As the morning light began to filter into the apartment. Tara gazed at a sleeping Willow. She looks so content, she thought. I will tell you everything, I promise.
When she had first awakened, Tara had found herself looking out of the patio window, into a clear orange sky with high orbit shuttle vapour streak's running across it.
She could feel an arm across her stomach and a warm heat on her neck. Willow's breathing. Willow had turned in the night to gently spoon her from behind, something she had never felt before. It was heavenly. But it didn't take long before the desire to see Willow's face took over. So Tara had carefully removed Willow's arm and turned away from the view outside to the one inside.
So pretty...Tara mused.....even with black hair it's still you. I feel it....the feelings of my dreams made real.
At 0730 Willow's morning alarm activated. Turning on the coffee machine and Holo TV which was set to the Science and Technology News Channel - STNC, "Latest News this morning on STNC...Quantum Computing is a step closer today as Cambridge University announced they were less than a year away from first run tests of their Deep Thought computer. The frontrunner to be the first to break the Qubit Barrier.
"Standing outside the Douglas Adams Building is Pete McKenzie. Pete. What's the story there in the UK?"
"Well Doug while the news of how close Cambridge is to first run is no surprise to followers of the project. The News that the UK government has declared this Government funded, but up until now civilian project, a military one, has sent shockwaves through-"
"Mute Holo," groaned Willow.
"Morning Will," Tara greeted the sleepy apartment owner.
"Morning....did you sleep ok?"
"Yeah fine thanks."
"So what's your plan for today?" Willow asked, smiling at her companions green eyes.
"Well that all depends on you Willow?" Tara smiled back.
"Don't you want to find your fantasy girl?" Willow enquired.
"I thought about that this morning, and I want to spend time with you, is that ok?"
"Voice Work schedule," Willow commanded.
"1 item - Meeting 1500 Spencer group estimated length of meeting 3 hours"
"Does NSFS have parks? You know tree's green grass all that stuff," Tara asked.
"We've got parks; but their not green anymore...the sulphur levels killed off all the plants and trees in the city years ago," Willow replied with a sad smile.
"I can show you a place my parent's took me as a kid. I think you might like it there," Willow beamed.
"Ok sure," Tara nodded.
Knowing she needed to make a few calls to make her plan happen Willow reluctantly sat up and started to get out of bed. "Coffee and Toast?"
"MMM yes please," Tara responded. As she too sat up and stretched her body, arms raised high in the air.
An hour later two girls, one blonde, one dark, walked out of the lobby of Newsom Heights side by side, and turned left in the direction of the local NSFS train station.
"So you're not saying anything?" Tara complained.
"Nope my lips are sealed."
"Not even what the three calls were for?" the blonde probed.
"Nope," Willow replied.
"Ok I'm in your hands do with me what you will."
"Well first here's a mask," Willow handed Tara a white paper mask.
"Do I have to?" Tara looked at Willow with cheerless eyes.
"Don't worry we won't need them where we're going," Willow grinned.
"Uuuu a clue," Tara beamed at Willow as she pulled her mask to her face.
The unfortunate consequence of using the masks was it made conversation difficult between the pair as they walked.
So they fell into the habit of Willow pointing out things of interest with hand gestures and signals.
The exotic pet store, that sold all manner of animals. Something Tara's wasn't entirely comfortable with.
The oxygen can seller with his wares hung around his neck, providing a vital service for many of NSFS's residents.
Just as Tara was about to pull down her mask, and ask Willow how much further they had to go. Willow put a gentle hand on her shoulder and steered her towards a food store.
Once inside both girls pulled off their masks and smiled at each other.
"Ok I take it we need food for this surprise," Tara inquired trying to gain more information.
"We need a picnic," Willow said merrily.
"Ok I'm buying, it's the least I can do," Tara excitedly replied. Picking up one of the hand baskets that sat beside her and starting down the first isle. "Aren't you coming?" she asked. When she saw Willow wasn't following her.
"I have a small job to do of my own," Willow said "I'll meet you out front in 10 minutes ok."
"Ok 10 minutes out front."
A short time later, having got a selection I things she hoped Willow would like and paying at the auto-till.
Tara put on her mask and cradling her picnic bag to her chest, walked back outside to wait for Willow.
Sure enough Tara spotted Willow coming out of a shop opposite.
"Hey you've got a lot of supplies there," Willow shouted over the noise of a passing tram.
"Earth to Tara ...come in Tara"
Quickly pulling down her mask, "Red hair, you've got red hair again," Tara beamed.
"What do you think? Better?" Willow ran her fingers though her natural look.
"Much better... much more...you."
"I think so too...now next stop that train station over there."
"Ohh and here," Willow pulled out a large canvas shopping bag from her coat pocket. "We can carry our picnic in this."
Entering the ticket area Willow instructed Tara to go and wait for her by the stairs to the platforms.
"Why?" Tara pouted.
"Because if you see the tickets it might spoil the surprise silly," Willow smiled.
"Ok good point."
It didn't take long for Willow to join Tara and they climbed the stairs together, making their way over to platform 5, boarding the inland bound train that was waiting here.
"Is it far?" Tara asked.
"Not far just across the bay," Willow replied indicating for Tara to take the window seat. "The bridge over the bay is one of the longest in the US," she added.
Once the train started Tara was surprised at how quick they were moving, and they soon left the city on a seemingly never-ending bridge high above the water.
Tara noted all sizes of craft on the water racing them across the bay below. Mostly pleasure craft she guessed.
"Spectacular isn't it," Willow commented leaning over Tara to see.
"Is that craft fishing?" Tara pointed to a craft stationary unlike most of its companions.
"I think so," Willow nodded "Some species have adapted pretty well to the changes in the water acidity."
As they left the bridge Willow picked up their bag and started to rise, just as the train entered a tunnel. "This is our stop"
"Um Willow we're underground," Tara looked at the redhead quizzically.
"Come on," Willow started to make her way along the corridor to the large double doors at one end of the carriage.
Tara not knowing what to make of a picnic in a mine shook her head and dutifully followed.
Disembarking out of the large doors, Tara followed her guide along an almost deserted platform which was clearly underground. The station sign announced they were in "Peacehaven".
Willow suddenly shouted "Bill, over here."
Tara noted an elderly gentleman in uniform turn and come over, shaking Willow's hand.
"My you've grown up," Bill smiled as he stood back taking Willow in.
"It's been 8 years Bill; I wasn't sure if you still worked here when I called," Willow replied pulling him into an embrace. "I didn't think you would remember me either."
"It did take me a moment, until you mentioned that time you helped me fix the computer ticketing system, how old were you then 15," Bill smiled.
"That's why I thought of you, did you manage to get them?" Willow asked.
"There you go two day passes all areas," Bill handed over two plastic cards.
"Thanks take care."
"Come on," Willow excitedly called as she started off towards an elevator.
As they entered the large metal grey box and seeing that they were its only occupants Tara whispered in Willows ear "Mmm Willow....I don't know how to break it to you. But I'm from Mars. We have Mines there. That's why it's called a mining colony."
Then the elevator started to move, but upward not downward.
"Sorry I take it back," Tara grinned placing her hand over her mouth.
Willow just took Tara's hand and waited. She knew what was coming.