Over my winter break, in which I had ten days off work, I wrote a short story.
Truthfully, I’m very unsatisfied with how it turned out. I’m not sure where I even intended to go with this finished product; maybe submission to magazines? Maybe a post on Archive of Our Own? Maybe a prequel to my bigger WIP? They do take place in the same universe, at roughly the same time.
After debating what to do with it, I’ve decided to go ahead and post it here. I mean, there aren’t many who follow this blog, so it feels a bit like a safe space. Trust me, I know the flaws here. Maybe I’ll revisit it one day. Maybe I’ll expand on what I’ve started. There’s definitely more to be said about Cam and Hermes and Dr. Wha (and maybe even Tamn, too).
So here! Enjoy this 2k snippet that takes place among our stars.
Hope you’re having a fantastic new year. I’m pretty excited about mine. Sure, the story is a failure, but there’s so much potential yet to come. Let’s go!
Cameron Ollis was the most beautiful person aboard the Stellarship Soter.
Hermes watched him move gracefully through the white and chrome passageways of the ship, turning heads with every step. His hair was white blond, and his complexion was so pale that it nearly glowed, and he had silver eyes that were always focused far off, like he wasn’t really there, in space, at all.
There was his compelling androgyny, too. Although Cam was quite tall, his hands and feet were proportionally small, and his square face was offset by round eyes, round lips, and a button of a nose.
He smiled as he nearly ran into another member of the crew exiting the engineering bay and his accompanying laugh had a butterfly effect that resulted in a dropped wrench, a bruised knee, and the chief engineer having to bark everyone back to work.
“I’m sorry, Chief,” Cam said, looking genuinely abashed. “Here’s the analysis you requested from Captain Shear.” He offered a digital datapad, which the chief took with a quiet grunt.
When Cam remained standing at his side, the chief shot him a glare. “Dismissed, Ollis.”
Cam smiled. “Thank you.”
Hermes watched the chief watch Cameron walk away. His eyes seemed magnetized, against his will, to Cam’s backside. Hermes squinted, trying to find meaning in the chief’s frustrated sigh.
“Is something wrong?”
Hermes jolted upright. He’d been watching the security systems while seated in the medbay, watching Cam and the crew during their early-morning rounds. He turned to see Dr. Wha standing over his shoulder, a cup of tea clutched in her furry hand. “No,” he said. “I was observing rounds.”
“Bored already? We’ve only been in space a week.” He shook his head no, to defend his actions, but noted her smile. Ah, she was teasing him. She enjoyed that. Her smile was wide, stretching her thin lips. Being a Tarotan, Dr. Wha had brown skin covered in a short, coarse fur, round, widely set black eyes, and a pair of u-shaped horns atop her head.
Hermes looked back to the display panel, filled with various crystal-clear images of the ship’s corridors and main facilities. “This is my first opportunity to observe civilian interaction. I’ve been taking advantage. Hoping to learn.”
Wha pressed a hand to Hermes’ uniform-clad shoulder. “Find anything interesting?”
His analysis, so far, concluded that there was only one person aboard Soter that was unaffected by Cam’s obvious, universal beauty: Hermes himself.
Hermes was a sentient artificial intelligence crafted as a collaborative effort and signal of goodwill among four Milky Way species: humans, like Cam, Tarotans, like Dr. Wha, and also the Vn, and the Medese. He was a learning AI that served on exploratory missions as a resource and utility; no other humanoid among the stars was able to calculate odds, decipher languages, crack technology, or even maneuver physical space with the speed and precision of an AI.
Dr. Wha was his primary caretaker aboard Soter and one of the scientists involved with his creation. She was as close to family as Hermes had, and had been a valuable confidant as he stretched his legs in the new environment aboard the Stellarship. Nevertheless, he didn’t want to share too much of his study surrounding Cameron Ollis. Not until he had definitive conclusions.
He felt fairly certain — but didn’t know for sure — that the crew’s behavior around Cam was sexual.
He turned to Dr. Wha. “Nothing of note to report.”
She patted his shoulder and walked away. “Let me know if anything interesting turns up. You’re free to head out for the day. I’ll let you know if I need anything.”
After gathering his things, Hermes departed the medbay and returned to his quarters for additional private research on the databases provided to Soter personnel.
Though he was in a fully grown technorganic body and had the capabilities of any well-educated adult, Hermes was still less than a year beyond his first boot-up, and had never felt sexual attraction. He hadn’t any experience with arousal beyond nocturnal penile tumescence and he wasn’t certain he ever would. He was infertile by design; Dr. Wha often likened him to a liger, since his physical form was spliced between the four species responsible with his creation. Fertility didn’t seem to have very much to do with sex, though, if the documentation he found were to be believed.
The databank analysis filled him in on every detail of sexual attraction as far as academics and medical professionals were concerned. Human researchers repeatedly used the term love — and they were the only ones to do so.
Hermes felt nearly amused. Humans were terribly sentimental.
He was in the midst of compiling Cameron’s history with the other crew members when Dr. Wha called to him over comms.
Hermes, digitally over her comm, responded, “Yes, Dr. Wha.”
“Look, Tamn’s refusing to come into my office so I can check that his nose set properly. I’m going to ask him to let you do a scan. Is that alright?”
Hermes was able to wirelessly transmit his artificial consciousness throughout Soter and among members of the crew that had an implanted chip that was compatible with his AI program. This wasn’t the first time he’d conduct a medical analysis for Wha; it was truthfully faster for Hermes to run a scan than for her to use any other tools she had at her disposal. He didn’t even have to be present to do so.
“Thanks, Hermes. Hold please. Wha to Tamn.” A beep indicated they were connected.
“Oh shit,” Tamn said, directly into the line.
“Yes, hello, Tamn,” she said. “You missed your appointment again.”
“Look, yeah. I know. It’s, uh — everything’s fine. Nose feels great. I feel great. Don’t need to go to the doctor if I’m feeling great, right?”
Wha’s long sigh stretched between them. “I’m going to have Hermes scan you, check that everything’s okay, and then you’re off the hook. Agreed?”
Tamn ruffled a bit and then snorted, “Sure. Fine.”
“Hermes,” she said. That was his cue.
He darted through Soter’s conduits and entered Tamn through the implant he had at the base of his thick Medese skull, and was able to connect seamlessly to all of Tamn’s parts. Including his damaged nose.
Tamn’s annoyance was palpable. Even if Hermes couldn’t feel what Tamn felt physiologically, he was sure it was written in his eyes. He moved, limbs jerking, towards the cafe. He had been en route to breakfast. And as he approached the doors, they opened automatically to reveal none other than Cameron Ollis.
Cam had changed into casuals; light gray sweatpants that hung low on his narrow hips, and a darker gray tshirt that fit almost too tightly across his chest and shoulders. He yawned, revealing his straight white teeth and light pink tongue, and he stretched his arms upwards, revealing the smooth white plane of his belly and the almost peach-colored hairs there.
Tamn’s arousal hit with a startling kick, flooding his systems with hormones and heat, wetting his mouth with saliva, and thickening the cock in his pants.
Hermes had been cycling through Tamn’s physiology to collect data on his recovery and felt everything — the arousal, the adrenaline, the yearning — all at once. He thought, fleetingly, that he finally understood the human colloquialism, “to jump out of your skin.” Because that’s what he tried to do, altogether startled by the sudden impact of feeling.
And that was when Soter collided with another dark-space debris-storm, causing a brown-out in the cafe. Hermes couldn’t move because the signals to transmit his digital consciousness back into his physical self were too weak at that moment.
He was trapped.
Cam squinted up at the lights that flickered, struggling to stay alight. “These storms are getting more frequent, aren’t they?”
Tamn’s tongue felt fat in his mouth but he managed to nod his agreement.
Cam turned away, towards the beverage machine. His slim fingers tapped various buttons until a steaming coffee appeared. When he looked back to see Tamn staring at him still, he blinked his eyes at him innocently. “Are you okay?”
The question jolted Tamn forward, into the cafe, and towards the drink machine. “Fine. Totally, uh, fine. I just have that AI in my head.”
Tamn nodded, fumbling with the buttons to produce a drink. Any drink. Hermes, trapped and perturbed, forced his limbs to move: single black coffee. Tamn growled at him. “Are you done yet?”
Hermes replied evenly through the comm: “I finished my analysis 21.2 seconds ago. I am incapable of leaving your system until the storm passes. There are power fluctuations in the conduits.”
“That’s so cool,” Cam said, leaning on the counter in such a way that Tamn could see the outline of his penis in the soft material of his pants. “Can you feel him inside you?”
Tamn’s arousal was like a low-grade fever. He forced himself to take a drink, to give himself a moment of composure. Unfortunately the coffee was far too hot and he burnt his tongue.
Hermes was learning all sorts of new and unwanted sensations. His tongue was of Vn design; it couldn’t be burnt. He was grateful for that.
“It’s not great,” Tamn said. “Having him in your head. I don’t really want anyone reading my thoughts.”
“I cannot read your thoughts,” Hermes said.
“I also don’t really like being interrupted by someone who isn’t even part of the conversation,” Tamn added, lip curling.
Cam smiled, holding his coffee between his two hands. “He is part of the conversation, though. He’s the subject.”
Hermes was grateful that Cam had pointed out the obvious, but refrained from saying so. Tamn had, after all, made it clear Hermes wasn’t to speak.
“Why’s he in your head?”
“Oh, that,” Tamn stood straight again and smiled. Desire was still coursing through him and there was this new, unique flood of hope. “You were around for Helonine, right? When we were transporting that carbonite siding, there was an ambush. I took down a few of them, the attackers.” He tightened his fist as he lifted it into the air, flexing.
Cam was still staring at his face, listening and unemotional. “Really?”
“Oh, yeah. I got hit in the face by one of the cowards. The doc’s been all up my ass, but I barely felt it. I’ve taken bigger blows from badder guys.” It was an utter lie. Tamn had been rendered unconscious when a piece of carbonite siding slid off the transport flatbed and knocked him across the nose. There had certainly been no ambush.
Cam stared expectantly at Tamn, who stared back. A few seconds passed before Cam said, “And? This is why Hermes is in your head?”
“Oh. Doc is having him scan me. Make sure I’m alright.” Tamn cleared his throat. “I’m alright, right, Hermes?”
“Yes, sir. Your injury appears to have healed to Dr. Wha’s expectation.”
“That’s so…” Cam blinked, staring into Tamn’s eyes, pinning him in place. “Amazing. And his voice is so comforting. Don’t you think so? I guess all Vn sound like that. Like their voices are — instrumental. It’s beautiful.”
Tamn sighed out, “Yeah. It is.” But he was thinking only of Cam, and his arousal started anew, heating him from the inside, fingers twitching with desire. He could probably achieve orgasm just from hearing Cam talk, Hermes concluded.
He wasn’t sure what he could possibly do with that information, but it was part of him now. And as quickly as the brown-out started, it was gone. Soter passed through the storm.
Hermes left without waiting for Tamn, without saying goodbye. He returned to himself, eager to feel his own solid two feet, the beating of his own Tarotan-based heart. It had never been unpleasant inside anyone’s head before now, but Tamn’s combination of desperation and sexual intrigue were wholly unexpected.
He forced himself to deposit the relevant information in a message to Dr. Wha — Tamn’s nose was fine, after all. He distracted himself by providing an overabundance of numbers regarding Tamn’s injury, down to the tenth decimal.
It worked and minutes later, he felt fine again.
Nevertheless, the next time he passed Cam in the halls, he felt himself go overhot; like he’d caught a kind of fever. He frantically consulted his research. No databank had evidence that infatuation could be spread like the common cold.