Woody O. Carsky-Wilson
I will never hurt you.
"You're the enemy." Jalina searched for workers to signal. There was no one. The fields were empty and the only drones she saw were simple crop tenders. No security drones were in sight.
I am an infant abandoned. Take pity.
Oh, it's a baby, and he's alone. Poor thing! she thought, despite herself.
More feelings of joy washed through her body. She fought as long as she could, before sinking back to the grass carpet and sighing. Mental pages turned. A father threw a ball to his daughter. A mother said goodbye before the doctors turned off the life support machine.
Please don't abandon me as your mother abandoned you.
"You're using my memories against me." She bit her lip.
Another wave of distilled pleasure crested through her and she shuddered.
Let me die a horrible death at the hands of the authorities, though I'm innocent of any crime. The emovore withdrew.
Jalina ran to the mansion, her long, lean limbs kicking up puffs of ochre sand. She shot through the main entrance of the colonial structure, flew upstairs to her room and slammed the door. She could not escape the lingering residue of the powerful, seductive emovore.
"I'll tell the security chief tomorrow." But she knew it was a lie.
* * *
Jalina visited the niche every day for a week. Johnny, the automata technician, built a privacy fence at her urging, but complained. "Terraformer grass ought not be penned in, missy. S'posed to let it spread over the planet, else why'd your dad buy it?" Johnny wiped his brow with a handkerchief. After oiling the door hinges with Sand-Away, he moved off.
"Thanks, Johnny." Jalina waited before lowering herself to the grass. She combed her fingers through long, jet-black hair. "I should not be doing this."
The emovore released a flood of warmth. Never too late to betray an innocent.
"Oh, shut up! I'm eighteen years old and can't say no to my hormones." She slapped the grass. "Help me watch for security drones." The frown creasing her forehead was erased with the next flood of pleasure.
Jalina growled low in her throat, red lips parting.
* * *
Her father called from his weekly business meeting on New SanFran, and Jalina walked the premises. "The art team did well, Dad." She panned to the wall murals with her holocam.
"They installed track lighting where chandeliers dripping with precious stones would be more appropriate," he said.
"But the mineral protection ordinances--"
"--were meant to be broken by self-important asses like me. How do you think I grabbed this planet before it was properly cleared? Movers and shakers bribe bureaucrats out of their complacency."
She rolled dark eyes. "But every time I turn the corner, I bump into security drones. Gotta watch for those nasty emovores, huh?"
"I'd kill one with my bare hands if I caught it on my planet, but I'm more worried about suicide squads. The peace negotiations were not friendly."
"At least suicide squads would be exciting," she said. "The desert stinks. It's not where I want to be the year before college, or for the rest of my life."
"Jal, the desert will disappear when the comet harvesters go on-line. The seacoast will move closer, and the college will attract settlers. You'll have friends. The frontier needs babies. It's why I encourage pregnant couples to emigrate."
"But that's a year from now, practically forever. This is driving me crazy!"
"I want you qualified for residency status when you're old enough to hold a political position. I'm grooming you for government," he said.
"I don't want to be groomed."
"Hon, the day you act like an adult is the day you can make your own decisions. At that time, I will get out of the way and let you run your life, and you can quote me on it."
"So what do I do until then?"
"Discover your niche in life. Learn and observe," he said. "Now get some sleep. You look awful."
The connection terminated.
Jalina ran down the garden path to her private patch of grass. She relaxed, imagining herds of galloping horses, but each time she focused on the herd, it broke apart like soap bubbles. One stallion remained, sides heaving and foam-flecked. Just like Jasper, his soft warm eyes told her he understood how she felt. Then he, too, evaporated.
Stupid creature understands nothing more than sugar cubes.
"He's a fine horse! My dad should've bribed the inspectors."
A horse is worthless prey.
"He's not worthless!" She envisioned the soothing woods of Emerald where she jumped fences, racing Jasper under bright green -- not sulfurous yellow! -- skies for hours a day. "Although last night, I asked my web shrink for advice."
"She said it's perfectly natural for a girl to exhibit an obsessive interest in horses, even at an age when I should have an obsessive interest in boys." She coughed.
"Nothing." She crossed her arms.
Jalina uncrossed her arms. "Well, she was wrong, so drop the subject."
She said you fear losing control, and therefore shun young men, but you can't suppress your natural urges much longer.
When you moan, it's the sound of a woman awakening to her own sensuality.
"That's gross! I can't hear you. La, la, la!"
How adult. One would imagine you are eight, not eighteen.
"Go to hell!" Jalina raced to the safety of her bedroom, but sensed the emovore's presence hovering at the boundaries of conscious thought.
A series of animals flitted by as though someone leafed through the book of her brain. Jack rabbits from Mauny Downs, kangaroos from her visit to Australia Preserve, whales from the family trip to New San Fran. Bats, squirrels, monkeys, gorillas. A pause at gorillas, then it focused on predators like the anaconda and jaguar from Ecuador, huge menacing crocodiles from India, and a fierce Bengal tiger. The picture froze on the big cat carrying a limp antelope in its powerful jaws.
Jalina frowned. Nowhere had there been any horses!
* * *
The next day, a sky-yellow cruiser escorted by Falcon militia fighter jets landed in the front yard. The cruiser dropped its passenger ramp. The Falcons dipped their wings and screamed away at supersonic speeds.
"Hi, Dad. Where's the sport fighter?" asked Jalina.
"Down for repairs." He hugged her. "Call me Governor Dad. It's official. We're a sovereign planet!"
He blew through the manor like a tornado. "Chief of Grounds, follow me! See those bushes? Surely we can support trees by now! Buy a growth accelerator and..."
Jalina stood with him in the courtyard an hour later. He finished his list of orders. "Don't forget the planetary logo on my office door! I want to impress on my visitors that I'm no frontier yokel."
"That's right." Jalina assumed the same oratory pose. "He's an Inner Worlds yokel and don't you forget it."
The governor frowned. "No, Jalina, I'm a war profiteer using ill-gotten gains to benefit future generations. Callous as I am, I do recognize that fact. I've had time to think about it."
Jalina hugged him. "Only teasing, Dad. Let's eat."
* * *
After breakfast, she buckled into the oversized co-pilot seat in the cruiser.
"First stop is the exotic zoo on New London's L4 station," said her father. "The explorers found a new species of methane breathers. Then we'll hit the cultural exposure center and a trade station near the Inner Loop. Regional planetary trade is our future. No more fighting with our neighbors. We'll make them trustworthy trade partners."
Jalina raised an eyebrow. "Next we'll have an emovore nursery in the capital."
He looked sidewise at her. "Hm, interesting idea. Not!" He laughed.
Midnight found them home again where they played cards with the mansion staff and Dad told ribald jokes that made Jalina blush.
After a week of frantic togetherness, he departed for another round of business negotiations. No sooner did the cruiser disappear than Jalina's long legs carried her to the patch of grass. Surrendering herself, she sought contact.
You left me. It hurt.
"My dad was visiting."
I was lonely.
"I'm sorry, but please be quiet and do what you do."
"You know," she whispered.
My memory faded with your absence.
Maybe just a little jolt...
She lay back, wrapping her hair in a quick braid that snaked over her left shoulder. Her hand trailed along her inner thigh. Her face glowed red as she glanced about for surveillance drones.
I like that sound you make in the back of your throat.
I wish I could touch you.
"Quiet, emovore. Ohh!" She opened her mouth and her eyes went wide.
I focused the pleasure. Did you like that?
Jalina breathed heavily. "Uh-huh."
Shall I continue?
"Yes." Jalina moved aside the thin fabric of her shorts, licking her lips. "And I wish you could touch me, too. I do, sweetie."
Maybe one day I will.
* * *
The next day, she returned with a book viewer.
"...and the evil princess stood asynchronous while her body changed its rhythm." She sighed, closing the viewer lid. "The wisdom unfurls like a newly hatched butterfly."
I eat butterflies.
"Don't be a jerk." She sat up. "Emovore, what do you look like?"
I am disembodied consciousness. I don't look like anything.
"No, but your people aren't always bodiless. Just when they're young, right?"
True, though we store the pattern of our original species. It's our basic psychological identity no matter which body we wear for life. Our parents select new bodies for us depending on the planet we inhabit.
"Can I see your primal pattern?
Pretend you're a village girl.
Jalina imagined she approached a dark thicket with a basket of fruit perched on her head. Her hips swayed. The leaves rustled.
Beware, Jalina, creatures like me devour horses!
A heavy body launched itself forward on powerful, armored limbs. The village girl dropped her basket, turned and ran fast. Something rose in her mind, a dark, many-spiked creature last seen on a forgotten world somewhere towards the center of the galaxy. The vision faded, but her fear did not. She opened her eyes, jumped to her feet and ran for real.
Wait, I was only trying to impress you!
The heavy plastic gate swung freely on its hinges in the breeze.
I don't think I'm getting this human courtship thing right at all. Wish I could just bite her on the neck and mount her like most decent predators.
* * *
She returned three days later to find her inanimate lover sluggish and irritable.
I would not have harmed you.
"You scared me. I'm used to horses, not monsters."
I would never hunt you. I need you.
"Like a parasite needs it host."
Exactly! I eat strong emotions and excrete joy. It's why you visit me.
"I visit you because I'm bored or maybe addicted."
It's more than that. Jalina, I love you.
She blushed maroon. Her breath came faster. "You shouldn't say that."
But I do love you. Lie back and I'll run a travelogue of my people's genetic history. You should know something of your lover's inner nature.
He spoke subconsciously in ancient lullabies of violent beauty. Sinking deep into his voice, Jalina let the creatures of darkness approach. None of the animals were Earth-descended. They were beings she'd either seen in exotic zoos or not at all. They lived in glades, on savannas, in oceans, under ice patches, atop glaciers, in forests, dens, lakes and meadows on a thousand worlds, moons and planetoids.
One fact united them. Each was a ruthless, unparalleled predator. What have I gotten myself into? she wondered, before a spike of pleasure made her growl and forget the question.
* * *
Weeks later, the emovore spoke louder.
Bring me a strong, healthy young man.
Propping herself up on her elbows, she pursed her lips. "Why?"
I wish to view a male of your species.
She frowned. "I've heard stories of what emovores do."
A pause. Ignore those stories. His body will live.
"Yes, but his soul, what will happen to that?"
"Well? Talk to me."
Still no answer, but she sensed him sulking. She lay back, but the dreams remained elusive. She gave up and walked back to the mansion, feeling frustrated the rest of the day. She thought about his request, and about right and wrong.
And about pleasure and addiction.
* * *
Days later, her bike -- a sorry substitute for riding a horse! -- flew across the newly installed path to the pre-fab worker town, still unoccupied. She bonded the tan Desert Master II to a wall and visited the Earth zoo, an institution normally ignored in favor of exotic zoos, but her father hoped it would attract non-human visitors, too. Some exhibits were already active.
She leaned against the rough wall. A huge disinterested white Bengal tiger sat by itself in silence, licking its paws.
I'm harboring a dangerous enemy, she thought. Although the wars are over. Maybe the old laws don't apply. And he's not truly dangerous! Not to me at least.
Her throat tightened. The white Bengal raised itself and began huff-huffing.
My emovore is a ruthless, cruel, efficient predator.
But so is a housecat! He makes me feel like I've never felt before. It's not just the sexual feelings. He makes me feel complete. It's like I've always been half a person, and I finally found the other half. I think I...I...
The tiger roared, the echo of his basso profundo proclamation reverberating off the walls of the enclosure.
"I love him." Her eyes brightened. "I love him, I love him, I do love him!"
"Hey, hairball!" A young man's voice, loud, deep, angry.
Jalina turned as a man in uniform leaned across the protective overhang, slapping rough hands on its concrete surface.
"Come on, hairball! Puke up some fur!"
A silent appraisal told her he was about nineteen, handsome under a layer of ochre dirt. The soldier taunted the beast as it sat in silence. How would his hard lean body feel snuggled up close? The stirrings in her body excited her.
But I've got a boyfriend, she told herself. Albeit an alien one.
Then he noticed her noticing him. "What the hell are you lookin' at?"
"You." She met his stare boldly.
His eyes narrowed as he appraised her. "I'll be damned! My last day of leave on this craphole planet and a sweet piece of frontier trash throws itself my way."
"You're an angry young man who says what he doesn't mean." She idly twisted her blouse up into her left hand, revealing a smooth-skinned taut belly. "Making fun of poor animals is so boring. I know better ways to pass the time."
She turned and stretched to peer at the tiger. Her shorts rode up her long, desert-tanned legs to reveal more than her father would have deemed appropriate.
The young man ambled to her side.
She glanced sidelong, her dark eyes hooded. "You're unhappy, soldier. Why?"
"You really care?"
She traced the hairs on his forearm with a slender finger. "Yeah."
He released a pent-up breath. "Okay. My father's an asshole, so I enlisted three months ago to spite him, but I hate the army. The regulations, the ramrod-up-your-ass regimen, all of it."
"Why didn't he want you to enlist?"
"He's an officer. He expected me to get a commission."
"Would he like it if you kissed a 'little piece of frontier trash' like me?"
He reddened. "I shouldn't have said that."
"But would he approve?"
He shook his head.
She leaned forward and kissed him on the lips. He returned her kiss, and their tongues met. He cradled her neck with one arm and encircled her waist with the other. Sparks of pleasure leapt from his hands. She growled.
He pulled away, and his eyes were languid. He combed long fingers through her silky black hair. His voice became softer. "Must be my lucky day."
"It's somebody's lucky day." She brushed a strand of hair from her face and kissed him again.
Anxiety creased his brow. "I have to make final formation tonight, or the MPs will come looking for me."
She took his hand in hers, extended his thumb, kissed the tip and sucked it into her mouth. She looked at him from dark, half-hidden eyes.
He coughed. "Of course, the ship doesn't leave until early next morning. I'll probably get off with a reprimand." He loosened his collar and looked around the zoo path. "You have a boyfriend?"
She turned away. "I do, but he's such a parasite."
He nodded and took her hand. Her head lay softly on his shoulder as they walked on. She used her father's credit code to buy him the newest Desert Master III at a Bikes Galore automated dispenser. Whooping with joy, he skidded, jumped and popped wheelies to impress her. Jalina watched his antics with a secret smile partly clouded by anxiety.
He's beautiful, she thought. I shouldn't cheat on my emovore, but I've had feelings building up inside of me, and masturbating doesn't satisfy them anymore!
They arrived at the mansion. He looked apprehensive.
"My dad's the head gardener. We're looking after the mansion while the owners are away," she lied.
She stopped in the foyer, looking at the staircase leading to her room, then the side door leading to the path. She hesitated.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
She stared at the wall, not meeting his eyes. "I don't think you know what you're getting into."
He chuckled. "I can handle it."
She took a deep breath, eyes darting from staircase to side door. She closed her eyes, pursed her lips, and pulled him toward the side door. They kissed at the gate of the grass plot. Surveillance drones be damned, she thought. She felt him stiffen through his jeans when he pressed against her leg. It made her want to scream with anticipation.
"Did you know the French call orgasm la petit mort?" Something caught in her voice. She thought of all those predators on distant planets that the emovore had shown her. She wondered how they felt when they snared prey. Did they love what they killed? Did they desire their victims?
"Yeah? What's that mean?"
"The little death."
"Hmmm. More likely a little life if we don't take precautions."
Tugging his uniform shirt over his head revealed a smooth, muscular chest with a strong but attractive male odor.
What fine gift have you brought me, Jalina?
"I didn't say anything," said the young soldier.
Grinding herself against the boy's body helped drown out the sound of the emovore in her mind. She moaned and gave herself up to the pleasure of the soldier's caresses. He felt under her shirt, touched her small breasts, made her gasp.
I'll consume his anger in preparation. It will make your mating experience more pleasurable. His, too, I imagine.
Rocking harder, she kissed him, probing his mouth with her tongue. Her hands snaked between their sweaty bodies to lower her shorts and underwear. Her breath came short and quick. Her body and brain were on fire.
They both forgot precautions and joined awkwardly with a sharp stab of pain. She winced and let him thrust and slide inside of her.
This isn't right! I should stop! I'm not a predator.
You can't stop, Jalina.
With the emovore's voice came an avalanche of joy. Jalina cried aloud.
The boy's brows unknotted and a satisfied smile crept to his lips.
"Oh...my...god..." He arched and grunted, encircling her small waist with both his arms. "I'm gonna...I'm gonna...!"
A laugh bubbled up from his lips and his eyes opened wide.
"If you're going to do it, do it now!" cried Jalina.
"I am." He shuddered, began to relax, but shuddered and arched again.
Horrified, she saw the life drain from his face, leaving a peaceful blankness like that of a mannequin. She pulled away and doubled up on the grass. Jalina haltingly gathered her clothes, curled into a fetal ball and sobbed.
Half an hour later, a hand touched her shoulder. The handsome boy kissed her forehead. He beamed with confidence and radiated an animal charisma. "I like this body, Jalina!" he smiled. "I like yours, too. You're beautiful. Your eyes are as large and dark as deep space."
"What happens now?" She looked up in confusion and sorrow. "You've turned me into a cold-blooded killer."
He shook his head. "Eating a steak doesn't make you a cowboy." He stroked her shoulder. "We needed a body. We took it from someone who was unhappy. Be grateful. Now we have each other, forever."
"What do you mean?"
"My people mate for life. Once joined, there is no turning back."
"Why didn't you tell me this before?" Her voice held growing alarm. "I'm only eighteen! I'm supposed to have lots of boyfriends and heartaches before I find a husband. My shrink'll go crazy when she hears this! Not that I can tell her. God, I'm accomplice to murder. What was I thinking?"
"I have to attend college, start my political career."
"Shut up, you damned vampire! That's what you are. You suck at my emotions and pull me into situations I don't want to be in and...and..." She stared at him. "And you make me feel so good it hurts, inside and out." She pushed him down to the green patch of grass, frantically kissing and hugging him.
She strained and kicked with her long bare legs. Her hands pulled at his jeans and scratched his chest through the brown t-shirt.
"Jalina, we need to talk about the future. I--"
She pressed her tongue into his mouth, moaning. Her face flushed red and sweat stood out on her body while she guided him inside her. She kissed his mouth as his hands stroked her breasts. She pulled him into her again and again.
"Ah, hell, may as well enjoy it." He timed the release of joy into her mind so their simultaneous orgasms were closely spaced and mutually intense.
Jalina lost herself in the beautiful pulsating colors. A few minutes later, she said, "I don't know your name. Can't keep calling you emovore."
He shrugged. "The soldier's name was Sean."
"Sean, is a nice name. Keep doing what you were doing, Sean."
After her third soul-vibrating orgasm, Jalina propped herself up on her elbows wearily. "Sean, Sean, Sean, I love you, Sean."
He shook his head. "Of course you do. The mating urge is strong in you people!"
* * *
It was two a.m. when the military police, a sergeant and two specialists, knocked at the door. The sergeant was tall, black, and muscular with no sense of humor. The two tanned specialists waited impassively, batons in hand. "We're looking for a soldier who may have deserted, ma'am."
Jalina frowned. "A deserter? Please enter. I'll send for the head of security."
He raised a palmtop sensor. "No need. We're tracking him now."
"Is he dangerous?"
"No, ma'am. He's an admiral's son who--"
"An admiral's son? What a coincidence! So is our aide. Sean, come here, please."
Sean walked into the room, smiling. "Evening, sergeant."
The sergeant tensed and let his hand stray to his sidearm. "Private, you're under arrest for desertion! Come with me." The specialists stepped forward.
Sean looked puzzled, and Jalina frowned. "Sergeant, this is my father's military aide, temporarily on loan from the armed forces. There's been a mistake."
The sergeant hesitated. "Military aide? No one in our unit was notified."
"Yes, they were. Hold on. I'll get the paperwork. It's in my father's study."
A few minutes later, the sergeant perused the documents with their official letterheads and authenticated signatures. The document tracking sheets showed electronic signatures to and from the high command on Earth.
Jalina tapped the topmost sheet. "He received orders, and it's all official."
"But, ma'am, why would the governor need an enlisted aide?"
Jalina turned to Sean. "Could you give us a moment, please?"
He nodded and left.
Jalina whispered. "His father wanted to keep him out of trouble, cool his jets a little. He hoped to get him into the academy."
The sergeant frowned. "Quite frankly, he wasn't a very good soldier, according to his commander. This gets him out of our hair." He rose and motioned the specialists out of the door. "I'll take these papers and log them in."
"Certainly. Sorry there was a mix-up." Jalina closed the door, leaning against the wall and listening to heavy bootsteps on the flagstones as the soldiers departed.
* * *
Sean served six months as military aide, establishing the planet's ground and anti-air defenses. Jalina wrote letters in her father's name recommending him for the academy. He was quickly accepted, and passed the preliminary tactical exams with the highest scores ever recorded.
"This boy is a natural killer," observed the examiner.
Every night Jalina retired to her bedroom, and every morning she woke in Sean's bed, before dressing and sneaking out. Her father was too busy governing the developing planet to notice the hollows under her eyes from lack of sleep.
One night, she knocked on the door of her father's study and entered.
"Your military aide left for the academy." She bit her lower lip.
He squinted from behind his desk. "Fine young man. He'll go far. Incredibly well-schooled for a private. I still don't remember requesting him as military advisor, though."
"Dad, you're so absentminded! You signed the papers before faxing them yourself." And your daughter is quite a forger, she silently added.
"Mmm. Can you let me finish here? I'm approving plans for an emovore nursery in the capital city." He shook his head. "Never thought I'd do that, but child care is a good way to attract alien investment. Was there something important?"
"No, well, yes." She hesitated. "You're the governor, so you can marry people, right?"
"I need you to marry Sean and me. Oh, and Dad," she said to the man who stared gaping. "Can you backdate the marriage by about three months? You're going to, ah, have a grandchild."
"What?" His mouth hung open. "My little girl got knocked up?!" He stood. "When I get my hands around the neck of that--"
"Sit!" She balled her fists and spoke through clenched teeth. "The frontier needs future settlers, and I love Sean very much and we're mated for life, so don't try to talk me out of it or you're a hypocrite, because you're the governor, and you tell everybody else to have babies, so why should I be any different? If you hadn't noticed with all the late hours you've been keeping and business trips and ceremonies, your little girl is a woman."
"Well, I...I mean..."
She stabbed a finger at his chest. "You said you were grooming me for a position in government one day. Well, that day has come."
"But the timing is bad."
"It'll always be a bad time! You said the day I act like an adult, I'll be ready to follow in your footsteps. Now get out of the way and let me run my life. I am my father's daughter and I won't take no."
He exhaled. "This is all very sudden."
She nodded. "It's the frontier. Change comes fast and we have to respond."
He scratched. "Sounds like something I'd say." He rifled through a stack of papers on the desk. "What position would you want? There's a lot open."
"I want to conduct trade relations with our former enemies. I think it's my niche. I qualify for residency status, so I can hold the job."
He shook his head. "But hon, I have a colonel asking for that job. He studied their culture for two years during the war and has top-notch connections. He even knows two of his enemy counterparts. Can you beat that?"
She took a deep breath and swallowed. "Oh, yes, that I can. One of our former enemies is growing inside of me."
His face grew ashen. "What? You mean an emovore got to my little girl?"
She raised her hands to calm him. "Yes. And if this was war, I know you'd want this baby torn bleeding from my body. But, Dad, if someone so much as mentions harming this child, I will not be responsible for my actions. I love the father, and I love my baby."
She watched his face as he took in the news. He went through all the stages of shock, denial, and anger. Then the old dad she knew kicked in, and she could almost hear the political calculations going on between his ears. What a trade advantage! No other governor could claim an emovore in the family. He relaxed into his chair, rubbing his chin and thinking. He didn't say a word, just looked up at her with serious eyes and nodded. He suddenly looked older and more sober than she'd ever seen before. "No one, but no one, will harm my grandson, Jalina. You have my word on that."
"I'll report to my job at eight in the morning. Goodnight, Dad."
She kissed her father, and looked out the window. Already, the sky was turning blue, an effect of the new ocean on weather patterns, according to the meteorologists. The old yellow was a fading memory.
"Jalina, wait." He stood and drew near, fingertips touching her stomach with a gentleness that surprised her. "My grandson, will he be like a human baby at all? Diapers and spitting up and learning to walk. Can I take him to football games and teach him to hunt?"
She grinned, and thought of the creatures the emovore had revealed to her. "Don't worry, Dad. He will be as human as any other baby. And as for the hunting... I think he'd like that."
© 2002, Woody O. Carsky-Wilson