Communication was always changing to adapt to the needs of those in space. To be able to communicate while on opposite ends of a galaxy was now taken for granted, and in this era of space exploration, human beings were all connected. Even if one tried to mask their presence, they would still leave just the tiniest speck of themselves behind, a speck that could only be spotted by one with impeccable sight.
In the case of Lynn Lambretta, nothing could get past her eyes in the cyber world. She could almost laugh at the earnestness of all these cyber attacks, but against a newly risen interstellar company, such attacks were all too common, and she could not let her guard down, even for a moment.
A grin tugged at her lips. "Time for some cracking!" she smirked, her fingers flexing above the keyboard.
On the computer screen smirking red stars kept appearing, and her fingers were a blur on the keyboard as she zapped each and every one of them. The only light came from the screen; a darkened room seemed appropriate, after all.
Of course, this was just practice. Lynn was always improving the security, and she knew a few people who would help her test its strength. But even if this was simply practice, she still had to take it seriously.
Lynn sneered. "Is that all you've got…?" she muttered under her breath. Sometimes she wondered if she was the only one taking this seriously.
Finally the barrage of attacks stopped, and Lynn let out a heavy sigh as she took the headphones off her ears and ran her fingers through her hair. The lights came on, and she felt Jenny's presence behind her chair.
"So, how's the security?" Jenny asked, laying a hand on Lynn's shoulder. Her long hair was loose, flowing past her shoulders.
"Better than before," Lynn answered, tilting her head to meet Jenny's gaze. "I managed to find some weak points, but I'm not getting a good enough feel for its strength."
Jenny laughed. "They're holding back too much, aren't they? Maybe we should ask Marika and Chiaki for help. I'm sure a pirate attack would provide you with a challenge."
"Heh, maybe," Lynn replied, and then she let out a yawn. "I need a little bit of sleep first, though."
"You need a lot more than just a little," Jenny said as she wrapped her arms around Lynn's shoulders from behind. "You've been staying up all night fine-tuning this program the past few days, you know."
Lynn switched off the computer, and then raised her hands to touch Jenny's arms. "We've still got enemies, so I can't rest easy just yet."
Jenny planted a kiss on Lynn's cheek. "Even so, your skills are no good when you're sleep deprived. Come on, let's go to bed."
Lynn simply nodded and then stood up, wrapping her arm around Jenny's waist. The two of them stayed in a dorm room at Space University - Lynn had been admitted only a few months after her graduation from Hakuoh Academy - and from these dorms they managed Jenny's new company, Fairy Jane. In just a few weeks, it had come quite far, and attracted much attention, both positive and negative.
The dorm room itself was rather small, but it suited Lynn and Jenny just fine. They had bunk beds, but more often than not they simply shared the top bunk. Sometimes Lynn slept in the bottom bunk, usually when she stayed up all night cracking and didn't want to disturb Jenny when she finally did head to bed.
It didn't take them long to get ready for bed, and once they were in their pajamas they climbed onto the top bunk, Jenny first as usual. Lynn followed quickly, crawling underneath the covers with her. This was the first time they had lived together, and already it felt natural.
Jenny kissed Lynn, her lips as warm and as soft as usual; the two of them kissed more often lately. "Goodnight, Lynn," she said, her arm curled around her partner's waist. They were in nearly total darkness, with only the stars outside the window giving them any light.
"Yeah, goodnight to you too," Lynn replied, a faint smile on her lips. Silence fell over them, and in this darkness she could barely make out Jenny's form.
Jenny fell asleep first, as she usually did, and her breathing soon became slow and rhythmic. It took Lynn longer to fall asleep, as she could not turn her thoughts off as easily. Her fingers still itched for the feel of the keyboard, and her ears felt naked without headphones.
She was always envious at how easily Jenny seemed to fall asleep. They were both extremely busy with both university and Fairy Jane, but Jenny never appeared rushed or stressed. Lynn didn't mind, though; she always had something to do, and thanks to Jenny, she was never bored.
However, her head hurt, and she felt a little warm, and not the good kind of warm either. She could count on one hand the hours of sleep she had gotten in the past few days, but she had to make sure everything worked first. Things were going fine, and Jenny's uncle hadn't bothered them in a while, so Lynn hoped they would be able to relax soon. Their computer systems were almost entirely up-to-date, as were the security programs, but they still need just a little bit more testing…
Viruses. Attacks. If they weren't completely healthy, then their customers would not be able to rely on them, and more and more orders came day after day.
Lynn found herself smiling. They were still university students, but they had already accomplished so much, and she could almost feel the universe in her hands.
So, trying to ignore her headache, she pulled herself closer to Jenny and attempted to fall asleep, hoping for a sleep without dreams to disturb her.
Not unsurprisingly, Lynn didn't sleep that night. But she had operated on less sleep many times before, so when morning came sooner than expected, she still prepared herself for a day of classes. She felt well enough, and she couldn't afford to skip too often. So, less than an hour after she had woken up, she and Jenny were off for another day at the university. Lynn had moved slower than usual, and she felt wobbly, but she hoped that Jenny didn't notice anything was off.
The main campus was not far from the dormitories, so it didn't take them long to reach their destination. Space University was several times larger than Hakuoh Academy, and it was about the size of a metropolis. During the day they didn't spend much time together, as Lynn's courses were more related to computer studies and programming while Jenny took more economics and business courses. However, they did share their first class of the day, a course focusing on basic programming language.
Unlike many other courses, this class was fairly large, with nearly a hundred students. Each student sat in front of a computer terminal and wore large headphones from which they received instructions.
Lynn rubbed her eyes. The glare from the computer screen was giving her a headache, but there was no way to fix the brightness. She adjusted her headphones and tried to stifle a yawn. She was only partially paying attention to the lesson, anyway; this was fairly basic stuff, after all.
She closed her eyes for just a moment to give them a reprieve from the bright screen. Really, her time would be better spent on checking the status of Fairy Jane, she thought, or even taking a nap…
A hand on her arm jolted her out of her thoughts, and she turned her head to see Jenny staring at her, concern clearly evident on her face. Lynn just smiled and nodded wordlessly, hoping that would be enough to reassure Jenny. During this study time no one was allowed to talk, and they couldn't even hear much while wearing these headphones.
Jenny also smiled in response, and then gave Lynn's arm a gentle squeeze before turning her gaze back to her computer screen.
Lynn did the same, and her fingers hovered over the keyboard. Her head still hurt, and her stomach growled loudly, even though she had made sure to eat a good breakfast earlier (actually, it was more that Jenny had forced her to). Okay then, she would just grab a quick snack to eat once this class was over, she thought. She was having a hard enough time concentrating on the lesson; to do so with an empty stomach would be near impossible.
She bit her lower lip; this class couldn't end soon enough.
Her eyes darted to the clock at the lower-right corner of the computer screen. Still an hour to go. Or was it two hours? The numbers were beginning to blur; wait, how long had it been since class had begun? It had to had been at least an hour… She pressed her fingers against her forehead; the throbbing was getting worse. She inhaled a deep breath to try to calm herself, but she still felt warm, too warm.
She wasn't sleeping well. Over the past few weeks she had pulled a number of all-nighters while fortifying the structure of Fairy Jane, protecting it from malicious attacks. Jenny handled the orders and public relations, while Lynn worked in the background, keeping everything organized and protecting their information. Between Space University and this new business, it was a wonder they managed to get as much sleep as they did. But now sleep was a luxury, one she could no longer take for granted.
Lynn would sleep soon. Her new security program was almost finished, and then…
She never finished that thought as everything began to fade. Darkness covered her vision, and the last thing she was aware of was falling forward as she felt arms around her shoulders, and she swore she could faintly hear Jenny's voice.
It was almost peaceful, she thought. Her body felt heavy, but the pain in her head had dulled, and she felt warm, and… relaxed, somehow.
Was she on her feet? Was she moving? Yes, she was walking now, her legs moving entirely on instinct, but to where? She couldn't be sure of anything anymore, except that something warm was enveloping her, something comforting.
How much time passed? Hours, days? She didn't know.
Lynn saw white with splashes of red. Bright numbers dancing before her eyes, as did smirking red stars, mocking her and her efforts. But she still managed to zap them all. No viruses would infect her world, and nothing in this universe could get past her. Soon she would be able to hold the very universe in her hands, and then share it with her one and only partner.
When had she become so philosophical?
Lynn's eyebrows twitched, and then she forced her eyes open. Above her was a familiar ceiling, and below her was something soft. She was lying on a couch, covered by a thin blanket. And then it hit her - this was her dorm room. But how? Hadn't she been in class…?
"Huh…?" she moaned, and she turned her head and saw Jenny sitting nearby, and she was frowning. "Jenny…?"
Jenny crossed her arms over her chest. "You almost collapsed in class today," she explained. "So I helped you walk back to our dorm, but you were in such a daze you probably don't remember."
Lynn sat up, clutching the blanket to her chest. "So that's what happened…" She raised a hand to touch her forehead and winced; her headache had gotten worse.
"You have a fever, Lynn," Jenny said, letting out a heavy sigh. "You've been pushing yourself too hard lately."
A sheepish smile came upon Lynn's face. "But I'm almost done with the new program," she protested, although it was only a half-hearted effort. "I was going to rest more when I was completely finished with it."
Jenny placed her hand over Lynn's, and her expression softened. "It won't be any good if you work yourself to death. Besides, if it's my uncle you're worried about, don't be. My parents are beginning to come around, so even if his ego does recover enough for him to confront us, I might be able to enlist their help."
Lynn could only laugh in response. Robert Dolittle hadn't been the only person she had been worried about; she knew Jenny's parents had initially been against the idea of their daughter starting her own business, but ever since Robert's corruption had come to light, they had begun to warm up to the idea.
Something then suddenly started to beep, and Jenny reached into her pocket and pulled out her phone. She pressed a button and then a small, holographic screen appeared, showing Captain Kato Marika of the Bentenmaru.
"Hello, sempai!" Marika greeted, her voice as clear as day. "Wait… aren't you supposed to be in class right now? I was just going to leave a message."
A devious smile formed on Jenny's lips. "Something came up, and we're on break right now," she replied. It wasn't entirely a lie.
Marika's smile didn't fade. "If you say so! Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that we got the supplies we asked you to transport."
"That's good to hear," Jenny said as she brushed a strand of hair behind her ear. "Though, I do wonder if it's proper for pirates to use a service such as ours, hm?"
"Pirates don't discriminate when it comes to service," said a voice to Marika's left, and then Chiaki Kurihara stepped into the picture. "If it can get the job done, then it will suffice for us. But yes, I do agree that this is fairly unique, especially to use a travel company for this purpose."
"Heh, I don't know if I should take that as an insult or a compliment," Lynn said, laughing. Her nerves were beginning to feel more at ease. "So, are you two together now?"
Chiaki's face became bright red. "N-No, of course-" she started to say, but was interrupted before she could finish.
"Yeah, Chiaki-chan's been helping out a lot lately, especially with the investigating!" Marika quickly answered, seemingly oblivious to Chiaki's reaction. Both Lynn and Jenny knew she was referring to the pirate-hunting incident involving that strange new kind of spaceship known as the Grand Cross. Even they had heard about that decisive battle, and it had been a few months since then. "Well, I have to go now, we've got a new job lined up. So until I have another order for you, take care!"
Jenny nodded. "You take care too," she replied, and then the screen vanished as she closed her fingers around her phone. To Lynn, she said, "I don't think Marika quite understood what you were asking."
Lynn smirked. "She'll understand soon enough."
"Especially if her partner starts to get impatient," Jenny remarked as she stood up. "Now that you're safe, I should be heading back to class now."
"No sense in both of us missing class today," Lynn laughed. "But this sickness won't keep me down for long! Hey, how do you manage to stay so healthy anyway?"
"I know how to manage my time," Jenny answered with a grin. "I set aside blocks of time for anything I need to do and stick to that plan. You focus so much on artificial viruses that you forget about your own health." She placed her hands on her hips. "Now, remember you have to rest, so no cracking for the rest of the day. Promise me."
Lynn sighed, but still nodded. "Yeah, I promise."
"Good." Jenny picked up her bag, and she kissed her fingers and pressed those same fingers against Lynn's lips, and then she was out the door, leaving Lynn alone.
Lynn couldn't help but smile; she was disappointed at not receiving a proper kiss, but that kind of kiss was better than none at all, and she understood that Jenny didn't want to risk getting sick as well, although she doubted she was contagious.
She leaned her head back and stared at the ceiling. "Hah, what to do now…?" she muttered. The computers were off-limits, as she was not about to break her promise to Jenny. Now that she thought about it, her eyelids still felt heavy, so maybe she could catch just a small nap… Before she knew it, she had fallen asleep.
She dreamt of light, bright lights that surrounded her and Jenny, lights that she wanted to reach out and seize.
If she dreamed of anything else, it was quickly forgotten. But it still left her with a good feeling.
But even while dreaming, it had felt like no time had passed when Lynn found herself awake again, and once more she saw Jenny next to her, stroking her hair, and from the window on the other side of the room she could see that it was already night.
"Good evening, Lynn," Jenny greeted with a smile, a gleam in her blue eyes. "I was just about to wake you for dinner."
Lynn sat up and stretched her arms; her body still ached, but not as bad as it had earlier. Her stomach then growled loudly, and she could not stop herself from blushing. "Heh, guess I really am hungry!"
"You can't fight off sickness with an empty stomach," Jenny said as she pulled her hand back from Lynn's hair. "I'll make your favorite."
Lynn reached out to grab Jenny's hand. "I've got to get better as soon as possible," she stated, a faint smile on her lips. "You know, once I'm able to grasp the universe, I want to share it with you, Jenny."
"'Grasp the universe'?" Jenny repeated, and then a mischievous smile came up her lips. "Oh, is that what you've been worried about? Well then, don't worry - world domination is still on our list of goals."
Lynn began laughing, and soon Jenny joined her as well. Jenny then pulled Lynn into a tight embrace, and Lynn wrapped her arms tightly around Jenny's back, and she buried her face in Jenny's shoulder; she was pleasantly warm, Lynn thought.
When she recovered, she would kiss Jenny over and over, until she could no longer handle it, Lynn promised herself. Sharing the universe would begin with a kiss.