Dallas World Aquarium

An old warehouse in the historic West End, the Dallas World Aquarium is home to a unique display of flora and fauna from five continents. A 200 foot ramp lined with the plants and animals representative to Dallas start off the adventure before one even steps foot in the building.
The exhibits start with entrance into an indoor rainforest at treetop level, immersing guests in a canopy amidst scores of brilliantly colored tropical birds. Water splashes onto rocks from a tall waterfall that cascades down into a pond holding exotic fish. Thick glass panels form one side of the pond down below, making it easy for visitors to enjoy the colorful swimmers. As the walkway descends through the greenery, woodpeckers, pheasants and a few smaller birds can be seen milling about upon the forest floor. Another path can be found here, where visitors usually enjoy a leisurely stroll before heading to other exhibits.
The Aquarium portion contains a variety of sea-life from different locales. From humphead wrasse and pez chancho in the Pacific, lumpsuckers, and porgy in the Atlantic, and the antarctic krill and orange footed sea cucumbers of the Polar Regions, the aquarium seems to have it all.

Some people just…love…to go to the zoo and other places where animals can be found, to pet the animals, to ooh and aah at all of the wonders of nature. And some people…don't. Such is the case with Xiu Mei, as she picks her way through the entrance of the aquarium, occasionally making that 'I think I smell something bad.' face as she steps carefully through the indoor rainforest, disposable camera in hand, stopping every now and again to snap a picture of some little furry or feathered monstrosity moving through the underbrush. She seems to be one of the few people NOT enjoying themselves on this lazy summer afternoon, although most of the people seem to be of the 'little people' variety, some sort of summer camp field trip for what look to me eight to ten year olds, all of whom are running all around seemingly having a grand old time.

It was just a matter of time before Carter got around to actually enjoying himself this summer. His unemployment has given him ample time to do things that he has largely missed out on since moving to Texas and starting work at the mayor's office. One such thing is enjoying the aquarium. The young man can be found making his way through the indoor rainforest, hands in his pockets as he glances around for little creatures as they bound in and out of the trees and bushes. The kids don't seem to bother him at all, although he does seem to be keeping a rather close eye on them, like a worried bystander would. After all, you never know what wild animals will do — or more importantly, wild children.

There's always an upside, to speaking a language that few people are likely to understand. It means, that when you start muttering under your breath at all the little hellions running around and getting in your way, that it's unlikely that they'll understand exactly what you're saying about them. Such is the case as a pair of young boys run down the walkway, just as Xiu Mei was about to snap a picture of one of the woodpeckers at working at the trunk of a tree around stomach-level, on her, the pair of them scooting around her and setting her slightly off balance, a step back, and she spins, trying to stop herself from falling down off of the path, hands still slightly disconnected from her motion, as she was just about to hit the button on the camera. Only when she finally does, as she spins in that half circle the flash ends up, not pointed at the tree, but rather in the direction of the face of whomever might be unfortunate enough to be half behind her.

The unfortunate person behind Xiu just happens to be Carter. The blond man is temporarily blinded by the flash of the camera and goes stumbling backward as he rapidly blinks to get the bright lights out of his eyes. He soon finds himself stumbling against the base of one of the trees, managing to break the aquarium's rule about not touching the exhibits — and thus ends up also doing just the thing he was worried about those pesky camp kids doing. After a moment Carter gets to his feet and starts to look around for the culprit with the camera. "Owww… sheesh. Don't they have some kind of rule about flash photography in here?"

"Shhhh, you'll get me in trouble," comes Xiu Mei's comment, as she lowers the camera. And not being light-blinded herself, the asian woman can actually see the man she just forced, accidentally, off of the path. She even tucks the camera into a pocket of her hoodie, as she reaches forward to offer him a hand, "And then you'll get in trouble for rubbing all of the bark off of that poor tree, and then we'll both get kicked out." A split-second later, and she offers both hands. He's a big guy. "If we time it just right, we can blame it on the kids." But he doesn't seem to need her help, so instead, she lowers one of her hands, the other making a 'turn around' gesture, so she can access the damage to his clothing. The tree doesn't really get much sympathy.

Carter does as he's indicated to and spins around. There's dirt on the back of his grey t-shirt, but nothing that's going to require dry cleaning or anything but a thorough washing. As his eyes finally focus, he looks over his shoulder and smiles at the shorter woman. "Blaming the kids hardly seems right. But you should be more careful on all fronts next time. No sense in getting kicked out or blinding someone again. A digital camera might work a little better for you." After he figures that Xiu Mei has had enough time to inspect his clothes, he turns back around and offers her a hand. The bark seems to be intact on the tree, luckily, if not a little disturbed. "Are you an animal lover, or are you a photographer? Or is there some other reason that you're breaking the rules? I'm Carter."

Xiu Mei makes good use of the man's biddability, a hand reaching out to brush at the dirt, getting as much off as she can, at least under the circumstances. "Now all we need is to toss you in one of the tanks…" She says it just as conversationally as she's said anything else, as though that were simply the most logical solution, though she's quick to change the subject as he turns back around, "What else are children for?" Xiu Mei pulls the camera back out of her pocket, taking the man's hand, "Xiu Mei. And I am neither a photographer nor an animal lover. I'm what you call a surrogate tourist. And I'm very good at my job. I've yet to be thrown out of any sort of establishment such as this."

At the suggestion that they toss him into one of the tanks, Carter raises a brow but then chuckles quietly, giving a faint shrug of his shoulders. "Yeah, I suppose that would help. But then it would open up a whole new host of problems, I think." He gives the woman's hand a firm shake before sticking his hands back in his pockets and laughs very quietly once more, winking at her. "I think I know people who would say that children are the youth of our country and not something to be taken lightly, but…" He shrugs his shoulders and smiles at Xiu. "A surrogate tourist? That sounds… interesting, if not a little confusing. Maybe you could explain it to me. And I'm glad to know that I didn't upset your track record."

"Only if we threw you in with the tigerfish or the octopus. Well, maybe the box jellyfish might sting a little." Xiu Mei moves off to one of the wider areas of the walkway, a nearly circular disk that is more for viewing the animals than for walking, as the seating it rather lacking. "Just because a person is young, does not necessarily make them useful. Or the scions of this great nation." And she goes back to hunting for animals, seeming intent on multi-tasking her way through the forest. "My mother is back in Frisco. She wants pictures, so…here I am." She does snap another picture of something or another, before she turns around, and ehr demeanour changes completely. No longer, well, polished or poised, but, well…for lack of a better word, it's a bit anime, and rather like the stereotype that many westerners have of young asian women, particularly when they're on vacation. She even switches to something decidedly asian and NOT english, as she steps forward, gesticulating and waving the camera around. It's the classic, 'Will you take my picture with X, Y or Z?' pantomime. Don't like, you know exactly what it is.

Carter follows along with Xiu Mei as she keeps moving, listening to her talk. He actually seems to even be listening. The young man quirks a brow. "For your mom? That's nice of you. Most people wouldn't even bother." He gives the faintest shrug of his shoulders — a motion he seems to make quite often. "Just because someone can snap pictures doesn't make them useful either, I'm sure someone would argue. Not me personally, but someone." When she turns around and starts to do the anime-esque posing, he presumes to take the camera from her and do just what she requests. "Smile big! But not too big. That might just be creepy."

Xiu Mei even goes through the motions of posing, doing the little V with her fingers slanted towards her lips, it's very popular with the asian youth, before she holds out a hand again for the camera, dropping the facade as quickly as she picked it up, switching back to her perfect, neutrally American-accented english, "And that, is how I get out of getting in trouble whenever my mother sends me on one of these missions. And these sorts of pictures are never useful. They're just memorabilia to throw into an album to show to people who are probably not the least bit interested in seeing them." Once she has the camera back in hand, if you return it, she'll continue on along the path of the forest, which is getting closer to the aquarium. "Were you going this way?"

The young man hands back the camera with a quiet laugh as he listens to her. The change in her demeanor doesn't get past him although he doesn't bring it up for the time being. "I sort of was. I just quit my job… so I have a lot of free time on my hands. I've never been here before. I wanted to see everything at least once. And I have to admit, that's a pretty good con. I can see how people might get flustered over that…" Carter trails off there, glancing back toward the tree that he may or may not have damaged in his spill. "I'm really hoping they don't have security cameras, but I guess if someone accidentally bumps a tree, it's probably not that big of a deal to them…"

"And what was it that you did, before you quit your job? Besides try to turn in harmless tourists taking pictures and damaging defenseless trees?" Xiu Mei pauses, standing up on tiptoes to look up towards the branches of one of the trees, "Does that look like a tarantula to you?" She even points, for your benefit. It might or might not be real, probably fake, "I probably actually was very much like that, when my family first came to america, but I like to think I've since outgrown it. Still, sometimes it's useful to play to people's mistaken beliefs. I think you're safe with the tree, they'd have come running by now if they'd seen you."

"I was an aide to the mayor. Not terribly exciting. Politics isn't my strong suit, apparently." Carter gives the faintest shrug of his shoulders as he smiles at Xiu Mei. He glances up toward the indicated spider-thing and reaches out to run his finger over the back of it. "Glued on, it seems. Far too rubbery to be an actual tarantula." Carter turns to Xiu Mei and lets out a chuckle. "I don't know, there must be a market for Asian femme fatales somewhere too. So, are you a professional con artist, or do you just do this all for fun?"

"I don't imagine many people would enjoy being an aide to the mayor. Seems far too stuffy to me, at least, from what I imagine a mayor's aide would do." The smile is returned, though it's follows by a downturn of her lips as the spider is outed as a fraud, "That was actually making me kind of hungry." A shrug, as she steps away, looking forward towards the aquarium, "Well, that, or the smell of kettle corn." A snort, at the comment on her possible job choices, "I'd be a terrible asian femme fatale. I look dreadful in a schoolgirl's outfit." A hop down from the walkway onto the floor of the main aquarium, before she looks back, "I'm actually the opposite of a con artist. I'm a cryptologist. Well…" she pauses, lips twisting into a wry turn, before they straighten, "as close to the opposite as I'm likely to get."

Carter nods emphatically to Xiu as she explains what she assumes working for the mayor would be like. She seems to have the general idea. "Schoolgirl, for a femme fatale? I thought that they were supposed to wear things more along the lines of… I don't know, a fedora and a trenchcoat. Maybe black leather." Hmm, that may have been too specific. Carter takes it back a notch before smiling at Xiu Mei unsurely. How does a rubber tarantula make someone hungry? "A cryptologist? That sounds interesting. I'm trying to take over ownership of a new age store. Maybe if you find something interesting you can bring it into the shop — if this damned thing ever gets off the ground and running. So much to do…" The poor blond man looks as though his entire jaw might clench and then fall off at the very thought.

"You didn't say femme fatale. You said asian femme fatale." Once Xiu Mei is clear of the ramp, she starts off in search of the kettle corn smell, "You must be the only white man, if you pardon the racial classification, who doesn't know about the asian schoolgirl fetish that seems to be sweeping the globe." She looks over, "Unless you prefer Sailor Moon?" Her tone is still perfectly conversational, as though they were discussing serious business, despite the fact that she either has to be joking or a bit off her rocker, "Oh, oh, maybe you'd prefer a geisha. It's not really my cultural background, but I could rock a kimono, no doubt." Finding the right direction, she pauses, to see if you'll come with her, "Buy you a bag?" Before she continues, "Well, I enjoy it very much, it's a lot of code-breaking, though I do other math as well, depends on the job. New Age shop sounds a bit…frou frou. You going to sell crystals and love potions then? I'm sure you could make a killing with the college kids." But she must not be completely oblivious, because she does notice the tension in the man's jaw, "Never started up your own business before?"

The talk of fetishes makes Carter blush a deep red. He doesn't give Xiu Mei any confirmation nor denial of this, but his redness seems to speak volumes. Finally he reaches up to scratch at his head. "You know, you could pretty much wear just about anything and I think I'd be fine with that. I think any straight red-blooded man would be, to be fair. Probably some not-so-straight ones too." He puts his hands back in his pockets as he follows her. "Sure, I wouldn't mind a bag of…whatever." At this point whatever the Hell smell she's following is no longer any of Carter's concern. He's flustered almost to the point of oblivion. "Crystals, maybe. Potions? I don't know. That requires some intrinsic knowledge of alchemy or something. I was thinking more along the line of books and incense, you know." Carter shakes his head a bit. "No, but I do have a major in business. You'd think that would be enough to make it easy, eh?"

Xiu Mei pauses, head tilting, as she catches sight of the sudden red on Carter's face. It's as if she really wasn't aware of exactly what she was talking about, until she actually saw his reaction. or perhaps, safer to say not unaware, but, well, not used to people having that sort of reaction. A throwback of working among so many men, the habit of falling into speaking about things that men talk about as if it were no big deal. But whatever the reason, when she sees that he's embarrassed, she seems to feel a bit embarrassed herself, and there's a slight hint of pink on her cheek, particularly after the compliment. Being 'one of the guys' has it's downside, which is not quite remembering when you're not actually 'one of the guys'. "Thank you, that's very sweet of you to say." And then, perhaps in an effort to give the poor man a chance to change the subject, or at least not have her just staring at him, she turns to the cart, "Two bags please." And when she pays, "Thank you." She waits patiently, falling back into the conversation as she does, "Well, it's the difference between theory and practice. Like with me. I can sit around all day just thinking stuff up, but it's different when you actually have a real world application to work on. Maybe it might help to sit down and make a list, see what you have to do…what you can do alone, and what you will need help with."

When Carter realizes that he's actually made someone else embarrassed, he reaches up to rub at the back of his neck with no shortage of awkwardness. A long silence fills the air between them for a moment or so before she orders the kettle corn. He seems rather relieved at that very moment. "A list? I suppose that could be helpful. I know everything I need to do. It's just a matter of me getting myself to do it. Procrastination is really something, don't you know? Like my mortal enemy." He laughs quietly and shrugs his shoulders. "Though that does actually help. It'll probably make me a little bit more focused if I do make a list. Thanks. So, what is it that you do exactly? I'm not really sure what a cryptologist is. I think I'm thinking of a cryptzoologist."

Once she has the two bags of kettlecorn in hand, Xiu Mei turns back to the man who's become her companion, for better or worse. Better for her, since it takes her mind off of being around all these little critters, probably worse in his case, because well, he probably thinks she's some crazy asian chick. One of the bag is offered, before she picks back up, "Well, you could always set yourself a goal…like…must have business running before bank account hits zero." Which does tend to happen when you're unemployed. "And then you sort of have to stop procrastinating eventually." Now that she has some sort of sustenance in hand to take her mind off of things, she starts towards the closest tank, which happens to be the touch pool for children. "A cryptologist is a mathematician that specializes in cryptology, which is to say, the hiding and study of information. Essentially it's working on hiding information using codes which have keys, called ciphers, and then figuring out that information again. you've probably encountered it before. One of the simplest ciphers is called the Caesar Cipher. You may have used it as a child. It's a simple letter substitution. You write down a word and then decide which letters you'll use to replace the letters in your word. For example…say you decide that you'll reverse the alphabet. Whenever you need the letter A, you write the letter Z. Letter B becomes Y, C becomes X, and so on. So the word cat would be XZG. If you know the key or cipher, you could look at XZG, replace X with C, Z with A, G with T and see that the word is supposed to be cat. It's used in a lot of modern applications. ATM cards encrypt your personal information with codes that can be decyphered with the right cipher. Secure information on the internet…password protected files on a computer, things like that."

Carter takes his bag of corn from her and slowly starts to nip at it, eagerly listening to Xiu Mei's explanation of her job description. "A code breaker? That sounds completely exhausting. Not to mention numbers intensive… I got as far as calculus in high school and then my brain died out. I have to applaud you. Especially since you mix it with numbers so frequently." Poor Carter looks terribly daunted just thinking about the task of figuring out so many codes and secret messages. He reaches up to scratch ath is head with his free hand before nipping at the kettle corn again and letting out a very quiet sigh. "So, do you do legal work or illegal work?" He asks right off the bat, seeming interested in that aspect at the very least. "And yeah, having a business before my bank account dries up would be especially nice. My parents made it very clear that they won't part with my meager inheritance since quitting the mayor's office was apparently such a bad idea."

"Well, I suppose if you don't like math, or if you're not good at it, it would seem daunting. But you're good at business, yes? So to you, business is easy, in the same way that math is easy for me. Or in the same way that painting is easy for an artist who paints, but it would be very difficult for someone who had no training or talent in it. Like me for example. I mess up even stick figures. Trying to paint something would be a living hell." She leans over, peering down in the tank, watching one of the children stroking a sea cucumber, "That has got to be one of the most disgusting things I've ever seem. It looks like a slug." Still, she continues to nibble at her kettlecorn, watching the child at the pool in the same way that you look at a car crash. It's horrible, but you can't take your eyes off it, "I work for private companies and sometimes also work for government agencies." Legal, illegal, well, one is boring, the other is well, illegal, so saying one way or the other…not a smart move, "Are you happier now that you don't work for the mayor's office?" That seems to be quite important, the answer that is.

"We'll find out if I'm actually good at business soon enough, with any luck." Carter takes another bite of his kettle corn before he looks down at Xiu with a quiet laugh. "Hmm? Well, you may not have artistic talent, but you have a better grasp on numbers than a lot of people do. I think many people would swap some talent of theirs for that." When she points out the sea cucumber he turns red in the face once more before nodding down toward it. "It's a defense mechanism. The white gooey tendrils will come out if the kid gets it riled enough." Oh hey innuendos, nice to meet you. "Your work sounds interesting — in theory at least. I bet you've helped crack some pretty big cases, so to speak." Carter keeps walking, taking another bite of his kettle corn. "Definitely happier now that I don't work for the mayor's office. One of my co-workers and I didn't get along too well. He was always picking at me. So my last day there, I punched him in the mouth. Not my finest of moments…"

"I imagine they would, I mean, if they've only ever seen mathematicians on television. But believe me, it's really not anything like what you see on TV or in the movies. It's mostly people standing around whiteboards yelling at each other…or people hiding in their basements with chalkboards and erasers. Sort of the way being a cop is never as exciting as what you see in fiction. But I have had quite a few interesting problems to solve. And the rest of the time, I just sit around thinking stuff up, new ways to approach old problems." As she continues on, moving over to where the rays are tooling along in the shallow water, she considers, "My father always told me that if you find the thing that makes you happy, you'll find the thing that you were meant to be doing. If working there wasn't making you happy, then you were right to leave. Your parents will realize that eventually. That is if they're the sort of parents that actually -want- you to be happy and not just successful." And one certainly can be successful in politics, "Why? Didn't hit him hard enough?"

Carter grins at Xiu Mei, sheerly at the mental image of the woman yelling at someone across a room. He can definitely see it happening. "Like I said, it sounds pretty exciting in theory. I can see whereas that'd get pretty tiring pretty quickly. You must need to have an insane sort of passion for that kind of thing to keep with it for so long. Or the pay must be really great." Carter picks at his kettlecorn once more and licks his lips as he considers Xiu's father's words with a soft laugh. "Yeah, well… that part about my parents is totally up for debate, but maybe after we know each other better." He pauses at her final question, contemplating for a long moment. "I didn't knock him out or break his jaw so that he wouldn't be able to flap it anymore, so no… I don't think I hit him hard enough." Carter sighs very quietly and retrieves his suddenly beeping cell phone from his pocket, glancing at it. "Damn. I have to go meet with a contractor and get some prices. Hey, for a random blinding, that has been pretty fun."

"Maybe one of these days you can sit in at SMU, when I'm working on some of my problems. I'm usually sort of renting time in the science building, in one of the math classrooms, at least during the summer, while the classrooms are mostly empty." She does hold up on whatever else she might have been about to say, when his cell phone goes off. And she takes that time to pull a slightly rumpled book out of her pocket. It's a sukodu puzzle book, by the cover, and she goes to a page, one that's already been filled in, and pulling out a pen, which seems to be what she does all of the puzzles in, she jots down her number, tearing out the page and handing it over, "It was the best accident I've caused in ages. And it was good to meet you, Carter."

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