Author : Roi R. Czechvala, Staff Writer
She was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. Long blond hair pulled back in a ponytail. Soft blue eyes. She had on a rumpled olive drab Viet Nam era jacket. An embroidered patch of a bald eagles head adorned the right shoulder. It was worth a small fortune. Obviously she had money.
She was drinking a Jovian Blast. A cacophony of liqueurs carefully layered to represent the banded planet. A sliver of dry ice added to the otherworldly affect.
Despite being over six feet, muscular but not burly and possessing weathered good looks, he was still uneasy around women. He slammed back a shot of Jack Daniel’s. The amber fluid gave him the strength needed to approach her.
He walked up beside her, started to speak, looked away and tapped his drink order into the bar top. “Um, hi,” he finally managed.
“Hello yourself,” she replied. It would have been mocking if it weren’t for the disarming smile. She found his unease attractive. “Can I buy you a drink?” Her boldness caught him off guard. Before he could splutter some incoherent nonsense, his beer appeared and he quickly took a swig.
“You’re cute,” she said. A spray of beer showered the bar.
“I… um… I’m sorry. I… didn’t mean to bother you… I,” he stammered, as the bar, somewhat pissed, cleaned itself.
She placed a hand atop his. “Don’t worry, I don’t bite. Sit down.”
“Really?” A huge grin spread across his face. “I mean, thank you,” he replied a little more solemnly. Stupid, stupid, stupid, he thought, mentally kicking himself. Her soft smile never faltered.
“I’m Rachel,” she said extending a hand, “and you are?”
He took her hand and fell into her eyes. “I’m uh, I’m… I’m Ray. I’m an architect. I designed this tower. I’m really proud of the docking ports. The owners originally wanted a single docking area on the roof, but I thought the individual ten car docking ports scattered on the outside of the tower added to the overall aesthetics of the tower itself. What do you think,” he blurted in one breath. He plunged his face once again into his beer. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
“I think you’re cute.” A second stream of beer shot out. If the bar had eyes to roll, it would have rolled them. Had it a head, it would have shaken it slowly while making ‘Tsk tsk tsk’ sounds. Instead it just quietly cleaned up and reminded itself that it was payday.
Embarrassed, he turned and stared out of the floor to ceiling windows. From the 173rd floor lounge, they offered a breathtaking view of Dallas. He could see a shuttle lifting off from the port at Arlington, bound for the orbiting launch facility.
“What do you see,” she asked quietly.
“I see… Everything.” He turned towards her. Again he plunged headlong into those deep blue eyes. A split second of terror washed over him as he leaned forward and kissed her. She took his face in her tiny hands.
Somewhere in a room smelling of antiseptic and painted neutral beige, Ray raised a withered and liver spotted hand to his temple and removed the memory augmentation device. The vision of his wife, their first meeting, slowly slipped from his mind. He smiled a sad smile as a tear rolled down his cheek.
He stared up at the ceiling for a moment. He thought of Rachel, gone many years. He turned to the medical technician waiting patiently by his bed. “I’m ready,” he said.
The med tech inserted a syringe into Ray’s catheter and depressed the plunger.
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