Mar 30th, 2019
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  1. Getting out of Iron City is a hassle at the best of times. Permits or credits are the only way through the deadlock gates. Even then, the lines are long, with people nervously avoiding staring at the Centurions scanning every citizen. At night, the problem is even worse. Come midnight, the gates are locked tight; massive steel bars keeping even the most dedicated adventurer from leaving the city boundaries. It’s a surprise then when Alita tells you to meet her at the south gate, just before twelve. The message she left says only to bring something warm. You have your suspicions about what she might want though, so your bag includes a fresh batch of hot chocolate, along with a picnic blanket. At the very minimum you can always share another view of the city together.
  3. The streets are quiet this time of night. Thin layers of ice blanket the cobblestones; you step carefully to avoid what would certainly be a painful fall. Your breath fogs up as you hurry down to the gate, ducking in to an alley just outside the range of the harsh searchlights. It’s getting close to curfew, and you glance around, straining to catch sight of Alita. The worry grows in you, and with a final scan of the area you turn to head back, when you hear a little laugh behind you. A light tap on the shoulder indicates that the mystery voice is friendly. Your concern vanishes instantly as you see Alita step out of the shadow in the alleyway; a cheeky grin splayed across her face. This time her usual coat has been replaced by a flowing poncho, and you see that the streaks down her cheeks are a much darker grey than usual. She grabs you for a quick hug, and you hear the mischievous edge to her voice as she speaks.
  5. “I guess I can sneak up on you, huh?”
  7. You poke her lightly in the ribs through the hug and feel as she jolts a little. It’s the small victories that count.
  9. “So, what’s the plan tonight?”
  11. She breaks apart from you and points towards the gate.
  13. “I found a way through the gates a little while ago. I was on a hunt and stumbled on to it.” Her voice is serious now; determined. “Don’t worry, it’s not too hard. Follow me!”
  15. She sets off at a trot, and you do your best to keep up. The two of you hug the walls of the buildings leading to the gate, and as you hear the grinding of metal, it begins to close. With the sound as cover, Alita dashes toward one of the concrete pillars holding the gate superstructure in place. The spotlights there rotate inwards, casting shadows over a little pile of rubble just before it. You mange to keep your feet as Alita gets to the pile, and you come up to her side as she effortlessly lifts the edge of a great steel plate which covers the back of the pile. Below it a gaping void appears, and she gestures you in.
  17. “Come on! It’s just a little drop. I’ll follow you right after.”
  19. There are only a few people you trust in Iron City, and none more than her. So you jump down, feeling the freefall in your stomach before you land with a muffled thud. The ground is earthy and soft, though you can barely see in the darkness. From above comes a thump as the steel plate drops back in to place, and then the much softer sound of two feet landing next to you. The darkness around you is absolute now, and you feel a spike of fear rise through you before you feel the warmth Alita’s nanotech fingers envelop your own. Slowly, you see a blue glow start to form around her lithe shape, and before long the tunnel before you is filled with her light. She smiles at you and sets off down the tunnel. You manage a soft “wow” before following her along the loamy ground. You have to crouch over slightly to make it through, but Alita’s sure steps guide your way. Time is impossible to judge with no horizon for reference. Eventually though, you feel the tunnel start to rise. Alita’s glow fades as the smell of grass and jungle reaches your nose. You find yourself in a little clearing; trees and foliage dot the edge of the rough circle as Alita spins around laughing in the light of the waxing moon. The moonlight highlights the interplay of the metal and muscle of her body; she’s ethereal and so fundamentally real that you find yourself bursting with wonder at her beauty. There are still unanswered questions though, and you drop your bag on the grassy ground before asking.
  21. “This place is amazing, but why the midnight trip here?”
  23. Alita stops her twirls and looks at you, eyes sparking in the silver light.
  25. “Have a look up.” She points at the sky above you. A field of stars spreads its way all across the cosmos. The milky way is a river through the points of light, and the moon hangs ponderous and low.
  27. “I found a star chart when I was looking through some of Ido’s old stuff. You know how hard it is to see anything from Iron City.”
  28. You finally understand her wish, and with a little flourish pull the picnic blanket from your bag. Alita’s face softens and she steps over to you.
  30. “You’re the best.” She gives you a quick kiss before helping you spread the blanked across the grass. You lay down on the surprisingly comfortable ground and she drops down to join you, stopping only to pull the plate-sized start chart from under her poncho. She curls up next to you, sliding her arm under your neck as you feel the warmth emanating from her body. With the light from Iron City far away, the stars above you are an endless canvas. The view is breathtaking, and the two of you simply lie there for a moment, connected through spirit and mind; watching the universe swirl around you. Eventually Alita raises the chart and holds it up to the sky. Through the semi-transparent glass you see the stars connect in to shapes; in to constellations. You point them out with her, sharing amazement at the complexity of Orion, laughter at the cuteness of Ursa, and finally, after scanning the chart, finding Mars. She lowers the glass and the two of you watch the little flickering dot. Her voice is soft when she speaks, full of wonder and contemplation.
  32. “Do you think there’s anyone left? Anyone like me?”
  34. You roll over to face her, and she does the same, staring in to your eyes as she waits for your response. Her cheeks are creased with the tinge of sorrow, and you lovingly run your hands along the streaks which she so carefully painted earlier.
  36. “I don’t know what’s up there Ali, but there’s one thing I do know.” Her eyes widen slightly as she waits for you to continue. “There’s no one else like you anywhere else in this world.” It’s lame and sentimental and absolutely perfect as she smiles and glances down. You take her hand now, and give her a long kiss on the forehead. When she speaks, it’s thick with affection.
  38. “Even if there was, I never want to leave you.” The stars dance in their infinite journey and you feel the universe itself expanding with your love for her.
  40. “I know you never will.”
  42. The two of you lie there, sharing in the cosmic dust which makes a ribbon through the skies. You watch as streaks race across the galactic vista, and you know that there’s nowhere in the universe more right than this.
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