Authors: T. Jackson King
“Yes,” Eliana said absently. With a mischievous grin she stood up, stretched seductively, then bent over as she checked his plastifoam-encased feet. She glanced at his other wounds, then looked up, meeting his eyes. “You like stretching this out, don’t you Matt?” Her words were warm and soft as she stood there, hands on her hips, a woman in charge . . . of something.
“Uh, umm.” Matt ordered his rebellious body to ignore her rose scent, to ignore the bare breasts that now lolled free of the flimsy robe, and to refuse arousal. His body—always so obedient before—disobeyed. Eliana noticed. She drew in a quick breath. He tried distraction. “Don’t you want to hear the rest of my Plan?”
“If you wish.” Eliana caressed his legs, watching him as she did, her look a bare, honest statement of her growing passion. Slowly, she moved up his legs.
“Ahhh, does the word ‘firefly’ mean anything to you?”
That did it—she frowned, her mind now intent on his word puzzle. Her hands held still. “Firefly? I don’t recognize the reference.”
“An Earth flying insect lifeform.”
“Sooo?” Eliana smiled temptingly at him, as if she were ready to explore their feelings for each other. Preferably adding hand gestures to her rapid breathing and eager look. Matt accelerated his diversion effort.
“So, these flying insects are bioluminescent. Their bodies contain the enzyme
, the substrate
, and the activating compound
. When combined, they emit a ‘cold light’ of yellowish-green color.”
“And?” Eliana grinned mockingly. Then she moved a slim-fingered hand along his leg, moving from kneecap to just below his groin.
“Eliana!” He gulped. “Well, my tube-sack carried bioluminescent bacteria whose cellular DNA had been bioengineered to emit light only at specific angstrom levels.” Eliana reached between his legs, now caressing his arousal. Matt shuddered. “Those levels—” his voice trembled “—are . . . the . . . exact angstrom-levels-which-photoactivate-the-retrovirus-chains-carried-by-the-heat-resistant-bacteria. Eliana!”
“Yes, Matt?” She stopped her seduction efforts, a big grin on her white face.
“Let me finish!”
“Better hurry.” She smiled, but did not remove her hands.
Matt hurried, running his words together. “In three days the activated retroviruses will have spread millions of copies throughout the Stripper, causing it to rot from within! Anything made of plastic, glass, silicon, germanium—anything—will be like a moth-eaten blanket.” She nodded serenely and resumed stroking his groin. “It will appear as a ‘normal’ breakdown—not something caused by external attack. Everything will shut down! “ He quivered to her touch and felt an urgent desire to take her into his arms—but couldn’t, thanks to the Healpaks. “Then . . . then we can salvage the ecotoxin reservoirs and hold off any repair effort. Satisfied?”
“Not yet.” Eliana stood back, slipped off her robe, climbed back onto the bed, and stretched out atop him, her naked skin flaming hot against his own. She hummed low, then rubbed his chest with her breasts. Hard nipples dug into him. He felt every part of her dig into him—her belly, her pubic mound, her legs. He groaned.
“Eliana! Don’t—I’m not healed yet.”
“The part I care about is in fine shape!” she said, laughing playfully, then lowered her face to his.
“You feel good. Very good.” Matt kissed her pale white lips.
Eliana kissed him back, then whispered softly. “
, my dear Vigilante.” She rubbed her mound against his hardness.
“Eliana!” He pushed back against her. Then he threw one Healpak-laden arm around her and pulled her close as they kissed deeply.
Passion swept over them. They gave themselves over to each other, to their passion, and to their mutual need.
Later that night, Matt awoke. The Healpaks had shed themselves, like a snake sheds old skin.
Eliana was up and moving about his stateroom, nakedly beautiful as she bent to inspect the half-finished Hopi-style weaving on his loom. Shuttles still dangled from one side. Her fingers traced the borderless geometric figures, designs that spoke of lightning, raincloud and mountain, all overarched by the figure of Corn Maiden.
In the stillness after their lovemaking, she’d handled his news about Eliana-the-bioweapon reasonably well. She’d shown brief sorrow, looked regretful, then taken him into herself once more, riding him with a furious urgency. As if by her own efforts she could make things turn out the way they should. Hope she had in full measure, but enough for him? Avoiding the thought, Matt admired her naked form as she was backlighted by the yellow glow of his aquarium.
“Do you like the design?”
She jumped, then turned, a shy smile on her face. “Yes.” She pointed. “Is the wall tapestry over there your work too?”
Rising up and leaning on one elbow, Matt nodded. “Yes. It’s an Apache motif taken from their bead-working designs. Next to it is one based on the Micronesian myth of The Porpoise Girl. Do you know her story?”
Eliana shook her head, clasped hands behind her back, and met his eyes. Her look was different, not erotic, more like . . . hopeful. “No, my schooling has been more classical. I speak Katharevusa Greek, compose monodic lyric poetry after the style of Sappho and Alcaeus, play the
lyre, and I’ve published commentaries on Aeschylus’ Oresteian trilogy. But I’m not that familiar with Pacific Ocean cultures.”
“What about the sciences?”
She laughed, walked over, and sat at the end of the bed, by his feet, one hand resting on his ankle. “I’m Greek—remember? Aristarchus, Aristotle and Galen gave the world the basics of science. I follow in their footsteps with my own work.” Her eyes gleamed mischievously. “You know, Matt, reproductive studies have always been a Greek interest. We could practice some more?” She tickled his feet.
He stifled a laugh. “Soon. But first, tell me about Grandfather Petros and your
. Are the women of Olympus allowed any independent purpose in life?”
Her forehead creased as old memories intruded into their new world, their hopeful world. “Oh, Matt, the clan
has always been the basis of Greek cultural life. Not the state.” The frown deepened. “
Themistocles is several hundred people—aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, every variation of step-cousin—and we’ve been successful here.” She looked away briefly. “It’s . . . it’s not that we’re enslaved or anything. It’s just that women grow up knowing our family duty. In Olympus colony, everything is focused on reproduction, on making it possible for the colony to survive, and women who can birth viable babies—even crossbreed babies using the artificial placentas—are highly valued.”
“As they should be.” Matt enjoyed the warmth of her hand on his ankle, the casual closeness she’d chosen for them. “But you have value beyond just being a baby factory. You know that.”
Eliana looked up at his hanging mobiles, aside to his weaponry wall of daggers, knives and swords, then back to him. “You confuse things for me. Before the Stripper, before you, I headed a research group on the outskirts of Olympus
, following in the biogenetic research lines of my mother, searching for designer proteins, new enzyme reactions and mapping the esoteric branches of the Derindl genome so we can . . . so we can have a better Union with them. So that maybe, just maybe we women of both species can naturally give birth to crossbreed babies—by overcoming the body’s rejection of the Derindl blood variant. That is something I hope for too.” She hung her head, her mood now wistful. “But now that I’ve found you, I want to stay with you, and . . . .”
Sitting up, Matt reached over to cup her chin and lifted it up. Her eyes were filled with giant welling teardrops that threatened to become an ocean. “Eliana! You deserve happiness on your own terms. You know that, don’t you?”
She pulled back, wiping her eyes. “It’s not that simple. I owe a duty to the
, to Ioannis, to Grandfather Petros, to Autarch Dreedle—so many people are counting on me!”
“And who are you counting on?”
She looked suddenly uncertain. “Those whom I once relied upon are all untrustworthy. As I saw in the holosphere after the bomb blast. But I am only one person.”
“So was I, in the beginning.”
She looked curious. “When did it begin?”
“Seven years ago. Long ago.” Sudden depression overtook him like a bath of cold water.
Eliana saw it and moved to lie beside him on the bed, reaching out to turn his face to hers. “Matthew . . . what’s wrong?”
He breathed into her neck, unable to meet her eyes. “You speak of duty. Once, years ago, I had a duty. To my wife and first love. Helen Sayinga Trinh. She died during an attack by resource-pirates . . . on our way outbound in a Sixth Wave freighter.” Matt licked his lips, the image of flame, blood and flesh still haunted his memories. “I escaped in a lifepod, going into stasis to conserve supplies. Months later, after drifting in a nearby nebula,
found me, brought me out of stasis, changed me and trained me to be its cyborg Interface. I’ve been good at that, you know?”
“I know,” she whispered into his ear. “Sometimes being good at something is the only thing that gives meaning to a life of restrictions, of limited choices, of wished-for but lost opportunities.” She sighed. “A pioneer colony has its limitations too, Matt.”
“If the colony survives.” He turned on his side to face her, reaching out to embrace her, to pull her love spirit closer to him. He sought her lips. The kiss was meant to be arousing.
Eliana pulled back, shaking a finger at him. “Matt, you don’t escape me that easily. Every woman has a right to know the life history of the man with whom she shares her bed. Even if he is different, like you. Or . . . like me.”
She’d done it! Eliana had finally acknowledged how much they had in common. She had accepted his cyborg-nature as the other side of her own crossbreed heritage. Why then, did his stomach clench? “How much do you want to know?”
She mused beside him, eyes alight, dancing with her enjoyment of her time with him. “Ummm. Everything would be a bit much. How about that bookcube over there? Do you read much?”
“Yes, I do read. That’s how I educated myself before I met up with Mata Hari
” Determined to pay her back for earlier teasing, he moved his knee to her groin and rubbed softly, slowly, until she gasped.
He smiled. “Well, it’s just an old collection of stories by Samuel Clemens, Rudyard Kipling, Jack London, Moliere and Apache elders. It’s not a true library of knowledge. But I like studying ancient stories and myths.”
Eliana smiled, then moved atop him to ride his knee, her expression erotic-fierce. “Tell . . . me . . . a story. Please?”
Matt reached up and pulled her hips down against his leg. “Well, I’m part Samoan by heritage, so how about the Micronesian story of The Porpoise Woman?”
“Tell me about her,” she gasped, head thrown back, her eyes closed as she concentrated on her own pleasure.
He began. “Once, long ago in the middle of Earth’s largest ocean, a girl came from the sea to watch men dance. One man—her future husband—stole her tail so she couldn’t return to the sea. He hid it in the rafters of his hut. All through the night, the next day, the next night, and the following day the Porpoise Girl hunted for her tail—because she desired to return to her father deep in the ocean depths.” Above him, Eliana rocked against his leg and moaned her rising pleasure, tossing her head from side to side, her eyes shining nova-bright as they set fire to his heart.
Matt continued, trembling with his own arousal. “Finally, she found it. Going back to the beach at sunset, she warned the village children playing by its shore to never eat porpoise meat again, then vanished into the white-curling combers that touch every island shore. Leaving behind her heartbroken husband.” Eliana cried out with her repletion, her groin jerking against his leg. Then she stared down at him from within a waterfall of black hair.
“Not so simple a story,” she murmured, reaching down with one hand to stroke him.
“Oh!” Matt reached up to caress her heavy breasts as they dangled above his face. “Again?”
“Soon.” Eliana smiled, then sat back and played with him. “Tell me, my fine, oh so controlled Vigilante, was she happy with her choice?”
“Who knows?” He moaned when she lowered her head to his waist. “Did you . . .did you know that part of my lineage is as honorable as yours?”
Eliana looked up suddenly, her expression fierce. “Your honor lies in the oath you kept—to defeat the Stripper! I need no other. Nor should my
.” She bent down.
Matt persisted. “Some relatives said we. . . were . . . descended from the family of mythical Palulop, the great canoe captain who could navigate anywhere across the wide ocean.”
Her hot breath touched him intimately. “Is that why you roam the stars?”
“No.” Now his hips moved out of his control.