December 5, 2011
By BeautifulStream PLATINUM, Richmond, Virginia
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BeautifulStream PLATINUM, Richmond, Virginia
29 articles 0 photos 10 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Today I don't need a replacement. I'll tell them what the smile on my face meant."- Peter Gabriel, Solsbury Hill

Author's note: This story is a typical boy-meets-girl plot, with a few interplanetary twists along the way.

The author's comments:
The address is NOT mine, in case you're wondering. ;)

She stood on the bridge of the StarCraft, watching the millions of lights on the ground become increasingly bigger and brighter. A shiver traveled through her body, and she spread her arms out and stretched. This was the place to go. She could feel it.

Before her eyes, the lights became cities, laid out before her in the same state. She felt delight- there were so many of them! She hadn’t guessed that this new world would be so populated.

“Lacerta.” She turned and met the indigo eyes of Grus. His voice was nervous as he told her, “Do not get so excited. You are not here for fun. Your mission is a matter of life and death to us.”

“I know,” she insisted, drawing towards him and placing one hand on his shoulder. “Don’t worry. I will not let the mission stray from my mind.”

“Can you feel it yet?” Grus asked, patting down his inky black hair.

A laugh burbled from her lips. “Oh, of course. It is very strong.”

“What feelings do you have for Sextans now?” Grus’s voice was low, and his eyes darted about as if he was searching for something.

She sighed. “Please don’t remind me,” she informed him gently. “We’ll see what’s going on once I get to Earth.”

“All right.” Grus turned. “Let’s get you ready.”

She followed Grus as he made his way through the StarCraft to the TouchDown chamber. She had never visited the TouchDown chamber. To her surprise, there was only a tube stretching from the floor to the ceiling. The rest of the room was white and hard to look at. She squinted and asked, “How does this work?”

“Like this.” Grus clicked his fingers softly, and the tube began rising. “Get under it,” he told her.

She stepped beneath the tube, and it slid back over her. For a moment she panicked, but then Grus’s voice came into her ears, sounding crackly and distant. “I will begin the QuickWash. Do not be afraid. You got that?”

She nodded. Grus began chanting in a low voice. “The StarWoman in the capsule is Lacerta Drovadoria. Take this identity. Make her a Human.”

She felt the changes begin. The first thing to happen was a change in height- she lost quite a few inches. Then her pale white skin turned peachy, and her scarlet red lips dulled into rose. She started when she began filling out; a plump body quickly replaced her harsh thinness. Her long hair, done up in style that was suitable for Goddesses, whipped out of its fashion and hung loose around her torso. It began to sink into her head, stopping when it was shoulder-length.

She blinked, and her vibrant green eyes dulled to a boring hazel. Glass lenses appeared, sitting on top of her nose. Lastly, the Special part of her vanished. She had never seen a Human before, but if this was what they looked like, she felt sorry for them.

Grus’s voice came again. “Become Lacey Darwin. Become a woman who has always lived in the town for as long as anyone remembers. Clear their minds, replace the memories of nothing with memories of something.”

She tried to see Grus through the glass, but the glass was clouded by a white fog.

Grus whispered the last word. He held it out for as long as his breath lasted, and the pitch grew from whisper to wail. “TouchDown!”

She felt the tube be sucked down into the air below at breakneck speed, and then she remembered nothing else.

And this is how Lacey Darwin came to live at 2233 Windsong Lane, in Alexandria, Virginia.

The author's comments:
I set this story in my hometown. I love this city.

Nicholas Slade sat on the front steps of his house, watching the clouds pass by overhead. He pointed upwards and said, “Doesn’t that one look like a raptor? A bird of prey?”

“I know what a raptor is, thank you,” responded Jonathan. He peered at the sky. “I guess. But if you look close enough, I’m sure you’ll find that it’s really a cicada.”

“A cicada?” The cloud looked nothing like a cicada to Nick. He couldn’t begin to guess how anyone would see a cicada in that. But since it was Jonathan, he said, “If I squint, I see it.”

“Ha. You’re just saying that to make me feel good.”

“Well, maybe I am.” Nick took a quick glance downward at his digital watch. It was almost time for Jonathan to leave. He was going to some performance by the Richmond Symphony with his new girlfriend, Colbie, who had gotten him tickets. Better make the best of their time while it lasted.

“See that car over there? That’s the kind of car I’d like to own.” Nick pointed out a white Prius across the street. “I always wanted to buy a Prius, but I never got the money.”

Jonathan lowered his gaze from the sky. “Oh, that? You don’t need a Prius. Think of something smaller, sleeker, faster…”

“You have a Prius. I don’t think I’ve ever heard you complain about it.”

“Oh, things change. Gotta keep up with the times. The Prius is so 2008.”

“And now it’s 2010. Not a very big change there.”


Nick kept on gazing happily across the street. If he had a Prius, he’d buy a white one and paint it lime green. Imagine that coming through town- a looker for sure.

A car drove up to the side of the road. The driver’s window rolled down, and a familiar voice shouted, “Hey, Jonathan.” Nick didn’t have to look to know that Jonathan was grinning from ear to ear. This car was Colbie’s Hated Banana Beetle.

“Coming!” Jonathan shouted, and turned his face to Nick. Nick had been right- he was smiling insanely. Nick wondered if the smile was going to just drop off his face and fall at Nick’s feet. The mental image made him let out a laugh. Jonathan laughed too, but the sound was shaky.

“See you later, Nick.”

“You too.” With that Jonathan was gone, escaped into Colbie’s car. The Hated Banana Beetle turned the corner and sped out of sight.

Nick drew his fingers through his longish, wavy blond hair and sighed deeply. He would never admit it, but he hated it when Jonathan left. Lately the two friends hadn’t been seeing each other much, as Colbie had been taking up all of Jonathan’s time. It was hard to find spare moments when they could just relax and watch the clouds, like today.

Of course Nick was happy that Jonathan had gotten a new girlfriend, but he couldn’t quite bring himself to like her. The last time Jonathan had a girlfriend was when Nick was just starting to know him. The two had been in their final stages of breakup when Nick had stepped in. After the inevitable, Jonathan had spent all his time with Nick.

Maybe someday Nick would get a girlfriend of his own. However, he was sure his dating days were over. Nothing could make him interested in a girl. It was an odd quality of Nick’s- ever since he was twenty years old, out of his teens, dating and girls were suddenly equally boring.

But Nick knew there was someone out there, someone who was completely his and his alone. He knew it because of the presence that manifested every night before Nick drifted off into sleep- a sharp tugging at his chest. Something was calling him, and one day Nick knew he would find out what it was.

Lacey Darwin strolled in through the double doors of the first floor of the office building. She waved to woman sitting alone at the desk at the ground floor. “Hello, Dorothy.”

Dorothy flashed a rare smile, the expression she reserved for only Lacey. “Hello, Lacey.”

“I’m going up. Any message you’d like me to take to the guys up there?” Dorothy was known for her messages- things she told Lacey to pass on to a certain person or group of people up on the second floor. Of course she could just use her telephone to call them upstairs, but when Lacey had suggested this she had groaned and said, “The point is to not use the phone.”

Usually Dorothy’s messages were simple things like, “Tell everyone to have a good day.” This day’s was no exception. “Tell Miranda that I want that shirt she wore.”

“Why didn’t you tell her when she came in this morning?”

“Cause I wanted you to pass on the message! She wouldn’t have taken me seriously if I told her myself.”

“Communicate!” Lacey cried, spreading her arms out. “I can’t always pass on your messages!”

“Yes, you can. Go upstairs and tell her.”

Lacey rolled her eyes and stepped into the elevator. She punched in her floor number and rode it up. The elevator binged and the doors slid open. Lacey stepped out.

“Hi!” squealed Lacey’s large group of friends. They dissolved into a cacophony of words that Lacey’s brain couldn’t pick apart. Maybe “friends” was an overstatement- Lacey didn’t quite enjoy their company. She couldn’t comprehend why everyone at the office seemed to love her.

“Hey, Miranda,” was Lacey’s greeting. “Dorothy says she wants your shirt. Where did you get it?”

Miranda’s shirt was thinly striped with red and white. It reminded Lacey of that delicious candy called peppermint. Miranda tossed her hair and answered, “It was on sale at Penney’s. I bet you could get one anywhere.”

“Yeah, probably.” Lacey looked down at her own shirt. It was white cashmere with a plunging neckline. She knew that it would get hot by the end of the day, but she particularly liked the shirt.

Lacey went over to her own cubicle. She sat down and stared at her day’s work. Time to plunge in! Lacey loved working in an office. She felt that her work really benefited others.

As Lacey sorted her work, she became aware of someone staring at her. She knew better than to snap her head up and demand who was eyeing her. Instead she finished the piece of work she was buried in at the moment, and then looked up. Lacey gave a little jerk, as if she had just then noticed the staring person, and said, “Miranda! What can I do for you?”

Miranda and Dorothy were Lacey’s two best friends. Lacey always hung out with them separately- she was friends with both of them, but they weren’t friends with each other. Lacey didn’t mind talking to Miranda, because she wasn’t crazily obsessed with Lacey like all the others at the office. Sometimes Lacey wondered what sort of memories Grus had given the coworkers.

“Did you have a good weekend?” Miranda asked. “That’s all I want to know.”

Lacey laughed. “Really? I’m sure you’ll get all caught up in my story, start interrupting and prolong me in talking, and then when I finally get finished you’ll begin to tell me all about your weekend and waste my time.”

Miranda gave her a strange look, as if she were trying to figure out what Lacey had said. Lacey reprimanded herself. It was uncool to talk that way. Say something like that, and people act like you’re speaking StarLanguage. Humans sometimes had trouble understanding their own language.

“I meant, telling you will just waste my time,” Lacey informed Miranda. Miranda appeared disappointed. Lacey sighed and squeezed her eyes shut. “I would love to tell you about my weekend!” she exclaimed. It could be so hard to decide what others wanted to hear.

Miranda gave her a glad expression mingled with confusion. “I won’t interrupt you.”

So Miranda had understood in the end. Lacey went into as much detail as was acceptable to say. Then she turned back to her work.

“Bye, Dorothy,” Lacey called.

“Take care,” Dorothy called back. She gave Lacey a wave.

Lacey wore a smile all the way out the door. Then it crumbled on her face. Only Dorothy needed to see that smile, just like Dorothy reserved her smile for Lacey.

Lacey drove home, complaining to herself about the slow speed of the car. She didn’t like transportation on Earth. It was uncomfortable with a roof above her head everywhere she went.

Lacey stepped out of the car and trod up the winding walk to her fancy house. She made a lot of money at her job, enough to pay for the lazy accommodations.

Inside, Lacey took off her cashmere shirt. Underneath was a light pink tank top. She pulled off her skirt and slipped her legs into cozy sweatpants that she kept by the door. Then Lacey danced towards her room.

Lacey’s bedroom was quite different from the rest of her house. It was bare of everything except for a thin white bed and a bedside table with a glass bowl on top. The walls were painted white, Lacey’s favorite color. She walked over to the bed and plopped down on it. Then Lacey reached into the bowl.

Shining in Lacey’s hand when she pulled it out was a small wedge shape of plastic. A blue dot glowed on it, telling Lacey it was ready for insertion. She smiled and set it aside. Then Lacey clicked her fingers and drew her hand upwards.

A crackly screen appeared in front of her eyes, reflecting Lacey’s face. She checked to make sure the time and date were right, and then said, “Lacerta Drovadoria, alias Lacey Darwin. Today I went to work after the weekend…”

Lacey talked about her day. She made sure she didn’t leave out any detail, for anything could prove useful to the StarPeople. She described her day in the life of a Human in monotone, as she had said the same words many times before. Lacey ended her log with, “The Destined has not yet been found.” She clicked her fingers again and made a throwing motion, and the screen minimized and whooshed out of existence. It was on its way to the StarCraft.

Lacey took off her glasses, and the room around her went fuzzy at the edges. She plucked up the wedge of plastic and felt instinctively for the notch in her head to insert it. It was the only thing the QuickWash hadn’t been able to erase, because if the notch were gone Lacey would die. She inserted the plastic into the top of her head and closed her eyes as the music began.

The SongChip was designed to hook up with certain sections of Lacey’s brain, providing music that only she could hear. Once the song was over, the dot on the plastic would glow red until it was recharged and the song could be played again.

Lacey fell backwards and lay on her bed, the music welling up inside her soul. A distinct throbbing began in her breast, the feeling she felt at all the times of the day but was more noticeable at night. The pull was coming from the Destined, she knew. Only when the Destined was found could she go home.

The only problem was; Lacey had no idea where the Destined could possibly be found.

The author's comments:
U2 is my favorite band, and Streets is one of their best songs. I was obsessed with The Joshua Tree during the writing of this.

Nick opened his eyes and sighed. He had been having a good dream. Now it had fled, but Nick remembered fragments. It had been a mishmash of the old days. Nick knew that much because Colbie hadn’t been there, but Jonathan had. And Jonathan hardly went anywhere without Colbie.

Nick slid out of bed and stretched. He currently was unemployed, so he had the whole day to do nothing. Hopefully Jonathan wouldn’t have any plans- Nick never had any idea what to do alone.

Nick’s feet stepped onto the soft rug. He opened the window and closed his eyes, breathing in city air. Today Nick needed to go somewhere that wasn’t as populated. Belle Isle seemed like the perfect place to visit. He’d call Jonathan and ask if he could come, and they’d go riding in Nick’s car.

After taking a shower and getting dressed, Nick ended up downstairs at his kitchen table. He glanced at the time. Jonathan wouldn’t be up yet. He knew it would be a long time before it was appropriate to call his friend. Nick drank coffee and chose what to do before he called Jonathan and suggested an afternoon at Belle Isle.

Nick was reading on the sofa downstairs when the phone rang. He jumped up and snatched the phone out of its cradle.


“Hey.” It was Jonathan’s voice.

“Oh, hey! What’s going on?”

“I wanted to tell you I’ve got plans with Colbie today, just in case you wanted to do something. I don’t know if you already planned anything. I know you like to.”

Nick swallowed back his disappointment. “Actually, I did make plans. I wanted to go to Belle Isle today.”

“Hey, maybe we can go another time. Colbie’s plans can’t be put off.”

“Oh. Okay.” Nick said goodbye and Jonathan hung up.

Nick turned, wanting to hit something. He couldn’t believe it. Colbie was using up all of Jonathan’s time! Soon there would be no room for Nick anymore.

Nick tried to console himself by making plans to go to Belle Isle alone. He didn’t have to go with Jonathan. Hadn’t they used to go all the time? Reassured by his thoughts, Nick swung the front door open and breezed out.

Nick’s truck sat in the black road. Nick didn’t like to look at it. The truck was a rusty, clunky old thing that Nick was constantly trying to get rid of. He was saving his money for a replacement, but didn’t have enough yet. Nick had estimated how long it would take to gain enough money for a Prius. He hoped the truck could hold out till then.

Nick swung the door open, and paint came off in his hand. Nick had spray-painted the truck blue, but the paint was weathering and the truck was reverting back to its previous shade- boring old gray. Nick’s favorite color was green. He plopped down in the driver’s seat, the leather full of holes, and thought longingly of the can of lime green paint he had in his closet, ready to cover the future Prius.

The key was jammed into the ignition, and Nick smiled as the music started up. At least the radio worked. He backed up into the street, and then sped out of the driveway.

The truck was only good for lazy rides through the city of Richmond. Nick calculated how long it would take to get to Belle Isle. He was good at math, and so he didn’t doubt his answer that it would take a very long time- long enough for at least four songs to play on the radio, and for a full commercial break.

Belle Isle wasn’t that far away, but Nick’s truck was slow. For once Nick was happy for a slow drive. He was hoping for some good music. The radio station was called Mix 103.7, and it played music from the eighties, nineties, and the current era. Nick groaned at the irony of the song that was currently playing- “Fast Car.”

You gotta fast car

I wanna ticket to anywhere

Maybe we make a deal

Maybe together we can get somewhere

Nick liked music. He knew the words to almost all the songs on this station by now. Sometimes he would sing along, and the music really affected him. Most of Nick’s friends didn’t understand how the music was so moving. Only one other person did get it- Jonathan. Nick wondered what song was playing in the Hated Banana Beetle at that moment. He envisioned Colbie and Jonathan driving down the street in that car, and grew resentful.

When the song ended, Nick became aware of a new sound- blee dee dee! Blee dee dee! Nick took one hand off the steering wheel to fish around in one of compartments in his truck. He ended up with his Palm Pre cell phone. Nick jammed it against his ear-“Hello?”- but the caller had hung up.

Nick parked at Belle Isle and stepped out of the truck into the summer sun. The warm breeze had called others to come out and visit Belle Isle- there were many different cars strewn about the scenery. Nick strolled down the sidewalk, heading towards the bridge. The wind blew the smell of the river into his nose. Nick inhaled deeply and shut his eyes for a moment. Virginia was pleasant in the summer.

Nick stepped onto the bridge across the river, which would bring him to Belle Isle on the other side. He started walking, humming under his breath. Unconsciously, Nick’s feet snapped into a beat, the beat of the song that had been playing on the radio before he got out of the truck. Nick stared down at the river as he walked, and noted that the rocks were filled with people. Just great- he would have to take the long walk before he chose a place to sit on the rocks.

Nick stepped off the bridge onto the island and chose the opposite path from the main path. As he turned, the breeze blew into his face, stirring up his honey locks of hair. Nick padded into the trees to the side of the island. He was on a road less traveled.

The walk around the island was long and tiring, but it made Nick feel good. These were the sort of summer days he enjoyed- days when there was nothing better to do then visit Belle Isle and stroll through the trees and breathe in the clean, warm scent of the air. Nick liked the air on Belle Isle better than other places, specifically outside his home in Richmond City.

Nick made a circle around the isle, and then turned back to find out if anyone had dispersed from the rocks. Miraculously, Nick’s favorite rock spot was clear. Nick made his way out onto the rocks jutting out from the isle and leading into the waters of the river. He sat down, pulled his legs up to his chest, and wrapped his arms around them.

Closing his eyes, Nick inhaled the crisp air blowing off the river. The scent brought a sense of the ocean. It was a mighty long way to the ocean, but Nick knew that he could get there if he just kept going downriver. He wondered if the term “go with the flow” had originated from the river’s current. As Nick dug his toe into the leather of his sandals, he felt content at last.

The contentment lasted for as long as Nick had his eyes closed. When he opened them, a flash of unmistakable hair caught his eye. He opened his eyes wider and stared. Was that really who Nick thought it was? Surely it couldn’t be Colbie?

But there was no mistaking Colbie’s bleached blond hair, streaked with green and blue Kool-Aide. Colbie had learned somewhere how to streak hair with Kool-Aide, and now wore her hair like that all the time. Standing next to her on the rocks was Jonathan, his arm out to restrain her from going farther. “Be careful, it’s slippery in that part,” Nick heard Jonathan say.

“Oh, I’m always careful.” Colbie rolled her eyes, and then smiled.

Nick was on his feet immediately. He threaded through some of the others on the rocks, and reached Jonathan and Colbie quickly. “Hey, I thought you said you weren’t going to Belle Isle,” Nick greeted Jonathan.

Jonathan looked surprised. “Nick? I knew you’d be here. Colbie didn’t tell me where she was taking me. I called you as soon as we got here. Didn’t you have your cell phone?”

Nick suddenly remembered the call on his Palm Pre, the call he hadn’t gotten to answer. He groaned inwardly. “I had the radio on. It was hard to hear the ringtone.”

“Oh, that’s all right,” said Colbie. She looked delighted. “You can join us! We’ve gone around the island already. We can walk back to the car together.”

Nick would have objected, as he hadn’t gotten nearly enough time to be alone on the rocks, but Colbie was Jonathan’s girlfriend, and Nick wanted to talk to Jonathan. So he agreed, and the threesome left the rocks.

Along the way back to the other side of the bridge, Colbie kept talking really loudly in Jonathan’s ear, leaving no time for Nick to get a word in. It seemed to him as if she purposefully cut him off when he began to speak. This really irked him, and Nick was quietly seething by the time they reached the other end of the bridge.

“See you whenever I can, Nick,” was Jonathan’s parting call. He waved. Nick waved back, and turned around. Colbie called, “Bye, Nick! Nice meeting up with you!”

Nick did not answer. He was in his truck. “Come on, start, will you?” he muttered to the truck. It finally rumbled to life, and Nick got away from Belle Isle as soon as he could. It was time for a drive- a nice, long, interstate drive.

Nick was an unemotional sort of person, but sometimes the situation of Colbie and Jonathan would just make itself apparent, and he would feel hurt and angry with them. When the feelings really got to him, Nick would take a drive on the interstate out of Richmond. He had discovered that the only good way to release his emotions was to drive them off.

As Nick maneuvered the truck towards the interstate, a familiar musical introduction to a song began- a dancing guitar backed up by a throbbing bass and gentle organ tones. Nick was amazed- it couldn’t possibly be that song. He turned onto the interstate a minute later and began driving towards Henrico County, and then the words began.

I wanna run

I want to hide

I wanna tear down the walls

That hold me inside

I want to reach out

And touch the flame

Where the streets have no name

The song was Nick’s favorite by U2. It was called “Where The Streets Have No Name.” He felt the music moving him to sing. This song was so powerful to Nick, so affecting, and to have it play at just this moment… It was wonderful. Nick joined in on the chorus.

Nick’s voice was smooth, velvety, and pleasantly deep. He considered himself a good singer. However, Nick was the only person who had ever heard his singing voice. It wasn’t nerve-racking to sing in public, but it was embarrassing.

He sang until the song was over, and then slowly switched the radio off. It wouldn’t get any better than that.

The lack of noise left Nick alone to his thoughts. Maybe someday he’d take to the interstate and fly to the place where the streets have no name. Nick wanted to drive forever. He would follow the setting sun and keep driving, driving, driving…

Well, not in this piece of junk.

The road had to end eventually, and Nick came to Henrico County. As he always did, Nick turned around and drove back on the other side of the street. He never went any farther than the mouth of the interstate on his drives. Nick was reluctant to go into unexplored territory, into the sea.

At night, Nick crashed down onto his bed with a sigh. He slid his eyes shut and tried to empty his mind. As Nick began to succeed, the familiar night sensation began again.

A tugging feeling came, a distinct pulling at Nick’s chest. Something somewhere was calling to Nick, trying to draw him to it. As always, Nick was too far into sleep to wake, but too far out to not pay attention. For the first time, as Nick hovered on the border of dreams and wakefulness, he realized how lonely he was.

Was there really somebody out there for Nick? Was he really that alone? Could the feeling be real?

Then Nick sunk into a deep slumber, and he forgot everything.

The author's comments:
Fornax and Lacerta's conversation is meant to be in different fonts, however, this site doesn't let me do that.

Lacey sat in her chair in the cubicle, typing out an e-mail. She tossed her short, silky soft black hair and tried to decide what words she should use. It was always hard to choose what to say, especially since English was not Lacey’s first language.

Lacey typed the letter G.

All the words on the e-mail disappeared.

At first Lacey thought she must have hit the wrong button or something, and scolded herself for making a mistake like that. But then new words came up.


Lacey was pretty sure she hadn’t just typed that.


Oh, nooo…


Lacey set her fingers down on the keys.

Is this who I think it is?


Lacey gulped. This was just about her worst fear.

How much do you know now?


What is wrong with you? Why have you contacted me?


What do you mean, out here? Where is Sextans?


I thought you knew about the Destined.


No. Go away. I don’t care if you are a StarGod. You’re evil. You know I’ll put this on my video log, and all the StarPeople will know what you did.


I refuse! Leave me now! I was working, Fornax.


Lacey typed an extremely rude word.


The stare of an unknown person slid across Lacey’s body. Forgetting that no one knew about her ability to feel stares, Lacey snapped her head up. “What?!”

Miranda jerked back. “I… what are you doing?”

“Typing…” Lacey glanced back at her computer screen.

The words of the e-mail were up.

“An e-mail,” Lacey finished.

All through the rest of the day, horrible thoughts turned in Lacey’s mind. Why had Fornax contacted her? What did he know about Sextans, and what was going on with him? What had he meant about Lacey’s time running out? Was there really a deadline?

When Lacey had TouchedDown on Earth, she had been thinking she would live on the planet for as long as it took to find the Destined. Grus hadn’t given her a deadline. He hadn’t said anything about time running out. Lacey wasn’t sure if she had really overstayed her welcome on Earth or if Fornax was cruelly lying, but she hoped the possible deadline hadn’t come up. Would she be forced to leave and never find love? Wouldn’t that mean the StarPeople would lose their home?

After work, Lacey stepped out of the elevator. “Bye, Dorothy.”

“Are you okay?” Dorothy asked, glancing up.

“Why do you ask that?”

“Something in your voice. You don’t sound right.”

Lacey pushed her glasses up on her nose. “Just tired is all.”

“You sure?”

“Look, I’ve got to get home.”

“Is there any need for urgency?”

Lacey closed her eyes. “There could be.”

“Okay. Bye, Lacey. Don’t work too hard.”

Lacey drove home in a rush. She needed to make her video log as soon as she could. Wait till the StarPeople heard what had happened!

At home, Lacey clicked her fingers and drew up the screen. She said, “Lacerta Drovadoria, alias Lacey Darwin. Today I went to work. I typed an e-mail. God Fornax contacted me. He said there is a deadline for my time on Earth. Please let me know if this is true. The Destined has not been found.”

Lacey minimized the screen and threw it out to the StarCraft. The average time it took for something to get from the StarCraft to Earth was two hours and thirty seconds. Lacey could wait. She popped a new SongChip into her head. This one had a rousing beat to it.

After two hours and thirty seconds, Lacey opened her window. Two more seconds passed, and then a MessageChip came flying in. It landed with a plink in the bowl.

Lacey inserted the chip into her head. It glowed blue and felt warm to the touch. A voice began speaking.

“Tick tock tick tock tick tock…”

This wasn’t the voice of Grus, the commander of the StarCraft. This was Fornax’s voice, and he was repeating those same, ugly words to Lacey.

Lacey dug the chip out of her head, and winced with the pain. Had Fornax taken control of the StarCraft? This couldn’t be happening! How had Lacey not known it?

Lacey lay back on her bed. She flicked the MessageChip to her left and curled up on the other side. If the StarCraft had been taken over, then surely she must be back with her people. Surely she didn’t need to stay on Earth now, when the battle was already so far lost.

However, the Destined was on Earth. Lacey could feel that sure enough. To be a true Goddess, she must have a mate. And as her Destined mate was here, Lacey knew she had to stay. She could only help fight when she had the second half to her power.

But how long would it take to find it?

The author's comments:
Mix 103.7 is now called 103.7 The River, and they play alternative music.

Nick closed the Internet Explorer on his old computer. He had just updated his Facebook page, and was now heading to Jonathan’s house. Jonathan had told him on
Facebook that he was welcome to come over. Nick hoped Colbie wouldn’t be welcome too.

Nick grumbled at his slow truck as he drove over to Jonathan’s house. The radio was starting to crackle with static. “Bad reception too?” Nick said aloud, adding it to his growing-every-day list of problems with the truck. At least it was an overplayed, sort of annoying song.

Lost and insecure

You found me, you found me

Lying on the floor

Surrounded, surrounded

Nick combed his fingers through his hair and checked for the Hated Banana Beetle in the street. There was no sign, so Nick parked in the place it would go.


“Hey.” No other greeting was needed. Nick inconspicuously peered behind Jonathan’s back, checking for Colbie. Only when he had determined that she was not in the house did Nick come inside.

“I hate my truck,” Nick groaned as he sat down on the couch.

Jonathan laughed. “Yeah, and big news- the sky is blue!”


Jonathan laughed again.

“Although sometimes during winter I do forget the sky is blue.”

Jonathan walked over to his refrigerator. “Root beer is the king of all beers. Want some?”

“Yeah. No, it’s not.”

“Okay, king of all sodas. But still. Did you get offline after I said you could come over?”

“Yeah, why?”

“Colbie invited herself over just after. I didn’t think you’d mind.”

Nick did mind a lot, but he wouldn’t tell Jonathan. “It’s cool.”

“Good. I joined this group on Facebook called Can This Pickle Get More Fans Than Nickelback?”

“I hope they succeed. Nickelback is so annoying.”

“Actually, they already did succeed. I just felt like joining because pickles rock.”


Jonathan cracked up again. Nick smiled. It was pretty easy to think of funny puns- it created a lot of punny fun.

Nick drank his root beer and did some math in his head. If Colbie had invited herself right after Nick got offline, she should be arriving pretty soon, thinking of how much faster her Hated Banana Beetle was. Nick kept one ear on the conversation and one on the door- or rather, outside the door for the sound of Colbie’s car parking.

Right when Jonathan was talking about other Facebook groups he had joined did Nick hear the Hated Banana Beetle parking in the street. He counted down. Three, two…

The doorbell rang. Jonathan’s eyes lit up, and that crazy smile blew up on his face. “He-llo, Colbie,” he sang, getting up out of the chair he was in. Nick stared down into the glass, trying to see his hand on the bottom of it through the root beer.

The door opened, and Nick heard Colbie’s familiar chirpy voice. “Hi, Jonathan! How’s it going?”

“Great. I like your new hair.”

“Yeah, pink is cute.” Nick kept his eyes trained below him as he took another sip of root beer, and Colbie and Jonathan fell silent. Well, nearly silent- Nick heard the telltale sounds of kissing, and he wondered if Jonathan had forgotten he was there. Wait- of course he had forgotten. Wasn’t that what always happened?

Colbie came to sit down in the chair facing the couch- Jonathan’s chair- and noticed Nick, who was still looking down. “Hello, Nick,” she said politely. “How’s it shaking?”

Nick’s punny mind said shakin’ bacon, and he tried not to say, “I’m baking.” Though it was hot in the house… “I’m fine.”

“Do you want root beer?” Jonathan called from the kitchen area.

“Me? Sure! Is that your only soda?”

“I have a one liter bottle of root beer and a few cans of Sprite.”

“I’ll take a Sprite can.”

Colbie’s hair was streaked with pink, presumably from red Kool-Aide. Nick only looked up once to find that Colbie wasn’t looking at him anymore. He took in a long glance, and then resumed staring downward.

“Here’s your drink,” Jonathan said, handing it to his girlfriend. Colbie snapped the pop-top and took the first sip. Then she said, “Do you want a sip?”

“Sure, Colbie.” Nick didn’t like the way Jonathan’s voice got sweet and sugary with Colbie. It sounded kind of sick to him.

Jonathan sipped and smiled. He wouldn’t take that grin off until Colbie was gone. “It’s nice.”

Colbie crossed her legs. She patted her skinny jeans. From Nick’s glance, he had also found that Colbie was wearing an orange tank top. She had all the looks of a supermodel, but she chose to live in Virginia and be Jonathan’s girlfriend. Why couldn’t she just go away?

Jonathan sat down on the floor facing Colbie. Colbie’s eyes were on Jonathan. It had happened- Nick was, once again, invisible. He peered into his glass, and found that now he could see his hand through it- the root beer was gone. Nick listened to Jonathan and Colbie’s conversation.

“Do you think I should change my hair? Like, cut it shorter? Should I get side bangs?”

“No, don’t change it. I like your long hair. Are those new earrings?”

Colbie’s hand went to her earlobe. “No, these are from Santa Fe. I went, like, a year ago?” The earrings were little orange and turquoise turtles.

“Well, I like them.”

Colbie’s bird-like voice was drilling into Nick’s head. He stood up and walked to the other side of the room. No one looked up.

Nick set the empty glass in the sink and sat down at the kitchen table. Jonathan and Colbie paid no attention.

Nick sat there for a moment, watching Jonathan and Colbie, and then he walked back past the couch and touched the handle of the side door. And still Colbie and Jonathan did nothing.

Nick opened the door and slid out. He was about to close the door softly, but suddenly something seemed to take over his mind and he slammed it as hard as he could. Anything for attention. Nick hurried away from the house. He had to go home.

Nick stepped out into the street. He opened his truck door and dumped himself into the seat. Nick dug out his keys and poked them into the ignition. He twisted them, and the truck slowly came to life.

The front door to the house opened, and Jonathan stepped out. He spotted Nick in the truck and rushed down the steps out to the street. Nick could hear him say, “Hey, where are you going?”

Nick chose not to answer. He hit the gas pedal and pulled out of the street. He drove away in the opposite direction.

Nick drove out of Jonathan’s neighborhood and headed off. It took him a while before he realized that he wasn’t heading towards his house. Nick was driving into deeper Richmond, but at least it was familiar waters.

Nick took a spin around the city, not really searching for entertainment, just driving for the feel of it. He navigated his way past familiar buildings- the National theater, where celebrities on tour sometimes performed; the Virginia Commonwealth University, where Nick had gone to school; and, way far out in the waters, Maymont Park, another great place to go on a sunny day. Once Nick’s Palm Pre rang, but he didn’t answer it, knowing who would be calling. Nick instead paid attention to the radio.

And I don’t want the world to see me

Cause I don’t think that they’d understand

When everything’s made to be broken

I just want you to know who I am

This radio station didn’t usually play “Iris.” Maybe it had come on just for Nick. He couldn’t say he particularly liked the song, but for once he could relate to it. “Thank you, Mix 103-7,” he said aloud, and joined in on the chorus.

“Tell those folks upstairs to only take one candy,” Dorothy said. She pushed her thick black hair back and followed Lacey with her eyes.

Lacey spotted a glass bowl set out on the counter. It was filled with hard red candies. She picked one up, unwrapped it, and popped it into her mouth. “Cinnamon?”

“Yep. They all flocked in here and took five each. Please stop them, Lacey.”

“Do you ever talk to anyone besides me?”

“You’ve never minded it before. Just carry this message.”

“For you.” Lacey started towards the elevator, but Dorothy called, “Are you apprehensive?”

Lacey paused, her hand stretched out to hit the button on the elevator. “Yes…”

“Is it all those people up there? I’d be apprehensive too.”

Relief flashed through Lacey. “Yes, that’s it.” She hit the button.

Of course, that wasn’t it. Lacey was apprehensive about another possible message from God Fornax. He might demand her to return to the StarCraft, or threaten her, or do something else horrible.

Lacey wondered if her popularity would help excuse her from typing on the computer. She didn’t want to even touch the keys; for fear that Fornax would take control and send her a message. If Lacey continued her life on Earth, there would be more and more opportunities to touch the computer, though. She couldn’t put it off.

Miranda had only enough time to hand Lacey a stack of papers to put through the paper shredder and dart away before the Lacey fangirls swamped her. “Hi, Lacey! Is there anything I can do for you? What’s the paper for? Here, I’ll take that!”

Lacey pulled the stack back from the clutching hands. “No, it’s fine, I can shred this myself.” She turned and rushed to the paper shredder, and then amused herself as she fed one paper after another into the shredder. The noise the machine made was loud and blocked out everything else.

After that work, Lacey went to her cubicle and sat down. She switched her computer on and checked her e-mail. No creepy words floated up on the screen, and none of the e-mails were from God Fornax, so Lacey began to think she was safe. She buried herself in her work for the day.

Miranda came to talk. “Any messages from Dorothy downstairs?”

“Only take one candy apiece.”

“Oh, well, why didn’t she tell me that?”

“She only talks to me, you know.”

“Yeah. It’s weird. Those candies were good, though. I took some and Dorothy just stared.”

“I think I’ll have to teach her to be less paranoid.”

“About time! You’ve both worked here forever, and it’s just now that you realize something should be done about it?”

“I’m patient. Besides, I like carrying her messages.”

Lunch break was soon. Lacey ate with Miranda and a few of the good fangirls. She loved talking to Humans and seeing what was on their minds. In many ways, they weren’t very different from StarPeople.

After lunch Lacey went back to her work. She turned on her little mini radio and listened to the music flooding the room. This was one privilege her popularity allowed, and she liked it. The music was so different from the StarPeople’s music, but very nice to hear.

I’m holding on your rope, got me ten feet off the ground

I’m hearing what you say, but I just can’t make a sound

Tell me that you need me, then you go and cut me down

But wait

Tell me that you’re sorry, didn’t think I’d turn around

And say-

“What an interesting song,” the radio said.

Lacey jerked her head up, wondering why the song had just been cut off. Egotistical DJ…

“Goddess Lacerta, we must talk.”

Lacey gaped. Had the radio really just said her StarName?

“This is God Fornax. I want to tell you that your time is nearly up…”

Lacey couldn’t breathe. She couldn’t move to turn the radio off.

“Don’t worry, this message is for your ears only. I have taken control of the StarCraft. The war is almost over. All we need is you.”

“I am not leaving Earth until I find the Destined,” Lacey whispered. “I am not giving in to you.”

“Of course. We’d love to just snatch you up now, but y’know, there could be another chance to find your Destined.” Lacey hated the mocking tone of the voice, as if he didn’t believe she’d ever find her Destined. “So we’re giving you a deadline. If you don’t come to us by August 20th, we will come to you.”

“The Destined will be found by then. You will have no chance.”

“Oh, will I? Listen to this.”

A sudden shrieking came from the radio, an inhuman sound. It was the horrible cries of a creature in torture, screams that came from deep inside the soul. It went on until Lacey snapped the radio off.

“Hey, why’d you do that?” the woman in the cubicle to Lacey’s left called. “I love that song.”

“Are you crazy?” Lacey gasped.

“We all have different tastes. You don’t need to say anything if it’s not your cup of tea.”

Lacey slowly came back to reality. She hated God Fornax so much. The emotion scalded her with its heat. She would not, not, not leave Earth. The deadline wasn’t even near.

Yet fear struck into Lacey’s heart. Who had been screaming at the end? How had Fornax taken command of the StarCraft? And how did he expect to take Lacey away without disturbing the people on Earth?

After work, Lacey took the elevator downstairs. “Hi, bye, Dorothy,” she chanted as she walked by the desk.

“Bye,” Dorothy called, her face in a magazine.

“Well, you could at least look at me to say goodbye,” Lacey accused.

“Sorry, this is such an awesome article. Come look.”

Lacey came to look, expecting Dorothy to be reading a magazine about the latest looks or celebrity dirt, as most women enjoyed reading. Instead, she found that Dorothy was reading an article about the search for extraterrestrial life.

“This is a cool magazine. It’s about all kinds of events that have happened in the past and no one can explain. I devour all the articles.”

“Oh, interesting,” Lacey said faintly, staring at the pictures of the SETI lab and of the different UFO photos captured over the years. She only wondered what Dorothy would think if she knew Lacey was an alien herself.

“Are you feeling weak? I hope you’re better later.” Dorothy’s big brown eyes drilled into Lacey’s pale face.

The whole scene was suddenly too surreal for Lacey. She grumbled, “No, I’m not all right,” and hurried out the door, her hand clasped against her mouth as if she were about to get sick. But instead Lacey rushed to her car.

Could it be true that Dorothy was a StarPerson too?

The author's comments:
Funnily enough, I didn't have Facebook when I wrote this, so some things are a bit off.

Nick woke up in the morning with his face buried in his pillow. He rolled over and groaned, keeping his eyes tightly shut. What was that dream…

The sunlight flooded into Nick’s vision even beyond closed eyes. He opened them and was blinded. Nick blinked and waited until he could see. Then he flipped onto his back and hit the top button on the radio beside his bed.

“The day will be sunny. High 95. Low 89.” Nick climbed out of bed and changed the station to Mix 103.7. He sang along as he got dressed. This was a good way to start the day.

Nick read the Richmond Times-Dispatch downstairs as he ate breakfast. He turned to the horoscope page. An existing relationship gets an infusion of passion. Nick snorted. What relationship?

Nick’s hands turned the page over. He fetched a pen and began to do the crossword puzzle on the other side. Instantly Nick was lost in the puzzle as he tried to find the correct words to fit in the boxes. For a moment his surroundings blurred out.

After Nick had finished the puzzle, he contemplated doing the Sudoku on the other page. He’d be wasting some time, but… Nick turned the page and drifted away again.

Finally the puzzle was done, and Nick was feeling proud. He set the paper down and wandered across the room to his computer. Nick eased the old thing out of its sleep and went to Internet Explorer. He typed in his Facebook page for the URL.

On Nick’s Facebook page he typed, just did crossword and Sudoku in the paper and got them both right! Nick posted it on his wall and then went to check out what Jonathan was doing.

Jonathan’s latest post was, Like this if you think bananas rock. Nick liked it out of respect. He couldn’t help connect bananas with Colbie’s Hated Banana Beetle. Nick was also wondering why Jonathan hadn’t posted anything specific for Nick on the wall.

A chat popped up on Nick’s screen. Yo, Slade, what’s up?

Jonathan. Nick replied to him. Nothing much, Alvarez.

Where did you go yesterday?

Drove around Richmond. What are you doing today?

I have no plans. I’m not going to see Colbie today.

Nick was elated. You can come over. For lunch.

Sounds good.

Nick commented on some of his other Facebook friends’ pages, and then got off line.

“What’s shaking?”

“I’m baking.”

Jonathan laughed. “These summers are so darn humid. I’m sweating by, like, six.”

“I know. Bet it’s worse in Florida. Now I’d hate that.”

Jonathan and Nick sat in silence. They were inside the house with the lights off, because the sunlight provided the lighting. Nick soon found a topic for conversation, and he chatted with Jonathan in a friendly way. The day before had been pushed away from his mind.

Unfortunately, Jonathan remembered the events of yesterday, and asked out of the blue, “So why’d you just take off yesterday?”

Nick stopped. He’d been deep into conversation, his hands moving as he tried to describe what he was talking about. Now he just stared at Jonathan.

“What?” Jonathan asked.


A pause. Then Jonathan said, “Well…?”

“Well what?”

“Why’d you leave my place yesterday? Then you didn’t answer my call. Were you mad?”

Nick exhaled. “Mad? I guess, a little…”


Nick didn’t say anything. He wished Jonathan would just drop it. Jonathan looked away.

“I sure hope it wasn’t me,” he said. “Why can’t you talk?”

Nick exhaled again and passed his hand along his face. “It’s not you. I wasn’t mad at you.”

“Good. I was kind of nervous. But what was it?”

Nick opened his mouth- and suddenly found that he couldn’t tell Jonathan. He had always wanted him to be aware of the problem, but now the words were lost for him.

Nick tried a trick that usually worked when he didn’t want to say anything- he pretended Jonathan was someone else. With this, it was easy to talk, because this new person was no one related to Colbie or Jonathan. “It was Colbie. I don’t like her.”

Jonathan snapped Nick into focus. “Colbie? You don’t like her?”

Nick nodded.

“Why? I didn’t know you had anything against her. She’s a lovely person.”

“She’s yours. You’d say that.”

Nick looked away, but he knew Jonathan would be flushed. Jonathan said, “So what’s wrong with her, anyway?”

And Nick found he actually did have the words. All along, he had known what to say.

“She’s too attention-getting. When we’re all three hanging out together, it’s like I don’t exist. You only pay attention to her.”

Nick had intended this to come out sounding as if he really didn’t care, like it wasn’t a big deal, maybe even a little joking. But after leaving it unsaid for so long, he couldn’t help the pain that was clear in his voice. Nick couldn’t look at Jonathan.

“Oh,” was all Jonathan said. Neither of them wanted to speak. Nick had to look down; he could feel his face growing red.

“I didn’t know, Nick. You could have explained it to me.”

“It’s not right. Colbie’s your girlfriend. I should be happy for you.”

“Not when I’m being a jerk, forgetting about my friend.”

Nick stared over at Jonathan. “You’re not a jerk! I’m just being too sensitive. It doesn’t matter. Colbie doesn’t matter.”

“Oh, really? Colbie doesn’t matter? I thought you didn’t like her.”

Nick brushed his hair with his fingers. “No, you don’t get it. I’d probably like Colbie if you weren’t so obsessed with her.”

“Oh. Right. Sorry, Nick. What can I do?”

Nick gazed across the room.

“I could try to pay more attention to you. I could ask Colbie to include you in the conversation. If we’re ignoring you, you really should talk.”

Nick had nothing to say. After admitting what he felt about Colbie, he didn’t want to continue the conversation on this topic.

“Thanks, Jonathan.” A simple thank you was all that was needed to close the discussion. Nick and Jonathan picked up on a new topic, and by the time Jonathan had to go home Nick’s aversion to Colbie was the last thing on his mind.

As the day closed, Nick began to think about the conversation, and realized something he hadn’t noticed before. Jonathan had a girlfriend, and Nick didn’t. Would Nick do the same as Jonathan if he were dating? Would he forget about his friend?

No. Nick knew he wouldn’t forget about Jonathan for a girl. That was mostly because there would never be any girl in his life. Nick couldn’t feel anything for them anymore. He didn’t notice their looks.

This didn’t mean that Nick was into guys. He sometimes speculated at why he no longer felt love for anyone. It was two years ago when it had begun, wasn’t it? When he was twenty…

Nick climbed into bed and closed his eyes. He waited for sleep to come.

And when he was drifting off and beginning to feel the tugging at his chest coming from far away, Nick woke suddenly.

Of course he was in love. He wasn’t in love with a real person. Nick was in love with the source of the tugging. He loved whoever was pulling on his rope, drawing him towards him or her or it.

And this scared him more than anything else in the world.

The author's comments:
My sister says it's disturbing that I could think of torture machine like this.

Lacey strode into the office building, wearing a determined expression. Dorothy waved from behind the desk.

“Oh, you look cute. But really, when don’t you?” Dorothy let her rare smile appear on her face.

“Any messages?”

“No. Are you feeling better?”


Dorothy gave her a sideways look. “What do you mean, what? Last night? Rushing out the door, your hand over your mouth?”

“Oh. That. I got sick. It wasn’t great.”

“Well, duh. I see you’re feeling better today.”

Lacey walked over to Dorothy’s desk, and Dorothy regarded her gently. Lacey asked, “Are you reading anything interesting today?”

“No. You’re curious. And you’re waiting for some certain response from me. What is it, Lacey?”

Lacey pulled back and blurted out, “How do you do that? How do you know what I’m feeling, all the time?”

Dorothy snorted. “Oh, that’s it? I took classes on it- reading body language. You could say I’m an expert.”

“Oh,” Lacey said, relieved. She should have known better. Dorothy had been doing this for years, and only now had any suspicion crossed Lacey’s mind. She was just paranoid, that was all.

“Why don’t you have a career in that?”

“There aren’t any jobs specifying in that, silly,” Dorothy said gently. She laid her brown hand on top of Lacey’s cream one, and Lacey started at how rough her palms were. “Now you go upstairs, before you’re late and your boss gets angry.”

Lacey wore a smile as she traveled up the elevator. Why had she ever thought Dorothy was a StarWoman?

Miranda grabbed hold of Lacey as soon as she came out of the elevator. “Help! Felicia and some of her friends have gotten your radio! You just missed Noelle’s karaoke version of “Waking Up In Vegas.” I tried to stop them, but the singing goes on…” she laughed, half anxious. “Someone’s going to notice the noise.”

Lacey sure noticed the noise. Felicia was belting out the words to “Womanizer” while three other of the fangirls cheered. Everyone else in the office was just staring at them, like they couldn’t believe anyone would go this crazy. Lacey herself couldn’t believe it.

“Hey, guys!” she yelled, and Felicia stopped singing and yelled, “Lacey’s here!” She and the rest of the fangirls abandoned the radio and rushed towards her. Miranda snuck up behind and turned the music off. A sigh went up from around the room.

“What were you thinking? This is a place of working, not having fun.” Lacey pushed her way towards her cubicle. “Now get back to work!” she joked.

Lacey’s friends dispersed. Lacey sighed, sat down and leaned her head against the wall. “Why are they so obsessed with me?”

“They’re young, and you’re such a nice person,” Miranda’s voice said from behind her cubicle. “You’re like a role model.”

“Nice. You’d think I was a goddess,” Lacey grumped, and then suddenly smiled. She was a Goddess.

Lacey worked all day, and no StarGod contacted her. For a moment her troubles were relieved. When Fornax’s deadline came, she would be ready. Lacey forced herself to stay positive.

During lunch, Lacey talked to Miranda about Dorothy. “I think it would help her find self-confidence if you talked to her. We could all hang out. She needs to be more outgoing.”

“She’s a freak. I’m sorry for saying that, but I just can’t hang out with Dorothy. The way she stares at us is kind of creepy. She’s never said anything to me.”

“Maybe after work you can introduce yourself. I’m sure she’d be nice to you.”

“Yes, but Dorothy never talks. How could we be friends if she’ll only speak to you?”

Lacey let the subject fall. “I like your earrings.”

“Oh, thanks.” The earrings were gold dolphins. They gleamed out from behind Miranda’s wall of brown hair.

Lacey rode the elevator downstairs at the end of the day. As she walked out the door she heard Dorothy sing behind her back, “Ra, ra, ah-ah-ah. Roma romama. GaGa ooh-la-la. Want your bad romance.”

Lacey laughed. “Weirdo song choice, dog.”

“Love Lady GaGa.”

Lacey drove home. She parked her car in the driveway and danced up the steps. Then, as soon as she was inside, Lacey let her feelings show. She was tired and wary and terribly frightened of what she had to do next.

Lacey changed into her sweats and tank top and scurried into her room. She sat on her bed and took three long, deep breaths for calm. Then Lacey opened her video log.

“God Fornax, if you want to know, I have no intention of giving up on Earth. I’m going to find the Destined. I will not leave until the initial goal has been reached.”

The screen flickered, darkened, and swirled into a new image.

“I thought you might say that.”

God Fornax was a thickset man with coarse, silver hair and yellow eyes that seemed to shed light. His Special parts, the parts that made a Human and a StarPerson different, were long and silver tipped with red. His pointed ears and sharp fangs were the only way of telling the difference between the StarPeople on Lacey’s side and the StarPeople against her.

He sat in a large chair, like a dark wooden throne. The wall behind him was metal and plastic, as the StarCraft was made of, but it was draped with tapestries made from organic fibers. With a jolt Lacey realized it was the commander’s room- Grus’s room.

“Goddess Lacerta, we meet again. I told you about the deadline. We can change your life even if you don’t want it. As I see, you are getting nowhere on Earth.”

“I know the Destined is in Virginia,” Lacey said, heart thudding, chest throbbing.

“We all know that. You are hopeless, Goddess Lacerta. Two years and you haven’t managed to find out who it is.”

“I’ve been sending signals!” she cried. “Wherever the Destined is, he will feel the tug.”

“He- or she- must be resisting the pull, then. Or maybe the Destined is not for you.”

Lacey shook her head. Fornax was muddling her mind on purpose. Suddenly Fornax arose and clicked his fingers.

“Here is what I’ve done with the StarCraft.”

The scene changed from a comfortable looking room to a view of deep, dark prison cells. Every StarPerson on the StarCraft was in one, and they all stared blankly forward. Their wrists were chained to the bars on the doors. Some screamed and beat their fists against the doors; others huddled in a corner as far away from the door as they could get and let crystals fall from between their fingers. Lacey watched in horror; how could Fornax have transformed everything so fast?

The view passed on to Grus’s cell, and Lacey yelled to him. “Grus! It’s me!” Grus lifted his head and looked up from the floor. “Lacerta Drovadoria?” he whispered. “Tell me you’re really here.”

“Grus, what’s happened?” Lacey tried to ask, but the scene changed yet again. Now Lacey found herself staring into the stricken face of Sextans.

Sextans was looking quite the worse for wear. His usually gorgeous copper eyes were bloodshot, and his translucent skin looked breakable, as if Lacey could crack it with her hand. This was a sure sign that he was sick. Sextans’s hair was long and messy, a horrible look for him. The worst feature, however, was on his Special parts. He’d been plucked- the worst fate to ever befall a StarPerson.

“Sextans,” she whispered, and her foolish heart sang for him.

Sextans looked up and stared at Lacey. He seemed to look straight through her. “A Human?”

“Sextans,” Lacey whispered again. “No, I’m not a Human. This is Lacerta.”

Sextans jolted. “Goodness,” he said. “Lacerta! It’s you...! I guess.” He squinted, trying to connect Lacey and Lacerta.

“Yeah. A little short, and a different color, but I am your friend.”

“Oh, Lacerta.” Sextans sighed her name, and his eyes closed. “I’ve been dreaming of you. I long for the day when your job is over and we can be together up here in the StarCraft.”

Oh, Sextans. He hadn’t changed a bit. Lacey couldn’t believe he still thought there was a possibility for them. “No, Sextans. My job is for the Destined, remember?” It hurt to disappoint him, but she had to remind Sextans.

“Oh, right.” Sextans tried to sound unaffected, but as he glanced away Lacey read the expression on his face. Her heart twisted painfully. She was hurting him, hurting her lover.

“I haven’t found my Destined. Sometimes…” Lacey paused. Then she finished in a whisper, “Sometimes I wish it was you.”

Sextans still didn’t look her way, but his voice came. “Funny. This is the first time I’ve been lucid for days. I only hope you’re not a hallucination.”

“No, Sextans, never! I’m as real as you.”

Sextans turned his face back to Lacey, and his eyes shone with love. “Sometimes I wonder if I’m real myself.”

“Oh, dear. This is a sweet scene. Makes me sick.” Lacey found herself suddenly staring at Fornax. His image was projected on the wall behind Sextans, and Sextans turned to look at it. That was when Lacey noticed his surroundings. Sextans was in a deep pit, like a dungeon. The only light came from the projection.

“Lacerta, now it is time to see what exactly is going on here. It is time for Sextans’s torture. He’s had enough pleasure today.”

Sextans gasped, his eyes turning to Lacey. “No, Lacey! Log off! Please don’t watch this.”

“Oh, shut it, Sextans.” Fornax smiled secretively. And then the machines descended from the roof.

Lacey was ashamed- she recognized all of the machines and knew their names. The first wheeled off the platform, and it lit up with ice fire. Sextans stared with a frightened expression, but he couldn’t keep the relief from his eyes. It was light, after all.

The second machine rolled off, and it wheeled over behind Sextans. A third machine came off, and it pinned his Special parts against his body, forcing them back the wrong way. Sextans’s face went whiter as he tried to keep from shrieking.

The second machine gripped the sides of Sextans’s head and began to compress. The machine was designed to crush a person’s head until they begged for it to stop or until their head burst open. Sextans tried to lift his hands to feel his head, but the large metal ball clipped to the bloody cuffs on his wrists dragged down his hands.

Long sharp claw-like blades shot out of the third machine and began ripping into Sextans’s Special parts. They were made to pluck the Special parts, but now they only dug deep into naked flesh. Sextans’s face grew even paler.

But that wasn’t the worst torture. The first machine, the one lit with ice fire, booted up and began tossing its lightning bolts at Sextans. Every now and then it missed, but mostly it hit with deadly precision. Lacey watched in shock as the bolts struck Sextans’s body, so hot they felt cold. Sextans couldn’t fight the urge to scream now. The howls from his throat sent a chill through Lacey.

These were the same cries of pain and torture she had heard on the radio.

Fornax watched with mild disinterest. Lacey wasn’t sure how long the torture went on. Eventually Sextans begged, “Stop, stop!” and the second machine released it grip abruptly. It swung away and rolled back onto the platform.

The third machine, too, seemed to lose interest- it dropped Sextans’s Special parts and let them curl up against Sextans’s sides. Sextans leaned forward, so low he was touching the ground, out of the range of the ice fire, and buried his face in his hands. He began sobbing as quietly as possible; Lacey saw crystals slide through his fingertips.

The first machine stopped firing and wheeled back onto the platform. Then the three machines were lifted into the air, until Lacey could no longer see them. For a moment Sextans’s sobs were the only sound. Then Fornax began speaking quietly.

“If you have not found the Destined by August 20th, I will kill everyone on this Craft. I will take you back and put you in prison like the rest of them, and I will erase your Human friends’ memories. You cannot win.” The screen closed.

Lacey’s whole body was shaking. She tried to breathe slowly, but her breath just came faster and faster. She bent over across the side of the bed, gripped the back of her neck, and began one aspect of being a Human that she had never gotten used to.

Tears came to Lacey’s eyes and dangled at the ends of her eyelashes. As they rolled down her face, she felt them scald. It was just silly to cry droplets of water- crystals may hurt in her eyes, but at least they felt relieving once they came out. Lacey felt her face become soaked as she sobbed, keeping her head down.

They were not going to kill Sextans. If he died, a part of Lacey’s heart would die. She loved Sextans so much. He had, after all, been her love interest in the Stars. But it had never gone far enough. She just couldn’t connect her mind with his in the way Destined Partners were supposed to do.

So she had opted for Earth to find her Destined, and Lacey had thought Sextans was gone forever. But now she realized she loved him too much to ever let him go. Lacey did not want to give up her love.

Lacey finished weeping with pain in her heart. Her emotions were very clear. She loved Sextans, and hated to death Fornax. How had Grus let him take over? Lacey lay down in her bed and closed her eyes, longing for sleep to take away her pain.

The signal Lacey always gave off, telling the Destined to come to her, was equally as clear in her own breast. She felt the tugging, and suddenly knew where it was coming from, for the first time. The Destined was in Richmond.

However, Lacey felt another difference in the signal. The Destined had been in Richmond- now he or she was on the move. The pull was getting stronger. Someone had finally reacted.

The author's comments:
The title of this chapter comes from a Peter Gabriel song called Solsbury Hill. "Grab your things, I'm gonna take you home."

Nick slept badly, and when he woke he couldn’t remember where he was. The pull at his chest was gone, but the emotion it had given Nick remained. He couldn’t quite believe he was in love with a sensation. He didn’t even know if what he felt was real.

Nick sat down at his table and read the Times-Dispatch again. His eyes wandered, and he sighed, staring out the window. What was going to happen today?

Nick did the crossword. He checked his results from day before, and smiled- they were right. When Nick finished the crossword, he gazed out the window again. His mind fell back to the sensation every night and his love for it. Somehow, the sensation had to be attached to a person. But how was that possible? Who was calling out to Nick?

Maybe every sent off signals like this. Maybe Jonathan or Colbie had a perfect one out there somewhere in the world, calling to them, tugging at their own chests. Maybe Nick was sensitive enough to feel the signals.

Nick wanted to find the source of this feeling he’d had for two years- that was 730 days, 8,760 hours, and 31,536,000 seconds. When put that way, it sounded like a lot of time. If there was a person behind it, how was Nick to find him or her?

Nick had to find out who was calling him. Maybe if he got a partner, it would make him feel better about Colbie and Jonathan.

Maybe he had to go for a drive.

Nick was soon off in the truck, spinning his wheels towards Henrico, towards the river of traffic. He half-heartedly sang along with the radio:

Cause it’s you and me

And all of the people with nothing to do

Nothing to prove

And it’s you and me

And all of the people, and I don’t know why

Can’t keep my eyes off of you

Nick turned out onto the street and drove towards Henrico, like he always did. A weird sense of calm settled over him, and the source of the tugging at his chest became insignificant. Nothing mattered when he was driving. Nothing mattered in the river, when Nick was going with the flow.

As Nick neared Henrico, he prepared to turn back to Richmond, as always. But some new feeling possessed him, and Nick drove straight into the one place he’d never wanted to go- the sea.

At first Henrico was exactly like Richmond. But as Nick navigated into further waters, he realized that there were more trees and grass- more green. There weren’t as many buildings, and less people outside, as there weren’t as many sidewalks. Nick stared out the window, admiring the grass. He didn’t see much of it in the city.

How could Nick have never been here before in his life? Henrico and Richmond were so close to each other that some Henrico residents even considered themselves to live in Richmond. Nick had no memory of ever seeing this place before, though. He’d been born in Richmond, and stayed in Richmond…

Nick realized that, aside for family vacations; he had never been outside of Richmond to go anywhere. He had never even been to other places in Virginia, only Jamestown and Williamsburg, the historical towns. Nick caught himself thinking about the tug at his chest again, and then everything fell into place.

He would find and meet the source of that tugging. He or she was out there, and Nick only had to follow the feeling. He’d have to search the States.

But how was he supposed to follow that feeling? It only came to Nick at night.

And how was he supposed to leave Jonathan alone with Colbie? Not like Jonathan was helpless, but they were friends.

Nick realized as he drove back to Richmond that Henrico wasn’t the sea, it was a bay. There was more to the world than Henrico and Richmond, and Nick was ready to explore it.


“Hey. It’s me.”

“Oh, hey! What’s up?”

“Nothing much. Called to ask if you could come over.”

“Sure. Colbie’s got engagements for us later in the day.”

“Okay. See you at my place.”



Nick and Jonathan sat outside on Nick’s front steps, watching clouds float past. Nick pointed and said, “Does that look like a watch to you, too?”

“A watch? No, where are the numbers?”

“Just the shape.”

They pondered for a while, and then Jonathan said, “Why’d you ask me over?”

Nick looked at him and pushed back his blond hair. He was sweating underneath- it was another hot day. “I had to tell you something. We had to talk in person.”

“Yeah? What was it?” Jonathan asked.

“I’m going away. I’m leaving Richmond, possibly leaving Virginia.”

Jonathan stared. “What? Why?” His gaze met Nick’s, confusion in his eyes. When Nick said nothing, Jonathan asked, “Is this about Colbie?”

“What? No! Colbie’s a nice girl-“ Nick stopped. Was it about Colbie? He hadn’t thought about girls or the presence in his chest until Jonathan had had gotten a girlfriend.

“It could be about Colbie.”

“What’s wrong with her, Nick? I said I’d try to include you. You don’t have to leave us.”

Nick looked away. How could he possibly explain? He almost blurted out about the feeling in his chest at night, but stopped himself at the last minute. Nick thought long and hard about what to say. Finally the words came.

“Colbie is a great girl. I have nothing against her, and I’m pretty sure you’ll get my problem fixed up. It’s not about that issue at all. It’s only that you’re in love and I’m not, and I want to find my match.” Nick hoped Jonathan wouldn’t laugh.

Jonathan wouldn’t dare laugh. He said, “Wow-“ and then left it hanging. Nick was an incredible person. Jonathan spoke again- “So you’re gonna go around meeting all the girls you can and trying to figure out which is the one?”

“Not really…” Nick shook his head. “It’s not like that. I… I can’t explain it. I’ll know my match when I see him or her. I won’t try to make myself fall in love.”

Jonathan blinked at the “him or her,” but said nothing about aloud. He finally got what Nick meant. “Nick, this is a lifelong task you’re talking about. Only about one in a zillion people ever find their perfect match.”

“Really? You seem to think you’ve found her already.”

Jonathan shook his head. “No, no. Colbie’s my girl for now, but she won’t last. I know she won’t. Sometime, I’ll do something she won’t like, and she’ll break up with me. It always happens.”

“Aw, no it won’t. I’m sure Colbie’ll like you after anything. You’re a great couple.” Jonathan didn’t respond to that, and Nick knew he was thinking about his last relationship. That had been about the worst breakup anyone could go through.

Nick wondered if he should tell Jonathan about the night sensation. But he was sure Jonathan wouldn’t take it seriously. It just sounded too much like Nick was grabbing at straws, making up feelings that didn’t exist just because he wanted them to be real.

So Nick said, “I thought I’d better get started today. I went to Henrico.”

Though Jonathan didn’t know about Nick’s night sensation, he understood the importance of going to Henrico. He understood that the roads were rivers to Nick, and the cities were oceans. “Great. It’s about time you explored deeper waters.”

Nick turned to Jonathan eagerly. “But it’s not a sea, like I thought. Henrico County is just a bay. There’s more of Virginia out there, and I have to see it. There’re so many opportunities in the world.”

“So many possible people can be yours. Anyone could be the perfect one.”

“Right. But, you see, it’s only one of them.”

Jonathan contemplated the challenge in his mind. “You’re leaving today?”

“Sooner the better. I just had to tell you why I’m going away. I didn’t think you’d like it if I disappeared without reason.”

“Oh. When…?”

“I thought after this I’d pack up. I want to leave. I want to search in Henrico; Richmond’s kind of burned out for me.”

“Oh.” That was the only sound Jonathan made. He tried to think of something to say. Finally he told Nick, “I thought you’d leave sometime. I just didn’t figure it’d be this soon.”

Now it was Nick’s turn to say, “Oh.” He glanced across the street, and said what popped into his head. “Too bad they can’t sell me that Prius.”

Jonathan laughed. “Hoping for a better vehicle to start the search with?”

“Yeah, I love Priuses.”

“Ding. And Nick has finally mentioned his love for Priuses a thousand times! Give him a hand!”

Nick laughed, standing up as he did so. “Yeah, drive away in your nice little electric car. Have fun saving gas.”

Jonathan got up too. “Good luck with your search. Send postcards!”

“Tell Colbie hi for me. And… good luck with your relationship. I want you to stay together.”

“Oh. Thanks.” Jonathan gave Nick a hug, loosely wrapping his arms around him for a second. Nick returned it and smiled. Jonathan was a great friend. Nick was sure he’d send postcards.

“Bye, Slade.”

“G’bye, Alvarez.”

Inside the house, Nick dug out an old suitcase from his closet. It wasn’t the type of carrier to take on a long, vacation style trip. Nick searched his entire room for a bigger bag, and then finally figured that he could pack the rest of his stuff in the truck itself.

Nick supplied the suitcase. He put in clothes, a few books, money, and his toothbrush. Nick scooped up some CDs to play in the truck, and a blank notebook. He wasn’t sure what the notebook was for, but he felt like he had to take it.

Nick came downstairs with his suitcase and scratched his head. Was he forgetting anything to bring with him? Nick closed his eyes and thought through everything in his room and in the bag. It didn’t seem that he’d failed to remember anything.

Nick locked up his house and took one step into the street. Then he spotted the blue truck, and instantly remembered what he wanted to take. Nick unlocked the house, rushed inside into his bedroom, and flung his closet open. When Nick came outside, he swung the truck’s door open and set the lime green can of spray paint in the backseat.

Nick started the truck up. He glanced back at his house before he drove off. It suddenly appeared very far away. Nick couldn’t wait to get going. He sped off- well, really drove off at a leisurely pace. The truck couldn’t be rushed.

I have run

I have crawled

I have scaled these city walls

These city walls

Only to be with you

But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for

It was U2 on the radio again. Nick almost didn’t want to sing and mess up the song. But he couldn’t help joining in. He loved the music so much.

Nick hoped he’d find what he was looking for on his trip. But when he found it, how would he be able to tell what it was?

“Hey, Lacey,” Dorothy said, giving Lacey a halfhearted wave. Her eyes were down. Lacey spotted a phone cradled between her ear and shoulder.

Lacey stayed with Dorothy while she finished her conversation. She had gotten a haircut- her tumbled black hair was now thinner and as short as a boy’s. Lacey was familiar with that look. When Dorothy got off the phone, Lacey said, “Back to short hair, Dorothy?”

“Yeah. Do you like it?” Dorothy brushed her head with her fingertips.

Lacey nodded. “It always looks good on you.” She reached out to touch it, and then asked, “May I?”

“Definitely.” Lacey stroked Dorothy’s hair. It felt as soft as it looked. She pulled back and rolled her eyes. “Sorry. I just wanted to feel it…”

“No, it’s okay. I said you could.” Dorothy’s eyes contained an odd look. She stared straight at Lacey. “That’s a hot dress.”

“Thank you?” Lacey wasn’t sure if Dorothy meant hot as in sweaty, or hot as in sweet and beautiful. It was easy enough to thank her.

“Messages for today?”

“Tell everyone hi for me.” A simple message, the type Dorothy usually sent on. Lacey smiled and said, “I will.”

It wasn’t until the elevator doors had closed that Lacey felt Dorothy’s eyes move off her.

Upstairs, Lacey did her work for the day, but it was only her body that was toiling. Her mind was in the Stars, as usual. Lacey wondered if Fornax would contact her again. What would he ask her about now? What could she tell him? Would he show her Sextans again?

Poor Sextans. He was strong, but not strong enough to endure Fornax’s torture machines. Lacey couldn’t seem to get rid of her last image of Sextans- sobbing on the ground of the dungeon. It hurt her to think of how he must be feeling.

If Lacey didn’t reach the deadline with the necessary requirements, her entire race would die. Lacey would be sent back to the Stars. She couldn’t imagine how horrible it would be, living with the knowledge that if she had worked harder, she wouldn’t be alone.

So that was the negative result of the deadline. Was there any positive answer? Lacey considered what would happen if she found the Destined and was prepared on August 20th. Would they let her stay on Earth, or could she go home? Lacey realized that Fornax hadn’t said anything about the second result.

Lacey turned on her radio in hopes of clearing her head and cheering up the office. A song came on that Lacey had heard recently-

Ra, ra, ah-ah-ah!

Roma, romama!

GaGa, ooh la la!

Want you bad romance

Dorothy instantly came to mind. Lacey remembered her singing this as she walked out the office doors. Lacey sighed as she wrote on a sticky note. There had to be some way to get Dorothy to communicate. Hadn’t she talked to anyone before Lacey arrived?

Well, Lacey could only ask herself that question. No one here would remember a time before Lacey.

Lacey ate lunch with Miranda again. Noelle sat with her, hanging on to every word, and so did a guy called Patrick who was Miranda’s friend. Lacey listened to Miranda tell an anecdote about a disastrous date.

“So he finally, finally called me back, and by that time I was like, “Who cares about you?” But he liked me, and he was cute, so I agreed to go to a restaurant with him and have a “date…””

“Wait!” Lacey yelled, her head snapping up. Miranda broke off and stared angrily at Lacey.

“Sorry I interrupted you. But I just thought of something. You know Dorothy, from downstairs?”

“Yeah. She’s a little different, isn’t she?” Noelle asked.

“She only talks to me,” said Lacey. “She’s shy, you know?”

“Yeah, we all know Dorothy. What about her?” Miranda asked, looking cross.

“Well, I was going to try and get her to socialize some more, and-“

“Some more? Does she ever socialize?” asked Patrick.

“She does with me.” Lacey sighed. “Anyway… maybe we could all go somewhere. We could go to a restaurant or something, me and Miranda and Dorothy and some other friend from work, and we could have a girl’s night out.”

“Hmm.” Miranda took a bite of her lunch. “I’d love to go, and I’m sure Noelle or Felicia or someone would enjoy it-“ Noelle beamed and nodded.

“But do you think it would work? I don’t want to spend a whole night out in a restaurant with some unresponsive person who’ll only talk through the telephone game.”

“Yeah- Lacey’s the telephone!” Noelle exclaimed, jumping up.

Lacey thought for a moment. “I could talk to Dorothy about it. Maybe you could surprise her. She’ll go if she thinks I’m the only one coming.”

“Is that all right?” Patrick asked. “She could get mad when she finds you’re not alone.”

“No, I don’t think she’ll be too angry. You wanna come, Miranda?”

“I’m in. Noelle?”

“I’ll ask Felicia and Leah and Haley and…”

“No, they don’t all have to come!” Lacey interrupted. One fangirl at a time. “This is going to be a small night out. I don’t want Dorothy to get nervous.”

“Okay. So that means, like, I can only invite Felicia?”

“Exactly. Patrick?”

“You said it was girls only.”

“Aw, he can come if he wants!” Miranda interjected. “Can’t he come, Lacey?”

“Sure.” Lacey grinned. “We’ll have fun!”

At the end of the day, Lacey wandered downstairs with a confidence. She was all prepared to ask Dorothy about a girl’s night out. It couldn’t hurt to lie, just this once, if it made Dorothy more outgoing.

Dorothy glanced up and flashed her unusual smile. “Well, you’re happy.”

Lacey kept on smiling as she strode up to the desk.

“And confident, and totally prepared for anything. Do you know something I don’t know?”

“”Here’s a question.” Lacey paused. “Will you join me for a night out in town? I’m getting tickets to the concert two days from now, and we could eat out… How does that sound? Do you want to come?”

Dorothy’s eyes got wide, and she began grinning like there was no tomorrow. “Oh, of course! You mean like a date?”

Lacey laughed. “Of a sort.” It sounded like the best word to use. “It’ll be fun.”

“I bet. I’ve been wanting to go out with you.”

“That day has finally arrived.” Lacey smiled. “Just the two of us. You can talk to no one but me.”

Dorothy nodded happily and looked down. Lacey saw that she had another one of those magazines about unexplainable events spread out on her lap.

“Good read?” she asked casually.

“Yeah!” Dorothy looked back up. “Go on, Lacey. You’re in a hurry.”

So Lacey drove herself home. She wondered how her Human life could be going so well when her Star life was crumbling. At least Lacey would have left a good memory by the time she had to go home. Before that memory was erased, of course.

At her house, Lacey sat on the bed and contemplated what to do next. Should she make another video log and give God Fornax the opportunity to call her? Lacey didn’t think she could bear seeing Sextans again. So she slid a SongChip into her head and listened to the music.

The pull came to Lacey’s breast, the pull of the Destined. Lacey analyzed it, and found that the signal was stronger. The Destined was coming to her, at last. It had taken two years for a response, but at least it had come at all.

Lacey remembered what her classes in school had been like, the classes where the StarChildren learned about their Destined. Everyone had a Destined, the teacher had said. When you are old enough, you will begin the signals. The signals called your Destined to you, and the closer you were to the person, the stronger the signal. The teacher had described it as feeling like you were on a leash.

Many of the children in the class had then looked across the room into their best friend’s eyes, wondering if their Destined could possibly be in the room. But the teacher had explained that it rarely happened that way. Your Destined was usually far away, and it took a while to find him or her. This could hurt the ones you did prefer who were nearby, as they learned that they were not your Destined. It could also hurt you, if you truly loved them. But once you found the Destined, he or she would be the most important person in your life.

Lacey had been a Goddess in her world- something equivalent of a Human princess. Of course, having royal blood in her veins had made many students fall in love with her. She had smiled at them and waited for the day her Destined was revealed.

Of all the admirers Lacey had gained, it was Sextans whom she really loved back. They had dreamed of the day when they came of age, and made up fantasies in which they found that they were meant for each other. Lacey had kissed Sextans plenty of times, and he had held her and told her the most charming things about herself. They were convinced they knew who their Destined was.

But then the day had come, and everything changed. Lacey remembered waking up in the night and feeling exactly the same as always. She had been confused, and automatically went over to Sextans’s home.

“Hello. Do you feel anything Destined related?”

Sextans had blinked at her. It was early in the night.

“There’s this tugging feeling coming from my chest. Is that what it’s supposed to feel like?”

Lacey had shaken her head. “I feel nothing.”

Sextans had suddenly realized what this meant, and hurried back inside. Lacey waited out there for the longest time, but Sextans had never come back out.

Lacey’s parents had been concerned, because they needed an heir, and Lacey needed her power. Without the Destined, Lacey only had half her power, and she would need it all if the rumors of an uprising and a war were true. Lacey would have to fight, being a Goddess.

Her parents had sent her away with Grus on the StarCraft to go to Earth and find her Destined. This was not unheard of. Many StarPeople were mated to Humans. Grus had kept an eye on the battles in the Stars, and swore he would alert Lacey if the StarPeople needed her full strength and help back home. Thus Lacey had searched alone on Earth for two years, time passing quicker for her than anyone else. She was still stuck in Star time in her head, and thought there would be plenty of hours to waste while alternatively looking for her Destined…

The music inside Lacey’s head ended, and she stopped reminiscing and pulled the chip out. Today was the last day of July. She had plenty of time before the deadline. Lacey rolled over and closed her eyes, trying to switch on pleasant thoughts. She imagined two days from then, when she, Noelle, Felicia, Miranda, Patrick, and Dorothy would all go out to a concert and dinner. Lacey fell asleep dreaming about the date. It would be fun.

The author's comments:
This chapter is very much about the place where I live. I was trying to get in a few details to make you envision it.

Nick drove along the road, singing. He felt excellent and free, and content at last. It was as if a boulder had been placed in his way, obstructing his path, and just now the flow had finally cleared up. Nick was able to leave Richmond now. Why hadn’t he thought of this before?

I know that we’ll have a ball

If we get out and go out and just lose it all

I feel so stressed out, I wanna let it go

Let’s go way out, take out, losing all control

Nick thought- Fergie’s voice is sexy. Then he rolled his eyes and laughed at himself. He turned and drove into Henrico County.

Unfortunately, once Nick had got there he had no idea where to go. Nick drove in circles, reading the street signs. Patterson Avenue had a YMCA across the street. Maybeury Drive was obviously named for the elementary school. Derbyshire Road led Nick past a long row of houses with real lawns in front. Henrico was a pleasant place.

Nick finally found a place to stay. THE RAMADA INN. It couldn’t really be called a hotel- too small for that- but Nick liked the sign outside. He pulled into the parking lot and stopped the truck.

Nick took his suitcase inside and checked in. He was given keys to his room, and told where to find it. Nick went up in an elevator.

He stepped off on the right floor and opened the door to his new room. There was a bed, a table, and not much else. Nick sat on the bed and unpacked. He found he’d taken the blank notebook with him. Nick opened it up and flipped through the pages.

There were no words in any handwriting on the paper. Nick suddenly felt the need to fill the pages up. He searched for a pencil- none that he had packed, but there should be one in his car. Nick left his room, and bumped into a woman coming down the hall.

“Sorry,” Nick murmured, and continued on his way. But when he reached the elevator, a thought struck him. Nick turned around and glanced back at the woman, who was opening the door to her room.

She was just one of the options for Nick’s match. Anyone could be the one, and Nick wouldn’t know until he went to sleep.

Nick pondered this. For all he knew now, the guy who’d given him his room keys could be the match. One of the people in the houses he’d driven past could be the match. Nick was suddenly blasted in the face by fact- how would he know he’d found what he was looking for?

Nick pushed his worries back. He was standing at the elevator door- did he want to go down or not? Nick punched the button and the doors swung open. He stepped inside.

Nick dashed out to the truck, unlocked it, and dug around for a pencil. He located one in the glove compartment; along with a mitten and a CD he’d been searching for a long time. Nick laughed- the mitten compartment- took the CD out and brushed it off, and locked up the car again.

As Nick rode back up the elevator, now holding a yellow pencil, he wondered how much more missing stuff could be in his truck. When was the last time he had cleaned it out? That mitten hadn’t even fit on his hand. When had he bought the truck? It felt like he’d owned it forever.

Nick suddenly became aware that it was taking quite a long time for the elevator to reach the second floor. He stood and counted to ten.

The doors didn’t open.

Nick counted to twenty, and the elevator still didn’t open up. Nick felt that it wasn’t moving anymore.

He hit his hand against the doors. There was no reaction. Nick’s eyes skimmed the buttons inside the elevator. There were only two floors. He hit number one.

The elevator didn’t budge. It neither ascended nor descended. Nick assumed that it had broken down.

First came annoyance- why had it chosen this moment to get stuck? But that feeling was transient. Dread soon swamped Nick. How was he to get out?

Nick slipped the pencil into his pocket and looked up. There had to be some escape window in the roof. He stretched one hand to the top and grazed the glass with his fingertips. That window was nearly out of reach.

Nick filled his lungs and sent the air out slowly. He could feel himself slipping into stress-out mode. Nick closed his eyes and slid to the floor. He took some more deep breaths to prevent his heart from accelerating.

Nick opened his eyes and gazed up at the top of the elevator. He pounded the doors again and shouted loudly. Then Nick waited for a response. Nothing happened.

Sweat popped out on Nick’s face, and he rubbed it off. He shouted again. By now someone had to know that the elevator was stuck. Nick stood up, braced himself, and screamed the panic out. That was a good, loud noise that anyone could hear.

He reached up to the emergency exit again. The glass was smooth and cool. Nick stood on his toes and managed to pull the window back. He dropped his head back and stared up the shaft.

It was dark up there. The only light came from inside the elevator. Nick shouted up, hoping that someone would hear him more clearly now that the glass was gone and could no longer muffle the sound. He stood on tiptoes again and reached up as far as he could.

Nick’s fingers touched the metal of the elevator roof. He jumped up and grabbed onto the roof with his other hand. Now Nick dangled, his sneakers just barely on the ground. Fear made his hands sweaty and threatened to blind him. Nick let go and fell back onto his feet.

“Mmm.” Nick wiped his palms on his jeans and jumped up to the roof again. This time he managed to cling on, and pushed himself up onto the roof using his feet. Nick sat in the darkness for a while, and then stood up. He yelled, “Help!”

No voice called back. Nick felt along the shaft as far as his hands could reach. He wasn’t near the door to the second floor at all. Nick beat at the walls of the shaft and yelled again. “Help!”

The elevator did nothing. No one seemed to care that Nick was stuck. He sat down on the roof and dropped his head in his hands, running his fingers through his hair. Come on, think, think…

Nick’s breath came fast, and he tried to get back in control. He couldn’t have a panic attack right now. Nick pushed his head between his knees, trying to get his brain working. What could he do now?

Then the elevator started moving up.

Nick looked up and gasped. He jumped back down into the elevator beneath. Soon the movement stopped, and the doors slid open. Nick blinked in the light from the hallway.

“I can’t believe it! That elevator hardly ever gets stuck. I am so sorry. Were you in there long?”

The speaker was the woman Nick had bumped into in the hall. Nick stepped out into the hall, unsure of what to say. There were three options- you need lower roofs, next time I’ll take the stairs, and you work here?

Nick chose number three.

“Yeah. Why’d you ask that?” The woman had dark brown hair cut shoulder length and stud earrings. Her lipstick was rose pink.

“I saw you going into a room…”

“I was changing the bed. How’d the elevator get stuck, anyhow?”

“Dunno.” Nick shrugged. “Well, thanks…?” He gestured to the woman.

“Sarah.” She held out her hand to shake. Nick felt the firmness in her grip. Her palms were soft.

“Nick.” He smiled at Sarah. It was a cautionary smile, the type that said, I trust you but I’m not sure I like you yet.

She smiled back, and then stepped back, waiting.

“Well, if you need me to break you out of any more elevators, I’m there.”

“All that work for a pencil.” Nick held up his prize.

Sarah laughed. “Next time bring everything with you to your room.”

Nick wasn’t sure how to respond. He didn’t know if he wanted to end or continue the conversation. Luckily, Sarah made up his mind for him.

“S***! I’m supposed to be downstairs now!” she exclaimed suddenly. “It was nice to talk, Nick. Maybe I’ll see you later?”

Nick started to say that he was only staying a night here, but Sarah bustled off.

Nick didn’t know what to think of Sarah. She was, after all, no one special. But when seen through the eyes of a man looking for love, Nick found many good things about her. She was a possibility. The test would be at night, when Nick felt that tug on his leash. If Sarah was the one, the pull might feel different.

Nick entered his room and sat back down on the bed. He picked up the notebook and wrote Nicholas Slade.

Underneath that Nick wrote 1. Sarah. He gazed at the words, and then realized what the notebook could be for.

Pretty hair

Helped save my life

Good handshake

Soft skin

Nick didn’t have anything else to write. He lay back on the bed and tried to feel for the pull in his chest. There was no response. Nick put his hands behind his head and reclined, thinking of nothing.

He stayed on the bed until hunger told him it was dinnertime.

Nick slowly got up and shook himself like a dog. He stretched and yawned, as if coming out of sleep. Then he went to the door.

This time Nick took the stairs. He dropped off at the first floor. To his surprise Sarah was there, heading outside. Nick caught up with her.

“No work tonight?”

Sarah glanced at Nick. “No, just got out. What are you doing?”

“I’m going to dinner. Um, where should I go to eat?”

Sarah stopped. Her face opened up. “Plenty of places! Some restaurants I like are Friendly’s, El Caporal, and…” She rattled off several more, and then said simply, “But there’s a Burger King nearby.”

Nick suddenly felt his face split into a grin. “How near is that?”

Sarah gestured with her hand. “Let’s find out, shall we?”

Nick and Sarah went walking to dinner. At first Nick wasn’t sure what to say, but he soon found that Sarah was quite the chatty type. She ran on and on about whatever came to mind, and all Nick had to do was murmur “Mmm” or “Sure” or “Aw.”

Nick ordered a hamburger with pickles and ketchup, and Sarah got a cheeseburger with onion, pickles, mustard, and ketchup. They chose takeout, and left the Burger King to head back to the hotel.

Sarah drank her Sprite as she walked. When she took the cup out of her mouth, she asked Nick, “Where are you from?”

Nick didn’t want to tell her the truth. To say he was from Richmond would sound stupid. He contemplated his word choice, and Sarah, having waited a full five seconds for a response, changed the subject. “Want to eat at my place? I live in an apartment on Patterson.”

What did that mean? Nick stared at Sarah, trying to figure her out. Did she want him to stay around after dinner? Did she like him? Nick was unsure of how he felt about Sarah. He made a quick decision.

“No, I’ll eat in my room. Sorry…”

“Oh, that’s okay. I just met you. I get it. Maybe I’ll see you tomorrow?”

Nick thought about it. “I might not be here tomorrow. Sorry again.”

“Oh, no, that’s… fine.” Sarah stepped away from Nick. “Bye.” She trotted off without another word.

“Well, that’s just rude,” Nick muttered to himself. He continued on to the hotel. Inside he took the stairs up to his room.

The night had fallen by that time, and the sky was wearing black velvet. Nick chowed down on his burger and drank his Coke. Nick changed his clothes and slowly crawled into bed. He closed his eyes and emptied his mind.

The familiar tugging reached Nick again. It nuzzled his chest and begged for him to get up. Nick grumbled without knowing and twitched his fingers. The feeling came strong again. It pulled at Nick’s heart and screamed for attention. Nick gave it some.

For the first time, the feeling showed a clear path from Nick to his beloved. The beloved was in Virginia. Nick felt the direction it was coming from- north, towards water.

This startled Nick awake. He blinked his eyes open and gasped. The ceiling was in view by Nick’s eyes. He reached out for the sensation he loved so much, but the feeling had fled. Only a very faint ghost of it remained.

Nick tried to remember what lay to the north of Virginia. He thought he had heard Alexandria was north, but so was Fredericksburg, and Manassas. Where was the one?

Nick curled on his side. Whoever it was must be waiting for him. Maybe he or she felt the same sense as he did at night, and was following it. Maybe the two of them would meet in the middle.

However, one thing was for sure. The beloved one was not in Henrico- and therefore, it was not Sarah.

The author's comments:
The song lyrics in this are from songs I wrote myself.

Lacey clambered out of her car and dropped down onto the sidewalk. She gazed up at the sizable theater in front of her, and then scanned the sidelines for her friends. Tonight was the fun girl’s night for Dorothy, and the first stop was the concert.

“Hey.” Miranda stepped out of the shadows. “Hi, Lacey.”

“Miranda!” Lacey squealed. “Hi! Are you the first here?”

“Yeah, I guess. I’ve only been here a few minutes. Is Dorothy really coming?”

“Of course! She told me she had been waiting to go out with me for a long time. I think she was really excited. I am too- can’t wait for the show tonight!”

“Yeah. This group’s s’posed to be- WAIT! OMIGOD I CAN’T BELIVE I FORGOT TO TELL YOU!”

“What?” Lacey asked. Miranda’s tone was urgent, and her face had become worried. She stared guiltily at Lacey’s face.

“I’m sorry, Lacey! Patrick had to go out of town tonight- it was a really urgent call. He was apologetic. One of his family members is sick. He said he’d call me when he got any info; so don’t blame me if I’m not the best listener tonight. I’ll be waiting for his call.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, Miranda. But it’s no biggie. This was going to be a girl’s night originally. Hope Patrick’s, uh, family member is fine.”

“Yeah, me too.” Miranda fell silent, and Lacey stared out into the street. The concert was to begin in thirty minutes, but Noelle and Felicia hadn’t come yet, despite the long drive down from their houses to the theater and the long wait in line to actually get in.

Lacey stood on the sidewalk, in the line leading up to the doors of the theater. She pulled out her Blackberry and checked recent texts. Suddenly the phone blared its ringtone.

“Hello.” Lacey spoke carefully, in monotone. She didn’t trust any calls on her phone, or any e-mails ever since Fornax had used Human technology to contact her.

“Hi, Lacey! Uh, I’m glad you answered!” It was Noelle’s voice. “I think I have some bad news.”

Lacey’s heart plummeted. “Yes?”

“Well, I went to Felicia’s house and she was sick, so I tried to leave right away but I couldn’t cause it was Felicia, you know, and Felicia’s my friend so we talked and then- but then I had to go, and I started driving and I got a flat which was so mad and then I had to get towed. I can’t make it down tonight.”

“I’m sorry, Noelle. Patrick had to leave too, so it’ll just be me and Miranda and Dorothy tonight. Don’t feel too bad.”

“Oh. I’ll try not to. Have fun with Miranda and the freak!”

A limo approached the curb. It parked and a long leg slid out of it.

“Noelle!” Lacey gasped. “That so-called freak just arrived! I have to hang up now-“

“Oh, okay. Perfectly fine.” Noelle’s voice disappeared.

Miranda had been looking up at the sky, but her eyes rolled back to earth as she gaped at the figure that had just slinked out of the limousine.

Dorothy was looking fabulous. Her feet were sheathed in cherry red stilettos and the nails were painted with black polish. Her skirt was crimson with translucent sequins in patterns. It was short in the front, but long in the back. Lacey felt that she could see Dorothy’s underwear if Dorothy turned. Her blouse was an indescribable color- at first glance it appeared to be plain black, but when she twisted to the side Lacey could see the purple and maroon shimmering beneath the surface. It had a plunging neckline.

Dorothy’s eyes were shaded by very dark sunglasses. They made it impossible for Lacey to tell her expression, but she felt Dorothy’s eyes on her face. Dorothy’s fingernails were colored black, like her toes. She wore no jewelry. Dorothy waved, and the limo pulled away from the street.

As Dorothy strolled up to Lacey and Miranda, the scent of soggy lemons wafted up Lacey’s nose. Apparently Dorothy had gone a bit overboard with perfume. Lacey also realized, as Dorothy stopped walking and flicked her gaze from Lacey to Miranda, that this was the first time she had seen her in a skirt.

Dorothy’s short hair ruffled in the breeze. She stared for a long time, and finally said, “Lacey? What is the meaning of this?”

Suddenly Lacey realized how this would feel to Dorothy- just like Lacey had lied to her, which she had. To be lied to was a horrible feeling.

“Hi-I, Dorothy. I guess I forgot to tell you Miranda was coming with us.”

Dorothy’s stare fell off of Lacey, and Lacey assumed she was looking at Miranda. Dorothy murmured, “You set me up?”

Lacey wasn’t quite sure what that meant, so she told the truth. “I thought you should be a bit more outgoing. You can greet Miranda.”

Dorothy muttered, “Hello, Miranda.” And Lacey knew it was irrational, but she felt sheer joy when Dorothy spoke to someone other than her.

“Hello, Dorothy.” Miranda sounded cautionary but calm. “Pleased to meet you. Let’s get inside.”

“We can’t. We’re stuck in this line,” Lacey reminded her.

“Oh, duh.”

Lacey laughed. Dorothy didn’t.

The line soon moved inside. Lacey sat down in her seat in the theater. She glanced at Miranda and Dorothy as they sat next to her. Dorothy took her sunglasses off and brushed her face. Miranda leaned in and whispered to Lacey, “Do you think it was a good idea to lie about me?”

Lacey felt Dorothy gaze at her. She whispered back, “Dorothy’s right here, Miranda! Don’t talk about her!”

“Kay,” Miranda agreed, and tossed herself back into her seat. Dorothy stopped staring at Lacey, so Lacey took that opportunity to stare at her. She asked, “You okay?”

Dorothy didn’t look at Lacey. “Yeah. I’m fine,” she breathed. Then suddenly her lips were at Lacey’s ear, whispering, “No. NO. I am NOT okay. You lied to me, Lacey. You got my hopes up, and tore them down. You lied about what this was to me, to you… You never ever cared what I thought.” Her bottom lip seemed to jut out and brush the skin below Lacey’s earlobe, and then she pulled back, mumbling “Sorry.”

Lacey looked to her left. Miranda was staring down at her phone, scrolling through numbers. She wore a tight black shirt, faded black jeans with a silver belt, and those gold dolphin earrings Lacey had admired. Lacey herself wore a bubble gum pink tee and white shorts. Her necklace was a gold chain. Both Miranda and Lacey had on sandals. Next to Dorothy, they seemed pretty plain.

The lights dimmed. The band came onstage. Lacey had hoped she would forget her troubles when the music began, but they only got worse in the dark. Her fears about the StarCraft and worries about hurting Dorothy’s feeling approached her and stunned her brain. Lacey could only clap at the end of every song.

Miranda seemed to be having a great time. She hoisted her phone into the air and waved it. The wave caught on quickly in the audience, and soon every single person was doing it. Everyone but Dorothy and Lacey, that was. Dorothy sat with her legs crossed and her eyes fixed on the stage. Lacey tried to count how long it took her to blink, but gave up after a while.

When the set was over, Lacey took her fingers out of her mouth and applauded. Dorothy stood up immediately, and the people sitting behind her took this to be a standing ovation. They rose too, and Dorothy flounced out as the whole audience stood on their feet. Lacey followed Dorothy away.

Miranda, Lacey and Dorothy soon got outside into the cool air. Miranda asked, “Where to now?”

“We’re going to a restaurant.”

“What restaurant?” Dorothy asked.

“Sardinia. Fancy shmancy.”

After a short debate, the three women piled into Lacey’s car. Miranda had been dropped off like Dorothy, which was fortunate. Lacey pulled away from the sidewalk and joined the flow of cars. Along the way to Sardinia, she heard Miranda making conversation with Dorothy.

“That was a great concert. Every review I’ve read of the band said they were fab live.”

“Yeah, I liked the music.” Dorothy spoke carefully, gently. Her voice was below its normal pitch. “What was your favorite song?”

Miranda paused, and then said, “Into This One.”

Dorothy began to sing it. “Who woulda thought that I wanted you? Who woulda thought that you wanted me too? We’ll get it together, we will make it through. It’s the one thing we know we can do.”

“Right,” said Miranda. “Which one did you like?”

Dorothy’s voice sounded as if she would rather eat dead beetles than answer. “Celebrity.”

“Celebrity?” Miranda was scornful. “That’s a stupid song that couldn’t even get on the radio. No one wants to hear it.”

“I do,” Dorothy murmured.

“Well-“ Miranda suddenly broke off. Lacey could guess where her thoughts were going. The word freak was left unsaid between the two.

“Hey Lacey, what do you think?”

Lacey swiveled her neck back to look at them. Dorothy had her legs crossed, an unhappy expression on her face. Miranda was expectant, waiting for Lacey’s answer.

“Into This One is kind of long, but it has a good beat. Celebrity is lyrically challenged, but the guitars work together, and the story makes sense. Both of them are fine.”

Dorothy laughed. “Lyrically challenged? Love that.” She beamed at Miranda, as if to say, “Take that!”

Miranda stared uncertainly back at Dorothy. Lacey swung her eyes back to the road. She heard Dorothy begin to sing. “I know their names and they don’t know mine. If this keeps up, my place they won’t find. Unless I leave and join the paparazzi, or until I become a celebrity.” She paused. “Or something like that.”

“You messed up the lyrics,” Miranda pointed out. Lacey noticed that she neither corrected them nor tried to sound criticizing.

They parked at the restaurant and stepped out of the car. Dorothy tripped in her high heels as she tried to hurry towards Sardinia. “Ack!” Her arms flailed, and she caught Lacey’s shoulder and held on. Lacey steadied her.

Dorothy glanced at Lacey, mumbled “Thank you,” and quickly swished off. Lacey was puzzled. She had thought Dorothy wasn’t mad at her anymore.

Inside Sardinia, the threesome found a seat soon. Lacey and Dorothy got to drink wine, and Miranda had water. She kept glancing down at her cell phone nervously. Dorothy slipped her shades on, and intimidated Lacey, who was trying not to feel the stare on her body.

No one spoke for a while. Lacey had too much on her mind, Miranda was waiting for Patrick’s call, and Dorothy was not the talking type. A waiter came up and what they wanted to eat that night.

Dorothy said, “Lasagna.”

Miranda said, “Penne pesto.”

Lacey said, “Spaghetti. Just plain spaghetti.”

The waiter said, “All right.” He wrote the orders down.

As soon as he left, Miranda started speaking to only Lacey. “I love penne pesto. I ate it once in New York in a French restaurant. It was so delicious I couldn’t finish it all. That was also the first time I had escargot. Have you ever had escargot? It’s really good, despite being snails.”

Dorothy didn’t say anything. She only stared at her hands, then at Lacey, then back at her hands. Lacey didn’t say anything either. She waited for her dinner to come.

When dinner did arrive, there was even more silence. Lacey was absorbed in her food, but Miranda only picked at it. She brushed her brown hair behind her ear and drummed her fingers anxiously.

Dorothy ate with a quiet dignity. She regarded her food with ease. Lacey admired the dainty way she chewed until Miranda suddenly sprang up from her chair, saying nothing. Her phone was vibrating madly. Lacey waved her hand, and Miranda scurried out of the restaurant.

As soon as she was gone, Dorothy swallowed her most recent bite of food and set her fork down. “Lacey. Look at me, Lacey.”

Lacey willingly looked at her. “Yeah?”

Dorothy stared deep into her eyes. “What gave you this idea? To take me out tonight and try to get me to talk to people who aren’t you? Why didn’t you realize that would be a bad idea?”

Lacey whispered, “It was me and Miranda. She thinks you’re a freak. I wanted to get her to talk to you so she wouldn’t think that.”

“I knew she hated me. Why did you lie, though?” Dorothy slid her glasses down her nose. Her eyes flashed angrily. “I should have read it in your body language, but I couldn’t see through the bliss. I wanted this so badly.”

“I thought if you knew Miranda was coming, you wouldn’t join us.” Lacey pushed her own glasses further up her nose.

Dorothy growled. Her voice came out sounding tight and gruff. “Dontcha know I’d go with you anyway. Even if it was only a girl’s night out, I’d join you cause I love you, Lacey.”

Lacey couldn’t speak. She could barely breathe.

The two stared into each other’s eyes until Miranda rushed back in. “Oh, dear. Update on Patrick- his family member died. I feel horrible now. I don’t know what to do. He was so sad. I couldn’t talk, so I just hung up.”

Lacey glared at Miranda. “Call your boyfriend right now. He deserves some words of comfort from you. Tell him that you’ll be there when he gets back, and you love him. And say anything consoling that he’ll believe and that you can think of.”

“Oh, gosh. Oh, thanks, Lacey. You’re great.” Miranda rushed out again, her expression so frazzled that Lacey doubted Patrick would find any comfort in the words she chose. Lacey noted that she didn’t contradict the “boyfriend.”

Dorothy stood up and glided out the door. She left so silently that Lacey thought for a second that she was still across the table. Miranda came back later, but Dorothy never returned.

“Whew. That was hard. I think the night’s winding down. Did Dorothy enjoy it? I saw her leaving.”

“I don’t know…” Lacey spoke faintly. “She would have liked it much better if you hadn’t been here. But… she said she would have come anyway… because…” Lacey swallowed, trying to get the words out. “She said she loves me.”

Miranda could only stare. “What the? Loves as in, lovey dovey kissy hearts and hugs? Or loves like you’re an awesome, strong woman?”

Lacey gazed down at her nails. “She loves me romantically.”

“My God,” Miranda whispered. She let that hang in silence for a while, and then said, “No wonder she only talked to you. She loved you. I never guessed that.”

“Can we leave now?” Lacey whimpered, her head nearly touching the plate, her glasses sliding down, her bangs dangling into the spaghetti.

Miranda put a hand on her shoulder. “Of course.” When the waiter came back, she told him, “We’re ready for the check.”

It had been a strange, long night for everyone.

Lacey curled up in bed at home. Once again, she did not make a video log. Nor did she put in a SongChip. Lacey plucked her glasses off and closed her eyes tightly. She wrapped her arms around her knees.

Lacey was exhausted. She had left the StarCraft and Sextans’s love to pursue her Destined, the one whom she was supposed to love. On Earth she had found Dorothy’s love, the love of a woman she greatly admired. How could it be that Lacey adored her friends more than her soul mate?

The dark wrapped around Lacey, lying down in her little bed. Her chest ached from the signals she was giving off, the signals that were getting stronger every day. Lacey fell asleep with tears streaming down her face, tears for the ones she loved and the one she should love but didn’t.

The author's comments:
Yes, I *know* it's unlikely for Nick to be that rich... just go along with it.

The radio station Mix 103.7 gave out. The radio hit the oldies.

Jojo was a man who thought he was a loner

But he knew it couldn’t last

Jojo left his home in Tucson, Arizona

Bought some California grass

Get back

Get back

Get back to where you once belonged

Nick thought the Beatles were fine, but he wanted to listen to something better. He opened up the CD drive in his truck and slipped in one of his favorite CDs- The Joshua Tree by U2.

Nick had a taste for 80’s and 90’s music. Though he had been born in 1988 and had missed most of the 80’s, he loved music from that era. The Joshua Tree was Nick’s ultimate favorite album by any artist.

Nick would never forget the day he first listened to the album, in 2007. U2 had come out with plenty more albums since the 80’s, but Nick had heard that this album was their most successful release, and feeling that he was missing out on a famous piece of music, Nick had bought the CD. It had been exhilarating for him. Nick had walked home holding the CD carefully with both hands, eager to listen to his new prize. He had sat on the sofa and popped it into his player, and then waited for the music to start.

When it did, the oddest feeling had crept over Nick. His eyes had widened, and his throat crowded, and a smile fragmented his face. Nick had felt like singing, screaming, and crying all at once. But all he did was sit there, glued to his seat, as “Where The Streets Have No Name” had swelled across the room.

It was the second song, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” where Nick had really gotten into it. He had let the music move him, which was different from dancing. Then he sang along at the top of his voice.

The rest of the album had been exactly as moving as the first two songs. Nick had sung, screamed, and even cried at the music. He felt incredible- more alive than he had ever felt before. By the last song, Nick was plastered to the floor, feeling the vibrations of the music through the wood. It was only when every last vibration stopped that Nick stood up, brushed his face, and put the CD back in its case.

So, remembering that wonderful day, Nick put the CD on in his truck. Soon he was listening to “Where The Streets Have No Name” and just barely restraining himself from screaming. Unlike the first time, he didn’t cry, because Nick was an unemotional person. But he did sing along.

Nick was on his way to Fredericksburg, after many days of searching. He had met many women- blondes, brunettes, redheads, talkaholics, wallflowers, airheads. Still no one was the right one. Nick knew that if he didn’t find the one in a girl, he would have to start all over with guys.

Nick had written to Jonathan a few times, always to say, I haven’t found the one yet, but I’ll keep looking. How’s Colbs? He had only gotten one letter from Jonathan. It said, Ayo, Slade! You having fun looking for love? Colbie is beautiful, wondrous woman. She says to tell you she’s sorry for ever leaving you out of anything, and that she hopes you succeed in your search. That truck broken down yet? If not, try hitting it with a sledgehammer until the roof caves in. You just might need a new car. Your friend, Jonathan.

Nick had read the letter over and over. It made him smile. He could hear Jonathan’s voice in the words as he read them. He wasn’t sure what to think about Colbie’s apology- it wasn’t really her fault; it was Jonathan’s. Nick could forgive his best friend, but he didn’t think he could forgive the girl.

North was the way to go. Nick had been feeling the signal all night, clearly telling him to head north. The signal hadn’t been much clearer than that, though. So Nick could only head north towards the water and hope that whichever town he was staying in was the place.

Nick’s notebook was now filled with the names of women and what he liked about them. Nick thought that he could probably keep that for reference if he ever wanted to remember the days on the search,

There was only one scary thought- what if the search didn’t end?

Nick leaned back in the driver’s seat and sang along with “With Or Without You.” He thought of the other CDs he had brought with him- Tracy Chapman’s Crossroads, The Script, and the recently found R.E.M.’s Automatic For The People. None of them could quite compare to this.

Nick hoped the album wouldn’t end. It was good driving music.

Then the truck stopped moving.

The floor began vibrating like crazy. The engine made odd grinding noises. Then the truck completely broke down.

Nick stared out the window shield and blinked twice. Did the truck honestly break down? Really?

God, this was Nick’s greatest dream!

The cars behind Nick, who had been trying to compensate with Nick’s slow speed, now gave up completely and drove around him. Nick was in the middle of the flow, blocking the stream from rushing correctly. He felt bad about it for a second, but then he realized that now he could sit and listen to “Bullet The Blue Sky” without concentrating on driving.

So that’s exactly what Nick did. He listened to The Joshua Tree and daydreamed about the car he’d buy to replace the awful old truck. It would be a white Toyota Prius, and he would spray it lime green with the can Nick still kept.

After a while, Nick realized it was dusky, but no one had paid him much attention. He climbed out of the car and looked at the steady stream of cars down the street. One of the cars was coming towards him through the second lane, cutting quickly through the river.

The car pulled over and a man jumped out. “Hello,” he said casually. “Do you need a tow?”

Nick only stared. Then he nodded. “Yes. I’ve been stuck in the middle of the road all day, and no one’s cared about it. Do you have the number of a tow truck service?”

“Yes!” The man smiled. “One of my friends works there. I’m Alex.”

Nick shook his hand. “I’m Nick.” He turned to the truck. “What’s the number?”

“Oh, don’t bother with it. I can call myself.” Alex whipped out a cell phone and dialed a number. He pressed it against his ear and called, “Hello!”

Nick opened the door to the truck. He listened for a second to the music- it was the last song on the album, “Mothers Of The Disappeared.” Nick almost opened the CD drive up, but couldn’t bear to end the song.

Alex looked over at Nick. He covered the phone up with his hand and said, “I love U2! But how is the CD player working if your car’s broke?”

“Ah…” Nick stared at the truck, suddenly perceiving that he had no idea.

“That’s a good question. Maybe the truck only broke in the engine, but the rest of it works?”

“If that’s possible.” Alex shrugged and went back to talking on the phone.

Nick believed it was possible. He sat down sideways in the holey driver’s seat and listened contentedly until it was all over.

By that time Alex was done talking. “A tow truck’s coming over soon. This sure is a beat up car.”

“It’s a truck,” Nick said, swinging his legs. “It’s my personal piece of crap. I’ve been dying for a replacement.”

“What car do you want?”

“A Prius. Everyone loves Priuses.”

“Oh. Have fun car shopping.” Alex stared into the car. “The CD’s over?”

“Yeah.” Nick wanted to start it again, but he wasn’t sure if it would work.

“That is so weird. Why would the player work, but the whole car- Bleh! Why didn’t the car start if- Why can’t I say what I mean to say?”

Nick smiled at Alex’s annoyed expression. “Aw, don’t feel bad. Everyone’s bad with words sometimes.”

“Me, I’m bad with words most of the times.”

Alex and Nick politely chatted until the tow truck drove up in the other lane. A burly man with black hair and wiry muscles stepped out of it. “Hello, Alex,” he greeted them. “And you are?”


The man grinned at him. “I’m Guy. What’s wrong with your car?”

“It’s truck, not a car,” Nick corrected him. “The engine’s broken, I think. The CD player still works and all. Kind of weird, no?”

“No,” said Guy. “Let’s get this thing outta here.” He walked up to his tow truck and dragged a chain with a hook attached out from the back. Guy bent down and hooked it up to the front of Nick’s truck.

“What’s with this thing? The paint’s coming off in my hands.”

“Yeah, it tends to do that,” Nick told him. “So…”

“So now we get in my car and follow Guy as he drives,” Alex told Nick. “Brilliant. Come on.”

Nick climbed into Alex’s car, which was a red Volvo. He sat down in the passenger seat and unconsciously ran his hand through his wavy hair. Alex plopped down in the driver’s seat and slammed the door shut.

Guy got into his tow truck and started it up. Once he was ahead, Alex started up the car and followed him. “So Nick, why are you driving this piece of trash and not that Prius you want?”

Nick was having difficulty concentrating with the song playing on the speakers. It was a song from The Joshua Tree, “Running To Stand Still.” It was not a single.

“You were listening to that? Like me?”

“Yeah. Don’t be so shocked, though- I have seven CDs inside this car, and this is the fifth in the rotation. Why do you have that car?”

“It’s a truck, not a car,” Nick told Alex again, blinking hard. “Mind if I sing along?” He normally wouldn’t sing with anyone listening, but the music was starting to really affect him.

Alex looked a bit put out, but he only said, “Of course not.”

Nick immediately started up. “You gotta cry without weeping, talk without speaking, scream without raising your voice…” He sang until he got to the most beautiful part in the song, where he only hummed the tune.

Singing ha. ha la la la de day

Ha la la la de day, ha la la de day

Alex stared at Nick a bit surprisingly. He whispered, “I think that’s awesome. Incredible. Sing some more.”

Nick didn’t need to be told to. He sang until the song ended.

Alex whispered again, “Your voice is awesome. Incredible. How often do you sing?”

“Whenever a familiar song comes on the radio,” Nick told him. He closed his eyes and sat back, feeling relief.

“You really should do it more often. You could possibly get a living singing. Sorry, I know I just met you, but I do think you’re good.”

Nick couldn’t say anything back. No one had ever commented on his voice like that.

The tow truck entered Fredericksburg. Alex followed it down the streets until it pulled into the tow truck service. He said, “Want to see how your truck is gonna be?”

“Sure,” Nick shrugged. He jumped out of the car.

Nick had to wait a while before the people at the tow place could give him a diagnosis. The truck was not going to live without a new engine. If the repair people gave it a new one, Nick would have to stay in Fredericksburg for a while. Did he want to keep the truck?

Nick’s answer was, “Of course not! To heck with the truck!”

Alex asked if he wanted to stay at his house for the night, and then he could go shopping for a new truck the next day.

Nick’s answer was, “Of course! But I want a car, not a truck.”

So Nick got all his stuff out of the truck, and slept on the couch of a stranger that night. He was too tired to feel for the tugging while in bed, so for the first time in two years Nick was not aware of his soul mate.

The next morning Nick had scrambled eggs and orange juice with Alex. He tapped his fingers restlessly while Alex got dressed, and then it was time to go.

“The Toyota superstore is far downtown, but it’s worth driving. Guy’s gonna join us; is that okay?”

“Duh,” said Nick. “Funny how friendly we’ve become. It’s hard to think we only met yesterday.”

“Yeah,” said Alex, peering out the window. “I would never stay overnight with some guy I barely know.”

“I only did it because you had U2 playing in your car. You can’t trust people who don’t like U2.”

Alex laughed at that. Then, after a while, he announced, “We are here!”

Once in the Toyota shop, Nick ignored all but the Priuses. He walked around looking at each car one by one. Blue, pink, silver, orange, red… Nick searched all over for the white one of his dreams. Or- even better- an already lime green car!

Nick walked and walked, swinging his hand containing his credit card. He had just the right amount of money for his dream car. Unfortunately, where was his dream car? It had to be somewhere in the Toyota superstore.

Alex and Guy strolled along beside Nick. They seemed to understand Nick’s need to find the perfect one.

At the end of the lot, Nick turned around and scanned the whole place again with his eyes. He blinked-“It’s really not here?”

“What were you looking for?”

“Something white. It’s been in my dreams for so long…” Nick took in a deep breath. He was trying not to get angry. Alex wouldn’t deserve it.

Guy took a look at Nick’s face, then at the lot filled to the brim with Toyotas. He stared for a long while, and then lifted one finger.

Nick followed the finger. Then he ran.

At the end of Guy’s point was the exact right car from Nick’s dreams. It was sleek, white, and, most importantly, it was a hybrid. Nick shouted. “Awwwww! Yyyyy-eeeeesssssss!” He punched the air, and then fell over on his new possession.

Alex only stood and grinned. “I knew they made white ones. It’s yours, Nick.”

And after a while, after a test drive and a swipe of Nick’s credit card, it legally was. Nick was so overjoyed he could barely speak. But he had to thank Alex and Guy.

“Thanks for taking me shopping. And thanks for helping me out with the truck, and for letting me stay with Alex.”

“You are most definitely welcome,” Guy told Nick. “Are you staying in Fredericksburg?”

Nick thought carefully. Then he answered, “No. I want to drive this baby out of town as soon as I can!”

Alex laughed. “I totally and completely understand that. Go drive your prize!”

Nick had driven it to Alex’s house, but he wanted to make a real, long journey with it now. He said, “Thanks again. Maybe I’ll see you both again someday?”

“Of course,” said Guy. “Come again!” Alex waved.

That day as Nick drove down the interstate, he realized he hadn’t searched Fredericksburg properly. Maybe he would come back. He slipped a CD into the drive.

I wanna run

I want to hide

I wanna tear down the walls

That hold me inside

I want to reach out

And touch the flame

Where the streets have no name

If only finding the perfect one was as easy as car shopping.

The author's comments:
If Dorothy's words about homosexuality and "straight people" sound awkward, that's probably because I felt very awkward writing them.

Lacey stepped into the office building double doors feeling determined and confident. She approached Dorothy, swallowed hard, and asked her, “Any messages you want me to take to the folks upstairs?”

Dorothy looked up at Lacey. She stared straight through her. Her brown eyes were full of pain. “Tell Miranda to stop talking about last night. And that the girls don’t need to stay away from me just because I’m a lesbian.”

Lacey gasped. “Miranda told them?”

“You told Miranda?” Dorothy asked quietly.

Lacey stared at her, and whispered, “I’m sorry, Dorothy.”

Dorothy blinked. “I meant what I said last night. I’ve been in love with you forever, and I thought, always, always, always, that you loved me back. I thought we were the dream team. Now… you’re just another straight person.” She turned away and stared up at the ceiling.

Lacey felt like the cruelest person in the world. She did love Dorothy, but Dorothy would never understand what she meant. It must have been hard to admit her love, after what Dorothy would think was an entire lifetime in Alexandria. And now Miranda and the fangirls all knew about her sexuality… It was never easy being homosexual.

In the Stars, preferring girls to boys was never a big issue. It didn’t matter who you loved, because whoever they were was your Destined. One of Lacey’s distant girlfriends had ended up Destined with a woman. Lacey had even seen, with her own eyes, Grus kissing his male Destined when he thought no one was watching. No one in the Stars was thought of as different.

But on Earth, Lacey had learned, everything was worse. Homosexuals were treated like lower class, given mean labels and names, and even denied marriage rights. Lacey had never heard of anyone depriving individuals of their Destined, just because they were unnatural and couldn’t breed.

Dorothy must have hard times about what she was. Lacey longed to tell her the truth- I do love you!- but Dorothy would not understand. However, Lacey couldn’t resist. Dorothy looked near tears.

“I’m not straight, Dorothy. Actually, I’m not sure what I am. I love you, I really do…”

Dorothy snapped her head up. “Then why didn’t you respond to me? I love you, Lacey!”

“Uh…” Lacey wanted to put her head in her hands. She thought of one answer- and it sprang from her mouth thoughtlessly. “I’m bi.”

Dorothy stared at her, and then groaned. “Great excuse, Lacey. You’re bisexual? That means you love women too!”

“No, what I meant was…” Lacey couldn’t reveal herself. She had to tell the closest truth. “I’m looking for the perfect one. I’m looking for the one I’ll spend the rest of my life with, and I know it’s not you.”

“Well… thanks bunches for telling me that,” Dorothy said. Her eyes grew wide, and she closed them quickly.

Lacey swallowed hard. “Don’t cry, Dorothy. Please. I’m getting choked up.” She was, really. Her throat tightened up.

“I’m not crying,” Dorothy whispered, but a tear slid down her brown cheek, and then another and another.

Lacey felt herself starting to come undone. She could only think of one way out of this mess. Lacey took Dorothy’s head in her hands and lifted her chin up. Dorothy tried to wipe her face off, but Lacey pushed her hands down. She leaned in and kissed Dorothy’s lips.

Dorothy kissed back with no hesitation. Lacey let her lips move ever so gently against Dorothy’s, and then swiped her tongue against Dorothy’s teeth. She pulled away and stroked Dorothy’s cheek, just once. Lacey caught a falling tear.

Dorothy reached up and touched Lacey’s face. “Oh dear. What are we to do now, Lace?” Instead of being mad, Dorothy sounded wistful. “You do love me.”

Lacey gulped. “Dorothy, I have to say. I… I want to… I’d love to let you in, but so much is going on in my life right now, and I can’t… love you now. I’m sorry. I’ll let you know when I can love you.”

“That’s okay,” Dorothy said, her voice subdued. She kissed Lacey’s hand forcefully. “Tell everyone what happened. Let them know that you, Lacey Darwin, the role model of the office, are bisexual and in love with Dorothy Applegate. See what they think of that. And don’t feel so sad. Your life is in no way as hard as mine.”

Lacey rode up the elevator with her face in her hands. She loved Dorothy so much, but it complicated everything. She couldn’t leave her behind now. It was simply impossible to disappear from Earth and let Dorothy forget her.

As soon as Lacey set one foot out of the elevator, the fangirls rushed over. “Did Dorothy really tell her she loved you? What did you do? Was she a freak? Do you love her back?”

Lacey pushed through them and came face to face with Miranda- poor, gossip loving Miranda. Lacey glared.

“Oh God, I’m sorry Lacey. I just had such a stressful night, and-“

Lacey turned around. She raised her voice. “Attention everyone! May I have your attention, please?”

Everyone in the office raised their heads and stared at Lacey with curious eyes. Lacey knew that they had all heard Miranda’s tale, and she wondered how much they knew now. She ignored the feeling of their stares on her body and spoke the words Dorothy had told her to.

“I, Lacey Darwin, am in love with Dorothy Applegate. I love her.” Lacey spoke louder above the gasps and titters. “I am bisexual. We cannot be together now, though. Too much drama is going on in my life currently.”

Lacey made her way over to her cubicle. She tried not to notice the silence spreading out over the office. Lacey sat down at her desk inside and turned the computer on.

Lacey worked for a long while. No one interrupted her or asked her about her weekend, so Lacey should have felt great, but it wasn’t right. Miranda should be talking to her; the fangirls should be swarming her… Lacey had never been ignored before. It felt painful.

During lunch, Lacey sat alone. Miranda sat with her fangirls, like Noelle and Felicia and Leah. Lacey watched them as she chewed. No one passed by her, and no one sat with her. Lacey had to glance away.

She found herself staring into the eyes of Patrick, Miranda’s boyfriend. He stood in front of her, and asked, “May I sit down?” Lacey nodded mutely.

Patrick sat. Lacey asked, “Why did you come in today? Miranda said a family member died. You could have taken the day off.”

“I know, but I had to go. It’s distracting here today.” Patrick took a sip from his water bottle. “I see no one’s around you.”

“Oh!” Lacey cried. “I said I loved her, and now everyone’s afraid of me! It’s not fair.”

“Of course it’s not fair,” Patrick said. “Everyone’s going to be afraid of you because you are now the unknown. No one knows what it’s like to love the same sex, and certainly no one knows what it’s like to love Dorothy. Your life is all unknown to them, and you know how terrifying the unknown can be.”

“I thought I was normal,” Lacey whispered. “I can love whoever I want.”

Patrick sighed. “That’s the way it should be.”

Lacey stared into his eyes, and saw sadness in them. She knew she shouldn’t be feeling sorry for herself when so many others were worse off than her. Lacey asked, “So what’s up with you? Are you all right?”

“No,” Patrick whispered back. “Last night was hard. I could tell Miranda had no idea what to do. I just wanted to tell her to leave because she couldn’t find the right words.”

“I get that,” said Lacey. “Miranda can be bad in a crisis.”

Patrick smiled half-heartedly at her. They sat in silence, eating their lunches.

When lunchtime was almost over, Patrick got up and said, “I don’t get why they’re ignoring you. You’re the same old Lacey you always were. You’ve just revealed something surprising about yourself. Heck, there’s nothing creepy about that. You should talk to them.”

“Okay,” Lacey murmured, trying to smile. She watched Patrick walk away.

Lacey finished all work that day. She left at the right time, and sat around downstairs waiting for Miranda.

Dorothy waved at Lacey and gave her the rare smile. Lacey smiled back, even though she felt pained. Dorothy seemed to know that, because she stayed silent and worked at her desk.

Miranda came out of the elevator later. She strode past Dorothy’s desk, and Lacey jumped out in front of her. Miranda gave a startled squeak. “Lacey! Sorry, I have to go-“

“No, you don’t,” Lacey said calmly. “You’re not leaving any time soon. We have to talk.”

Miranda crinkled her nose, but she nodded her head. Lacey went on into her speech. “Just because I love a woman doesn’t mean I’m different. I said I love men too. You can talk to me. I’m still Lacey, just now you know something interesting about me. That’s what I think it is- interesting. Not weird, not creepy, not different. I am Lacey Darwin, your friend. That’s what I’ve always been.”

Miranda stared at Lacey for a long time. From behind her, Dorothy gave Lacey a thumbs up.

“Oh, Lacey, I’m sorry. I guess I didn’t know how to act with you, because… I just had a weird feeling that you’d be different now.”

“But I’m not,” Lacey said. “I am still the person who befriended you. I’m me. Come on, I want to introduce you to someone.”

She grabbed Miranda’s arm and pulled her forward. Lacey led her to Dorothy’s desk. “This is the woman I love, Dorothy Applegate. Say hello.”

“Hello,” Miranda said, suddenly calm. “It’s nice to meet you. I’m glad my friend has found a partner.”

“Nice to meet you too,” Dorothy said slyly. “I forgive you for telling the entire office about my sexuality. I’m glad Lacey has you for a friend.”

Miranda blinked. “I’m sorry, Dorothy.”

“It’s okay. With Lacey loving me, it wouldn’t be a secret for very long.” Dorothy looked at Lacey’s eyes, and then reached out and took her hand. Miranda stared at their finger interlocked.

“Even if we can’t get too close,” Dorothy continued. “She doesn’t want to kiss me- can you believe it? Who could resist these lips?”

Lacey stared at Miranda, trying to signal that Dorothy was joking and Miranda could relax. Miranda glanced at Lacey, and then answered. “I don’t know.” Her voice was uncertain.

“Oh!” Lacey interjected. “Patrick says he didn’t find you very comforting last night.”

Miranda groaned and hit herself, though she appeared relieved that Lacey had distracted her. “I couldn’t think of anything! I’ve never had anyone die in my family! I probably said the worst possible words he wanted to hear!”

“Tell me exactly what you said,” Lacey pleaded. “It can’t be too bad.”

“But it was,” Miranda gasped. “I said that it was good he had come in time to watch his family member die!”

“Aw, that’s not the worst you could have used,” Dorothy said. “Once a cousin of mine died, and someone told me, “Better him than you!””

“That sure is disrespectful,” Lacey said. “But I’m sure I can think of the worst one. How would you like it if a sibling or a parent died, someone really close in your immediate family, and you told a friend “So-and so died,” and your friend was like, “Who? Was that one of your pets?””

Miranda laughed. “Man, that’s horrible.” She looked at the clock behind Dorothy, and her tone changed. “Man, it’s late. I should go home. Maybe I should call Patrick?”

“Do that,” Dorothy said. “He still loves you, despite your words last night. I read it in his body language.”

Miranda shook her head. “You know, you really are a freak, but you’re a nice freak,” she told Dorothy. Lacey was mortified, but Dorothy laughed. “I love that!”

“See you tomorrow. It really was nice to get to know you.” Miranda waved and dashed out the double doors.

Lacey gazed at Dorothy once Miranda was gone. Dorothy had on a poker face. “I think you should go now, too. You’re tired.”

“Okay,” said Lacey. She was drained. “How about a kiss before I go? Just on the cheek?”

Dorothy shook her head. “No. You said we couldn’t be in love right now.”

Lacey nodded, remembering. “Okay. Well then… bye.” She turned awkwardly around and walked out into the fresh air.

Lacey smiled a little to herself as she walked. The plan to get Dorothy to talk to other people than her had worked, just not in the expected way.

Then as she got in the car, her smile faded away. Lacey could not love Dorothy. It would just make it harder for both of them when she found her Destined.

The pull at her chest was strong, stronger than it had ever been. Lacey hoped that the person on the other end would hurry to Alexandria quickly. She wondered briefly if the Destined would be a he or a she, and what they would look like. If it was someone she could love more than Sextans or Dorothy, her Destined must be stunning.

Lacey got home, changed clothes, and ate dinner, something she rarely did. She washed the plate and fork, and then retired to her room. Lacey pulled a SongChip out of the bowl, a softly glowing blue one. She inserted it into the notch in her head.

“Hello, Goddess Lacerta. We must have a little chat. I see you have not made a video log in three days?”

Lacey gasped, reeling, her hands automatically reaching up to yank the chip from her head. This was a MessageChip sent by God Fornax!

“It doesn’t matter to you, but it does to me. I would love to hear if you have found your Destined. No? Well, the deadline is approaching. Today is August the second. I don’t think that gives you enough time to find your Destined, don’t you think? I’m changing the date. You must find him or her by the fourth.”

Lacey screamed. “No! No! Not that early!” Her Destined couldn’t possibly come in time!

“Regardless of whether or not you’ve found your Destined, I will be waiting in the StarCraft on the night of the fourth. I will take you home. Maybe you’ll even join Sextans in the dungeon. Let’s see what he has to say about it, shall we?”

Then Sextans’s voice took over. It was weak and ragged, but Lacey could tell he was still trying to stay strong. “No, Lacerta. Whatever you do, don’t wait! Find your Destined- find him or her- don’t let Fornax rule you and take you away! Destroy- aarrrrrhhhhhhggggg!” Sextans started howling as whatever form of torture Fornax had was used on him.

“The fourth. Don’t forget,” Fornax whispered. “Tick tock tick tock tick tock…”

Lacey pulled the chip out of her head, fell into her bed, and screamed her soul out into a pillow. She HATED Fornax SO MUCH…

Lacey pulled the covers on her bed over her head. She had to get out of there. She had to come to her Destined. Fornax was right- she had spent way too much time on Earth.

But before Lacey could do anything, sleep caught her. She dreamed about Sextans and how soft his lips felt on hers. His russet hair was short and brushed, like it should be, and his Special parts were full again and wrapped around her as she hugged him.

Hey Nick!

Sorry I didn’t answer any of your postcards soon enough. Maybe they didn’t arrive soon enough. Colbie is fine, thank you. We recently went to Maymont Park and saw the wildlife. It was a beautiful day- the sun was shining, the sky was blue, the clouds were forming the shapes of hearts- as it seemed.

I’m trying not to be sappy about it, but I really, really like Colbie. I think I love her. But I don’t think we’re ready for any kind of marriage. Why am I talking about Colbie? Let’s talk about you! Sorry to hear you haven’t found “the one” yet. I said it would be a long search. How far do you think you’ll have to go?

That truck given out on you yet? You should totally take my advice about the sledgehammer. Every person I’ve known says it works like a charm. Well, I say it works like clockwork… Where are you going to dump the truck if the search takes you across the sea?

Sounds like you’ve met some very interesting girls on your trip. I wouldn’t trade mine for any of them. How will you know when you’ve found “the one?” Maybe you should give up? Oh, sorry. I know you wanted to do this, so you wouldn’t feel left out.

Don’t give up for anything. I doubt anyone has ever done anything like you- dumped life for a chase around the globe, after the perfect one. You should be famous. You should be in a newspaper! Guess no one’s heard about you yet. Why is that, Nick? Have you been lying to people? WHAT THE HECK? TELL THEM ABOUT IT!!!!!!!!! Very sorry for that waste of exclamation points. But dontcha want to be famous? And y’know, lying is a sin. Ooooohhhhhh…

Your shocked friend,


Hello, Alvarez.

It was a cloudy afternoon. I was driving along in the flow of cars, listening to The Joshua Tree and singing along, when suddenly the incredible happened. THAT DAMN TRUCK STOPPED MOVING! I felt it shudder beneath my feet, and then it just broke. The CD player still worked, so I listened to music until someone finally noticed me, blocking the stream.

This guy, Alex, just happened to have a friend who worked at a tow truck company. They hauled my truck away from me and told me the engine needed a replacement. I decided to use the money for an engine to buy a whole new car. Alex went car shopping with me and his friend, Guy. They found me a Prius! I am so happy! The Prius is white, but I’ll spray it soon.

I hope you’ve gotten over your shock. I have not told anyone about the search. Not even Alex, who I thought could be a replacement you and who had U2 playing in his car. Have you found a replacement me? Oh, that’s right, you have one. Colbie Flynn. A weak replacement me, but you love her, so…

I was very glad to hear about you and Colbie, and how you love her. She sure beats your old girlfriend, huh? Maymont Park must have been lovely. Wish I was there.

Why aren’t you ready for marriage yet? I think you’ve got it pretty much done. You love each other, she’s a great girl, you’re a great guy… You’ve been going out for quite a while now, with no problems at all. Maybe proposal is the way to go. Colbie Alvarez- now doesn’t that just ring?

I do not know how much longer the search will take. I do know that when I find him or her, I will know if they’re the one. I met a girl today named Di (short for Diana, like Princess Di). She’s gorgeous, with long curly blond hair. I think you would like her. She talks little about herself and more about the world and others. She asked me why I was in Culpeper, and I told her truthfully about the search. She was genuinely interested.

Maybe Di’s the one. I’d love it if she was. Seems like she’s my type of girl. I’ll write back if she’s not. (If she is, you will know in some way or another.)

Your content friend,


Dear Nick,

Yah, be content. I certainly am NOT. DAMMIT, NICK! YOU JINXED ME! It was all because of what you said- “You’ve been going out for quite a while now, with no problems at all.” Well, Colbie and I got in our first ever fight yesterday.

It was all because of you, Nick. You jinxed me, and now Colbie’s mad at me. Well, really I guess I can say it was my fault. I tried to press Colbie into doing something she didn’t want to do, and she just blew up at me. Life lesson- Never try to force a chick to do something. Especially if it’s something she hates. And especially if that chick is Colbie, who was born to fight (as I found out yesterday). How was I supposed to know she was skilled in this art? My comebacks were pathetic.

Really, Nick, I need some help here. All the while when she was screaming at me, I kept thinking of Anne (you know, my old girlfriend. You, being Nick, have probably suppressed all memory of her) and how she yelled at me before our breakup. I even thought for second Colbie WAS Anne, and I almost called her that! Then Colbie got all like, “Who’s Anne? Who’s Anne? Is she someone I should know about?” and pretty soon, the fight wasn’t about forcing Colbie to do stuff anymore. You know how arguments can change like that.

I felt empty after, like she’d yelled at me for a year instead of about ten minutes. I thought Colbie loved me, but I guess our relationship might not work out. I don’t want it to end like Anne’s. I don’t want it to end at all. Can you help me out, Nick? You’ve spent a lot of time with girls recently. What should I do to get Colbie back?

It sounds great in Culpeper. I don’t think you should trust Di, though. Weird name. I don’t like people named Diana. Does she like U2?

On a seperate note, YOU GOT A PRIUS???!!!! Oh my God, Nick! Send me a picture of it, please. Sprayed green. Lime green. Take Di for a spin in it. See how she likes it. Have fun continuing the search!

Your disheartened friend,


Hey Jonathan!

I’m sorry about you and Colbie. I have plenty to tell you about your fight, and what I think you should do. Hopefully you won’t be disheartened for long. Here’s my advice on saving your relationship:

Go over to Colbie’s house. Do not call her to make up. It’s better to talk in person. Explain your point of the argument, and ask her how she saw the fight. Apologize for what she says you did wrong. Give her ways you will make it better. You must remember to actually do these things, and be sincere in your apology. Otherwise Colbie will notice as soon as you break your promise. Explain to her about Anne and how you don’t like it when she yells at you. Colbie will understand that. If she loves you, she’ll forgive you. This is only your first fight. I think couples have to fight to survive, actually.

Di was not the one. I asked her if she liked U2, and she said, “Who?” Really. Now who hasn’t heard of U2?! I didn’t want to take her for a spin after that. I think I’ll spend a little more time in Culpeper, though. Maybe someone else is the one for me.

Enclosed, as you will see, is a picture of my new Prius. Notice how green it is? I love this car so much. The spray paint can is dead in a Dumpster.

Your positive friend,


Wazzup, Slade?

She doesn’t even know who U2 is? WHO THE HELL IS SHE?! I’m glad you decided she wasn’t the one.

I took your advice about Colbie. She understood completely about Anne, just like you said she would. She was very kind in making up with me, and was convinced that it would never happen again, like I told her. We’re back to the in love stage! Yippee!

Responding to another one of your letters, I want to make sure I read this right. Proposal? We’re ready for proposal? Really? I’m a little nervous, Nick. Do you think that’s the best idea? We just got through a first fight. This would kind of be a bogus and cheesy way to make up. Colbie wouldn’t like it, which would result in another fight, and then- boom- breakup! OH NO!

I enjoyed the picture of your car. It’s very green, which I guess is the way you like it. I don’t really like your choice of shade. But I know that’s what you wanted, so it’s beautiful to your eyes.

One thing about your search is confusing me, Nick. In your previous letter and postcards, you told me about girls and which ones were not “the one.” How did you know they weren’t “the one?” How can you tell you have to keep searching? Is it some sort of sixth sense, or do you just know from the people?

Keep it cool, Nick. Come back as soon as you’ve found her! Maybe there can be two weddings at once, and we can be each other’s best mans!

Your hopeful friend,


Dear Jonathan,

I am currently interested in a girl named Denver. Yeah, I know that that’s a weird name, but I like girls whose names start with D. Haha. She had very short brown hair, and is very short herself. Her eyes are blue, and she is gangly. She’s adorable. It’s her nose especially. It turns up in this really cute way.

I’m so happy that Colbie and you made up. I think marriage is a good idea, but yes, you should wait. You’re the only one who can decide when to propose. I can tell you this- don’t wait too long and give your love a chance to crumble, but don’t jump into it too quickly. That would be bogus, like you said.

Your wedding idea interests me. Maybe I’ll return with Denver?

Now I think you deserve an answer to your question. You asked if it was a sort of sixth sense I have that lets me know who’s the one and who’s not. My response is yes, it kind of is. When I see a girl, I can’t tell if she’s the one until the night. During the night I feel something inside me that lets me know if she’s right or not. It’s very mysterious, but I know it’s true. This feeling is a tugging at my chest, pulling me in the direction of another woman. Does this sound insane to you? I hope not. But I always did think I was a little crazy.

I’m glad you like my Prius. I like it too. Have I mentioned that to you yet?

By tonight I’ll know if Denver’s the one.

Your wacked out friend,


Hello, Nicholas.

Wow. Nick, we really need to talk about this.

When I first read your letter, I was really surprised. You sounded creeped out by your feeling at night. I was, too. You sounded like I might possibly think you were crazy. Well, I do. But you’re crazy in a good way. I don’t think you’re making up this feeling. I think the feeling is real and you are sensitive enough to feel it. I wouldn’t know, because I’ve never felt anything like that. But maybe you do have a sixth sense.

You’re really lucky for that sensation. It lets you know if you’re doing the right thing. Now your journey makes a little more sense to me. Of course you’d want to find out who was on the other end of the tugging. I would too. Unfortunately, if the tugging did not lead me towards Colbie I would be very saddened by that. Would that mean we’d have to break up?

Colbie is probably the one, so the tugging might lead towards her anyway. I love her so much. We’re going to get married- I know this for sure now. We haven’t had another fight anytime soon. Maybe I should propose soon? What do you think?

Colbie says to tell you hi. She thinks your feeling at night is incredible. She wouldn’t want to feel it, though. After she said that, she said, “I don’t know what I’d do if you weren’t the one,” and then gave me the taste of her lips. Is this a sure sign that things are going well for us? I’m just not sure about proposing. What if she says no?

Tell me if Denver’s the one. I love that name. It’d be sad to see her go. She does sound adorable, but is she old enough for you?

Your confuzzled friend,


Yo Alvarez!

God, Jonathan. I don’t know what to say. You described the feeling perfectly. You understood it completely. I am moved. I was so afraid you’d think I was crazy. Now I get it. How could you possibly think I was crazy? I’m normal. At least, I’m as normal as I think I can get. I’m glad you see it that way.

Tell Colbie I say hi right back, and that she’s just the right woman for you. From her words, I have no doubt that the tugging would lead you straight to her. I cannot express how happy I am that you’re in love. I told you, you’re the only one who can decide when to propose. I would say to propose as soon as you think there is no reason for her to say no. And personally, I think that time is now. She loves you with all her heart. She wouldn’t say no and break your own.

Sadly, Denver wasn’t the one. I did like her a lot. Fortunately, she was too young for me. She was 17. Don’t be confuzzled anymore. It made too much sense now. I’m going to go on to Manassas and see who I can find there. I hope that’s a near end to my search.

When I come back with my love, we’ll both get married on the same day, and attend each other’s weddings. We will, virtually, have one big wedding. Can’t wait to see what Colbie looks like in a white dress.

Your daydreaming friend,


Dear Nick,

SHE SAID YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Lacey got up out of bed at around seven. That was a normally late time for her to rise, and she was surprised when she suddenly had to run to bathroom and get sick. Why hadn’t she woken up earlier?

Lacey drifted to the floor and pressed her cheek to the porcelain. She remembered the dinner she’d had the night before. Her StarPerson habits were still there in eating- StarPeople only ate two meals every day. Because Miranda liked having lunch with her, dinner was the meal Lacey usually skipped. When she ate three a day, her stomach was too full, and she’d have to get rid of the food.

The effects of overeating had been accentuated by Lacey’s fear from last night, which had rushed back in the morning. Fornax was going to collect her on the fourth, ready or not. Lacey knew if she wasn’t ready, her race would be killed, she would be captured, and the war would be over.

The fourth was tomorrow.

Lacey got dressed, ate breakfast slowly, and then drove off to the office in her car. She observed the intense tugging at her breast, and prayed fervently that the Destined would come as soon as possible.

She thought about the Destined and about how he or she was coming soon. Lacey turned a corner, and suddenly remembered one thing Fornax didn’t know. Fornax had no idea that the Destined was coming, because Lacey had stopped making video logs when she felt a change in the signals. This could be an advantage on her part.

Lacey parked her car and entered the office. She gave Dorothy her special smile, and Dorothy smiled back. She said nothing, but gave a big wave. Lacey knew she couldn’t get close to Dorothy if she didn’t want to hurt her, but her heart twisted back in the opposite direction as she turned and headed into the elevator.

Lacey stepped off on her floor and stared around, ready for fangirls. But no one ran up to her or squealed, “There’s Lacey!” Lacey shook her head, puzzled. Noelle passed her at that moment, and she waved calmly with a “Hi, Lacey.”

Lacey took a step forward towards the water cooler and Felicia and Haley, two more fangirls. They smiled. “Hello, Lacey. How are you?” Felicia asked.

“I’m fine,” Lacey told them. They grinned at each other. Haley said, “I’m glad.”

Lacey got some water, drank it down, and then sat down in her cubicle. She beamed up at the ceiling, shaking her head from side to side in wonderment. Then she said, “God.”

“What?” Miranda asked from behind the wall.

Lacey spoke quietly. “The fangirls! They’re not obsessed with me anymore, but not averted, either. It’s perfect- exactly what I wanted!”

“Huh. What a miracle.” There was a smile in Miranda’s voice.

Lacey did her work that day completely happy. Who cared that she’d have to leave Earth the next day? Everyone loved her and had made up for her loving Dorothy.

Then Lacey was drowned in sadness. She was going to leave Earth, probably Destined-less, and without Dorothy. Lacey loved Dorothy. She realized that it wouldn’t matter that her other lover was in the Stars, because her other lover would be killed.

Lacey went about the rest of her work in a daze. She was so incredibly sad and disappointed. Lacey once again prayed that she could find the Destined in time. She begged in her mind for her Destined to come quickly.

At lunch, Lacey ate with Miranda, Noelle, and Felicia. Noelle and Felicia were joking with each other about the incident with Lacey’s radio in the office. Felicia stood up and sang the chorus of “Womanizer,” for “old time’s sake.”

Lacey nodded to the beat, even though Felicia was outrageously off key. This could be her last day on Earth, and she wanted to have fun while she could.

Miranda reached out and patted Lacey’s shoulder. Lacey blinked, looking up. “What was that for?”

“Hey,” said Miranda. “Lacey, are you alright? You’ve been a little spacey today.”

Lacey shook her head. Her mind needed some clearing. “I was just…”

She fell silent. What was there to say? Lacey couldn’t tell Miranda her real problems. She shrugged and fell back to her sandwich.

“Next time you’re at a karaoke party you better sing that song, just for me,” Noelle was telling Felicia. And at that moment, Lacey blurted out the rest of her sentence.

“I was planning a party. After the night out with you and Dorothy, I thought you should have a real party, a real night out.”

“Oh!” exclaimed Miranda, looking surprised. “A party? When is it, Lacey? I’ll be there.”

“Tomorrow night.”

What had possessed her to say that?

“Tomorrow night? When exactly?” Felicia interjected.

“At eight o clock, I suppose,” Lacey said. She had no idea if she’d even be around by then. But now that the party idea had wormed its way into her brain by some insane twist of fate, Lacey couldn’t drop it. If Fornax did decide to wait until the night to take her back, she needed witnesses to it. She didn’t want to leave anyone without an explanation. Fornax might not know how to alter memories. It was a long shot, but maybe…

“A party! I’ll come! I can come!” Noelle said. She looked happy, and hugged herself. Then she took a look at Lacey, and said, “If you want me to.” Her voice was shy.

“Of course,” Lacey told her, and then inspiration struck. “I’ll invite everyone in the office.”

Miranda, Noelle, and Felicia gaped at her. Finally Miranda said, “Wow. Big party.” She half laughed.

“Yeah. Spread the word around for me, will you? And tell them where I live.”

“Aw, Lacey, everyone knows where you live,” Felicia said.

“I want to tell Dorothy myself, though,” Lacey murmured. She suddenly glanced at Felicia and asked, “How are you feeling?”

Felicia smiled. “Much better then Sunday. I’m glad I wasn’t there that night. However, being sick did suck.”

“Oh yes,” Noelle said.

“And where’s Patrick?” Lacey inquired.

Miranda sighed and looked down. “He took work off today. I thought he should. He nearly went in, but I told him it wasn’t good for his health. His family needed him.”

“I’m glad. Patrick’s a lovely person, Miranda. I’m happy you’re dating.”

“I’m happy you’re dating myself, Lacey,” Miranda said. Her voice was free from the forced conversation with Dorothy the day before. “I really am. Dorothy is no freak. She’s really very interesting.”

Lacey could only smile. She felt her heart throb when Miranda spoke Dorothy’s name. Lacey did not in any way want to leave Dorothy behind.

Lacey worked after lunch, and the word of a large party at her house at eight was spread around the office. Soon everyone knew about it and was invited- everyone except Dorothy. Lacey couldn’t wait to come downstairs after work.

And after work, she did. Lacey got out of the elevator to see a large amount of fangirls crowded around Dorothy’s desk. When they saw Lacey, they scurried away, calling, “See you later, Dorothy!”

Dorothy gave a huge smile as soon as she saw Lacey. “Well, I just had a wonderful conversation with your friends.” Her cheeks were slightly red. “I love your friends, Lace. Or should I call them fangirls?”

“Exactly!” Lacey sighed. She shook her head in happiness. “Dorothy, can I ask you something?”

“Anything you want.” Dorothy sounded excited.

“Tomorrow night I’m having a party at my house at eight. I’m inviting everyone in the office, including you.”

For a moment Dorothy’s smile faltered, but then she gasped, “Aw, thanks, Lace! I am definitely coming!”

“Thank you,” Lacey murmured. “And… can you pick me up tomorrow morning?” That way God Fornax couldn’t take her away in the morning.

Dorothy smiled. “I will do that.”

Lacey tore her gaze off Dorothy’s brown eyes. Her sadness suddenly came rushing back, and she fought it. Lacey wanted to kiss Dorothy again.

“Are you okay? No you’re not. You’re apprehensive, scared, and depressed.”

Dorothy’s eyes missed nothing. Lacey breathed, “I’m sorry-“ and leaned into her. She caught Dorothy’s mouth with her mouth, and they kissed for a second time.

When they pulled apart, Lacey was shaking and trying not to cry. She stared hard at Dorothy’s calm face. For a moment Dorothy was a pool of tranquility, and Lacey felt such strong, surprising love that she nearly kissed Dorothy again. How was she to leave behind this incredible, beautiful woman?

Dorothy murmured, “You weren’t supposed to do that,” and stroked Lacey’s face. Lacey bit down on her tongue and closed her eyes, trembling.

“Everything’ll be okay,” Dorothy crooned. She brushed back a strand of Lacey’s black hair, and then whipped her glasses off.

Lacey opened her eyes. Her vision was blurred, for more than one reason. She said, “Oh, dear,” and let out one burble of laughter.

Dorothy giggled a tiny bit, and her breath stirred Lacey’s hair. She handed Lacey’s glasses back, and Lacey shoved them on her face.

“I told you I couldn’t love you…” Lacey closed her eyes again for a second.

“But I can,” Dorothy whispered. And that was that.

When Lacey left at last, she heard Dorothy sing to her, and she couldn’t help but laugh a bit.

“Ra ra, ah-ah-ah! Roma, romama. GaGa, ooh la la! Want your bad romance.”

The author's comments:
The way that Jonathan discovered The Script is the way I did, and the way Nick discovered them is the way I introduced them to my dad. The last song in this chapter was my inspiration for this whole book.

Nick drove into Manassas singing along with The Script.

What am I gonna do when the best part of me was always you?

What am I s’posed to say when I’m all choked up and you’re okay?

I’m falling to pieces, yeh

I’m falling to pieces, yeh

Nick had a bit of trouble reaching the high notes, but he felt he could do it. He surprisingly liked The Script a lot. Jonathan had first introduced him to the Irish trio a few months back. His favorite band was The Fray, and a website had recommended that if he liked The Fray, he should try The Script. Jonathan had sung part of their song “The Man Who Can’t Be Moved” to Nick, and he had been moved. When Jonathan bought and played the album for Nick, Nick had wanted it so badly that Jonathan willingly gave it up.

Nick was having fun trying to find the one. He had met many interesting girls, but none of them were his match yet. The pull at his chest was getting stronger every night, and now he didn’t have to be half asleep to feel it. Whenever Nick crashed into a hotel bed, he felt the tugging, telling him to keep moving.

Nick recognized how dark it was outside. He was ready to eat dinner. Without thinking, Nick pulled over at the first place that appeared to serve food. Walking in, he discovered it was a bar.

The bar didn’t have any food- if there was food, it didn’t sound edible. Nick ordered a drink and watched the people inside. A large group of men sat in the back corner. They were talking in loud, noisy voices and seemed to be drunk.

“Give me another one,” one of the men told the guy working at the bar. He nodded and began pouring “another one.” The man turned to his friends and called, “Anyone here like ball? Base, basket, foot? Anyone? Don’t be shy!”

Nick noticed that they were about the only people in the bar. The guy behind the counter didn’t respond, and Nick himself wouldn’t dare. The only other person in the bar was a woman with short red curls. She sat at the counter alone and wrote quietly in a notebook.

The man seemed to notice her at about the same time Nick did. “Hey, lady. Whatcha got there?” He moved in a swaying sort of motion over to the counter and stood just behind Nick.

“Nothing,” the woman said, deftly moving her arm over the paper so the man couldn’t see it.

This seemed to mystify the man, and maybe irritate him a little. “Aw, c’mon. Sure it’s nothing.” He touched her arm, and she flinched, revealing some of the words.

The man pried the notebook from her grasp and held it up to the light. He ignored the cries of, “No, please don’t look in there!” and read it out loud to his friends.

“Give me another one. Anyone here like ball? Base, basket, foot…” The man broke off, turned, and stared at the woman. It suddenly seemed to dawn on him what she had written.

“You wrote what I said?” Now the man sounded angry. “What the hell. She wrote what I said!” He tossed the notebook to the floor. “Why’d you do a thing like that?” He lunged for her arm.

The woman shrieked as the man grabbed her shoulder and tugged her towards him. He gripped her with both hands and snarled, “You don’t just write what other people freaking say!” Nick was surprised he had enough control to euphemize.

The woman screamed suddenly. “Ow! That hurts!”

Nick watched her pupils dilate. He felt like something had to be done. No one appeared to care what was going on, so Nick had to stop it.

He stood up and plucked the notebook off the floor. Then he called out, “Hey!” in a clear voice. The man dropped one hand and swiveled around.

“What?” His voice was thick, eyes glazed. Nick waved the notebook and said, “What about this?”

“Go to hell,” the man growled.

Nick wasn’t sure if he was talking about the notebook or himself. He said, “It says more stuff about you.”

The man looked like he understood. “What? Gimme that.” He snatched blankly at the air, and his grip on the woman slackened.

Nick tried not to grin. He opened it and read aloud from the same page, “I want one beer, please.” At that moment he realized he was reading his own words. The man didn’t give the impression of noticing the difference. He let go of the woman and pushed his way through tables and chairs, clutching for the notebook.

The woman darted away, back to her seat by the counter. Nick let the man come close, and then at the right moment he threw the notebook back to the woman.

Nick’s aim was excellent- the book reached the woman’s arms, and she cradled it to her chest. The man whirled around, spotted the woman, and yelled. Nick ran behind the man towards the doors, and the woman followed.

The woman soon got in front, and Nick realized he was following her. The woman ran around the back of the bar, and sagged against a Dumpster. She looked up at Nick and rasped, “Who are you?”

“Nick,” he told her.

The woman stared incomprehensively. She murmured, “I’m Tabby.”

Nick extended his hand, and the woman feebly gripped it. She blinked her brown eyes. “Oh, yeah.” Her voice was harsh. “Thanks for saving me. He’d have surely… done something to me if you… weren’t there.”

“You didn’t seem this stoned in the bar,” Nick noted.

“It was the adrenaline. And my writing…” Tabby suddenly flipped her notebook open and wrote something down in it. When she was finished, she said, “Thank you,” again.

Nick felt himself grow warm inside. He said, “Did you just write down our conversation?”

“Yeah.” Tabby’s eyes looked a little brighter. She tapped her pencil against the metal of the Dumpster and explained, “I’ve been doing it since I was eleven. I like studying people and how they talk. It interests me. I study in bars sometimes, but sometimes you just need a good drink.” She laughed.

“Agreed.” Nick laughed too. He liked Tabby already. She was a very interesting person. And very pretty, too… Now that Nick was close he could see the light smattering of freckles across her nose, the pretty pink color of her unpainted nails, and the shape of her head. It was a slender head, slightly angling downward.

The Dumpster was next to the back door of the bar. Nick heard voices from inside- the drunken man sounded as if he’d found a new target. Tabby heard it also, and coiled tighter into herself. “I want to leave.”

“Okay,” Nick said a little faintly. His head had already filled with images of the two of them talking.

Tabby glanced at the door, and then at Nick. “My protector…” she whispered. Then in a louder voice- “You know, I’d like you to come with me.”

Nick was pleasantly surprised. “Certainly!” He gently touched Tabby’s shoulder. Tabby did not pull away.

“Follow my car.” She turned and dashed off.

Nick climbed into his green Prius. He watched Tabby turn her lights on. Tabby’s car was of good taste- a silver Volkswagen. Not too flashy, but not exactly plain. It was definitely no Hated Banana Beetle. Tabby sped off, and Nick followed her car.

Tabby led him through the dark, a bit above the speed limit. Nick didn’t care. He felt a rush from the speed and the heightening of his senses. At that moment Nick would follow Tabby anywhere.

They ended up at a park. The park was closed, of course, and blackness loomed out from all sides. Tabby parked her car and zipped out. “Okay, Nick. You want to talk to me? Let’s talk. Let’s talk to me.”

Nick followed her over to a bench right outside the park’s fence. He was amazed at how quickly their relationship was moving- from utter strangers to friends. Maybe after their talk it would be more than that.

Tabby and Nick sat down on the bench. Tabby said, “Okay. I am Tabby, short for Tabitha, and I live in Virginia. Not Manassas. I like studying the human reaction, and my favorite color is red.”

“I am Nick, short for Nicholas, and I live in Richmond. I like hanging out with my friend Jonathan, and my favorite color is green.”

Tabby smiled. Her teeth were white and straight in the dark. Nick had a hot flash for no reason he knew of. He blinked at Tabby.

Nick couldn’t remember ever feeling like this around anyone. Whenever Tabby looked at him, his heart beat faster. Nick’s stomach felt sloshy, and he couldn’t stop shivering, despite the warm night. He wondered if he were getting sick, and then realized that it was a perfectly natural crush.

This was shocking. Nick hadn’t crushed on anyone for two years. He hadn’t liked any girls or boys or anyone. If Tabby was bringing on that feeling, then…

Nick couldn’t think it. He wrapped his mind around the shocking idea.

Tabby was the one.

The two figures sat on the park bench, one mildly drunk, the other highly stimulated and aroused. They talked for a very, very long time. Nick poured his entire life into his words, hoping that the sloshing, shivery feeling would go away. It didn’t- Nick continued to feel anxious, and he didn’t know why. Tabby laughed loudly at his words, and Nick held her hand close. They were changing in one night, to become something Nick believed was the perfect couple.

Finally Tabby stood up, saying, “Let’s go to my hotel.” She wavered over to Nick’s car and pulled open the passenger door.

Nick got into the driver’s seat. “Where is your hotel?”

“I’ll show you the way…” Tabby leaned over and kissed Nick, her lips soft on his. Nick was suddenly paralyzed. He couldn’t breathe. Tabby pulled back, and Nick gulped in air. He kissed Tabby back just as hard.

Nick somehow managed to drive to the hotel, despite the ringing in his ears and the hot girl riding shotgun. He forgot about Tabby’s car, and it seemed she did too, for she never mentioned it again. What she did mention was Nick’s singing voice as he sang along with “Rusty Halo”.

“Your voice is like velvet. Wow. I love it.”

Nick gasped suddenly as Tabby touched the back of his neck.

Nick drove to Tabby’s hotel through her somewhat garbled instructions, and pulled her out of the car.

Tabby moaned and leaned against Nick. She took him inside, and led him up the stairs. Nick never saw the inside of the hotel. He just kept his eyes on Tabby’s face. She opened the door to her room for him.

Lights from outside spilled across the messy room. There was one bed in the middle of it all. Nick only saw that bed. He said, “Tabby-“

“Relax, kick off your shoes,” she said casually, and hers went flying into the air, along with her notebook.

Nick grabbed at Tabby’s waist, and she spun around and leapt onto the bed. Nick lunged into her, knocking her down into the covers. He pressed his hands onto her shoulders and crushed his lips against hers. This felt so right.

Tabby moaned through Nick’s mouth, a pure sound and feeling of want. Nick wanted her just as much. He squeezed his eyes shut.

But even as Tabby’s hands reached back to slide down Nick’s shirt and tug at his hair, even as Nick gripped her shoulders in a stranglehold, that old familiar feeling came back.

Nick’s chest began throbbing, tugging him in the direction of another person.

Nick opened his eyes, and pulled away from Tabby. He rolled to his feet and walked back. “I can’t do it-“

Tabby lay there, and then propped herself up by her elbow. “What? What are you talking about?”

“I can’t!” Nick insisted, slipping his feet into his shoes. He ran out the door.

Once Nick had gotten to the stairs, Tabby was out, running towards him. “Nick! Nick! Where are you going?”

Nick didn’t answer. He rushed down the stairs and went flying through the main lobby, Tabby shadowing him.

Finally Nick was out in his car. He shoved the keys in the ignition and the Prius purred to life. Nick tried to get out, but all at once Tabby was there.

Nick, being a fool, rolled his window down.

Tabby gasped, trying to catch her breath. Her eyes were hurt. Her whole face was pained. She said, “What’s wrong, Nick? What did I do? I thought you liked me!”

Nick’s throat was too constricted to speak, and he managed to only choke out the words, “I’m sorry, Tabby.” Then he was gone, speeding away in his car.

Don’t look back, don’t look back… Nick repeated those words in his mind until he was hissing them between clenched teeth. “Don’t look back, do not look back…” Nick brushed the streams of tears off his face.

Finally a blessed red light came up, and Nick took the opportunity to sort himself out. The flow of tears slowed to a trickle, and finally stemmed. Nick tried to talk himself out of it- she was just a girl. You can find other girls like her anywhere. She’s no one special. But she was to Nick. She was the first girl he’d fallen in love with for two years.

Nick passed a hand along his face, and at that moment realized something. The pull in his chest had changed- it was still tugging him towards north, but now he could feel it. Nick was amazed. He had never been able to feel the pull during times when he wasn’t in bed.

A song began on The Script CD, a depressing song.

Sometimes tears say all there is to say

Sometimes our first scars won’t ever fade


Try to break my heart, well it’s broke

Try to hang me high, well I’m choked

Wanted rain on me, well I’m soaked

Soaked to the skin

It’s the end where I begin

Nick listened to it for a minute, just to get all the lingering thoughts about Tabby out. Then he switched to the radio.

Cause nobody wants to be the last one there

Everyone wants to feel like someone cares

Someone to love with my life in their hands

There’s gotta be somebody for me like that

Cause nobody wants to do it on their own

And everyone wants to know they’re not alone

Somebody else that feels the same somewhere

There’s gotta be somebody for me out there

The author's comments:
There is a sequel after this, but I'm not done with it.

Lacey chose her attire for hostess of the party very carefully. She put on a floor length black skirt and a white V-neck. Her only accessory was a silver necklace with a dolphin on it.

Lacey had spent all day surrounded by friends. She was not going to leave until they had gotten to party. Then she could go to the Stars.

The signals in her breast were so strong she almost fell over.

Nick wrote carefully in his notebook.

13. Tabby


Loved me

Wrote down conversation in notebook

Made me cry

Not the one

Nick was in Alexandria, Virginia. He could feel something strange going on in his chest. Ever since Nick had felt the pull at a time when he wasn’t in bed, he had felt it every hour of every day. Now the tugging was so strong, he had no doubt the one was in this city.

Where was he or she?

Lacey strung up Christmas lights. She set out punch. The doorbell rang.

“Miranda!” Lacey cried, hugging her friend. Miranda wore jeans and a T-shirt. She hugged Lacey back tightly. “Hello. I brought wine. I’m totally ready for a party!”

Behind her, the fangirls stretched out in a long line.

Nick took his Prius out for a spin around the city. It was getting dark at nine. Nick drove down the streets, his mind dominated completely by the feeling in his chest. Nick could not stop searching.

The last guest to arrive was Dorothy. By her arrival the party was in full swing. She turned up fashionably late on Lacey’s doorstep, and purred simply, “I’m here.”

Lacey embraced her friend. “Oh, Dorothy.” Her words caught in her throat as she stared at Dorothy’s ensemble. She was not wearing the clothes she’d worn on the girl’s night out, but instead she was garbed in a long, slinky, midnight black dress.

“You’re beautiful,” Lacey whispered, only hoping that Dorothy was hers.

“I don’t like the dress,” Dorothy whined.

Lacey laughed, and her tension went sliding off. “Let’s come in and dance.”

Nick was having trouble keeping the wheels on the road. He wanted to drive off, through all the obstacles in his way. Whoever it was must be eluding him… Nick floored it.

Miranda twirled by on the makeshift dance floor, her arms full of Patrick. Noelle, Felicia, Leah, and Haley sat around drinking sparkling cider. They gave Lacey thumbs up.

Lacey and Dorothy were in the middle of the dance floor, swaying slowly from side to side. Dorothy’s hair was sparkling under the lights, and she whispered in Lacey’s ear, “I’m so glam I sweat glitter.” Lacey shook with silent laughter.

The party was getting a little wild- most of the couples dancing had spilled outside into the yard, and a lot of people were getting drunk. Lacey led Dorothy outside, and they both sat down on the back steps.

“This is a great night,” Dorothy said to Lacey. “I’m glad I get to spend it with you.”

Lacey felt lips on her hair, and she tried not to lean away. The signals were now hurting her chest painfully. Lacey wanted to scream. How could the Destined be so close and yet so far away?

Dorothy put her arm around Lacey and hugged her sweetly. Lacey worked at not crying, again. She was having a really emotional night.

“I love you,” Dorothy whispered. “I love you, I love you, I love you.”

Somehow the words could not be said enough. Dorothy cut them off by pressing her mouth against Lacey’s neck. Lacey closed her eyes and concentrated on only the sensation.



Lacey felt choked up, but she could speak. “I’m… I’m leaving you tonight, Dorothy. I’m leaving Earth.” If she were to go home soon, there would be no need for secrets now.

“Ah,” said Dorothy, clearly wondering what Lacey meant.

Up ahead, Lacey saw the flashing lights of the StarCraft.

Nick pulled over on the side of the road and gaped. Couples were spewing out of the house in front of him, laughing outrageously and dancing like crazy. But some were staring at what he had seen- the flashing lights of what looked like a diamond shaped spacecraft. It came closer and closer, farther down into the sky, bathing the world in its blue silver glow. It was something straight from Nick’s favorite sci-fi books. The bridge opened, and a man stepped out.

God Fornax called, “Lacerta Drovadoria!”

Lacey scrambled up along with Dorothy. Dorothy was standing in shock, a crazy smile twisted on her face.

“Oh my God, Lacey. What’s this?”

Lacey called up. “I am here, God Fornax.”

“Have you found your Destined yet?”

Lacey tried to tell him, but her words choked into the truth. “No.”

“Hmm.” God Fornax stared up at the sky. “Now that’s bad news, isn’t it? Why did I just see you kissing that Human?”

“Dorothy is my best friend! I love her!” Lacey protested.

“Hmm,” Fornax said again. “Another Sextans.”

“Sex… what?” Dorothy asked, obviously confused.

Everyone at the party was outside now, gaping and staring fixedly at the StarCraft. Some screamed and ran away. Others stood still in a dazzled stupor. Miranda grabbed Patrick by the arm and ran away as fast as she could, screaming all the time. Some of the fangirls followed her.

“Come with me now, Lacerta,” Fornax commanded. “Come to your home.”

“It’s not my home anymore!” Lacey screamed.

“Oh, are you being difficult?” Fornax taunted. “Good. I foresaw this. Looks like I’ll have to make you come home.”

Fornax clicked his fingers, and a torture machine wheeled forward. Lacey recognized it as the one that shot ice fire. Fornax turned it on, and the blasts were directed everywhere.

Now the Humans were even more afraid. They all ran off in a blind panic. Noelle, Felicia, and Haley ran hand in hand, stumbling, shrieking about aliens. Leah followed them, her eyes terrified. Dorothy jumped into the bushes next to the back steps.

Lacey stayed where she was. She felt no fear as the machine turned to her. Her breast ached and tried to tug her away, towards her nearby Destined. But Lacey remained rooted to the spot.

In the one second before impact, Lacey saw a silhouetted figure dance behind Fornax.

Nick pushed his way through the screaming partygoers, and stood stock still at the sight. What looked like white flames were shooting from the bridge of the spacecraft. Nick felt no fear from the possible danger. He cared nothing for death, because the one he had been searching for was here- very, very close to him.

Nick ran into the backyard, hoping with all his heart that the one was there. He could feel that certainly he or she lived in this house. The pull inside his chest blinded him, and Nick rushed forward unthinkingly.

Another man appeared suddenly behind the first man at the bridge. He yanked the first man back violently and shut off the device that was shooting the flames down. Then he yelled, “Goddess Lacerta! Are you all right?”

“Grus…?” Lacey gasped.

Nick blinked. Who was Goddess Lacerta? He turned around.

Lacey saw a strong, wiry young man with tough arms and a broad chest. His hair was blond, wavy, and fell to his shoulders. His eyes were a serious brown.

Nick saw a small, delicate woman with large breasts and a small waist. She was adorable. Her hair was black, silky, and came to the back of her neck. Her hazel eyes hid behind wire-framed glasses perched atop a cinnamon dusted nose.

At that moment, an unseen force pulled Nick forward. He had no time to react before the force had tugged him straight into the woman’s arms.

“Wow!” Nick gasped, unable to say anything else. “Are you a magnet?”

“No, I’m more like the Earth,” Lacey replied. She was unsettled and delighted by this force at the same time. The force had been a gravitational pull bringing her Destined straight to her. Usually no one could feel their own gravitational pull when they stood on a planet, so this was amazing.

Meanwhile, a struggle was taking place on the bridge. Nick and Lacey watched the two men, Fornax and Grus, grapple for the ice fire machine. Grus seemed to be winning. He pushed the older man back and twisted his wrist.

“Ow!” Fornax howled.

“Catch, Lacey!” Grus called, and threw the machine down to her.

Nick and Lacey darted out of the way of the falling piece of metal. Lacey grabbed it out of the air and set it down on the ground neatly.

Grus held Fornax tightly from behind. He pushed the evildoer forward. “Fire away!”

Lacey pulled the cord on the weapon, and ice fire shot from it straight into the air. The fire hit Fornax. Grus ran backwards.

Fornax screamed as he burned. Lacey couldn’t tear her eyes off the sight. She couldn’t even blink. Nick tried to turn away, but he couldn’t move.

Finally the cremation was over, and all that remained of God Fornax was a pile of ashes. Lacey was weeping quietly. She had just killed one of her race, no matter how evil he had been.

Nick had no idea what he had just witnessed, but he knew he hated it. Lacey was crying, and Nick didn’t know what to say.

“What’s your name?”

Brilliant move, Nick.

Lacey looked up at her Destined. She whispered, “I’m Lacey Darwin.”

Nick took her hands. “I’m Nick Slade.”

Lacey stared at Nick with wide eyes. She threw her arms around him and kissed him on the lips.

Nick couldn’t breathe with Lacey’s mouth over his. He submitted to the kiss and sucked on her lips, tasting the flavor.

Lacey knew what to do. As she kissed Nick, she tried to make her mind join his. This was the true test. If Lacey couldn’t connect minds with Nick, he was not her Destined.

Nick suddenly froze as he heard a voice in his head say, testing, testing. Can you hear me, Nick? This is Lacey.

Nick staggered back. He thought, what the?

Think towards me. Think, don’t speak. Lacey’s eyes were trusting.

Nick tried it out. He said the first words that came to mind.

I love you.

I love you too. Lacey smiled, and embraced Nick.

Lacey felt something stir within her. With Nick’s mind combined with hers, she could feel her power growing stronger. Soon it was a thick pool of strength, and Lacey only had to dip her mind into it to use it.

Mind if I change, Nick? I don’t want to freak you out, but I have to get back to my normal body.

Uh… No, I don’t mind.


Lacey spooned out some of her power. She began her own kind of QuickWash. This, however, was a change from Human body to StarPerson.

The first change was her body. Lacey shot up into the air, her height accelerating, and her body shrinking in on itself until she was no longer plump. Lacey’s skin turned pale, and then white, alabaster. Clothes appeared on her body, out of nowhere. Her hair grew longer and longer, until it reached her torso.

Lacey’s lips turned a shocking red color. Her freckles simply vanished, and her glasses fell off her face. Lacey felt her eyes change from hazel to pure, undiluted emerald green. Last of all, her Special parts grew back.

Nick watched with surprise as something began poking out of Lacey’s back. It seemed to be an extension of her spine, only it was thicker and black. Then Lacey straightened up and unfolded the mysterious growth, and Nick saw feathers. Lacey had wings!

Wings? We call them Special parts, our Special parts. And I am Lacerta Drovadoria. Lacerta smiled, revealing porcelain teeth. She flexed her wings and flapped them gently, stirring up wind.

Nick only gazed at them admiringly. His eyes were tearing- of course the one for him, the one and only who had called for his love, wasn’t human. Of course she would be something more.

Lacerta stretched her wings out and gathered Nick up in them. Anything you would like to bring with you on the StarCraft? She asked him calmly.

Nick glanced up, and saw the younger man, Grus, staring down at him. His own inky black wings appeared for a moment, and then he flicked them back.

“Um, could you land it on the ground?” Nick asked shyly.

Grus grinned and nodded. He disappeared inside the StarCraft. Moments later, the ship had settled down.

Nick unwrapped his arms from Lacerta’s waist, called “Good- that’ll do,” and rushed off around to the front.

Lacerta stared up at Grus a little accusingly. “And how did you manage to break out of your cage and save me from being killed just in time?”

Grus shrugged his shoulders. “Tell you later.” He kicked the pile of ashes from the bridge to the ground below.

As Nick went along the front way, he was very careful not to be seen. The whole scene in the front had changed, and now police cruisers were pulling up to Lacerta’s house. A few partygoers and passerby stood along the road, watching the StarCraft from the sidelines.

Nick opened up his Prius and sat down in the driver’s seat. He twisted the key, and the car came alive. Nick grinned as he drove through the crowd onto the grass, ignoring all the baffled stares from the onlookers.

Nick drove into the backyard and up a convenient ramp into the StarCraft. He jumped out and called, “Policemen in front! We’ve gotta get out of here!”

Lacerta ran up the ramp. Grus hit a button, and the StarCraft closed up. He turned to the controls and maneuvered it into the sky.

Much later, Lacerta and Nick stood on the StarCraft’s bridge, staring down at the millions of tiny lights with their arms around each other’s waists. Grus stood by, chanting something. Lacerta had whispered, “He is altering the memories of everyone we ever connected with on Earth. It will be as if we never existed.”

Nick said a silent goodbye to his friends, Jonathan and Colbie. He bade his family farewell. Then he disentangled his arms from Lacerta and turned his back on Earth. He was not going to see it again.

Lacerta murmured, you okay?

Nick turned and stared into her perfect eyes. With you, I am.

Lacerta pressed her lips against his and wrapped her wings around him. Earth faded away into nothingness.

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