by Aaron Springer



Terran doctors would have turned away from the wreckage of the Alhambra as
being a humanitarian disaster. The sleeper ship had split like a ripe melon,
spilling its human contents across the surface of the tiny, airless alien

However, when the Shikree found the wreck, their compassionate eyes swept
across the tragedy with knowledge spawned through countless generations of
helping other races. With a conviction bordering on religious fervor, they
combed the wreckage, unaffected by sights that would have horrified the
majority of the inhabitants of Earth. They were able to sweep up the frozen
and battered remains of several hundred colonists, and whisked them quickly
and silently down to their home world.

When Khiree walked among the tanks that contained the remains of so many
aliens, she wept tears of sorrow for the nameless multitude of lives lost.
As a priestess of her people, she was sharing her grief at the loss with all
of them. Her feelers radiated the silent weeping across her entire world and
each Shikrean stop for a moment to feel the pain.

Suddenly, Khiree felt something. She turned, fingers excitedly moving as she
advanced on the tank she had felt it from. There was life here, in this
husk. It was faint, perhaps one of their young, but she could feel its slow
heartbeat as she ran her fingers across the surface of the yellowish fluid
that held the body in place. She had little time to spare, and did not waste
it waiting for the other priests and priestess to arrive. She extended her
razor sharp talons and began cutting away the frozen dead flesh that
entombed the life within. She understood from looking at their genetic code
that these beings held their young inside of them for a time, forming them
from their own bodies. She found it stunning that such a thing could be. Her
people merged in the shallows of a fresh water sea to let their genetic
fragments link and form randomly, and each child came forth fully formed and
with racial memories. This race, from everything they had gathered, started
as a blank slate, the combination of only two sets of genomes. While her own
people had something akin to male and female, it had little to do with

She peeled back the final layer of cold flesh to find a membrane surrounding
the small being. She slicked it open, and immediately brought the small
thing around and into an incubator. The others had gathered around them,
watching her as she tended to the small creature. She cleaned it and as the
incubator brought it back up to normal temperature she turned back to what
was, apparently, its mother.

She leaned her face close to the dead face of the woman in the tank. Her
tendrils reached forward, and slipped into the woman's ears, eyes and nose.
She quickly pulled the information she needed from the frozen neurons. She
pulled a fragment of DNA from the woman's mouth, and her body began to
analyze it.

Within minutes, she felt her body change. These beings fed their young from
their own bodies, through a series of glands on the upper torso. She felt
her torso expand and separate, forming the glands the child, as she was now
calling him, would need to survive once the breath of life was brought to
his tiny body.

She grasped the culture and customs of the beings through the memories she
had pulled from the woman's lifeless mind.

The others looked at her as she transformed. As nipples formed on her
budding breasts, the baby in the incubator let out his life-cry, using his
lungs for the first time.

Two years past, and Ihkree, or, as Khiree liked to call him, "Bran-don" grew
to love his "mother." She cared for him as his own mother, "Ros-lyn," would
of, feeding him from her body, which made the milk in the same chemical
composition that a human mother would. For her compassion, she eventually
became High Priestess, and wore the Eye of Shikree, with which she could
reach every Shikrean on the planet by herself, without the rest of the
priesthood. She kept the glands her body had grown for the child, as she
found from the mother's memories that they served not just the purpose of
sustenance, but also provided comfort to a frightened child.

It was just after the child turned two that a gleaming ship appeared in the
sky. The Shikree turned their eyes skyward as they had so many other times
to welcome a new race.

It was not long before the human delegation was presented to the high

"Madam," the captain, dressed in a smart burgundy outfit, said as he bowed
slightly to the Matron of Shikree. As he did so, his eyes grew wide at her
bared breasts and the small human child she held gently on her knee.

"Welcome to Shikree. We are a planet of healers, and wish you comfort in
your stay," she said. He noticed her voice was a little tinny, and he could
tell her throat was not used to standard English.

"I am here, ahem, to present you with various gifts," he motioned to a pile
of shiny objects next to him, "and to formally request an opening of
diplomatic ties to your world."

"Diplomacy is neither possible nor required. We are not trained in the ways
of the linguistic oddity you call 'politics', nor do we have anything you
would want that you are not free to take as you will."

A young man is a somewhat shabby version of the captain's uniform approached
the captain with a small hand-held device. He handed it to the captain, and
then made a hasty retreat.

"It seems, madam, that the child you hold is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Javier
Eppler. We would like to take him back to his family."

Khiree looked at him without showing any recognizable human emotion. Inside
of her, however, memory fragments were connecting.

"You are Javier Eppler," she said slowly.

The captain looked at her, a little stunned.

"How do you know that?" he said suspiciously.

"Because," she said, her voice becoming more human for a moment, "Part of me
is Roslyn Eppler"

The captain took a step back, then regained his composure.

"I took your child from your wife's body to save him, and I took some of her
memories in order to keep him alive. Parts of her are parts of me," she
whispered, almost in a trance.

"I want my son!" the captain screamed.

Khiree closed her eyes and let the emotion flow out of her. The Eye glowed
brightly from between her human breasts, and lit the room in a warm purple
glow. It was pure love, love that transcended life, transcended death, and
was more important that anything else that anyone had ever felt. Every
Shikrean on the planet was swept up into it like a tidal wave. Javier fell
to his knees under the weight of the emotion. It was the love of a mother
for a child, something even many humans do not understand. The boy snuggled
up closer to his guardian, who had fragments of his mother within her.

Javier looked up at her, eyes glazed and tearing up.

"I love you, Roslyn. Take care of our boy," he said, and then got back to
his feet. He turned silently on his heel and left the still chamber. She
pulled her son close to her, and regained her personality. The clothing she
wore, which she was told was merely a human affectation, rustled around her.


Raven's Comments:

You've got some neat elements here; Khiree's incorporation of Roslyn's essence was an interesting way to explain the odd mix of alien and human elements we see in the picture. Unfortunately, the Shikree's natural appearance is never really described in the story, so without the aid of the picture we wouldn't be able to visualize the scene very well; this costs you a bit in Applicability.

Your technical skills are generally solid; not quite as strong as Shatter's in Requiem for a Lost Civilization, but you make up for that by putting more emotion into your prose. The characters do come across as a little simplistic, though -- the Shikreans are a little too good-hearted and altruistic to be believable, and Captain Eppler's shift from surprise to rage is too fast. I would also have liked to see a little more of Khiree's internal struggle as she tried to reconcile the human and Shikrean aspects of her personality, though that probably would have required a much longer story. It's a little disappointing that we skip two whole years in the narrative, when we might have seen some interesting conflicts crop up among the Shikreans: how do her people feel about her incorporating human genetics into herself? How do the human instincts she's picked up clash with her world's culture? It's too bad we don't get to see more of this. The story ends on an odd note, too -- it feels like it's missing something, a last sentence to give us some sense of closure or finality.

Despite these shortcomings, I enjoyed this story quite a bit. Not bad at all, Aaron.

Spelling/Grammar: A-
Technique: A-
Creativity: B
Artistry: B
Applicability: B-

Final Score: 41 out of 50

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