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   Chapter 19 No.19

A Girl Named Sandy By Paul Kater Characters: 15773

Updated: 2018-02-11 12:04


Arecibo

At exactly half past seven Filipe entered the hotel lobby. Paul and Sandy were already waiting for him, so soon they were on their way. Filipe handed them an envelope in which they found ID-tags they would need to wear.

"Oh, I love this!" Sandy held up the official ID-card, with the logo of the Arecibo Observatory. "Can I keep it?"

"Yes, you can. They are only valid for the duration of our stay, " Paul laughed. He had discarded plenty of such cards already.

Filipe skillfully manoeuvred the car to the gates of the premises where their passes were checked, and minutes later they left the car after it was parked near the main building of the compound. The driver guided them to the restaurant where Doctor Miguel Juarez was waiting for them. The astronomer wasn't alone; at the table were a few people from the astronomy staff who welcomed them too.

Sandy felt she was offered an honorary seat, sitting between Doctor Juarez and Paul, as she had to do the interpreting. Doctor Juarez was very pleased to meet her, as so far they had only met by telephone. He mentioned to be quite surprised that she looked so young for someone so knowledgeable in astrophysics. Sandy thanked him and told him that she had a very good tutor.

Breakfast with the group took several hours. Water, fruit juice, coffee and tea flowed abundantly, Sandy's head spun several times as she was grasping for words, trying to translate the complex astrophysical and astronomical jargon that the men around her spewed. To her relief someone else was there who was quite well versed in that area and he chimed in a few times, so she could restrict herself to the more general discussion between Paul and Doctor Juarez.

Paul was amazed how well Sandy managed and he was proud of that. She didn't get upset, even though the discussion was very work-related, and not the easiest kind of work either. It was almost eleven in the morning when Doctor Juarez asked: "Podemos desempacar el simulador ahora?"

"He wants to know if we can unpack the simulator now."

"Just ask him to lead the way, " Paul said. "I'm dying to see it hooked up to the big dish."

Sandy translated. Doctor Juarez then rose and guided them to the building where the crate with the simulator was waiting for them. It had taken quite a beating, so Paul opened the crate with fear in his heart and unrest in his stomach. Sandy and Doctor Juarez stood back, giving him all the room he needed, while they talked. In Spanish. Paul was grateful that he and Sandy had been together for a while already. Her presence still gave him that special feeling; sometimes it was as if she could not decrease the level of it. He could work on assembling the simulator without being distracted by it. His mind was half on the simulator and half on the fact that she was there. When he was done, he tossed the screwdriver in the toolbox and thought to himself 'Nid oes dim yn digwydd heb reswm'. Nothing happens without a reason.

Together with the doctor he carried the simulator to a desk where it could be hooked up to the live feed from the telescope. After connecting everything and switching it on, the machine came to life. The self-test ran, Paul configured some things in the software and then the screen told them that it was attaching itself to the live feed. An image started to form.

Through Sandy, Doctor Juarez asked how long it would take before the image would be complete. Paul replied that it would take about ten minutes, as this was a fresh run. The doctor nodded and left without telling where he went, just that it would not take long.

"Is he always like that?" Sandy asked, as she allowed Paul to wrap an arm around her.

"I have no idea. I've never met him before. And let me tell you, sweetheart, that I am absolutely grateful that you are here to help me talk with this man. Well, I am grateful that you are here anyway. How do you like it so far?" Paul enjoyed the look on Sandy's face as she turned it up to him, away from the display on the simulator.

"It's exciting. I get to play with you while you're at work! That never happens at the university." She turned and stood against him, aware of the delicate energy that flowed not only from her to him but also back to her. "I love you, Paul, " she whispered. "Would this be the wrong place to kiss?"

The room cluttered with equipment seemed to fade from Paul's vision. He put his other arm around his bride. "With you, " he said, "there is no wrong place to kiss." He proved it to her.

"Oh! Madre de Dios! Lo siento mucho!" The outburst from Doctor Juarez who had come in unnoticed made the two kissing people jump and stare. "Yo no sabía que te moleste!"

Paul looked at

ot mean to shout."

"You did, though, " Sandy whispered. "But perhaps that was the only thing to do. I would have walked away if you hadn't. What's wrong, Paul?" Her anger, which had been directed mostly towards herself, had gone, as if the warm Puerto Rican sun had made it evaporate.

Inside the scientist the rush kept going but Sandy was calmer now, and that helped him get a grip on himself. "Okay, okay. One word at the time." He closed his eyes and rubbed his temples. "When we were in there, we worked together. You did great, Sandy. I was proud of you and I still am. You did what I asked and more; you talked to all these people without losing your wits, keeping them away from me like a pro. And suddenly you hid away, like you crawled into a closet. I felt like I was losing you, Sandy, and that scared me. What happened? What scared you?" He took both her hands. "What made you run away?"

"I didn't run away. I was on that chair all the time." She wished she felt as calm inside as the words came out. His hands were trembling in hers. "Why are you shaking, Paul?"

Paul's breathing became calmer. "I don't know. I just know that something in there happened. I sensed you all the time. You were on fire there, Sandy, doing things before I asked them. As if you read my bloomin' mind. And suddenly you pulled away. You faded." He shook his head, closing his eyes as he did so. "I can feel you again now."

"Christ..." Suddenly she realised what this was about. "Yes. You're right. It was overwhelming. Not in the way you think, Paul. I know I can handle what happened in there. But I saw you and all the other people, flying over the stuff that I am still trying to see the top of. And then I realised I hardly know a thing. And please stop trembling like that, it's making me nervous."

Paul looked at his hands. "My hands are not trembling. Now tell me, can it be that I felt you fade away at the moment you had that lapse of faith in yourself?"

"Lapse of faith, " Sandy laughed for a moment. "Talk about the British understatement of the year. But that might be it, yes. I am not sure, but... sounds like the only option, doesn't it? And you are trembling but not your hands? Oh crap."

Her face revealed something that she was clearly not happy with. "Oh crap what, Sandy?"

"Don't tell me that I am picking you up the way you pick me up. Please, tell me it doesn't happen. I've heard lots of stories about how that feels, and I was so glad that I did not have to go through that." It suddenly occurred to her that she had sensed things for a while already, but never so clear as this time, since she 'detonated'. It had always felt circumstantial.

"I really don't know, Sandy. I'm still new at all this, remember?"

She tried to glare at him but couldn't. "You should get your ass back in there, Paul, and do your fucking job. Don's probably at the uni already, wondering where the hell we screwed up in sending that stream. Now let's do it!" When he did not move, she pulled one hand free and started walking, dragging him along, faster and faster, until they were almost running towards the building.

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