Larry knew she would take the lift tube. He’d been an engineer on the starship a long, long time, and if he knew one thing for certain, people on the LARC3 colonial starship kept to their schedules. Larry knew they weren’t a match on paper, though he looked every bit as young as the day he left college back on Earth all those centuries ago, thanks to genetic treatments with Antarctic krill DNA, he knew she just entered maturity not even to mention her enhancements. He reasoned that she took part in the next colonization effort, and her DNA laced with whatever the geneticists on board determined would allow humanity to thrive under unearthly conditions. All differences aside, they would one day reach the planet and she would leave him to start a life and a family on a world while Larry continued his work here aboard the ship, but none of that seemed to matter.
Leila took the long way to her geological study group, as she had since that engineer caught her eye nearly a month ago. Something about the man that pulled her to him, like he exerted gravity beyond what the colony’s artificial environment provided. Leila felt a pull toward him that lured her to the only place a fledgling colonist like her ever spotted the engineering team. Some friends in medical training told her the engineers stay with the ship, that the same crew had manned the vessel since departing Earth, nearly five hundred and thirty years ago. Some of them looked old, but most, like her engineer, looked to be only a couple years older than herself, nineteen. One could hardly blame a person aboard this ship for having genetic modifications that most would consider unnatural. Leila didn’t mind someone’s quarks, after all, her genetic modification could be so prominent that at times, even her peers looked nervous around her.
Her heart fluttered as she rounded the corner and saw him, waiting for the lift tube, as reliable as her morning alarm.
“It’s nice to see you,” Larry gave her the smile he had practiced in the little mirror attached to the door of his crew locker.
“I’m Leila, I don’t think we have formally met,” she extended a hand.
Larry grasped her soft hand in his own rough grip, careful not to squeeze to hard, and careful not to give her the limp fish of a shake. He had done it! After weeks of building courage and allowing mild interest to grow to… well, something more, he had begun speaking to this beautiful, mysterious girl.
What was the genetic adaption for her generation? Larry had such a hard time keeping up with the genetics department.
He motioned for Leila to enter the lift before him, then quickly followed, now nervous that someone else might join them in the small space, it had happened before. As Larry wracked his brain for a casual topic, the lift shuddered and ground to a halt. Strange, he mused. This lift is not due for maintenance for another twelve years. The lights dimmed and the intercom announced a malfunction, asserting that a crew had been dispatched.
“I didn’t plan it, I swear.” Larry’s grin turned rather sheepish.
“Well, I don’t mind the company,” Leila replied. “Sometimes being trapped in tight places makes me nervous.”
“Let me see if I can override the panel” the engineer leaned past the young woman, he could smell her hair. Was that scent vanilla?
“Or we could talk,” Leila placed a hand on his and he froze. “I’m sorry, I just..” she began to withdraw.
Larry straightened then and stammered a bit when she withdrew, then recovered composure. “That would be nice, to be honest this lift is a bit out of my way. I saw you on it once when I was on special assignment and kept using it so I would run into you again.” Larry could feel his cheeks redden, had he said too much?
Leila leaned toward him, “Me too.” She stood quite close now, and looked up into his eyes.
Larry mustered courage, the elevator breaking, the conversation going well, he took the chance. Larry leaned in and kissed Leila. She seemed startled at first, then she kissed him back.
Leila couldn’t believe her senses. She had kissed boys before, but it had never been as electrifying as all this. She felt something magical between them. Something… dread well up within her, it was happening again! Leila froze, horrified by the realization that her suction cups began activating. She could hear Larry’s startled expression from under her pressed lips, then her instinct took over and the next several minutes passed in a blur.
The lift tube door slid open, jarring Leila back to reality, allowing her human side to regain control. She pushed Larry back a bit with a wet popping sound. He looked dazed. Larry opened his mouth to speak, but Leila, overwhelmed with embarrassment, ran from the lift.
Leila sulked through the rest of her day. She slept fitfully. The next morning Leila mustered her courage, she would return to the lift and apologize for what happened. Larry would no longer be interested in a freak like her, but at least she could make amends.
Nearing the corridor, Leila paused before the last turn, suddenly unwilling to face her crush again, after she had revealed her true self. Long minutes passed. She figured that if Larry had bothered to take the same route he would have moved on by now. She rounded the corner, and gasped.
Larry stood by the lift holding a bouquet of flowers. He grinned when he saw her.