Thursday, November 28, 2013

December 19

Instead of the answer fairy interrupting my last entry, I got Imdiko Betra.  He’d been avoiding me for the most part the last few days.  I haven’t seen him since I found out I had a stowaway on board, in fact.  I wasted no time lighting into him.

“You knew all along!” I accused him.  “You knew I was pregnant.”

“Yes, Matara.  May I come in?”  He kept his head bowed , his eyes on the floor.

“I don’t know why I should let you,” I said.  “I don’t appreciate having a secret of that magnitude being kept from me.  Would you like it if our roles were reversed?”

“No, Matara.  I would not.”  His voice was quiet.  “I’m very sorry that I had to keep silent.”

His admission kind of took the wind out of my sails.  It’s hard to be mean to someone when they admit they were in the wrong.  For a guy around six-and-a-half-feet tall, Betra does the kicked puppy look pretty damned good.

“Damn it, come in,” I said.  I stomped away and dropped onto a seating cushion.

He did so, coming over to gracefully fold his legs to sit Indian-style on the cushion across from mine.  I was still calling him a hundred times a jerk in my head, but I had to admit the view was nice.  Stupid, handsome Kalquorian.

“So why did you do it?” I asked.  I was looking for him to give me a reason to be mad.  Darn it, I had to take it out on someone.

“I was sworn to secrecy by my commanding officer,” Betra said.  He still wouldn’t look at me.  “He explained you weren’t ready to know.  That you were in love with the clan who might have fathered the baby and would try to stay with them on Earth, even though they weren’t ready for a Matara.”

“Damned straight I would have,” I grumbled.

Betra sighed.  “Then there was concern about another man who might be the yadbis, the biological sire.  According to Dr. Nayun, whom you have officially recognized as your father, that potential donor could be a danger to you.  Had he known you might be expecting his offspring, he might have blocked your escape.  Dr. Nayun, in his capacity as your father, was adamant that you get away before this Dramok Nang found out and caused problems.”

He had a point.  Nang had gotten a little crazy in the end.  Had he known I might be carrying his child ... I shuddered.

Betra added, “Everyone was quite worried about your well-being, Shalia.  They only did what they thought was best for you.”

I glared.  “I am not a child, you know.  I don’t appreciate being treated like one.”

Betra didn’t answer right away.  He turned something over in his mind before speaking again.

He finally looked me in the eye.  “You know, I understand that.  You are an adult.  It’s kind of hard to treat you like one, though.”

I swear my jaw came about an inch from hitting the floor.  “What are you talking about?”

Betra flushed, snorted some disbelieving laughter, and shook his head as if he couldn’t quite fathom his own words.  “You’re female.  We Kalquorian men are supposed to take care of women, especially the ones who are expecting children.  You shouldn’t feel stress or be concerned with anything.  We men are to take care of all that.”

I regarded him with surprise.  “You’re kidding, right?”  When he didn’t answer, I felt another wave of shock.  “You’re not kidding.”

Betra shrugged.  “It does seem crazy now that I’m discussing it with you.  I mean, I’ve learned you’re a very strong, mature woman.  But this is what I’ve been taught.  We men control, protect, and care for the women.”

“Jesus, Mohammed, and Moses,” I breathed.  “Control?”

“We make all the decisions for the good of your welfare.”

It explained a lot, especially when it came to how Dad and even Nang had treated me.  I wish I had known sooner.  “This is how all of you think?”

Betra laughed.  “I’m afraid so.  And I, of all people, should know better.”

“Why is that?”

“Because you’re a lot like my mother.  She didn’t appreciate my fathers trying to run her life ‘for her own good’ either.  In fact, she never put up with it.”

I arched an eyebrow at him.  “You must have had a loud childhood.”

He chuckled.  “Not really.  Instead of yelling at them, my mother simply did whatever she wanted, even over my fathers’ objections.  And if they dared to keep a secret from her, like we did you, she’d take me on a ‘vacation’ until they apologized and promised to not do it again.” 

I had to grin at him.  “I think I like your mom.”

He nodded.  “She’s a wonderful woman.  I have always adored her strength.”

My shock and amusement were wearing off, leaving me feeling tired and cornered yet again.  “I’m not feeling so strong right now, Betra.  What am I going to do with a child?  With this child?  Who’d clan a woman with a baby?”

He blinked at me in surprise.  “Many men.  In fact, it’s a good thing you’re not on Kalquor right now, smelling the way you do.”

I frowned at him.  “Smelling?”

Betra nodded and his nostrils flared as he took a deep breath.  “There are a few weeks in the first trimester during which some pregnant Earther Mataras exude a certain aroma.  It’s a strange phenomenon, and it doesn’t happen with all of you.  It doesn’t ever happen with pregnant Kalquorian women, or so I’m told.”

So that’s why he had been sniffing around me all the time.  “So I stink?”

Betra laughed.  “Quite the opposite.  Actually, you, ah, smell very good.”  He reddened.  “Your scent is arousing.”

I went all wide-eyed again.  “Arousing?  Like guys want to be with me?  Sexually?”

Betra nodded.  “I’ve been keeping a close eye – or would it be nose? – on you.  I had to so I could warn off other men if it happened.  Your father said you wouldn’t want a bunch of eager Kalquorians on your doorstep so soon after losing the clan you loved.”

“He was right.”  I sighed.  “Dad is determined to keep me protected, even from all these miles away.  Tell me more about this sexy stench I’m putting off.”

“Your pregnancy scent kicked in about a week ago.  It lasts about seven to eight weeks.”

“Good God,” I moaned, covering my face with my hands.  “That day in the dining room must have been when it started.  That’s why you chased them all off.”

“Exactly.  The men were responding to you.  I had to order them off to make sure they didn’t get too excited and get themselves into trouble.”

I was still worrying over my clanning possibilities now that I was in the mommy way.  “I won’t smell like this forever.  By the time I get to Kalquor, I won’t be able to lure a clan into my evil clutches.   If I don’t freeze the embryo, I’ll have a newborn that will scare them away instead.”

Betra shook his head.  “You don’t understand, Shalia.  Your child will be irrefutable proof of your fertility.  It will make you an even more sought-after mate for many clans.”

I stared at him.  “But they’ll have to raise another man’s child.  No one’s sure which clan fathered my baby.  That other Dramok, one I knew better than to get involved with ... oh, I don’t want to talk about the whole sordid mess.  I was a naughty girl.  We’ll leave it at that.”

Betra cocked his head at me.  “The child you carry will belong to the clan you choose on Kalquor.  They will be his or her fathers.  Not the men you had sex with.”  A smile twisted one side of his mouth.  “You do know you’re supposed to be exploring your sexuality, right?  That it’s perfectly okay for you to have sex with whoever you want until you join a clan?”

“Stop laughing at me,” I warned him.  “It’s not that simple for Earthers.  Besides, I was in love with the first clan.  I only turned to the other man because I was lonely and scared.”

“You put a lot of emotion in the realm of sex,” Betra said thoughtfully.  “It’s not usually casual for you, is it?”

I shook my head.  “Not even with Nang.  Crazy or not, he made me feel safe.  He made me feel good.”  I sighed.  Emotions when it came to Nang had been so complicated.  “Half the time I wanted to be around him, the other half I wanted to crash a shuttle into him.”

Betra laughed at that.  “Then you definitely don’t want him to be the father of your child.  You should be relieved to give the honor to other men.”

I tried not to think of Dusa’s clan.  Of giving their child a different set of fathers.  It made my head hurt.

Instead, I asked Betra, “You really think a baby doesn’t hurt my chances of clanning?  That whoever I end up with will take care of this child?”

He smiled at me.  “They will beg to show you what good fathers they will make for the babe you carry.  You have nothing to worry about when it comes to finding a clan, Shalia.”

It made me feel a little better to hear that.  I guess I should simply realize that when you’re facing extinction like the Kalquorians are, you’ll take whatever you can get ...even if it means adopting and caring for a child not of your own making.

One question down, a million to go.

Monday, November 25, 2013

December 18

I am all over the place right now.  I’m still in shock, I believe.  I can’t get my thoughts to settle down.  My head just keeps thinking and asking questions and worrying and freaking out.  In his messages that I haven’t had the stomach to answer yet, Dad says to take time and come to grips with this.  It seems the longer I go, the more chaotic my brain feels.

Like, who the hell is going to clan me when I’m carrying someone else’s child?  Who would want to raise a kid not their own?  Yes, I know we on Earth adopted kids who lost their parents or were taken from abusive homes.  Do Kalquorians do that?  Are they okay with playing daddies to someone else’s child?  And even if they are, how do their feelings change when their own children come along?

Candy stopped by yesterday to try and console me, as she has every day since I told her the news.  She reminded me, “The Matara complex has a childcare facility.  Obviously, some clans are accepting women with kids, or that wouldn’t be part of the picture.”

“It must be desperate for them to want a ruined woman.”  I was feeling extremely sorry for myself.  Wallowing  in self-pity, to be honest.

“A ruined woman?”  Candy snorted at me in disbelief.  “That’s Earth-talk.  Remember, everyone here has been telling us to get it on with all the men we want so we know what makes us feel good.  Kalquor has to know some of us will end up preggers as much as they encourage us to slut around.”  Her face went beet-red and her eyes went big.  “Oh damn, Shalia, I didn’t mean it to sound like I was calling you a slut.  You know I don’t feel that way.”

My poor-me fest turned angry in a second.  “Really?  Then why are you still a virgin?”

Candy went redder still.  “Because I’m scared.  I want to with all my – well, not heart.  The organs that want me to get over my fears are much lower south.”  She shook her head.  “I keep hearing all those voices.  Seeing all those films they showed us in family planning classes where they tortured those women for having extramarital sex.  I know I’m safe from that now, but I freeze up every time a man starts showing interest.”

I sighed.  I was a bit young to have made the movies Candy saw, but I’d made them for the next generation.  I’d poisoned a lot of minds.

I let the subject drop.  “The responsible thing would be for me to freeze the embryo.  I ought to wait and see what happens before letting a child come into my life.  But how delighted would a potential clan be when I ask to give birth to some other man’s baby?”  I groaned and slapped my hands over my face in despair.  “Fuck.  What am I going to do?”

Candy picked worriedly at her trousers.  “I don’t know.  It’s a big decision, isn’t it?”  She brightened.  “Do you think they let clans with infertile women carry babies that are ... well, I wouldn’t say ‘unwanted’ by their mother.”

“Yes, please don’t say that.  If this child comes from Dusa’s clan, it’s not that I don’t want it.”  I blew out a disgusted noise.  “Even if it’s Nang’s, it’s not the kid’s fault.  I can’t call it unwanted even in that case.”

“Let’s call it ‘inconvenient’ then.”  Candy smiled with her vocabulary solution.

“A surrogate mother who carries, gives birth, and keeps the baby,” I mused.   It had potential, but then I thought of going through the years of my life, thinking about the child I’d made with Clan Dusa (maybe) and missing  out on seeing who he or she looked like.  I’d miss the first smile ... first word ... first steps ... all the important milestones.  Maybe the little critter would grow up to be a big lemanthev star.  I’d lose out on all that.  Something in my heart rebelled against this seemingly easy solution.

“Fuck,” I breathed.  “I need to talk to Dad.  But I don’t know where to start with all the questions I have.  I don’t know what the hell to do.”  I threw one of my slippers across the room.  “Why does everything about my life end up so damned complicated?”

Poor Candy.  She did her best to help me through this labyrinth of

Someone’s at the door, interrupting me.  Maybe it’s the answer fairy come to make everything clear.  Later.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

December 17

It’s been three days since my life turned upside down.  I’ve been trying to record what happened in my journal, but every time I start I get freaked out.  Here goes another attempt at writing down the unthinkable.

I guess it’s just best to start at the beginning.  The beginning would be where I left off on the last entry.  That’s when someone decided to interrupt my pity party by refusing to leave when I wouldn’t answer the door.

Yeah.  That’s how to do this.   One step at a time, from the beginning.

Feeling mean and ill, I went to my door and snapped, “Who the hell is it?”

There was silence for a moment, then a hesitant voice said, “Liaison Betra.”

I rolled my eyes.  It occurred to me that Betra didn’t get a lot of things about Earthers.  Like not answering the door means ‘go away’.  How the hell does someone so inept at Earther etiquette get to be a liaison who is tasked with our well-being?

I decided to clear up this latest misunderstanding.  “Go away.  I’m not seeing anyone.”

“Are you all right, Matara Shalia?”

There was that question again.  I snapped, “As a matter of fact, I don’t feel terribly good today.  For all I know, it’s contagious.  I let you know when I’m better.”

“I think you’d better open the door.”

Of all the replies I’d expected, that one wasn’t among them.  I crossed my arms over my chest and scowled as if he could see me through the door.  “Betra, just leave me alone.  All I want is to get in bed and sleep until I feel better.”

“I’ve been ordered to bring you to Medical.  Right now.”

I was startled to hear that, to say the least.  “Why?”  So help me, if Dad was making me get that stupid checkup...

“If you don’t come along willingly, I’m to summon a tech to sedate you and bring you in.”

My jaw nearly hit the floor.  I was shocked, then furious.  “Door, open!”

The door slid quietly out of the way to reveal Betra standing there, looking quite sheepish.  Nevertheless, he stepped into my quarters as if he had every right to be there.  “Get dressed, Shalia.”

“What the hell is going on?” I demanded.  I was shaking with fury.

“That is not for me to explain.”  He looked terribly embarrassed but resolute.  “They’ll tell you everything in Medical.”

I had the sudden thought that something was horribly wrong.  Dad’s insistence I get a checkup, Betra’s constant inquiries into my health, now this strong arm tactic to make me see the doctor ... how bad had I been hurt back on Earth from the smoke inhalation?  What was it that Dad hadn’t told me?

Fear made me like a small child.  “I don’t want to go.”

Betra grimaced.  “I can’t give you the choice.  Please, Shalia, go get dressed.”

I turned from him and went into the sleeping room where all my clothes were.  Feeling numb, I changed out of my nice, Kalquorian-supplied robe and slippers and the nightgown I’d brought from Earth.  I wasn’t even sure what I put on, only that there was a top covering my top and bottoms covering my ass.  All the while I thought, It’s serious.  Whatever it is, it’s serious.  Why didn’t Dad tell me?  My stomach, already doing lazy loops this morning, had gone into overdrive.  If I’d eaten breakfast, it would have landed all over the floor right then.

I slid my feet into some shoes and staggered back out to the sitting room where Betra waited.  His expression turned compassionate, and he stopped me as I moved towards the door.

“Just a moment, little one.  Let me comb your hair.”

I stood woodenly as he did so, straightening the bedhead snarls with gentle strokes.  I finally got the courage up to ask, “It’s bad, isn’t it?”

“Hush,” he whispered.  “Everything will be all right.  I promise.”

I wasn’t buying it.  You don’t march a person off to the doctor against her will when everything is okay.

Once I was halfway presentable, Betra took my hand and led me out into the corridor.  That he tried to comfort me with the contact only made me more frightened.  I couldn’t imagine the dread diagnosis I was heading for.

That trip to Medical seemed to happen in the fog of a dream.  I couldn’t feel my feet in their shoes as Betra gently tugged me along.  Why had no one told me I was in danger?  That it was so bad that they would threaten me with sedation to make me see the doctor?  Was it already too late?  Were my lungs on the brink of failing?

I was in so much shock that it seemed I blinked and I was suddenly in Medical.  Waiting for me was Dad.

I stared at him in shock.  No, that couldn’t be right.  Nayun was back on Earth, not here.  It was a vid.  He was talking to another doctor, a much younger fellow than him. 

As long and lithe as Dad is big and bulky, Dr. Tep (as I later learned his name was) was downright skinny – well, skinny for a Kalquorian.  He had a much smaller build than Dad and Betra, but still managed to be more muscular than men on Earth.  He had a long face with a slender nose and pointed chin.

Dr. Tep turned to me as Betra ushered me into the blameless white room filled with shiny machines that looked scary as hell.  I recognized the full body scanners and the medi-beds.  Those things had been brought to the Academy for Dad’s staff to use on us who were so unlucky as to need them.  Most of the equipment looked like some kind of mad scientist shit though.  It probably wasn’t as all bad as that, but when you’re panicked, nothing looks nice.

“Here’s your lovely daughter now,” Dr. Tep said to Dad.  “Thank you, Betra.  If you’ll wait in the sitting area?”

Betra bowed and left me there.  I was shaking from head to toe.  I stared at Dad who had turned to gaze at me with compassion and worry.

“What is it?” I asked dully.  “Why didn’t you tell me something was really wrong?  I thought you cared about me.”

Dad winced.  “Shalia, everything will be fine.  I had to get you off Earth.  I couldn’t allow you to—”

He broke off and looked at the patiently waiting Dr. Tep, who watched me closely.  “I think a current scan would help.”

Dr. Tep nodded.  “Matara, if you would step up on the full body scan?”

When I couldn’t make my feet move, he came to me and gently pushed me along.  I felt like I was being walked to the gallows.  I didn’t want to see what they were about to show me.  I didn’t want to know what had gone wrong after all.  Yet I let Tep get me up on the platform between the scan screens.  He did his picture-taking thing of my inner goriness.

“Let’s have you sit down before we go over the results,” he invited me.

Tep took my hand and pulled me from the scanner.  He then had me sit on a flat examination table.  Dad’s vid followed us about the room.

“How do you do that?” I asked, desperate to put off whatever terrible news they were about to hit me with.  “Dad's vid going where you go, I mean.”

“The whole department is set up to accept transmissions,” Dr. Tep said.  “It’s very useful if I’m in surgery and I need someone with more experience to advise me during the procedure.”

“I guess that would help.”  I fell silent.  I’d run out of chit chat.

Dad moved his hand, as if to touch and comfort me.  When he remembered he couldn’t, he clenched it into a fist.  “My daughter, your life is in no danger.”

“Then why am I here?” I asked.  I decided I was going to stomp someone if it really wasn’t a big deal.  They’d freaked me out and I was ready to be pissed off, which was better than being scared.

“It’s about this.”  Tep brought up a large vid.  It took a moment for me to note it was the inner parts of a person’s body.  My body, it turned out, in all its three-dimensional grotesqueness.  Beauty really is only skin deep, ha-ha.

My lungs looked pink and glistened wetly.  I didn’t see anything that told me of damage. 

Tep said something in his own language, and the abdominal part of my scan enlarged and zoomed in tight and fast.  I was suddenly looking at something else pink, shaped vaguely like a kidney bean.  There was a black dot  on the most bulbous end and protuberances sticking out of the other.  I blinked.  I couldn’t make any sense of it.

“What is that?” I asked.

Dad’s voice was very soft.  “It’s a baby.  Your baby, my daughter.  You’re pregnant.”

The table under my butt seemed to sway really hard.  I dimly felt a hand steady me, and Tep’s voice sounded from far away.  “Easy, Matara.  Lie down until you absorb the shock.”

“Baby?  Pregnant?”  The squalling voice coming from my lips didn’t sound like me at all. 

I’m not sure how long I lay there staring at the pink kidney bean.  That was a baby?  It looked so ... raw.  Strange.   Was that black dot an eye?  And the little offshoots ... arms and legs? 

“Pregnant,” I said again.  I stared at the creature in the scan picture and tried to make it sound real.

After a while, I was finally able to talk some sense.  I think.  I remember asking questions.  I remember getting a few answers too.

“How far along am I?” I asked.

Dad and Tep looked at each other.  “It’s hard to say, Shalia,” Dad told me.  “We’re ship doctors with little experience with pregnant women.  Plus, this is a mix of Kalquorian and Earther, which also confuses things a little.  Judging from the few pregnancies that have happened since Earther women have come to Kalquor, my best guess is four to seven weeks.  Development can vary widely with hybrid fetuses.”

“I agree,” Tep said.  “Besides making sure you would leave Earth rather than stay behind, we also wanted to compare your pregnancy to those of other hybrids.  That’s why we waited so long to tell you you’re expecting.  We’ve been trying to accurately pinpoint the time of conception.”

I kept shying away from that ‘p’ word, which is why I homed in on the first part of Tep’s statement.  “Making sure I would leave Earth?”

Dad sighed and looked as if he was steeling himself to take a beating.  “I was afraid you’d try to stay with Clan Dusa if you knew you expected a child.  You had to get off this planet, Shalia.  I couldn’t take the chance you wouldn’t leave if you chose to have the baby.”

I stared at him.  “Chose to have it?  What do you mean?” 

Tep told me, “We can cryo-freeze the embryo if you don’t  want to have this child right away.  I would caution you to not make that decision yet while you’re in a state of shock, however.  You do have a little time to think about it.”

I couldn’t think about anything.  It was all beyond me at that point.

Before I made my stumbling, confused way back to my quarters, steered  carefully by Betra, I did tell Dad, “I love you.  I could beat you over the head with a sledgehammer right now, but I love you.  I'm so mad I can't believe I'm saying this, but thanks for trying to do what’s best.  I know your heart's in the right place.”

He managed a smile.  “That’s my girl.  Go see your friends.  Cry it out, if it will help.  I know this is huge.  Once you’ve absorbed some of the shock, we’ll go over all the options and concerns you have about your choices.”

“Should I tell Dusa and the rest?”

Tep took a breath and Dad’s brows drew together.  “Not yet, my daughter.  Maybe—” he stopped himself and shook his head.  “This is one of those discussions we need to have after you’ve come to grips with what’s happened.  Do not tell Clan Dusa.  Do not tell anyone on Earth that you are pregnant.”

“You and Clan Dusa are the only ones I speak to,” I pointed out.

I agreed I needed to wait, though.  It was a bit too much to add to the already chaotic mess of my head.

I’ve been working on getting my thoughts straight about my surprise guest these last three days.  I really have.  I guess it worked, because a  sudden and extremely unwelcome thought occurred to me last night. 

With the mantra, ‘four to seven weeks’ running through my head along with Dad’s warning to not speak of the pregnancy to anyone on Earth, I searched back through my diary.  Hoping against hope.  Praying my hardest that the timeline I had in my head was dead wrong.

It wasn’t.  In that time period I had sex with Dusa, Esak, Weln ... and Nang. 

The father of the embryo I’m carrying could be Dramok Nang.