I went with “When did you become such a….”
A Sun in Its Womb #4
Before being brought to the core deck of the Lifeboat, Aja had never seen the man in front of him. Now he had been looking at him for two hours and had yet to get over his first impression. Don Knackers was a cold-blooded bastard.
Humans shared a primordial past with some species of lizard… and in Knackers that trace still showed.
“We just want your cooperation.”
Though Knackers sounded reasonable, there was something about him—a cold gleam of the eyes—that made Aja want to hit him. For the better part of two hours, Aja had battled the urge to do so and be damned with the consequences. He was no more certain of what this man wanted, or STOA wanted, than he was of what the Ferra were after. Or Jordy. Was this the kind of human messiness to which Jordy had referred?
Aja knew better than to provoke a STOA intelligence officer. “I am cooperating, Mr. Knackers.” He had offered no resistance. He sat compliantly on the couch like a good citizen and reminded himself that his custody was protective.
“I’m not a fool, Aja. I know the difference between appearances and the truth. You haven’t agreed to anything. All we want is a simple psych map.”
Psych maps weren’t simple. He was certain they would take advantage of his consent to install feedback sets into his psyche… neuroware adapted from worker bees and designed to monitor criminals and malcontents. Feedback sets were outlawed for use in regular citizens. But of course they weren’t going to tell him that part.
“I like my brain au natural,” he said, then added, deciding to prick STOA, “so does Jordy.”
“Don’t play games, Aja. You’re really not built for this. You’re not built for the likes of dealing with—”
“And I’m just pointing out that you haven’t asked me for permission to do anything else so far, so why does it matter whether I agree with this now? I may not be one of your brain bank buddies, but I’m figuring things out. Like how you promoted me to provide an excuse for that security profile six months ago that seemed a little too interested in my sex life. Is that when you netted my bedroom? I’m damn sure you outfitted Fritz with sensors during his routine maintenance.”
Knackers glared. His mouth flattened in a saurian grimace before he conceded an answer. “The Fer until now has been highly promiscuous. It’s had one hundred sixty-seven sexual partners over a period of ten years. It sampled every possible human gender identification, going back and forth without apparent preference. We had no reason to believe it would establish an ongoing relationship.”
With me. Anger boiled within Aja’s core like plasma in a closed thermal transport system. The amazing thing was that he didn’t blow. Instead, he contained it—tight—as Knackers continued.
“We need your permission to map your psyche, study it to find out what the Fer is responding to.”
Aja stared. It was as bad as he feared. STOA wanted to dissect his psychology. All the years of recordings and data hadn’t given them enough detail. He wondered if they’d already grown a duplicate of his body and were conducting experiments…
“Fuck no,” he said. As soon as he said it, Aja knew he’d made the right call.
“Mr. Paz, you are a STOA citizen, and we have the right to detain you.”
“But you need my permission to go into my body—or my brain. Why? Just because it’s the law? You break the law all the time—”
Knackers leaned toward him, tongue slowly tracing his lip before he spoke. “Watch what you say. We need your help, Paz. Your people… need your help.”
Aja saw then why this man was being careful with him. Why he wasn’t already strapped down in a lab, or bundled off on a jump ship to one of STOA’s secret holding stations. If they did that… and Jordy became alarmed…
“What did she tell you?”
“That it respects our sovereignty. Paz, think! It’s not a woman! It’s not in love with you!”
But he was in love with… whatever it was. His heart was telling him things, as it had told humans how to feel since the dawn of a species that had long since left behind its native gravity. He had never seen old Earth, and probably never would unless a Ferract ship took him there. They almost certainly knew the location of humanity’s home. STOA almost certainly did not know where the Ferract home lay, or even if they had one.
“You know, Knackers, you should get to know Jordy.” Aja relaxed back into the comfort of the couch. He was glad to have a Ferract ship tethered to this bucket of bolts. “Stop studying the kid and get to know her. Understand her, not map her. She’s gorgeous. And if she decides to be a man, I bet he’s gorgeous, too. We’re all the most god-damned beautiful creatures in this part of space and you haven’t a clue.”
“For Garter’s sake! You were assigned here because you’re trustworthy. Your great-grandparents died in the maw of a Ferract stele! When did you become such a liability in containing the Fer?”
Aja didn’t even flinch. “When I met one.”
Knackers shook his head. His face fashioned an unpleasant smile. “Wrong answer, Paz. You never met one. All you met was a DNA construct of what a Fer wanted you to see while it played around with your dick. It’s pregnant and leaving on that ship. And you, my unlucky little sperm donor, are going on ice while we figure out what the hell it found in your DNA.”
STOA already had his DNA. His geneset was catalogued and recorded and banked, just like every other human’s. Knackers, all of them, wanted something else…
(to be continued…)
Thanks for reading and be sure to stop by the other Wednesday Briefers’ blogs to read more fun stories.
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MA Church m/m
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Julie Lynn Hayes m/m