Thursday, October 6, 2011

Must Be Aliens

“I had thought that she would go her room. It seemed pretty reasonable.” Alex plucked his shirt off the ground and slipped it back on, suddenly feeling uncomfortably naked despite - or because of - Neya and Carbon’s various levels of undress. He righted the chair he had knocked over and sat down carefully, barely fitting into the seat. “I mean, where did she go last night? You didn’t just kick her out to wander the ship?”

Carbon gave him a look and turned to Neya. “Where did you stay last night?”

She smiled pleasantly, eyes free of sleep and keen again. “With Eleya.”

“Well, that’s good. I think.” Alex had gotten his translator on just in time to catch that. He turned back to Carbon. ”And what do you mean that’s she’s our zeshen?”

“She was mine, but since we are entwined, she is now ours. We will have to use a more formal term for her now.”

The chair creaked as Alex leaned back with a laugh that bordered on uneasy. “You’re not thinking of me as an alien again.”

Carbon started to speak and then stopped, sitting down on the bed next to Neya. The pale Tslao slid an arm around her waist and gave her a hug. “Ah, yes. I have not.”

“Uh-huh. So, I am missing something here. Probably a whole lot of something.”

She considered that before continuing. “Zeshen are given to people of importance, who are liable to be busy in many aspects of their lives.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Given?”

“Yes. There are very few zeshen born, it is a rare honor to receive one. Eleya and my mother both helped in choosing Neya for me.”

“Receive? Like property?”

“No, not anymore.”

“Oh, well... That’s something.” He closed his eyes and rubbed his temples. “So you got her and she just... lives with you now? Sleeps in your bed?”

“There is more to it than that. It is natural for her to be here and she does assist me with many aspects of my life. As she will with yours.” Carbon reached over and gave Neya’s hand a squeeze, a little bit of worry easing from her face. “Since she is... ourselves, it is proper that she sleep in our bed.”

“Ourselves?” Alex blanched and tried to get everything Carbon was telling him ordered neatly in his brain through the wine when the best possible solution hit him. He stood up and shooed Neya back from the edge of the bed, clearing room for him to sit next to Carbon. “I don’t know why the hell I am asking you questions. Show me.”

Carbon seemed relieved that he took the initiative, flipping her antennae over and resting them on the crown of his head. They sank down into the shared space, her presence showing worried edges and cracks of insecurity. A moment... there is much to show and much that is excess.

He was sure his own discomfort was showing through but he tried to play it down, a smile spreading across his thoughts. Take your time, I don’t have any plans today.

She seemed to appreciate that, a busy sort of vibe spiraling from her as she worked up whatever it was she was going to show him. Here. I think this will do.

Alex sank down into a blur of knowledge and memories.

Zeshen are a genetic abnormality, a deeply recessive trait so rare that many would never see one in person except within the highest reaches of society. Their families would be made wealthy in exchange for having one - they had no choice in the matter, but it was handled with more sensitivity now. Family ties were kept, visits and updates were guaranteed.

They were given the best education possible, taught and trained and molded to be zeshen. The word itself described them in every way. It was their title, their description, their gender. They were exalted in Tslao culture, even held in regard and law above the empress in some situations.

In the modern age, much care was taken in selecting who each one would be given to. The system matched each zeshen with someone who they would fit well with, interviewing family and friends to ensure they would mesh. The relationship they had with their aeshen - first soul - was very close... almost indistinguishable in some ways, forever a part of each other even though they both retained a sense of self at all times.

The first memory Carbon gave him was older, the very first link Carbon had with Neya. The pride and dedication Neya felt was almost overwhelming, though it was tinged with caution and the desire to know her better. This was a surprise to Carbon, who simply did not expect that sort of response and had only warily entered the link because of Eleya’s involvement in her selection.

The second memory was fresh, from just a few weeks ago when Carbon returned to the Sword of the Morning Light. She had been so excited to have Carbon back, the pride of being her zeshen still strong but now mixed with admiration, curiosity and love. Carbon, for the most part, felt the same way. Relief that she was well, a warm affection and an interesting sense of becoming whole again.

They slid out of the link and the first thing he saw was Neya watching him intently, eyes wide and expectant for... something. Carbon flipped her antennae back into place and smiled softly. “Does it make sense now?”

He tipped his head back and forth and shrugged, lips pulled tight. “It makes more sense now. It’s still... alien to me and I am keeping that in mind while I process this.”

Neya leaned against Carbon and whispered something into her ear, amethyst eyes pensive and locked on him as she did.

Carbon sighed and patted Neya’s hip and seemed to begin to roll her eyes, stopping before they had gone very far. “Are you upset at her? She cannot read your more unique facial expressions well yet.”

“No, not at all.” He shook his head and looked at Neya. “I’m just surprised, more than anything. This is a sudden development for me, I thought... I thought you were more like a secretary or something.”

She smiled broadly and relaxed, scooting forward and snuggling up against him, narrow arms wrapped around his torso. “I am glad. I believe that I mistook what you meant when you said personal assistant, there may have been a problem with the translation. If I had known so, I would have clarified my role.”

Alex had raised his arms out of her way when she came at him and now held them aloft, not sure what to do with them. He cocked an eyebrow at Carbon, who didn’t seem to mind Neya getting comfortable on him. “I am sure you would have.”

“She is very curious about you, Alex.” Carbon gestured for him to put his arms down. “She does not know exactly what to make of... humans, let alone one who I have a relationship with.”

“So it seems.” He settled his arm on her shoulder, Neya nestling down under it and nodding in agreement. It left him feeling more uncomfortable than when he had just been holding them up. “This doesn’t bother you?”

“Why would it?”

He considered his reply carefully before speaking. “You don’t see the same thing I do, do you?”

Carbon’s words were measured, thoughtful. “No. I do not think I do.”

“I am a little weirded out.”

“You do have a certain... Let us say it is desirable look on you, on this occasion.” There was a particularly predatory tone to her voice as she crawled up the bed and sat next to him, taking hold of his arm and resting her head on his shoulder. “I take it that Humans do not have any similar system?”

He sighed quietly, now sandwiched between them. “Not that I was raised with, not that I even know about.”

“I can see there are still so many ways we are different.” She pulled the blanket up, setting it about Neya’s shoulders as she was already asleep again. She lowered her voice before continuing. “My mother said she had trouble getting acclimated to having a zeshen, even though she knew of them. She lost much sleep when my parents first became close.”

“Oh? That makes me feel a little bit better.” It was good to know that being uncomfortable with this wasn’t unusual, even among the Tslao. If they were just sleeping, that was... weird, but not too weird. Did sort of explain why the bed was so spacious.

“It should not be a problem for you, Neya does not kick in her sleep like Eraei did.”

That took a moment to sink in. “No, it’s not...”

She was laughing quietly, mischief in her cerulean eyes. “Will this be too uncomfortable for you? Here is her rightful place, but I - or you - can send her away.”

“Making her leave doesn’t feel right to me. Mind you, I think that response is for entirely Human reasons.”

Carbon smiled and idly stroked his arm. “She does wish for you to accept her. Even though she is a bit ‘weirded out’ by this situation, she hides it well and if my feelings for you were not held out by your actions... I do not think she would even consider making any attempts to interact with you.”

“Interesting. Like a relationship barometer.” That sort of made sense to him. Being able to get a second opinion from yourself but one step removed from a situation seemed like it would be damn handy.

Her smile widened, approval in her eyes. “Very much like that. Are you sure you have not been reading any of our history books?”

“Very sure.”

“Will you let her stay?”

He considered it again. Really, what’s the worst that could happen? Not like it was somehow more inappropriate than sleeping with one alien. “When in Rome.”

She shook her head. “That does not mean anything to me.”

“Old saying. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Act like you belong where you are.”

Carbon beamed at that. “Good. In the morning you should link with her. It will help you both along.”

He felt a little like he was just humoring her, but she clearly thought it important. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

“As you should." She patted his arm. "Now, will you disrobe? You make me feel as though I am underdressed.”


  1. Hey aliens not having the same trappings as humans. That's pretty awesome. Though I'm kind of confused as to the difference between a zeshen and an aeshen but I suspect it might have been better explained already and I already forgot because that's what I do.

  2. I'd like to hear more on the genetic abnormality. Just how is Neya different? Does she have telepathic abilities? It would seem somewhat like that since she is able to "act" as Carbon. Not because she was given specific instructions, but because she knows what Carbon wants. This world you've built is very interesting.

  3. Nikoda: Yeah, I figure it's a good idea. For reference (I know... glossary.) aeshen is 'first soul' and zeshen is 'second soul.'

    Archnemesis: There will be more about them in the future, but I'll lay some of it out here: they're not telepaths any more than a normal Tslao (I guess the deelybobbers make them all contact telepaths by default) but they do share experiences and memories via mind links much more often than a Tslao would normally.

    Thank you, I try to make sure it's... well, interesting. It's important that there be depth to things.