© Beloved Doll
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The next few days roll on and inch closer until it is Maria`s birthday. Each day that she can, Maria would come to her grandfather`s lab room and would spend hours talking to Shadow and showing him objects, explaining to him what they are. Gerald is happy to see Maria taking to Shadow so well. There is no doubt in his mind that they would do very well together when Shadow is released. The day of his release though, has been kept a secret from Maria as Shadow was supposed to be a surprise for her. Today is that day.
Walking down the halls of the Arc is Maria. Her grandfather has called her down to his lab but he hasn`t said to her what the occasion is. But Maria is always happy to see her grandfather so she has no second thoughts about complying to his request. She is humming to herself as she passes by all the scientists in the halls. They are all too busy with their work to really give her any notice. But that is all right, she isn`t here to see them anyway. Besides, Maria knows that the work they are doing is important so she won`t purposely interrupt them. Her hand lightly trails along the walls as she lightly steps down the halls.
Maria is fully aware of how today is her birthday. She is fourteen years old today. How exciting! In four more years, she will be considered an adult. By then, there will be no restrictions made on her as to what movies she can watch. Perhaps, even, by then if not before, she could finally set foot on the planet Earth?
She finally arrives at the lab room Gerald asked her to meet him in. The automatic door slides open to allow her entry into the room. She steps inside the room and the door slides shut behind her. Maria only takes a couple of steps into the room, calling for her grandfather, when she suddenly stops.
Before her stands not only her grandfather, but Shadow as well. He is fully clothed in what would be described as dark, street clothes, that which greatly contrast Maria`s bright, feminine clothing. They are mostly black with a few red decor that match the red streaks in his spiky hair. The gold rings are still binding his wrists and ankles though his pants mostly cover the ankle rings. He is already taller than Maria, though he won`t grow from this current height since his body is already in the state it is designed to be in. At first glance, he looks dangerous, especially with how emotionless his facial expression is. However, Maria isn`t scared of him one bit. In fact, she is happy to finally see him outside of his protective capsule. She has had to wait several days before he could finally be released. Here he stands without being inside of his protective tube.
Now bursting with excitement, Maria turns to Gerald. Has her grandfather been planning this all along? Is Shadow`s release a birthday present to her? Gerald looks back to Maria. He bears a smile on his face seeing how excited Maria is. The old scientist nods his head to his granddaughter. Maria turns her direction back to Shadow. Now leveling her wide smile back down to a sweet smile, Maria does a lady-like curtsy to Shadow, welcoming him to the outside world. Not only does her voice sound gentle and she looks just as gentle, but even the way she curtsies has a matching feel to it, making her seem more delicate than what may be usually seen.
As she curtsies to him, Shadow`s emotionless expression changes, seeming to be surprised to see this angel showing him respect. He looks to Gerald, who is standing off to the side, as though he isn`t sure of what he is to do in response to Maria. Gerald looks back to Shadow and holds a hand out, gesturing towards Maria. Then Shadow turns back to Maria who is, in turn, looking back to him. First he moves his left hand to place itself behind his back while his right hand moves over his heart. Then Shadow steps his right foot back behind his left. Finally he bows, giving Maria a gentlemanly greeting to Maria.
Gerald adjusts his glasses,"Now remember, Maria...Shadow is going to be helping me with my work so he will have to leave sometimes to come aid me. No pouting when he has to leave, young lady."
Maria nods to Gerald,"Yes, grandfather."
"All right. I`m sure you wouldn`t mind showing Shadow around on the Arc? Give him a bit of a tour?"
"I certainly will!"
Maria then reaches forward and takes a hold of Shadow`s left wrist with her small hands,"Come on, Shadow. I have so much to show you."
The feeling of overjoyousness comes to Shadow as she takes a hold of him. As she does so, he looks into her soft, blue eyes, gazing into them. A desire rises up within him where he just wants to reach out and hold her. But from what Gerald has told him before during Maria`s absence, he needs to be strong for her. He is going to do that no matter what.
Maria excitedly leaves the lab room while pulling the Ultimate Life Form behind her, gently of course. Gerald chuckles a little as he watches the two exit from this room. He turns to his desk and sits down in a chair. He continues to enter in some data into a computer, in which he needs to do before he can move on with his other work. He will allow Maria some fun time with Shadow before he begins his testing on Shadow.
To say the least, everyone on the Arc that Maria and Shadow pass by can`t help but stare at them. They already know of Shadow`s existence and know his purpose here. But the appearances of Maria and Shadow are complete opposites of one another. It is very strange to see such a combination together like so. Maria pays them no mind but Shadow feels a little uneasy by the stares. Looking to Maria as if searching for guidance from her, he finds that she isn`t bothered at all by the display of the others. Taking the cue, Shadow does his best to not seem bothered by it either.
Maria shows Shadow the cafeteria where he could go to get food with everyone when he gets hungry. She also also shows him the sleeping quarters where everyone retires for the night to get rest when they are tired. Pretty much everything on the Arc is shown to Shadow. He remains silent the whole way through, taking in all the information that Maria is giving him. He lets his eyes and ears tell him everything. His persistent silence worries Maria a little, though. Does he know how to talk? Or maybe he`s just shy? Either way, she isn`t going to force anything of him. If he had any questions or something to say, surely he would speak up.
The Arc is so incredibly huge, though. Much to Maria`s dislike, by the time she finishes the tour, it is nearly bedtime! For the remainder time that they have before she will be taken to her room for the night, Maria takes Shadow back to the cafeteria and shows him how to eat his food. It is an important skill to have. She giggles at his failed attempts to feed himself. Maria is patient, though, and assists him with his meal until he gets down on how he is supposed to eat. It is mostly practicing that he has to do to get it right. Showing him a few more times on how to use the eating utensils and some basic table manners, Maria takes it at an easy pace for Shadow. Shadow is much appreciative of Maria being so patient with him and willing to teach him how to do things properly.
The few scientists that remain in the cafeteria watch Maria and Shadow with mild curiosity. They are mostly interested in seeing how this Ultimate Life Form learns in his very young stage and how he responds to others in his environment. They all find it interesting how he immediately turns his attention to Maria whenever she speaks to him or she reaches over to help correct how he holds an eating utensil. It actually doesn`t take this Ultimate Life Form very long to begin eating properly like any other human being. To the scientists, Shadow is just an experiment, a research specimen...a project. But to Maria, he is just as real of a person as any other human being. So what if his birth is different from everyone else`s?
Once Shadow finally has it right, Maria begins to eat her own meal at last. She wants to be sure that Shadow was all right and could feed himself before she started on her own. It just seemed unfair for her to eat while he was still struggling to accomplish the same task. The two of them sit side by side at one of the tables in silence, enjoying their dinner. This is Shadow`s first time having any sort of real food. It tastes quite good. Whatever items Maria chose for him for his meal, Shadow silently wishes to be able to have them again soon.
Before they are finished with their meal, Gerald sits down at the table on the opposite side of them. His hands fold together on the tabletop. He looks tired but also happy to see that Maria and Shadow are doing well together. He looks to the both of them as he speaks,"Well then, did you two have fun today?"
Maria smiles and sets down her fork on the table,"We sure did. I showed him the whole Arc and where everything is. I also showed him how to eat."
Gerald looks to Shadow who is currently chewing on the food in his mouth. Gerald chuckles and turns to Maria,"It looks like you did a good job teaching him."
"Yes, you were right, grandfather. He does learn fast."
"Indeed he does."
Maria and Shadow finish off their meals a little bit after the short conversation. Maria then has Shadow follow her to the trashcan with his tray and shows him how to clean up after his meal. Any leftover food and wrappers get dumped into the trash bin and the tray gets set on top of the bin for the cleaners to come collect. If the cup that held their beverage is plastic, it gets set on top of the bin as well. But if the cup is paper, then that gets thrown away.
Once Maria is finished with her explanation to Shadow of what is trash and what is not, Gerald walks up to them. He says that it is time for Maria to go to bed and for Shadow to begin helping him with his work. He has yet to tell Maria that Shadow is to help find a cure for her NIDS disease or that he is to defend the Arc from dangers, such as Black Doom and the rest of the Black Arms army. She knows nothing of the reasons. To her, Shadow is meant to be a friend for her so that she would no longer be left lonely on the Arc.
Maria begins to make a sad face. Gerald quickly reminds her that part of the deal with her being permitted to be friends with Shadow was that she would not pout when it was time for them to part. She nods and quickly puts away her sad face. She turns to Shadow and holds up one of her hands to give a small wave as she tells him good night. Remembering back to when Maria first did such a hand motion with him, Shadow lifts up his mirroring hand and presses his palm against hers. Maria smiles delightfully at this. This is like when she first saw him in his capsule, only this time their hands can actually touch with no barrier between them. Maria lifts up her other hand and Shadow lifts his remaining hand. These two hands mimic the first set in touching one another, palm to palm, finger to finger. Maria smiles sweetly up at Shadow. They only did it once before when he had just awaken and he remembers it. She is quite delighted, to say the least, that he remembers. Then, Shadow finally breaks his silent barrier and speaks to her,"Good night, Maria..."
His voice rolls out quietly, but also quite deeply. Maria feels a slight tingle from hearing his masculine voice. It`s quite soothing to listen to, even for that short moment. It even seems to show his strength and fits him quite well. She wouldn`t mind having to listen to that voice of his often.
Shadow`s hands slide down from Maria`s hands and he leaves with Gerald to go assist him with his work. Once they have left, Maria leaves as well to go retreat into her room for the night. As she walks the halls to return to her room, she rolls over in her head many times those three words Shadow said, remembering how his voice sounded.