<HTML> <HEAD> <TITLE>Memory and Desire by Azusa Kuraino and Amber Michelle</TITLE> </HEAD> <body>

"Memory and Desire"
by Azusa Kuraino and Amber Michelle
erica.drescher@gte.net, myaru@earthlink.net

<p><dd>To enter the inner chambers of Solaris, the dark heart and soul of the city in the sky-- the void into which all vanished persons disappeared, and never emerged as anything akin to their former selves-- required the highest security clearance; only those of the utmost importance went into there of their own free will. <p><dd>The woman who strode languidly down the dim corridor, a long, sinuous shadow thrown behind her by the after-hours lighting, did not appear to have any such importance at first glance. She wore a plain blue dress woven of thick, slightly coarse fabric; a light-green shawl was knotted about her shoulders. Clothes of such primitive make were never seen among the elite of Solaris, only among the dwellers of the land. Every so often she would reach for something hung about her neck, fingers toying idly as it shone metallic in the dull light. It was not her pendant, of course; she knew that, and <i>he</i> would know that as well. <p><dd>Then again, neither did the finely woven shawl, embroidered with the initials "K.W." where the last stitch had been placed, belong to her; nor did the dress. Nor, for that matter, did the body. <p><dd>Pausing and standing before a pair of double doors in the hall-- for she knew the layout of the place as an ordinary woman might know the contours of her own body--she pressed a button on the adjoining wall. <p><dd>The sibilant hiss of the door, the sudden shaft of sharp light, went unnoticed in the dimness of the laboratory, though its vastness produced echoes to rival the famed Great Rift in Elru. No, the intent of the man standing in that room, silent as stone, was focused upon a single, glittering glass tube. <p><dd>Warm, golden light suffused his face, softening what lines there were in the smooth skin, though his eyes were quite obviously lost, riveted upon the emptiness of the crystalline nanochamber. Had the motions of his chest not indicated breath, he might have been just a part of the room, inanimate. Dead. <p><dd>The woman at the door advanced forward, a single step, into the room. She was not-- or had not been-- what one would call classically beautiful; she was tall, too much so to ever hope to be dainty or delicate. Her features were sharp, rather angular, and faintly unfeminine; there was a certain masculinity in the way she carried herself, though it seemed more a function of her build than through any deliberate action on her part. <p><dd>She stepped forward once again, the sound of that step ringing hollowly in the chamber of steel, and the pale light afforded by the empty reactor illuminated her face. Her lowered eyes shone coal-black in the luminescence, utterly void of emotion as she spoke at last: "I will bring the boy here tomorrow." <p><dd>Moments passed after her voice broke the silence into a million shards. Moments in which the tall, carven figure standing before the tube did not move, or respond in any way that might be seen by the woman behind him. Only his eyes flickered, moving their gaze from the center of the swirling liquid to trace her reflection on the glass. <p><dd>Resentment flashed in that gaze for an instant. Her face was unfamiliar to him, still, and the desire that it remain so grew in the back of his mind, though he knew that would be impossible. So he waited, gathering his thoughts, his anger, that ringing emptiness he could not explain... and compressed it as he had learned to do, over the years, crushed it until it was no more than an annoying buzz in the background. <p><dd>It wouldn't do to deal with <i>her</i> in that state of emotion-- certainly not when he himself was unsure just why he suffered so in the first place. <p><dd>The woman's long, broad fingers wove quietly into her jet hair, pulling it back from her face, stroking through its dark reams as somethi