“Well, bearing young does not have to mean a female gender in all species, but it is the most common expression of gender identity for bearing species. She seems to be using your DNA and hers to create them, and you are male. I scanned the eggs and they show your distinct genetic make-up as well as hers, which is quite unique, as you know.” Aparoe turned and sat on a pile of rocks not far from the pool.
“You didn’t harm one of them to find that out, did you?” I asked, my stomach roiling at the thought of her ripping open one of those shining eggs bobbing in the water to find out what was inside.
“Of course not. I would never experiment on a sentient creature. Captain Querry only asked me to avoid treating you in my medbay to prevent you from having flashbacks, not because he’s worried I would do anything to harm you. And I’d never harm one of the eggs. Do you see any harm to Sparkles? And I cared for her for weeks.”
Captain did trust the rest of his crew, those people who had been with him for so long. But look at what Lakshou had done to me, and he’d trusted him before that. “Weeks?”
“And she never grew an inch, not until we got here. Then she began to grow steadily. The eggs showed up overnight.”
“How long ago?”
“Just two?” They were as big as my hand.
“And they were only as big as the tip of my thumb when I first saw them.” Aparoe leaned forward. “And quite a bit darker. They are nearly opaque now.”
“Maybe you just missed seeing them?”
“I didn’t just see them, I scanned the pool. I scan every time I come close after the first time I came too close while she was eating. So no, they weren’t in the pool before that.”
“Did you know she could fly?”
Aparoe’s brow rose. “Fly? No, I did not. Most creatures who swim do not fly.”
“She did. She flew us here from my house. Captain is probably frantic.”
“Would you like to contact him?” Aparoe pulled out a comm from their robe.
I should. I didn’t really want to because I knew he was going to be very upset, but I sighed and nodded. Of course, I was right. The second the comm connected and he heard my voice, he was frantic.
“Stop yelling,” I finally yelled back. “I’m not in any danger, I said. How many times must I tell you that. Aparoe is here with me. They’ve been taking care of this creature for weeks. No one on the ship was hurt. It’s been following me this whole time, and I haven’t been hurt.”
Captain’s nostrils flared. “It flew away with you.”
“You have my location. Come here. But quietly, carefully, because there are little ones.” I cut the connection.
“So I made the call. Captain is coming. Sparkles brought me here for some reason, you’re here, and the eggs are here.” I sank down on the warm rocks, enjoying the heat in the chilling air. “Why? What does all this mean?”
Aparoe cocked their head. “You think there is some purpose or meaning behind all this, beyond coincidence and strange genetic luck? The universe is a diverse place.”
“It is.” I’d been thinking about everything that Aparoe said, about where Sparkles came from, and about how our DNA was mixed. The universe was a diverse place, but it was also immense. And we had not gone to that planet unbeknown to those who had plans to put me back in that cell. So even if Captain’s cousin was under arrest, even if the Elites were dead, that didn’t mean all their plans had been stopped.
But was I right or Captain? Sparkles was swimming in the water, fanning the eggs that swayed in the ripples from her circles. Her movement was the only real way I could see her. The same for the eggs. Sparkles seemed to understand me; if Aparoe was right, she’d been inside me.
She was meant to carry my DNA.
“That’s it.” A back up plan. When I’d been pushed under the water, I’d swallowed some of the water. That was the real reason for the attack. “Plans within plans within plans.”
“I don’t know. Danie’s is way more important than I am. He’s a living Artificial Intelligence.”
“But they kept going after you. Not him, you. Lakshou’s plans were for you. When we arrived at the Elite’s planet, they separated you from the rest of us.”
“What is so damn special about me?” I frowned.
“Everything,” a voice said behind me.
I twisted, knowing the voice and not afraid of being snuck up on by the owner of it. He’d managed to surprise both of us though. “Captain.”
Jumping to my feet, I let him pull me into his arms, nearly squeezing the life out of me. I could feel the hum of our bond ringing in relief and tension I hadn’t realized I carried inside me eased. Inhaling his scent, warm and sweaty and mixed with the dirt and vegetation of the planet he’d had to pass through to get to us, the hot heat of his skin under all of that still stood out.
Sparkles raised her head out of the water and hissed.
“Shush. He’s not going to hurt you or the eggs,” I assured her. “Right?”
“No. This is important. I think someone did plan for her to get my DNA inside her, but I don’t think they ever planned for us to meet after I expelled her egg.” Aparoe and I filled Captain in on what we knew and what I’d been thinking about.
“But then someone else on my crew is a damned traitor,” Captain snarled.
Want more flash?