We came to UFAP HQ with bright eyes and high hopes. UFAP did not disappoint is.
I have only been to UFAP once, I think, and that was before they renovated and expanded their new HQ. Upon entering, I actually stopped in my tracks.
When UFAP first started, its HQ was unimpressive. Now, the HQ is a work of art. Modeled in a sort of post-modern Mediterranean style, everything is crisp and clean, white, airy, and open. Rather than building one large building, the building (more accurately, buildings) sit on an enormous plot of land behind an iron gate. Arranged in an almost-circle around a brick drive, the tallest is only six stories high. the main building is four stories. I entered and my gaze was drawn up; in the middle of the main building, the four stories go straight up. The second story looks down on it from a railing, and indeed, there were a few leaning on it, watching the activity below them placidly. The third story jutted out over that, its walls glass, its offices unhidden; and above that, the fourth story jutted out only very slightly, leaving room for an elegant swirled pane of glass in the ceiling, through which sunlight filtered down to the first floor.
Most of the rooms on the first floor were open. There were doors, but most slide up or to the side, giving the impression there were none. The ground was a mosaic too large to determine what it actually was.
I heard the click of Chip's camera next to me.
"Wow," he breathed.
I felt a twinge of annoyance.
"It looks nice, but the PTU leads in technology," I informed him.
"Uh-huh," said Chip without looking at me. He had craned his neck and was taking a photo of the ceiling.
"Come on," I mumbled grudgingly, grabbing his arm and pulling him after me.
HQ was busy. Here and there walked people, most, thankfully, not dressed as professionally as one would have expected. Even so, people turned to stare; Chip and I, unshaven, were something of a wreck from our journeuy, and of course still had backpacks. we looked like wayward hikers. Ford, with his bulging eye, lopsided face, and strange gait did not help.
As we walked (the HQ may not have been tall, but it was long; you could not see the end to the main hallway, and it was wide enough to have driven a pair of cars down), I observed our surroundings. Many people were there, walking in groups, wearing everything and speaking every language imaginable. I could hear music floating from the second story, but the din of the first story caused the melody to be lost. Somewhere, I heard something that sounded vaguely like a sword being forged; as we rounded a corner, I found two builders chiseling away directly at the stone tile floor, expanding the mosaic. Both smiled.
"Sasha!" called Ford as I began wandering forward. He grabbed my arm and swung me around. We were facing the public bathrooms.
A moment later we'd discarded our backpacks and were attempting to make ourselves look presentable. Chip stuck his head under the water, then stuck his hair under a hand dryer, then, after a moment of contemplation, took a picture of the hand dryer.
I settled for a clean shave and a change of clothes. No matching jacket; I had to make due with shirt sleeves and slacks.
"So..." I began casually. "You mentioned... Agent Vodello might...?"
"Aw, go ahead and look for her, lovebird," blurted Ford. "She's here."
I cleared my throat in the most dignified way I could muster. "Of course that's not my first priority. First we ought to... ah... get our things taken care of."
Ford rolled his good eye. "I'll do it, Sasha. Go get 'er, cowboy."
Chip laughed while I bristled.
We left the restrooms; Ford levitated all of our meagre luggage and walked off, whistling a senseless tune, while Chip and I continued down the hall.
At first, romantically, I attempted to search for her by sight. However, without my glasses, this proved difficult. Chip attempted to warn me when I approached the wrong woman, but I've grown so used to ignoring him, his protests fell on deaf ears.
Finally, after going from brown-haired woman to brown-haired woman like some sort of demented connect-the-dot line, I cheated: telepathically, I sifted through dozens of frequencies until I found hers.
"Got her," I said, eyes shut, fingers pressed against my temple. Behind my closed eyelids, I saw a flash from Chip's camera.
"Doesn't that ever run out of film?" I asked him as we walked briskly down the hall.
"It's digital," said Chip, then added, "I always keep at least a hundred memory chips."
"Ah, I see." I was only speaking with him to distract myself. How long it's been since I've seen her. What a nightmare these last few months have been. Finally, I was somewhere clean and cultured, with actual art, with actual intelligent minds surrounding me. As if I'd died and gone to heaven. Chip disproved my theory, of course. I continued toward Milla, aware of my heart beating. I was shaking slightly.
"Chip," I said, with a deep breath, "please, don't ruin this for me."
Chip saluted. "You got it, champ."
I walked toward her. She felt me before I was close enough for her face to appear clearly to me. (Note to self: get new glasses. Soon.)
"Sasha!" I heard. Then, click click click click click click.
Then there was her face and her hands and her hair.
I stiffened. Social situations always do this to me.
"Agent Vodello," I said, out of habit.
She slapped me. I clinked.
"Milla!" she hissed.
"Milla," I echoed, dazed. For good measure, I added, "my love."
She laughed. "Oh, Sasha." She hugged me, bone-crushingly. "Ford told me you were coming, Sasha, that's the only reason--"
"Hey, Sasha, didn't Ford tell you she was coming?" asked Chip loudly.
"Why, that..." I began. But Milla cut me off with another hug, slipping her hand in mind. We looked over each other. Milla was, of course, dazzling. Wearing a soft grey and blue dress, a swishy one, her hair tumbling over her shoulders, her makeup perfectly applied. She looked me over. I allowed myself to feel embarrassed. Then, sensing we hadn't seen each other in sometime, I blurted,
"Milla. I don't care about the agency."
"I mean, of course, I certainly do, but much more important, Milla... you see, the ESP, well, you were not there and so I... I... scheisse... Milla, don't you understand?"
She gave me a blank look. I realized suddenly that Milla had been with two other women. One was holding her iPod for her. The headphones were bright, metallic pink. Oh, Gott.
"Milla, I don't know what to say," I said, my voice rising to a nearly unitelligible pitch. "But I do love you, and will you marry me?"
It is difficult to say whether I knelt at this point, or just fell only one knee.
Milla might have had tears in her eyes, but without my glasses, it is hard to say.
"Yes," she said, voice oddly strangled.
I dropped the ring while putting it on her finger.
"Oh, congratulations," said a random passerby.
And that was that.
Unspectacular, I know. Poor Milla. She does deserve so much better.
But what can I say? I've never been good at these things.
"Oh!" exclaimed Chip. He tried to take a picture. I snapped the camera out of his hands telepathically before the flash went off.
Now, journal, I am comfortably in my own suite. The rooms here are set up almost like a hotel, with private kitchenettes, living spaces, and bathrooms off of the bedroom. I gave Chip mine and opted to move in with Milla. The weather here is pleasant, journal. Very warm, undoubtedly in the eighties. Overcast, though Milla says it's mostly sunny. She says I should invest in shorts, but I have no intention of doing so. Milla and I leave the windows open all day and every night; it never gets below sixty. The birds outside always seem to be awake.
I like it here.
Whatever happens now, right now I'm happy.
PS - If Chip tries to take one more picture of anyone doing anything "psikik, omg," I will kill him.
Listening to: Regina Spektor