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By Any Other Name

Discussion in 'Literature Library' started by yugoslavia, Mar 4, 2016.

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  1. yugoslavia

    yugoslavia School Kid

    May 12, 2015
    Chapter 1

    The first thing that Mars felt was water, coming down from the darkness above her. The next thing she felt was an incredible pain in her leg, one that woke her right up.

    Gasping for air, Mars found herself sitting upright, which immediately made the whole room creak and wobble softly. When she went to stabilize herself as the room wobbled, her arms shot beside her, groping blindly as she looked for the nearest thing beside her she could hold to. When she found it, the padded armrest immediately to the left and right of her, she held fast as the whole room stopped wobbling, completely still. It was then that Mars took a moment to focus her eyes and take in her surroundings.

    The air was salty, fresh, and sweetly calming. A large amount of light came from beside her, casting shadows all about the room, obscuring all that she could see. What she could see looked mechanical, heavily engineered. As she looked down at her own chest, she found straps going over her shoulder and down into her lap, securely fastened to her, beginning to confirm her suspicions for as to where she was. Up above, on the curved, structurally intact walls, a red caution warning ran along the edge of the round lip up above. 'Escape Pod - Crew Capacity: 2'.

    Mars returned her focus to the seat belt over her body, frowning. As she woke up more and more she was coming to the same, confused conclusion:

    "W-Where am I...?"

    With little attention spent to her actual position inside the escape pod, Mars still knew she was sitting at an angle, the chair mounted at a slight upward angle in the curved enclosure. Her hand curled in on itself into a desperate fist and rammed into the dead center of her chest, smacking the red 'Release' that held her seat belt together. The retractable straps still worked, and Mars was free almost instantly, only having to fumble with pulling her arms loose slightly. Again, the whole craft began to wobble slightly, but with much less movement. She grasped the ends of the armrests on either side of her, sliding her forward to the lip of her seat, where she felt herself slipping forward for her legs to catch her, fully expecting her boots to make contact with the iron-plated floor.

    They did. It was then that Mars remembered the shooting pain in her leg.


    Mars screamed, her voice echoing off the walls of the escape pod. She had lifted herself off the chair momentarily, but as soon as she put weight on her leg she collapsed towards the side, almost flinging herself downward. She braced for the brutal impact of iron, but instead found herself flopping down onto a drift of sand. Immediately she closed her eyes and let herself rest momentarily, feeling a dense cloud of sand whoosh up against her and flitter softly over her face, getting tangled in her hair. Her hand felt for the ground beside her, clawing into the sand and feeling the grains slip between her fingers. When she opened her eyes she found what she had truly landed in was sand, and the deep rake marks of where her fingers had sank into quickly filled in the grooves with a gentlly audible rush.

    As she lifted herself up, Mars found herself lying in a spot of sunlight. Looking up blinded her. The salty smell was now that much more surrounding and invasive, almost as if she could feel it entering in from the open space ahead of her, just as the warmth of the sun had.

    Mars put her knee between herself and the ground, easing herself along. She gave a passing glance to her pained leg, seeing dried blood had streaked down from the open gash in the plastic of the boot. Ignoring the pain and the visual for the time being, Mars pulled herself forward, navigating through broken shards of glass as she brought herself to the opening of the escape pod and stepped out.

    It was beautiful beach. The most idyllic one Mars had ever seen. Her eyes wandered over the pristine landscape, widening despite the bags beneath. Her nostrils flared and took in the scent of the sea. All around, her ears were filled with the blasting wind and the crashing waves near her. Beneath the pod, the ground was glassy, slicked with water, the sand a deep, soothing shade of brown. Foaming white waves passed in front of her in small trickles, the pod being at the end of where the tide came in. In the distance, large and wide swaths of white sand filled her vision, walled by dense and green palm trees.

    The wide, round lip of the escape pod proved a challenge when Mars was crawling on her hands and knees, dragging her legs behind her. Taking her good leg, Mars swung her leg out over the ledge and planted her boot in the wet sand, feeling the cool ocean water slosh up all around the boot. With her hands gripping the side, levying her injured leg over the side so that it dangled, she took another deep breath, gritting her teeth, and leaning forward. Without putting any weight on the leg, her boots sank into the wet sand, and she still couldn't feel any pain. Finally, she leaned in, putting a slight amount of weight onto her legs. The pain was initial, Mars hissing and wincing, forcing her eyes shut, but soon the sensation in her strained muscles began to die down.

    All at once, Mars stood up. She let out a loud groan of pain, and immediately found herself stumbling back towards the escape pod, but she didn't go back to the opening. Her arm rested, extended, holding her up against the curved wall, slightly stooped forward. She was standing, albiet with help and an incredible amount of pain, but she was standing.

    "Mars! Hey, Mars!"

    Above the incredible sound of crashing waves, Mars heard something new. Saturn's voice was familiar, as familiar to her as the old friend that he was. It seemed to make her pain subside as she stood a little easier.

    Mars was catching her breath, a hand bracing her against the wall of the escape pod and another holding the knee of her injured leg. Slowly, Mars raised her head, looking to the horizon. Her eyes seemed to flare, expanding with a renewed sense of excitement. Involuntarily, she felt her breath pick up and quicken, leaving the slow and exhausted breaths behind her.

    It was Saturn, and he was running towards her, the sooty plumes of a small fire behind him that looked incredibly inviting.

    Chapter 2

    "What even is this island? What is it?"

    "It's not on any of the charts, none that I've seen at least. It could be undiscovered for all we know. For our sake, I really hope it isn't."

    "I know, but what's it's name? Shouldn't it at least have a–aaaauuuughh!"

    Saturn threw his arms down to Mars's midsection, hearing her wail of pain bellow in hs ear. With Mars on his left, his unused arm on the right slid around in front of him, grasping where his other arm had been on her shoulder. With a good, solid grip on her torso, Saturn was able to stop Mars' downward momentum, catching her moments before her whole body would've flopped forward like a gigantic wet blanket. Still, with Mars' knees buckling forward from beneath her, her whole body was dead weight in Saturn's arms while she struggled to get her legs back beneath her through limp, pained kicking. The incredible weight made Saturn's hand go from her shoulder down to meet his other hand on her torso, helping to hold her up.

    Mars' first instict was to wedge her arms between her and Saturn, not enjoying struggling in someone's arms but the pain in her leg consumed her thoughts and made her forget. She forced herself to wedge her eyes open, gazing out through the pain. Her breath had quickened and so had her reaction time. Her arms that had made it halfway to Saturn's chest to instinctively shove him away in the moments before she realized she was collapsing, and now they reached for something to stablize her. A groping, fumbling hand grasped for his shoulder, grasping a fistful of his uniform in her fingers. As both her and Saturn heard the loud tearing noise, Mars instinctively reached up to his neck, throwing her arms around it and pulling close. Her torso was at least mostly upright now, and she gave herself and Saturn a chance to breathe. Slowly, the lopsided, ragdoll-like feet Mars had beneath her that rested on their sides straightened, landing on the sole with a firm grip. Mars' posture was still poor, and though she had planted her feet in the ground, the rising pain in her leg kept her from staying upright.

    "Don't break a sweat now," Saturn said through a grunt, smiling in a brief way.

    Mars sighed, her voice quavering as she put more weight on her legs. "I'm more worried about you than me right now."

    "'Me', you say? I'm the one with two legs."

    In a sudden, swift and almost violent movement, Saturn had to relinquish his grip on Mars' side, only to immediately catch it back up. His grip on his side dropped a few inches, close to her hips, jostling Mars as he shifted her posture by adjusting his new grasp on her. The wire rim of Mars' tattered skirt prodded Saturn's side and jostled his rib, and Saturn did nothing but gasp and grit his teeth, the strain his arms becoming evident once again.

    "Are you good to start walking again?" asked Saturn, unable to hide the strain from his voice.

    "Y-Yeah... Y-Yes, we can do this..." Mars grunted. Her legs straightened finally, feeling like they were right where they should be. Keeping an eye on Saturn's arm as she put more and more weight on her leg, she felt the tight, embrace-like grip Saturn had on her side start to lessen as it became unnecessary. She kept her arm locked around Saturn's neck and minded it like a lifeline.

    Saturn kept his arms in a close ring around Mars' midsection, but he was soon realizing that it would be impossible to walk when he held her like that. Though he tried to move forward, he eventually seceded and removed his hand from her side, keeping hovering mere inches from her stomach as a precaution. With Mars' hand on his neck, he found himself discovering that his posture too was bad, that he had hunched down to keep Mars' weight upright and was in-turn not well-suited. As Mars began to walk forward, he straightened himself slightly, trying to keep ample distance but keeping his hand low on her.

    As Mars took the first agonizingly slow and painful steps, she found herself paying close attention to where Saturn was beside her, her watchful pair of eyes darting down to him with almost every step. The free hand of hers that was poised by her side, ready to catch her if she were to slip sideways, came down tenatively and clasped over where Saturn's was on her hip. She slid it up her hips, over her side and just to the beginnings of her ribcage, both her and Saturn minding her breasts when setting his handhold. Limping forward, raising her injured leg was far easier than putting weight on it.

    Then, all of a sudden, Mars' legs gave again, an involuntary shout of pain coming from her. All Saturn could understand was an unintelligible curse, but he found his hand had suddenly dropped beneath her arm and holding the warm junction of her arm and shoulder. Immediately Mars began to tumble forward and Saturn threw his free, hovering hand towards her hips, catching her from tipping all the way but holding her sideways.

    "A-Aaahh–Sat–Hrrrrrgggh–S-Saturn–Put me down, put me down!"

    "Straighten your legs, put them in front of you. I'm going to tip you back," said Saturn, watching her legs fold in awkward and very uncomfortable poses.

    Mars, having gone incredibly pale, blinked away sweat from her brow. She had heard Saturn's commands and, as much as she wanted to, slid her legs outward, kicked in front of her like she was on a wheelbarrow. Through her exhausted, bobbing head, rocking as Saturn struggled to keep her up, she watched has she straightened her legs, her whole body rocking on her heels. Just as she began to feel her body bowing in, making her dangle by her arm, Saturn suddenly put his hand beneath her underarm, putting himself behind her. Mars' hips bowed down and made her body fold down, dangling inches above the soft white sands below, before Saturn gently lowered her and set her down.

    A tired Saturn let out a sigh, stifled, removing his hold on Mars. He remained squatted by where he had sat Mars down, running a hand through his hair to move his bangs out of the way of his eyes. After a moment, pausing, he turned to see Mars, who was as still as he was. He faced the back of her head, the red, combed and smooth hair quivering in the ocean breeze as she was still, contemplating, gazing out over the endless expanse of blue.

    Standing up, Saturn straightened his shirt. He ran his hand over his back shoulder, feeling for the tear he and Mars had heard moments earlier. He found it, it was a large, horizontal gash along the black material of his uniform, exposing the cold skin just beneath the shoulder blades. Saturn took a few swaying, wandering steps around Mars, bringing himself around to her side, keeping his hands in his pockets as he too stared out where Mars had moments earlier.

    "There's a trunk full of emergency supplies in the pod. I'm going to go see what's in there and see if I can't haul it out by myself."

    Saturn looked down to Mars, wondering if she had heard him, only meeting with her blank stare that faced the ocean, her bangs swaying carelessly in the breeze. Saturn looked skyward, in her direction, over the treetops and towards the blue sky. With the afternoon sun passing behind the only sparse clouds in the whole sky, the atmosphere seemed much tamer, much more blue and reserved, almost depressing. Saturn felt his own bangs fray and bat against his forehead in the breeze, but did nothing for it.

    "If I'm trapped on an island like this, then I at least want to know what it's called," said Mars, her exhaustion coming through clear in her voice as she blankly and plainly stated her thoughts. "I don't want to die on some nameless spot in Kyogre's ocean."

    As Mars silently stewed in her small warped spot in the sand, she held her knees carefully, watching the crashing waves from miles away. In the corner of her eye, Saturn walked from where he stood beside her, walking ahead and crossing her vision, cutting it. Saturn's back was to her as he walked towards the escape pod, the wreckage that rested a good twenty feet from her, and she found herself staring at Saturn, her only companion on the island thus far. Her hands slid over her hips, sore and possibly going to bruise, and up to beneath her arms, her hands entering the warm expanse of her underarms. As she held herself, staring, she thought about how warm she was moments ago, and how, despite the pain, it worked to comfort her. Her hands ran along the spots where Saturn had held her moments ago, and she rubbed them gently, warming them up. A dull, contented look seemed to gaze over her.

    She had sat for several long, silent minutes, listening to the ocean. Overhead, the sun continued to hide beneath clouds and leave Mars in the dimmed sunlight. As Mars had straightened her bent, close legs, she felt the same agonizing pain shoot in a brief, momentary reminder. Her leg froze and her expression remained still. Feeling beneath her calf, Mars undid the zipper of the white boot, folding down the long sheath of the boot.

    Chapter 3

    The bottle tipped back, a thumping and dulled splash of amber liquid rattled in the glass bottle. Mars' throat swelled in a momentary instant as she gulped down another drink of the murky amber liquid. As her head tipped back down, the bottle flipping upright and the same thump and splash sounding inside, Mars winced, squeezing her eyes shut and turning her lips inside out. A shiver ran down her back, making her flinch and her head twitch.

    "I don't drink..." Mars groaned, her voice an octave higher than normal, sounding gristly and strained.

    The sands shifted alongside her, the muffled padding of footsteps signalling a figure very close. Mars knew immediately who it was, despite closing her eyes for a second time. Without a word, she passed the bottle up to him, and felt the bottle being taken from her weakening grasp.

    "I do. More for me, please," Saturn said with a gasp, taking a swig from the flat, glass bottle.

    Blinking several times, assuring herself that the burning sensation in her throat had passed down to her stomach, Mars stared ahead, opening her eyes to the sinking sun and its incredible, orange rays, shimmering across the ocean through the black tides. The crashing, overwhelming sound of waves were far distant and near nonexistent, when they had been replaced by the crackling sounds of a fire.

    Beside Mars, the bright red glow of flames came off blackened, charred logs, crackling and popping. The black surface of the log collapsed as the red coals flared, full of hot air and exploding into thousands of tiny, flickering pieces of burning debris that floated away before turning to ash in the air, floating off to join the grayish smoke that filled the air above. The light flickered off the surfaces of Mars that were covered in darkness, shadowed from the bright contrast of the setting sun. All along the sandy surface Mars sat on, a wall of found rocks helped keep her the flames from licking at her, warming her body. Mars rubbed her bare and exposed legs, her cool hands feeling the radiant warmth that came from deep within the skin, recharged by the fire beside her. She gave a passing glance to the white boots of her uniform, cast aside where she Saturn had left her moments earlier, heaped with her long black socks.

    Seeing Saturn's dark form alongside her just beyond what she could see on the other side of the flames, Mars cleared her throat, looking behind her in a search for the bottle. Folding her knee to the side of her, she looked at the long gash in her naked leg, where the blood had dried and turned brown over her legs, the markings of her boots still present.

    "I've just barely gotten my alcohol headache," said Mars. "Don't finish it. I still need the bottle."

    Saturn had squatted beside the fire. Where a log had split in two in the heated center of the fire, Saturn took a long stick, prodding and prying apart logs, nudging some together and propping some on others. With the bottle resting against his ankle, he eyed the reflective glass bottle and the half-filled contents, then turned his eyes towards the fire, looking across it at Mars' leg.

    "Yeah, there's a very real chance you'll need this," Saturn said dryly. "Do you need help with it?"

    "I'm fine."

    Nodding and pursing his lips, Saturn took one final look into the heart of the flames, seeing that the fire was starting to heat up once again, cracking and sending a swarm of hot red debris skyward with the wind. He took the bottle, standing up and walking carefully around the rock-lined perimeter of the fire. He bopped the bottle against Mars' shoulder, getting her attention and dangling the bottle in front of her, which she promptly took. As he stared towards the horizon at the setting sun, just as the sky was flaring pink, Saturn planted hands on his hips, watching with a disconcerted look.

    "The tent in that kit is useless. Not a single Pokémon in there, either," said Saturn. "Time for a more creative strategy."

    Mars let out a heated gasp, wincing audibly and groaning. It caught Saturn's attention as Mars pressed a wet, alcohol-soaked rag down into the cut on her leg, running it through the gash beneath the tips of her two fingers. She went slow, teeth gritted, keeping an eye open as she inspected the gash, ensuring that all the blood that had caked on surrounding the gash was beginning to come off.

    Saturn, watching from where he stood a few feet away, was almost hypnotized by the subtle expressions of pain Mars gave. His trance broke in seconds when Mars spoke up.

    "See that–See that rag over by the bin? It's hanging on the edge–Oh Arceus–" Mars choked herself for air, stifling a strong reaction she was having and letting it settle deep in her chest. "I'm going to need that in a second."

    Taking a few backwards steps, keeping an eye on Mars, where her healed leg twitched involuntarily, her toes curling as she fought back a powerful wave of pain, Saturn headed for the trunk of supplies. A trail of sand ran behind the trunk, faded from the hours that had passed, leading all the way up to the escape pod in the distance. As she had said, a clean white rag rested on the edge of the open trunk, fluttering silently in the oncoming evening breeze, a white ghost in the growing glow of the fire light. Saturn took the rag, momentarily hesitating by the open space inside the trunk. In particular, he was staring at a netted bag, full of berries.

    "Saturn–I think I need that now–Hrrrkkk–"

    "You got it."

    Saturn took the netted bag of berries, moving quickly across the sand.

    In moments, Mars had the rag curled around her fist, the other end of the white strip of cloth spread between her fingers so that the rag was wide. She then held the cloth to her leg while her curled fist wrapped the bandage around the leg. The beginnings of a bloodspill had come through to the very lips of the gash in her leg, a few black droplets resting atop the sand below. Gritting her teeth, Mars tied the cloth tighter, pulling it so that it hugged her calf carefully. Blood saturated the cloth on the other side, but after layer upon layer of cloth wrapped on the leg, the blood stopped coming through.

    A sigh of relief left Mars. She stared down at her handiwork, feeling the pain subside. Then, just beyond her vision, she saw the shadow of Saturn squat down. With her legs propped up and bent, her knees high with her feet pressed to the sand, she watched as his arm came over her legs, bearing a gift in his hand.

    A small, blue and pockmarked fruit rested in Saturn's hands, round and plump, a mild sheen over the berry's skin indicating was taut and full of juice. The purple, warped and rubbery stem remained atop it, the healthy coloring indicating it was still ripe. She took the berry from his hand, feeling it's weight, knowing exactly what it was.

    "An Oran Berry?" asked Mars, raising her brow like it was a question.

    "You were out for awhile. I woke up and I was starving, so I went to the trees and–well–I grabbed a couple berries, and here we are."

    "You... Ate these?" Mars frowned, twirling the berry between her fingers as she inspected it. "How? Aren't they for Pokémon?"

    "They are, but the same healing properties apply... At least I think. Just, try it."

    Hesitant at first, Mars took the Oran Berry, cradling it in her hands. She put the two hands up to her lips, sinking her teeth into the briny surface of the berry. From the tears in the fruity skin, a rush of juices immediately came out, washing down over her lips and filling her senses. She sank her teeth all the way in, finishing her bite, savoring the sweet flavor. She chewed, staring at and inspecting the white inside of the blue fruit, purple juices pooled atop it.

    Mars took another, more invigorated bite, feeling her appetite return.
  2. yugoslavia

    yugoslavia School Kid

    May 12, 2015
    Chapter 4

    Kneeling, cool water rushing around her legs, Mars dipped her hands into the shallow water, feeling the cleansing waters rush past her fingers and clear thick coatings of purple juices from her hands. She rubbed them together, clearing her fingernails of fruit deposits and juices. Then, pooling the water in her cupped hands, Mars lifted the collected water and doused her face. A shrill breath indicated she was now alert and awake. Her eyes had grown wide, blinking water away from her eyelashes, eyes darting each which way as she stared out of the ocean. Her wet hands rubbed and massaged her lips, running a finger along the gums of her teeth as cleared them of all the remains of the Oran Berry. The sweet and tart taste of the berry no longer coated her lips as she ran her tongue along it gently.

    A new wave came crashing in several yards ahead of Mars, the white foam swimming each which way over the glassy surface of the shore as it raced towards her. The fresh water ran towards Mars' knees, splashing up over her hips and soaking the black leggings of her uniform. It chilled her deeply, and she gave an icy shudder. Once more, she cupped her two hands together, taking in the clear water and raising to her face. She tipped her head back and felt the cool ocean water rush over her head and through her scalp, soaking her hair. She quickly did another dousing, completely soaking her hair down from its vibrant red color to a deep velvety-maroon color. The twin points of hair that curled beneath her cheekbones drooped down like the thick, heavy ears of a Lopunny, shrouding her own rounded human ears in cones of wet hair. Mars' bangs split from their 'V' shape, spreading over her forehead in a perfect line. The point of hair atop her head slopped over and collapsed. The sculpted, raised hair on the back of her head drooped straight down to graze her shoulder. Though her hair had fallen uncomfortably on her head, Mars let it sit, silently contemplating.

    Moments passed, and Mars finally brushed aside the thick and heavy bangs that covered her forehead and blocked her vision. When she opened her eyes, she found herself staring at the moon, the humongous and unusually large slice of light in the night sky, surrounded by a shimmering sprinkling of stars nearby in a black and blue swirl of sky. It made her dreary, her eyes turning tired as she stared, soaked and helpless.

    The firelight flickered far behind her, many hundreds of yards away, a bright point of warm light on the horizon for Mars. Instead, Mars found herself gazing out towards the endless expanse of ocean that surrounded her, lined with an infinite shore of beach. It invited her with its silent peace and tranquility.

    Mars got to her feet and stepped into the porous, wet sand, making the first few steps out towards what she could see in the opposite direction of the fire.

    The moon lit the sand for miles and shone on the tidal zone like it was glass. Beyond the horizon, where the ocean ended, the sky seemingly melted into the black ocean. The island was seemingly on the edge of eternity, where the distant white lines of waves indicated that there was an ocean but it could not be seen. Inward of the island, the trees stood tall, a black mass in the center, clustered and indeterminable.

    A trail of dark imprints in the sand led up to Mars, snaking around the island, the only footprints for miles. About a mile behind, the white breastplate of armor formerly clinging to Mars' chest had been left to sink in the sand. Mars wore the simple black undershirt from beneath the armor, clinging tightly to her, soaked and mottled. She had pulled the sleeves up above her elbow, mirroring where she had pulled her black leggings up to her knees when she had removed the boots. The fabric collar, once held taught by a black plastic sheath that had been removed at the crash site, flopped down and hung lazily on her neck like a stretched-out turtleneck.

    Mars' invisible walking path turned. She led herself up from the dark sand, leading herself up through the smooth expanse of white sand, all lit by the moon. When she had gotten a good several feet away from the sand, Mars stopped. She sat herself down in the middle of an endless slope of smooth white sand.

    Her arms wrapped around her legs as she stared towards the ocean. If she squinted, Mars felt she could see a dark landmass beyond the endless stretch of ocean, a place where the shimmering moon could not glow upon.

    The light of the fire was close by, visible and apparent. From where Mars was, trudging up the sandy slopes, she could see the dark outline of Saturn by the firelight. As she approached, the sounds of the crashing ocean becoming distant, Mars could hear the sound of music.

    A sweet, broken melody came, barely audible and incredibly distant. The sound of guitar strings ringing out as fingers gently plucked at them, playing simple chords one after the other. Something seemed homely about the music, like hearing it made the foreign experience of being on the island seem closer to the experiences of being at home, or at least close by. The strumming guitar complemented the crackling of the fire beautifully, and through the slow, humble song that played, it seemed like an extension of nature itself.

    Saturn opened his eyes, feeling the long shadow of Mars come over him. It made his playing slow to a crawl as he cradled the guitar in his lap, the base of it held in his lap, almost upturned as he held the neck of it. As he found the last few notes of the song, he stopped, folding his arms over the guitar and turning his full attention to Mars.

    "Hey, where did you go?" Saturn began. "I saw you go down to the water, but after that it was as if you had disappeared."

    "I needed to get away for a moment."

    After pausing for a moment to think, Saturn blinked. "What?"

    "I just needed to," said Mars.

    Promptly, Mars lowered herself into the sand beside both the fire and Saturn, kneeling down in front of him. After meeting his eyes for several long, stretched-out seconds, she slid her legs out beneath her, turning as she did so that her back faced Saturn.

    "Can you undo my zipper?" she asked.

    Saturn, almost taken aback by the request, lifted his guitar from his lap and set it aside. After ensuring it had settled on the drift of sand he had put it on, he turned himself so that he faced Mars.

    In the darkness, her back in the shadow of the fire, Saturn felt along his backside, careful as not to feel her too much, his hands sensitive to her as they slid along the dark cottony cloth. Mars' warmth radiated through the soaked and cold cloth, gentle palpitations of her heart reaching to his bare fingertips where he touched. At the center of her back, the gentle arched obtrusion where her spine was, Saturn found a black flap that was tucked closely to her undershirt. His fingers slid beneath and caught the zipper, pinched in his fingers carefully, as he pulled down, a gentle zipping noise coming from it.

    "I didn't know you played guitar," Mars spoke up finally, looking to the corner of her eyes as she felt Saturn carefully help her.

    "Sort of a backup hobby," replied Saturn.

    "A backup to what?"

    The zipper was packed tightly against Mars' skin, having left pink grooves all along her spine. Saturn was careful, going easy as he pulled the zipper down. The black fabric covering her backside slowly parted, revealing more and more skin. A third of the way down from her shoulder, Saturn exposed the back of Mars' black bra.

    Mars' hands slipped over her shoulders, gently tugging at the open fabric, exposing her shoulders. A sigh of relief left her as the moist skin breathed, the dry warmth of the fire wafting over her.

    "A backup to Team Galactic work, I suppose," said Saturn. "There was a point where my work was fun, but... Well, different responsibilities creep in and take over. Designing and maintaining the systems for Team Galactic is what I do best, but it's often more the mainetnance that I end up being tasked with. This is a good reprieve, I think."

    Mars shut her eyes. Saturn was almost done with her, she could feel, her backside cold and exposed in the shadows.

    "It just seems pretty out of character for you. I mean, you're pretty creative, just in different ways," said Mars.

    "My father played guitar. This one, actually, is his. He used to play a lot as a hobby, too. Never particularly big on songwriting, but he just liked to play. I was spoiled with night time melodies and breezy afternoons in the park with a guitar. Just hearing it echo through the house was one of my favorite parts of growing up. I never took it up, but in the past year I have. I stash it in the escape pods, and on my breaks I play it inside the escape pod, because its both acoustically good and acoustically stable. I can play and learn on my own without any threat of interference. It's not a bad gig, really. I enjoy it quite a bit."

    Saturn let his hands free up from the ends of Mars' undershirt. He had completely undone it and it was hanging free as two seperate sections of cloth, like a reversed jacket. Before he could say or do anything, Mars had pulled her arms completely clear of the shirt and had them by her side, the shirt now piled in a black wad of fabric in her lap. Her backside was completely naked with her arms and chest, save for the black bra she wore, a flickering and glowing section of skin in the dim shadow of firelight.

    "You're very good," Mars said. In her lap, where her feet were beneath her folded legs, Mars brushed and patted at the soles of her bare feet, where wet sand had caked on in several different layers. When her feet were sufficiently clean, Mars put them beneath her and stood up, heading towards the trunk of supplies at the opposite end of the fire.

    "No I'm not," Saturn answered quickly, chuckling under his breath.

    "You're not?"

    "What's this about wanting to disappear?" asked Saturn, raising his voice from the other side of the crackling fire.

    In hanging her undershirt over the edge of the trunk, Mars paused. Poised, preparing to reach her arm down into the trunk and search through it, Mars found herself pausing to think, seemingly caught off guard by his question.

    "I just needed a second to breathe, that's all. Nothing personal. Today just didn't go the way I expected when I woke up this morning," said Mars, shrugging.

    "And what were you expecting?"

    The inside of the trunk thumped audibly as Mars felt the inside, reaching deep down inside and removing a thick, folded blanket. She unfolded the blanket, letting drop down towards the ground but hoisting it just high enough to avoid catching in the sand. She then flung the blanket around herself, letting it cover her skimply-dressed body, the warmth of the blanket intoxicating and incredibly relaxing. As she walked back around the fire, she hoisted the blanket up over her legs like a dress, careful to avoid tripping or a snag.

    "What's the last thing you remember?" asked Saturn.

    Another long and winding trail of footprints snaked around the fire. Mars followed it with her eyes through the darkness, looking at the pile of other recovered things that Saturn had found in the wreckage. A large pile of them stood just beyond the flames, a black tarp covering them. Just outside the tarp, however, where Mars saw the faded sandy trail had ended, two gray chairs sat, recovered from the escape pod, seatbelts still attached to them.

    Mars walked beyond the edge of the light and stepped into the darkness, her face shrouded from the revealing light of the fire, beyond where Saturn could see her expressions.

    "I don't know what I expected when I woke up this morning," said Mars. "I never expected to wake up on a deserted island, ever. I never expected to wake up."

    "What do you mean?" Saturn asked curiously. "You woke up, didn't you?"

    "I always thought that if something were to happen, like a transport blowing up or going down, whichever the two, I would be alone if I made it out. Honestly, I didn't think any of us would make it out. I just don't believe that in a situation like that there's enough time. It's a matter of seconds."

    Metal grated on the sand as Mars dragged the chair by its head, pulling it into the light of the fire. A thick bluff of sand formed at the base of the chair, and aside from signs of distressing on the chair's fabric, the chair was largely fine. Mars sat down in the chair, sighing gently. Against the metal base of the chair, she kicked her feet, clearing the sand from her bare feet and then letting the warmth of the fire radiate towards her bare legs, mindful of the makeshift bandage on her leg. She tightened the blanket to hug close to her, savoring the moment with a somber silence.

    "The last thing I remember was going to rest in the transport. We had just finished at Halfmoon Island, about ten o'clock, and I said goodnight to you and Jupiter. After that I don't remember a thing, just waking up in a blown-up escape pod. I couldn't tell you how I got to the escape pod or how I got here in one piece," said Mars.

    Saturn smiled, looking down at his folded legs. Unlike Mars, he was still largely dressed, sand clinging all over his pants.

    "An engine failed," said Saturn. "I was piloting the transport when I saw the alert. We put the thing on autopilot, tried deploying the parachutes, and then we simply gave up. Jupiter was up and reading so she heard the siren, and I got her to the first escape pod with a few grunts. Then I got you."

    Mars stared into the flames, eyes aglow despite their glazed look. "Did we lose anyone?"

    "A pilot."

    "When did you get up?"

    "I haven't slept," smiled Saturn. "I threw myself from the pod, got out on the beach, and started a fire. I waited until morning and then still waited for you."

    In an absolute stillness, a silence, Mars waited for Saturn to continue. She got nothing. When she came to realization, wheels turning beneath her stoic face, realization dawned on her. Something clicked. She slowly tilted her head up towards Saturn, the fire flickering on her features.

    "I'm sorry, I know I left you there. I can tell you were in a... Non-explosive situation, if it's any consolation," said Saturn. A small smile crept on his lips at his own joke, but soon faded. He returned to his thought, his eyes lit by the fire as he stared deeply into it. "There was no imminent threat to you."

    Though Saturn was speaking, Mars seemed to stare past his words, her eyes still and piercing. The conclusion that she was coming to was completely different, something that Saturn's words were not filling in. She remained unfazed by anything he said, continuing to stare deeply at him as she perceived what was happening beneath the skin. Even while Saturn picked up on it, flinching and seemingly taken aback when he saw her staring so deeply, he did nothing to protest or complain. In the silent exchange they communicated something deeper, something they couldn't audibly explain or put into words. They remained silent, even though they both looked like they wanted to speak.
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