“Settle down, bro, it’s just a sketch of a couple making out on a beach. You didn’t even color it! I’m not paying for something you doodled on a sheet of paper. Not that much”

“It’s more than just a doodle, you philistine. Then again, what would you know about art?”

Oh dear, Clark thought. He did not just go there

And a session of haggling escalated into thermonuclear war

The sketch really was more than just a doodle. Clark inspected it a little more closely, and he could see why Alex was drawn to it. Drawn in landscape with a pencil, it showed a couple sharing a passionate kiss on a beach. Visible behind them was the skyline of what was probably a fictional city. A lot of attention had been paid to the man and the woman — their bodies, their faces, the way they held each other. By comparison, the skyline looked almost blurry somehow. While the artist was perhaps more proud of his work than he should’ve been, he was right about the love radiating from the paper. What seemed to be a typical lovers’ embrace at first glance belied a relationship with a long history — one that only those two could know

It made Clark sad and long for a love story like theirs

Clark left Alex and the artist to duke it out and wandered the rest of the Art Hub. The Zahab al-Aswad Comic Con was positively throttled by all the people in their colorful clothes — and some in colorful costumes — yet most of the crowd avoided the Art Hub as though there was a force field around it. The Hub, you see, was just a place artists could buy tables and sell their artwork — and people in this city were sorely lacking in appreciation for art. I’d rather hang onto my stuff and do the occassional commission than waste my money getting a table at the Con had been Alex’s opinion on the idea.

As such, there was just a handful of people milling about, browsing the artists’ wares, checking out work that people had spent time and money on, poured their soul into…knowing full well they weren’t going to buy any of it. Come to think of it, that’s what Clark was doing too. Who am I to judge?, Clark thought

He walked past a table lacking even window-shoppers and was stopped in his tracks by what was on the canvas behind it

A lone red-headed woman, clad in black, stood atop a towering skyscraper looking down at a cyber-punk city. She was masked — two purple ribbons reached down to her neck and a knot was on the back of her head. Her shoulders hung heavy, as though she were about to commit a terrible deed. Spires, obelisks and pyramids, covered in bright neon billboards, jutted out into the dusky sky. A great red orb that looked like it would swallow the Earth whole hung above the city

The image was so striking that he walked up to the table, where a brunette girl sat sketching on a notebook, not concerned in the slightest with what was going on around her. She seemed so unapproachable, Clark was having second thoughts about going to her. But he really wanted to see more of this person’s work

He stood in front of the table waiting for the girl to take notice of him. She looked up at him…eventually

“Hi, there” she said, before returning to her notebook. She appeared to be sketching some kind of robot, narrow torso and broad chest. Its eye was long and thin, bent in the middle of its mantis-like face. Clark recognized it instantly and that gave him a surge of confidence

“Frakkin’ toasters” he beamed proudly

She looked up at him again, this time with a raised eyebrow. It was impossible to not be disarmed by how childishly proud Clark seemed to be to get this reference. She smiled at him

“Finally, someone else who’s watched Battlestar Galactica”

Being in a conversation with this girl sapped his confidence as quickly as it had come, and Clark was left fumbling for words

“Well, um, some people actually watch good TV shows”

“I suppose they do. Hey, why don’t you sit down with me? Not like I’m doing much”

Clark hesitated for a moment before sitting on the empty chair beside the girl’s

“Sooooo, hi, I’m Clark. What’s your name?”

“I’m Sharon. Since you’ve watched BSG, you should call me Boomer. What brings you to my humble table?”

“That did” Clark replied, pointing to the canvas

“Oh lord, I’ve had 20 people come up to me all day and every one of them has asked about that piece”

“It’s very good”

“Yeah, but the story behind it is lame”

“Can’t be too lame”

“Would you believe me if I said I saw that in a dream?”

Clark thought about that

“My artist friend calls them ‘visions’”

“Is that him over there winking?”

Clark looked away and saw Alex in the crowd, winking and shooting a finger gun at him. His face turned red

“I’m really sorry about that-”

“Don’t worry about it. I’d be doing the same if I were him”

“Erm, about the dream…”

“Oh yeah, I just saw that scene in a dream and I just had to draw it. I woke up in the middle of the night and spent, like, a couple of hours on it. Fastest drawing I’ve ever done. The thing that really gets me, though, is that there is a story behind it and I have to know what it is. Does that make sense?”

Clark looked at the drawing again. An image like that cried out for a story

“Well, it’s your creation. You can make a story for it”

“You mean, like, a comic?” She considered the idea. “That sounds great, but I’m no good with words. Are you?”

“I write a mean lab report”

Sharon laughed. She had a nice laugh, the kind that warms your heart every time you hear it

“It’ll have to do. I think your artist friend is getting impatient”

Alex leaned against a wall, trying as hard as he could to not spy on Clark and his new ladyfriend. He was holding a manila envelope in his hand

“Yeah, maybe I should get going” Clark said, getting up off the chair

“Clark, wait.” Sharon pushed a card across the table to him. “For… ‘business inquiries’”

Clark picked up the card. It was a handwritten business card. Neatly written in black ballpoint were her name, email address, social network profiles, and —

Her number

“Don’t be a stranger now, Clark”

Having gotten a girl’s number for the first time in his life, Clark felt another surge of confidence

“You can call me Helo,” Clark beamed proudly

Sharon giggled. “Sure thing, Helo”

“Tell me you got some digits, bro”

The card in Clark’s hands spoke for itself

“CLARKY! You’ve finally ascended into the great plains of manhood, my son” boomed Alex

“Oh, shut up, Aleksei” Clark said in a mock Russian accent, barely disguising his own giddiness. “What’s that in the envelope?”

“It’s, uh, the doodle”

“Managed to get a good price for it after all?”

“No — I mean, maybe? Look, I wound up paying what he was asking”

“WHAT? Why?”

“I was thinking about how much the paper and pencil this guy drew with costed, all practical like. Then I realized I was being a hypocrite. I was being like these other losers.” He said, gesturing to the throngs around them. “It’s a great piece of work, probably took the guy hours to do. He’s a newbie, I found out, and he’s got talent. The imagination and and skill and dedication of an artist, man, it’s hard to put a price tag on. And so I wound up paying whatever that dude thought it was worth”

“Awfully noble of you”

“I bought a work of art — possibly overpriced — at a convention and you got a girl’s number. ’Tis the season of change, my friend!” Alex threw an arm around Clark’s shoulder and the two of them rejoined the crowd outside the Art Hub

The convention seemed a lot more fun after all that


“This place is incredible, Helo! How did you find it?” Sharon asked, walking ahead of Clark and taking everything in

“Like I said, I took a wrong turn and drove across the bridge. Ended up roaming the entire island looking for a way out”

Noor Island was so named because it was meant to be a shining light, visible (metaphorically, but they did their best to make it literal) from anywhere in the Gulf. A hub for business and pleasure alike, with office buildings of strange and varied shapes that you wouldn’t find anywhere on mainland Zahab. Among the leisure projects planned for the island were a range of shopping malls and an amphitheater, the biggest one in Majhool. Then the economic recession hit, investments dried up and of all their plans, only one shopping mall ended up being finished. Like the rest of the island, Noor Mall was a ghost town, with no shops and no customers

All the roads had three-lanes and all the traffic lights were backed by cameras. These lights now constantly flashed yellow, a way of telling drivers ‘don’t bother with this signal’ that was less depressing than just leaving them off. There was at least one radar post between each pair of traffic lights, meant to enforce the 80 km/h speed limit. These too were now switched off, though most of the handful of drivers on the island weren’t aware of this

If one were to navigate all the abandoned construction sites and roads with no landmarks, they would find themselves at a beach. Deserted, of course, but one that gave a spectacular view of the skyline of the mainland. When Sharon had asked Clark if he knew any ‘quiet places, the kind we’d have all to ourselves’, he felt like Noor Island had been built and then abandoned just so he could have this night with her

The pair had gotten themselves a fancy dinner, talking about the comic they would make one day about the one panel that Sharon had drawn — and hung on her bedroom wall. They’d already agreed on a sort of outline for the story: a woman, the only one in the whole world with superpowers, must sacrifice lives and morals to save the world before it is consumed by the Sun. Clark had filled Sharon in on the science of it: as the Sun nears the end of its life, it will expand into a red giant. The surface of the red giant will be hot enough to incinerate the Earth when it gets close enough. That’s what the orb was: an expanding Sun, its surface coming closer and closer to the Earth

They’d been seeing each other for a season and a half now, but little progress had been made on the comic

They set out for Noor Island, complaining about their lives. Clark whinged about assignments and exams and how his major was the worst. Sharon whinged about sleep inducing lectures and essays with word counts thousands of words long and how her major was the worst

Feeling comfortable enough to confide in him, Sharon vented a little about tensions at home. The department her dad worked in might be outsourced soon, and he, along with all his colleagues, were in danger of being made redundant

The drive had been a little long, the bridge to the island just outside the city. Sharon had tons of questions that Clark kept a stiff upper lip about…the last time he’d done this, the smirk had faded from his face as he came to realize he’d gotten the two of them well and truly lost. A long drive with Clark was a good enough date for Sharon, but not when she had to spend the entire drive peering at a map on her phone

This time, they made it to the beach safe and sound. A quiet place all to themselves

“Thank goodness for the economic depression, am I right?” Sharon asked now, smiling at Clark

“You’re literally the only person who’s ever said that, Boomer”

“This place is so…strange! It’s an island that costed tons of time and money to make and it’s just sitting here, gathering dust. Or sand” she said, kicking up sand

“I’ve heard of a lot of islands like this around in the Gulf. That recession hit everyone hard”

Sharon’s face lit up at that thought

“We should go look for them! Hunting down dead islands, discovering the remains of broken promises and unfulfilled dreams” she said in a cheesy narrator’s voice

“Sailing the seven seas, in search of treasure?”

“Aboard our galley, as fast as she is strong!”

“Singing our way into the night and sleeping beneath the stars!”

“Hey, what would our pirate ship be called?”

“Galactica, duh”

“That’s a weird name for a pirate ship, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, you’re right…um…Pegasus! Our ship will be the Pegasus, scourge of the seven seas”

“It’s perfect”

Sharon walked to where the waves crashed on the shore. The breeze was strong here, near the water

“I could listen to this all day. How did you bring yourself to leave?”

“Well, I did have a life to get back to. I mean,” Clark continued, walking up beside her, “if I just stayed here, I never would’ve met you”

Sharon considered that for a moment

“We should hide out here on this island. Just camp out in one of these abandoned buildings and forget the outside world. I bet we could find one that gets electricity and water, too”

“What about your art? I doubt they sell canvases on this island”

“Maybe I should draw on the walls in chalk or something, like a caveman”

“Alone in a world without a trace of humanity. They’ll have a storyline for Helo and Boomer in the next BSG reimagining”



Sharon put her arms around his neck and raised her heels just a bit

“Call me Athena”

The two of them kissed in the lights from the Zahab skyline. A celebration of a relationship with a long history — one that only these two could know

And one that was nearing its end

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