From STUFF BLOWING UP IN SPACE.
I’m on a roll.
Terrans, as the table assembled before him proved, were a decidedly mixed lot.
XO Lieutenant (Sr. Grd.) Ola (no last name) was a waif of a woman. Small, black haired, pixie-ish. Despite her girlish figure, Tilbrook knew she was an older woman, having joined fleet a decade out of college. She was worldly and cosmopolitan.
The doc was her opposite. Tall, pale-skinned, with flaming, unruly red hair, green eyes and a body she seemed uncomfortable with, as if she woke up one day and saw that she had a wonderful feminine figure.
Actually, considering Winnie’s youth, that may be exactly what happened.
Gunnery Sargent Charles Kim was something else entirely. It was as if someone took the biggest Korean, searched for the biggest Samoan, and bred them to produce a 127.3kg monstrosity of pure muscle. Which proved the old Fleet maxim—space is the great biological equalizer. His job was to blow things up, not bust heads.
Staff Sargent Sergei Koltsov, commanding his six person marine squad, at least looked decidedly normal—average in every way, except for his unarmed combat scores and his deadly effectiveness with just about anything remotely like a weapon. His family came from a long line of County Safety officers, and here he was in Fleet. Everyone called him Sarge, although Tilbrook thought of him as “Mr. Security.”
They had just watched the exchange of between him and the shish brat and now everyone looked contemplative, especially after Ola briefed them on the upcoming coming-of-age party for the shish’s older sister.
He didn’t want contemplative. He wanted options.
“Winnie, could you give me some insight on what possibly could be going on to cause Princess here to act completely irrational? I get that her position is political and she is young. That aside, even a mediocre politician should know better than to assume we’re a bunch of dorks. What’s her problem?”
Winnie actually chuckled. “Permission to speak candidly, sir?”
“Winnie, this is a brainstorm session. I need your brain, not your built-in military courtesies. In this room, I expect candor 24×7. That also means call me James.”
Tilbrook knew Winnie might need a more delicate touch when she blushed scarlet, but Hernández’s clock kept ticking down the minutes. The ship was fast. Time was short.
“Aye, um, yes, um, James. Anyway, it’s pretty obvious what the problem is.”
She paused, looking apprehensive. Tilbrook decided to not cut her off at the knees and give her some time to compose herself and spit it out.
“Anyway, the problem is you,” she said in a rush.
He sighed. He contacted the shish station by the book. Only when the Princess, for the most part, called him a liar did he depart from protocol. In fact, given the circumstances, Tilbrook was sure a less experienced…
“You’re a hottie, James,” Ola broken in.
“A total hottie, to be exact,” said Winnie, blushing even redder.
“Indeed,” said Guns, “while I myself am a heterosexual, I have heard from the female crewmembers that your backside is very esthetically pleasing.”
“My backside.” Out of all the tracks he thought this conversation might go, this one was completely unexpected.
“That means you have a nice ass,” said Sergei.
“Thank you Sarge, I get that. While now I am inwardly cursing that I demanded informality, I would like to state the obvious that my butt was in no way pointed towards the Princess during the entire conversation. Thus, whatever powers said butt might have, they were not in play here.”
“James? Really? You had no idea you were a hottie?” Winnie was looking at him as if he was nuts.
Suddenly Ola nodded. “Ah, makes sense. Skipper here is from Lupa-12, they do things a bit more formally there. I bet you went to an all-boys school during puberty?”
“Look, while I’m sure you Earthers love making fun of the country boys with your 6.8 billion population, you all know I have an apartment in Paris right? And for a reason.”
“You have browner-than-brown hair that looks like if you grew it out it would curl, your eyes are a vivid, and I mean a vivid sky-blue, and you have the eyelashes any teen girl would envy, and I ought to know,” said Winnie. Now instead of looking completely embarrassed, she looked whimsical.
“Let’s not forget, Winnie, that when he works out in the gym shirtless, you seem to find yourself there,” Ola quipped.
“And I would like to point out, Ola, that you are there too.” Winnie quipped back, only looking slightly annoyed.
Tilbrook sighed, loudly, and looked at Sarge and Gunny for sympathy, or at the very least, to bail him out.
“I give the elected MOILTF no sympathy,” said Guns.
Sarge looked blank.
MOILTF? Male Officer I Would… He sighed again. “Fine. I see how you all are. I like to work out. So what? And my looks, I can assure you, are quite vanilla compared to most of the other men on Lupa-12.”
Ola immediately sat up straight. “Really?”
Winnie gave herself a little shake, as if her brain was in the gym. “Anyway, there a total and very disturbing attraction parity between human females and shish. Everything human females find attractive, shish find attractive. Only, the attraction is much more visceral for the shish because, as we all know, their sex-response is biologically tied to feeding.”
She seemed to enter her lecture mode and turned to him. “So, without knowing what political and family monkey business is going on—put yourself in her place. She’s sexually frustrated, that’s a given. Her sister is going to get laid for an entire week, basically have the best sex a shish could have—short of the symbiotic bonding process or the feeding/mating protocol—while she has to work. Indeed, tradition does not allow her to participate in the family orgy because of her position. Now a human male, aka The Hottie, shows up in the spiffy Fleet uniform with a fantastic tale of pirates in a system no pirates should be in, with a more impossible tale of a new jump point. She loses it. Her body is telling her to get you alone, seduce you, then bite you, and suck your blood if she likes you. Dismember and toss you into the pot if she doesn’t.”
“Oh, come on. She is a thinking person. She’s not some eating machine ruled by instinct,” Tilbrook protested.
Guns shook his head. “Rationality means something completely different to a shish. She’s young. She’s low-boob on the totem pole, and she could be hungry. And you’re a walk’n snack that conveniently can get her off before she fills her tummy with a warm happy meal.”
Tilbrook sighed yet again. “Fine. The age-old human-shish socialization problem. What are our options?”
“There’s another social dynamic in play here, that may give you the answer,” Winnie said, nodding to Guns. “Everyone likes to focus on how shish are hyper-sexual beings. That is a mistake. Shish are, for the most part, biologically superior to all other species in the galaxy. They consider themselves at the top of the food chain, and biologically speaking, they are. The only advantage humans have over them is our culture is superior, and I don’t mean that in a racist way. We are more productive, we produce superior art and technology, and our system of governance, such as it is, provides humans with a cultural flexibility nobody can match.”
Suddenly James got it.
“Ah. Being differential and polite wasn’t enough. I was sending her a very specific signal by assuming I was in charge of the situation.”
“Exactly,” said Winnie. “So now your options are, and keep in mind I’m not a shish expert, merely a well-read layman, is to assume a submissive position, or metaphorically pop her in the jaw and assume control. She’s totally going to bite you for sure on the former, the latter is difficult because she is stronger, not to mention most likely telekinetic, and all that aside, she is way smarter than you.”