Anya was rudely awakened by a loud bang on her door. She quickly put her patch over her bad eye and walked to the door.
“What do you want?”
“Take your damn truffles,” Alexa said. “Now, I owe you nothing.”
“This couldn’t have waited until morning?” Anya asked.
“Nope,” Alexa said. She hurried off.
“Was that Alexa?”
“Christina?” Anya asked. “Why is everyone up at this hour?”
“I was delivering a message to Anastasia,” Christina said. “What did Alexa want?”
“She was paying up her due from the bet,” Anya said. “I think she wanted to do it before Valentine’s day started to avoid any misunderstanding.”
“Oh?” Christina asked. “But Valentine’s day started five minutes ago.”
Anya checked her watch. “It did not. It’s still almost an hour from midnight.”
Christina shook her head. I don’t know how you always screw up the time on your watches, but trust me, it’s Valentine’s. That’s why I visited Anastasia. You see, Callie…”
Anastasia’s door slammed and she ran out. She was clutching a slip of paper and had clearly dressed hastily. “I am going to find her and when I do…” She stared at the slip for a moment before running off.
“Did Callie break up with Anastasia?” Anya asked.
Christina shook her head. “They’re playing a game. Callie’s gone into hiding and placed clues to her location in a sequence for Anastasia to follow.”
“I suppose it’s better than last year when they just locked themselves up in Ana’s room for twenty four hours,” Ana said. She yawned. “Well, goodnight.”
“Do you want me to get chocolates for you to give Alexa?” Christina asked.
“Oh please,” Anya said. “She was obviously in such a hurry to beat the clock. If I thought for an instant that she had deliberately given me these as a Valentine’s thing I’d shove the box back in her face.”
“My, my,” Christina said.
“Thirty one more days,” Sirvanna muttered. She looked over at the handheld computer on her desk and sighed heavily. She waited several minutes before getting up. A change of clothes had been neatly folded on her dresser and a rose and small box had been left on top.
She checked the box. It had crudely made chocolates inside. She hesitated a moment before trying one. “Delicious.”
“Why so restless?”
She turned around slowly. “What are you doing up this early?”
“I get up at five everyday,” Ines said. “I wake up. Carefully move Sirvanna’s arm so she doesn’t wake up, go running, and return in time to shower so that I can meet Sirvanna for breakfast when she gets up. Now, don’t dodge the question. You’re pacing nervously with a pained expression. What’s bugging you? Is this your first Valentine’s with a girlfriend or something?”
“It’s not that,” Jenny said. “Zhao and I are having some… problems.”
“Are you kind of grossed out by her youthful looks?” Ines asked.
“No,” Jenny said. “I got over that. It’s just…” Jenny paused and stared directly at Ines. “If I tell you are you going to make fun of me?”
“Performance issues?” Ines asked.
“What?” Jenny said. “Of course not!”
“Sorry,” Ines said. “Usually that’s what people worry about getting made fun of for. Okay, I promise that I will not make fun of you or tell anybody else.”
Jenny hesitated for several minutes. “Okay, I’ll trust you. The thing is… I love Zhao. I love talking to her, watching her work, everything. But whenever we get together, she seems to want to get intimate right away. I’m worried that she’s just interested in my body, you know?”
“So, tell that to her,” Ines said. “See what she has to say. Otherwise you’re just gonna keep worrying and it’s going to become a bigger problem.”
“Why are you peeking behind that wall?” Sirvanna asked.
“Shh, Sirvanna needs to be quiet. Zhao is watching Jenny.”
“You could just go talk to her,” Sirvanna said.
“Zhao can’t right now. Jenny is getting strangely close to Ines.”
“What?” Sirvanna asked. She took a look. “They’re just talking.”
“Ines and Jenny look really happy,” Zhao said. “Zhao doesn’t like it.”
“They’re just friends,” Sirvanna said. “Don’t you trust Jenny?”
“But… but what if Ines seduces Jenny?” Zhao asked. “What if…”
“Let me stop you right there,” Sirvanna said. “Ines wouldn’t do that. She may be an incorrigible flirt when she’s single, but she’s a very faithful girlfriend. Why are you so insecure anyway?”
“Zhao is afraid.”
“Afraid?” Sirvanna asked. “Of what?”
“Well…” Zhao said. “What… what if Jenny just pities Zhao? What if she really wants to be with someone… better.”
“That sounds like something you need to talk to her about,” Sirvanna said. “I’ll create an opening for you.” She turned the corner and waved. “Ines.”
Ines was by her side in seconds. She planted a kiss firmly on Sirvanna’s cheek. “Ready for breakfast?”
“Yeah,” Sirvanna said. The two held hands. “Let’s go.”
You completed your mission?
“Yes,” Ryu said. “I got detailed schematics of the mission site and caused some unfortunate ‘accidents’ for several of their scientists.”
Good work. You can go.
“With all due respect,” Ryu said “discipline is seriously lacking. He would never…”
He would have allowed the same. He always believed in giving us moments of peace when he could. Especially on special occasions.
“But the safety of this facility…” Ryu began.
Is not an issue. They’re professionals. If a problem arises they’ll drop their dates and handle it.
“And those who have gone out?” Ryu asked.
Are not enough in number to harm us through their absence. You’re just on edge because he’s not here.
“My Lord has nothing to do with this,” Ryu said. “I am simply concerned for the well being of everyone here. But since it, apparently, isn’t an issue. I’ll stay my tongue. Excuse me.” He walked away, his footfalls heavy.
“Jenny…” Zhao hurriedly turned away. “Zhao needs to talk with you.”
“I have something I need to say as well,” Jenny said.
“Then Zhao and Jenny are agreed,” Zhao said. They went into Zhao’s workshop. Anastasia was inside looking around.
“What is Anastasia doing in Zhao’s workshop?” Zhao asked.
“Looking,” Anastasia said. “How many of these damn things did she hide anyway?”
“Are you looking for that?” Jenny asked, nodding towards a slip of paper that had been tied to a large robot with a ribbon.
“Yes!” Anastasia cried. She fired a small bolt of flame that cut the ribbon, sending the paper drifting downwards. She caught it triumphantly.
“Is Anastasia done?” Zhao asked.
“Yep,” Anastasia nodded.
“Good,” Zhao said. “Then get out of Zhao’s shop!”
Anastasia saluted and ran out.
Zhao took a deep breath. “Is… Is Jenny disgusted by Zhao?”
“What?” Jenny asked. “Of course not. I love you.”
“Really?” Zhao asked. “Jenny isn’t just saying that?”
“No,” Jenny said, taking Zhao’s small hands in her own and looked directly into her eyes. “I’m being sincere. I’ve never had these kinds of feelings for anyone else. I love the warmth of your smile, the sound of your laugh. I love your determination and the look on your face when you work. I even love the smell of oil and grease that you perpetually have. You must believe that.”
Zhao smiled, broadly. “Thank goodness,” she muttered. “That makes Zhao really happy. What did Jenny need to talk about?”
“I guess all I need to know is why you always jump into sex so quickly,” Jenny said. “Don’t you ever want to just talk, or cuddle or go on a real date?”
Zhao looked up at the sky and then down to the floor. “Zhao does enjoy talking to Jenny. But Zhao and Jenny always talk before and afterwards Jenny always holds Zhao and talks to her. Zhao hasn’t really thought about dates though because… Well…”
“People would stare?” Jenny asked. Zhao nodded. “Let them,” Jenny said. “Put on something nice and I’ll take you… to the rec room, I guess.”
“Zhao would like that,” Zhao said. “Hey, when it’s peaceful will Jenny and Zhao get to go out to real romantic places?”
“Sure,” Jenny said. “I think I can find a few.”
“Then Zhao will look forward to it!”
“So, why did you call me here?” Yuni asked.
“It’s a surprise,” Alena said. She tied a blindfold around Yuni’s eyes.
“I do like surprises,” Yuni said. Alena led her by the hand down the corridor and into her room.
“Ta-da,” she took the blindfold off.
Yuni stared. Alena had set up a small table with a single candle burning in the middle. She had prepared two glasses of champagne and an exquisite looking meal.
“It’s lovely,” Yuni said. “But why all the extra effort?”
“It’s Valentine’s,” Alena said, she handed Yuni a small box. “For you.”
“Can I open it now?” Yuni asked. Alena nodded. Yuni carefully opened the small box. Inside was a silver locket in the shape of a moon with small sapphire used as accents around the figure. “It’s really pretty,” Yuni said. “Thank you.” Alena put it around Yuni’s neck and the two shared a kiss.
“I feel terrible,” Yuni said. “I forgot to get you anything.”
Alena shook her head. “No. You give me so much.” She put Yuni’s hand over her heart. “Here.”
“I finally found you!” Anastasia cried. Her closet door was flung open. Callie was inside leaning against the wall, wearing a trench coat with two wrapped packages beside her. “How many clues did you leave?”
“A hundred and fifty,” Callie said.
“I still can’t believe you were in my closet the whole time,” Anastasia said. “How did I not see you?”
“I waited until you left to settle in,” Callie said. “Are you ready for your prizes?”
“Sure,” Anastasia said. “I’ve more than earned them.”
Callie handed her one of the packages. “One of three.”
Anastasia ripped it open. Inside was a large piece of milk chocolate shaped like a heart. Not the shape generally associated with a heart, but an actual human looking heart complete with several valves.
“It has caramel blood,” Callie said.
“That is so cool!” Anastasia cried.
“Two of three,” Callie said, presenting the other package.
Anastasia put the chocolate heart back into the box and carefully put it to the side. The second box was smaller. Anastasia tore it open. Inside was a jeweled dagger.
“Careful,” Callie said. “It’s very sharp.”
“It’s amazing,” Anastasia said. “Where did you find it?”
“I got Zhao to help me make it,” Callie said. “All it took was a picture of Jenny in overalls.”
“That girl is strange,” Anastasia said. “So… where’s the third prize?”
“The final and possibly best prize is sexy lingerie,” Callie said, winking.
“Lingerie?” Anastasia said. “I don’t wear…” Callie took the trench coat off. “Oh…”
“Do you like it?” Callie asked. “I was hoping you… mmmmmmm.”
“Do you wanna do something?” Ines asked. “Besides the usual stuff, I mean.”
“Actually,” Sirvanna said. “I made dinner reservations at a place near where your parents live.”
“That’s a bit far, isn’t it?” Ines asked.
“Not for you,” Sirvanna said. “I’ve packed a bag with some nice outfits for both of us. We can put them on after we get there. Or can you not get us there fast enough?”
“Sure I can,” Ines said. She grabbed her goggles and put them on. “You’d better hang onto that bag.”
They were gone in a flash. It took Ines nearly ten minutes, but they arrived in the town. Sirvanna hurriedly gave her directions and they were at the restaurant. Sirvanna handed her a black dress from the bag and they went off to change.
“You could’ve at least told me earlier so I could pick my own outfit,” Ines said. “I can’t run in this.”
“That’s the idea,” Sirvanna said. “I want to take things slowly for once.”
They went inside with Ines’ arm in Sirvanna’s.
“Bowman, party of two,” Sirvanna said.
“Ah yes. Right this way, Madam.” They were led to a quiet booth.
It took Ines a few seconds to look over the menu. She waited for Sirvanna to decide.
“It’s a nice place,” Ines said. “Good ambiance. It looks like they offer dancing.”
“We can dance after we order if you like,” Sirvanna said.
“I don’t know how to slow dance,” Ines said.
“I’m sure you can figure it out by watching,” Sirvanna said.
“I guess,” Ines said. “But you lead. Is it just me or are a lot of people staring at us?”
Sirvanna looked up from the menu. Several people in the restaurant had turned to look at them.
A young boy walked up to their table. “Are you going to fight the bad guys here?” he asked.
“No,” Sirvanna said. “We’re just on a date.”
“Nuts!” the boy cried. His parents grabbed him, apologised and took him back to their table.
“They know who we are,” Ines observed.
“Of course,” their server said. “We’ve seen you in action several times. The news only plays snippets, but we get most of it. That Wolsztyn invasion was insane! It’s such an honour to be serving you two. What can I bring you?”
The two looked at each other and ordered. Ines ordered five entrees.
“I hope you brought enough,” Ines said. “I should’ve asked before ordering.”
“Don’t worry,” Sirvanna said. “I know how much you eat.” She got out of her chair. “Shall we?”
“I guess it couldn’t hurt while they prepare,” Ines said.
She and Sirvanna danced for nearly twenty minutes.
‘You’re better than you let on,” Sirvanna said.
“I don’t share all of my talents with you,” Ines said. “Otherwise I couldn’t take you by surprise and sweep you off your feet.”
“You don’t need to surprise me for that,” Sirvanna said.
“No?” Ines asked. “Then maybe I should just refrain from sharing for the sake of humility.”
They talked as they ate.
“Say ahh,” Ines said.
“I really can’t eat any more,” Sirvanna said, waving her fork away. “Not after most of my own and bites from your other four plates.” She pushed what was left of her lobster forward. “You want the rest?”
“I don’t know…” Ines said, turning away.
Sirvanna grinned. She put a large bite on her fork. “Say ahh.”
“Ahh,” Ines said, taking the bite.
They eventually finished and Sirvanna called for the check.
“No need, Madame,” their server said. “Those gentlemen over there paid for you.”
“Really?” Sirvanna asked. She and Ines turned. The two middle aged guys waved.
“Thank you for your service,” one said.
“Keep giving em hell for us,” the other added. “I’d do it myself if I was still in my prime.”
“Oh, Honey,” the first said. “You were never the fighter you claimed to be.”
“I was so,” the second said.
“Well, thanks guys,” Sirvanna said. “But we have to get back to base.”
They headed out.
“It’s strange being heralded as heroes,” Sirvanna said.
“True,” Ines said, “but it’s awesome.”
“Say…” Sirvanna said. “Never mind, it’s nothing.”
“Spill it,” Ines said. “It’s never nothing with you.”
“Fine,” Sirvanna said. “Tomorrow, could you be there when I wake up?”
“I see how it is,” Ines said. “Buy a girl dinner and you expect something in return.”
“I… you… we always…” Sirvanna said. “Forget I said anything.”
“I was kidding,” Ines said. “Yes, I’ll be there. Why, is something bothering you?”
“Kind of,” Sirvanna said. “But mostly I just like listening to your heart beat.”