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   Chapter 20 No.20

A Girl Named Sandy By Paul Kater Characters: 14788

Updated: 2018-02-11 12:04


Welcome home

"I'm dead, " Sandy told Paul. They sat at a table on a terrace behind the restaurant at the Arecibo grounds. "How can you work so long under so much pressure? That should drive you bat shit crazy." She kicked off her shoes to put her feet up on a chair.

"It's part of the occupational deformation, I assume, " Paul replied. "Believe me, I am quite tired as well. You should not go through several days like this in succession, or you'd literally drop dead on the floor. But we did get magnificent detail of the strange moving cluster though. Even Don was impressed when we e-mailed him the images from the simulator and the 3D units."

"Poor Don, sitting there all by himself, " Sandy nodded. "So far, this is the best part of being here. Okay, I mean the most relaxing part." She had enjoyed being in the crowd that analysed the information that had come from the simulation machine, especially after the revealing talk with Paul. "I still don't know why I am sensing you all of a sudden."

"Maybe someone in Annapolis has an answer for that, " Paul shrugged, "I'm just a person who looks into space."

"You are more than that, and you know it, mister." Sandy emptied her glass. "Love this stuff. Fresh fruit."

"Do you feel ready for a little stroll?" Paul wondered. "I can show you around a bit before we go back to the hotel. Show you the telescope arrays and the big one too, if you want."

Sandy felt very ready for that. It was perhaps a once in a lifetime experience, so she wanted to make the most of it. The stroll wasn't too far, and the view of the enormous radio telescope was breathtaking.

"No matter how often I see it, I am impressed every single time, " Paul said as he pulled Sandy close. She understood. The whole area was beautiful, and somehow the giant dish seemed to belong there. After gazing at the thing for a while they walked back to the compound where they found Filipe waiting for them.

***

The following days were filled with two more data loading sessions. As Paul suspected, there was hardly more detail in the clusters, as the distance to them was still incomprehensibly large, but the repeat calculations gave certainty about the strange composition of the clusters. On the moments that Sandy could not help Paul, she worked on writing down what Paul had told her about the simulator so others could translate that into Spanish. There wasn't that much to write down but some details were crucial, he had assured her. Doctor Juarez had sent them away early on a few occasions. He had insisted that they should have an opportunity to enjoy the beauty of Puerto Rico and also spend some quality time together without stressed astronomers hanging over their shoulders.

Sandy and Paul had used a lot of time to relax and talk and discover how much they meant to each other. In doing so, time had flown by, and one morning they were already packing to fly to Baltimore.

"This feels so weird, " Sandy stated as she sat down on her suitcase. It was the only way Paul could close it for her, because some of the little shops they had visited had proven irresistible to her.

"What does, sweet woman?" he asked as he clicked the locks shut.

"This... avalanche we're in. A few weeks ago we were in Bristol, you doing your work with Don and making fun of Professor Sams, and I was in class. Now we've spent a week in Puerto Rico where I have met some pretty damned famous people in the field. And this afternoon we're going to be in Annapolis." She hesitated for a moment. "To get married."

Paul leaned on the suitcase, keeping Sandy in place between his arms. "I recall someone mentioning cold feet a few days ago. Are we getting there yet?"

"No! Of course not. See this?" Sandy held up her hand with the ring for a moment. "This is there to stay." She looked into his eyes. "Well, okay, no cold feet but maybe a chilly toe. I never got married before. It's all becoming so real now." She lowered her eyes to her hands that now rested in her lap.

Paul put a finger under her chin and lifted her face up to his. "We're in this together. I never was married before either. I can't think of a better person to do this than with you, Sandy Royce." There was a look in her eyes as she looked at him that he could not explain. "Is there something wrong with my face?"

"Nope. Wait, let me get my phone and I'll show you." Sandy slipped off her suitcase backw

e to live there once again."

Paul nodded. It all sounded quite fantastic, but... "Are there pictures or books from the home planet?" It was a question that he suspected to get no answer on, but he had to try it.

"There are. We have seen them. And before you get your hopes up, no, we don't have copies, " Angela answered. "The images only show on particular devices that somehow still function, but taking photographs of them only shows faint blobs."

Paul understood that if these devices were still on earth, they would be heavily guarded. "Can I ask more?"

"Sure. That's what we have time for now."

"Have our ancestors ever cross-bred with the human population? When I look at you and me and people in the street, I see no difference. That is highly remarkable for a species that arrived from outer space, a long time ago."

Adele explained that no one knew. "Maybe they did, long ago. Maybe two races that once lived developed into a similar body-type as that was most beneficial to live on the planet. We know that we're not compatible with modern humans though."

"Thank you. I have two more questions now... one of which is for Timothy. Why did you stay for dinner at the restaurant when Don and I were there for the conference? You could have easily made it home in time for dinner with your family?" He suspected that he already knew the answer: that Timothy had stayed to make initial contact with Paul.

"We knew you were coming over for the conference. It was the best shot we had to get in touch with you. It was a stroke of luck that I could go to a conference there as well, to get you home with us. One of our people manipulated Miss Reynolds a little, so she would take your co-worker with her. Which worked, well, almost until the end. Please don't tell your co-worker about this."

Poor Don, Paul thought, and promised to keep that bit of information from him.

"And your last question is?"

Paul put an arm around Sandy. "My last question has to do with this lovely lady." He felt a bit silly, but pushed that feeling away. "For now we are here, I have the opportunity to ask you officially, face to face, for the hand of your daughter."

Timothy and Adele exchanged glances, then with big smiles got up from the garden chairs they sat on. Paul and Sandy, she still in his arm, also rose. Timothy and Adele walked up to the two.

Timothy held out a hand. Paul took it. "Yes, Paul. We'd be honoured to see you two married." He then hugged the scientist, quickly but firmly, while Adele hugged her daughter. Then Timothy hugged Sandy, and Adele hugged Paul. She whispered: "How sweet of you to ask this. You'll make her a wonderful husband."

Angela then joined the group-hug and there were tears and laughter and more hugs.

From the top floor of the house a silent, young boy watched what happened in the garden from the open window of his bedroom. "Good, " he mumbled to himself. "Real good."

***

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