Because I’ve had a hectic week and just needed something easy, I went with the always useful “Nobody expects…”
A Sun In Its Womb
“Let’s walk,” Jordy said. She rose with the same ungainly motions she had ever used. Any grace she possessed came from youth.
Aja wondered if she was going to avoid answering the question. Why was she here? She’d suggested she knew the answer. He stood and fell into step beside her, catching the sidelong grin on her lips.
“They’ll still hear what I say. Every word I’ve ever spoken, to anyone, anywhere, has been recorded. They gave us the lounge because they’d enhanced the wall panels with additional probes.”
“What do you mean, every word?” Aja eyed the door frame as he passed through it. “You mean you… and me? In bed?”
“Every word, every orgasm.”
They stepped into the corridor. Awareness and anger prickled his skin with knowledge of being watched. Linguists and neurologists analyzed him as he spoke. Ever since he had met Jordy, he had been under scrutiny, but no one had bothered to tell him. Even she…
He stopped walking, causing people behind him to sidestep and pass to either side. He ignored their looks of annoyance. “When the hell were you going to tell me?”
“I just did. Aja, they’ve recorded everyone, not just me. This entire station is a giant habitat.”
“You mean, like the honey pot?” That was what they called the apiary in the green dome. He would sometimes find Jordy there, seated in the viewing core, dreamily watching the hives.
She nodded. “We’re being watched. Everyone is being watched, their movements recorded, their words collected and assessed, their work designed to convey the correct impressions.”
“Because of you.”
Jordy’s freckles punctuated another smile. “Your leaders desire to control my experience. It started upon my arrival, when they chose Mary and Fred to be my foster parents. Poor Mary and Fred, they never knew. They were just happy to have been chosen. They’d graduated top of their class in parenting.” They started walking again. “I wasn’t the usual baby. I started talking right away.”
Aja was still processing that he’d spent the last twelve years of his life living in a lab experiment. Was still living in one. He and thousands of other unsuspecting lab rats, busy as bees and not one bit the wiser. But the station did real work… it served as a stop for Rim traffic and was a depot for ships making the jump to Albert’s Hole.
“It hasn’t been easy for me. Until I saw another infant, I didn’t realize babies don’t talk. Or walk. Their bodies and nervous systems are immature. It explained why my skills were inadequate. I had thought I was defective!”
He laughed. He didn’t mean it to sound harsh and hoped she understood. Jordy could be adorably literal.
“Aja.” Jordy’s lilting voice, so loved and so natural, didn’t sound alien as it arrested his thoughts and pulled his attention back to her intense face. “I chose you. They didn’t put you here for me.”
Should he even believe her? Did the Fer know how to lie?
“Tell me why you’re here.”
She sensed he was still uncertain, perhaps even angry. He could tell by her look of concern. He’d never been able to conceal his feelings from her and now knew he would never try. Their honesty had always been refreshing and he didn’t want to lose that. Didn’t want to lose her.
“I’m here to learn. I’m here to become.”
“Become what?” Was this it? The answer for which the bastards on the other side of the recording units waited?
“Well,” he said. That pretty much was all he could say. “I was hoping for something more impressive.”
“Why? Humans are confounding. Humans are not simple. In fact, humans are quite messy.”
They’d made their way to the bazaar and its open corridors lined with shops and restful parks. Jordy grabbed him by the arms and stood him beside one of the station’s several waterfalls, designed to aerate the water, humidify the air, and provide a facsimile of what humanity had left behind. Jordy’s wide smile and overlarge teeth made him laugh. What was she doing? Would he ever get tired of trying to figure her out?
Not now, a secure voice inside his head acknowledged. Do you really think you can figure out a Ferra when STOA has devoted an entire space station to doing the job?
“Humans are so terrified. Like this, trying to control what I learn, my lessons and conclusions. As if I can’t figure things out without their help. They removed problems, adjusted the mix of people around me. Remember Ardofsky? He looked like a hydroponic unit on legs—”
“I remember the man.”
“I didn’t like him.”
Aja arched a brow. He hadn’t known Jordy then, but he had known Ardofsky, one of the plant engineers with a penchant for hard liquor and losing what little credit he had on card games. One day he’d simply not showed up for work. A transfer, people said.
“He kept slapping my ass,” Jordy continued. She wrinkled her nose, causing the freckles to align across the bridge. “I didn’t like it. He liked it, but I didn’t, so I told him that and he just slapped my ass harder and said I would learn.” Her eyes narrowed. “I had a plan for how to handle him. I can handle an Ardofsky. But STOA never gave me the chance."
Aja tried to imagine the terror of STOA observers contemplating a Ferract revenge attack.
“Jordy—” he began.
“I think I’ve figured it out, some of the messiness. Please understand, Aja. I didn’t want any of this.”
His nerves prickled. He knew a warning when he heard one. “Any of what?”
He turned to see uniformed STOA guards.
“Come with us, Mr. Paz,” one of them said, reaching to take him by the arm. “You’re in protective custody.”
(to be continued… )
Please stop by the other Wednesday Briefers for other free, fun reads!
MC Houle m/m
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