carbon to create water.”
“So you made your own water?” another professor asked.
“Yes,” Daniel turned to see who it was. He didn’t recognize the professor. “Again on this scale we couldn’t create a very large amount. We did manage to replace the water that we used for this experiment.”
“And you are using five two hundred gallon tanks?” Professor Elkton asked as he stood by Cynthia near one of the fish tanks.
“Yes, for the primary holding. Cynthia came up with the idea to use the one hundred gallon tanks for the young. We weren’t going o use as many species of fish but Dean Stassen was able to allocate us a little more space. Three hundred gallons would have been better but it would have been very tight in here.”
“Tighter, yes I agree. However, you have managed the space nicely. You may have been able to increase the tank size and reduced the stresses on the occupying species.”
Daniel felt a little twinge as he started the calculations to see if he could have done that. He looked around for Cynthia. He found her in the soil garden. That was her place, she loved it and spent a lot of time in there. She was being bombarded with questions by a few more professors that he didn’t know and Professor Crème. “Cynthia, maybe it would be easier if we just did a walk through,” he called to her, trying to rescue her from the barrage. He was also eager to get it over with so no one else could point out the flaws, even though that is why they were there.
“Actually word of your project has got out among the faculty. A few are here to look over specific aspects. Most will be professors you have in the future.” Professor Jenson said from the housing for the animals. “I for one am impressed that you two were able to get all of this done. When I gave you the fertile chickens I expected you would come back and tell me the eggs were dead inside a week.” He looked at Daniel who only smiled. “By the way thank you again for the return. Although I still don’t believe it’s a fair exchange.”
Cynthia came up behind him just as he finished speaking. “Your right professor, it’s not fair. We only gave you three dozen chicks, and enough adults to replace the mature ones you are slaughtering for us. If anything we still owe you a few, not counting the ones that are still here,” she laughed.
This time Professor Jenson laughed. “My dear you gave me plenty. The veterinarians have already examined them and they are healthy. You raised them well. As for the slaughtering, that is something that is necessary. We raise them to for a purpose and we may not enjoy it, but they must be slaughtered to fill that purpose. We can’t keep them for all time,” he joked. “Much like your project, space is an issue. To that end, I have actually increased the number of your request by twenty. Professor Crème tells me that you have planned a delicious menu and they won’t go to waste. I only wish I could have provided the piglets that you requested. I would like to see what you would have planned for pork.”
Daniel was about to say something about that when Cynthia nudged him. “Let’s give the three cent tour so they all can get home. I’m sure they don’t want to spend all night here like you do.” She got a few chuckles.
Daniel looked a little confused but shrugged. “Of those interested we will start our presentation, momentarily. Understandably, you may have questions. We have made small informational brochures for each station and one to incorporate it all. You can down load them to any device you have with you or key in an address and it will be sent to a terminal. If you have questions please ask. Hopefully, we will have the answer and we will answer them, or refer you to the brochures.”
“Daniel will start off, I will jump in when we get to the next sections,” Cynthia stated as she stepped near Daniel and they both moved back to where everyone could get close.
“Using the setup you see here we were able to make water vapor. The methane was collected at the University farms and a sludge tank for the majority of the project. We have Professor Markesan to thank for the use of Betsey for the last two weeks. That gave us an added supply as well as a few extra products. We originally would have taken her for the session but couldn’t get the housing setup in time.“
“Interesting side note, people tend to stare when you’re walking a cow through the halls of the university, it’s almost as if they never saw one before.” Cynthia smiled and then laughed with everyone else. They continued to listen.
Daniel went on about the setup. Water vapor moved down into a natural sand filter followed by a soil layer then through a crushed rock layer. The water was then pumped into the hydroponics and aquaponics setups. There was even the connection to the airponics and soil gardens. That was Cynthia’s cue to explain about the variety of plants each system was growing and lead that to the aeropoincs setup and the plants there. “The plants are the key helping the fish. The fishery on station three provided us with three sets of mature salmon to use. Each pair produced thousands of eggs. We cultivated over half of the eggs to reduce the amount hatched here. The fishery was took them for hatching. We harvested about half of the eggs and left the remainder in the tank. We cared for the fry up to a few days ago. The fishery sent some specialists to collect them, as it will be several months for them to grow. We also have tilapia, catfish, bass and trout. The majority of which will be sent to the fishery.”
The rest of the tour went quick, as they left the details out and gave a summary. The biggest interest was the composting to make soil. They were using three types of worms and three different sections. Each worm type needed a different type of material to compost and varied temperatures. The made compost was put out into the garden where they had crops they couldn’t grow in the other systems. They mostly had a lot of dwarf fruit trees. Cynthia gave them all a fresh piece of fruit.
“And that’s where we come back to the beginning. Among other things we created a selection of wine and brandy from the various fruits.” Daniel replied and took a deep breath.
They all looked around. Daniel and Cynthia watched them. The extra professors left, still talking. Finally, only ones left were the ones that they had classes. Cynthia stood beside Daniel and wrapped his arm around her waist, as she got close. The professors read the brochures and or talked among themselves.
“You two can relax for the moment, “Professor Kingston said with a smile. “We have all agreed that you have exceeded the requirements of the project. Most students just read and write a paper on something. You have taken it to a new level by doing the research and applying it to get a result of your own. You took what you were learning in classes and applied them to the project. That shows that you are knowledgeable about the material and can apply it. High marks across the board. That said we are all looking forward to seeing what you can do with everything. We will see how well you have learned from Professor Crème, and how you apply that knowledge to what you have produced here.”
Daniel was breathing shallow as Cynthia let out a sigh of relief. She squeezed him and pulled him toward the cabinet. “Well, you can get a taste before then,” she said as she opened the closet and handed a bottle to each of them. They had planned it out the whole session as to which professor to get what. “With the time constraint, this was made using purchased ingredients. It will be better the more it ages but it’s perfectly suited to drink when you choose. The ones we have from what we grew are still in need of aging, unfortunately.”
“The two have shown a remarkable talent in your studies, I venture to say that when you leave the university you are going to have your pick of career opportunities.” Professor Ardon said from the back of the group. “I’m going to have to keep an eye on your progress.”
They heard a few agreements and saw more nodding heads. They all looked around, again. Dean Stassen pulled them to the side. “I know you don’t think this is something new. I can see where that can be the case. Nevertheless, you did do something no one else has. Daniel, you said it already. You have scaled down what is already done. You have designed a way to increase the food supply by decreasing the space needed. Your self-sustaining system could be a breakthrough. I am submitting the specifications to the Agriculture committee to get their input. You two may be famous before the first year is done.”
Daniel was silent and tried to think about what she said. He didn’t like the idea. He was going to object when Cynthia locked arms with him and laughed. “If you think that’s best, Dean Stassen, thank you. As for fame, it takes years to get any with this science stuff, who knows what we will be doing by then.”
“We will see Miss Prieto. Things tend to happen quickly when they need to.”
Some left right after but a few stayed and talked. It was about a half hour after they finished the presentation that everyone had left. Daniel wished he still had the cot to crash in. They shut down what they could and double-checked everything else. They walked slowly back to Daniel’s apartment.
“Daniel, can we go out to eat,” Cynthia asked as they walked down the hall hugging his arm. “I really don’t want to cook.”
“MMM, don’t know, a bit last minute you know. I kind of had other plans with this girl I met at the student union, ” he said as he held her hand.
Cynthia looked and the look was one of worry and fear mixed with confusion. Then she saw it the twinkle in his eyes that gave away when he was joking or kidding around with her. It was followed by the inability to keep a straight face when she slapped him in the chest. “So mean,” she sighed and drew back in close to him.
“Yeah she said that too when I told her the same story,” he laughed. Cynthia just jabbed him in the ribs. “So what you hungry for,” he quickly asked as he winced.
“Nothing elaborate, maybe we could try that new Chinese restaurant. We could even get it to go and watch some movies.”
“That does sound good. We have been eating so much in culinary haven’t had room for anything else. I lost count how many times someone came up and asked me to taste what they made.”
She giggled. “Professor Crème told me that the others in the class asked if they could get some help with some of the dishes they were making. When she said they should ask others in the class, she didn’t think they would all flock to us. Jenna and Michael said they had a lot come to them too. Seems everyone is nervous about the final. Professor Crème’s announcement that there would be a group of established owners in the mix and some surprise guests didn’t help. Do you think we will be ready in time?”
Daniel led her inside and back to the bedroom. “Most of the hard stuff is finished. We have time to do everything else. More, if we take any of the final exams early.”
Cynthia looked at him as she walked over to the bag she had brought. “What you mean by that?”
“I’m guessing you didn’t read… never mind.” He laid on the bed and looked at the ceiling. He must be the only one that read those kinds of things. “It’s in the university guide book and most course syllabus. The last week professors don’t teach. They advise and review. For most classes students can take the final any day of the last week. Some classes are restricted to specific days all for various reasons. Students don’t even need to attend the classes the last week if they choose not to. All you have to do is let the professor know at least a day in advance.”
Cynthia blinked and grinned. “Dam, Daniel do you read everything? Just how much reading are you doing?” she asked as she looked around the room for the materials in question.
Daniel frowned. “There’s nothing wrong with reading. I just read the syllabus for every class, like everyone should have.” She raised her eyes at him and folded her arms waiting. “Fine I’ve also read several books on each subject and started the text books for the next session’s classes. In between, per a request of Captain Sims, I am reading the technical manual for the new shuttles being built.”
Cynthia just stood wide eyed. “I’m surprised that you have time to do anything else.”
“Speed reading comes in handy,” he offered up. “Now, you want to wash up first? I’ll check to see if we can place an order over the comm net so it will be ready when we get there.”
“Let’s just order there. It will be fresher and stay hot until we get back to eat. And we can see what everyone else is getting and pick what looks good.” She disappeared in the bathroom. She didn’t take long, and they were heading back out.
They walked slowly as they made their way to the restaurant. Cynthia was deep in thought. If he noticed, he didn’t press the matter, chalking it up to their recent review and upcoming final week. She had taken his hand and then wrapped his arm around her. He always seemed to leave such things up to her. She had meant to talk to him about that, among other things. They just didn’t seem to get the time. Something always came up. Somethings could wait. Some she needed to talk to him soon. If she waited much longer, he would get blindsided. She sighed as she felt his arm instantly tighten. She liked the feeling and hoped the action was more than a simple reflex. The last nineteen weeks was not always pleasant but she knew that she could have had it worse with someone else. Somehow, she knew it couldn’t have been better.
They were still locked together when they got to the restaurant. There were not many others there, so they had to pick sight unseen dishes. They ordered more than enough for the two of them and the owner gave them some drinks free.
They got back and Cynthia stopped in the living room and started taking things out. “I thought we could eat in here and watch a movie while we eat.” She moved things around as she spoke. They normally ate in the kitchen. Surprisingly the little table she had found was just wide enough to put it all out. She then went in the bedroom and changed into her night clothing, a loose fitting tee shirt and an equally loose fitting pajama bottom.
“That’s fine by me,” Daniel said as he walked on to the kitchen to get some plates and forks. He never learned to use chopsticks. Cynthia did have that skill. He grabbed a fork for her just in case she wanted that instead. “You’re the one that always wanted to eat at the table,” he added as he came back.
“I know,” she mumbled, “My parents always said that’s where dinner should be eaten. Every time you and I eat in there it reminds me of dinner at home. Always prim and proper.” Cynthia took the plates and started putting some of each thing they got on one, and then handed it to Daniel. “I know it sounds bad. I love them dearly but I don’t want to be exactly like them. I want it to be relaxing I want it to be,” she paused and filled a plate for herself, he used her fingers to pop some chicken in her mouth as she came around and sat down next to Daniel on the sofa. “ Intimate” she finished as she leaned on his side as she lifted her legs up.
Daniel kissed the top of her head and then used the remote to bring up the movie choices. After some disagreements on the choice they finally found one they both agreed on. They ate and talked. The movie was almost done when Daniel looked at the clock.
“Are you going home?”
“No, I have more things to wear so I figured I’d stay another night if it’s okay with you.”
“I told you that it’s not a problem for me. You can stay as often as you want to. Your parents on the other hand…” he let it trail off as she shifted against him
“Yeah I know. It should be better next session. They know you now and believe it or not they are fond of you.” She seemed hesitant as she snuggled closer to him. “I told them that we were going to have classes on other stations next session and we might have as much if not more work to do. Going back and forth makes things harder. I told them that you had to do a lot more this session because of it and that it wasn’t fair. I need to get a room here at the university, that’s no longer debatable and I told them as much. It shouldn’t have been an issue in the first place. They said they would think about it.”
“A step in the right direction,” Daniel said just so she knew he was listening. “I’m sure that there will be other students that are coming to the same decision, I don’t think that they will run out of spaces but they might not be the better of the pick. When are they going to let you know?”
Cynthia rubbed his leg as she laid in his lap and ate. “They made some calls and talked to some people. They said that they had a decision but that they needed to talk to you first.” She sat up and sat in his lap as she put her arms around him and kissed him deeply. “I’m sorry,” she whispered as she put her head on his shoulder.
Shaking his head Daniel slid his hand up and caressed her face. “Nothing to be sorry for. I’ll talk to them when we see them for dinner midweek. I’m sure I can alleviate any worries they have. There hasn’t been a single problem all session. At least any pertaining to the housing.”
She already knew what they wanted. They hadn’t hidden their expanding relationship from either set of parents. She made sure they saw as much as they needed to. It was easier to get Daniel to hold hands around his own parents than it was hers. A kiss good night was harder still.
They ate and laughed at the movie. It took the edge away and Cynthia yawned and started to drift. She was out before midnight. Daniel turned off the movie and took one of his readers from the sofa arm pocket. He glanced down at her every now and then and watched her sleeping. He wondered how it was such a beautiful woman could be interested in someone like him or if she actually was. Maybe it was just a hazard of spending so much time together along with a while lot of misread situations. He glanced at the wall clock and set down the reader he had. He picked her up and took her to the bed room like he did before. He covered her and gave her a light kiss on the cheek. He had a lot of things in his head, some he understood others he didn’t. She had places in both categories. He understood her in some ways but in other ways, he was plain stupid. He looked her over to be sure she was comfortably position and went back out to the sofa. Cynthia rolled over and stared at the door. She didn’t know what to make of the moment. She had left ample room for him to do something and he didn’t take it. How many guys would not take even the slightest advantage of a sleeping woman. It wouldn’t have been hard to move her shirt to peek at her naked breasts. He barely touched her ass when he carried her. Even on the sofa he just let her lay there, his arm across her waist and his fingers moving just slightly up and down her side. She thought, or maybe it was hoped he was at the least trying to cop a feel. She laid there thinking about it and suddenly smiled coming to a conclusion that worked. It just made the feelings she had for him jump a new level. She had to admit it now. She was in love. She rolled over and covered back up. She tried not to wonder about if he had the same feelings. It was late and as much as the realization was warming her, she was tired. Waiting for Daniel to make a move was extra tiring.
She woke up and went out to the kitchen. As usual, Daniel was asleep fully clothed on the sofa. Only today, he was in a seated position instead of lying down. She made breakfast and woke him.
“Morning already?” he asked sleepily.
“Yes and you forgot your alarm again. You would have probably overslept if I weren’t here. Come eat.”
She waited until he was at the table and brought over a couple of plates sat across from him. She already had a cup of coffee waiting for him. “Daniel, do you think we are ready to take the exams?”
Daniel sipped the coffee. “We are not ready, you are ready. I have no doubt you will do fine. Just try not to score too much over me. It might look bad if you do.”
She gave him the patent pending stare that said she was in no mood to joke. “Fine, yes we are ready. If you wanted to, we could take them all tomorrow. I don’t think we should, a lot to do in a day. Maybe space them out over two or three days.”
“Then let’s do that. I was thinking that the more we wait the more nervous I get. You and that super brain of yours probably ace the dam things.”
“Not likely, but I thank you for the vote of confidence.” Daniel finished his coffee. “We better get ready. We could go in early and let professor Kingston know and then go around to the other professors. Maybe we can take a day or two to relax and just do something else.”
“Like you can just relax,” she giggled.
“Well it will be difficult but I may manage it this once. Maybe we could go to Playland.”
Cynthia had got up and stopped halfway to the kitchen as she looked back at him. Only two types of people went to Playland, people with kids and people that were on dates.
“Daniel Miller did you just ask me out?”
“No, I said we could go to Playland. I hear that it’s a very relaxing place and some of the concessions can have decent enough food.”
She dropped the plates in the sink. She ran back straddled him and started kissing him. Things this session hadn’t gone as expected. They had lucked into the pilots training. They were pulling four flights or more a day. She barely managed to get her schoolwork done. They spent the flights talking about class and quizzing each other. They had not expected to go out much if at all but the job was paying out nice credits so they were able to do more than stay home or at the university. These were small things. The one big thing was what she had not expected or wanted. She really didn’t expect to find herself with such feelings for someone she knew less than four months. Somehow, he had got to her. He invaded her thoughts and a few dreams. Now came the task of finding out just how much was reciprocated.
He let her shower first. He considered shaving but decided it was a good day to skip that just to see how people reacted.
Professor Kingston was already in the classroom with a few other students when they arrived. They were running later than usual. Students were stopping them along the way to talk.
“Professor Kingston, if you have a moment we would like to talk to you about the final.” Cynthia was eager to get away from school.
“Ah, Cynthia good morning to you too.”
Cynthia smiled. “Sorry Professor, good morning.”
“It’s forgivable this one time I suppose. I was going to speak to the both of you about the test as well. If you would come up here please.”
Daniel rolled his eyes and groaned. He didn’t like the way that sounded.
“Don’t look so worried Daniel, this isn’t a bad thing.” Professor Kingston grinned and shuffled through some tablets on his desk. “I know the two of you have a lot of things going on. The project confiscated a lot of your free time. Again, you did an excellent job. I also know about your jobs as shuttle pilots. I have been a passenger on some of the shuttles you piloted. If I hadn’t known, I would have sworn there was a seasoned pilot. To be honest I was initially worried that you took on to much. Now I’m not sure what I am impressed with more. Everything that you accomplished or that you managed it and still got excellent grades. Now unless you have had someone go through the university, most students are unaware of this particular prerogative of a professor. Daniel, based on your testing scores and some personal observations both in lecture and in the lab I see no reason for you to take the final exam for either.” Daniel cocked his head and his eyes darted around as he processed what the professor said. He looked at Cynthia and saw a grin on her face. He opened his mouth to say something and Professor Kingston held his hand up to stop him. “Before you think to much on it, Cynthia I am excusing you as well. Although your scores were not always as high as Daniel’s was I took into consideration the work you did on the project as well. You showed that you know the material and more often than not didn’t need help from your partner. What I considered most was that you knew when to ask for help because of something you didn’t know. And that goes for the both of you. Sometimes knowing what you don’t know is just as important. Now I do have one request and please feel free to say no.”
It was Daniel’s turn to laugh, as Cynthia stood there speechless. “How can we help Professor?”
“I am exempting only a few others. A few of the remaining students need high marks on the final test to pass the course. I think they would appreciate it if you could make yourselves available to them for any last minute studying help. I have even cleared it with the Dean so that you can use the lab class and go over the labs if any need to.”
Daniel half expected Cynthia to say they would stay then to help. “Of course professor we would love to help out. However, we were going to take a day off today. As you said we have had a lot to do with very little free time.”
“Of course, wise choice,” Professor Kingston nodded. He was going to make that suggestion. He was glad they came to it on their own.
“Why don’t you let everyone know that we will be in the lab tomorrow morning. If any want help, they can meet us there. We can help on lecture and lab,” Daniel offered quickly.
“Excellent. I will pass it along. Thank you. Now go and have a nice day off.”
They didn’t need to be told twice as they shook his hand and ran off to talk to the other professors. They were surprised that every professor had followed Professor Kingston and exempted them from the final. All but Professor Crème since the final was majority of the grade. As with Professor Kingston, they agreed to come and offer help to any that wanted it.
“Are you okay?” Daniel asked as they sat in seats for the shuttle ride to station two.
Cynthia nodded. “Shocked but okay. I don’t really understand.”
Daniel took her hand, leaned in and kissed her cheek. “Just accept it. It’s not likely to happen again.”
“Yeah it shouldn’t have happen this time. For you yes, your scores are high, mine are only average. You pulled me through some hard spots.” She squeezed his hand as the shuttle accelerated through and exited the station. “I know I would have passed but I don’t think I could have done so well if you hadn’t pushed me. Are they giving me a pass because they are giving you one and can’t do that unless I get one?”
“Cynthia, really let it go. They are specialists in the fields they teach. If they feel that you don’t need to have an all encompassing test to prove it then accept it. This is a good thing.”
“I don’t like the feeling that I am being given something I don’t deserve.”
“You’re not. Yeah you struggled but you passed tests every test. Our collaborations sections were a race to see which of us could answer it first. There were times you answered more than I did. So stop doubting. We are supposed to be taking it easy today, remember. Worrying about it isn’t relaxing.” Daniel tried easing her mind. It hit him then that this was what she had to endure when he was the one acting this way. His hand tightened in hers and he sighed. “We’ll catch the flight back and go talk to the professors again. I’m sure they can alleviate any concerns.”
Cynthia looked over at him and saw the color in his face drained away. “Daniel, what’s wrong, and don’t say nothing I can see it in your face.” She watched and saw that he was about to do just that and she jabbed him in the ribs. “So help me Daniel I will smack you in front of all these people.”
He gave her a dry smile and a relieved look came over as the pilot came over and said they were about to dock. “This doesn’t get you off the hook smart boy. Just delays it. And there will be a whole lot more people in the port.” She reached up, caressed his face and then gave it a light slap. “I won’t be so gentle.”
He could hear the chuckles from others nearby as they over heard her. An older man even commented to his wife about the affection he saw and asked if she remembered when she use to do that to him. She just reached up, cupped his cheek and gave him a slap. “What you mean use to?” she looked at Cynthia and gave her a wink. Cynthia laughed a little to hard and won a scowl from the gentleman for it. He did smile afterward.
“Good luck to the both of you,” the woman said as they started to exit.
The old man was about to say something when she bumped him. “Do you dare say anything to spoil it for them.”
“I wasn’t,” he mumbled and looked sideways at Daniel. “They can be a pain in the ass sometimes, but in the end they are worth the effort. Don’t let the bumps in the road keep you from enjoying the journey.”
They thanked the older couple and watched as they exited. Cynthia giggled after they started out and locked arms with Daniel just outside the shuttle door. “That wasn’t what he was going to say.”
Daniel inclined his head in agreement and steered them towards the shuttle counter. “No, but he is a wise man. He had something else to say just in case. They must have many years together.”
“Probably many more to come. Whatever they are doing it seems to work. What are we doing?”
There were a few people ahead of them to get tickets on the shuttle departing to station one. Getting seats back, like I said, so you can talk to the professors again. If your still not happy we can tell them we will take the finals anyway. I can at least make sure that you don’t get sick over this.”
She pulled him out of the line and started walking again arm in arm. “Not necessary. You are right. Today we said would be a day to relax and just let it all go. We need to have as much fun as we can. However, before we do, out with it Smart Boy. What was going through that head of yours back there?”
“Just a realization that I need to say I’m sorry. I made the session that much harder for you the way I reacted over things. You could have done much better if I had listened more. I’m sorry. I’ll try to be better in the future.” He was a little depressed, and walked slower.
“Hey enough of that. I made my decisions this session. Not saying you’re not right because you did make some days hellish. Let’s just write it all off to a life learning lesson. We move on from here. Now what do you want to do when we get there? Any favorite rides?” she put her arm around him and felt him quiver a little. He pulled her head towards him and kissed the top of her head. He slid his arm down and gave her a squeeze.
“Actually I don’t. I never have been to Playland before.”
That startled her a little and she sighed. “Ohh Smart Boy such a sheltered life you have led. It is a good thing you have me here to help break you out.”
Every station had something unique about it that drew in people to spend credits. For Station Two it was Playland, a huge amusement park. It took up the entire middle section of the station. There were games of all kinds and rides as well. The roller coaster tracks started at ground level and then up the walls and ceiling. It was a mile long if set end to end. The ferris wheel was at the center of the park giving a bird’s eye view of the area. People spent hours there and spent hundreds of credits. Cynthia had been a few times, having grown up on the station it was the one thing to do.
They scanned Daniel’s ID when he went to pay for the entry. The fee included rides but games were extra since most were private owned. The young woman attending the booth smiled as she looked up from a screen. “Welcome Lieutenant Miller, Playland is very grateful to the system pilots and has extended them a thirty percent discount. This is extends to the concession stands enjoy your stay.” She smiled and blushed as she passed Daniel the entrance tokens.
Cynthia looked at the girl and huffed as she pulled Daniel away. “Some people, flirting like that when I’m standing right there.”
“I’m sure she wasn’t flirting. I don’t understand why some places feel the need to give the pilots a discount. Seems weird.”
“Mmm, so smart yet so dumb. Pretty girl and you can’t tell she was drooling. You have a lot to learn Smart Boy. As for the discount, what was it you said just accept it. They want to cut the price why argue.”
“Touché.” Daniel bowed slightly. “Well where to?”
They spent half the day riding every ride there was. The ferris wheel they rode twice. They ran into several classmates including Jenna and Michael. The talked and had lunch together then the two went off towards the rollercoaster as Daniel and Cynthia went down along the fairway and looked at the games that were there. Daniel won a small stuffed bear at a shooting game. He only had to shoot five of eight disks in less than fifteen seconds using a light pistol. He got all eight. The vendor said it had been a long time since he had anyone get all of them, and gave them the pick of what he had for prizes.
They were coming up along the batting cages when Daniel saw someone he knew. An older man and young girl, maybe ten years old, were standing at a game. He wasn’t watching her as she played he was looking at another game across from them.
“Daniel, a pleasant surprise. It has been a while since I have seen you. Then again I don’t suppose you would be delivering packages now that you a big time shuttle pilot.” The gentleman held out his hand and Daniel quickly shook it. “And who is this lovely young lady?”
“Cynthia Prieto, Judge Kalun, Judge, Cynthia. She a resident here on Station Two. She’s,” Daniel thought a moment. “Well let’s just say she’s everything I need when I need it. She is a pilot as well. So still delivering just a different type of packages.” Daniel glanced at the game the Judge was watching. “Something wrong, Judge?”
“Not from what I have seen. We just have had a few complaints about the vendor there. People said he cheats but no one can prove it. He makes bets with people on the likelihood of them beating his game. One kid had his savings wiped out by him. The parents swore that there was no way the game was legitimate. Not one of the inspectors has found anything. I brought my granddaughter, Hope, over there a few times and tried the game myself. My aim isn’t what it used to be. She really had her heart set on that big panda in the corner.”
“Maybe we can help,” Cynthia offered. She pulled away and they started walking not waiting for an answer.
“Daniel you promised you would get me a bigger one. This one looks easy enough for you.” She started as they walked up to the game.
The vender was there leaning on the wall. He snickered. “Sweetheart from the looks your boy here couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn let alone win this game. I’d bet fifty credits that he couldn’t take down two of the pillars let alone all ten. I’ll tell you what though I’ll give you any prize here if you dump his lame ass and go out with me.”
Cynthia grinned and checked him out as she pushed Daniel close to the game. The concept was simple enough. Ten shots ten targets. Players used the beanbags to knock down the pillars in various places on the layout he had. Some were simple and easy to get right in the front others had some sat farther back and had better cover. Each pillar had to be hit just right to knock it over. It seemed simple enough.
“I don’t know Cynthia. Seems a bit much. The last games didn’t go so well and we are almost out of credits as it is. We should go.” He turned to go and she played right along and grabbed him. “Come on don’t be such a wimp. Dam I can’t believe I agreed to go out with such a looser.” She whined. “You can’t even get a girl a stupid toy on the simplest game. That other guy must have felt sorry for you when he gave you this one.”
“Girl don’t be so harsh. Wimpy boys like him don’t know anything about treating a girl right. You’re doing him a favor just being around him now. I’ll even make it easier for him and ill toss in an extra five shots no extra charge. I bet a hundred credits that he doesn’t get any down. I’ll triple if he gets all ten. I get a kiss if I win as well.”
Daniel shook his head and stepped away. “Yuck, I’m not kissing you.”
“From her you idiot, not you. Dam, not to bright are you, Wimpy.”
“Do it Daniel or so help me I will tell every girl what a wuss you are.”
“Fine but still think it’s stupid. It’s almost as if you want to kiss him.”
“Shut up and play. If you win I’ll kiss you instead.”
Daniel reached in his pocket and pulled out a credit chip and tossed it to the vendor. “It’s a bet. Hundred for nothing, triple if I get all ten. And you toss in the big panda.” The vendor snickered. He bent over and pulled out a basket of beanbags. He put it on the counter Daniel picked one up and watched as he bent down and grabbed the added five. He was watching the pillars when he heard a very faint humming. He looked around at the set up as his fingers kneaded the beanbag.
He got ready and started to toss the first bag when the vendor coughed “don’t choke” and the beanbag dropped before hitting the target. Cynthia badgered him for missing taunting him with puckered lips, which only got laughs from the vendor. Daniel missed the next five as well coming inches from where he needed to be.
“Pucker up girl, this boy is worse than I thought.” The vendor howled. It was then that Judge Kalan came over. “Going to try again old timer?”
Cynthia stepped back and Daniel looked down at the Judge’s granddaughter. “You have a spot for that big panda?” he asked her. She nodded.
“You haven’t won it yet, and you have only nine shots left.” The vendor yelled.
“I know moron. But I also know how you have been cheating your customers.”
“What! I don’t cheat.” He protested as two security guards came over.
“Sure you do. Even still I can knock them all down.” Daniel tossed the beanbag in his hand into a section not even having a pillar. It smacked into the display and there was a series of pops as each pillar was released and toppled over. “You’re using a magnetron with variable settings. I would say you have a control panel down here near the storage of for beanbags. The beanbags are filled with ball bearings. With the magnetron on you are able to pull the bags down just before they hit the pillars. You also set up a automatic win just incase you got questioned about the outcomes.”
The vendor was staring at Daniel as the guards took him. “System rules on betting are that if you are found cheating the maximum bet is doubled and payable to the parties in the bet. Since I also won the bet by knocking down the pillars, all ten, that’s a total of six hundred credits.”
One of the guards handed Judge Kalan the bag of credit chips the vendor had. As Daniel went over and grabbed the Panda, the judge pulled out eight hundred in chips.
“I believe the original bet was for one hundred credits if you didn’t knock down any, as I interpret it that means you needed to knock down any number from one through ten,” he said as Daniel looked questioning at the count.
Daniel hadn’t thought about that but nodded. “Judge I believe he’s also got a Gen one grav generator. Possession of both machines together in a confined area can cause warping in the structure. You might want to have them do a structural analysis within five hundred feet or so.”
Daniel forgot he was still holding the panda and looked at Hope who was staring at the toy. “You take good care of him. Give him a good home.” She squealed as she hugged the toy.
“Go on,” Daniel said to Cynthia as he pushed her towards the stand. “Pick something so the judge can get going and prosecute this moron. Having this equipment means immediate trial for attempted mass murder.”
“What you talking about I didn’t try to kill anyone,” the vendor screamed as she struggled against the guards holding him.
“The grav generator is illegal to have for a reason. The wrong setting you could have sent a gravity wave though the station power core, destabilizing it. That would result in one of two things, station wide shutdown, or the magnetic locks on the core shift the surge in power cause the core to explode. You would have killed half the residents on the station.”
Cynthia was going to tell him to forget it when she had an idea. She went over and grabbed another panda, one with a pink bow. Shed brought it over to and squatted next to Hope. “I hope you have room for another. After all a guy needs a girl to help keep him in line.” She winked at Hope and she giggled as she gave Cynthia a hug.
The guards nearly dragged the vendor away. By then the watching crowd had grown. They started to move away when the Judge closed and locked the booth.
“If the piloting gets to much for you Daniel I think you would make a good addition to the security force,” he said as he bent to helped Hope carry her new toys. He thanked them both and told them he would be in touch if he needed them.
Outside the gate, Cynthia stopped walking. She put an arm around him. “While we are here we should visit my parents. I also need to get more clothes.” Daniel hesitated. “It’s okay Daniel, I promise,” she assured him. She brought him to a series of lifts to get to the apartment levels.
They had made this trip a several times over the weeks. Each time Daniel felt the tension in his stomach triple. It wasn’t that it was a bad thing. Having dinner with Cynthia’s parents was like having dinner at home. They asked about their studies. They asked how everything was or if anything was new. It was just regular conversations. It was just that sometimes he felt they were asking questions to get answers to ones they weren’t asking. This was the first time they would be there since Cynthia started staying with him over night. He had really hoped to postpone this moment as long as possible.