Her lover caressed her from the inside. Her skin tingled from the energy, ancient and primal, that welled up within her, coursed through her sinews and transformed her entire being into one vibrating Pythagorean string, a perfect single note of husky alto joy. She screamed, feeling her lover between her teeth, under her tongue, behind her trembling eyeballs. She did not dare breathe, for fear the wind in her lungs would cause her to explode, and then her lover stroked her with his fingers.
No, not his fingers.
Sapient Metic Fallows awoke in her bunk, awash in sweat.
The zero-G safety straps she had clipped over her before taking a couple of hypno tablets and drifting into merciful voidsleep chafed, grinding the salt of her own sweat back into her skin. She freed herself with a flip of the fingers on the straps’ latches and bounced slightly off the sleeping shelf, pushed into the gravity-less space of her tiny quarters by the equal and opposite reaction to the working of her stubby fingers against her own chest.
Did she miss sex that much? She shook her head to no one and peeled off her one-piece sleepfilm garment in a slow forward roll, tumbling directly into the corner of the cabin that was her ultrasonic shower. No, if sex had been that interesting, she never would have left Tertius, would have taken a planetside job somewhere. The Fleet employed plenty of people in Requisitions, Supply Chain, Maintenance, Interstellar Comms, Strategy, Intelligence, and other functions, and she could easily have found a berth. Einstein, she cursed to herself, if she’d really been that interested in sex, she could have taken a job at Harbor Hospitality Services, and had all the sex she wanted. There were plenty of men—and women—who liked a stubby body like hers.
No, she had insisted on entering the Sapient Corps because knowledge was much better than sex. It gave you similar power over others, but left you feeling cleaner. So she had said goodbye to her companion of two years… she strained now to remember his name as she splayed and parted her thick brown hair to let the ultrasonic beams pound her scalp clean… Brion, that was it, and taken to the void.
She heard a soft thud in her quarters and froze in place. A footfall?
Her back was to the tiny cramped space, and prickles crept slowly up her spine. The fact that she was drifting in zero gravity made it worse. It made every goosepimple feel like the physical touch of an unseen intruder. She forced her mind through the obvious paces, like a child convincing itself to walk into a dark room: she had been alone when she had gone to sleep; her door had been locked; she hadn’t unlocked it. She was alone.
She tried, but could not by the sheer power of her mind force the muscles in her back to unknot. At least she managed to keep her back turned. The thought that someone was watching her shower was distracting, made her feel warm and tingle in ways she couldn’t quite consciously describe.
She heard the footstep again—
pushed off the indentation around a hatch in the wall—
and spun around.
Her quarters were empty.
Maybe, she thought, she could get Doctor Plectrum to have the ship increase her dose of downer, the libido suppressant administered to every crewperson of the Fleet’s voidgoing vessels. This wasn’t her first troubling dream of the voidjourney. Metic snapped off the ultrasonic beams and frowned, wishing they had a COLD setting and actual water, like you could find in a Hospitality Bath, or the oldest buildings on Tertius. She felt clean but still troubled, flushed, uncomfortable.
She itched inside, and had no way to scratch.
Metic checked her wall comms unit as she slipped into her black sapient’s trousers and tunic and found a blinking orange bridge summons, priority PROMPT. That was it, she told herself. She had heard the summons activate, and in her distracted, nearly daydreaming state, she had convinced herself it was a footfall. But the thought didn’t let her force a sigh of relief through her lungs.
She exited into the ring-passage outside her quarters and headed for Captain Charamander’s Briefing Room.
She returned the crisp salutes of two passing engineers—like most of the Femship Atalanta’s officers, Metic bunked alongside the crew—and continued towards the central lift. The engineers were both pretty, prettier than she was, and the fact that their hair was dangerously close to being on their collar and therefore longer than the Chastity Regs permitted suggested awareness of their own charms, and perhaps a touch of vanity. Metic was not bothered by this, but she was bothered by the fact that she noticed their attractiveness, and that the fire in her belly continued to smolder. She was not a sapphic—could not be a sapphic, and travel the void in any of the Fleet’s ships, all of which were sex-segregated for the same reason that the crew’s rations were tampered with.
The Fleet made plenty of mistakes, but it knew this one true thing about human nature: that there was no such thing as safe sex. Any sex was dangerous, but especially sex in the cooped-up interior of a voidship, isolated, deprived of the space and means to vent rage, envy, possessiveness, and the other brutal passions of the dark underbelly of the human soul. A lovers’ tiff with a blaster in the middle could easily mean a ruptured hull and the death of hundreds of valuable personnel, a waste of millions of hours of expensive training. Sex in a voidship was a breath away from violence and catastrophe, so the Fleet went to great lengths to be sure its voidships were chaste. Such sapphics and thebans as undoubtedly slipped through the Fleet’s screening kept their heads down and their couplings discreet. The others waited for planetside R&R or home leave, and were grateful for whatever it was the ship put in their food…
[“Seed” by D.J. Butler is part of SPACE ELDRITCH II, anthology of Lovecraftian pulp space opera, on sale now!]