It was different than it had been with Andromeda. Instead of an immediate burst of light, I felt like everyone was moving through molasses. As I stared at our clasped hands I again saw that blue light zing around or through our grip. I focused on the light and it grew and changed until it became the burst of energy I’d expected, and time returned to its predetermined speed.

Once again I was momentarily consumed by the glow and I tightened my grip on Mathis. I could have sworn Andromeda was holding my other hand, so I gave her a comforting squeeze, too. Once the light faded and I’d blinked it from my eyes, I gave Mathis a toothy grin. He returned it, plus a wink.

“You two are already bonded, then?” he asked.

We nodded.

Andromeda looked at her hands. “I saw you both light up, but it felt like you were holding onto me at the same time.”

“That happens with a new bond anywhere in the world,” Mathis explained. “I’m taking Theory II this semester, so I get some more details they don’t hand out in elementary and high school. Not to mention a thousand extra pages of writing and three times the reading.”

I looked at Andromeda as worry blossomed in my chest. How were we supposed to tell him we already weren’t a normal trio and he might be in danger? Welcome to the group!

Andromeda was already in motion, as I was coming to realize she often was. “Let’s get off campus. Unless you can’t?”

Mathis shook his head. “I shouldn’t. I have a few more classes through the end of the day; I’m running late for Psych 201, actually. I’m never late, but for some reason I couldn’t convince myself to leave on time.” He chuckled and ran a hand through his beads and braids. “I guess this was why.”

I put a hand on his shoulder. He didn’t send any tingling sensation through my hand like Andromeda did when we touched. Instead, he felt like a soothing breeze. I expected he was experiencing something, too, because his eyes went distant for a moment. I also realized then that despite his handsome face and my pansexual nature, I wasn’t attracted to him the same way I was to Andromeda. With her it had been so immediate; I knew I would be consumed if I didn’t have her. But Mathis… I didn’t know what to think.

“How do I find you?” he asked.

Andromeda took his phone and entered her contact information. She also warned him not to share it with anyone, anyone, and he nodded reassuringly.

“I’ll be able to leave around 4:00 and I’ll text so you can send me an address. I have a covered scooter, so no highways.” His legs engaged and he blew us each a kiss as he disappeared. I was sure if he was using his own legs instead of mechanical ones that he would have been skipping or jumping with excitement.

I felt like jumping myself and expressed a few toe-bounces. Andromeda rolled her eyes good-naturedly. “He seems nice,” she agreed. She lowered her voice, “But I don’t know how sweet he’ll be when he learns we’re both Channels.”

“We’ll find out after 4:00.” I hugged an arm around her shoulders and she pulled up her phone.

“No new texts in that account I set up,” she said. “Not that I was really expecting any yet.”

“And I doubt the Feds will let you know they’re on their way in a text.”

She glared at me.

“They’d probably call.”

“You’re not taking this seriously.”

“You’re taking it too seriously.”

“Am I?” She pretended to consider it, bobbed her head a few times and then slapped my shoulder. “I don’t want to be vivisected or stuck performing for experiments in a secret underground lab for the rest of my life, so if we get caught, I’m blaming you. And also leaving you to rot if I can escape.”

“That seems fair,” I agreed.

We left campus and grabbed a seat on another auto-bus. It wasn’t heading the right direction to get back to my place, but Andromeda was leading the way and seemed to have a plan. I wasn’t as familiar with this area since I only came for the occasional shopping or restaurant date with friends when they were in town.

Andromeda leaned her head against my shoulder as she stared out the window. I wondered what was going on in her mind, but didn’t want to press. She did have me thinking, though: we knew nothing about one another. It would be nearly impossible to plan for safety if we didn’t know our weaknesses. Despite what she thought, I was scared. Dr. Bjork had scared me. The blue light I’d seen, twice now, scared me. I didn’t like being scared.

“Do you feel anything when I touch you?” I asked.

Andromeda twisted her head to look up at me. “Like what?”

“Like, anything? Energy? Tingles?”

She laughed and looked back out the window. “Insatiable, aren’t you?”

“Different question: when you shook Dr. Bjork’s hand, did you see anything? Like a blue light?”

Andromeda leaned away so she could see me better. “No, it was a normal handshake. What blue light?” She looked concerned.

“I’m not sure,” I answered. I ran a finger down the fabric of the seat in front of me. “I’m still processing, but I’ll let you know.”

Andromeda looked skeptical and confused, but didn’t press the issue. Part of me appreciated her for that, and another pointed out that she didn’t know me well enough to press.

“Unrelated to either thing, I promise: do you have family around here? Brothers and sisters? Cousins? You graduated, but with what degree?”

“You are all over the place. My brother lives in Georgia – the country, not the state. His trio operates in the mining industry. My mom travels with my dad on his transport runs. We get together some place relatively in the middle every year or so. And my degree is in nautical archaeology.”

I blinked.

“I thought I was going to be helping my dad more, but by my last year when we both knew that wasn’t in the stars, so just figured I’d finish to have the piece of paper.”

“Huh. The more you know.”

“Let’s get off here.” I jumped up to leave the bus with her close behind. I shaded my eyes and looked around to find we were in the usual shopping district I frequented. The stores were all individual, but there was plenty of shade to walk from door to door and the center held various snack foods and seating. She grabbed my hand and dragged me toward a used book store but before we went in, she stopped to check her makeup in the glass. We walked most of the aisles but she didn’t find anything she wanted, and she vetoed my find of gourmet sexual positions for lovers who love to cook.

At the next store I realized she was up to something, but, just as she didn’t before, I didn’t press. We goggled at and experimented with various kitchen gadgets and even though I rarely cooked, I lusted after a set of fancy cutting boards that cost more than three months of rent.

Time for the next store. This time, she pulled me into a narrow alley between buildings and kissed me thoroughly, but I could tell she was eyeing the entrance. I angled us so that she could see better and was rewarded for my actions. Good deeds should be selfless, but there’s nothing wrong in accepting gifts.

Andromeda checked her makeup in the glass again and once inside looking at discount clothing, I sidled close and said, “Are we being followed?”

“Maybe?” She had a slight tremble in her voice that surprised me.

“Who do you think it is?”

“Blue hat, blue polo, white shorts. I saw him on campus and he was on our bus and has visited all of our stores so far.”

“It’s a college town,” I reminded her. “Could be perfectly innocent.”

She glared at me and I moved to another rack of clothes to get him into my view.

April 14, 2021

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