It’s Just Biology – Part 4

It’s Just Biology – Part 4

Looking for Part 3?: https://atomicfeminist.com/2021/03/27/its-just-biology-part-3/

If you need to start at the beginning, here you go: https://atomicfeminist.com/2021/03/20/its-just-biology-part-1/

As the black and white came to a stop, both detectives found themselves on edge. Buchanan had been on edge to begin with, wound up with anticipation about laying his hands on whoever had attacked the woman, but seeing his partner, who was rarely on edge, on edge, put him on edge moreso. Most everyone they encountered in their work on Tashalos Station was so damn amiable – dwelling on a crowded space station was self-selecting for gregarious sorts who felt they COULD dwell on a crowded space station; the anti-social stayed at home – it tended to make one forget that there were those in the galaxy who wished you ill.

The hostility that came rolling off the q’Lurians felt downright palpable. There were no friendly faces, no nods of greeting, no thank yous and keep up the good works shouted at their police car as it passed. Instead there were scowls and glares and malevolence and individuals beating speedy retreats, as if they were in the Wild West and they were headed into a showdown, only the townsfolk all thought Nicky and Stan were the bad guys.

Duly warned, Stan and Nicky took precautions, called in their location and made sure their weapons were charged and their communications devices were working properly, which they were meant to do anyway but usually didn’t bother with, since between the two of them they rarely encountered any situation one or the other or the both of them combined couldn’t handle. Between Nicky’s muscle and Stan’s agility, they were considered the most physically capable pair of detectives on Tashalos, and thus were often the ones sent into the hottest situations. Getting into a bit of a scrap didn’t deter them.

Regardless, arresting a q’Lurian in the q’Lurian’s own neighborhood was a daunting proposition. Dispatch insisted on sending backup in case things went south – quite unusual for what should have been a simple pickup of a proved-guilty suspect.

As they waited for the uniforms to arrive, Nicky diligently began filling out the paperwork he had ignored the night before, and as he did, his mind wandered. The authorities required reams of paperwork be filled out, as Stan joked, a cop couldn’t scratch their balls without filling out the proper form, which was funny because Stan didn’t even have any balls. All for a q’Lurian, a fucking q’Lurian, he couldn’t half-believe it.

The q’Lurians were one of the few galactic races that preferred isolation, and rarely mingled with other species.  There was something downright human in their xenophobia – ironic because the q’Lurians hated humans most especially. No one cared.  The galaxy was full up with other species all of whom had their own business to attend to and went about it in whatever manner made sense to them, and if the q’Lurians didn’t want to take part, fuck ’em.  In space, most beings one encountered embraced a live and let live attitude, and Nicky admired it, even if he couldn’t always quite muster the same level of tolerant nonchalance towards his fellow human being as he did towards the aliens.

Earthlings were inherently suspicious of their fellow man, much as the q’Lurians were of everyone who wasn’t their fellow q’Lurian.  Despite their inhuman ways, the aliens had generously brought to Earth peace, plenty, and prosperity, in exchange for tales of comic book characters and dramatizations of historical figures that humans shed easy as exhaling carbon dioxide. Nicky, like most humans, felt gratitude towards the aliens, and distrust towards his own people; after all, before the galactians’ arrival, humanity had nearly destroyed itself on numerous occasions. 

Perhaps it was BECAUSE aliens were so inhuman that they were able to live in peace with one another despite their differences.  For the most part, they just didn’t care how others managed their affairs, and thus were able to coexist in harmony.  Perhaps because aliens were so inhuman, humans didn’t hate them either, reserving their vitriol for their own species. That innate fundamental suspicion…all right, that prejudice…towards other homo sapiens proved hard for Nicky, who did not love humanity on a good day, to shake. Though he’d shaken it easily enough for the woman, he supposed. It didn’t seem quite fair, really, that a man could be burdened both with an instinctive hatred towards his own species, and a burning need to be with them.

Within their own ranks, humans were endlessly dividing themselves into various subgroups, despising each other accordingly. Myriad human microcultures had sprung up anywhere there was an open planet capable of supporting life; he had read somewhere there were as many human subcultures as there were alien species in all the galaxy, though he wasn’t sure he believed it. At any rate, there were too many.

Nicky felt wary of human beings that shunned galactian civilization as if they were q’Lurians.  He distrusted the cultists who withdrew and holed up somewhere where they could follow their own rules, probably since his career involved enforcing rules, and people skirting them didn’t sit well with him.  Something about a group of isolationists rejecting not only the galactic community, but basic human values completely, imagining that they had some unique insight into how people were meant to live, imagining that they were wiser and superior beings who had cornered the market on the nature of reality, disturbed him.  

It surprised him that the woman had come from one of those worlds, that she had managed to shuck her upbringing off somehow.  He derived an unearned sense of pride from it, as if he had cleverly selected her carefully for her wonderful qualities rather than just being thrown into a relationship by virtue of their bits fitting together so nicely.

Nicely, so nicely. Very nicely indeed. Mmmh.

You had to give that much to the aliens, since they had no imaginations at all, they never imagined a different way to live than the one their species had hit upon through evolution.  While aliens had presidents and kings and even dictators, none of them seemed hell bent on creating and then inflicting externally created codes of ethics onto their followers the way Earth tyrants did.  “Wouldn’t it be brilliant if only everyone lived exactly like THIS” was not a chain of thought that aliens experienced. Aliens were who and what they were, as the hand of the various incarnations of Mother Nature inhabiting their various worlds designed them to be, and they expected that everyone they met were who and what they were as well, and treated you accordingly.  No one ever tried to change anyone, no one tried to inflict their way of life upon anyone else. The aliens simply accepted, on face value, the fundamental natures of whomever they met along the way.  

There was an egalitarianism in the alien mindset that appealed to Nicky, even though as a human and thus prone to the temptation, he most certainly DID imagine he could design some grand philosophy superior to that of his human fellows.  He just wasn’t arrogant or deluded enough to succumb to it.  A foolish aspiration, being a dictator, Nicky thought, for it was glaringly obvious that embedded within the nature of humankind was a dictatorial urge, and how could a dictator ever expect to hold sway over vast numbers of other wannabe dictators? It seemed an endeavor destined to fail, as everyone scrabbled after control, and of course human history was replete with examples.

Nicky finished his paperwork and uploaded it to the Cloud. “Where the fuck is that backup?” He felt a great pressure of time, even though there was no hurry really; there was no way a person could have gotten from Kolob to Tashalos Station in a day. Even with Express travel, it would take at least four days – and few could afford Express.  That meant they had days, more likely weeks to prepare, if the man did in fact come looking.  Nicky would simply issue an alert and they’d catch him as soon as he walked through the DNA scanners on the way into the station. 

It was simply that he wanted to know everything about the woman, even the things she didn’t want to tell him. He hungered after knowing her, wanted to lay with her in his arms and look down at her knowing every silly detail about her, what her childhood had been like, what was her favorite color, did she like strawberries better, or blueberries, all of it, he wanted to digest her and absorb her and then he wanted to have her, have her as a friend and not a stranger.

Stan looked up from his communications device, upon which he was watching a cartoon Nicky barely recognized as The Flintstones. “Eating doughnuts, probably.” He pronounced it as duff-nuts. Nicky didn’t bother correcting him, because Stan took great pride in speaking authentic English, and he didn’t want to be discouraging about a word that none but Nicky would ever hear him say. Dough was a stupid word anyway. “Don’t worry, you’ll be able to get back to your spawning soon, primeape.”

“I wasn’t trying to…well.” He trailed off, because libido undoubtedly was underwriting his sense of urgency. “Shut up.”

Stan held out the paused screen to Nicky, to show him a floating green man dressed as an astronaut upon it. “Look at this alien, Nicky. He’s such an asshole. Is that what humans really think of us?”

“I don’t know who that is,” Nicky explained. It was sometimes difficult for the aliens to comprehend that no human had an encyclopedic knowledge of centuries of pop culture. “I never watched that program.”

“I don’t understand how you can fail to know your own civilization, Nicky. The Great Gazoo is a part of television history! He was voiced by Harvey Korman of the Carol Burnett Show!”

“I don’t know who they are, either.”

“Jesus,” Stan exclaimed. “You know who that is, right?”

“Yes, Stan, I know who that is,” Nicky said patiently, and stared out the window as his partner returned to staring at his fiction program, with a barking laugh at something the comical cavemen and their alien friend did.

Nicky had only ever been to the q’Lurian neighborhood on one other occasion, when a human with a malfunctioning positioner had wandered in by accident and the human-hating q’Lurians were so aghast that they’d surrounded the bloke, calling in the police rather than allow the man to phone for an Uber, or even give him directions about how to get out of the neighborhood on foot.  It struck Nicky as peculiar that there were q’Lurian separatists; they were already so separated from galactic culture.  But the separatists wanted to turn inward completely, call their people home and close q’Lur down, lest the taint of humanity spread to their planet. 

Given the isolationist nature of the q’Lurians, Nicky simply could not understand why one of them would even want to get near enough to a human female to speak to her, let alone attack her.  But that’s what they’d come to find out, of course. 

The q’Lurians dwelt in a cul-de-sac of housing projects centered round a very small marketplace, Market 101, that contained nothing but q’Lurian stores and q’Lurian restaurants and q’Lurian doctors and dentists and a nice little school for the q’Lurian children that had a mural of trees and a rainbow on it just like human schools on Earth did. It was surprising the q’Lurians disliked humans so much given that they also liked rainbows and trees and children.  

Like most aliens, the q’Lurians bred like horny rabbits, and q’Lurians always bore twins.  The twins were of the stuck-together sort, which on Earth was considered a birth defect and repaired by nanotechnology in the womb, or aborted if the defect proved incompatible with life.  There was a proper scientific name for the condition that Nicky could not recall, and a rude offensive old fashioned one that he recalled all too well, having learned it from a grisly old book his grandmother had owned called Ripley’s Believe it or Not.  Nicky would sneak off when he was visiting his nan to leaf through the pages, reading about all sorts of freakish and disturbing things his parents would not have approved of. 

Whatever the term for it was, the few q’Lurians who had not fled upon his arrival were all two creatures in one, joined together in a variety of ways.  It was hard to imagine the evolutionary advantage such an arrangement might confer on a species, but of course there was one or the q’Lurians would not exist in the form they did.  He should have consulted his guidebook before he’d arrived, instead of shopping on Amazon, he supposed, but with any luck the terminology wouldn’t come up. 

By that point, their backup had arrived, a couple uniformed young recruits who looked as if they’d be a liability in a fight, not a help. Nicky and Stan mulled it over, and decided it would be best to perform the arrest themselves, regardless of what dispatch thought. They left the uniforms to wait in the car.

Stan had parked in front of the school, and the children, who’d been out playing in the courtyard, screamed and scattered at the sight of a human being.  With a sour look on his blue face, Stan glared after them.  “Little shits,” he spat disdainfully.  In addition to being enamored with human culture, his partner did not approve of q’Lurians for the same reason Nicky didn’t approve of human isolationists – galactian culture was based around that live and let live philosophy and it rubbed him the wrong way that anyone rejected that.  To Stan’s way of thinking, live and let live was not meant to include beings that utterly rejected the very concept of live and let live, and he just couldn’t stretch his mind to comprehend that truly adhering to the rule of living and letting live would have to include people who refused the premise.      

Under normal circumstances they would have had to waste time asking questions in order to track the perpetrator down, which would have been a slow, possibly even impossible proposition given the q’Lurian distrust of strangers. But because it had been a violent assault, they’d been granted a warrant to use their positioners to track the thug via DNA.  They headed to his location, an apartment up on the 14th story of the building, by following a ping on their commdevs. Effortless. Nicky wished all their retrievals could be so easy.

Hallelujah, the bloody elevator worked, though when they stepped onto it, the q’Lurians already riding in it immediately got off rather than ride with a human.  

While the inside of the project looked nearly identical to his own, it smelled strange and foreign. Nicky’s building contained a patchwork of smells good, bad, familiar and alien, because all different species lived side by side, emitting their various odors. But this one bore a consistent and overwhelming stench, a heavy miasma of q’Lurian musk hanging in the air. A choking smell that was the carroty taste of overcooked red bell peppers, the earthy, moldy scent of rotting compost, a hint of dead badger, and something sweet but dusty, like scented powder. So strong it was, it was near impossible for Nicky not to find it repugnant.  At a couple points, the reek came at him so heavy he nearly retched from it.  “Say this much for the q’Lurians,” Stan said, inhaling deeply, “at least they smell good.”

As they approached the q’Lurian’s apartment, he must have been informed they were coming or something because the ping that represented him on the positioner shifted on his phone screen.  “On the move,” Nicky said.

“I see it, bro,” Stan agreed, and over Nicky’s objections, he called in the backup to assist in the arrest.  They didn’t need them. They had the guy on DNA, so it was still going to be an easy pick-up, no matter how far he ran, they’d just lope along after till he tired and gave up. But it was protocol, and Stan preferred to follow protocol, except for the times when he got so excited that he didn’t.

They followed the trail to a thick metal door, locked, which Nicky was able to open by swiping his uni-key against the input device. The door led to an access corridor leading to the industrial section of the building, all pipes and wires and ducts and conduits and rubber hoses, dimly lit by a series of strategically placed LEDs, which never seemed quite as bright as they ought.  Machines thrummed and ka-chunga-ed in the distance. The humidity level rose several points within seconds and sweat broke out along Nicky’s brow. “I don’t know about this,” Stan said, looking into the gloom beyond.  “This feels dead-endy. We should wait for the backup.” 

The corridor was so narrow they would have to go single file anyway, which would have conferred them no strategic advantage whatsoever. “Stay here, then,” Nicky said, intent on finding the creature who had assaulted the woman. He did not want to chance him getting away, maybe even escaping off station while he stood with his dick in his hand waiting for a couple useless inexperienced noobs made sluggish from eating duff-nuts.

He took his antigrav weapon from its holster and followed down a scaffolding of expanded metal, past various instrument pads with dials, buttons, levers, touchpads, and handcranks upon them. The tight quarters and the machinery made Nicky imagine being in a submarine, and he was seized with a sudden claustrophobia, a sensation of leagues of seawater crushing him from above, but of course that was merely his mind playing tricks.

Steam whistled somewhere overhead and startled him; his brain had him half-convinced that any moment he’d get jumped and knocked into a vat of acid or molten metal or into a piston-thumping squishing machine.  He checked his phone to see how far ahead his quarry had gotten, and was surprised to see he had gone past the q’Lurian somehow, though there had been nowhere for it to hide, and no other path it could have taken. He turned back the other way but again, he walked right by the ping without seeing anything.  He didn’t understand how he could miss the guy, there was nowhere for him to hide. Nicky didn’t think q’Lurians could turn invisible, but foolishly he had not consulted his guidebook beforehand.

The little hairs on the back of Nicky’s neck rose as he pieced it together.  Without telegraphing the movement beforehand, his hand shot straight up and he pulled the creature down from the scaffolding above that it had been clinging to. As the q’Lurian fell, Nicky’s nose caught a burst of that terrible fragrance. He did not dare to inhale for fear of sicking up, and his head swam as he began to run out of oxygen. He had no choice but to suck in a mouthful of air, a shallow gasping breath trying to avoid taking much of the aerosolized stink in, and he coughed as it invaded his lungs. Coughing simply drove it deeper, but it did not seem to be toxic, only very unpleasant; the smell of the q’Lurian’s body and not any sort of a defense mechanism.

Instead of taking its feet, the q’Lurian clung onto Nicky’s suit lapels with thick curving claws on his hands and feet. The q’Lurian reminded Nicky of a koala bear, the way it clung to him with its body all hunched up into a ball, but otherwise it was not at all like a koala bear, not cute, not cuddly, not dopey and lovable and safe. He remembered that long cut down the woman’s arm, and imagined those claws raking him across the face, slashing his belly, opening his throat. Both of the q’Lurian’s heads started shrieking, a mouth in each of Nicky’s ears.  One body, but two heads it had, two heads on one long neck, and both the heads were screaming loud as a klaxon. He pushed it away with the edge of his forearm against the thing’s throat.     

The flesh was soft, marshmallow soft, but with a spongy crunchiness to it, like squeezing the top of a mushroom.  Nicky felt his forearm sink in and keep sinking, but he feared if he continued pushing, the q’Lurian would break apart, that the heads would be parted from the body and go rolling away. Such an alarming sensation it was that he panicked and twisted away from the thing.  The q’Lurian made a break for it and fled, scampering on all fours, up the wall and onto the ceiling again, keeping up that earshattering inhuman bellering. It fled from that narrow corridor to a larger open place where several paths and sets of steps led off various directions. But as it leapt from the ceiling of the corridor back to the floor again, rotating 180 degrees as it did, Nicky shot it with his antigrav and froze it in midair.  Well, it didn’t quite freeze; the weapon slowed forward momentum, but didn’t stop it all together. 

The q’Lurian kept falling forward, in midleap, but very slowly; if you looked away for a moment, you could see the motion, but staring at it rendered the progress invisible to the eye.  Nicky walked up behind, taking care to keep the gun’s foci in phase.  That was the trick with the antigrav, if you didn’t keep it at just the right angle when you were moving around, the foci would blur and the subject could break free. 

“Help!  Help!” the q’Lurian screeched from both its mouths at the same time.  

Nicky ignored him and fumbled for his zipcuffs.  He had one too few hands for this business.  When he moved, the foci slipped out of phase as he’d worried they would, and the q’Lurian moved a sudden quick couple of feet forward before he shot it again. “You have the right to remain silent,” he began.

Before he could complete the ritual, much to his chagrin, he noticed movement in the shadowy places all around him. An illuminated face here, a shadowy arm there, the sound of footfalls overhead, coming fast.  There were q’Lurians galore lurking in this dark place.  Workers, from what he could see of them, clad in durable coveralls with smears of grease upon them, too many for one man, even a man Nicky’s size, to handle.  The few he could see clearly had hatred upon their faces, and every one of them had two faces to hate him with.  Some of them were stuck together at their side, some were stuck together at their chest facing each other, some had heads joined together, and others were joined together in ways that twins were never conjoined on Earth.

Conjoined, that was the word for them, conjoined. 

One of them, the nearest, had two torsos and two heads but only one pair of legs.  He had never touched a q’Lurian before, but they must be all made out of that same awful pillowy mushroomishness as the q’Lurian he’d caught, they had to smell equally repugnant, and have those thick sharp claws to cling with. Though Nicky knew it was morally reprehensible of him, they seemed in that moment as horrible monsters and not sentient beings.  The next closest had extra arms and extra legs sprouting out of him like a spider and a flat face embedded upon its chest beneath its other head. That one had a tool that reminded Nicky of a pipe wrench in one of his hands and he slapped it into his other hand threateningly, while at the same time his other set of hands cracked the joints of its clawed paw-things as if warming up for a fight.  “Hey Stanley,” Nicky yelled back over his shoulder, “Can I trouble you?” He was embarrassingly relieved to hear his partner’s steps upon the metal behind him.

“Holy shit,” Stan said, as he surveyed the onlookers, and then he hissed at the approaching aliens threateningly.  “Backup?  Waiting for it, does that idea ring any bells?”   

“Call them in then,” Nicky said, and Stan pushed the panic button for immediate aid, but there were only two of them anyway, and who knew how many q’Lurians. He had hoped that perhaps the q’Lurians would retreat now that they’d seen the both of them, him and Stan there together. But a long moment passed and the tenseness of the situation did not seem to diffuse.  “We’re the police, we’re here legitimately, just here to pick up a suspect for questioning. We don’t want any trouble.” 

“Human,” someone murmured in the darkness, and then murmurs spread through the lot of them, “humanHUMANhuuuummmannnHumanHUManhumanhumanHUMAN!” Nicky felt goosebumps in places he didn’t think he’d ever gotten goosebumps before. It struck him he was a human man far from home and surrounded by hideous creatures, vile bad-smelling beclawed fungus-y things who wished him ill, and he found he wasn’t inordinately troubled by being xenophobic in that moment. The woman’s human face flashed into his mind. He would very much have liked to lay his head upon her human chest and feel her human arms around him.

“Well, that’s kind of disturbing,” Stan joked.  “Pretty glad I’m not a human right now.”

“Human LOVER,” an accusing voice spat.

“Welp,” Stan said.

Nicky considered everything he knew about q’Lurians and their fear of the human stain.  “If you’d prefer, I can come back with twenty humans,” Nicky lied.  Short of arranging a posse and deputizing the array of sailors, salesmen, salarymen, and scumbags who resided on Tashalos, he couldn’t muster twenty humans if his life depended on it. “We can come back and turn this neighborhood inside out, see what we can find.  Illegal weapons, drugs, endangered species…” he recalled the q’Lurians enjoyed eating exotic animals and were always smuggling them onto Tashalos. “Commerce without a license…and we’ll check your documentation to make sure you’re all on station legally.”  

“If you’re found guilty, you won’t be going back to q’Lur, not for a while,” Stan added.  “Illegal emigration is a prison sentence for q’Lurians under galactic law.  And we’ll make sure you serve that time in a human prison.”

There were concerned murmurs in the dark and Nicky felt better.  “This citizen is wanted for questioning in an assault, a violent assault.  We are here legitimately, over a violent crime. You lot are just working men, you don’t want risk your liberty defending a violent criminal, do you?”

“Assaulting a cop is a hefty sentence,” Stan added. “And you’ll do that time on Earth, we’ll make sure of it.”

Nicky turned his attentions to the q’Lurian, who had drifted slowly forward a few millimeters during that time. “Did you assault a human woman yesterday?”

It wasn’t a fair question, really.  Because q’Lurians held honesty as one of their supreme virtues, they refused to lie, even if they possessed the genetic capability for making up deceptive stories, which they didn’t.  While some species, like Stan’s people, could lie when the situation required it, albeit uncreatively by human standards, the q’Lurians lacked even a fraction of the imagination necessary to invent alibis.  “Well,” the q’Lurian said from one of its heads, “…yes, but…”

Nicky let his finger off of the button of his antigrav and the beam shut off suddenly.  His forward trajectory restored, the q’Lurian smashed into the metal scaffold, hard.  Because he hadn’t been expecting it, he had no time to prepare, no time to get his hands up to soften his fall.  “You were saying?” Nicky said, as he shot him with the antigrav again to prevent him from moving, pinning him to the scaffolding. The q’Lurian’s soft flesh bubbled through the holes in the grating of the walkway. 

“He TOUCHED a human!” came a shocked and horrified voice from the shadows. “On PURPOSE!” Nicky felt a burst of relief sweat down his back. There would be no civilian intervention, not for that crime.  

“Yes, I assaulted a human woman,” the q’Lurian said. Only one of his heads could speak, the other’s lips were mushed against the metal grating. “But there were extenuating circumstances!”  Nicky wished there was a way to lift with his weapon, like they had on the antigrav forklifts, and he’dve smashed the q’Lurian down again, harder.  But the tech needed to do that was too big for handheld units.

Stan took the zipcuffs and put them around the guy’s wrists.  “Save it,” he said. There were regulations to be followed.  While the galactian authorities allowed LEOs a surprising amount of leeway when it came to roughing up suspects, probably because life simply wasn’t that precious in a galaxy of 400 quadrillion sentient beings, their rules about human cops hearing confessions were incredibly strict.  The proceedings had to be recorded at the station, using technology that neither Nicky nor Stan could access, to be certain it couldn’t be altered. The authorities had seen so many crooked human cops on fiction programs they assumed all human beings working in law enforcement were prone to lying, and operated under the assumption humans had to be actively prevented from faking evidence.

Upon arriving back at the precinct, Nicky hoped to let the q’Lurian stew for a bit, and head straight for the Galactic Crime Database terminal. He meant to find out more about the woman’s life prior to arriving on Tashalos Station before confronting the q’Lurian.  He didn’t want to overlook anything he needed to ask about. And all right, admittedly, he was curious. More than curious, fascinated. He craved after her, and if he couldn’t have her really, he wanted to see images of her, see her name written on official documents, prove it to himself that she existed, assure himself she wouldn’t just disappear into the mists.

But before he could, the superintendent of detectives swept in, or more accurately waddled, his stubby elbowless arms folded over his stout chest.  “In my office, Loverboy,” he said, loudly, and Nicky’s fellow officers, who were all listening in, of course, hooted and hollered and shouted epithets in two dozen languages, none of which his translator could make any sense of.  That was probably for the best. He shot Stan a look.

“Sorry,” Stan said sheepishly. “It’s just so fucking hilarious I couldn’t resist telling everyone.”

“I’ll remember that the next time you contract finworms from a robot prostitute,” Nicky threatened.

“You wouldn’t dare!” Stan said, horrified.

“No, I wouldn’t. Just shaking your tree.”

“What tree?”

“I mean I’m teasing you.”

“Hmmm. Doesn’t your imaginary sky man say not to lie?” Stan said.

“He says a lot of things. Luckily He’s very forgiving.”

“Say a prayer for me, then. No more finworms.”

“I do already, you idiot. Of course.”

“Bluh! Leave me out of your conversations with Sky Man! That’s nearly as fucked up as that whole dream thing. Humans are such bizarres, talking to imaginary people, lying even when they sleep.”

“Dreams aren’t lies, Stan, they’re…not lies.” Even species who otherwise enjoyed fiction, like Stan’s people, found dreaming unsettling, because of its accidental nature.  It was hard to explain what dreams were, exactly, probably because not even scientists really understood them. 

Nicky recalled the first time he’d tried to explain the concept of dreaming to Stan.  He’d said, “Your brain makes stories on its own?  About ME? When you’re unconscious?  Where do they come from? How can I be inside your brain when you’re unconscious?” and then he’d shuddered as if the very notion was sinister.

“I don’t know what dreams are exactly, Stan, but they aren’t lies.”  

“I know, I know,” Stan replied.  “You told me.  See, Nicky, I can shake a tree too!” he crowed, as if he was proud of himself. “You know I don’t care if you have a demented brain.” 

“Buchanan, now!” the superintendent shouted. “I’m surprised you were able to have intercourse with your human female, as in love with Stan as you are!”

“I’m coming,” Nicky said. “Don’t start without me, eh?”

Stan nodded. “Course not. I’ll take our boys here to holding.” He pushed the q’Lurian forward unceremoniously.  “We’ll wait for the nice human, won’t we, boys?” he taunted.

One of the q’Lurian’s heads spat on the floor at Nicky’s feet.

“Not off to a great start, are we,” Stan sassed, and gave the q’Lurian a shove.

The superintendent of detectives was a Volg, and though he had a name, like Stan’s name, it was hard for most species to pronounce.  Thus everyone just called him The Volg.  To Nicky’s human eye, The Volg very closely resembled a shaved bulldog walking on his legs.  He had massive jowls, an underbite, and was prone to effusive drooling. He had short bowed appendages on a hefty torso with a head that was completely disproportionate to the rest of him.

Once when Nicky had been drunk and feeling irreverent, he showed the superintendent a picture of Winston Churchill on his phone as a joke.  The Volg became so enamored of the former prime minister, not only an authentic, real-life Earth Hero, but a prominent character in several dozen works of fiction, that he actually hung a framed portrait of Sir Winston on his wall.  Churchill took his place of honor right alongside the King and Queen of Volg, the Chief of Police and the burgermeister of Tashalos Station, the Chancellor of the Assembly and the High Baffin of the Conclave, the Empress of the Galactian Confederation, and Jeff Bezos.  

And so it was, that as he sat down to take his lumps, Nicky felt the disapproving gaze of two Churchills staring at him with their bulging, sagging eyes.

For his part, The Volg was quite fond of Nicky Buchanan, in no small part because the human reminded him of a pet Flurf he’d had some years prior.  It had been a marvelous Flurf, loyal to a fault and easily trained.  The Flurf slept at the foot of his bed and never once evacuated inside the house, which was a lot to ask of a Flurf.  

Since discovering his strong personal resemblance to Winston Churchill – from Doctor Who! –  The Volg had begun to fancy himself a bit of an Anglophile.  Whenever the subject came up as it so often did, the great debate about which Earth culture was the best one, he always took the side of the Brits against the Americans and Japanese and Indians and Nigerians.  Monkey Python, Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes, the Beatles, Mr. Bean, Harry Potter, the Pinky Blinders, Willamena Jones, the Drunken Abbots, Sherwin O’Houlihan and his Traveling Troupe of Troublesome Troglodytes…the Volg flat adored everything British.  He hoped to someday go to Earth and ride on one of those very tall red multiperson vehicles, watch a crumpet match, and have tea and crickets. He had come to take great pride in having not only a human, but a British expat under his command.  Though he was at times disappointed that Buchanan never showed up to work in a kilt.

The Volg actually worried about the big human sometimes, worried for the fate not only of the man himself, but his species as a whole.  The truth was, there weren’t nearly enough Earthlings.  Human beings had children at a glacial pace; one a year, if that even.  They were vastly outnumbered.  Buchanan was well along into midlife and he didn’t have a single offspring, whereas The Volg had somewhere around forty children and a lifespan of over two hundred Earth years.  Homo sapiens would never catch up to the rest of the galaxy if they didn’t start spawning more enthusiastically.  While they had equal representation in the Conclave of course, due to their low population they had but a single vote in the Assembly.  That was a recipe for disaster for such a young species.  

If it hadn’t been that many of the powerful species liked Earthlings and that strange invention of theirs called fiction, and had thus far voted to protect the interests of humanity, their quaint little blue planet would have been overrun and colonized by someone else already, maybe even The Volg Consortium. Humans would be enslaved and/or scattered, destined to be space dwellers forevermore, as the Erenhxi and the Oeantheans had been driven from their homeworlds to make way for a better organized and more numerous species.

As a result, the Volg was secretly delighted Buchanan had finally managed to procure himself a human woman.  He kept his scolding to a minimum – just a stern talking-to.  Well, not so stern; in all honesty The Volg had a hard time not grinning from jowl to jowl the entire time and patting his friend on the shoulder encouragingly, then sending him off with an inspirational “go get ‘em tiger” like the humans said to one another on fiction programs.

“How did it go,” Stan asked Nicky, when it was over with. He was waiting just outside The Volg’s office. “I didn’t hear him killing you, so I thought it was a good omen.”

“A bit weird, actually,” Nicky said, rather confused by the complete lack of harrumphing. The Volg could harrumph like no other.  “No punishment, just a warning, and barely that.  He said he’d pencil whip the paperwork for me.”

“Oh, thank Krep,” Stan said.  “I hated to turn you in, you know that, right?”

“No worries, mate.” Nicky said, and meant it.

“Shall we?”

“We shall,” Nicky said, and they headed to interrogation.

Nicky was certainly eager to have first crack at the q’Lurian, but it irritated him to no end that he hadn’t had a spare minute to go to the database to look up whoever it was the woman was running from in the first place. 

But it didn’t matter, they had time. Plenty of time.

*****

After Nicky and the Stan guy left, Tamsin ate the breakfast he’d made for her, except for the peas.  Peas for breakfast seemed like a bridge too far for her so she put them in the recycling chute along with the food trays and off they went with a whoosh.  

It was an amazing feeling, secure enough for a moment that she felt she could throw food away.  Even if it didn’t last, and it almost certainly wouldn’t, it was a welcome respite from the gnawing vulnerability that had completely dominated her life recently.

Then she tidied up because the detective’s flat was so small you pretty much had to pick things up immediately or you’d end up walking all over them.  She flung the futon mattress back on its frame, flipping it over so the stains wouldn’t show.  But the other side of the futon was dusty from the floor, and so she flipped it back over to the stained side again.  She opened up the blanket and shook it, and laid it over as a kind of a slipcover.  

Then she took a shower.  Since she felt kind of sore – not that she minded really given the reason – she used another ampule of oxyprofen even though she didn’t think the first one had totally worn off yet.

That took not even an hour, so with nothing else to occupy her, she sprawled on the dirty futon in her dirty clothes, because her pride would not allow her to use the detective’s money unless it was totally necessary.  Now that she’d used her security number, there was no sense hiding any more. With her security number she’d have no trouble getting a job, and she could buy her own shit in a week or two. Once she paid the detective back then the playing field would be level.  But not today. Today, she didn’t have to do anything at all, not even worry. Maybe Ash would get captured. Maybe he would never show up at all. Maybe there had been a terrible accident where he had a heart attack and crashed his car into the back of a tanker full of sulfuric acid and died instantly, after several minutes of agonizing pain.

She was safe and had a full stomach. Who could ask for anything more? Tamsin stretched out with a groan, feeling torpid and lazy, in a good way, like a kept woman. It was funny that she enjoyed wallowing in the decadence, because Tamsin had actually been a kept woman, and hated it.  She supposed it mattered who was doing the keeping.

Sleep seemed like a good idea, since she’d been up most of the night and anticipated being up most of the upcoming night too, but she was too wound up for it.  It had been so long since anything remotely interesting, let alone thrilling, had happened, it felt like she had years of stored up adrenaline to burn through.

In her boredom, she picked up the phone. Maybe she could watch a movie or something.  Though she had hated it when the detective bought the damn thing, it was kind of exciting to have a phone again, a real phone, a phone that did things, a phone just like normal people had.  She hadn’t had a decent phone since the one her father had bought for her as a reward when she graduated school.  Ash had promised that he’d get her a better one, and at his suggestion she’d given her old phone to her little sister.  But he’d been lying, of course.  

Though she had really not intended to snoop, she couldn’t resist scrolling through Nicky’s Amazon account.  She looked over the fiction programs Nicky watched (action) and the music he listened to (rock), though much of both categories were things she didn’t recognize. He’d watched a series of ten movies called “John Wick” half a dozen times, but she had never heard of that.  She scrolled through the books he’d read and was not only surprised but kind of disappointed to see they were mostly practical non-fiction books about living in space and law enforcement.  She had imagined British people read lots of literature, snooty things like Shakespeare and poetry, and that they did that for fun, because on fiction programs they all seemed very erudite. Even Sherwin O’Houlihan was always quoting Shakespeare and he was a comedian.  

Then again she hadn’t read many books lately herself either.  The closest thing she’d done to reading anything since she’d left Kolob was leafing through Mademoiselle Quilnaucht’s celebrity magazines.  Even though she couldn’t decipher the language, she recognized the pictures since they were all human actors and actresses, and sometimes Mademoiselle Quilnaucht would tell her factoids she read about the people, even though all of them were totally dead.  “Did you know,” she would say, pushing a lock of something that looked like hair but wasn’t hair behind her eye stalks, “that Julia Roberts had twin offspring called Hazel and Phinneas?” And then Tamsin would ooh and aah over it like it made any difference to her whatsoever.  

In lieu of reading, Nicky played a lot of games, mostly centered around fighting Nazis on behalf of Britain, or else fighting zombies on behalf of humanity.  He didn’t seem to go into online worlds and she respected that, because she heard people got addicted to online worlds and then they stopped living their actual life.  On Kolob people were warned against online worlds even more than they were warned against drinking whiskey. 

She could see every product he’d ever purchased, well, at least the last six months’ worth; if she wanted to access farther back she would have had to sign in again.  Some of the things were extremely personal and completely embarrassing but he’d risked letting her see them because he didn’t want her to be bored.  Tamsin felt a good deal of remorse for being such a terrible snoop, though the guilt wasn’t enough to deter her.  

From what she’d seen, Nicky seemed like a very nice person despite his intimidating appearance, but she knew only too well that people who seemed nice at first could turn on you just that easily, and there was nothing like wanting to get into a woman’s pants to make a guy act like a fucking sweetheart no matter what he was really like.  

With that chilling thought, Tamsin suddenly came to her senses, realizing what she’d just done, which was totally insane and completely out of character.  It was so shocking of a thing, she actually sat straight up. What? Spending the night with a stranger, “spending the night” in the Biblical sense, and not like a slumber party.  A stranger!  Just because he happened to be from Earth?  What was she even thinking?  That sort of behavior was incredibly stupid and incredibly dangerous!  How did she know he was a good person?  How did she know he wouldn’t hurt her?  

She didn’t.  There was no guarantee of that.  

She went back over Nicky’s Amazon again, but nothing problematic jumped out at her.  What was she looking for, anyway?  What did she expect to find?  Chloroform?  A cat o’nine tails?  An e-book entitled 101 Ways to Dismember a Woman?  Their absence didn’t prove anything; Ash had never needed any of those things to brutalize her.  All he had ever needed was his hands, and then his feet once she fell over, and Nicky definitely had those, just like all men did.  

Tamsin flung the phone away in disgust. Things that people liked and bought were interesting but they didn’t tell you that much about them really.  Ash donated money to charity, lots of money, but that didn’t make him a good person.  He bought Girl Scout Cookies.  He had been a Boy Scout, and she doubted they gave out merit badges for spousal abuse. He donated to book drives and Toys for Tots.  He would do the Secret Santa at the law office and give the most generous presents of all.  He never let Mother’s Day pass by without taking his mom and his grandma out for brunch and buying them big bouquets of flowers.  He even bought flowers for Tamsin’s mom and her grandmas and even her great-grandma, till she died. Then he cried a few tears at the funeral and everyone said how great of a guy he was, so sensitive and everything, and Tamsin wanted to puke.

Ash wore the appearance of goodness as a costume and who’s to say Nicky wasn’t the exact same?  After all, on fiction programs cops were always crooked and breaking the rules and shooting unarmed people so it seemed in the realm of possible that he was a bad person hiding in a good person disguise just like Ash.

It was probably a good thing she only had access to Nicky’s Amazon, and not his social media and porn, because she had a funny feeling she would have kept right on snooping till she found something she didn’t like, which didn’t seem fair exactly.  She grabbed the phone again and tried to Google him but there were too many hits; because she didn’t know where he’d been born, in what year, or what his middle initial was, she couldn’t figure out which one was the right Nicholas Buchanan, if Nicholas was even his real first name.  Nicky could have been short for all sorts of things, or a middle name for something less cool-sounding like Eugene, or the Scottish version of Eugene, which was probably Angus or something.  He had said he was from someplace called Embra but that didn’t even seem to be a real place, let alone a big city like he made it sound like. 

It was just about bizarre you could look up every detail from the lives of celebrities who had lived two hundred plus-some-odd years ago, you could find out the precise number of freckles on Julia Roberts’ ass probably even, but you couldn’t track down the identity of an actual real live person.

It wasn’t so much that she wanted to know Nicky’s secrets, exactly, she just wanted to know the worst of him, so she could decide where to go from there.  She didn’t have the patience to play it by ear, nor did she have the courage.  It just seemed like you should be able to get a preview before you decided if you wanted to be in somebody’s life or not, and for sure before you let them into yours.  A short instructional video called “Here are the worst things this person you just met has ever done”, narrated by that nature program guy, David Attabro, she thought that was his name anyway, they had to watch all those in school when the teachers wanted to dick off, and she hadn’t really been paying that much attention since none of the animals lived on Kolob anyway.  

For some reason she wanted to know the worst about Nicky and get it out of the way right from the jump rather than be blindsided by it later on once she got attached.

Of course even if there was such a thing there would be no guarantee they hadn’t just saved up the worst things they’d ever done to do to you.  The more she thought about it through that lens, the more she was overcome by an urge to leave, to run away back to her cargo bay and get her stuff and hop a transport somewhere else…but her stuff was gone and she didn’t have any money for a transport anyway.  She was stuck.  What would she do when he came back and expected to have sex with her?  She would have to have sex with him now whether she wanted to or not, or else he would get mad and take her back to the homeless shelter.

She remembered the Erenxhi suggesting she look into sex work and it crossed her mind that was basically what she’d done, found herself a job doing sex work. No license required.

Suddenly the previous night seemed all very sinister, a cop picking up a vulnerable woman, threatening her, intimidating her, confiscating her belongings, making sure she had nowhere else to go, and then practically forcefeeding her whiskey.  Detective Stan had certainly seemed to think there was something unethical about it, he even said so, he had said there was nothing more unethical a policeman could do than what Buchanan had done.  Maybe what she should do is call Stan, call him at the station and ask him if she was safe, and…but then who was to say Stan was any more ethical anyway? I mean seriously, he had a pierced nose, how ethical could he be?   

And that sentiment was stupid enough to snap her out of it. Because it hadn’t happened that way.  It really hadn’t.  The attraction had been mutual, if unexpected, and the sex was totally consensual.  She had drunk the man’s whiskey and asked for more.  She refilled his drink.  She had been friendly, even flirtatious.  She all but invited him to make a pass at her.  Tamsin suspected that if she’d been cold and standoffish Detective Buchanan wouldn’t have pressed the issue.  But she’d invited him to make the next move and was with him…or ahead of him…every step of the way.  That was the truth.  He had even asked her permission first, stopped the forward momentum and said “Let me fuck you, then?” before he did it, even though they’d been making out for like 45 minutes at that point and it was glaringly obvious to everyone involved that things were heading that direction.

It was almost like part of her brain was trying to rewrite what had happened as some kind of a defense mechanism, to drive her away before she could get in too deep.  That seemed like a pretty fucked up thing to do.  And a sad thing.

Maybe the reason why was because Tamsin hadn’t been inside another person’s life, at least someone whose life she wanted to be in, for so long, that the prospect was frightening all on its own.  Maybe she was just looking for a reason not to have to risk it.

Ash had been in her life.  Seriously, he had taken OVER her whole life and run it himself in addition to running his own, as if one life wasn’t enough for him.  But she had never been in his.  He made no accommodations for her, left her no space at his table.  She sat at his feet and lived off the scraps he threw her when he was feeling benevolent.  Maybe she had just belonged to him, belonged to him like an object and that wasn’t the same thing as being with a person, exactly.  

She felt like she was already more a part of Nicky’s life than she’d ever been a part of Ash’s, even though she only knew Nicky from an Amazon account and a single night during which they really hadn’t taken much time for deep heartfelt convos, and she’d been with Ash for over ten years.  The only people she’d dated before Ash had been boys who weren’t ready to share their lives with anyone.  She had wasted her life, all the best years of her life were gone because of Ash.  She had more in common with a total stranger than she had the man she’d wasted a third of her life on.  That realization made her feel even sadder, so sad she started to cry. 

As a distraction from her overwhelming sorrow, she tried to conjure up everything about Nicky so he didn’t feel like a stranger any more.  She thought about his eyes, his hair, the lines in his cheeks, his smell, the way he tasted, the way it had felt lying there with his arms around her staring at his amazing knuckles, and she replayed everything he said to her in that spectacular velvety voice he had.  She pulled the blanket down off the couch so it lay over her, and it was heavy enough and warm enough and furry enough she could imagine he was behind her, holding her. It was so soothing that she drifted off to sleep for a while, the phone still clutched in her hand. 

After she didn’t know how long, the phone buzzed and woke her up.  Then it buzzed again, and again.  After a bit she realized it wouldn’t shut up and let her drift pleasantly back to sleep unless she did something to it, and after a bit more she remembered that intermittent buzzing meant a text had come in.  The text was from an account that just had a lot of letters and numbers rather than a proper name, but she didn’t think much of it because she remembered people had all kinds of weird names for their accounts and figured it was for police security purposes or something.  

She clicked to open the message.  They caught the guy.  I have some questions for you.  Uber outside, it’s paid for.  See you soon.

On the way down the steps, Tamsin ran into the Chaboreth.  Its eyes widened and it made a sound way down in its belly.  Tamsin could actually feel the vibrations in the air. “Brrrraauhhhhh! Bruah, bruah, bruahhh!  Walk of shame!” it said.  “Walk of Shame!  Courtship ritual!  Very much success!!!”  And then it looked at her expectantly, as if it was waiting for confirmation.

She laughed because what else could you do?  “Very much success,” she agreed, and for all her doubts and worries and probably borderline insane fears, she had to admit it kind of had been.    

As promised, the Uber driver already knew the address already.  They drove Tamsin to a Vahkian restaurant way on the other side of the station, in a section she’d never been before, though Tashalos looked basically exactly the same wherever you went, apparently.  She had always heard that said, but now that she had been in more than one section she knew it firsthand.  

While the restaurant was packed with people, the waiter showed her to a table in a secluded corner, away from where most of the beings were eating.  That was good because Tamsin didn’t think she was anywhere near dressed up enough to be allowed in the joint; everyone was wearing suits and ties and frocks and ball gowns and kimonos and caftans and togas and muumuus and vestments and all the other things the aliens wore, a melange of garbs of various cultures, but all of it was expensive-looking. Tamsin sank down a bit in the chair to hide her lack of finery.

An e-candle flickered on the tabletop. There was a door with the EXIT symbol on one side of the table.  The dimly lit corridor that probably led to the bathrooms was on the other. “Please to turn off your communications device,” the Vahkian waiter requested.  “The sounds of communications devices must not be allowed to interfere with the enjoyment of the meal.”

“Oh, sure,” Tamsin said, and obeyed him.  “Can I have a Starbucks?  Double shot, mocha?” The cookie the night before had been sooo good, now she was craving chocolate. “Just a tall.” Don’t fill up on Starbucks, stupid, she told herself, which was something she had done many times over the course of her life, back when going to restaurants was something she got to do regularly.

“But of course,” the waiter said, and brought her one. He asked her if she wanted to order, and she told him she’d wait for her friend to arrive, but the truth was she couldn’t read the menu, knew nothing about Vahk culture or cuisine, and didn’t have her guidebook to consult. She was scared of ordering something disgusting, and then having to eat it out of politeness.

She sat at the table waiting expectantly, sipping the hot drink, looking at the front door for Detective Buchanan to show up, in that nice-looking black suit she knew he’d put on only for her sake.  He had a meeting, yeah, right.  Just like she was sitting there at a fancy restaurant because he had “questions”, instead of at the police station. What a liar he was. She found it surprisingly endearing, maybe because it was so beautifully human. Aliens didn’t lie, if you asked them if your dress made you look fat, they’d give it to you with both barrels, no sugar coating it.

It surprised Tamsin that after everything she could still find Nicky’s boyish innocent lies sweet and charming. Apparently men could tell you good lies to counter all the bad ones you’d gotten told along the way. His intentions were what counted. He wanted to take her out to lunch, like he had fed her dinner and breakfast. Maybe he’d thought she would argue, so he lied. Or maybe he was embarrassed, he seemed to be that kind of guy, Nicky did, getting all embarrassed really easy for nothing, unlike Ash who didn’t have a shame gene in his body.  

There was something very primitive about a man thrusting food in front of a hungry woman to win her over.  It was just like the Chaboreth had said, a mating ritual.  People dressed it up all sorts of ways to keep that reality at arm’s length, but way down deep inside that’s exactly what it was. 

Maybe it wasn’t that aliens were like animals.  Maybe it was human beings who were the most like animals all along.

It’s Just Biology – Part 3

It’s Just Biology – Part 3

When Tamsin entered Detective Buchanan’s apartment, she noticed he left his shoes at the door, so she did the same.  Apparently he’d gone straight in to use the bathroom, because he was nowhere to be seen and there was nowhere else he could have been.  His flat was little more than an alcove – a single narrow room, windowless as all the flats in the projects were windowless, not that there was much in the way of scenery to gaze at in Tashalos Station anyway. Along one wall there was a food rehydrator, a convection radiator, and a Frigid Air food chiller on a narrow bar with cupboards under it, and some sort of seating area on the other, with a narrow strip of abstractly speckled linoleum that looked like it belonged more in a dentist’s office than someone’s house between them.  Probably it was easy to clean, and durable.

She didn’t know how wide the room was but not very; she doubted the guy could even have laid down across it.  It was ironic that he’d chastised her for living the way she did, when his living conditions weren’t much of an improvement. She wondered where he even slept.

In the entry beside her there was a door of a material so thin it looked made of paper practically, and that was where the bathroom was.  You had to walk right past the bathroom door to get to the main room.  Since the door was so thin, she could hear him peeing as if she was standing right beside him.  By the time she had the apartment door shut behind her and her shoes taken off, she heard the toilet flush and the water run and then the buzz of the UV sanitizer, and she realized with dismay she wouldn’t even be able to grant the poor man the dignity of distance.  She had to be standing right outside the john listening in like a creeper.  

Sure enough, the door opened and there they were face to face.  

He tipped his head to the side and raised his eyes skyward for a moment, and she saw him bite the tip of his tongue between his molars.  Then he extended a hand to the side, welcoming her to use the facilities herself.  “Thank you,” she said, and he nodded.

There was a minuscule shower stall in the bathroom and she felt a wave of sympathy, thinking of Detective Buchanan fitting his ginormous body into the tight space.  He probably had to fit half himself into the shower and then turn around and do the other half.

Tamsin fit into the stall just fine and so she washed off the grime of the day, of several days, actually, off her aching body.  Normally she used the bathhouses in Marketplace 27 every day, though it was humiliating to shower there while the aliens hung around on the flimsiest pretense, trying to catch a glimpse of a naked human woman, even occasionally snapping a picture of her with their communications devices.  But she hadn’t been able to afford it but once a week since the Quilnauchts left the station.  Lately, her money had dwindled so much she’d had to skip even a weekly bath, making do with a scrub from the water basins in the public restrooms.  Every bit of her felt greasy and itchy and the back of her head felt like oily straw, the hair clumping together and jutting this way and that.   

She scoured herself thoroughly using the cheap three-in-one body wash/shampoo that Buchanan and pretty much every human male throughout the galaxy had in his shower.  It stank of sandalwood and masculinity, but there was a bottle of good conditioner as well, the fancy kind Tamsin couldn’t afford, probably because the detective had long hair and needed it to prevent tangles.  In addition to making her hair feel like spun silk, it smelled much better, tropical, heavy on the coconut.  So she used it like a lotion all over herself and ended up smelling much more like “human woman”, as the Chaboreth had called her.

For some reason the memory gave her the giggles, and she stood there laughing hysterically for quite some time, succumbing finally to the stress of the entire day, or maybe it was the stress of her entire life, who knew.  

Eventually the hot water petered out due to regulations preventing the overconsumption of fuel, so she turned it off.  There was a flat door set into the wall, made of that same thin papery stuff the bathroom door was.  She correctly assumed that was where the towels were. Not many, just a couple fluffy terrycloth towels neatly folded alongside a sparse collection of personal hygiene products and a few ampules of medication. It probably didn’t make much sense to keep more stuff than you needed given how small a space it was. 

She resisted the urge to snoop, drying off and putting her clothes back on instead; black, high waisted leggings and a long sleeved shirt with shades of pale pink, blue, and yellow feathered across it, pastels, which didn’t quite match the black pants.  The clothes had been hand-me-downs from Mademoiselle Quilnaucht, who in addition to being very generous, was a bipedal humanoid and about Tamsin’s size.  Of course, the Quilnaucht’s generosity hadn’t prevented them from leaving Tamsin with no way to make a living, without even bothering to give her two weeks’ notice and most shocking of all, refusing outright when she asked them for a reference.

The arm of her shirt was all covered in blood and her clothes reeked like onions and mustard and her own previously unwashed body, but it was all she had.  

She took an ampule of oxyprofen and inserted it into the dermic injector, then she injected it into her throat.  The throbbing of her sore muscles and bruised skin diminished instantly.  The stinging of the scratch on her arm faded away and the raw place she’d bit her tongue no longer bothered her.  Her hip was purpling where she’d landed on it, as was her shoulder, and her other knee was stiff, though she was pleased to see it wasn’t swollen.  She must have twisted it funny when the alien hit her.  Anyway within a few seconds she didn’t feel a thing.

After that, there was nothing left to do but go into the other room, which felt weirdly daunting, probably because it had been so long since she made small talk, and she had never been good at it anyway.   

As she emerged from the bathroom, the detective walked across the room directly in front of her.  The apartment was so small she could have reached out and touched him as he went by, but he didn’t even glance her way. 

While she’d been in the bathroom, he had changed into red plaid pajama pants and a black undershirt-style sleeveless top. There were more of the same flat paper-thin doors set into the far wall like the ones in the bathroom, and she figured they must be his closets since there was nowhere else he could be keeping his spare clothing.  

Though he had a gut in keeping with his age, he was fit, with ropy muscles in his arms and upper chest under the thick crop of body hair he seemed to have mostly everywhere except along the top of his upper arms.  It was like he had been in the middle of transforming into a werewolf and someone walked in and interrupted the process.  Maybe he actually needed the three-in-one to shampoo himself with.  

Tamsin heard the squeaking sigh of a piece of furniture as she stepped all the way into the room.  Buchanan had sat on a futon wedged into the small space, which also must be where he slept.  His phone was propped on the tubular metal arm of the futon frame, and it was playing Earth music, something Tamsin didn’t recognize and didn’t particularly care for, involving a guttural male voice screaming angrily about his father, and a lot of frantic guitar. 

Buchanan had a bottle of brown liquid balanced between his legs, alcohol by the look of it.  There was a square-sided glass tumbler of the liquid in his one hand, and his other hand, the one with the copper bracelet, splayed beside him as if he was inviting her to sit.  He was barefoot again, one foot pulled up into his lap with his bent leg holding the liquor bottle in place, the other resting on the ground.  

His detective’s hat…in the absence of the stress she’d been under previously, her brain coughed up the word ‘beret’…was gone, tucked away out of sight somewhere, and he’d let his hair down.  It mitigated the prominence of his forehead, which in turn made his scowling thick eyebrows less scowling and less thick.  Having his hair, chestnut and shiny and otherwise plentiful, except at the hairline, hanging loose around his face also made his mouth appear not so wide.  Though the lines in his cheeks looked just as deep as ever, Tamsin found she liked them.  

There was something unremittingly, unapologetically human about him; half proper British gentleman, half brutish Neanderthal, and the combination of the two seemed incredibly exotic.

Yet at the same time, he was a known quantity, comfortingly familiar.  Earth.  This is a man from Earth, she thought.  He is the exact same thing as me.  This man and I descended from the same ancestors who walked the same lands and we share the same history and the same culture.  If I told a joke to him, he would get it, and we would laugh together.  If I needed help he would help me and not just walk away.  He IS helping me.  He didn’t just dump me off and leave me to fend for myself even when I asked him to.  He’s not just a person, he’s a good person.  Policemen are our friends.

Suddenly Tamsin felt very warm. Despite the rush of warmth, she prickled with goosebumps so strong that along her scalp and down her spine they felt like miniature electric shocks.  Her stomach clenched and the thin skin underneath her eyes got so hot it almost hurt.  For some reason she had to swallow, and then she had to swallow again.  Maybe that ampule of oxyprofen had contained something stronger than she’d been expecting.

But then it slowly dawned on her that the strange physical sensation she was experiencing was a dismayingly urgent wave of sexual attraction.  It had been so long since she’d experienced it, she’d forgot what it was like.  This seemed very inconvenient since apparently she and the detective were about to spend the night together in a space the size of a walk-in closet and he was roughly the size of Mount Everett, which was a very large mountain on Earth, she thought that was the name of it, anyway.  

She realized she was staring at him only when he raised his eyebrows and tilted his head inquisitively.  “I’m sorry, I’m staring.  I haven’t seen a human being in two years,” she said, and then felt silly for saying it aloud.  Her cheeks flushed with embarrassment, and for other reasons.

“I haven’t seen a woman in two months,” he said, and she was relieved to hear amusement in his voice.  “At least two months, and that was a glimpse across a very crowded shuttlecraft dock.  I’m finding it hard not to stare myself.”  When he spoke his voice was like gravel on velvet; she wanted him to say more stuff so she could listen to it.

Tamsin felt herself flush again, from the top of her head all the way to her toes, and her armpits, which were deodorantless since that had seemed far too intimate a thing to borrow from a person you just met, went sweaty then icy cold when the sweat began to evaporate.  She was suddenly acutely aware of the fact that she wasn’t wearing a bra because she didn’t have one to wear, and a thin layer of cloth did not feel like adequate protection from a set of male eyeballs. She crossed her arms over her chest and hunched up her shoulders like she was walking in a snowstorm.  

It’s just biology. Biology, she told herself, but herself didn’t seem to be terribly inclined to listen.

“The chiller makes ice, if you’d like,” he said, only he said ‘lah-kh’, and he raised his glass a little to indicate what he was talking about.  “I think there’s another glass underneath.  I don’t entertain much, for obvious reasons,” he explained, referring to the size of the flat.

Tamsin retrieved the glass, a different shape and size entirely than the detective’s tumbler, as if he’d picked them up randomly somewhere along the line rather than buying a matched set.  She pushed the button for ice, and the chiller dropped into the glass with a cheery clink.  Crossing the room took all of three steps. She held out the glass for the alcohol.  The detective filled it nearly to the top, which seemed perhaps a bit excessive.  

“What is it?” she asked, because she couldn’t see the label.

“Whiskey,” he replied.  

“Oh, I read about whiskey,” she answered, and drank it all in one go.  The ice hit her front teeth.  She nearly retched, it was that terrible.  “God, that’s AWFUL,” she said, and pressed the back of her thumb against her upper lip till she was sure it was going to stay put.  Then she held out her glass for him to fill it again.  He chuckled indulgently and obeyed.  Then she sat down on the far end of the futon from him with her legs curled up under her, even though it didn’t feel nearly far enough away.  Just biology, that’s all.  Biology.  Biology is not the boss of you.  

“You’ve never had whiskey before?”

“Kolob is a dry planet,” she explained.

“No wonder you left,” he said, and took a long pull.  He didn’t have any ice in his glass to contend with.  He sucked the liquid from his upper lip.  “It was a man, then?”

“What?”  Tamsin thought he was asking about the creature who’d attacked her again, since he hadn’t inquired about its gender before, and she could have smacked him for being such a cop.  She didn’t want to think about that right then, or ever again if she could help it, and she drank the whiskey to wash the memory away.

“The reason you left your homeworld?” he clarified. “A man?”

She paused to choose her words carefully, and before she could answer him, a kind of pretty song began playing.  “What song is that?” she asked, only partly to change the subject.  There were so many songs in human history, it was easy to lose track of a song you heard once and liked and wanted to hear again, so she wanted to stick it in her head.

“I don’t know.  It’s on shuffle.”  She grabbed the whiskey bottle from his crotch, an overly familiar move that made him grind his teeth, she could see the muscles working in his jaw.  She refilled his glass and her own, and set the bottle on the floor because she wanted it out of the way.  Then Tamsin grabbed the phone to see what the song was and flung herself back to where she’d been sitting before. A little whiskey sloshed out of the glass and down the side of it, and she licked it off before it could drip on the detective’s futon.

“One Thing Finger Eleven,” she said, mostly to herself, and then laughed because it was so stupid of a name, like just some random words put together.  It probably meant something sexual. People in the past were so ridiculous, it was hilarious the things they thought were cool. They were like little children saying naughty words, trying to shock the grownups, when all along the grownups knew way worse than that, and found it rather tedious and juvenile.

“Is that the band or the song?” the detective asked in a bored, impatient way that indicated he didn’t care at all, he was just humoring her.  Then he gulped down his glass of whiskey and set the tumbler on the floor as if he wanted it out of the way too.  He rubbed his palm on his thigh as if it felt sweaty.

“No idea.” The way it appeared on the screen, there was no way to tell.  “I haven’t had a phone in eight years, I barely remember how they work.”  She chose not to mention that even before she left home, Ash hadn’t allowed her to have a phone of her very own, not a real phone anyway.  Even though he came from a rich family and had made a lot of money because he was a corporate lawyer for Amazon, he got her the cheapest phone possible, nothing but the tracking beacon required by law and the ability to reply to texts.  His texts, to be more precise. 

She didn’t need more than that, Ash had said.  He would decide what music she listened to because she had shitty taste in music anyway; he probably would have hated One Thing Finger Eleven.  He decided what programs she watched and what books she read.  He didn’t let her game because he said games rotted your brain and she had better things to do with her time anyway, like clean house and work out and make sure her toenails were freshly painted.  And of course he decided who she could talk to and what she could say; all their social media accounts were in his name and he read all the texts she sent to anyone, and also the texts she received.

“Well, they’re long dead, whoever they are.  They’re dead and we’re alive.”

“And yet we’re still listening to them sing, so who really wins?”  Tamsin drained her drink and set the empty glass on the floor beside the whiskey bottle.

“Some say it’s a sign of a decaying culture, that we focus only on old art and make none ourselves.”

“I’ll leave that question to the philosophers.”  She reached back across him to put the phone on the arm of the futon again.

Before she could return to her dubious safe space at the far end of the futon, Buchanan grabbed her around the wrist, ostensibly to inspect the cut on her arm.  It pulled her off balance and she ended up resting the weight of her upper body on his thigh unexpectedly.  She gasped, and when she did she could smell him.  The sandalwood and masculinity was much nicer on him than it had been on her.  “Let’s see this wound of yours,” he said. He ran his fingertip down  the skin of her forearm far enough away from the cut so it didn’t hurt, or maybe that was just the painkillers.  “It’s a clean cut.  Not too deep.  Starting to heal, already.”  His voice sounded strained.  His Adam’s apple rose beneath his beard hair as he swallowed, and then he cleared his throat. “Was it a man, then?”

“I’m surprised you didn’t just look it up.”

“I can’t access off-station records on my phone.  Unless I have a warrant.”

“Oh.”

“Privacy laws.”

“Oh.”

“Maybe I’d like to hear your side of it first,” he said, and shifted his hand so he was no longer holding her by the wrist, but curling his fingers over hers.  Tamsin let her thumb fall and ran it over those amazing inventions called knuckles to see what they felt like.  When she did she felt him breathe in, but he didn’t breathe back out.

“What’s your name, Detective Buchanan?  Like, your name, name, or whatever?”

“Nicky,” he said, and though Tamsin had thought that was a woman’s name, thought that men were supposed to be called Nick instead, she was surprised how well it suited him. She had never cared for the name Nick, because it was one of those too-cool sounding names like Ash was. Ash and Troy and Chance and Nick, they probably hung out together in school beating up nerds and raping drunk girls at parties. Just the sound of it, Nick, seemed harsh and brusque and weirdly violent. Tamsin couldn’t help but think any man called Nick had to be an entitled asshole, to have such an abrupt and invasive name. But Nicky’s extraneous Y softened it somehow, uncoolified it, made a person think this man here didn’t care so much what people thought, and still went by the name his mother had called him.

“Yes, Nicky, it was a man.  A bad man.”

He ran his hand up and down her arm again and then he gazed into her face.  Up until that point, Tamsin realized, he’d not done that before.  He’d been glancing around here and there, never looking at her for more than a moment.  Probably as he said, he was trying not to stare.  But finally he rested his dark eyes upon her.  He had those kind of dark eyes that smoldered.  “Not all men are bad, you know.”

With a daring that she hadn’t even known was a part of her, Tamsin pushed off him, only to push herself back onto him again, throwing her leg across him to straddle him, so she ended up sitting on his lap looking into his face.  “Prove it,” she said, and kissed him.

*****

When Nicky arose the next morning, the woman was sleeping still.  At some point they’d thrown the mattress from the futon on the floor for cushioning and there she sprawled, tucked into a faux fur blanket for warmth, a simulation of the hide of some beast that had long ago gone extinct on Earth, since the heat in Nicky’s flat worked just as well as the elevator.  Her lovely golden hair had dried in the night, frizzy and wild; he had a fond recollection of her walking into the room to stand before him with little glistening beads of water clinging to to the tips.

The woman was what some dimly lit corner of his mind thought of as an English rose, blonde and grey-eyed, with dewy fair skin and round rosy cheeks and full pink lips, as if she’d walked right out of an old painting of a milkmaid or a girl picnicking on the banks of the Thames.  

The only thing wrong with her aside from her silly name he couldn’t even bring himself to say – why didn’t offworlders give their daughters reasonable names like Anne or Kate – and her dreadful Americanese accent, broad and flat with hard r’s and overly emphatic o’s and like, whatevers, was that she was too thin.  English roses were meant to be a bit plump and her ribs were showing, not just the lower ribs but the top ones, up above her breasts.

He could hardly decipher what had happened, kept turning it over in his mind looking for the catch, the trick, the fine print, the moment he’d wake up and realize he’d just had a very realistic and entirely marvelous wet dream, but it seemed to be real.  They’d fucked and talked and fucked and then dozed off and woken up and fucked and talked and dozed some more and it had been an altogether fine way to spend a night.  Though an ugly little voice inside Nicky kept murmuring that she was only there because she was in a tough spot and needed him, pressing that advantage every woman had over every man since humanity had first slithered out of the primordial ooze, he found he didn’t care.  He only left her since he needed to show his face at work eventually; he would very much rather have done some more sleeping and talking and fucking, not necessarily in that order.  

He’d showered though he’d hated to wash her off his skin, and put on a suit. He didn’t normally wear one, save to various ceremonies he was required to attend for work, but he thought he looked a bit more civilized than usual in it.  It was a black suit with a royal blue shirt and a plain black tie. Then Nicky pulled his hair back and put his beret on and thought he looked as handsome as it was possible for him to look, which he feared wasn’t very handsome at all.   

He put two breakfasts into the food rehydrator, then thought better of it and added a third, thinking of those ribs showing high up on the woman’s chest where ribs weren’t meant to show. 

After the meals were rehydrated he put them into the convection radiator to warm them.  The smell of bangers and mash and fried eggs with onion gravy and mushy peas filled his flat; he should have turned on the air exchange, but it was too noisy when it first came on, and he didn’t want to wake the woman up.  It cost him a shocking percentage of his salary to order in proper food from Earth but it was worth every credit he spent on it. The utter trash that passed for human food on the stations was appalling, not to mention damn near as expensive.  He rehydrated a waxed-paper pitcher full of orange juice and put it in the chiller. 

Despite his best efforts at quiet, the woman stirred, made a little mewing groan and stretched with an arm over her head.  She was so lovely the insecurity he was attempting to stave off surged, brutal and crushing.

“Well, look at you,” she said, in her annoying accent that inexplicably sounded like music to his ears, “wul” instead of well, and “yew” instead of you, and the “look” was such a guttural disaster he did not know how it might be represented in proper English.  “All gussied up.”  

Maybe the suit hadn’t been a good idea after all.  “I have a meeting this morning,” he lied.

She sat up and scrubbed her fingers through her messy hair. “Oh no, I wasn’t complaining, not at all.  I have two words for you, my friend.  Morning.  Wood.  I didn’t know women could get that, but, here we are.”

“Is this a pity fuck?” he blurted, and felt profoundly stupid.

The woman looked flabbergasted for a moment and then she regrouped and turned it back around on him.  “Well, I don’t know, Nicky do you pity me?”  She raised her eyebrows and smirked with one side of her face in a self-deprecating way, and they both laughed.

All concerns towards getting to work in a timely manner vanished from his mind entirely.  He was just about to loosen his tie and fuck her again when the convection radiator informed them breakfast was ready.  “Keep it warm,” Nicky told the radiator, and stuck his finger into the knot round his throat, thinking to commence the fucking process.  But then the doorbell sounded, which was just about his bloody luck.  The woman stood up as she slithered into his tank top which fit her like a dress.  She wrapped her lower half with the blanket like a mermaid, displaying a modesty Nicky was quite pleased to recall she didn’t possess at all.

Since he could see on the Ring that it was Stan, Nicky opened up the door without adequately thinking through the consequences of the act.  “Why are you all dressed up?” Stan said in an incredulous tone, and straightened Nicky’s tie, which had gone off to the side crooked when he’d started to unfasten it.  “Did someone die?” he added as he walked in.  Then he saw the woman and gaped.  “What the dreikh?  What the ACTUAL dreikh, man?”

“Good morning to you, too,” Nicky replied drily, as he pulled the door shut.

“You didn’t, Nic.  Tell me you didn’t.”

“I didn’t?” he said jokingly, because it was obvious he did, and even if it hadn’t been visually obvious, Stan possessed a sense of smell sharper than a bloodhound.  “All right, I did, and I plan to do it again at the first available opportunity, if she’ll have me.”

“She’ll have you,” the woman said, and Nicky felt his cheeks redden.  He counted through his sick days and wondered how many he could take without anyone getting up his arse about it.  He could say he had mono, that was always good for a week off, because getting mono was a plot point on fiction programs often enough the aliens believed it to be a ubiquitous human illness even though mononucleosis had been eradicated on Earth back in the 21st.  Oh no, not the kissing disease! they would say, and let him have the days without a doctor’s note.

Stan did a slow burn, getting angrier and angrier as he did.  “Why can you people not go home to spawn once every three solar cycles like sensible beings?  Why do you need to spawn constantly? Why is it all human beings ever think about, is spawn, spawn, spawn?”

“I haven’t spawned in a good long while,” Nicky said.  

“Me neither,” added the woman helpfully.

“I should have known,” he paused and continued in an extremely over-the-top imitation of Nicky’s accent.  “Och, Stan, knock off early, och, Stan, I’ll take care of the paperwork, och Stan, I don’t mind at all.”  Stan jumped up and down several times; he always did when he got worked up.  “I should have known, you son of a BITCH, Nicky, I swear to your fucking imaginary man who lives in the sky, I am not going to cover for you on this, fucking a crime victim, man, a HOMELESS crime victim, dude, seriously, that’s like the most unethical thing a police officer could possibly do!”

“That’s not strictly true, Stan,” Nicky pointed out.  “I could have fucked a suspect.”

“That was ONE TIME,” Stan whined.  “And she was innocent, -ish.”

“Ish,” Nicky repeated.  He had covered for his partner on numerous occasions, all of which Stan seemed to appreciate, but he understood that Stan would never return him the favor.  He couldn’t, really, he wasn’t capable.  While Stan was certainly just as prone to impulsive behavior as any human being and had made his fair share of questionable decisions in the heat of the moment, it wasn’t in his species’ nature to go against the rules if he considered it for even a moment in advance.  “Why are you even here?  I was on my way in,” Nicky said.

“You shut off your commdev, you horny inbred drebulon, that’s why I’m here.”

“Fuck, sorry,” Nicky said, and turned his phone on.  It buzzed and chirped and beeped and chimed at him for the better part of four minutes solid before it shut up.  The woman peered at the blinking screen as the messages came in.  She seemed oddly curious about phones, as if they were a novelty to her, to such an extent that living eight years without one didn’t quite explain it.  On Earth babies were given phones in the cradle; perhaps it was different on her world.  Religion and all that, undoubtedly.

“You didn’t even do the paperwork, did you?” Stan asked.

“No, but I will, I promise.  First thing.  As soon as I get to the precinct.”  

“We found the guy.  DNA screening.  We’ll roll by and pick em up on the way in.”

“That was easy.  Who was it?”

“A q’Lurian separatist.”

“Oh?” Nicky asked, unsure what a q’Lurian, who tended to keep to themselves, and had no love for homo sapiens, would want with a human woman.  “That’s a bit odd?”

“You know they hate you people, the separatists especially.  It was probably just a random act of violence.  They saw her and went feral, not unlike yourself, you giant flaming Bazerian douchenozzle.  But I figured you’d want in.”

“I do, very much,” Nicky said, and gathered up his ident badge, his weapon, and his phone from off the worktop where he’d left them.  He thought for a moment, tapped in his Amazon password into the phone he’d bought for the woman, and handed it to her.  “I’ve granted you access to my Amazon.  If you need anything – a change of clothes?  A toothbrush?  Shoes?”  She scrunched up her mouth and looked upwards, as if she found the latter suggestion offensive to her pride, but her shoes were entirely unacceptable and he planned to chuck them in the bin personally if she wouldn’t do it of her own accord.  “Anything at all.  Just buy it.  We’ll sort it out later. You shouldn’t need a password, just use One-Click.  Have a drone bring it by.  Don’t go out, eh?  At least not till we know more.”

“Um, well, thanks.  I shouldn’t need anything, but thanks.”  She rolled her eyes, not from Americanese rudeness, more out of embarrassment, he thought.  He decided he’d send a few things by for her since he didn’t expect she’d take him up on the offer.  Then he picked her up, right up off the floor, and kissed her goodbye.

“Augh, why, WHY must you put your mouths together, do you have any idea how unsanitary that is?” Stan exclaimed, thoroughly disgusted.  “That has ruined more fiction programs for me!  Right when the story gets exciting, the humans put their mouths together.  It’s VILE!”

“You should have seen where my mouth was last night,” the woman said. 

Nicky laughed.  “That religious upbringing you had, I’m afraid to tell you, it didn’t take.”  

“You should have seen me before,” she joked. 

Ignoring Stan’s sounds of protest, he kissed her again, then set her down and opened the convection radiator and removed the food.  He peeled back the wrap on one of the meals and helped himself to a sausage, burning both his fingers and his tongue in the process, and washed it down with a few gulps of deliciously ice cold orange juice straight from the chiller.  Stan cleared his throat.  “I’m standing right here, man.” 

Nicky tossed him a couple sausages.  Stan caught them in midair and swallowed them whole.  

As they drove towards the q’Lurian’s neighborhood, Stan put the vehicle on auto so he could gesticulate wildly to emphasize his important points, and then proceeded to chastise Nicky for his stupidity, demanding to know what he’d been thinking and why he hadn’t taken the woman to a hotel if the shelter had been as bad as all that.

Nicky was very well aware he should have just taken her to a hotel.  Very well aware.  Money was no excuse; he could have paid for it, called it his good deed for the day.  There would have been paperwork, but not half as much as he’d have now, since Stan was genetically incapable of letting him skate by without reporting him. 

He’d told himself that it was because she’dve had to give her security number again, but in truth it was because he’d hoped that what had happened, would happen. And if he hadn’t entirely sussed out what his subconscious had been plotting when he brought her back to his place, he’d certainly known it when he opened the whiskey.

What Tamsin had misinterpreted as him being angry with her the night before had actually been him raging at fate, at God, at the universe, for putting him in a situation where it was too bloody tempting to not do the right thing, and himself for succumbing to the temptation.  

While Stan droned on, Nicky arranged a few things to be delivered to his flat by an Amazon drone. A toothbrush, some disposable clothing, an ampule of Vitamin D – all humans were meant to have Vitamin D regularly whilst living in space due to the lack of sunlight, and he hadn’t seen any when he’d gone through her things – and a Starbucks of course.  He wished he could replace her terrible shoes but he didn’t know the size.  Then he thought of sending flowers since that seemed like the sort of thing a man should do, but they didn’t have roses of course, nor lilies.  She seemed a daisy sort anyway, and daisies weren’t long lived enough to be had on the stations.  Unfortunately the only alien flowers available for sending carried a warning label that said they smelled repulsive to humans.  

“What do women like, Stan?” he asked his partner, who had stopped berating him long enough so Nicky could get a word in edgewise. “Something…oh, I don’t know…frivolous?”

“An eighteen inch spiked Orasteran dildo?”

“Shut up.”  

“Probably smart to avoid it.  You know what they say, Nicky, once you’ve had an eighteen inch spiked Orasteran dildo, you’ll never go back.  In fact, you know, why don’t you pick up one of those for me while you’re at it, Mr. Sandy Claws.  Shove it down my stocking.  Up my chim-in-nee.  I’ve been a very good boy.”

“I thought you only spawned once every three solar cycles, Stan.”

“Three solar cycles is a long fucking time, man.” Then Stan sighed and glanced at Nicky sideways. “She take your money,” he sang, in an impossibly perfect falsetto. “When you’re in need. Oh, Nicky, she’s a triflin’ friend indeed.”

“Shut up, mate,” Nicky warned.

“Uhn, now I ain’t saying she’s a gold digger, uhn,” he said in a sing-song way.

“Shut the fuck up, Stan. I mean it.” This time Stan obeyed, but he made a big show of swaying back and forth in the seat, bobbing his head as if he was still singing the song in his mind.

Disregarding his partner’s concerns, in a fit of cockeyed optimism Nicky ordered in some Americanese food from Earth, even though it would take weeks to arrive.  He ordered meals he’d never voluntarily eat like sloppy joes and Spaghetti-O’s and chop suey, ordered them Express, and it cost him four thousand credits to do it. He envisioned himself standing in his apartment alone eating his way through four thousand credits’ worth of chop suey while “All By Myself” played in the background and he felt a very unpleasant yearning twinge in his chest. Not good, not good to get in so deep so quickly, not good at all. Not good, and not in his nature.

Nicky Buchanan considered himself a loner, a curmudgeon, very nearly a misandrist; he despised his fellow man which was why he’d become a cop to begin with, to keep their thieving scheming arses in line.  He’d left the theme park tourist trap hellscape called Earth quite happily, with no regrets.  Humanity itself was bad enough, and the hordes of alien tourists shuffling through Edinburgh demanding Scotsmen in kilts playing the bagpipes or else running about with blue faces shouting about their FREEDOM were fucking intolerable.  

Yet if he was being honest, he had to admit that living without the steady company of other human beings as long as he had was a very far thing from easy.  Even though he had his mates at work, most especially Stan, and his neighbors were a decent enough lot, it just wasn’t the same.  The only time Nicky ever encountered other people was when he was arresting them and that wasn’t exactly a bonding experience.

His coping mechanisms of working too much, gaming too much, drinking too much, and looking at far too much pornography were no replacement for the companionship of his own kind.  Nicky hadn’t quite realized how very much he missed being a man rather than just another anonymous sentient being in an exceedingly crowded galaxy, but being with the woman had ripped the scales from his eyes.  

He felt like a ghost, unseen, unknown, just a cold spot on the floor, in need of chains to rattle to prove to anyone he even existed.  It was as if his very soul itself was withering from disuse, yet he could still feel the ache of it like a phantom limb, even though it wasn’t fully dead yet. 

You needed one another, that was the thing.  As much as he hated people, he knew he was meant to be with them.  You needed your own kind.  Even if you were surrounded by 17 million other creatures, you needed people, living people, not electronic facsimiles of them.  You needed the flesh of your flesh, blood of your blood, DNA of your DNA.  Your body knew it even if your mind thought it was far too clever for primitive allegiances based around a shared genome.  His body definitely knew it. Having actual physical sex with an actual physical woman felt like that moment in The Shawshank Redemption when Andy made it out from the sewers and stood in the rain and raised his hands to the sky and praised the heavens.

The woman said she hadn’t even seen a human in two years, TWO YEARS.  He couldn’t imagine living that way without even a phone for a distraction.  Despite being an unapologetic introvert, he couldn’t fathom such complete isolation, and she seemed nowhere near as antisocial as he was.  

And that raised a question, one he’d thought might come up over the course of the night, but she seemed quite adept at avoiding it.  That question was why.  Why had she picked up stakes and moved across the galaxy to live alone in an unheated cargo bay on a space station?  With no prospects, no connections, no friends?  Who in their right mind did such a thing?  And why was she willing to go hungry rather than give out her security number?   

A man, bad man, she’d said, and that was all she’d said.  

As bad as it could be – and Nicky had certainly seen enough incidences of domestic violence over his career to know they could be bad indeed – what could have driven her to such desperation?  Did they not have authorities on her planet?  Could she not have sent the man to prison?

After eight years, surely even the most obsessed stalker would’ve given up?

It’s Just Biology – Part 2

It’s Just Biology – Part 2

Looking for Part 1? It’s here: It’s Just Biology – 1

When the detective asked her if she had a friend she could stay with, Tamsin lied.

She had no one, of course.  She didn’t even have anywhere to stay herself really, let alone with a friend.  Since she’d arrived on Tashalos Station, she’d lived in a cargo hold.  Alone. 

The address she’d given the detectives was fake – the address of a post office, though she never received mail since you had to have a security number to get a mailbox, and there was no one she wanted to hear from anyway.  It didn’t matter, her lying, she figured. They probably expected it. Didn’t everybody lie to the cops? And anyway, tens of thousands of sentient beings lived under the radar on Tashalos, tucked into the bowels of the station like Tamsin.  Surely the police would never bother to investigate a solitary woman who hadn’t even done anything wrong to begin with, especially for something as utterly stupid as not having a phone.

The cargo hold where Tamsin resided was full of these massive pallets of supplies that were in transit from somewhere to somewhere else and were being stored on Tashalos temporarily, till a freighter could pick them up to carry them wherever they were meant to go.  She lived up on top of the stacked pallets, where she liked to imagine no one would ever be able to find her.  Even though the shipping containers were wrapped in thick plastic along the edges to hold them together and protect them from the elements, up top they usually weren’t sealed completely shut, so she could pull back the plastic and rearrange the boxes to make herself a little nest with walls.  Early on in her residency she figured out how to read the schedules and so whenever a stack of cargo was due to be shipped, she simply moved her things to another stack before the anti-grav forklifts came, and there she would build another nest.  

And that had been her life for the past several years.  She thought she had it all figured out.  

So it was quite a surprise, to say the least, when she clambered up to her nest to find Detective Buchanan already there waiting for her.  She’d spent a good deal of time doubling and tripling back around in case anyone followed, honestly way more worried about the alien who had attacked her than the police. But apparently the detective had spent the same time looking at security footage instead to find out where she really lived and got there before her.  

While he was waiting he had rifled through her things; she could tell because they were in disarray rather than neatly stacked the way she’d left them.  He must have been satisfied with what he found, or didn’t find maybe, and was sitting cross legged on her bedroll, tapping on his phone.  He had her Physhar’s Guide to Alien Life open on his lap like he’d been leafing through it.  The detective looked at her disdainfully, giving off this “I’m so disappointed in you” vibe combined with an air of mental superiority, like he’d somehow won some battle of the wits, when all he’d really won was the battle of having better technology. 

Through her annoyance, Tamsin realized the dude was barefoot, which seemed creepily weird.  But then she noticed he’d taken off his shoes and socks and left them at the edge of her nest, ostensibly to avoid getting the filth of the station on her bedding.

Not that a strange man’s sweaty feet were much of an improvement over station filth.  “What the fuck,” she exclaimed, before she could stop herself.  While people swore constantly off of Kolob, and Tamsin had certainly acquired the habit since she had expatriated herself, vulgarity didn’t seem like the best way to talk to a policeman.

“Your address is a post office, Ms. Pulsipher,” he explained as she slung her aching leg over the edge of the boxes and slithered-rolled into her nest, suppressing the urge to grunt in pain as she did.  “There are only 253 humans living on this station…well, 254, I suppose, yourself included.  Nearly all law abiding, causing me no trouble at all.  Surely you didn’t think I’d be too busy to confirm your story?”  Her heart sank as she realized what a freaking moron she was, believing she’d get permanently lost in the shuffle of the 17 million sentient beings on Tashalos Station. That was not how things worked.  Human beings were answerable to human authorities no matter where they were; answerable both for breaking human laws and galactian ones.  Detective Buchanan was charged with the task of enforcing the law for all homo sapiens on Tashalos, so naturally he would have took the time to find out whatever he wanted to know about her.

“Is being homeless illegal too, or is it just not having a phone?” she said, still laying on her belly trying to recover from the climb, which she could normally do easily, but she was weak from hunger and hurt.

“It’s not illegal, but trespass is, of course.  You’re trespassing here.  Look at the damage you’ve done,” he said, and flipped at the edges of some plastic she’d torn.

“Yeah, I mortally wounded that piece of plastic. That’s gotta be manslaughter at the least.”

“It’s not about the financial value of course. You’re breaking the law. They have homeless shelters for beings in need.  There’s help available for you, Ms. Pulsipher, you just need to reach out and take it.  You don’t have to live this way.”

She sat up as if to prove it to him that she wasn’t a being in need. “I don’t need help.  I’m doing fine on my own.” Tamsin may not have friends, but she’d heard enough from strangers to know that homeless shelters were to be avoided at all costs.

They said you may as well be going to prison as go to a shelter.  You couldn’t come and go freely, someone had to know where you were all the time, there were drug tests and medical examinations, mandatory vaccinations for diseases Tamsin had never heard of let alone contracted, and delousings both internal and external.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, they put you through psych evaluations and anger management classes and counseling sessions and occupational therapy.  If the shrinks found you crazy, they could prescribe medication you couldn’t choose to forgo or even an implant to alter your brain waves if you were fucked up enough mentally.  You weren’t allowed to leave the shelter until you had proof of gainful employment and a place to live and you couldn’t get those things till the experts agreed you were ready to rejoin society. 

All of that was incredibly shitty of course but the more pressing concern for Tamsin was that whatever charitable organization that ran the shelter undoubtedly entered your name and security number into some sort of computer system where anyone could find you if they were looking. Not only would she be trapped, she’d be trapped and easily located.  That was unacceptable.  

He’s forgotten about me, he’s moved on by now, he probably has a new wife and seven children already, he doesn’t care any more, but even as she thought it, she knew it was a lie.

“Oh?  Doing fine on your own, are you?  When was the last time you ate?” the detective asked, only he said ‘eht’ instead of ate.

Since the drink the Sophroid had given her was burning off and she didn’t want to answer the question, she asked him one instead. “Where are you from?”

“I’m Scottish,” he said, and he started putting his socks back on. She must have looked confused, because he elaborated. “From Scotland? It’s a country on Earth? You might know it as part of Britain, even though it isn’t part of Britain any more? Europe? Surely you’ve heard of Europe?”  

She wasn’t confused though, she was amazed.  He was from Earth, like, actually from Earth.  The knowledge rendered Tamsin a bit starstruck.  She had never met an actual Earthling before.  “You mean like Shrek?” she said, because he really didn’t sound Scottish, at least Scottish in the way she knew it from fiction programs.  He didn’t have that stretchy comical twang she identified as Scottish.  His accent was clipped and curt, all work and no play. 

“Scotsmen don’t talk like cartoon characters in real life,” he explained in such a patient way Tamsin realized she had annoyed him by asking him something he was asked all the time.  “And Shrek isn’t Scottish anyway, it’s just someone pretending.” He began to tie his shoes, which were sensible black work boots that reached just over his ankle.  They had “RAN” embossed on the soles in white letters but the letters were starting to wear off.  That meant Reebok-Adidas-Nike; she had had a few pairs of that brand of shoe back on her homeworld when she was a kid.  Her own shoes were falling apart, she had them taped together with duct tape to keep the soles from flapping.  Tamsin felt acutely aware of this fact since the detective looked right at them and sighed through his nose judgmentally.  “I don’t wear a kilt, or play the bagpipes, nor am I personally acquainted with the Loch Ness Monster.”

“Oh,” she replied.  It was odd how human beings all went so far out of their way to avoid every stereotype possible when thinking about alien species, but still bought into the stereotypes of their fellow person without really even thinking twice about them.  Tamsin wondered if there was a guidebook for human beings about the other kinds of human beings in the galaxy; if there wasn’t, someone should definitely write one, it would be a best seller. Unlike aliens, who tended to have one or two or three dominant cultures, humans came in hundreds of varieties. Humans could be as different from each other as two different species of aliens were. She wondered why, and figured it probably had to do with having imaginations since that was the only quality humans had that aliens didn’t.

“You realize, Miss Pulsipher, that it took me hardly any time at all to figure out where you live.  You are, as they say, a sitting duck.”

“I don’t know what that means, sorry.”

“They say it all the time on fiction programs. It’s hardly a rare term.” He was challenging her over it like he thought she was just trying to be difficult or something.

“Whoever says it, I guess it didn’t register.”

“Sigh. It means you’re vulnerable. If what happened to you wasn’t random, if someone is coming after you personally, you simply cannot stay here.  It’s not safe.  You realize that, yes?”

“I’ll be fine, dude, I swear,” she said, but was dismayed to hear her voice sounded weak and defeated.  Then to make matters worse, her stomach gurgled then and gave the game away completely.

“I cannot allow it, in good conscience I cannot allow it.”  Tamsin figured it was more likely because he’d get in trouble if he let her go and she ended up murdered or whatever. In trouble like, maybe he’d have to fill out an extra form or something. Good conscience, boo fucking hoo, the selfish prick was just covering his ass. He stood up and his head nearly hit the fire suppression system above Tamsin’s nest.  “I’m assuming, Miss Pulsipher, since you came back here after I told you specifically not to, you have nowhere else to go?”

“No, I can totally go somewhere else,” Tamsin said, and stood up too. She blushed because what she meant was that she could go to a different cargo bay and set up housekeeping there.  

That was not what the detective meant, and he saw through her ploy like it was transparent aluminum.  “We’ll send someone ’round to collect your things,” he said in a tone that brooked no argument.

Buchanan took her to a human restaurant called Carl’s Jr. which she had never been to before. They didn’t have Carl’s Jr. on Kolob though she had seen tons of advertisements for it. Under normal circumstances she would have been excited to eat there after seeing all those ads her whole life. But being pretty much basically arrested took the fun out of it. He fed her a burger and fries, or some processed substance that approximated a burger and fries, anyway. Tamsin almost fainted when she saw the prices on the menu; she ordered the smallest, cheapest thing available which was a side order of taquitos, but then the detective changed her order and added a burger and fries to it, though he still got her the taquitos anyway, and a cookie, and he upsized her Coke. Probably the guy dislocated his arm patting himself on the back for it too. But whatever, it was food, and she didn’t have to get it from the garbage, so.

It had been so long since Tamsin had eaten anything close to human food, which was megaexpensive on the stations, that she ate way too quickly and embarrassed herself.  Or maybe it was because she was straight up starving that she stuffed her face like a pig. Whatever. She didn’t care what the detective thought of her table manners, or her in general.  She didn’t even care how bad her tongue stung where she’d bitten it.

He said very little aside from “pass the salt”, and he ate slowly; he seemed more interested in watching her eat, which he did surreptitiously out of the corner of his eye when he thought she wasn’t paying attention.  Tamsin’s mouth was too full to make chitchat and she was too hungry to care about going through the empty rituals of politeness.

The detective only finished about half of his own sandwich, which was an approximation of fried fish.  He didn’t touch his fries at all, even though he’d salted them thoroughly like he’d been planning to eat them.  He pushed the remains of his meal across the table at her.  Then he told her, “I’ve got to run an errand, and I expect you to be here when I get back, Ms. Pulsipher.  If you aren’t, may I just remind you that there are security cameras everywhere and I can check them in a matter of moments.”  He walked away, and as he did his phone chimed so he began scrolling on it.

Tamsin obeyed because what other choice did she have?  If he’d really sent someone around to snag her belongings right out from under her, and he seemed like the sort of dictatorial a-hole who totally would, everything she owned was already in the custody of the Tashalos Police.  Starting over again with nothing AND the police after her, not to mention unemployed and broke, felt impossible.  It felt impossible because it WAS impossible.  If she tried it, she figured Detective Buchanan would be rolling back around to put her in a body bag in a week or two, and he would sigh judgmentally and be all pissed off at how stupid she had been to run away, and congratulate himself for feeding her such a nice meal beforehand.

She inwardly raged, furious at finding herself completely reliant on the benevolence of a man, a position she’d vowed long ago never to find herself in ever again.  And then she ate the detective’s dinner, as if that would teach him a lesson or something.

When Buchanan came back to the restaurant, he had a phone.  It was hot pink and glittery, like a little girl’s phone, and Tamsin felt it insulted her intelligence.  “I didn’t want you to forget,” he explained, making air quotes around the word forget, and opened up the plastic anti-theft clamshell the phone was stuck into.  He programmed it for her while she finished eating his overly salty fries, washing it down with the dregs of his drink, which was orange and bubbly but tasted all wrong, bittersweet and spicy rather than the tart citrus flavor she’d expected.  But that cookie, Jesus fucking Christ, it was crazy that something could taste that good when you were already stuffed full of food.

Tamsin expected the detective to ask her for her security number, her birthplace, her mother’s maiden name, the year she’d graduated school, all that bullshit, but he didn’t need any of it.  Her entire life was basically his for the taking, just with a little scrolling and clicking.

The epic unfairness of being born with two X chromosomes in a man’s…well, not only world, but galaxy, washed over her.  Men created a system in which everyone was tracked and monitored and constantly watched in the name of “safety”, including women, even though the men were the ones who did nearly all the crimes and women were a lot of the times their victims.  Then they used that system to ensure that women kept on being victims, that women could never just get away from a man who had hurt them.  No matter how far a woman ran and how careful they were, there were all these intricate political and economic and legal systems centered around nothing but making sure a person like Tamsin, who had done nothing wrong at all whatsoever, could always be found.

Human beings went to the stars and joined a galactic society comprised of 400 quadrillion sentient beings and innumerable unsentient ones, yet still everything was the same as it ever was.  Men owned women and women could never escape them.  Even when you tried, there would always be some other man who would catch you and hand you back over.

Detective Buchanan of course didn’t know any of this, though she wondered if he might suspect, since he had a sympathetic way about him when he held out the phone.  “It’s the law,” he explained, which didn’t help at all.  As Tamsin held out her hand to take it from him, he inhaled sharply through his prominent front teeth with a hissing sound. “You didn’t tell me you’d been hurt,” he said accusingly.

Tamsin looked at her arm and it was bleeding again from where she’d been cut.  She grabbed a handful of uselessly thin paper napkins from the dispenser on the table and held them against the wound.  “It’s just a scratch,” she said.

“They’ll have medics at the shelter,” Buchanan explained.  “They’ll get you fixed right up.”

And the last flickering hope Tamsin had that she might end the night a free woman was snuffed.

The nearest shelter wasn’t that far from the burger stand, only a couple blocks.  Mr. Big Spender didn’t even offer to get an Uber, suggesting they walk instead. Despite being sore from head to foot, and even limping a little from where her hip had hit the floor when she fell, Tamsin was glad of it, since it gave her a little more time, not that it would matter anyway. They made the walk in silence, with Tamsin mentally consumed by plotting out potential arguments she could make, valid points she could raise, heartfelt pleas she could toss at the guy, and doing none of it because she didn’t see the point in demeaning herself when the answer would only be no anyway.  

She couldn’t even guess at what the detective was thinking, though he did seem to be thinking something.  Rather than being implacable and stone-hearted like she’d expected, he seemed kinda torn, which didn’t alleviate Tamsin’s concerns about the homeless shelter any.  Apparently even he thought they sucked and he didn’t want to leave her there even though the whole thing was his idea in the first place.  Tamsin wondered if maybe he hadn’t got an Uber because he didn’t want to leave her there, and was trying to postpone it just like she was. She pushed that thought away as unlikely because she didn’t want to feel kindly disposed to the jerk who was ruining her whole entire life.

Tamsin considered said jerk, who had gone right past kinda into being definitely no-doubt-about-it torn. His eyes, which were brown like she’d expected, were darting around all over the place, rolling around under his thick eyebrows, which were furrowed from what seemed to be anger.  His lips moved as if he was talking to himself.  Occasionally he even muttered something under his breath. The only thing she thought she heard properly was “bloody golden hair”.

Even though Buchanan seemed thoroughly unconvinced he was doing the right thing by Tamsin, when they got to the homeless shelter he didn’t hesitate.  He marched right up to the plump, soft, kind-looking Norigian sister who manned the kiosk in the entryway and gave the creature Tamsin’s new phone.  The Norigian took it with a handless arm; it appeared to the human eye much like an octopi’s tentacle only furrier, but wasn’t any such thing at all.  

The Norigian had been expecting them; apparently Buchanan had called ahead and sold her out in advance.  The sister started downloading Tamsin’s personal information into the shelter’s master computer behind the counter.  There was a poster on the wall of a very cute alien creature that Tamsin didn’t recognize dangling from a branch, with a caption written on the bottom in a language Tamsin couldn’t read.  “It says, hang in there, baby,” the Norigian explained.  “It is good advice, yes?”

As she stared at the platitude, Tamsin felt despair cresting within her.  The shelter was awful, just awful.  Everything was molded from grayish-beige antimicrobial sanitary plastic, rounded and smooth with no sharp corners anywhere for anyone to get injured on if things got rough, and it absolutely reeked of cleaning chemicals with a tinge of shit and vomit and stale food and the syrupy fragrance of medication.  The shelter was soulless and industrial and that was just the entryway which was meant to be welcoming.  Couldn’t they have put out an afghan or something? A plant or two?

Though Tamsin didn’t want to, didn’t intend to waver in front of the assholish detective at all, she felt a tear snake down her cheek and pressed her lips together and breathed through her nose to try and stop more from coming.  All those silly idle hopes she’d had about being forgotten about or given up on evaporated.   Ash would come after her.  He would come after her and he would drag her back to Kolob just like he’d always vowed he would if she ran from him.  Or else maybe he would kill her before they even got there. Honestly that seemed like the better of the two options.  As for him dying, well, some people are just too mean to die.  

“Dammit,” Buchanan said, an angry wince contorting his face.  “God damn it, stop crying!  It isn’t my fault!” he shouted at her, but of course that only made it worse.  

“Believe me when I tell you, it isn’t my fault either,” Tamsin replied. Her voice came out strangled and weird, and two fat tears rolled down both sides of her face simultaneously.

He scrubbed his hand across his forehead.  “What is your security like here?” he demanded of the Norigian. Oh, he knew, all right, he absolutely one hundred percent knew why Tamsin didn’t want her security number being used, and yet he had brought her here anyway, the fucker. Brought her here and then asked about the security like he thought he was being diligent or caring or something. Muh good conscience, hurr de durr.

“Security?” said the Norigian.  Her voice sounded like dozens of birds chirping.  “We have no security here, Detective.  We’ve never needed any.” And because they had never needed any security before, the Norigian, lacking an imagination, couldn’t even envision the need for one; Buchanan may as well have been asking her to guard against elves or fairies or kamikaze unicorns with rabies or whatever.  

“Agh!  God damn it!” Buchanan exclaimed, and winced again, this time clucking his tongue as he did.  The computer pinged, meaning that Tamsin’s information had been successfully downloaded, or uploaded. Whatever it was, she was fucking fucked.  “No security at ALL?” he asked in an incredulous tone.

The Norigian sister ignored him.  “Someone will be along to show you to the medical bay shortly, my dear,” she said to Tamsin. “And then after that, we’ll assign you a cubby!  Your very own cubby, won’t that be cozy?”  Forced cheer sounded the same, regardless of the species.

“The…the medical bay?” Tamsin asked, and she was dismayed to hear her voice quavering like on the verge of hysteria.  She despised doctors, a hatred bordering on phobia.

“Yes, dear.  Our clinicians must examine you thoroughly to make sure that you’re healthy.  We must make sure you have been thoroughly disinfected and treated for parasites.  This is in order to help reduce the spread of communicable diseases and infectious vermin through our population.  This is in order to ensure that you are in optimal health!”

“Examine me thoroughly?”   

“It really doesn’t hurt.  Well, except for the spinal tap.  You might experience some discomfort after the spinal tap.  But it only lasts a short time.  A few hours.  Maybe a day.  Or two.  Unless something goes wrong, and then it might take…longer.  But nothing ever goes wrong.  Usually.”

The detective recoiled and rested both his palms on the kiosk, leaning across to scold the Norigian.  “She’s not diseased, she’s obviously not diseased!  She just needs a bed for the night for pity’s sake! Can’t you bend the rules just this once?”

“It’s the law,” the Norigian explained to Detective Buchanan.  

Buchanan slapped the sister’s desk.  His lips were pressed together and his brown eyes were intense.  “Law this, Sister,” he spat, pronouncing it as “sis-tah”, “just mark her off your list, there.  This one has a place to stay.”  

The Norigian tilted its massive head from side to side in confusion.  Its five eyes bulged.  “But Detective, that just isn’t done,” the sister tried to explain.  “She has been entered into the system!  They are expecting her in the medical bay!  The doctors will be inconvenienced!   I will have to notify my superiors!”  

The detective scowled at the sister.  “Notify whoever you like.  Just find a way.”

They took an Uber back to Buchanan’s quarters, or at least Tamsin assumed that’s where they were going, because she certainly couldn’t afford a hotel.  He hadn’t said a word or given any explanation, just grabbed her upper arm and manhandled her out of the shelter while she scrubbed at the tears on her face with her sleeve wadded up in her hand.  

The detective seemed enraged, boiling over at the inconvenience, which hardly seemed fair. Tamsin hadn’t asked for any of it.  She’d been doing fine, just fine on her own.  If he’d simply let her alone, she’d be drifting off to sleep in the cargo bay right now, hungry perhaps, scared for sure of the alien who had grabbed her, but free.  

I mean seriously, Buchanan had not only failed to catch the being who attacked her, but he’d entered Tamsin’s personal space uninvited without a warrant, totally invaded her privacy, rummaged through and then stolen her stuff, and put his disgusting sweaty man feet on her bed.  He’d dragged her to the shelter against her will, and worst of all he’d forced her to use her security number for the first time in eight years.  Yet he had the temerity to be angry at Tamsin?  The dude was being a complete dick!  

While Detective Buchanan sulked and stewed and swore under his breath, she wrapped her arms around herself and stared out the window, watching as the lights of the station passed by along the skyway. Eventually they drove past what must have been one of the bigger marketplaces, which was so vast it made Market 27 look like a gnat by a watermelon. There was a swimming pool and a park that had real grass and even some trees; Tamsin hadn’t seen a tree in eight years and she craned her neck as she went by so she could keep seeing them as long as possible. In her mind’s eye Tamsin could smell the chlorine and feel the green blades against her bare feet and hear the wind moving through the leaves of the trees. She wanted to pluck a leaf from a tree and rub it between her fingers, feel its waxy texture, follow the veins in it with the tip of her pointer. If only she had just one leaf, she thought, just one leaf, she would keep it forever, even when it dried out and got brown and crunchy.

The market was so huge they drove alongside it for several minutes. Further on, Tamsin was amazed to see a soccer game going on behind a chain link fence, with creatures in colorful uniforms running around a big grassy field in pursuit of a black and white ball, and bleachers packed full of thousands of cheering entities with big lights overhead lighting it all up. Though she shouldn’t have been amazed, really, because aliens loved sports and did them on all their various homeworlds. Sports were different than fiction programs because you didn’t have to have imaginations to invent them, so aliens had them just the same as humans did. The aliens had taken to Earth sports, too, apparently.

Soccer. Detective Buchanan would have called it football, probably. She wondered idly if that was why he was so testy, because he couldn’t make it to his stupid fucking sportsball match, on account of her. He paid a lot of credits for those tickets, she thought sarcastically. Good. She hoped he was really disappointed.

Tears stung her eyes and she kept blinking them away rather than letting them fall.  Despite the fact she had done absolutely nothing wrong, Tamsin was viscerally upset by the detective’s hostile reaction, and she was even more upset over being upset about it.  That was all Ash’s doing, of course.  There was this frightened creature within her that would always react in sheer terror of another person’s anger, even when she deserved none of it.  

Fear was the legacy Ash had bestowed upon her, and she would carry it with her forever.  No matter how much she tried to push it down, not let it control her, it remained.  

Fear was the real parasite. Fear was sucking her dry, draining her life away. It was like on that old fiction program Futurama, the people walked around with brain slugs on their heads and the brain slugs were controlling them; Tamsin was controlled by her fear the same way only it was a lot less cute. She wished there was a way that whatever the Norigian did to remove parasites, that it could remove her fear like that, even if it took a spinal tap.  She wanted to be that normal girl who she had been once a long time ago, someone completely unhandicapped by constant and unremitting anxiety, punctuated with regularly occurring outbursts of sheer panic.  

She wanted to be that girl she used to be, who if someone was unfairly angry at her, she told them to get the fuck over themselves. 

Seriously, Tamsin would have totally loved to tell the detective to screw himself!  She would have loved to tell him to quit acting so butthurt, to grow a pair and deal, put on his big girl panties. She hadn’t asked for this! She had been minding her business and she had been attacked. She was the victim! The only sin she had committed was not having a goddamn phone! I mean seriously, who did he even think he WAS, getting mad at her, anyway?

But the person who would have done that was gone, eaten from the inside out. 

Detective Buchanan lived in one of many identical housing projects in one of many identical residential neighborhoods in Tashalos Station, just a set of windowless boxes upon windowless boxes stretching from the floor to the ceiling.  Tamsin never could have found this particular project on her own, and she despaired at ever finding her way back to her cargo bay again.  Everything in Tashalos Station that looked alike looked exactly alike, and the stuff that looked different wasn’t distinctive enough to help you navigate.  She hadn’t the foggiest notion how to get home from wherever she was, and she couldn’t afford to call an Uber and tell them to take her back to Market 27. 

She was lost in every way it was possible for a person to be lost. It was weird to feel homesick for what was, in essence, nothing more than some blankets on top of a stack of boxes in a large unheated warehouse, but she longed to be back in her nest with every fiber of her being.  

The lobby of his building was smaller than the Carl’s Jr, just a wide place with the front door and some extra room to wait for the elevator. No mailboxes. No doorman. No big fountain, no potted plants, no Starbucks, no McDonalds, not even a Klkhiilhsi Bagels and FroYo like the Quilnauchts had in their building. The galactian authorities must make the lobbies of the affordable housing low budget, no frills, that way they could fit in more apartments, Tamsin figured.

The elevator was out, which did nothing to improve Detective Buchanan’s mood.  On the way up several flights of stairs both too steep and too narrow for Tamsin’s liking, they passed several beings of varying species who the detective apparently knew and who knew him right back.  

Neighbors, Tamsin realized.  It had been so long since she’d had neighbors herself that the entire concept felt foreign.  The detective nodded at the aliens as they passed and they nodded too, or shook an appendage at him in greeting.  Then they looked at Tamsin with shock and/or amusement; it was obvious Buchanan didn’t bring women back to his place often, or ever.  

After they had climbed what felt like a thousand flights of stairs, they turned down a drab unremarkable corridor lined with drab unremarkable doors on both sides.  A gray Chaboreth even bigger than Detective Buchanan was, covered over with fluff that Tamsin’s brain registered as feathers, but that weren’t feathers at all, strutted down the corridor headed towards the steps.  It blurted out “Human woman!” very loudly in surprise, and then started laughing.  “Amazement!”  The translators didn’t work quite as well on some species as they did others.

“Yes, Roybal, it’s a human woman,” Buchanan said ruefully.

“Very nice!” crowed the Chaboreth.  “Impressing for you!”  

“I was almost to the bloody door, too,” Buchanan muttered to himself.  “Almost to the door.”

“Happy day, ma’am!” the Chaboreth said to Tamsin.  “Have much success!” 

Tamsin smiled noncommittally and bobbed her head.  Detective Buchanan headed to the door at the furthest end of the hall.  There was a flash of green light as the Ring scanned his face.

The door swung open and he entered, leaving it open for Tamsin to follow after. 

It’s Just Biology – Part 1

It’s Just Biology – Part 1

It’s been a year since Women in Fridges (why do I keep experiencing the inexplicable urge to write a novella right before the holidays when I have a zillion things to do, please someone save me from myself) and this is the followup to it. Not a sequel exactly, because it’s set in a different fictional universe entirely, but the theme is similar.

One of the things that bugged me about “Women in Fridges” even as I was writing it was that there’s something a bit too easy when it comes to a woman getting superpowers and then kicking some dude’s butt. I mean, I enjoy that kind of thing, don’t get me wrong, but the truth is that in the real world, women do not have superpowers – at least not of the supernatural variety. Most of us of the smaller and weaker sex face off with the bad guys we encounter using only the weapons at our disposal – charm, guile, and the assistance of other people. (and poison. Occasionally poison.)

The assistance of other people means that we ladies must rely on good guys as our champions. It may not be politically correct to acknowledge it, but good men are like Pikmin. You catch them, tame them, and train them to protect you in addition to a variety of other menial tasks they happily perform. And even though we women don’t always deserve them, a whole lot of men are willing to lay down their lives for us to the strains of “Everything I Do, I Do It For You”.

A good man will follow a woman to the gates of Hell and then buy her tampons in the convenience store there. And all they want in return is to occasionally see your boobs.

So this is a story about a woman’s real superpower – men.

Tamsin used the last of her money to have some flyers printed off.  She picked canary yellow paper with big black letters since she figured that would attract the most attention, at least for the species who saw color in the human spectrum. 

In the twelve most common galactian languages, she advertised her services – cleaning, running errands, babysitting, English lessons, and she was desperate enough she claimed to be an expert in Earth culture even though she had never even been to Earth.  She could do anything anyone needed, she figured, except cooking, since she was too unfamiliar with alien cuisine.  But maybe she could learn, if they were patient with her.  

She just needed a chance.  She just needed a job, like here and now, today.  Yesterday would have been preferable, a couple weeks back even better.  She needed a job because she didn’t have any money, none at all, and you couldn’t live without money, only die without it.

Tamsin started handing out her flyers at Market 27 because it was the closest to where she lived.  The nearest human equivalent of Market 27 would be something in Earth history called a “shopping mall” and that’s how Tamsin thought of it, even though humanity didn’t build shopping malls any more because of Amazon.  She remembered learning all about it in school; the Industrial Revolution, the Victorian Era, The Age of the Automobile, the Age of the Mall, the Information Revolution, the Age of Amazon.  There were a couple wars jammed in there that the teachers were always droning on about, General This and Emperor That, but shooting and grunting and dying over lines on maps that didn’t even represent the geography of her own planet seemed unimportant compared to the things human beings were actually doing in the past, so she forgot what order they came in. 

Market 27 was three times the size of the biggest building Tamsin had ever been to on her homeworld, a hockey arena.  The market was lined with storefronts that sold goods and services most of which she had never heard of and would have been scared to purchase.  

Tashalos Station was home to roughly 17 million life forms. As such, it required a great many marketplaces. 27 was the 27th largest.  Tamsin didn’t know what would happen if the market got bigger than the 28th largest, if they’d change the name of it, or what.  Probably there were some alien bureaucrats somewhere making sure that never happened, keeping a close eye on how many business licenses were issued, ensuring that 27 stayed 27 in perpetuity. The aliens were very orderly about stuff like that.

Markets on Tashalos were as much park as shopping mall, because expecting sentient beings to live packed like sardines alongside 17 million other creatures the way they did in the stations meant it was necessary to have open spaces to congregate in.  There were benches to sit in solitude and look at your communication device, conversation circles to chat with friends, play equipment for children of a thousand different species to play on.  Aliens of a variety of species played board games, walked their pets, fed the sklrats and gridgeons and zebra finches that infested all the stations.  In the distance, a busker ululated while playing an elaborate stringed instrument that Tamsin didn’t recognize.  Her guidebook had been left at home – she hadn’t bothered with it for years anyway, because most everything she encountered was so strange and unfamiliar she would have been looking shit up 24-7 – so she had no clue what its planet-of-origin might be.  The passers-by occasionally stopped to throw money into a bucket the busker had on the ground before them.  

Some of the bigger markets had sports facilities and community gardens, or so she had heard; she’d never visited any of the other ones.  The luxury of recreation was for beings with money and free time.  Tamsin just wanted to stay alive another day, so luxury was something that didn’t cross her mind much any more, at least luxury in the sense other beings thought of it.  Luxury was a full stomach and a clean pair of socks.   

She handed a flyer to a friendly-looking Erenxhi who stood watching his children clamber all over the play equipment.  The Erenxhi was drinking a Starbucks and Tamsin wanted it so bad she felt an overwhelming urge to grab it and run.  It made her irrationally angry that an Erenxhi, from fucking space or wherever, was standing there drinking a Starbucks when Tamsin, to whom Starbucks belonged by birthright, couldn’t have one because she couldn’t afford it.

“We actually do need someone now and then,” the Erenxhi replied, and Tamsin got her hopes way up.  That’s how her previous job had started, as a mother’s helper a couple days a week.  Then once she’d proven herself she worked for them full time when Mademoiselle Quilnaucht’s abdominal muscles had healed up enough so she could return to work.  

But the Quilnauchts went back to their homeworld suddenly, without warning or even an apology, leaving Tamsin unemployed.  The Erenxhi pulled out his phone and looked at her expectantly.  “Your security number?” he prompted.

“Oh, well, I was hoping that maybe we could do without the security number,” she explained.

He blinked his very large pink eyes at her in confusion.  “Surely you understand I can’t allow you to watch my offspring without checking your social credit score,” the Erenxhi said.  “Even if I looked the other way I can promise my wife won’t.  She’s a stickler for things like that.”

“Oh,” Tamsin said, even though it was what she’d expected because she’d already heard it a thousand times over the past few weeks.  

“Have you considered sex work?” the Erenxhi asked her.  “I’ve heard humans can make a lot of money that way.  Demand for humans greatly outweighs the supply.”

“No,” she replied, though it wasn’t that she hadn’t considered it, she had.  It was that respectable sex work was so highly regulated you couldn’t do it without a security number anyway.  And the kind of sex work you could get where you didn’t need a security number generally led to you ending up dead, or wishing you were.  

If Tamsin wanted to live dangerously she could have gone back home and done it there.  

“Well, good luck,” the Erenxhi said dismissively, and started looking at something on his communications device, the universal sign of a kiss-off.

Tamsin turned away.  The market was packed with creatures and entities and beings going from place to place.  Surely one of them had to need an extra set of hands now and then, surely there was one of them who could look the other way when it came to the details.  She looked at her rapidly dwindling stack of flyers with dismay.  Most of the creatures who passed her by wouldn’t take one.  Back on her homeworld she remembered doing the same, ignoring some probably unemployed desperate weirdo handing out flyers for something or another. Just breezing by without taking one, and she felt retroactively guilty for it.

A group of drunk Toruoun salarymen came walking towards her.  She didn’t bother handing them a flyer, it would have for sure ended up crumpled and thrown to the floor.  One of them was singing the theme song to The Love Boat.  “The LOOVE BOAT, soon will be making another run, the LOVE BOAT, promises something for EVERYonnnnee,”  he sang, and then stopped in surprise and gaped at her as its party walked past where Tamsin was standing.  “Human!” he blurted, and pointed at her in amazement.  “Set a course for adventure, your mind on a new romance,” he sang, looking into her face like he was trying to communicate with her.  But then his buddies grabbed him around the shoulder and pulled him away, headed off to another bar, probably.  “And LOOVVE, won’t hurt any more,” he slurred drunkenly.

She doubted that very seriously.  Love always hurt.

After handing the rest of her flyers without success Tamsin realized she was going to have to find something to eat somehow.  So she wandered over to the food court, and waited.  Lurked might have been a better word for it; she lurked and waited for someone to leave something behind.  She’d already done it a couple times, grabbed someone’s half-eaten discards from a table and snarfed them down, but that was from opportunity and not desperation.  It was a much tougher proposition finding leftovers when you needed to than just taking something you happened across.

All there were were some partially chewed fried lungs in a puddle of congealing orange grease.  She decided she wasn’t hungry enough for something so totally foreign.  The night was still young though.  Maybe something better would come along.  Before she could change her mind one of the food service workers came by and took the dirty plate away, which was probably for the best.

The thing that made the most sense was to set up a kind of a perimeter; circle around the outer edges of the food court, looking for someone to get up without finishing their meal.  Then she could descend on it and choke down whatever disgusting thing had been rejected.  So she did that.  Next time, she told herself, she couldn’t afford to be picky, the next time she’d have to eat whatever it was no matter how gross, because if she kept hanging out in one spot too long the security cams would notice and report her as vagrant.  Being reported as vagrant was bad because then you got the wrong sort of attention.

Tamsin saw a Coethlot and her children get up.  No matter the species, kids always left half their meals behind.  She started meandering nonchalantly that direction, trying to beat the cleanup crew.  But before she got anywhere close to the table, she was falling, falling with her whole side hurting from an impact.  

Then she hit the floor and her whole other side hurt even worse. 

She didn’t even hear anything, that was the craziest part.  Someone, some THING, came from out of the darkness and tackled her and not only did she hear nothing beforehand, she saw nothing other than the floor coming up to greet her.  It was sheer instinct that she managed to get her arm up in front of her before she hit the ground or she would probably have smacked her head into the floor and scrambled her brains.  As it was, the impact shook her brutally.  She’d bitten her tongue, she realized it when she tasted blood.  

With a gutwrenching chill she realized the thing had her by the ankles and it was trying to pull her back into the dark corridor, but she bucked and kicked and flailed and felt her foot connect with something soft.  Too soft.  She had thought it was a human grabbing her, had assumed that, but the smooshy softness her foot sank into did not feel human.   

That meant it was an alien.  An alien was snatching her and pulling her off somewhere to do something to her or with her and the icy horror that already gripped Tamsin increased exponentially.  Scraps of fiction programs she’d seen flashed through her mind and even though she knew she was supposed to think of aliens as being pretty much just like anyone else and none of them were known to actually lay their eggs in human beings or hunt sentient creatures for sport, in that moment it was kind of hard not to succumb to xenophobia.

A scream ripped from her belly all the way up through her throat and out the top of her head, it felt like anyway.

Klaxons blared and a spotlight shone on her location as the violence detector went off.  The creature, whatever it had been, leapt back into the darkness of the corridor it had emerged from and disappeared.  It was running on all fours and as she watched it ran right up the wall and along the ceiling of the station. 

Tamsin lay there panting, her head spinning from the adrenaline, or maybe the fall.  A Psqlhien stopped and stood over Tamsin, peering down at her curiously, a friendly smile on its narrow face.  Or maybe that wasn’t a smile at all, maybe it was about to eat her.  She didn’t have her guidebook so she couldn’t know for sure.

“Help,” Tamsin said.

“Human!” it replied in an excited tone, and took a picture of her with its communication device.  Then it walked away.

Eventually the station police showed up.  Someone wrapped a blanket around Tamsin’s shoulders.  She realized she had a long shallow cut down her left arm oozing blood and wondered when it had happened.

There was a female Sophroid who came along with the police; she seemed to be some sort of victim’s advocate. She hovered over Tamsin solicitously and tried to explain the process to her.  But the question of who had attacked her and why, the Sophroid had no answer for.  

“The human detective will be here soon,” the Sophroid said, in a soothing tone.  She had explained to Tamsin the police department had special detectives for the various species to make crime victims feel more at ease.  “The human detective is quite skilled at solving crimes.  Maybe they can be of assistance in locating your assailant?”

“Ok,” Tamsin answered.  

The Sophroid suddenly got a pained look on its translucent face.  “Oh, dear,” the Sophroid said.  “Oh, dear, dear.”

“What is it,” Tamsin said.  “Are you all right?” she asked, though she had no idea what to do if the Sophroid said no.

“Excuse me,” she said, and took a few steps off to the side where she gave birth to several offspring, slightly too many for Tamsin to count at a glance.  Seven or eight of them maybe.  The Sophroid’s babies struggled and writhed and wriggled, then they skittered off into the dark of the space station, leaving a puddle of bloody slime behind.  There were bubbles in it like bubbles in soapy water. “My apologies,” the Sophroid murmured, and it seemed embarrassed.  “That was not supposed to happen until tomorrow.  The doctor said I could safely attend work today!  I will scold and berate her for being incorrect!”

“No, um.  Not at all.”  Tamsin wracked her brain trying to think what to say when someone had a baby.  “Congratulations?”

“Thank you,” the Sophroid said.  “I’m very excited.  I haven’t had a baby in the house for several moon phases.  I missed the pitter patter of little tentacles.  My nursery has been decorated with a Winnie the Pooh theme.  I almost did Snoopy this time, but then I learned of Winnie the Pooh.  Heffalumps and woozles.  Kanga and Little Roo.  Very cute!”

“Oh, I love Winnie the Pooh,” Tamsin said, even though it had been years since she’d even thought of Winnie the Pooh.  Aliens generally assumed that humans were just as obsessed with every element of Earth pop culture as they were and it was usually best to feign interest rather than trying to explain you just weren’t that into it.  “Do you need anyone to babysit for you now and then?”

“My offspring are very self-sufficient,” the Sophroid explained.

Tamsin sighed.

She had to wait what seemed like an eternity for the human detective to arrive.  In the meantime she watched the crime scene analysts work, using the combined technological genius of ten thousand species to catch her attacker.  Some technicians came and scraped under her fingernails which was mortifying because she had a week’s worth of black grime embedded underneath them, and horrifying because she realized the alien who scratched her probably had grimy fingernails or claws or whatever and now that alien grime was floating around inside of Tamsin’s body.  The analysts must have thought so too, because they extracted DNA from the cut on her arm, which made the cut start bleeding all over again.  Then they swabbed her with q-tips and gauze pads, took samples of her blood and sweat and hair and breath, and scanned her with various beeping and buzzing devices.  

At some point the Sophroid brought her a warm creamy drink she’d never had before.  It was delicious, with hints of disparate flavors – chocolate, popcorn, turkey gravy, a hint of something green-tasting like cilantro, maybe – and she decided not to ask what it was.  It was usually best not to ask questions like that.  Whatever it was, it filled her belly, and it had been the first time her belly was full for weeks, so.  

When she got bored with watching the crime analysts, she went back to watching the sentient beings wandering around the market.  They kept stopping to give the busker money.  She wondered if maybe she could do something like that, although she had no talent at all.  Maybe a sign that read, “Human”, and she could take pictures with the aliens in exchange for money.  

But of course that was commerce, and you had to have a license for commerce.  You had to have a security number to get the license.  Probably even the busker had a business license, she realized.  And begging, which she was very nearly reduced to, was vagrancy.  Vagrancy was illegal.  

There just didn’t seem to be a loophole in the whole galaxy wide enough for her to slip through.  Apparently she’d been lucky to scoot by as long as she did, and now her luck had run out.   

Tamsin’s body clock told her it was getting late, and she yawned.  Night and day on Tashalos Station didn’t exist; no matter the time that Tamsin thought it should be, it was time for someone to be up and about.  There was no set standard time that all species obeyed.  It made no sense for anyplace where so many different types of beings lived together to have one set clock to follow, so they all followed their own clocks and somehow it managed to work out.  

Entities with 8 or 36 or 52 or 102 hour days coexisted alongside humans, not to mention various species that slept more like cats, just napped whenever they got tired.  Some were like lizards and could literally drift off to sleep whenever their metabolism dropped due to being at the wrong temperature or just because their bodies told them it was time to sleep, a disconcerting occurrence if they nodded off while talking to you.  Some were like mayflies, living short lifespans and then dying, never having slept at all.  Others were like bears and hibernated for a time and then were awake for a time.  Though Tamsin thought that bears on Earth still slept even when not hibernating, she wasn’t totally sure.  

She had about as much experience with actual bears as she did with Winnie the Pooh.

But of course she was committing the cardinal sin, thinking of aliens as being like animals.  Though the aliens didn’t mind in the slightest and said it was simply part and parcel of so many beings living together in the galaxy, that it was only natural to compare things that were unknown to things that were familiar to you, Earthlings considered it rude, and even off world people avoided the practice.  Aliens weren’t animals, not at all, they were nothing like animals, and it was gross and wrong to think of them that way.  It could even cost you your life, if you ended up treating a dangerous alien like a friendly one just because it was cute and cuddly.  Like all human beings, Tamsin had been indoctrinated from a young age to avoid the pitfall.

For their part, the various aliens spoke of humans as resembling quiznots, or vodarks, or shlebellians, or any of a number of animals that existed on their own planets-of-origin, and thought nothing of it.  The Sophroid thought that Tamsin looked just like a yahn, which was a beloved pet the Sophroid had had as an ephyra.  Having met and befriended a few humans during her career with the Tashalos Station Police, some of whom she held in nearly as high regard as she did her childhood yahn, the Sophroid was aware that Tamsin most probably thought of her as a non-sentient Earth creature called a “jellyfish”, and took no offense at the comparison.  Refusing to compare aliens to animals was one of those silly Earthling taboos they hadn’t fully set aside yet, being the newest members of the galactic community and all.  It took time for species to fully assimilate into galactic culture.

Eventually the hustle and bustle of the marketplace resumed fully; crime scene or no, there was no stopping commerce.  As she watched the various species going about their shopping, making deals, meeting up with friends, rushing by on the way to appointments, Tamsin felt very small and insignificant.  She could have died just then, and if she had, no one would have cared, beyond the novelty of her being human.  They’d all have gone about their business just as they were even if she had been lying under a sheet or whatever they did with dead bodies on space stations.  And if she’d simply gone missing, no one would ever have known; she would have been off in somebody’s evil clutches and no one would even know to look for her.  

Because on Tashalos, no one cared about some dumb human female.  She didn’t matter, she didn’t matter at all.  If she died, no one would have mourned her, or done anything but shrugged and gone home and bragged to their friends they’d seen a real live dead person.  The cops would have put her body in an incinerator and sent the ashes back to her homeworld where probably nobody cared either.  There were simply too many creatures in the galaxy for anyone to worry about the death of one.  Even the Sophroid, who had seemed so nice, had let her babies go off on their own without even taking care of them.  

On that fairly depressing note she looked across the food court and saw much to her very great surprise, which was stupid because she’d been expecting him, another human being walking towards her.  His appearance startled her because she hadn’t seen another human in ages; she tried to unravel how long it had been but drew a complete blank.  

At least a couple years, she figured.  It had been even longer since she’d had a meaningful conversation with another person.

He was so odd looking of a person though, it almost felt like she was seeing another alien, like she should be able to open up her guidebook and look his species up there.  She didn’t know what she’d expected really but it for sure wasn’t the person who showed up.  For starters the detective was an impossibly large guy, she didn’t know how tall he was but certainly more than the six feet her father and brothers were, and he had broad shoulders and a barrel chest instead of being gangly like many tall men were.  He had longish brown hair pulled back into what she vaguely recalled was called a queue when it was on men.  On Tamsin’s homeworld all the men wore their hair cut short and she had only ever seen men with long hair in fiction programs.  

Atop his head was perched some sort of a small black military-style hat in a style Tamsin recognized but couldn’t name.  It was flat on the top, but the top tilted over to one side, and it was fitted tight around the head.  The hat did nothing to camouflage the fact that the man was balding slightly – to be honest it kind of emphasized it.  Because of going bald he had entirely too much forehead, beneath which were thick black brows.  He was too far away for Tamsin to see his eye color, but his complexion made her think they were brown.  

The man’s mouth was large and had deep lines around it that Tamsin hoped had come from smiling, though he wasn’t smiling.  He had an unruly beard that went all the way down his neck and disappeared into his shirt, which was white and buttoned up the front, like a salaryman would wear under his suitcoat, but he didn’t wear a tie with it.  The shirt was tucked into faded blue jeans instead of proper pants.  He wore a brown leather jacket over the top of it that had seen better days, shiny with age in some places, scuffed in others, and underneath the jacket there was a holstered weapon of some sort.  She could see the black handle sticking out and to the side, as if waiting for a hand to grab it free and fire it.

Tamsin knew nothing about weapons; for all she knew it was an actual gun with real bullets, though she doubted it as they were illegal in most places. Guns had most definitely been illegal on her homeworld.  It wouldn’tve made sense to be firing projectiles on a space station anyway, so it was probably something else.  Beside the weapon, whatever it was, there was the ident badge all the government authorities wore, clipped to a thick leather belt.

The detective looked nothing like her vision of what a policeman ought to look like.  He seemed grouchy, as if this was just some annoying thing he had to do when he had better places to be.  On Tamsin’s homeworld the police officers were all friendly and smiled.  Policemen are your friends, children were taught a song about it in school.  She couldn’t recall ever having seen a grouchy policeman, never in her life, or such a scruffy-looking one either.  As he got closer she realized his shirt was all rumpled like he’d picked it up dirty off the floor and worn it anyway.  The policemen on Tamsin’s homeworld wore fancy uniforms, even the detectives, fancy and pristine.  But she recalled from having seen it in fiction programs, that on Earth police detectives were allowed to wear everyday clothes, and apparently the same was true here on Tashalos. 

Even though the man looked weird and kind of terrifying, Tamsin felt so happy to see another human being that it cheered her up enormously.   She sat up with an expectant air and licked her lips, and there were butterflies in her stomach.  Butterflies were something Tamsin had never seen personally, but she knew that having them in your stomach meant you were nervously excited.  

The man was accompanied by a smaller alien of a species she didn’t know and she couldn’t look it up since she didn’t have her guidebook with her.  Though slight and slender, the alien was nearly as tall as his fellow detective and he was blue, a deep dusky blue, almost black, shimmering with iridescence.  Jeweled earrings sparkled in all four of his ears, and though he had no nose in the human sense, just a couple dots for nostrils, his septum was pierced, a gold hoop encircling it.  His pointed teeth gleamed, reflecting the red and blue neon lights on the blood noodle shop nearby.  He was dressed in an alien equivalent of the human man’s outfit, only he wore no shirt at all, just a long black jacket over his jeans, and the jacket wasn’t leather, it was embroidered cloth.  Tamsin found it very odd to see such an exotic-looking alien wearing jeans, but figured he’d picked up the habit from his partner.  Or else maybe human culture was getting so popular that even the aliens were wearing Levi’s now.  

The alien had on the same hat the man had, and as they got nearer she could see both hats had the same galactian insignia the everyday Tashalos police officers wore on their uniforms.  Apparently hats and ident badges were the extent of their uniforms. 

She could also hear them talking. “Golden hair, Stan, golden hair.  Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve seen golden hair?” the human asked his partner.

“Probably not as long as it’s been since I’ve seen it,” his partner replied.

“I just want to bury my hands in it and…” he made a grunting sound and moved his hands a bit at waist level like he was pulling a head into his crotch.  Tamsin recoiled and blushed.  Apparently he didn’t realize they were close enough to be overheard.  

“Behave yourself, mate,” the alien said reproachfully.

The man smiled politely like putting on a mask over what he was actually thinking, and those deep lines in his cheeks went even deeper.  He crossed the rest of the distance in a single step and extended a hand to her.  His hand was massive like the rest of him and the back of it was covered with dark hairs.  Knuckles, he had knuckles.  It was so bizarre what you missed when you didn’t see other people for so long.  Knuckles.  He wore a copper bracelet with a pattern of intricate knots carved into it; unlike the alien sigils embroidered along the edge of the blue creature’s coat, the design seemed familiar to Tamsin, human in origin, human as the man’s knuckles were, even though she didn’t recognize them specifically or know what they meant.  

It was so nice to see, let alone touch, another human being’s hand that Tamsin forgave him the rude comment.  “Detective Buchanan, mum,” he said.  Tamsin detected an accent she thought might be some sort of British.  “And you are?”

“Tamsin Pulsipher,” she replied, since that was her name.  She had thought about giving them a fake one, but there hardly seemed to be a point since they had her DNA now and could just look it up regardless of what she told them.

He pulled his head back on his neck as far as it could go and scowled at her. She realized he had something of an overbite, which meant he couldn’t possibly be from Earth; everything on Earth was perfect, even the people, or so she’d heard.  She figured he must be from one of the colonized worlds like she was, where people still came in the flawed and subpar varieties, at least the ones that couldn’t afford surgery.  “Could you spell that for me?” he asked.

“Sure,” Tamsin said.  “Sorry, I know, it’s ridiculous.”  As she spelled it out for him, she thought about how much she despised the name Pulsipher, which had been her married name, and longed to return to her natal name of Monaghan, which still required spelling out for people but at least it wasn’t so fucking stupid sounding.  Of course, she would have had to use her security number to have it changed back and she just couldn’t chance it.

The alien shot his partner a look and extended his hand, which was very smooth.  While he had fingers, they didn’t quite go all the way down, and he didn’t have any knuckles at all.  “Nice to greet you, Ms. Pulsipher, I’m sorry it wasn’t under different circumstances.  I’m Detective…” and then he said something completely unintelligible, so alien that not even the translator she had embedded in her ear canal when she left home could decipher it.  “But you can call me Stan, everyone does.”  Tamsin noted that the man spoke without the unique stilt of the translator and realized that meant he was actually speaking English.  He had an Americanese accent, though, familiar to Tamsin’s ear.  “Can you tell us what happened?”

Tamsin told them the story and Detective Stan took notes on his communications device as she did.  Detective Buchanan asked most of the questions and Detective Stan only chimed in when he thought of a followup.  Buchanan asked her things she hadn’t even thought of like how the being who assaulted her had smelled, and how many appendages did she think it had, did she think it was a psychic, was it hard to breathe when they came close to her, and what its footfalls had sounded like.  She noticed the detectives took care not to assign a sex to her attacker; even though most species did come in male and female, there were enough who didn’t – even humans, though certainly not on Tamsin’s homeworld where such deviations from the norm were not at all tolerated – it was probably wise that he left that question open.

Once they were satisfied with her description, they asked her about her life, where she lived, where she worked, what she did for fun.  “Nothing,” she said.  “I do nothing for fun.”  Tamsin found the line of questioning profoundly irritating, like she was the one being investigated.  

Buchanan’s thick brows furrowed upon hearing that she was presently unemployed.  Something about that puzzled him, though Tamsin didn’t understand why.  

He asked her if she knew anyone on the station who might have a grudge against her, which of course she didn’t.  “I know I’m not supposed to ask this of a lady,” he pronounced it leh-day, and to Tamsin, who had never heard a real live person speak Britishese, in that moment Detective Buchanan seemed nearly as exotic as his partner.  “But the job requires it.  How old are you?”

“I’m 39, I guess.” She hadn’t thought about her age in so long she had to actually do the math.

“Yet you live out here all on your own?”

“Yes.”

“In the middle of the galaxy?”

“I don’t know, I’m not an astronomer or whatever.”

“Unemployed?  At your age?”

“Unfortunately.” 

“A woman of your age, alone, in space, without a career to speak of?  That’s quite unusual.”

“Is it?”

“Very unusual,” Stan agreed.  “Practically unheard of.”

“When an older woman such as yourself is in space, it’s generally due to them having a career that takes them there.  Women your age aren’t keen on adventuring.”  The age remarks were wearing thin, especially considering the man had to be at least her age if not older himself.

“I guess I took the road less traveled, and that has made all the difference.”

Tamsin thought that sounded flip and dismissive, and was relieved when the human detective’s mouth twisted a little as if he found it amusing.  “And your homeworld?”

“Kolob.”

Detective Buchanan didn’t recognize the name and he shot his partner an inquisitive look.  “The Mormon planet,” Detective Stan explained.  Tamsin marveled at how it could be that a human being didn’t know of her planet while a blue fish-like creature whose species she didn’t even recognize, did.  But of course the alien wasn’t fish-like, not at all, he was something else entirely, and it was morally reprehensible of her to think of him that way.

“Ah,” Buchanan exclaimed, as if that somehow explained her presence.  The immediate assumption grated.  People were always so sure you were running away from your religion when really you were running away from other people IN your religion.  Even though she was no longer a practicing Latter Day Saint, it was due to human shortcomings, her own very much included, not the Church’s.  “We’re going to need a number where we can contact you.”

Tamsin gulped.  “I’m, uh.  A number?”

“Your communications device?” Buchanan said, and then as if she needed it dumbed down even further, “A phone?”

“Oh, well, the thing is, I’m sorry, but I don’t have a phone, actually?”

The men exchanged an incredulous look, tainted with a faint air of suspicion.  Detective Stan actually barked a laugh, as if that told them everything they needed to know about Tamsin.  Buchanan turned his attention back to her and she was relieved to detect a charitable tone in his voice.  “Ms. Pulsipher, you do realize it’s illegal for human beings not to have a phone, yes?”  

Everyone in the galaxy had to have a communications device because that’s how they tracked you, of course.  Someone without a communications device was obviously up to no good because it meant they didn’t want to be tracked.  And for humans, that device was a phone.

“Sigh.  I do know.  I had to get rid of my phone when I left home because I didn’t want…my family…to find me.” That was a bit of a stretch, of course, but that part of the story wasn’t any of their business.  Tamsin’s previous life wasn’t germane to anything they were asking her.

“Your family, eh?” Buchanan asked in a canny tone, and Tamsin had the distinct feeling he knew exactly why she didn’t have a phone.  He’d probably seen plenty of domestic situations in his career as a policeman.  “Odd that a 39 year old woman should have need to hide from her family?”

“I’m not hiding, just…avoiding.”

“Avoiding or not, you’ll need to get a communications device at your first available opportunity,” Detective Stan told her.  “Consider this a warning, Ms. Pulsipher, but we can’t let you get by not having one.  It’s the law.”

Tamsin considered how shitty it was that she could be attacked, she could be the victim, had done absolutely nothing wrong, and yet somehow she was the one who ended up in trouble with the law for something as entirely stupid as not having a phone.  Something about that didn’t seem right.  

But she nodded anyway.  It had been eight years since she’d left Kolob, surely no one was looking for her any more.  Maybe they’d given up.  Maybe they’d forgotten about her.  Maybe they were dead, though she’d never had that kind of luck.

“Do you have someone you can stay with for a while?” Detective Buchanan asked her.  “Until we locate the being who did this, I think it best you not be alone.”

“Yes,” she lied.

I Like To Watch

I Like To Watch

I’ve been exploring the cultural and artistic implications of Game of Thrones on Ordinary Times all winter to keep my head out of the trainwreck that is American politics, and a couple times it’s spilled over here to my blog.

As I stated in my recent piece, Game of Thrones: Bad Romance, I think the one of the biggest flaws in Game of Thrones is the utter lack of a female viewpoint. 

While there are certainly women in GoT, and many of the female characters are strong, interesting, and have their own agency, I don’t feel like my experience as a woman is, generally speaking, well represented.  Game of Thrones* is a man’s story, written for men, by men, representing the interests and passions of men, and that it has come to be seen as “feminist” or “empowering”, I think, is a damning statement on the lack of choices that women face when it comes to our fiction.  

I believe women have so few female characters in fiction we can truly relate to, that even something subpar as Game of Thrones appeals.  We’re so desperate to connect with a fictional woman revealing some part of a real woman’s experience  (even the shittier parts) that we’ll glom onto anything that gives just a taste of what speaks to us, even if it’s otherwise problematic. 

This lack of female representation comes in many forms, but one of the most obvious is the physical.  The actors in the tv version of GoT are universally attractive – I personally don’t think there’s ever been a more physically appealing male cast assembled in any program ever, if for no other reason than that there are just so many of them. Watching Game of Thrones, if you are a female person, is like going to Baskin Robbins – there are flavors there you didn’t even know you wanted to try – I mean, what DOES Rum Raisin taste like, anyway?  Even the guys who are supposed to be “ugly” in some fashion are sexually attractive.  There’s some dude on GoT likely to appeal to every woman’s taste, or one totally hypothetical woman, and I have no idea who you are talking about here whatsoever, with a lot of different moods.  

And yet the entire show caters not at all to the female gaze, but to the male one.  (do I really need to define the male gaze at this point?  I mean if you don’t know what the male gaze is, turn on your TV and wait till a woman comes on, and see how she’s portrayed.  You’ll get the gist).  With the exception of a little Khal Drogo action back at the start at the start, we ladies really don’t get a lot of what I consider eye candy.  Considering how many good looking men there are in Game of Thrones, that shit is like water, water everywhere with nary a drop to drink.  And I am a very thirsty girl.

There are, certainly, men shown in erotic situations in GoT.  But these scenes are not meant to appeal to women, even if there are naked man butts in them.  

Why?  Well, to explain that, we need to understand what the female gaze even is.  As with everything involving women, it isn’t straightforward, because women’s sexuality tends to be more complicated than men’s: “Me See Booby.  Me Like Booby” vs “I suppose it all goes back to the eighth grade, when Robby Moran moved to my school from Cincinnati.  Back then I collected scratch and sniff stickers on my Peechee, and I always wore Bonne Bell cherry flavor lip gloss.  At the time, I was reading a lot of Sweet Dreams romances, and I had just finished PS I Love You.  This doesn’t seem important, but it will matter later on.”

Suffice it to say, it would probably just take us less time to talk about what the female gaze ISN’T.

The female gaze is, despite having the word “gaze” in it, is not primarily visual the way men’s is. Thus the female gaze is not delighted by a big long sex scene in which the woman is naked and the man isn’t, BRONN, you coward.  But it’s ALSO not a big long sex scene where everyone is naked, either, OBERYN, put that thing away.  Dudes, that’s porn.  It may be soft core, but it’s still totally porny.  For reasons I do not understand, people seem to think that the solution to objectified naked women on TV is naked objectified men on TV and that’s simply not the case.  

You know why?  Because men LIKE BEING OBJECTIFIED, and when they see other men being objectified, they think “hey, someday that could totally happen to me”.  So creators, when you objectify men, you’re still only doing that for men, get it?  

Brief aside, I’m not saying women don’t like or enjoy porn, don’t @ me please, but I don’t think as a general rule, that porn (at least as it is usually presented, and certainly how the man-centric soft core porn was presented in GoT) is targeted to please women.  It’s designed around what men find titillating, from beginning to happy ending, and sometimes us gals just get kinda caught up in that X-Rated web from lack of choice, even though we would prefer some other thing entirely if only we had the option.

The female gaze is especially not satisfied by graphic sex scenes that feature two men.  Your mileage may admittedly vary, but when I was researching for this piece I found it INSANE how many articles I read where homosexual sex scenes were put forth as examples of “the triumph of the female gaze” in GoT.  May I have your attention please: by definition, male homosexual sex scenes are not for women.  They are for men, doubly so.  They are, somehow, as tough as it is to believe, even less appealing to the female gaze than straight porn is, because they are ONLY for men.  Again, maybe some women like them (not me, sorry, but you guys look like you’re managing just fine without my input) but it’s by default, not design.

As for lesbian sex scenes, my answer is, it depends.  I personally am super, super straight (so straight, lord have mercy you would not even believe how straight I am, dear my critics who think I am a hairy-pitted man-hater, you are moronic buttheads, because my love for men is as deep as the ocean and equally as destructive) but not all women are, and I leave it to lesbians to inform us if they like to see lesbian sex scenes in entertainment, knowing as I do that the primary recipients of lesbian sex scenes are straight men.  Personally I’m suspicious of graphic lesbian sex scenes in anything because straight men enjoy them so much.  (Or written, in the case of the Dany + slave girls and Cersei lesbian scenes in the book, which in both cases were really egregious and unnecessary IMO George, you naughty) But lesbians if you like them, carry on, and report your findings if you’d care to because I honestly don’t know if that’s a cool thing for you or not.

There’s more coming, but before I go on, I’ll give a quick example that sort of sums up my feelz about the pornification of GoT on HBO here: One of the things that really pissed me off in Game of Thrones is the massive expansion of a character who was minor in the book (played by a porn actress, who I am sure is a perfectly nice woman) and the creation of a character who wasn’t in the books at all (played by a burlesque performer, who is also in all probability a delightful gal) in order to include more graphic sexual content, not only at the expense of any and every vaguely romantic element that existed in the book (scarce as they were) but even AT THE EXPENSE OF OTHER CHARACTERS and the overall plot of the show.  Call me crazy, but a writer should not remove plot and character development, particularly of other non- or less-sexualized female characters, to shoehorn actual, literal, porn actresses (god bless em!) if you are allegedly making a show that is at all female-friendly.  Cause that shit ain’t for me, you know it, and I know it, so let’s not pretend otherwise. 

Moving on…

I don’t think sex scenes where a man is obviously supposed to be a stand in for the male audience are appealing, either.  You can see this in Game of Thrones, where Daenerys has sex with Daario Naharis.  Now, that dude is certainly cute, but it’s really not a particularly hot scene to me.  Because it’s so obviously meant for the men at home to sit there thinking “Hmm what if that was me and that smokin hot chick was telling me to take off my clothes, that would be totally awesome, and also it could totally happen if only I was that ripped.”  

And by the way, how silly was it for the writers to then, after having Daenerys be all like “Take off ur clothes stud” to Daario, not to mention her skillfully sexin’ up Drogo, that they’d turn around and have Jon Snow, bear of very little sexual experience, being the seducer and Dany the coy timid seducee??  It’s freaking ridick how they did that, and also offensive, though I haven’t quite sussed out yet why it bugs me so much.

Above all else, and I cannot state this strongly enough, I do not think that scenes in which women are brutally tortured for a man’s pleasure (I ain’t talkin 50 shades here, tho I don’t love that either, I’m talking where it’s clearly a psychopath man hurting women for his own pleasure, and not relatively tasteful descriptions of BDSM that both parties are into) are worth my time. Yes Ramsay Bolton, I’m looking at you here, and how could I not, because you have massive amounts of screen time.  Again, this is something that super pissed me off in the show version of Game of Thrones, how really important plots involving other characters were shunted to the side to bring us the Ramsay Bolton Torture Porn Hour.    

You see, in Game of Thrones, the pro-male-gaze mentality goes beyond actual sex scenes into overall characterization and even plotting.  Whenever you have scenes that are shot for the SOLE PURPOSES of pleasing the tastes/desires of men, while simultaneously women’s tastes/desires are left totally unfulfilled, and female characters themselves are even ignored in favor of porn actresses (they’re GRRReat!!) and psychotic rapists, you cannot sit there with a straight face and call that “the female gaze” or “feminism” no matter how many actresses are cast in the show.  Or in other words, I really would have preferred if my favorite character Sansa had not been shunted off to the side in favor of Shae the Suddenly Wise Prostitute (as fab as she undoubtedly is) and then offered up to Ramsay Bolton as a victim. And both Daenerys’ and Cersei’s plot arcs suffered greatly due to lack of time to develop them properly, reducing them both to nutty harpies.  

Honestly, as much as the male gaze stuff detracted from my enjoyment of something I really really wanted to love, I maintain that Game of Thrones would have been twenty times as good a show if they hadn’t had the sex stuff in it at all because it would have given them time to handle the characters and plot who were actually meant to be in the show instead of subsuming necessary plot advancement for the endless brothel scenes.

So ok, that was a pretty satisfying rant there, but it’s probably got a lot of folks wondering “Seven Hells, what do women want, anyway?  Why has this woman not taken the scraps of leftover manporn we have offered her and made us sandwiches out of it?”

Mmmm, Manpornwich!

In other words, the menfolk say, enough about what you DON’T want, tell us what you do.

And that’s fair.

As I’ve written about in the past, I’m not too sure that women really like down and dirty sex scenes the way men do.  For women, especially this woman, it’s the journey, the cast of characters and why they’re doing what they’re doing, and their dreaded FEELINGS that matter and not the way the genitals fit together or the overall attractiveness of any individual body part.  It doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy seeing, oh, I don’t know, like two hot men getting in a fight over the hand of a fair maid, and accidentally ripping each other’s shirts off, because I totally do, it’s that I need the underpinnings for max enjoyment.  Why are the men in a fight, anyway?   Were they childhood friends together at boarding school in rural England, or was the one the groundskeeper’s son and the other the heir to Penobscott Manor, but he was wounded in the war and now he struggles with his demons? What’s so fair about this maid?  Obviously she’s beautiful, but is she also clever, though misunderstood due to her sharp tongue and love of books?  These are the things I want to know!  

But I’m really not doing it justice.  Because it’s not the mere externals that matter when it comes to the female gaze.  It’s not all about the ripped bodices and tight jerkins and pastoral settings.  This I know, because you can find the female gaze in stories set in the present day, and even in the future, in which no bodices are ever ripped due to everything being made from space age materials. 

The female gaze comes down fundamentally to three elements – emotion, connection, and passion.  The characters have to have these things between them for me to find something hot.  Me looking at Bronn fucking Generic Prostitute Number 17 in a whorehouse does fuck all for me because it has none of those things.  Daenerys and Daario getting it on is barely any better because it’s all so darn PERFUNCTORY.  It’s like someone went thru and checked off all the boxes on the male gaze checklist and none on the female gaze one.

Here, have a look at this compilation from The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie society instead.  Same guy, much hotter, even though he never takes off his sweater at all.

HE DOESN’T NEED TO TAKE HIS SWEATER OFF!  Because they know each other!  They like each other!  They have come to CARE! I don’t need to see his naked chest or any gyrating to get off on it.  They have an emotional connection, and that’s where the passion comes from, even if they do NOTHING but send smoldering, longing looks back and forth.  Emotion, connection, passion, it’s the female gaze trifecta.

I would rather watch a man pick a flower out of a woman’s hair than see them fuck any day of the week.  Is this a great movie?  NO!  Is this prestige TV? NO!  Does it cater to the female gaze?  Oh hell yeah.  Two people walking on a scenic beach in the aftermath of World War Two, actually talking to each other, simmering with unspoken sexual tension that they cannot act upon because of Reasons, and the dude is wearing an adorable British hat.  Forget the guy, I’d have sex just with the hat. 

There is this bizarre phenomenon where Stuff Women Like is oft crammed into programming that is maybe not quite as good, she said diplomatically, and at the same time we’re all supposed to stand around oohing and aahing over the courage of GoT bringing us such important fictional elements as women getting shot to death with crossbows for a teenage boy’s sexual satisfaction.  Enough!  I want Stuff Women Like IN my prestige TV show, Powers That Be!  How’s about you satisfy MY gaze for a fucking change, even though it’s not actually a gaze per se and more a set of fairly elusive criteria to be fulfilled?

It would take so LITTLE to please me.  I’m desperate here.  I just watched a completely weird show called The Book Group (which is apparently better than I am giving it credit for because all I’ve done since I watched it is wonder what happens in the two seasons I didn’t watch.) It’s written by a woman instead of by a chubby older gent or two frat boys, and thus it has a pleasantly surprising number of female gaze moments in it, including one of the hottest kisses I’ve ever seen. 

Let me relive, er, I mean, describe it. 

After this huge setup which is too complicated to get into, but it involves talking rapidly, embarrassing misunderstandings, and books, an attractive guy with a sexy accent kisses this neurotic woman in a taxi and says “Goodnight, Gorgeous,” and then…nothing else happens.  They don’t have sex, they don’t get together, there are no man butts at all.  I don’t know.  I can’t explain it.  It was magic.  If the man butt had been shown, I would have looked at it after that kiss, and I think I would have approved.

I never had a moment like that in Game of Thrones despite all the super incredibly hot men in it, including the attractive guy with the sexy accent.  I don’t remember ever feeling much of anything below the equator once poor Drogo died, despite there being like 400 guys I’d throw it down with in a heartbeat on the payroll of HBO. In seven seasons, the most attractive male cast ever assembled – I mean, these guys are like the Avengers of sexual desirability – and I felt absolutely nothing.

Something about that just ain’t right. You don’t have to call it misogyny, but I do.

*The books are better, but do still have some of the fatal flaws of the show, in addition to having their own set of fatal flaws too.