Blue skies and a train terminal painted a familiar scene of silently-acknowledged community — something abstract and cozy and connotative, albeit — while a prodigy and a smile boarded, each oblivious to the other's machinations. They'd always brushed shoulders in the streets — neighbors, comrades in society as much as strangers — but neither knew the other but by face and familiarity. Perhaps, each thought of the other, This is the one that will change things.
And so, with their time spent alienated by the world, they silently conspired to elope, having never uttered a word to each other in all their lives before. Shanhu would be an urbanite's dream, whetting their palettes with fantasies of opportunity; perhaps opportunistic fantasies would meet them instead.
Their meeting was a machine built of carefully-ordained coincidences, each somehow predicting the other with such strategy or empathy as if to have spoken through their actions — a secret message encoded in their behaviors; a greeting, an affirmative — except that that the real genius of it all was that neither knew of the other's intentions.
And yet there they stood, pretending not to stare at each other through the carriage-door windows from opposite cars. Mia, wearing an uncharacteristically-tomboyish set of clothes — perhaps hoping for a fresh start as much as Sonia — took it upon herself to open the door and take a seat someplace medial, wordlessly inviting Sonia to the booth across from her.
Sonia had a plan. It was simple, Mia, like anyone else, wasn't a particularly volatile element. Like everything else, her behavior was predictable. All she had to do was end up where Mia would, and shrug it off as an "accident."
But there Mia was, telling her to take a seat with her. How? She couldn't have known...could she? Sonia was supposed to have bumped into her before she ever got in, but obviously things weren't going that way. At least Mia had certainly not fallen short of Sonia's expectations. Maybe she really could change it all. Shaking off the surprise, Sonia accepted the invitation, taking a seat at the booth across from Mia.
"...Hey, I'm Sonia. Nice to meet you," she greeted Mia, sliding her headphones off, resting them on her neck before extending a hand.
Mia set the sailor's cap in her hand down beside her and looked up at her peer. "Mia; likewise," she replied curiously. "We never went to the same school," she followed, her tone one more of confusion than matter-of-fact, "But I think we've met before." Her eyes flitted toward the window while the train took off, clearly to enjoy the scenery before it was gone for good. Sunlight flickered for a moment before really settling in as the terminal was left behind. "Are you going for good?"
She sensed Sonia's guardedness — felt the slant of it in her words — and so accepted the extended hand with forced hesitation. For a moment she looked out the window again, but as her eyes adjusted to the light they took in their counterparts cooly. "I am." And then a disarming smile! Out of the blue, really, with little to justify it but, perhaps, Sonia's understanding of Mia's spontaneity.
"Yes...I've felt the same way," Sonia agreed, though decided to leave out the fact she'd been, more or less, analyzing her for some time now. She was sure it'd come out rather stalker-ish, even though she practically lived her whole life through analysis. Mia smiled, and Sonia was unsure why, and was unsure why she was unsure why. She hadn't noted any stimuli to prompt such an action. Unlike Mia, Sonia wasn't one to really look at or enjoy the scenery, for better or worse, so stimuli like that occasionally slipped past her notice.
"So," Sonia started, "How'd you know? You were expecting me, if I'm not wrong."
Mia's shrug in reply wasn't very convincing. "I saw you looking, is all." Her blue eyes were fixed to Sonia's crown, which she must have been sure would spurt out an eldritch abomination or something any moment. "I'm glad we met," she enthused with an inappropriate amount of finality. "My family and I have been drifting for a few years; I don't really know why, nothing happened."
Her gaze drifted back down to where it belonged, scanning between each of Sonia's, and for a moment the aftertaste of her reminiscent expression didn't look right, like she'd forgotten to frown in reply to something awful. "What about you?" Mia broke the strange demeanor to reach into her carry-on pack. "Did you bring money for food service?"
It was as if the girl in front of Sonia had seen right through her. Why else would she lead off the conversation into something like that? A small smile crossed Sonia's face. "Yeah...we've been drifting for a long time now. But I know why. They don't know what to think of me. I'm their daughter, but I don't think they know how to see me as human. Sad, isn't it?" For some reason, expressing these thoughts to a near-complete stranger felt relaxing, rather than making her anxious. Logic told her she had no need to share that information. She could've stopped at "Yeah." But it just felt right, telling it to someone who just might be in similar spot, even if it was a little different.
At the very least, it did no harm to share that information. At Mia's question, she nodded and reached into her bag. "Of course. You did too, didn't you?" she asked, pulling out her wallet. Had Mia been so sure of it that she hadn't even brought a wallet? Or was she just making sure?
"It's why I asked," she replied, meanwhile popping out her own. "In case you forgot or something." A pause. "Not that that would make any sense." She suddenly leaned forward, grinning, and asked, "What are you getting? Sandwich? Gourmet?"
Mia eventually flagged a server down and ordered a plate of sushi for herself. "I don't think anybody really knows what to make of those they envy. It's hard enough to respect somebody who's got something over you without throwing in the additional issue of living with them on a day-to-day basis."
"Yes. That really wouldn't make any sense," Sonia sighed, crossing her arms. As Mia leaned forward, Sonia decided to match the movement, resting both arms on the table though the grin hadn't been returned just yet. She turned to face the server and asked for a club sandwich. Once the server left, having taken their orders, she looked back at the other girl. "Yup. A sandwich."
"Yes, you're right. I understand the target of the envy's feelings all too well. Almost makes me wish I was a little less, well, you know." Perhaps Mia knew, perhaps she didn't, but something about the girl made Sonia think Mia at least understood, even if she didn't know. Sonia looked at her intently to find her answer. Questions like these helped her figure things out without giving too much away.
"What? You? Nothing better," she teased. "Maybe the right wish is that they were more like you." Mia's grin darkened a bit, but really it was more of a change in tone than the end of the expression. "In a world like ours, some of us need to be outcasts; but too strange and we might start seeing stars again." Cryptic.
Comradery was a tidy goal, but Mia found it increasingly difficult to keep up with Sonia's psychological warfare; every question was loaded, and like a Xanatos gambit, she dragged the answers out of Mia. It wouldn't be so awful weren't she so anxious. "So we're going, but where are we headed? What's in Shanhu for us?"
Mia spoke strangely, but Sonia couldn't figure any ulterior motives behind her words. She wasn't trying to get any information in particular, nor try to hire her for some weird job that required her computing power, nor...anything really. If she wasn't mistaken, she really was just talking normally. "Heh. Maybe you're right." Sonia figured out nothing from her answer. But she kind of liked it. Perhaps there wasn't any information to drag out of this girl. Maybe they were just two girls, hanging out.
Sonia flashed a small, but warm grin, contrasting Mia's which had just darkened. "Hm? Shanhu? Well of course, opportunities await us there, why else would we go there? I'll tell you what I'm here for if you tell me." Despite the continued questioning, Sonia seemed to have dropped her guard, more asking out of conversation than for any reason in particular.
The pin dropped and the mask fell, and for a brief moment Mia doubted herself; maybe she wasn't so ... no, that's the rub. Everybody's a critic and she's the worst of them all to herself. "I guess we'll know it when we see it, then," she said, packing her wallet away. "Well, Shanhu's a pretty big place. You'll hear no argument from me."
"As long as there's something new. World's a bore the same Sun 'round all day." She leaned back and checked the time on her personal device. "I wonder a lot what it's like in the future. Things are even neater then than now, I hope."
Sonia chewed the last bit of her sandwich before placing some money on the table. "Yeah, I guess. There's a lot there, of course. Don't think we'll have to see the same old sun for a long time," she chuckled. As Mia checked the time, Sonia took out her own device, but didn't seem to be looking at it.
"Got somewhere to be?" she asked, resting her chin on one hand. She seemed to be absent-mindedly scrolling through something on the device. "I think about the future a lot, too."
"No place to be; just anxious, I suppose." Mia spent a moment admiring Sonia's eating habits, strangely enough. "To me, it's about time things changed. The world's stuck in fear of what has happened; don't you think we're ready enough?"
Her meal arrived and she was silenced for a bite or two. "I'd just like to see camaraderie without an existential threat, for once."
Sonia stared at the other girl for a little while, before relaxing and leaning back. "...Yeah, I agree." She waited patiently as the other girl ate much more slowly. "Wouldn't that be nice? Dunno if that's possible, though. I'd like to make it happen, though..."
"Oh, it's possible, I'm sure," she replied, stalling with a few more bites. The world could come apart at the seams for her, but Sonia's demeanor seemed to settle the thought. "I just think it's unnatural. But we're not of nature anymore, now, are we?"
There were a few stops along the way before the locomotive dipped underground. Shanhu was getting close. "It just takes somebody remembering that they're human, then we don't have to be Neanderthal to commune. What, was that Fresco who thought that?"
Sonia smirked. "Heh. No, I suppose not. ...Well, human or not, doesn't mean we can't be humane about things, right? Natural, unnatural, that kind of stuff doesn't matter, if you ask me."
They were getting close to Shanhu, though Sonia didn't show any signs of anxiety, anticipation, nor nervousness. One might think she was just going for a walk in the park, and not a place like Shanhu. Closing her eyes for a moment for a brief pause, she took a sip out of her drink. "Ah," she said suddenly, opening her eyes and lowering the drink. "And I don't know. Maybe."
After a moment spent finishing her meal, Mia started to pack up her belongings. "Exactly," she said. "We're more than our biology; we can reach beyond our need — go beyond the call of survival — and thrive; you know what I mean?"
She stood, though she hesitated patiently before moving anywhere. "I need to stretch my legs; so much sitting has me all sore. Let's be first off!"
"Yeah," Sonia nodded. "I know exactly what you mean." Placing her hands on the table and rising to her feet, Sonia grabbed her bag and slung it over her shoulder. "I was planning on that myself, anyway." She began to walk off, heading towards the doors of the train. She made a small motion with her hand as if telling Mia to follow her, though given their conversation just now she figured it might not have been necessary anyway.
"Fifty-two hertz seems to be our wavelength, huh?" Cryptic. "Where're we going to go when we stop? I've never been to the inner city." She followed, patting her leg with her phone with a lazy arm along the way. "Eloping has so many logistical consequences."
Mia looked Sonia in the eye for a moment, pausing for thought before asking, "Do you have work planned out?"
"Er, yeah." Sonia had no idea what that meant. She tried to think of anything they talked about that could be related, but came up empty. "Just follow me. You'll see." Eloping? Probably not the right word for what was going on, but she shrugged it off. "...Yeah, I do. What about you?"