Time Travel Urban Romance Fiction Novella
© Copyright Cupideros, Tuesday, August 4, 2015
Chiara wants a deeper love life than the arranged long lasting marriages on her home planet of Rovia and teleports to neighboring Airot to experience the six types of love at Club Release.
Upbeat Chiara slammed the foreign book "Airot Six Systems of Love" closed and placed it next to a pair of silver handcuffs she'd been practicing escaping from. "So there is more than one type of love." This pleased diamond-shaped face Chiara because she hated staying in one place. She called herself a free soul. If she were born long long ago, she'd been a pirate, sailing the sea around Traxade, her country on planet Rovia. Chiara kicked her feet up on the black futon in her apartment, decorated in colors green, purple, white and blue. The colors of the Traxade police department. She brushed back her heavy mane of red wavy tresses. Many men wanted to date her. Her five-foot, eight-inch athletic body and firm breasts saw to that. She didn't have much to do, but let human nature work on the men around her. And Chiara had no shortage of men to meet as a transportation officer on the Traxade police department. She didn't want any jobs that might end her maternal possibilities. So the police Captain Mailina Stone assigned her to transportation of criminals from city lockup to the prisons in Traxade.
The country of Traxade boasted of a population of eight hundred and ninety-seven millions. Traxade bordered between a wide river to the North, a small ocean to the South, highlands to the East and forest and grass plains to the West. Majority of the citizens of the country of Traxade held jobs as time travel engineers, blacksmiths, farmers and secret compartment builders. Mainly covered by grassy plains, the people compactly concentrated themselves into eighteen big cities.
The people of Traxade, not out of spite or anger, exercised coldness toward foreigners. Foreigners tended not to understand time travel well. They saw time travelers as irresponsible and flighty. A lot of Traxade people time traveled. That is how her mom came into possession of "Airot Six Systems of Love." She time traveled there long ago on a vacation with her husband. That fateful trip ended her marriage. Not right away, did their marriage end, but the seeds sown later sprouted.
It seemed on Airot you could find no less than six types of love: one, sexual love; two, long-term devotional love; three, deep friendship love; four, playful love; five, love of self, and finally six, love for everyone or spiritual love. Clearly if you loved yourself, but not narcissistically, you would be comfortable loving others. "Alas," she sighed. Chiara slipped her wrist into the silver handcuffs and locked them. Then she shook her wrists vigorously and turned them at a certain angle and the handcuffs unlocked. Chiara liked to make things disappear. It all fit in with her sense of freedom.
People, because of their irrational fears and superstitions about time travel, stopped visiting Traxade. People did not get lost in time travel. People did not remain stuck in time travel. In fact, Traxade had several companies specializing in time travel to several local destinations. Destinations not local in any traditional sense, but in time travel sense other worlds were seconds away. Each company only allowed four hours of time travel. Traxade wasn't bringing in more population and wanted to keep their population growing.
One of the popular destinations was the country Airot, a shipping powerhouse on its world. They did nothing but trade products. Centuries ago, politicians, with shipping connections, outlawed time travel trade from Airot. You just never knew what container contents previous used held. Strange chemicals, organism, pets and even smuggled technology slipped in to Traxade's economy. Then another phase of declining neighborhood relations began out of irrational fears.
But love. That dominated Traxade's entire world. That Airot's six types of love fascinated everyone on Traxade was an understatement. Chiara wanted to experience more than long lasting love. It assured a stable population, of course, and children raised on Traxade knew they were loved. However, so little passion seemed to be the bane of all Traxade social life. Once arranged, and sixty percent of the marriages were arranged by the parents, marriage happened; you pretty much just walked the path of togetherness until one of you died. Divorces were rare. Chiara put the silver handcuffs back on top of her nightstand. She picked up a seven slick time travel brochure and flipped through them.
Traxade's long-standing love, felt more like a friendship to Chiara. You married because it was the duty of one to get married at twenty-five plus years. She turned twenty-five two months ago and the witch-hunt was on. Her mom Agnusline already picked out: the son of a CEO of the biggest shipping company on Traxade, Paragon Metals, named Ty. If her mom knew of Chiara’s secret time travel into to the past to make love to astronauts on Earth, she'd be really disappointed.
Chiara wore traditional black jeans and plain solid color shirt, today pink, to help her to forget about arranged marriages. Her black jeans and plain pink shirt helped her to forget about the men she drove to lockup, some of the men violent killers. Men she'd never marry or even date. What could a killer or criminal know about love?
All the men on Airot, on the other hand, held nice jobs, dressed in the coolest fashion. Those men looked like movie stars with their slick black, blonde and brown hair. They talked real slow and always looked in a woman’s eyes with romantic passion just an eyelash pair away. They didn't take love lightly. At a trendy nightclub on Airot called Club Release, they had six separate dance floors, separated by a different color light line on the floor. If you wanted sexual love, you knew exactly where to go. And all of the dance floors stayed packed night after night Chiara read on the slick, trifold Ludus Time Travel brochure. One of her high school friends went to Club Released and immediately vowed to marry and never go back. Things were that good romantically on Airot, she exclaimed. Reportedly, Club Release held a private gambling casino establishment on the fifth floor of the trendy nightclub.
Upbeat Chiara flipped through the Ludus Time Travel catalog. The catalogue made her happy. It brought a continual smile to her diamond-shaped face. She tied her curly red tresses behind her neck into a loose ponytail. Ludus meant "playful love." That's just what she needed.
Someone not as serious about love as the shipping CEO's son Ty probably was. He'd want to get married. He'd pick out the date. His family paid for all the wedding expenses, all the requirements of Traxade love rituals. Passionate sexual love for a year and then long-standing love changed over. He'd hardly touch her as he worked hard on giving her love instead of receiving it. She'd be forced to, do likewise; focus on giving him love instead of receiving it. Somehow to Chiara it all sounded great, but the implementation. On Airot, they knew how to give love so that you wanted to receive it. Love on Airot came from somewhere deeper than the heart or mind. Airot’s love originated in the soul. Soul mates meant something on Airot. On Traxade, no concept of soul mate even existed.
Chiara already fixed her occupation ruse. She'd say she worked as a florist. And her one talent was hiding things. She worked in her garden on the weekends, even occasionally selling a rare white rose. As for hiding things, she hid the criminals from society five days a week. She knew how to hide and seek really well from childhood. She even studied architecture to enhance her skills at hiding. In the back of her mind, she worried what if a criminal escaped and came to get her. Her pretty freckled face was the last thing the men saw before going to maximum security prisons.
Still, pushing all that out of her mind, she picked up her cell phone and made travel plans. Best to find someone to love before her mom told the CEO's son tomorrow. "Yes, I'd like a travel arrangement to Airot for one."
"Anywhere on Airot in particular? The Red Stellia Mountains is popular this time of year. Also, the rare gold Pilnuose Flower is sprouting this time of year, too," the lady travel agent said.
"I'm set on going to Club Release."
A long delay hung in the air as the lady travel agent's muffled voice talked in the background.
"Yes. We can squeeze you in, Chiara T. Please keep to the time schedule. Only four hours. We've had difficulties with women wanting to stay over."
"I won't stay over."
"We've put an auto policy in place. It will automatically pull you back into Traxade time no matter what you're doing. Understand?"
That sounded ominous to Chiara. What were women doing? Having sex for hours over the limit? Staying an extra day for morning cuddles?
"That shall be fine. Save me the responsibility of punching back in on the time band."
Chiara could feel the smile growing on the lady time travel agent's friendlier face.
"You're going to be a good customer and have a wonderful time. Just come to the orientation tomorrow at six o'clock."
"No orientation, no travel. No refund. May I have your credit info?"
Chiara got her purse off the bed nearby. After giving her all the particulars, Chiara had one last question. "Has anyone ever brought anyone back from Airot? I mean for marriage?"
The travel agent coughed repeatedly. "You time traveled to Earth in the past I see on your account."
Chiara felt somewhat embarrassed. How much did the travel agents know about clients past travel trips? "Yes, I did."
"Not to meddle, but we are talking about Club Release, Chiara T. Club Release." She repeated.
"Oh, . . . oh. I see." Apparently, women as well as men went there for Eros love. Hmmmmm. Chiara liked meddling when she did it. On the receiving end, she found it annoying. "I'll be there for the orientation." Chiara hurryingly hung up her cell.
She picked up the "Airot Six Systems of Love." Six types of love in only four hours, if I skip sexual love, the apparent only reason women are going there, I'll have five types of love in four hours. Hmmm. Skipping self-love; I know I love myself; I'll have four types of love in four hours: deep friendship, love of all, long-lasting love and Ludus or "playful love."
Chiara checked the clock on the wall by her front door. "Time enough to go shopping before going to the Ludus Time Travel orientation tomorrow. "I'd better get some sleep."
Chiara went and plopped down on her bed. She stared at the ceiling of tiny pink roses decorating it. Those pink roses always gave her an upbeat attitude toward life. They always bloomed and seemed ripe to open wide just a bit more. Love. Right now, she pushed the shipping CEO's son out of her mind.
What could go wrong on this four-hour vacation trip? Four hours was hardly enough time to do anything but meet, buy him a drink, get his job and hobby information and then come back home. Oh, yes, I will have to plan my get away. I can't just disappear in the middle of talking about something relevant, like a fairy princess.
Then Chiara slammed her fist down on the bed. She had been pushing the issue out of her mind for ten years. Only seven of those years really counted, though. She had taken her opportunities. She didn't wait for some man to come along. She asked men out that struck her fancy for long-lasting love--only those relationships never panned out. She creased her brow. She clenched and unclenched her hand. She banged her ankles against the soft silky white bed covers.
"I'm twenty-five and probably have ten years of fertility left. I hate this. I hate being aware of my situation as a female. But I don't have to marry and have children just yet. Science extended my fertile years. Love will not dominate my life. I have a career. I've saved my money. All I need to do is relax, Chiara. When the time comes, fate will provide the right man. Someone fitting my standards, a sensitive, yet courageous man existed for her who knows not only love with his soul, but also with his mind or heart. A real man in control of his feelings, she wanted; someone unafraid to share his feelings with her."
Chiara got into her air motorcycle and threw her right leg over the seat. She stomped her foot on the clutch. The motorcycle hovered an inch before lifting two feet off the ground. She leaned over the cow shaped handlebars, rolled the power, and backed out of her garage. She pressed close on her watch remote. The garage door slowly drifted to the ground. She spun ninety degrees and took off into the suburban street beside her house. In a minute, she emerged onto the busy throughway of five lanes heading for downtown Traxade proper. She relished how the motorcycle pushed the wind through her thick red tresses of wavy hair.
Traxade designated a certain distance from the city core as its city residence. So instead of living right downtown, close to her job at the courthouse, Chiara opted for a more scenic location. This increased her ability to experience the freedom she loved. Space and freedom all the things time travel combined. If she had it to do, all over again, she go for a travel agent career. Ludus Travel agents were able to go to the farthest places allowed. Some trips took as much as one day. Twelve planets existed in Traxade's universe. One-day time travel took you beyond the furthest planet Marbledia. Most time travel took seconds, minutes at most.
Chiara leaned in on the power and sped up going on the fast tram, fifteen feet above the normal traffic. The last thing she needed was for the CEO's son to find her and ask her to marry him.
Chiara smiled. The trendy dress fashion shop, Black is Best, quickly became her favorite shopping spot. She parked her air motorcycle on the street and got ready to walk in.
"There you are. You little minx," said a man coming out of the jewelry shop next door to Black is Best.
Chiara whirled around, her face aghast. He stood there his hands in his pocket ominously. "Ty!" Without thinking, she knew what his sweaty hands held. An expensive diamond ring ensconced in a small felt box, pretty much described Ty’s romantic inclinations.
"Don't be surprised, Chiara." Ty tilted his square head. He brushed away a loose lock of hair that fell across his bangs. "I know you." He pulled out a little black box from his right pocket.
Ty stood even with Chiara at five-feet, eight-inch height and that didn't count to his romantic advantage. He carried a little more weight than his frame allowed. His beer belly soon arrived, too, after just a few years of watching sports and not working hard she figured. Right now, he worked hard traveling and understanding his dad's shipping business. His obvious money though failed to impress Chiara. What she really wanted as a pretext for love came in the size of a man at least an inch taller. Someone she might have to lean upward and kiss as on some old world romance covers of long, long ago in Traxade history. She'd seen some of the covers in the malls when she time travel back to see the Earth astronauts. They never had an astronaut on the cover, but that never stopped Chiara's obsession.
Chiara fought off the obnoxious, uptight feelings.
Ty pushed the little black box toward Chiara.
"I'd like to think we have more in common than this coincidental meeting," Ty continued, still holding out the little-felt box.
"I'm very busy, Ty," stammered Chiara, tossing her hair back off her neck. "I know your dad and my mom made arrangements. But there is a little rule that says the girl is supposed to ask the guy." Chiara narrowed her eyes to sharp slits. Her diamond-shaped face looked particularly mean when she narrowed her eyes. "Remember that rule?"
Ty grabbed his heart, holding the box in his same hand. "You've hurt my feelings, Chiara. I'm being a gentleman saving you traveling all over the world to find me."
"I can't; it's not possible right now, Ty," Chiara said forcefully, as she opened the door to Black is Best women’s fashion shop. I'm taking a short vacation. See you when I come back."
Chiara let the glass door with Black and Best lace lettering close behind her.
She sighed. She felt safe.
No man would ever enter a woman's clothing shop to talk to a girl.
"How may I help you?" offered the salesclerk in her formal black glitter dress.
"I need a rockin outfit for time travel to Airot's Club Release. Give me something, dashing, flirty, and out of world like or off-world like." Chiara winked. "I want the guys to all know I'm from somewhere else."
"Ah. I understand," said the blonde with her hair in a high updo. Her all formal black glitter dress had an asymmetrical hemline that highlighted her shiny flats.
"Well men love flats on Airot. They can't stand heels. You'll look like one of the Airot girls unless you wear something like this. Airot girls want to appear fragile and vulnerable. Airot men can't stand it," the saleslady winked at Chiara.
Chiara noted the shoes looked like little more than sandals with three thick straps, two across the foot and one the ankle. She received the skimpy shoes and said, "Don't you have anything more substantial, sturdy. I don't want Airot boys to think, I'm just traipsing through their world on a fling."
The bell rang on the Black is Best fashion door.
Chiara didn't look up, as she focused on the shoes. She had on a black skirt and a color floral short sleeve blouse and stylish no heel ankle boots.
"Sir, this is a lady’s shop, and we have specific hours for men, after shopping hours."
"I'll be no bother miss. Chiara, I'm still waiting for an answer?" Ty said leaning against the Black is Best wall beside the door, beside the window’s shop manikins. "I came all the way back from The Rolbin Islands by private jet to ask you."
Chiara's stomached churned. Now she couldn't even tell the saleslady of her further intentions to find long lasting romantic love. She decided to ignore Ty's meddling, although it annoyed her greatly.
The salesclerk went to the wall of ladies’ shoes, ignoring Ty as well. She faced the shoes and away from Chiara and Ty. "Now these shoes fully cover your feet; your ankles are strapped in good. If you needed to fight off the Airot boys by kicking their shins or if you wanted to do some serious damage to some stray bottles on the street--these will do."
Slowly, she turned back around to Chiara; the salesclerk dangled the shoes from her forefingers.
The shoes looked sturdy enough to work all day in a law firm. "One of the things about them is they covered your entire feet," Chiara noted. "I like them. Men's shoes for women."
"With a tiny trim of pink thread in the sole," added the saleslady, pointing the heart design out on the shoe.
"Sense you're not cheating on me, I like them, too, Chiara. You can wear them when we go out to celebrate."
Both ladies froze.
Chiara spun around. "I am not ever going to marry you, Ty. My mom's misjudgment will not be mine. It takes nine years to get a divorce on Traxade. You think I'm going to marry you knowing that! Get out! This instance, before I tell everyone on social media, you barged into Black is Best and asked me to marry you!"
Ty backed up a bit. He stood so close to the wall, as he banged against the door, the doorbell rang, its ping, slightly cutting into the silence. He closed his eyes. Traxade women never got shouting mad and when they did, it implied the man's bad behavior.
Chiara could see Ty's embarrassment.
The saleslady's wry smile said it all. She quickly nodded for Ty to leave and he left.
"Men," Chiara voiced as she saw him get into his black luxury sedan. "Just because he came from halfway around the world doesn't mean I have to go two-inches to accept his marriage offer."
"Faux pas. He should not be asking you anyway, arranged marriage or not."
They both said together, "It's the lady's choice!"
After buying her outfit, and going to the mall to buy some new trendy makeup, Chiara headed over to the Ludus Time Travel Orientation.
"Time travel can be a pleasure or a nightmare," said the male travel agent. "We try our best to arrange things for you to enter and exit seamlessly as possible. It's not a good thing to be seen popping in out of nowhere." The short travel agent wore a short blue suit and a yellow tiny polka dot tie, with a black onyx tie clip. His receding hairline showed he perhaps was in his early thirties. He had a noble nose, but an average man’s body.
"We have two spots. Local Clubs with an orientation room. That is where you will appear after time traveling to Airot. Club Release is just down the street. You should have no trouble returning to the Local Club to time travel back. Should you be unable to meet back at the Local Club in time,” he paused for a long half minute; his hand placed under his chin. "Do not go out onto the street. Remove yourself to a secluded spot, like a bathroom, or a closet or an empty room. Ludus Time Travel has reserved a room for you in Club Release."
A burly man with a Balbo goatee and a sarcastic expression on his face asked, "What if one or some of us are too drunk to make it to the reserved room in Club Release?"
"If you're, too, drunk now to understand where to go, Sir," the travel agent started, raising himself to his full five-feet, five-inch height,” I suggest you postpone your travel until a more sober time."
Chiara asked, "What if someone should want to, uhmmm, come back with you?"
"Bringing an Airot citizen back is possible. Stranger things have happened. But I'd think twice about it. He'd stand out like a white rose. He'd be emotional. He'd wonder why we're, we're so . . .”
"Pathetically boring," said the burly drunk man with the Balbo goatee, this time a slight joy on the lower half of his face.
A few people snickered.
"Mildly attached to one another."
"You'll notice Airot has a high divorce rate, compared to Traxade. That's one of the benefits of our cultural exchange. They want to know how to stay married and us Traxadians want to know how to put a little more--"
"Uhmmmph! into our sex lives," blared the drunk burly man again, as he rubbed his goatee.
Chiara found herself a bit puzzled now. Ludus Time Travel participated in a cultural exchange program. If she found someone, and brought him back, they might look the other way, particularly, if she came back in a crowd.
"When you return, you will not be at Ludus Time Travel, but at your local airport. If you're right from Traxade city, you return our airport. Any more questions?"
Nobody asked any.
All remained happy and smiles rested on everyone faces, even the drunk suggested good things to come.
Chiara went home. She opened her door ready to relax and look forward to a good trip tomorrow.
"I heard you embarrassed Ty at Black is Best clothing shop." Her mom wore a dress made from dark-gray, green, and white pin-stripe fabric. It had a medium-length short narrow skirt that flared at the bottom, and leg-of-mutton sleeves.
"He asked me to marry him!"
"Dear. I told him not to do that. He's totally out of line. However, darling, I do wish you reconsidered. Ty is one of the finest, catches around. He's sober. He's a bit boring and he's next in line for the CEO spot of Paragon Metals."
"I am a success. I am doing a great job. I only need to add a good man and Ty is not a good man. I've heard things about him. He likes to choke his girlfriends during sex."
"Dear. Oh, dear. I truly am sorry. I considered him."
"It's okay, mom. Not every mom wants to know the son her daughter has to live with forever and forever."
Mom Agnusline put her right hand around her slender neck. The crook of her hand surrounded the extra flesh around the slight indentation of her throat. "I'll have a word with his dad about the arrangement. I'll insist Ty and you break it off." She removed her right hand from her neck.
Chiara held her mom for a second. She released mom and held her hands. "Mom. Just because a woman can be in love with anyone in a long lasting, arranged marriage way doesn't mean that she is capable of loving just anyone."
"Long-Lasting Love is tricky I know. Your dad and I loved one another from the start. Only after you flew the nest, we drifted. We have been performing marriage for twenty years now."
"Mom! I'm so sorry for you two." Chiara hugged her mom. "You two showed me what a romance can be--when it works. I remember the days up to high school. I told myself that's what I want a Long-Lasting Love."
"We did love one another." Mom Agnusline looked inside herself. "Love flew out the door without a reason to hold us together. We kept putting one reason, goal after another to stay in love until--we just lost the interests."
"Love doesn't need a reason; it only needs an interest."
Mom Agnusline thought about it. "Your dad and I forgot that. Our interests in nature travel held us together, but we forgot all about it after having you, Chiara."
"I've got to get some rest, mom," Chiara said, sadly. "I've got a time travel trip to make tomorrow. I want to be fresh and awake the entire four hours."
Mom Agnusline gathered her black tote bag. She pulled out her cell phone and texted Ty's dad. "The arranged marriage is off. It's Chiara decision." She opened the door. "It's done. The marriage is off, Chiara. Have a safe trip, dear."
Chiara arrived in the Local Club and looked around. Some of the girl's wore flats, but not many. She herself looked dashing in her black party dress. The waist wide slim fit black dress had a hot pink bow wrapped around the hips that rested gentle on her lower back. Below the waist, the black dress widened revealing diagonal layers from top to bottom. Her long legs showed to a great advantage as the dress reached to just above her knees. And her flat, secure, shiny strappy shoes with pink heart thread set her apart from the other Traxade and Airot women.
Something about the complicated black party dress drew attention to Chiara's heavy mane of red wavy tresses. Her athletic body, firm breasts and shoulders almost gave her the look of an assassin. One of the girls you'd find in an action movie. The kind of girls no guy messed with except the truly confident man. On her face, she wore Coolest Grande black eye shadow, Blue Myth lipstick, and Gooseberry Lollypop blush.
Chiara looked otherworldly.
When she entered Club Release, the rush of pounding pulsating music set Chiara's blood racing. She wanted to ask a man to dance, but first she needed to find out the six-dance floor’s locations.
She stopped by the bar and picked up a floor plan.
Each of the love dance floors held no free space. Club Release was packed for a Thursday night. She only imagined how much love went on Friday and Saturday.
Men stopped and stared at her. From her flat shoes to her red wavy mane, they starred wantonly. "You're really tall babe," said one Airot man, looking up to her. He had a single chinstrap strip beard under his lower lip.
"Thank you, I'm looking for someone."
"Sorry," he said capitulating to her strong femme fatale aura and presence.
"Wow!" said another, man with an extended goatee that sliced through half his sideburns. "I'll call you next time some bloke cheats me in the markets." The guy was taller than her. Again, he wasn't confident enough.
"I'm looking for the love all dance floor?"
Extended goatee man pointed it's over there, but they're likely to give you a cuddle hug and that's all. You can make great political contacts there."
"Great," Chiara responded. She strutted past the sexual love dance floor. Each man and woman groped and intertwined their legs together so much Chiara wondered when didn’t they just lay on the floor and make love? She stood outside the Love All Dance floor when this man pulled her inside the light-green boundary line. "Come on, dance. This isn't about sex. It's the love of humans for life." He put his hands into her hands and they danced half a body length apart to the rock music. He then turned and pointed. If you want a romantic relationship, the Long Lasting Love floor is the best. It's pink. Over there, past the Ludus dance floor."
"Great." Chiara pulled away slowly and stared at the man's dark-blue eyes with silver tints. She half expected him to protest.
He just waved his wide hands dismissively. "I never had a love if she needs to fly away." He turned and another woman grabbed him around his waist and started dancing.
Chiara almost felt jilted and jealous of the Airot girl. Love all people smiled. Dancer’s faces on the other floors held wild emotions. Some intense, some hurt, sad, anxious, searching. The Ludus dancers all flirted and danced like children playing on a merry-go-round. They didn't care who they held hands with long, as it wasn't serious and from the opposite sex.
The men though caused Chiara's heart to pulsate and her skin to tingle. They dressed like businessmen from the roaring twenties on Earth. Their sharp suits matched crisp ties of exotic colors. Their brown, blonde and black hair slicked back; some even wore their hair spiked with mousse. Some wore loafers. Most wore dress shoes and suits.
Some of the women cast jealous glances at Chiara's flat shoes. Chiara towered over the shorter average height five-foot, five-inch Airot women, even in their two-inch heels. All of the excitement and the music drew her attention to the men in the center. The men on the edges all acted intimidated by her femme fatale assassin's look. Men in the center of the dance floor dropped their jaws and tried to make eye contact with her. When she got to the Long-Lasting Dance floor, not an inch of space remained.
For all the talk of Eros, this dance floor, the Long-Lasting Dance floor held more people. Chiara moved her sexy athletic body to the music waiting for someone to leave. By the second song, she wondered if anyone noticed her at all when a strong soft hand grabbed her and pulled her into the center--the very center.
"You're just what I'm looking for," said a gruff voice of a tall six-foot one-inch man. "I need your protection."
Chiara suppressed a girlish giggle and laughed. "You pulled me into this cauldron of love. It is I that need your protection."
"Hardly, you've made your space. Now live with it." He turned around allowing her to dance against his vulnerable back. He wore blue pants of a different style than his black jacket, but they complement each other perfectly and they were a perfect match for his shoes. His modest pair of cap toe silver and black oxfords brought the spotlight to him. He didn't spare any details. To top it all off, he wore classic belt, black shirt, royal blue tie and gold tie clip.
She put her hands to his side and he grabbed her hands and brought them around his slim waist. His dark-brown hair smelled good. His cologne smelled more woodesque than even his hair. He had a thin mustache and a clean-shaven face.
She guessed him in his late twenties, older than her at least.
"You smell good, too," he said leaning back his handsome face.
Chiara found herself without words. He was the first man who noticed her smelling him, enjoying his full presence. She viewed his face light up; disappear in the shadows of the dance floor lighting. "Do you always overwhelm your women this way?"
"Romantically or just my dancing." He turned around and grabbed her left hand and spun her body in the air, ballroom style. "You're just what I need a distraction."
All this took her breath away, but when she caught it again, Chiara noticed a crestfallen to dour expression on his face when he turned away. Something weighed heavy on his mind. She immediately wanted to know the cause.
"I'm only here for four hours," she practically had to yell over the dancing, shuffling, beat, proud talk of the women and men, some in shadows, some not.
"That's why I'm sad," he said turning back toward her. "You'll never stay here on Airot. You're just looking for a fling."
"Actually, I'm looking for lasting love?"
He chortled. He found himself pulling her close to him, again. "I don't believe in divorce. And it takes nine years to get a divorce on Traxade. I can't wait that long in agony."
"I don't believe in divorce either," Chiara lied.
"Then what are we waiting for? Let's get married?"
"I hardly know you. What do you do?"
"I am a florist and I'm good at hiding things." She focused on a time when she was telling the truth before she delivered her lines.
Her partner, apparently, knew many people, or he was the most attractive man to the women around them. Chiara wanted to wave her hand shoo! Shoo! He's all mine.
He leaned close and whispered. "My name is Brent. I'm a hit man for the Airot Mob; in particular, I'm a cleanup man on some occasions. I'm good at pyrotechnics, lock picking, and voice impressions. No voice impression when were in public, though. My boss owns the Club Release."
Chiara's blood went cold. She laughed loud to warm up her skin. She turned around away from Brent. How could she tell him she worked transporting criminals from city jails to prisons? How was he so dashingly charming and so easy to get along with? How easy to be confident in a club, a famous time travel club owned by the Airot mob? She'd never be able to take him home to her mom. Not after always going on and on about not finding a man in her line of prison transportation work. That was why her mom went and found Ty. He worked in a legitimate business, with a powerful dad.
She checked her watch. One hour had gone by. The other dance floors of deep friendship, self-love seemed almost ridiculous, now. She fell into a deep friendship already with Brent. He didn't do anything really. Maybe she did everything. High expectations. Now love, particularly her biological-clock mandate seemed really stupid and careless. If she wanted to make a child, Ty worked just as well. Except for the choking-shit-sex act. She refused to go that far for love. If Brent worked for the mob as a hit man, maybe that's why he attracted her. Her athletic build and flat secure shoes. She wasn't the vulnerable type.
"You think I can take care of myself?" She flashed a knowing smile.
"That I do. You haven't run off scared like a lot of girls yet."
"No I haven't."
Her free soul said, give him a chance. Given the right environment, he'd probably change. Back on Traxade in a decent job, he'd be a good catch. "I'm, too, much of a risk taker."
Chiara turned around facing away from Brent. Oops almost gave myself away. She spun around and looked up into Brent's dark-blue eyes. "Maybe this isn't the right spot after all?"
"For me it is. I'm tired of the other types of love. I can love myself all day, but now . . . now is the time to share love." He pulled her closer and closer. He kissed her.
She kissed him back.
They held each other and kissed hard.
"How is it I'm attracted to such dangerous, free soul, roaming women?"
"How is it I'm attracted to such bad boys?"
Chiara wanted to scream. Everything in her said walk away; no run away. This wasn't in her plans. Here this man wanted to be with her. He confessed his job and she hadn't run away. Love permanent, love with a hit man from the Airot Mob. Men she put away, drove away to prison, like him every day?
"You stole my heart, woman?" his smile lay smooth on his clean-shaven lips.
Chiara wanted to touch those lips again. She ran her hands through the thick red tresses of her wavy hair. "I guess that is what the Long-Lasting Dance floor is for." She had finally come to peaceful terms with her mom, after an antagonizing long disconnect. Chiara finally realized why her mom fretted with her over marriage. Graduating from high school to college created an empty nest. That empty nest destroyed their marriage.
"I confess. You may not like me at all Brent."
He looked into her lapis lazuli blue eyes. His dark-blue eyes softer now searched for the truth in her diamond-shaped face and plump loving lips. His face turning soft as he wondered what terrible mystery she could reveal. He was a harden criminal after all. "Tell me. I won't be shaken or stirred over it."
"I drive criminals from city jail to their prisons for a living. Some of those men will never get out of prison again."
Chiara's eyes blinked hard. She felt moisture fill her lapis lazuli blue eyes. Was she crying on the crowded Long-Lasting Dance floor of Airot? She lowered her head, fully aware her heavy red tresses covered her eyes. "Oh, look at the time. Two hours to go."
"You don't have to go, Chiara. I can live with your job. It's nothing personal. Is it?"
Indignant, Chiara snapped out of her sappy mood. "Are you kidding? Those men deserve to be locked up for their crimes. Those whom are guilty--"
"Because, sometimes justice is blind."
"Sometimes justice is justice. But it is not personal. I don't think about it. I do my job."
He smiled slowly. "I knew you were the love of my life." He shook his head and pulled her close to his chest. His head leaned over her head.
Chiara felt her face resting in the neck of Brent's musky wooden scent cologne. This man had a heart. Inside, he was crying. He wanted to do good. How he got into his mob life, she didn't know, but who was perfect? "We only have two hours. You want to--"
"Never! Don't even suggest sexual love, Chiara." He stopped dancing. It didn't make any difference because on the Long-Lasting Love dance floor people stopped abruptly and entered into heated debates, arguments, and discussions. Their hearts searched, souls searched, swept everything before it; all social codes flew to the wind. Then suddenly it ended. Couples went back to dancing, more or less closer than they had been before.
"Why don't you come back to Traxade? I'll find you a job."
"I can't. In fact," Brent stopped and picked up his cell phone. He looked anguished. His face saddened. Deep lines formed on his forehead and spiked low to his brow in disgust. He nodded.
Chiara reached out to him and held his left hand.
Brent hung up the phone. "Boss. He has a new job for me. Hit."
"Hit. I can't hear it. Don't tell me, Brent. Please. Leave me out of it."
Brent grabbed her around her shoulders; he pulled her close. "You wanted to be in my life. Now you're in it. I can't leave. I can never leave this type of work. It is work you do until you’re done." His face looked crestfallen and dour.
"Brent--” Chiara hardly believed herself. She was about to suggests they run away to Traxade. "Brent let's run away, off Airot."
"What if they send someone after me?"
"We can run away somewhere else?"
"Keep running--forever," he shook his head, no. Two locks of dark-brown hair fell over his eyes. Brent immediately hand combed them back neatly into place.
"I don't think they'll follow you. Law on Traxade is very tough. Crime can't pay or people will just do more crimes. You'll be safe on Traxade."
"You have two hours. I have two hours."
"The job must be started in two hours?"
Brent whispered. "Yes. They'll be coming to get me for the job at eleven o'clock." He looked down at his modest pair of cap toe silver and black oxfords.
Chiara commented, "Maybe I can contact Ludus Time Travel and teleport early."
"Ludus doesn't work that way."
"How do you know?" Chiara scoffed.
"Someone tried to escape using Ludus Time Travel. We caught him. We just needed to rough him up, but Ludus Time Travel is a cultural exchange program. They won't break any Airot laws willingly."
Chiara swayed softly to the music. A slow song, one of the rare ones came on.
They both needed this downtime from love, Chiara thought. She needed time to reconsider herself. First, she loved the Goddess of Traxade Spiei; then she loved herself. After that, Chiara considered loving another as in marriage to a man. Everything sped along at such a high speed that who wouldn't fall in long-lasting love. Just when she thought things cool down, the Long-Lasting Love dance floor became even more crowded. Chiara and Brent were mushed closer together.
Chiara's athletic body pressed up against the tall-hard body of Brent. Brent body didn't budge. However, in his chest, his throbbing heartbeat matched hers. She looked up and Brent looked down at the same time.
"Did you feel that?" They said together.
"Yes," they answered. "Your heartbeat is racing."
"I'm in love with you, Chiara. I've never felt this way before. And this is no infatuation." He motioned his head. "Infatuation is over on the sexual love dance floor. I know the difference."
"I know the difference, too. This is no love out of obligation. This love feels real, Brent. What are we going to do?"
"I'll think of something. We've got two hours left."
Chiara and Brent danced for an hour. Each holding on to a dream, a dangerous dream that might cost Brent his life and make Chiara lose her job back home on Traxade. They dance and smiled. They partied. Time passed away and finally only an hour remained,
Chiara pulled Brent to a stop. "Stop dancing. We have to do something. I'm not going to lose you."
"Nor will I lose you."
"Let's go then."
"I can't just leave Club Release. That'll be a dead giveaway."
"Come to the bathroom with me."
Chiara and Brent went to the bathroom. Chiara went into the ladies’ room and Brent went to the men's room. While waiting, a sudden fear came over Chiara. What if Brent bolted? What if he got scared of his boss and took off, leaving her? She hurried up and exited the ladies bathroom door.
Brent waited for her as she left the ladies bathroom.
"I needed that release," chuckled Brent, his legs crossed at his modest pair of cap toe silver and black oxfords at the ankles.
"See how much we have in common. You want to give this all up," Chiara joked.
Hardly. Not on your life." He rested on the wall and cocked his handsome face at Chiara. "You've got lovely freckles, Chiara."
"Thank you noble chin, Brent."
"Someday, I hope we look back on this and laugh," Brent offered, sardonically.
"Yes, back on Traxade," she whispered.
"Hi, you doing there, Brent," said a guy walking out of some back supply offices. "If you ever need a place to do more than hold hands on that Long-Lasting Love Dance floor," the man motioned his head backward.
Brent's eyes widen. "Gotcha." He flashed a serious look to Chiara.
"It's worth a try. All we need is an hour, to escape. The teleport is automatic, nothing to punch in and forget like last year."
"Women of Traxade are that bad?" Brent shook his head amused.
"And the men of Traxade are just as bad in returning on time."
Together, they walked into one of the back rooms and waited.
Brent sat behind an old beat-up wooden desk. The chair creaked under his two-hundred-pound weight.
Chiara perched on top of the desk, her feet dangling over the side.
Brent pulled her toward him. "You've given me a reason for living. All this time, I just performed my job. I worked and partied and ate. I fell in love with a robot woman. I still loved her, but she is the only one who understood me. She didn't run away. Couldn't have sex with her, though. Great listener. Nah! That's no way to live, a man should be alive!" Brent exclaimed. "Now I have you Chiara." He pulled her even closer. He nestled his face into her belly.
"I'm flattered, Brent." She rubbed her hands and hot pink colored fingernails through his dark-brown hair. His oval face and dark-blue eyes so dashing stirred her sensual senses. His bodybuilder frame made a nice object to lean on. But she learned not to worship any man. Brent couldn't protect her like Goddess Spiei of her religion could. Brent was just a man. Their Goddess Spiei was everywhere. A man so lonely he loved a female robot. This man needed her. He needed to feel long lasting love from a woman.
Chiara and Brent shared the silence.
In the faint background, the throbbing of the six dance floors of love in Club Release continued without them. She thought about her mom and Ty. Everything she wanted to happen came true. She simply needed to hold on to it. Bring it through time and space to Traxade. Once back home, on Planet Rovia, they'll be safe, she and Brent.
Fantasizing about love as a little girl, Chiara never thought of time travel as a way of finding true love. Frolicking and adventures framed time travel, not marriage and long lasting love. The idea of long lasting love through time travel became jokes on the comedy hours she sometimes watched. Comedians had joked time travel romances created the ultimate long-distance relationships. Only a fool even tried to engineer a time travel romance.
Chiara begun, "When I first met you, I noticed something odd."
"A feeling of guilt or perhaps tenderness. You kept your mouth hush, hush until you told me your job as a hit man."
"Did I ever tell you I have a weakness for girls who wore Turquoise Hosta blush?"
Chiara burst out laughing. "You do it all. Make a girl love you and then make her laugh."
"I try to be honest. In my business honesty comes at a high price." He pushed away and pulled out a gun. He screwed a silencer on the gun nuzzle. "Just in case."
"Brent. Put that away!"
"Don't be innocent, Chiara. This is what I do. People will come after me if I don't show up to do my duty."
"Let's get out of here."
A knock came at the door.
"Brent, you in there? It's Maxi."
Brent paused. He waited. He nodded to Chiara and said in a hush tone, "Go open the door, crack it just a little."
Chiara did as she was told. She waited for a second and cracked the door. A pretty platinum blonde spoke. "Boss Joe is coming to see you personally. He's angry as a pile of metal falling from a construction rooftop onto a half-built building below. Someone said you're running away with a broad." Maxi closed the door and disappeared as fast as she appeared.
Chiara rested her hands on the door. She refused to become alarmed. "We've got twenty minutes left," Chiara spoke in a harsh tone.
"You're a tough one."
"Brent, we need to get upstairs. High up in this building as possible. It'll give us a chance to hide."
Brent and Chiara waited five minutes and ran down the far end of the hallway away from the bathrooms.
They ran up five flights of stairs. They ended up in an isolated place of Club Release.
"Here is where they hold private gambling casino parties. On the weekends, not weekdays. Down that hallway," Brent pointed. "In a big plush suite, we'll hide in one of these rooms here."
Chiara tried the door. "It's locked."
"Just a sec. Brent took out a small flat thin, tool kit. Small as an android cell phone, his tool kit revealed a series of thin picks with tiny gold handles. "Joe gave me this set of lock picks for my eighth anniversary with The Organization."
"Nice guy, Joe."
Brent fiddled the lock. He pushed the door open. "Quick, inside."
Chiara went inside and her mouth dropped open. She rubbed the back of her neck, and lifted her heavy red wavy tresses from her shoulders. "Brent I really don't think we should be in here."
Brent listened one last time down the hallway “They're still thinking I'm waiting. I always did have a thing about time and patience. What Chiara?" Brent spun around.
His eyes widen. "The cash room of the Club Release's Casino. Rumor was we used a special bank. But I have never known Joe to trust the banks after the financial crises ten years back. We can take some of this."
Chiara walked up to a bookcase full of tiny slots. Slots for decks of playing cards. Slots for red, silver, black and gold chips. Slots for five, ten, twenties, fifties, hundreds, five hundreds, one-thousand-dollar bills, too. Slot machines lined the walls on the right. "Got to be a million here without even counting, Brent."
"Club Release's casino does a hefty gambling business." He picked up one of the box of dice. He opened it and threw the dice on the bookcase ledge. "Snake eyes. I hate gambling. And money is one of the seven types of love."
They both said together. "Love of Money."
Chiara said, "Don't take any of Boss Joe's money. It'll give him a reason to hunt us on Traxade. In one of the religions on Earth, they said love of money is the root of all evil."
"Well, maybe, just love of anything is the root of all evil. Airot's love fame has a dark side. I'll leave the money. You know what Club Release really means?"
"No." Chiara really didn't want to know. She wanted to believe good things about the word love. However, experiencing and knowing all the crimes the criminals she drove to their final prison locations told her otherwise. "Go ahead and tell me. I'm a strong girl. I can take reality. I can wake up and understand the gritty world in all its unsavory flavors."
"I like that. Too many girls walk around living in Lala land; they don't know the political world at all." He laughed sardonically. "Some girls still think men have the best intentions for them, when its clear men are just sleeping with their bodies--dumping the girls when they get old for another younger model. Sit down, Chiara."
Chiara pulled up a chair from a blank poker table and sat down. "I transport criminals to jail. I have no illusions about men, Brent. Women have to have babies, Brent, That's what makes them stupid about life. They tell themselves the world is a good place. They don't want the responsibility of bringing a life into a world of selfish, money loving people; a world full of cowards who only look out for their own skin and the skin of close family members or a loved one while the rest do a slow bullfrog boil to material and sexual slavery. Women desperately want to bring children into a world where they have at least a fighting chance to make something grand of themselves; a chance for true freedom and individuality, not just to buy things, eat and die."
"That world never existed, Chiara. Did you ever find it?"
"No and it scares me to death, Brent." Chiara faced herself. Inside her empty belly, she wanted a child. Something crazy mandated she think about the complex biological tasks. "Traxade grows less loving every day--the divorce rate is only an early-warning sign."
"Stay aware, but stifle your fear. It's the only way to see reality; see life as it is. I knew you had ovaries when I first laid eyes on you three hours and," he checked his watch. Ten minutes ago. Now a woman, Felisia, named Club Release. She manages Club Release. Smart woman really, street smart and book smart, but when Joe asked Felisia what to call the club, she replied. ’I want a place where I can release all my feelings of love for men. I don't want to love men anymore. I just want to love me.’ Call the place Club Release then," Boss Joe responded.
"Funny, on Tradaxe, more and more people are seeking solace in that, too. Just loving themselves. More and more people don't even care about anyone else now these days. That's why our divorce rate is rising and our, once, long lasting arranged marriages fail."
Suddenly, they heard some shooting down below.
"I think Joe's a little early. Not giving us much of a chance." Brent checked his watch. "We're trapped here."
"Up on the roof."
"The roof is an open space. They can approach us from several sides!"
"We need time, Brent! Time!"
They ran out of the casino cash room to a window looking out into the peaceful night of Airot's cityscape. A heavy pad lock stopped it from opening. Brent forcefully grabbed the lock. "And this ain't no scary movie. This will take just a second." Brent took out his lock picking kit again from his inside blue jacket pocket. He removed a lock pick.
"You are very resourceful."
The heavy lock clicked open. "Not a place I can't get in or out of. To the roof it is?"
They tried to pry the window open. Someone nailed it shut from the inside. Brent put one of his cap toe silver and black oxfords on the ledge. He leaned back heavily and yanked hard, sending dried white paint chips flying everywhere. Chiara and Brent ignored the paint chips on their clothes. They crawled out on the ledge. "I bet Joe is having a fit now, searching everywhere."
"Perhaps, he'll think you've gone outside."
"No way." Brent pointed to the white metal ladder one foot away leading three feet up to the flat roof of Club Release. "Chiara one-hundred and seventy-one million people lived in Airot. It's a beautiful country. Bordered between a small mountain range to the North, a frozen sea to the South, a huge sea to the East and a tropical forest to the West, the country of Airot mainly lives on shipping, carpeting, thieving, trading, and fetching back and forth. We make very few products on our own. Our population, most of them, lives in tiny towns. I come from a tiny town of Bolt Hub. We make the bolts that hold together the huge ships of Airot. I'm sorry you didn't get to see Airot. You go up first, Chiara."
Chiara started up the ladder. Her skirt stopped her legs from rising to the next rung. She ripped the dress up the side all the way to her waist. Her black panties came into view.
"If that pretty sight don't make me follow after you, I'm not worth saving," quipped Brent.
By the time they both got on the rooftop of Club Release, time dwindled down to five minutes.
Chiara and Brent crouched down listening.
"I know that broad is around here somewhere. She can't get far in that crazy party dress."
"Her flat shoes helped her get away, though."
"They'll have to punch in the transport code. That'll give us another minute a least."
Chiara pointed to her watch: three minutes. "Do you have anyone you can call? A brother, friend?"
"Are you kidding? In the murder business? I do have two brothers; they don't want anything to do with me. They work regular jobs. One drives a bus and another--" Brent broke off and looked over the rooftop again. "I don't know what the other does now. But, they're no help. Long as they stay out of my business, I told them. I don't care what you do. We each have our philosophy to live; our way to make money come in the door."
"I'm an only child myself." Chiara's eyes narrowed as she looked behind them on the roof.
"A regular pick and shoot gallery up here. Open space."
"Behind that far generator we can hide," Chiara said as silent as possible. Chiara herself sat in the shadows of the generator.
Another room door opened and gunfire blasted through. "Brent. You in there?"
"No one lived through all those bullets," said the other hit man.
"Can't believe a man skipped town over a broad? A conservative, boring, Traxade broad at that."
"He'll probably realize the mistake when he's knitting on a Saturday night."
Brent nodded to his gun. He checked the bullet cache again. "This is our last chance to make it. We can’t count on help. They’ll be using silencers,” said Brent."
"Koney, out on the roof! That's where they're hiding!"
Chiara heard them. Her heart dropped. "This is it, Brent."
"I love you, Chiara. Even if this ends our lives, I'd do it all over again. Long-lasting Love is a noble cause."
Chiara asked, "Brent will you marry me?"
"You asking me?"
"On Traxade, it’s proper for the woman to ask the man to marry. This stops the man from marrying for purely sexual reasons. Sexual love doesn't last long at all. And a woman wants security for the children."
Brent replied happily, "Of course, I'll marry you, Chiara, as soon as I get us out of this mess. I'm going to straighten up my life and do good or at least a normal job from now on."
Footsteps of the two thugs climbing the roof ladder broke through the peaceful night on the Club Release’s rooftop. Chiara and Brent heard their guns sliding grating on the white ladder.
Finally, four footsteps thudded against the flat roof--searching for them.
Chiara uttered in a hush low tone, "Brent do you have an extra gun?"
He shook his head no.
Chiara wanted to fight it out. She checked her watch. "Two minutes. We might make it, if no one comes up from behind us."
Brent turned and looked around. "That's exactly where Joe will come up." Brent bowed his head to the roof floor. "I have an instinct about these things."
"Brent we know you’re out here!"
"Come in, Brent and spare the lady seeing your bullet-riddled dead body."
The other thug added, "We don't want the girl; just you Brent. If you put up a fight, we might as well kill the girl."
Brent shook his head no. "Who are you trying to fool? We never leave a witness!" Brent yelled back. "And I've done my sharing of burying the dead. I know the body locations."
"Have it your way, Brent."
"It's going to be a cultural nightmare between Airot and Traxade. Joe won't be pleased. Airot will have to apologize to those boring Traxade people."
Chiara bit her cheeks. She grew angry. In a hush tone, she boasted, "I wish I had a gun."
Brent whispered. "Don't react, Chiara! That's what they want, for you to get all emotional and distracted, confused. You respond, Chiara. Remain calm and focused."
Brent raised his gun and fired over the generator. "Phhfffump!"
"I'm wounded," cried a man.
"Die then," said his mob partner.
"Behind another generator," the wounded man groaned. He hobbled on one leg.
"Love's screwing up your aim, Brent," said the unharmed thug. "You used to be a dead shot. One of the deadliest. I admired your skill, man."
Chiara almost watched Brent transform back into the killer he really was. His dark-blue eyes grew icy. He washed all emotions from his face. No longer pessimistic or sardonic, Brent focused on one job--killing his foes. Brent hopped up and shot again. Then twice more.
"One minute more, Brent," she whispered.
The thug continued to speak in his slow voice pattern. "Missed Brent. I’m going to miss those voice impressions you used to do. That one of the Prime Minster of Londo was hilarious. ‘Love ain't good for much, but getting sex,’ Brent you used to quote in his cartoonish voice. You know Love ain’t good for much but sex. Brent that's why you come to Club Release."
Brent rolled his shoulders. He shook his head left and right and spoke, “All right, change of plans boys, you back down. Go back down the ladder. I’ll handle him,” said Joe’s deadly voice.
“Damn!” said the uninjured thug, “That’s good, Brent”
“Damn priceless,” said the injured thug. “Only Joe never left an enemy alive.” The wounded man groaned and laughed hoarsely. "You tell her you're after sex, Brent. You hang out in the Long-Lasting Love dance floor for sex. Little lady, it’s just a ruse."
Chiara grabbed Brent's jacket as Brent angrily started to move away from her. She whispered, "If you get up and move away from me. Lose contact with me you'll not be teleported back to Traxade. You want to go back with me, right. It wasn't all a ruse for sex was it, Brent? You do love me? Because Brent I love you, as ridiculous as that sounds. I want us to have a long loving life together."
Footsteps sounded behind them on the ladder.
"I know, Chiara!" Brent crouched beside Chiara. They sat shoulder-to-shoulder, sitting with their backs against the generator--waiting for the end, for Boss Joe to appear over the roof ledge.
The man leaping over the South side of the Club Released looked like a professional mob man. He had a shaved face and heavy build and waved a gun with a silencer. He brushed off his clothes from the two-foot ladder climb to the roof. He smiled broadly. He had an oblong face, not an evil face, though. Almost like the face of a common taxi driver. His slick hair, a graying dark-brown stood straight up two inches on the top and spiky along the sides with mousse.
"Brent. Brent! It's Joe. Remember me," he waved his hands apart, still holding the deadly gun. Because of the strange angle, Chiara and Brent could see Boss Joe. Boss Joe needed a few more steps to see Chiara and Brent.
"Remember when I took you in. You were just a kid. I brought you right up in the Organization with me. You were down on your luck, anorexic; I think that's what the girls' call it. Isn't that right, Kone?"
Koney hobbled and leaned against a small gray air vent on the roof that looked like a large dollhouse. The black tar cover rooftop glistened in the night-lights of Airot's city street lamps. Shadows were everywhere you expected and didn't expect. "That's right Boss Joe."
Chiara didn't like Boss Joe. He walked like he crushed skulls for a pastime. "Forty seconds, Brent. No one has to be shot at all."
"You think Boss Joe giving me a chance to get away?"
"No, Brent. I think he doesn't know about the auto--." She cut herself off. "He plans on killing you dead after his brief lecture."
"I brought you in out of the back alley streets. Taught you how to be a man instead of begging, robbing and stealing."
"You did good, Boss Joe," Brent replied. "I'd rather be killed by you than some low-level thugs, like Koney or Waxon."
Boss Joe wore a black suit, white tie and a red tie with a tiny gold skull for a tie clip. Chiara wanted to retch when she caught sight of his tie clip.
"Just put down the gun, Brent and rejoin us." Boss Joe paused and waved the gun in front of himself. He could see them both now. "This roof is riddled full of shadows. Be a shame if the girl got killed before you did." He paused allowing Brent to think about the threat. Boss Joe continued, “And to think I was going to move you up in the Organization after this last kill order. No more killing, Brent. You could settle down and marry the young lady. Who is a cop by the way?"
"Don't move Brent. Twenty seconds, don't move."
Brent and Chiara sat, not more than fifteen feet from Boss Joe. "I know you need time to set the teleport. I got a minute before I must kill you, Brent. Don't make me do--"
Waxon came around the right side, firing.
Brent got hit in the chest. He got off a kill shot to Waxon's head, right between his blue eyes."
Koney came around on their right and fired, hitting Brent in the shoulder.
Brent fired and hit Koney in the right cheek. Koney went down. Brent aimed for Boss Joe, but Chiara grabbed Brent slumping body by his arms.
A light-blue light flashed. Chiara and Brent disappeared.
"Brent we made it!"
"We'd better be in Traxade because I'm getting a little seasick."
"You'll be all right. Teleporting is a little nauseous the first time." Chiara took off his jacket and threw it on Brent to stop people from seeing he was shot. "A little seasick is all. It’s his first time teleporting."
Chiara called in to her boss, Captain Mailina Stone. "I'm in love, Mailina and I need a favor. I'm at the airport, Traxade, Rovia. Please send a private squad car. No press."
"Chiara, I maybe your cousin, but this is the last time, I'm sticking my neck out for you."
"Help me this one time, Captain. I found the love of my life. Love needs help, too, sometimes."
Chiara leaned over Brent's bloody body.
Several people looked at him and recognized him from Club Release.
Then Chiara and Brent's body disappeared in a blue light flash.
Two weeks later . . . .
Brent rested in the Traxade General Hospital. Chiara sat by his side. "Don't ask me what hospital we're in, Brent. I positively hate hospitals."
"Okay. I'll ask you when you were going to tell me you had access to your own teleport."
"Never." Chiara smiled. "I found the thought of a hit man having a teleport, obnoxious in the extreme. Besides, it's not my teleport connection. It's my bosses."
Brent moved slowly reaching out his hand for Chiara. "I'm never going back to crime. I don't care if I have to feed goldfish for a living. I'm through with that line of work."
"Relax, hon. I've already found you a job at a library, shelving books. The work is boring, but quiet. You're not likely to meet anyone in your profession there."
"Library!" Brent shook his head in disbelief. "I thought you set me up in a sports field or maybe something connected to the outdoors like cutting golf course grass."
"Golf courses are cut by automation now, Brent." She put her hand up to her left cheek. "Sports full of gambling and betting. You need a diet from both of those, don't you think?"
"Has anyone come looking for me?"
"Only the angels of Goddess Spiei. You have a new identity and passport. You'll be safe now, but we have to stay in Traxade. All the forces of protection can keep things hidden that way. I don't trust other police captains in other countries of our planet."
"Fair enough. Now does that mean no travel at all? I kinda liked teleporting."
"No teleporting. You're grounded until you're an old, old man."
"Until I prove we're a long lasting love?"
"Not exactly. Until, you prove to yourself you're a long lasting love. You can leave anytime you want, Brent."
"I don't want to leave," Brent said, struggling to sit up.
Chiara helped him sit up and brace his back against the white fluffy pillows. She looked into his dark-blue eyes. Blue eyes relaxed, soft and caring, eyes filled with anticipation of living again not just existing. Happy eyes that wanted one thing--to be together with his future wife, Chiara.
"You know Boss Joe taught me one thing, useful in my new life. Loyalty. I love you Chiara and will love you to the very end. Nothing will come between us."
Chiara wiped tears from her lapis lazuli blue eyes. "You're not such a bad boy after all, Brent. You admitted to loving and that takes a mature man to admit he loves a woman."
"I've been macho man enough for my twenty-seven years. I'm looking forward to being kinder and gentler, especially to women."
Chiara leaned close and whispered in Brent's ear.
Brent replied, "I think that'll be a good way to be kinder and gentler to the female sex. Raising a girl child. But," he waggled a finger toward Chiara. ”No fairy tales. And no telling her she's going to be saved by Prince Charming. She'll learn self-defense, how to shoot a gun and how to be wise politically."
"That's a tall order for a little girl," Chiara added, playfully.
"Okay. She'll learn to be wise politically, learn self-defense and how to point a gun."
Chiara gasped. "Brent. What is the difference?"
"I left out fairy tales. She can have one or two, but that's my limit. Then we force her to burn them when she turns fourteen."
"Fourteen's probably too late."
"Deal," said Chiara. "I never liked fairy tales. None of the women were strong enough to survive by themselves."
"That's my, Chiara. I knew I'd held off marriage for all the right reasons."
"So did I, Brent, my love. So did I."
Brent went on to make a healthy recovery. He worked in the Traxade Public Library peacefully and raised his two girls with Chiara. The couple never divorced or time traveled again from Planet Rovia and Brent remained hidden in the police protection program.