**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.**
Julie stared at him, her mind working in its usual quick way, leaping ahead four or five steps in logical conversation as she asked, “You think Neville is actually on our side?”
Chase adjusted to the seemingly abrupt change of subject but he also realized that everything was interconnected and that Julie appreciated that as much as he did. “I think he’s honest and really wants to help. It hurts nothing to get to know him better, meet his wife and have dinner with them.”
“When does he want to do this?”
“Soon, maybe on the weekend. He needs to discuss it with his wife.”
“So, it was something you two came up with on the fly?”
“Yeah, I guess it was. It started with him saying that he wanted to save Paul in whatever way that he can. He doesn’t see the need to execute him, which is where the process appears to be heading rapidly. The Colonial Authority does not want that either, but Paul’s killed people.”
“If Paul is anything like the rest of us, he has his own personal set of rules that he obeys.”
“Exactly and if he killed that many agents they must have given him more than enough cause.”
“Tell Neville okay to the invitation. I’ll have to check my schedule if it is before next weekend.”
“I think he was hinting about Friday.”
“I think I could do that,” Julie said. “My supervisor is out of town from Wednesday on and his boss always leaves early on Friday.”
“Which means you might really get off of work on time.”
“Yeah,” Julie said. “Sometimes I hate being on salary.”
Chase laughed, “Me too,” he said as he had reached the curb in front of Julie’s apartment. “But then, the bonus check comes in along with the stock options and, all of a sudden, those seventy-hour work weeks seem to have been compensated.”
“Do you want to come up?”
“Uh, well…yeah,” Chase said, as he opened the passenger door and Julie stepped out of the coach. Then Chase exited and using the remote docked his coach in the visitor’s rack. Returning the remote to his pocket, he followed Julie into the familiar lobby of the place that, until recently, was also his residence.
They rode the elevator up to her floor and entered her apartment where she immediately went to the bathroom while Chase sat down in the living room and checked out what was going on via the world viewer array of screens.
As Julie emerged from the bathroom the phone chimed and Chase reached for the remote and clicked answer.
“Julie, Yates here,” the image of the speaker dominated the main screen.”
“Oh, hi there Chase.”
“Hello,” Chase responded feeling it was pretentious of Yates to feign that he was surprised. “Julie and I have been together for most of the day, as you well know.”
“Well, yes. But I knew you were having some issues and had separated for a bit. I’m pleasantly surprised to see you.”
“I can leave if you want to tell Julie something in complete confidence.”
“No, I’m fine with you knowing everything, as long as Julie doesn’t mind.”
“I don’t even know what it is you’re going to say so how would I know whether to mind at all?”
“It is about your uncle, Carl,” Yates said to her.
“What about him?”
“He passed away earlier today, in Star City,” Yates said.
Julie sat on the couch, silently adjusting to the new reality as she drew a deep breath. She had not been that close to her uncle until after her father died. He was her next of kin. He transferred to Andromeda to live for a few years just so she would not have to be dislocated from her school and all of her friends. At the time she did not realize what a sacrifice that was, but now she did. She respected him after the fact even if she grave him more problems than he deserved while he was her legal guardian.
Her Aunt Lydia divorced Carl a year and a half before he came live with Julie in Andromeda. Lydia had taken nearly everything Carl had, but he had not really protested it. In fact, he saw coming to Andromeda as a chance at a new life. He remained in Andromeda for a year and a half after Julie graduated and started attending college. Then, he was offered something in Star City and he went to take advantage of it. There had been a meeting with him, a lunch at her college. They said goodbye. It felt awkward to Julie, really. It was like Carl was trying to be her father for that one brief moment but he did not quite know how.
“I knew it would be hard for you,” Yates said, his words breaking the silence of her reflection.
“Thank you for the information,” Julie said. “He was a good man.”
“No problem,” Yates said. “I’ll send you the information to your global network account.”
“Thank you,” she said in response.
“There’s it’s sent,” Yates said. “I have another call coming in. Take care.”
The call disconnected.
“You were close?” Chased asked.
“For the last five years of my adolescence he was my surrogate father.”
“We should go to his funeral, then.”
Julie looked away. “There are some other issues, some of them feelings I don’t enjoy revisiting.”
“You didn’t like him?”
“I loved him in my own way,” Julie admitted, the wiped a tear from her eye. “He was an amazing man. There was a time I was being picked-on at school. You know, when you don’t want to be in physical education class because you have to take showers with everyone else.”
“I remember the trauma well.”
“It wasn’t so bad when I was little, but by the time I was in high school and my boobs began growing – all four of them…”
“Yeah four nipples and four balls are a little more discreet.”
“Anyway, he took me out to dinner. We dressed up and he made me feel important, like the differences I had were a good thing. He was the first man other than my father who understood what it felt like.”
“He had the attributes too?”
“Maybe he had them inside, you know?” She paused for several moments, and then drew a deep breath. “There was one night, not too long after that. He’d been out celebrating some contract his company won. He was drunk when he got home. He came into the living room of our apartment and sat down beside me and we watched something together on the entertainment channel. He had his arm around my shoulders the entire time and, for whatever reason, it made me feel secure. Then after the program ended he got up and said he needed to go to bed. But it was like I didn’t want him to leave me lone. I stayed up and watched another show before bed. Then, as I was getting up, I thought of all the pain and suffering Carl endured. He told me about Lydia and how he still loved her. He never cheated on her but she did on him. And somehow he forgave her even though she put him through it with the divorce. I wanted to help him. I wanted him to feel like he was loved. I went into his room and…,” her voice cracked. “I entered his dream. He called my Lydia. I was okay with it because it was his fantasy and yet it was weird. Then after he passed out again I went to my room. In the morning he did not remember anything, other than he had a dream.”
“But it was real for you.”
“That was your first time?”
“Yep. The first time for both the sex and using a gift I knew I had. I know it’s pretty sick, but I was fourteen at the time. Confused and my hormones were on overtime.”
“At the time it felt right and I thought I was helping him – and maybe it helped me a little too. He lost his brother, my father. Despite his wanting to leave his past anyway he had come to Andromeda to take care of me. I wanted to know what life was about. And I found out.”
“Did he never know?”
“I missed my period that month and the next month. I went to the clinic. I was so embarrassed. They had me there on the examining table, my feet up in the stirrups. It was the first time I had ever been to that kind of doctor. I was terrified and I felt violated, especially when they began to tell me that I possessed the attributes – like I didn’t already know how different I was. They made it sound like I was defective. They ran all sorts of tests and concluded that I was pregnant.”
“I told them I couldn’t be – knowing how and when it happened, but I meant it couldn’t be allowed, you know? They showed me the proof and had me sign some forms. With women who have the attributes, there’s no required notification or consent with a minor getting an abortion.”
“Because women usually die after giving birth.”
“Yeah. The Colonial Authority never publicizes that, but the procedure isn’t free. I paid them, charged to my uncle’s payment wand account that as a minor I was linked to. I was so frightened and alone in my decision and I was too embarrassed to seek anyone’s advice. I felt horrible for days after that. I had nightmares. I kept thinking about what the child might have been. Then the receipt for the services came from the doctor and my uncle confronted me with it. I told him everything. I could tell it bothered him deeply and he even got up and walked away from me at one point, but then he returned and he opened his arms and held me close, telling me he was sorry and that nothing like that would never happen again.”
Chase looked into her eyes. “Did he live up to that?”
“Chase,” she said then cleared her throat. “Three days after that he tried to kill himself but failed. I was in the hospital with him for 36 hours. He almost succeeded. I took naps in a chair beside his bed. When he came around he was angry with me that I did not let him die. He didn’t want to live with the shame that we made love even if he thought at the time it was a dream and I was Lydia. I told him that it had been my choice not his and that in his drunken state I took advantage of him. I raped him, really. It was all my fault and I respected him as my uncle and I didn’t want anything bad to happen to him.”
“I guess you need to attend his funeral,” Chase said.
“Yeah, I need to be there,” Julie said. “I would like for you to be there with me.”
Chase nodded. “I can make it happen,” he said.
“I would appreciate it,” Julie said as she leaned over and kissed him. “It seems we both have some darkness in our pasts.”
“We would not be human otherwise.”
“Are we human?”
“We’re human enough,” Chase said.
Julie leaned into him where they sat together on the couch. She kissed him and he responded in kind. Before long, and definitely before the end of the show that was on world viewer that they had been ignoring, Chase scooped her up into his arms and carried her to bed. He did everything he could to make her forget, for a while. They spent the night together.