From Stuff Blowing Up in Space:
She was, essentially, an adolescent aristocratic spoiled brat in a position she didn’t deserve, talking to him simply because she was part of a privileged elite social class based on birth order and some bizarre pseudo-eugenics game of rock-paper-scissors.
So we all know, I am not a philandering womanizer.
But I can write one.
In which I talk about gender.
And that girls have cooties.
“Why do you look so sad?” she asked one day.
This confused him. They had just made love, for the eight time that week. And it was only Thursday. He didn’t feel sad. He didn’t feel much at all right now except contentment with his lover. She was wrapped around him like soft sleepwear, smelling of sweat and playfulness and sassy.
“I’m not sad!” Was this a test, some sort of whimsical girl thing? Although, she wasn’t a girl really, any longer. At least on the outside. Inside, he knew she thought of herself as a girl. She could be 89 and a great-great-grandma, and he could envision her looking at the mirror and going “hey girly girl, look’n good!”
She turned over and looked at him, her amazing green eyes flecked with blue as curious and warm as ever. “Not now. But sometimes. Sometimes your eyes go somewhere. You’re not here but there. Where ever there is. Where do you go?”
Her empathy ran deep. Maybe it was the way she made love. She was always shy about it, at first, as if she would blink and find the kisses weren’t real. Then, as the kisses continued she would simply let go.
It was his favorite part, when she let go. Her mind would blank, all her worries, all her stress, everything neat and ordered in her life gone. Gone as long as he kept loving her. And she would say such naughty things.
Afterwords, it was as if her heart beat in time with the world. Moments where she understood things, felt things. That she was pulling on a thread should not surprise him. It was, essentially, his own fault. He brought her here. What did he expect?
But then, what should he tell her? It was too much. The wrong type of intensity. It was foul. It only intruded upon his thoughts because it was one of those things never forgotten. He didn’t want to tell her. She was too good. Too pure. Too in-tune. Gaia. It would be like poisoning the Earth. Her eyes would not be green any longer. They would die. He would murder her eyes.
“See, there, just now, you went away.”
“I don’t like to go there, it’s not a good place,” he finally admitted.
“Tell me. Why?”
“You’re not there,” he said simply. “You’re here. You’re here.“
She looked at him and then he saw it. She knew. Knew he didn’t want to say. Knew he didn’t want to leave. Knew it wasn’t important. Only talking about it would make it so.
So she never asked. She kissed him, and wasn’t shy. She took command of him, and chased the thoughts away, purged them as if they were never there.
She was never shy again, at the start of their lovemaking. She still let go. She still liked to whisper her naughty talk into his ears.
Yet, he missed it. That part of the woman that was the shy girl.
Empathy, he thought, sometimes had a terrible, terrible price.
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.”
Writing a short story, as opposed to a novel, is difficult for me. But I vowed to work on that craft, and I’m very pleased that one of my shorts won third place in Michelle Davidson Argyle’s short story contest. Any genre except erotica was welcome, and I picked science fiction.
“The Woman” is a story based on the characters in my novel Armageddon’s Princess. Only, I reversed the roles, the story is about Arune, an AI, not about Lexus (although she does play an important part in the story).
Arune is a great character to write. He’s sensitive. He’s based on human DNA, but he is not human, he thinks very, very fast. But he is a person, and an interesting one at that. I was happy to finally be able to do him justice.
I love exploring gender relationships in my writing. My female friends often accuse me of being an incurable romantic. Of that I am proudly guilty.
The nebulous and hardly ever footnoted they say the firearm is the great equalizer amongst the sexes. Which is true, but only insofar as a moment of time. A wink in existence. Seconds, actually, and what a wonderful equalizer, albeit brief, it is. Nothing says, “No, I don’t want to be raped tonight,” like multiple 124 grain 9mm jacketed hollow-points traveling 1030 feet per second.
A woman, measured from simpler times and simpler places, always had the power of life, but rarely ever death. No, death, in these simpler times, was the purview of men. Men are stronger, yes, but men held the other key, the most important key, the key unlike any other.
Knowledge is power, and the Twenty-First Century Woman is a creature of knowledge. At her fingertips is a vast and endless stream of information, most of it biased, but all of it readily accessible. The cynical woman would say that to make sense of it all, one should close off the avenues of distraction.
The optimistic woman, surprisingly, comes to a vastly different conclusion. More, she says. I want more. Always more.
That is true power. The powerful woman is not simply the woman who stops her rapist by filling his thoracic triangle with expanding bullets.
No, the powerful woman fights against the cynical forces that tell her that’s not possible, trying to push her back in time and victimizing her by proxy. It’s not the tool. It was never the tools. It’s about the power.
The heart of a warrior never lies. It is a thing of purity, a deadly beauty more real than a thousand, thousand truths. The warrior, in her singular moment of honesty, is both everything and nothing. She is everything because she has broken down an entire conflict to a singular twinkling of violence.
She is nothing because she simply becomes an agent of choice. There is no right. There is no wrong. There is only choice, and her heart chooses for her. In the space between rational thought and instinct, between the familiar and the new, between skill and tenacity, lies the event horizon of truth.
This warrior hears her heart. The beating is more than life-blood; it is the affirmation of the gestalt of life. She listens to her heart not because she has to, but because it is all she can do. All that she is.
At this moment, this warrior is the most deadly. At this moment, nothing can match her.
At this moment, she is a goddess. All the other moments are nothing. She knows this to be true, because the heart of a warrior, a true warrior, never lies.
Chapter 24, cont.
I look so elegant, in my formal dress. I finally look like a lady. Posed. Beautiful. Commanding. I am the Princess, after all. I even look regal. That’s what a princess does, isn’t it? Look regal at important social functions. My duty. It’s all I have left.
But I have been undone. My Love’s death is a knife wound right into my heart, and I can almost see the metaphorical life-blood slow leak out of me, leaving a shell. I am the shell that first returned home from the war, alone, without Mitchell, dark and empty.
This is such a lovely day for a funeral. The spring Floridian day is clear and warm, a small breeze blowing this way and that with hints of pine and flowers on the air.
We are in a meadow surrounded by a pine forest, in the middle of a newly constructed cobblestone parade ground. Hundreds of people, almost all of them military, more than I bothered counting, are crammed on the ground, in a circle around what looks disturbingly like a pyre. There she lies in her uniform, looking peaceful and tranquil, the black and blue Federation flag covering the lower part of her body. A smaller circle of unique cobblestone surrounds her dais, and they glow with silver light.
I can hear someone speaking about her, but the words, like my current perception of reality, are fuzzy. Some type of Military-religious mumbo-jumbo. I keep staring at her. There is something, there is, something is wrong.
Suddenly, I realize the person talking has stopped, and I’m standing right next to her. How did I get here? I can’t remember, and now everyone is staring at me.
She is serenely beautiful, and I stare at her, trying to figure out what is wrong. It’s not her uniform or her makeup, or her hairstyle. She is missing something.
I draw my saber. It glistens in the afternoon sunlight.
Someone behind me gasps. I place my sword on her, the hilt underneath folded hands, the curve of the tip pointed towards her boots.
There, my Love. I’ve never used it, but it’s a good sword, and very, very, sharp, and beautiful. Like you. A warrior should not be without a good weapon in the afterlife. Go and battle evil in whatever lies beyond, my Love.
I kiss her cold lips and walk back to my place, feeling much better.
I am the Goddess of War, after all. Arming my subjects to serve me in the afterlife is my purview.
If I listen closely, I can hear the Princess crying. I ignore her. The Goddess of War has awoken. And she has no use for tears.
As the body on the pyre burns, the Princess screams, and is no more. Yet, strangely, as I look around, no one notices this is a funeral for two.
My oldest on Sunday went out into the damp yard and hid Easter eggs for the youngest. Thing One is only nine, and I remember doing the same for younger cousins as if it was yesterday, but at twelve.
There I was, at 7:00 AM, with more eggs—both real and plastic—I had ever seen in one spot. The job seemed easy enough. Hide the eggs: be clever for the older kids, easy for the young ones.
And it was easy, if a bit lonely. By 7:30 I was done. By 8:30 the hordes of small children arrived. The boys in their little suits with ties, the girls in their little yellow and white dresses with white tights and hair pinned up. It was awfully cute and adorable. Toddlers and children running to and fro like overdressed waves on a green beach, shrieking like seagulls.
At some point, I looked over to my cousin, one of those second or third cousins I saw on occasion. She was watching the laughing and running masses just as I was. We were the same age. She wasn’t the prettiest girl, at least I used to think, but there she was in a Sunday dress wearing makeup and showing the beginnings of a feminine figure.
Something in my brain clicked right then and the feeling was as intense as it was new. It wasn’t a specific feeling towards my suddenly pretty cousin, but something odd and weird. I looked at the children, babies, and toddlers before me and wanted a child of my own. Then, my cousin caught me looking at her and she grinned. It was a mischievous grin, a pixie grin. Her eyes were also smiling, a brown-eyed question of possibilities and an invitational dare.
That’s why every Easter Sunday, I think of breeding.