Terra

Quinn

Evening in Washington DC. A grand red bricked house stands surrounded by high fences and walls, and beautiful gardens. Rose bushes line the lush lawns and several fountains stand in the centre of the fields of green. On one lawn a climbing frame, swing set and zip line give entertainment to two children of eleven years old, one boy, one girl. Their laughter is infectious as they run and play happily, climbing and jumping down from the very top without getting hurt even once.

A woman stands to one side watching. Over the two, smiling when they smile her way, and laughing the boy goes to reach for the zip line, but it moves away from him seemingly of its own accord.

“Zoe!” The boy shouts, and the girl just giggles. The girl just laughs though, and brushes her long sandy blonde hair out of her face with her hand. The boy vanishes then, reappears behind the girl, and pulls her hair. But rather than get angry the girl just laughs, as does the woman watching over them.

Suddenly though, as if an unseen force has ordered them into silence, the two children stop and look at each other. Their watcher takes a few steps towards them, looking confused. But then they hear it. An ominous whistle growing louder and louder. Suddenly a bright flash erupts through the sky, brighter than anything any of the three have ever known, and the ground shakes violently. A wave ripples through the ground, tearing up the play structures the two children had been playing on seconds ago, and then suddenly all is silent.

When it’s over, the children realise they aren’t alone. They realise they’ve been crouched down, and shielded by a man who was nowhere to be seen mere seconds ago, and that around them it a green dome, completely invisible to the human eye, but one they can see very clearly.

“Dad?” The boy asks.

“Come on we gotta go, no questions.” The man who has been shielding them tells them, and picks both of them up.

“Hold on.” He tells them, and begins to run at a speed that no living Earth being could ever reach. He has to stop however when they once again hear a whistle, once again followed by a flash, and a wave.

“Okay come on.” The man tells them, and picks up his running again.

“What’s happening?” The girl asks. The man doesn’t answer though, he just keeps running, and running. He never once puts the children down, not until he reaches a gate in a parking lot.

“Go on go down the stairs, all the way, go!” He urges, and without question the children do as their told, not even looking back to see if their father is coming down with them.

*

With a startle and a sharp breath, Zoe finds herself awake and out of the same dream that she has had over and over every single night since the first bomb fell.

The shelter around he is pitch dark, not a single shred of light. Next to her, her brother lays fast asleep, as does her father on the other mattress. It may be dark, and it may be the middle of the night, but it certainly isn’t silent, not to her.

And ever so faint taping sound can be heard outside, right the way up all of the steps outside. It’s a tapping like footprints walking about, like someone is there, trying to be silent.

Ever so quietly, Zoe gets up out of bed and slips her shoes on. Slowly she creeps out of the shelter, and up the stairs towards the gate.

“Who’s there?” She calls, unsure of what she is going to do if someone actually is there.

There is no answer though, yet she can still hear movement.

“I know somebody’s here.” She speaks, a little more quietly this time, and then she catches a glimpse of a figure hiding behind one of the long abandoned cars in the parking lot.

“I can see you.” She calls out slowly, and cautiously. “I know what you want. I just came up to tell you if you try to get it, we’ll kill you.”

Her threat is uncertain, and shaky as her nerves cut through her voice. A part of her wants to go over there, wants to stand up to whoever this is, but she can’t. She has said too much and given too much away already. What she needs to do now is go back inside, and hope that her father’s force-fielding can keep whoever this is away. So she turns, and makes to go back down the stairs. She only stops when she once again hears movement, growing louder and louder until she hears the crackle of her father’s shield.

She turns now, and comes face to face with a tall man of about 6’3”. Dressed all in black, his face covered by a gas mask.

“I don’t want to kill you.” The man finally speaks. He sounds young, maybe not too much older than she is herself. She realises then, this is the person who saved her back at the mall.

“Then what do you want?” Zoe asks as she turns fully to face the male human. “Why did you save me?”

“Enough killing has happened.” The guy responds. “It needs to stop.”

“It’ll never stop.” Zoe tells him. “Humans caused this, and it’s humans that still want to continue. Humans never learn.”

“Maybe not.” The guy shrugs, and places a hand against the force field that to him is invisible. He asks then. “Why can’t I come near you?”

“There’s a shield all around this area.” Zoe tells him, and mentally curses herself for revealing what could be critical information. What if this person has a hidden agenda? She’s just given away too much!

“I have to go.” She tells the man, and turns to go back down the steps.

“No wait!” The man calls out. Zoe turns back to him then, and takes a few steps towards him. For some reason, a feeling of warmth fills her, a calm, serene and free feeling. Without a word she looks over this person, unable to make out his features through the mask. But her senses cannot pick up anything bad about this person. She doesn’t know why, but she finds herself looking down at the gate and unlocking it with her eyes, then opens it and invites the man through, before she quickly shuts it again.

“You can take your mask off here.” She tells him.

“I can’t.” He shakes his head. “My clothes are covered in radiation I’d get really sick.”

Zoe nods, and goes to sit down on the top step, then gestures for her guest to do the same. When he joins her, Zoe feels a quick bolt of electricity surge through her, but it doesn’t hurt her this time, it feels completely different.

“What’s your name?” She asks the guy.

“Quinn.” He replies. “How about you?”

“Zoe.” She smiles. “How old are you?”

“19. 20 in 3 months time, not that birthdays matter anymore.” The man replies. “And you?”

“Nearly 17.” Zoe answers him. “So the mall is your home?”

“Yeah.” Quinn nods. “Yeah it has been for the past six years. I lost my parents when the first bomb fell.”

“You were thirteen?” Zoe asks. Quinn just nods, so Zoe continues. “My brother and I, we were eleven. It was a couple of weeks before our birthday... which is in three days.”

“Oh well, happy birthday for three days time.” Quinn replies with a genuine smile. The two fall silent then, as Zoe closes her eyes, and her fists. A sudden strong burst of wind whips up around them both now. When it stops, she tells him he can take his mask off, his clothes are radiation free.

“Seriously?” He asks, to which Zoe just nods.

With shaky hands, Quinn reaches up to start removing his mask, and eventually slips it off over his head. Zoe feels her heart race a little. The man she is looking at has a beautiful almost sun kissed skin tone, deep brown eyes and chocolate brown hair that’s a little bit ruffled from the mask.

“What?” He asks as she gazes at him. She blushes a little then, an lowers her head.

“Nothing.” She replies and looks back up at him. “It’s just, I’ve not seen brown eyes for six years.”

He looks at her in surprise, and asks. “Really?”

“Yeah.” Zoe nods. “My dad, my brother and I, our eyes are all this blue. For the last six years I’ve only seen my brother and my dad... and sometimes out Aunt when she manages to get a communication through from Sanvey. But-“

“Sanvey?” Quinn asks in complete confusion.

“It’s the planet my father is from.” Replies Zoe. “It’s not the largest planet in the universe. Dad says there are much much bigger, but it’s the hub for the United Universal Federation.”

Quinn says nothing, he just looks at her, even more confused than he was before.

“Okay look don’t freak out.” Zoe smiles. “If I could show you everything I would. But I can’t do, all I can say is...”

“No, no I’m not freaking out.” Quinn smiles now. “It’s just, I kinda always hoped we weren’t alone and we’re not and... I just think it’s great. If there’s more life out there then there’s hope here.”

Zoe smiles and looks down to where her hands are cradled in her lap. She can’t tell Quinn that there is no hope for the human race, she won’t be the one to crush that hope. What she knows she can do though is talk to her aunt, and try to put across that not all humans are bad.

“You’re thinking.” Quinn observes. “Humans aren’t really liked are they?”

“Not particularly” Zoe admits. “I mean, your species did kill their own planet. But hey, I’m half Human and they’ve never had a problem with me so-“

“You’re half human?”

“Yeah.” Zoe beams, her smile never fading. “My mom was from Miami. She died during childbirth though. We never met her.”

“You say that with a smile?” Quinn asks, and lets his hands fall to his sides.

“Well, Yeah, because I know she loved us, and I know she wouldn’t ever want us to be sad. We have enough to be sad about. She wouldn’t want us to be sad talking about her.” Zoe explains, which gives Quinn some food for thought. His own parents died when the first bomb fell, and he’d never been the same since. Maybe he was remembering them in the wrong way. Zoe has a point. His parents certainly wouldn’t want him to be sad remembering them.

Suddenly Zoe feels contact on her leg and looks down. Ever so gently Quinn traces his thumb up and down the edge of her thigh, just gently, but quickly moves his hand away when she looks.

Both their hearts pick up in pace, beating heavily like drums in their chests. Silently, Zoe lets her gloves hands fall, and allows Quinn to take one of them, but only for a split second. Ever so quickly she snatches her hand away, and and sits on them firmly.

“I’m sorry I, uh, oh god.” She stumbles. Quinn tried to reassure her that it’s okay, but of course he doesn’t understand. How could he?

“No, no it’s not, it’s not that I don’t wanna hold your hand it’s just that-“ Zoe trails off. Should she tell him? Should she trust him?

“I can’t take the gloves off is all.” Zoe tells him. “It’s not you, it’s just a personal thing I have going on. I can’t take them off.”

“It’s okay.” Quinn smiles gently. “I won’t make you.”

With a rather unsteady nod, Zoe reaches out and takes Quinn’s hand. Their fingers lace together, and the butterflies in both their stomachs seem to dance in time.

With a flash in her eyes and a sharp intake of breath, she’s sees something, something she considers to be monumental. She sees her and Quinn holding hands, no gloves involved, and she sees her father welcome Quinn with open arms. On closer look, there is a ring on her finger. This was not a chance encounter, this was always meant to happen.

“What?” Quinn asks, unable to see what Zoe sees. She can’t answer him though, she just smiles, and rests her head on his shoulder.

“I’ll explain it to you once I know you a little better.” She tells him with joy in her voice.

“Well, I can be here until sunrise.” Quinn offers.

“I’d like that.” Zoe beams ecstatically. And so they sit there together, all night. Just talking. She tells him her stories. He tells her his. She learns that his full name is Quinn Anderson, his birthday is the 6th of March, he’s from Washington DC, and hat once upon a time he had two little sisters and a little brother, but now only his brother is alive, and is dying of radiation sickness.

She tells him about her family, about her father, where he’s from, that he was the ambassador to Earth from the United Universal Federation, that he was often back and forth between planets and galaxies when they were little. By the end of the night, she also disclosed that the whirlwind that rid his clothes of radiation was caused by her. Their conversation actually finishes with the full disclosure of her lack of control over her electrokinesis.

“Can it be called electrokinesis if you can’t control it?” He asks. But daylight is breaking, and Zoe doesn’t answer his question.

“I’d better go back inside.” Zoe announces. Inside she can feel her brother beginning to wake. She needs to go back inside, now.

“Will I see you again?” Quinn asks her.

Rather than give him a definitive answer, a sweep of bravery and courage fills Zoe’s very core, and she leans over to place a soft kiss on Quinn’s lips, before drawing back and smiling a little.

“I’ll consider that a yes.” Whispers Quinn. “Tomorrow night?”

All Zoe can do is nod. Both of them get up then, and Quinn slips his gas mask back on.

“Goodnight.” Quinn speaks with a smile, his voice now muffled by the mask.

“See you in about 14 hours.” Zoe replies, and watches as he leaves.

Ever so quietly she once again shuts the gate behind her, and creeps back down the stairs to find her brother and father are still asleep. So she quickly and quietly heads straight to bed, pulling her covers up over her body, and closes her eyes, completely unaware of the smile on Darrix’s face.