The latest Friday Flash Fics photo made me think of the “Cohort” series I’ve been working on throughout these weekly prompts, and so I decided to revisit the mischievous biologist, Constantinou (he who likes to name plants in a punny way) and Adamson, the Gentech telepath/telekinetic who made the Helios Project a possibility, but I wound the clock back a bit to the time of the Third Cohort, when things were still on schedule and Adamson was beginning to tell his fellow colonists about himself.
If you want to read these pieces in chronological order, they were: First Cohort, Second Cohort, then this one, then Fifth Cohort, Sixth Cohort, and then Helios. Amusingly, this is how I usually write: jumping all around in the timeline of whatever I’m writing in first draft, and then sewing it all up together after.
“I’m trying really hard to figure out exactly why this required my coming along, Giorgos,” Adamson said.
Constantinou’s reply was barely a grin at first, but he titled his head after a moment. “Protocols say no one goes outside the zone alone, and I was going outside the zone.” He lifted his sample kit. Adamson carried a similar package himself.
“Right, but I’m a physicist. If we’re collecting samples, why do you want a physicist?”
Constantinou mugged an offended look, putting a hand to the centre of his chest. “You don’t want to spend time with me?”
“You know I’ve seen you work your…charms on half a dozen people already, right?” Adamson said. It wasn’t even telepathy—Adamson would never use his Gentech gifts like that—it was just basic perception. And rumour. And Maxwell delighted in telling the story of Constantinou being shut out of Sinclair’s quarters, sans clothes, after what had apparently been a rather spirited discussion on the Second Cohort’s trip to this new planet from the Sol System. Sinclair and Constantinou had apparently made up, but she certainly hadn’t gone on any more dates with him.
“No you haven’t,” Constantinou said, shaking his head. He looked up at Adamson and Adamson had to admit, that grin of his was pure boyish charm. “If you had, you wouldn’t be questioning coming with me on this trip.”
Adamson rolled his eyes, but he couldn’t help it, he chuckled. Why did confidence and good looks so often go together in men like Giorgos Constantinou? He supposed one created the other, really.
“Lead on,” Adamson said.
Constantinou winked, and led the way to one of the four-wheel electric scouting cars.
They’d been exploring a series of natural lakes and caves less than an hour’s drive outside of the growing colony. For all his flirtatiousness, Constantinou shifted into science mode once they arrived, kneeling and taking samples of some greens growing in the shallows near the entrance to one of the larger caves.
“It’s like Azolla,” Constantinou said, looking at the readout on his pad as the sample kit scanner did its work. “Which could explain the serious drop-off in CO2 levels we’re seeing compared to the ice core samples the pole team uncovered…”
“Azolla?” Adamson said.
“Ferns on Earth. They basically scrubbed the planet of CO2 fifty-sixty million years ago. They like nurtrient rich water. Give ‘em that, and they vacuum up CO2 in the process.” He winked. “They did us a big favor, making the Earth nice and cool for us.” He mopped his forehead. “Speaking of which, the minerals these guys are eating clearly come from the vents.”
It was warm in the cave entrance.
“They’re pretty. Nice colour,” Adamson said, feeling all the more like a physicist doing botany work by the moment.
“They also pack a great punch, nutrition wise.” Constantinou tilted his pad to show Adamson, who crouched low to read it. The botanist wasn’t kidding.
“If they keep up the parallels with Azolla, they won’t taste like much of anything,” Constantinou said, “but we can fix that. I know many ways to spice things up.”
Adamson shook his head, but Constantinou just grinned.
Then he started to undo his boots. “Okay. Now we go in. You brought your trunks, right?”
Adamson blinked. He had, since Constantinou had listed them as required gear for the project, but… “We’re going swimming?”
“More like wading. There are some luminescent lichens and fish I want to take a closer look at.” The man’s accent thickened back to his native Greek when he got excited about science. It was charming.
Adamson bit his lip. No, it wasn’t. Adamson was in charge of the whole Helios project right up until the Fifth Cohort arrived, and Giorgos Constantinou was a direct report. I mean, they were both adults and it wasn’t prohibited, but…
Constantinou was stripping off his shirt now, and the view derailed Adamson’s train of thought. Giorgos was all flat planes of muscle and smooth skin. He met Adamson’s gaze, and the smile came back. The one that gave him the hint of dimples and showed off the chiseled chin to great effect.
Fine. Two could play this game. Adamson was Gentech, and though he’d been slowly letting that be known, colleague by colleague, he was pretty sure Constantinou didn’t know. At least not yet. His DNA had been tweaked in many ways, not the least of which had granted him his telekinetic and telepathic abilities. But there had also been tagging to ensure muscle growth. Adamson generally wore a simple work shirt as his daily uniform, but as he pulled it off, he saw the moment Constantinou realized that beneath the shapeless cloth, Adamson was buff.
There was a moment of standoff, and Adamson couldn’t help but feel a small thrill of victory.
Right up until Constantinou grinned again.
“I just need to change into my trunks,” Constantinou said, undoing his zipper.
Adamson coughed, feeling his face burn, and turned around. He’d worn his trunks under his pants. He pretended not to hear Constantinou’s chuckle behind him as he shed the last of his clothes and waited for Constantinou’s okay to turn around.
Deeper in the cave, they first swam through almost hot water and then were able to walk near the edges. They didn’t need to light up their pads thanks to the tiny fish beneath them that glowed a pale yellow-white, and they carried the sample kits or let them float on tethers as they needed.
“Aha!” Constantinou said, grinning. “There. We’ve seen it in every warm water cave along the lakes.”
Adamson looked. Lichens grew along the walls here, above where the water steamed. And it glowed with a blue-green luminescence.
“Look up there,” Adamson said, pointing to the high ceiling of the cave. “It’s a different colour.”
Constantinou smiled up at the ceiling, spotting the patch of pale orange glowing there. “Different minerals, maybe, or a different species, or maybe even a different part of the life cycle.” He was grinning again, his accent thicker. “I’m not sure I can reach it to take a sample…” He bit his lip. “I could go back and get one of the poles.”
Adamson hesitated, considering.
“What’s wrong?” Constantinou said.
“Right,” Constantinou laughed. “Try again. You know, you’ve got a terrible poker face.”
“I can get the sample,” Adamson said. “I’m just not sure how you’re going to react. On the one hand, you made it through the screening for the Helios Project, so I know you’re open minded, but…” Adamson shrugged.
Constantinou’s amusement didn’t fade. If anything, it deepened. “You read my file?”
“I read all the files, don’t get a big head.”
“I am the embodiment of humility,” Constantinou said, with such blatant dishonesty that Adamson laughed out loud.
“But how?” Constantinou said.
Adamson pulled out the collector, took a second to focus, and then lifted it with his mind. It rose to the edge of where the orange luminescence began, and used his telekinesis to trigger the device. It collected a sample, and beeped. He held out his hand and lowered the collector until it landed in his palm.
Then, finally, he looked at Constantinou.
The man was grinning. “I’ve never seen that in person before. Only vids.”
The last bit of tension in Adamson’s shoulders relaxed. He blew out a small breath, and handed the collector to the biologist.
Only when their hands touched, Constantinou put his other hand over top, and squeezed.
Adamson felt tension return again, in a different way.
“You report to me,” he said, feeling heat on his face that had nothing to do with the steaming water they were standing in. “Also? Technically, I’m married.”
Constantinou didn’t let go. “That sounds like a story.”
“The Railroad. I married a Canadian to get out of the US. He was in on it, though. Volunteered, I mean.”
“Ah.” He still hadn’t let go. “So, I’m guessing he won’t be coming here.”
Constantinou stepped closer, and Adamson swallowed.
“So, here’s the thing,” Constantinou said. “You and I both know there are no rules prohibiting the… interaction… of direct reports. This is a colony, and consenting adults. I am not looking for marriage. I am, however, looking around and seeing this amazing cave full of beautiful things, not the least of which is you, and thinking no one else has ever been here, and that it would be wonderful to make a very nice memory here.”
“I take it this is the charm I’ve heard so much about?” Adamson said.
“Depends,” Constantinou said. “Is it working?”