Part 1

By Mathieu Roy and Jeff Skagen

February, 2039

Four hundred channels of just about any persuasion and there wasn't even one good thing on.

Dressed in a comfortable sweatshirt and loose jeans, Raven sat on the carpet with her back leaning against the sofa and hugging her knees. Every so often she would grow bored with what the TV was displaying, and flick the channel. The remote laid on top of the TV, but she hardly needed it; it was simple enough to flick the "channel up" button with just a tiny sliver of the Power, which she did without thinking. In fact, she wasn't thinking about a whole lot at the moment except about how those four hundred channels were worthless.

Of course, it didn't help that half of them were in languages Raven didn't understand. All the local Chinese-language programming, be it Mandarin or Cantonese, was wasted on her. Unless it was in English, she watched the pretty pictures for a minute then skipped right over it. Japanese might draw her attention a little bit longer, especially animation, but nonetheless it wouldn't be long before she skipped past. Truth be told, English-language shows didn't have a much longer expectancy under her bored gaze.

The bottom line was that Raven was watching TV for lack of anything better to do. She was between jobs, it was the middle of the afternoon, and she was dreadfully uninspired for sculpting. She'd run out of sci-fi books and had been looking for more but had lost the last few online auctions she'd seen on the rather aging artifacts. Maybe someone was making a collection but it left Raven with little to do. She'd tried to get into reading more modern science-fiction, but most of the "mainstream" stuff was terribly hackneyed and she'd not gotten a good lead on some of the more "niche" material. So no reading there. She'd spent the last three days shopping and was running out of stuff she needed, or even wanted; she now had enough new clothes to last a month without duplicating an outfit, or so it seemed.

Raven, simply put, was bored. Out of her mind.

In that sense, nothing the TV could offer would be suitable to lift her spirits.

"Hey there."

Raven looked over as Vivian walked into the room and casually tossed herself down onto the couch in deep slouch, looking equally bored.

"So, anything good on?"

"Depends", grumbled Raven. "Do you like chihuahuas", she flicked the channel, "Xtreme Battle Pool", she flicked again, "or pseudo-surrealist animation?"

Vivian wrinkled her nose as if smelling something bad. "I think I'll have to go with...D. none of the above." She shook her head sadly. "Remind me again how much we're paying every month to have access to all these fine channels?"

"More than it's being worth right now, that's for sure." She waved her hand and the TV flicked off. "There. That's probably the best thing on TV right now." She watched the fading white dot in the middle of the screen briefly, then shrugged. "Not helping with the boredom, though."

"Well then, if there's nothing to do here, let's go out," answered Vivian. "There must be something fun to do in Hong Kong." She cocked her head a moment, then added, "Or we could 'port somewhere further off. You've seen a lot of the world. Anywhere you liked enough to go back for an afternoon?"

"Hmmm." Raven smiled as she leaned back on the couch and looked at the ceiling. "Well, we could hit the beach. Australia should be nice and warm this time of the year. We could hit the main beach where all the people are, sit in the sand with a drink and maybe trawl for guys, or else there's this secluded little beach I know that's apt to be deserted."

"Uh...." Vivian tried to imagine trawling for guys on a beach with Raven laying next to her, most likely oiled-up and clad in a barely-there bikini. "I'm leaning more toward the deserted beach, to be honest. But it was your idea, so you should get to choose."

"Deserted beach it is. It's this secluded place that's away from the hotels and most of civilization. Not too many amenities there but there's no litter, the sand's nice, and they have the most beautiful corals." She grinned. "Gotta be careful about the sharks though."

Vivian smiled in turn. "Well, I won't be going in the water this time, so any sharks are your problem. And if you can't deal with a shark or two, then you're reputation as an esper is somewhat overblown."

Raven rolled her eyes. "You know, when Shion teased me about sharks in that beach, I almost freaked out about it. But look at you, all cool and calm..."

Vivian shrugged. "What's to be afraid of? Never heard of a shark that'll crawl up on the beach to get someone. I'll be scared next time, when I get in the water."

"Crocodiles. Guess I should've said crocodiles. That would've worked." Raven grinned and stood up. "Well, I guess we should dress and pack up. Bikinis and sunscreen, I'll grab the beach ball, too. Australia's only a couple hours off so the timing will be perfect."

Vivian stretched her arms and then stood up as well. "Sorry, no bikini. It's shorts and a tee for me today. Can't think when I last needed a swimsuit, so I don't have one. But soon as we get back I'll go out and buy one for next time. Then I'll see those pretty corals."

"It's three in the afternoon. Plenty of time to pick up a swimsuit for you before you go", offered Raven. She grinned. "We'll save on travel time, anyway."

Vivian returned the grin. "Well, if you don't mind taking the time, then okay. Let's get me a bikini." She pulled out her PDA and quickly punched in a query. "All right, yeah. The closest place we can buy a swimsuit is just a few blocks down the street. No problem. I've already got everything I need. You ready to go right now?"

"Sure thing. Although there's a couple stores we might want to try, in the mall downstairs."

"Great," said Vivian, moving to the front door. As she opened it, she glanced back at Raven. " were just kidding about the sharks, right?"

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