**Note: Although the following is part of a previously self-published eBook, portions have been modified. However, it has not been professionally edited and likely contains typos and other errors. It is offered as an example of raw science fiction storytelling.**
Cristina sat silently for a time, contemplating Chase’s striking choice of words, and then sipped liberally from drink.
“I believe we are continuing an ancient process,” he said.
“And you feel we’ve already evolved.”
“Maybe not fully but…”
“You are already talking about humans as them, not us.”
“Yes, you are.”
They paused their conversation for the waitress to serve them and then they each declined anything else for the moment.
“They have really great food,” Chase said.
“It looks great.” She sampled it, and then smiled. “Wonderful.”
“I’m glad you like it.”
She sipped some of her wine. “I feel the same, Chase. I really don’t think I’m different from anyone else.”
“For the most part you’re not.”
“I don’t get a choice?”
“What’s the choose? The main difference is you and I will survive.”
“What if I don’t want to participate?”
“I’m afraid you and I are in this at least knee deep at the moment. Your father had to have told you something about the attributes. He understood about your mother’s differences.”
“I always focused on school and my music, of course. Father loved to hear me sing. He paid for professional voice lessons. My teacher was good. She taught me to read and write music as well as music theory. She also why gave me piano and guitar lessons. All that I ever wanted to do was make music and sing,” she said. “That is still what I want to do, sing and not feel the burden of any of this other crap.”
“You can still be who and what you are. Maybe that’s how you can connect with all the others. Those who have not been identified may hear you sing and be attracted.”
Their conversation lulled. Each of them to continued eating, but Cristina was thinking. She set her fork aside, having curbed her appetite with what little she’d eaten. Her apprehensions destroyed her hunger.
“I was always ashamed of my differences,” she resumed. “When I was a little girl I worried that people would know even if I just talked to them. So I didn’t want to talk to people. I lurked in closets and avoided strangers. When I was very young I always wore clothes to conceal the more obvious differences.”
“In the darkness you found comfort.”
“Always, and you?”
“It was a perfectly natural response to our differences,” Chase revealed. “Until you understood, how could you react any differently?”
Cristina leaned away from the table.
“You can no longer hide,” he said to her. “Not to the extent you have before. You cannot hide from everyone. Some of us need you.”
“What if I refuse to do this?”
“It is larger than those of us who have the attributes. We will become the dominant part of our species. The weak will decline into inevitable extinction. We will remain.”
She sighed in response.
“You lament already?”
“They had their time, their chances. We have come not only to replace them but also to carry on the civilization traditions we share. I believe we are the next step in evolution.”
“The suffering and struggle, the destiny of mankind comes down to this? All I have ever wanted was to make music, the music that might appeal to everyone. It has been only that, nothing more.”
“Are you so naïve to believe there are no messages in your music? In the audience at your concerts there are many others like us. I’m told there are only Twenty-four of us, but there are other humans who have the attributes in some measure. They could be the hope for humanity’s survival, delaying the inevitable demise.”
“If there is any message in the lyrics I write, I assure you that it was completely unintended.”
“The melody contains the message as well.”
“I know. But the words I sing contain the meaning.”
“A siren’s voice calls out to the essence of others like us and brings them forth, even if they are as unaware of it as we are.”
Cristina leaned forward, resting her elbows on the table and lowered her head into her hands. “I seriously do not want to deal with any of this.”
“It’s in your bones. Deeper than that, it’s in your genes.”
“Am I supposed to accept these new conditions and go on?”
“I don’t think we have any options. It simply is.” Chase paused for an extended moment. He waited for the inspiration of words he might tell her that never arrived. An awkward silence lingered between them.
“This lady of yours…,” Cristina began before she looked up.
“Julie,” Chase said.
“She knows a little more than I do. She had her orb when we met. She found me.”
“Before we met.”
“She’s beautiful, of course.”
“It’s in a different way, but she’s attractive. You are too, but it’s different.”
Cristina smiled. “I am always on time in everything else but love. That has been the story of my life.”
“You’ll find someone. The orb will bring the right one to you.”
“And I direct him or her to a Courier. He or she receives an orb, finds someone and directs him or her another Courier and so on.”
“You will be contacted by another Courier soon. I’m pretty sure of that.”
She sipped from her drink.
“Your reservations are not things that will matter in the longer term. You will see that in time.”
“That does little to comfort me now.”
“Well, here it is. If we do not do what is necessary then you, me and others like us will be here alone. We will be forced to make other decisions. We will proliferate or perish.”
“I refuse to believe that mankind won’t resolve the fertility anomaly.”
“You can refuse. It’s your prerogative. It changes nothing. Barring the miracle that you and some others expect, survival is based on the meaningless bravado of the official news releases of the Colonial Authority that claim they will solve the problem within the next fifty years. Reality is that each of us will be very lonely when we have buried everyone else who lacked the attributes. We are adaptive. The special genes are ours. It has already made us physically different, as you know.”
“It has been a source of shame I have concealed for all my life.”
“It was probably wise. Females tend to display the differences in more evident ways.”
She looked directly at him. “What do you have to hide?”
Chase smiled as he looked at her probing, penetrating eyes. “I thought you knew.”
“You are the first person I have ever met of the opposite sex who claims to have the attributes.”
“The differences are manifest in our primary sexual characteristics,” he detailed, and then paused to lower his voice. “Men have four testicles and four nipples, the latter are still as useless as they have ever been.”
“You have four ovaries,” he continued to whisper. “Which is something you may or may not realize, but you already know about the cleaved vaginal labia and, of course, the four breasts and nipples.”
She blushed in response to his overt candor.
“Apparently if and when two of us mate we are expected to repopulate the world fairly quickly,” he offered.
“We have four of everything?” Cristina asked, but then chuckled nervously awaiting the answer.
“Yes. I’m told the gestation period is much shorter for us. My mother carried me for merely six months,” Chase said.
Cristina was still dealing with the revelation of four testicles, and then paused as she considered the purpose Chase suggested. “So, when I finally have children it will be a multiple birth, maybe something more like a litter?”
“I would suspect it would be at least twins, but quite likely different eggs and different sperm. Those of our generation were twins at birth. Maybe with our offspring even more children will be born, maybe earlier and perhaps smaller infants that will grow quickly once born. From what I can tell, our births were always fraternal with one male and one female.”
She drew a very deep breath and sighed. “Then I might have a brother?”
“It would be an exception if you did not.”
“My life only ever gets stranger and stranger,” she said.
“So has mine, but knowing I’m not alone has helped me deal with it,” Chase said.