Symbionts

Gebra Mahara has found a suitor, but he lives on the Geborian home world, three star systems away. Mahara has chosen my own love Arina to be carrier, and so soon I must bid her farewell.

“It’s not fair,” I say to Arina. We’re lying in our hammock next to the artificial lake outside Mahara’s palace. “She could choose anyone to be carrier. Why you?”

“I’m sure it wasn’t on purpose,” Arina says. “I’m the youngest, the healthiest. It’s a long journey. It will take most of my lifetime. Mahara needs someone she can count on.”

“You make it sound like you’re glad to do it.”

“It is an honor,” Arina says.

“It’s an honor to waste your whole life on a spaceship?” I say. “I thought you’d want to stay. I thought you loved me.”

“I do love you,” Arina says. “But Gebra Mahara loves her suitor as well. It’s the least we can do. Look how they take care of us.” Arina gestures her arm at our surroundings, admittedly a paradise.

“We never asked to be taken care of,” I protest. “The Geborians tell us life was so hard on Earth before they came, but I think it’s just talk. I don’t care how hard it would be without them. I’d rather have you here with me.”

“You’re not thinking clearly,” Arina says. “As humans we die. We can’t be together forever anyway. Even if we parted another seventy years from now, it would still be such a short time.”

In a huff I jerk myself off the hammock and march back to the human quarters, leaving Arina swinging alone beside the lake.

-–

That night I can’t sleep, so I tiptoe into the main palace and into Gebra Mahara’s chambers. Mahara is a relatively kind mistress, and I know she’ll be angry, but not violent.

Indeed, she awakes in a subdued rage, jolts up in bed suddenly. Her body, long and brachiated, is covered in the vivid blooms of a Geborian ready to mate. In her native language she bellows hoarsely, “You know you’re not allowed in the main palace after dark. Return to your quarters at once.”

“Please, Gebra,” I say. “Please don’t send Arina as your carrier.”

“That’s what this is about? Why?”

“I love her,” I say.

“I don’t understand,” Mahara says.

“I don’t want her to leave,” I say. “Because I love her.”

“You’ll love her whether she leaves or not,” Mahara says. “What difference does it make?”

“I just want to be with her,” I say. “Can’t you send someone else? Couldn’t you go yourself?”

“You know it doesn’t work that way,” Mahara says. “Even if I made the journey myself, I would still need a symbiont to complete the mating process. We Geborians have a different biology than you humans.”

“Then maybe you can understand why I want Arina to stay on Earth,” I say. “It’s not like you and your suitor. Humans in love need to be with each other.”

Gebra Mahara pauses for a moment. “I suppose I hadn’t considered that,” she says finally. “Arina feels the same way?”

“She says she loves me.”

“Arina really is the best candidate, but perhaps I could find someone else,” Mahara says. “Leave me to consider it.”

“Yes, thank you,” I say and back out of the room. “Thank you, Gebra.”

-–

The next day I’m sitting in the sun eating pineapple when Arina runs up and grabs me by the shoulders. It’s clear she’s been crying. “What did you do?” she demands.

“What?”

“Gebra Mahara just told me I’m no longer to be carrier,” Arina says. “She’s going to find someone else. She says it was your doing.”

“I only told her that we love each other,” I say. “That two humans in love want to be together. I thought you’d be happy.”

“No,” Arina says before storming back to the palace. “You thought you’d be happy.”

And I am.


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