Catch a fistful of sky

Old Friends, New Places, pt 5 | July 30, 2010

Clay was dreaming, but for FOSsils, most of their dreaming was the lucid variety . He was a comet, hurtling through space, with six others. Kipling, Jake, Cape, Fareedon, Keza, and Drake, all going in the same direction but so far from one another that the others seemed like white lights with tails, letting him know that he was not alone. He looked for Keza, who was farther than anyone. He wondered if this was purposeful. He was the man without a raptor, and she was the raptor without a man. There had been some talk, after Scylla, about putting them together as a team from those who had no idea of what a Bond entailed. Fletcher had been there to stop that.

He realized he was awake, thinking of how he appreciated the man now, and how he had hated him as a child. Fletcher had never apologized for anything that had been done to them, and Clay didn’t expect him to. Fletcher understood, at least, what it meant to be a FOSsil, and that was something few if any other humans could say.

He sat up, looking out the floor to ceiling window into the depths of the ocean, nothing moving in the darkness there. Jia, laying behind him, turned and stroked a long scar from an allaraptor talon that ran from his shoulder down to his hip. Another gift from Jerusalem II.

“You’ve been sleeping for sixteen hours. Was it all me? Or was the mission that exhausting?” she said, teasing a little and coming up behind him to wrap her arms around his chest, breasts pressing into his back. He didn’t respond for a minute, and then slowly reached up and grabbed her hands, giving them a squeeze.

“The mission mostly. I didn’t think you’d be here, to be honest,” he said, and kissed the webbing in between her fingers. Her skin flushed violet in response to his affection.

“I understand you, even if your own kind do not for the most part. Chris, she does. Allie? She will, in time. At least she has stopped fearing you, unlike the two new ones. If I was the jealous type, I would worry about you alone on a ship with all those women.”

“You are the jealous type, Jia.”

“Only by your standards. I am average for Illurian.” She nipped at his skin and drew him back down into bed with her. “How was it?” she asked, pressing her forehead against his, her eyes glowing softly in the dimness of the room. Her voice was suddenly serious, all the flirtation gone.

“Unusual. I know you read the reports,” Clay said.

Jia nodded. “Of course. They came across my desk when Chris filed them. A bureaucratic error, most likely.”

Clay snorted. “The League doesn’t make bureaucratic errors.”

Jia’s eyes danced for a moment. “Oh?” she asked, and then shook her head, her neural strands loose and coming to rest on his neck and shoulder. “I am an operative of the Illurian Dominion, and entitled to know what is going on with our enemies as well,” she said boldly, and then dropped her voice. “But of course I am going to worry about you. Someone must. But yes, I read, and it was a concern.”

“What was?” Clay asked.

“Everything. The Naith ship, the sphere, and the strike team. The Rulon alone would have been cause to worry. They haven’t been seen out of their sector since the Federation lost the war.”

Clay nodded. “At least, as far as we know. We’ve had small scale raiding, but I haven’t seen Defenders since Scylla, and I have never seen Leitani on the ground. Do you think they’re gearing up for something?”

“I would hope not, for both of our sakes. They’re not strong enough to win a war. Scylla was a disaster for them. Young may have let some of them get away, but it was enough to have an effective monster to help unite your Empire. Our Empire. It was a masterstroke, but you Terrans can’t look at things rationally,” she chided gently. “Without that monster, we might not have held together.”

“We’re so emotional, but your people turned over the reigns of command to us?” Clay asked.

“Every master must move aside to let the apprentice take center stage,” Jia said.

Clay gave a lopsided smile, unable to retort and appreciating the keenness of her mind. Jia reached over to stroke his face, letting her hand slowly trail over the bristles he had grown out. “Go on. I made you something to eat while you lazed the day away.”

Rolling off of the low mattress, Clay paced over to the kitchen, his feet silent on the cool stone floor. A plate of eggs benedict sat in the refresher unit, and he unwrapped it and slid it into the flasher.  Before enjoying what was a favorite meal of his, he activated a terminal port to check his email, and saw he had a message from Chris.

His mood soured slightly, and then he sighed and shook his head. He was already feeling Disaffection, and he had barely been off the ship for a day. He leaned against the steel counter top, put his wrists to his eyes, and counted to ten.

“So soon?” asked Jia, standing in the doorway.  She had put on one of his shirts, which pleased her for some reason. Illurian males went bare chested when they weren’t at war, so the fact he owned shirts was amusing to her on some level he couldn’t fathom.

Clay nodded. “Its already happening. Damn it.” He resisted to urge to punch something, resisted the urge to feel anything, afraid that it might start something  he couldn’t control.  Control was a watchword with a FOSsil.

Jia stepped over to him, walking on the balls of her feet and pulling him against her. He moved to push her away, but she made a shushing sound in her throat and refused to let go, to the point where he would have to hurt her to move her.  His hands came up slowly, and then around her, keeping her close. “We had a whole month last time,” said Jia finally, “And even after that it was so slow in coming on we had weeks before you had to leave.”

Clay was silent, only wrapping his arms around her in response. He would have to ask Fletcher if he had known about Disaffection when they went through with Fossilization.

For some reason, brain chemicals flared randomly when a FOSsil’s body considered itself “at leisure”, and slowly but surely paranoia, disgust, and rage built towards humans until the FOSsil went back on mission and into “stressed” again. Not only that, they generated an empathic wave that they couldn’t control, creating a negative feedback loop as humans hated and feared the FOSsil in question. The Fossilization Program had tried many different ways to get around Disaffection, but was unable to come up with any effective way to stop to cycle.

Among the four types of FOSsils, it seemed to affect Reavers the most, of which Clay was the last. Kaisers were the least affected, which may have had something to do with how they engendered love and admiration in those around them. Consulars and Nemesis were somewhere in between. They had noticed that disaffection only affected humans, and so the next best solution was to put the FOSsils on mixed race stations and hope for the best while telling the FOSsils to enjoy the time they had between missions.

Clay rested his cheek against Jia’s. “The joy of being a Reaver.  Its going to be like this until I die, isn’t it?”

“And what if it is?” asked Jia, “At this point, you might as well be a different species, with your lifespan and your abilities. Its your burden and your gift. You have talents that the Empire can use, and so they will use them.”

Her blunt talk jollied him out of his mood. “And I have you as a sympathetic shoulder.”

“You would much rather have an honest shoulder,” she told him, and then gave him a quick kiss before stepping away. “Eat up. You have to go see Chris in a little bit to discuss what happens next,  and then you have to come back here.”

“Why back here?” asked Clay, pulling his food out of the flasher.

“Because I don’t plan on going anywhere, and you don’t need to be in public if you’re already feeling sour towards your people. So I will stay here and make up the place and we will have a nice night in and maybe go out for a swim later.”

Clay felt the leaden sensation that had fallen over him lighten a bit, and he nodded. He was about to say something, three words that were always too much and stuck in his throat, but she put a finger over his lips. “I can sense emotions too, you know,” Jia said, turning and humming a lullaby while she went into the back room with a book.

~

Clay had left a few minutes ago, and Jia opened up a terminal link on a wrist pad to check her email. She didn’t want him finding out about this until she told him. Scrolling through her mail, she found the one she wanted and opened it, holding her breath.  Her first response was disbelief, and she gave a little whistle of joy when she read what it said. It had been three long years, with Clay pushing her away when he thought her body would start synchronizing to him. She loved the human with all of her heart though, and lied to him about other men so he would take her back. Her sacrifice had paid off, and the test results showed that she had finally adapted for a human.  Her human. Her FOSsil.

Laying back, she closed the terminal and laid a hand over her waistline, wondering if he had already taken root inside of her. If not now, she hoped, then soon.

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Paratrooper. Correctional Officer. Federal Agent. Hello world, these are my thoughts and this is my story.

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