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In the spirit of launching a new series, I'm posting this poem for the first time. It came out of the March 6, 2012 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from LJ user lilfluff about the willing sacrifices of adoptive parents.

This is a science fiction series, whereas a majority of mine are fantasy; I'd like to diversify a bit more, but what turns into a series depends equally on what I write and what my audience picks. It takes place in my main science fiction universe. The primary cultural background is Egyptian, based on the main character's home colony. From there, things get more hectic.


"Starfather"


Rockets screamed overhead
as Lieutenant Adjo Mubarak dived into the dust
of the unnamed planet and wormed his way under cover.
Thank Anubis that the Hesh didn't have lasertech yet,
though they were bound to steal it sooner or later.
They never seemed to stand fast long enough for a
proper war, preferring to dart in like the jackals they resembled.

Today the Hesh had cut deeply into
what could only be a newly founded colony,
a few dozen flimsy buildings clustered around
one alien ship that nobody recognized.
A merchanter had called Fleet on the Hesh
and Fleet had hunted them down to discover
this bloodbath already in progress.

"Sir?" a voice called not far away.
His men called him "sir" or "Jo"
because in a mixed-world troop,
not all of them could pronounce his name.
A quick look found Russell Hanes, from Common Ground,
crouched behind a row of boulders aspiring to become a wall.

"Report," Adjo called back.
"More Hesh headed our way," Russell said.
"Form up and prepare to attack," Adjo ordered,
and heard it echoed down the line.

Suddenly a trio of tentacled aliens burst through the brush,
chased by a half-dozen snarling Hesh.
The soldiers opened fire,
but the Hesh were already upon their victims,
slashing and killing.

By the time the Hesh were slain,
the aliens were down as well,
two of them obviously dead.
The third twitched feebly as Adjo approached,
curled into a protective ball.
Then it went slack, its rubbery limbs slumping
and its leaf-patterned flesh fading to the color of clay.

It still squealed, though,
so Adjo crouched beside it.
"This one's still alive -- call for a medic,"
he said as he lifted a limp tentacle,
searching for injuries.

Something quivered underneath,
and he carefully rolled the alien onto its side,
revealing a small creature clinging to its belly.
"Stand back, sir, that one's got parasites,"
said one of his men. Adjo shook his head.
"Look at the similarities in form.
That's not a parasite. It's an infant."

He scooped up the baby alien,
its damp skin soft and cool against his own.
Adjo frowned. "I thought these things
were supposed to be warm-blooded," he said.
"According to the preliminary reports, they are,
but they cool rapidly after death," said Russell.

Well, that couldn't be good.
Guilt twanged as Adjo looked at the dead parent.
He cradled the infant in one arm
while quickly unbuttoning his uniform with the other.
It stared at him with huge blue eyes,
blurry patterns of gold and green flickering over its skin
as it clutched his fingers.

"If I can keep the baby warm until the medic arrives,
maybe it will survive," Adjo said.
He tucked it inside his uniform and redid the buttons.
At first the little alien was a chilly blob
slithering across his belly.
Then it seemed to find a hold that it liked,
wrapping its tentacles around his waist.
It warmed up, he fastened the last button,
and then Adjo put his mind back on immediate duties.

"Blue Troop has a group of Hesh pinned down,"
Russell reported. "We can hit them from behind
if we move now." Adjo nodded.
"Tell them Red Troop is on the way," he said,
signaling his sergeant to take the lead.
He fell into place at the back, hoping to stay out of combat
until he could hand off the infant to safer care.

They jogged toward the alien ship
where the Hesh had tried to break in.
Adjo panted in the thin, unfamiliar air.
The extra weight of his passenger
slowed him down more than he expected.

Red Troop pounced on the Hesh,
forcing them toward Blue. It went well
until several Hesh dropped from the trees.
One landed on Adjo's back, bringing him to his knees.
He rolled, trying to protect the alien infant at his waist,
then found the Hesh aiming a gun at them.

Adjo fired first, and the jackal's round went wild
as the furred form collapsed to the ground.
He scrambled behind a rock
and signaled his men that he was safe.
A quick check showed the infant alive as well,
though Adjo worried over it anyway,
fear clawing at the back of his mind
and etching through his usual battle calm.

Suddenly quiet fell. Russell waved for attention,
then worked his way closer to Adjo.
"That's the last of the Hesh in this sector," he said.
"Yellow and Green are mopping up on the far side."
"Good job," Adjo said. "Keep an eye out
in case we missed any, though."

Blue Team's medic arrived and knelt beside Adjo.
"How badly are you hurt, sir?" she asked.
"I'm not," he said, starting to open the buttons again.
"The blood on your shirt says otherwise,"
the medic said.

Adjo looked down. Sure enough,
two wine-dark spots marred the tan cloth.
"Be careful with my little passenger here,"
he warned. "The Hesh just killed his family."
The medic peeled away the tentacles,
but the infant raised a pitiful squeal,
and the worry in the back of Adjo's mind spiked.
Some of the tentacles refused to come loose,
and Adjo yelped when the medic tugged harder.

"Those seem to be attached," she said grimly,
pointing to the faint circles of blood
around the last sucker on each. "Two in front,
and another two around your back."
She dug into her kit. "I'll have to cut them free."

Adjo had his gun pointed at her
before he realized he'd even moved it.
The medic raised her hands.
"All right, the little tyke can stay there," she said,
"but don't blame me if it kills you."

Adjo Mubarak had made pilgrimage
to the Valley of the Captains.
He knew what sacrifice meant.
"If I die," he said, "I will blame the Hesh."

The Blue medic nodded and hurried away.
"Sir? I'm a certified reserve medtech,"
one of his men said, settling beside him.
That was Tien, from the Freedom System,
who always kept a level head.
Adjo flicked his shirt open.

Tien stroked the little alien with gentle hands.
"I hear you had a rough day, kid," he said.
Adjo thought of the clay-colored corpse
and closed his eyes against the sudden stinging tears.
"That we have," he said.

Tien ran his scanner over them, then frowned.
"Sir, button up again," he said. "He's losing heat."
Adjo started closing his shirt.
"I think he's getting his heat from you,
and probably nutrients too," Tien said.
"Well ... I guess I can spare it," Adjo said,
though he was beginning to wonder.

"This is the first brown one we've seen," Tien continued.
Adjo looked down at the alien,
now the same toasty color as his own skin.
"He looked like the others when we found him," Adjo said.
"Camouflage," Tien murmured.

Tien stayed with them, and even
scrounged up something to eat.
It took three tries to find a flavor of ration bar
that would stay down, the alien's influence
making Adjo's body reject both chocolate and peanut.
And he hated lemon, but apparently the infant liked it.

The members of Blue Team teased him mercilessly
about being pregnant, until Tien chased them away.
"How long until I can hand this little one back to his people?"
Adjo asked, although he felt oddly reluctant.

Tien's face fell.
"Jo ... there's only one survivor,
and you're wearing him,"
he said softly.

So there was nothing for Adjo to do
but go back to his ship carrying a baby alien
that nobody knew much about,
and pray that his commanding officer
would approve paternity leave without too much trouble.

lost and found

Date: 2017-05-06 08:44 am (UTC)
callibr8: icon courtesy of Wyld_Dandelyon (Default)
From: [personal profile] callibr8
Awwwww! So sad for the foundling. Like Danso in Polychrome, at least Adjo appears to have *good* fatherly instincts.

A biological / lineal connection is neither necessary nor sufficient to evoke love. Love itself is a treasure, wherever it is found or formed.

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