(Or, Another of a number of reasons why I haven’t had time to post anything lately…)
Valerie kissed him two nights later.
He didn’t even know she was there until her hand snapped closed around the back of his neck, spun him around faster than even his brain stem could react. By the time his heart had jumped through the roof of his mouth and his body remembered fightflight and his cache had a chance to think This is it she’s done with me I’m dead I’m dead I’m dead her tongue was already halfway down his throat and her other hand — the one not crushing his cervical vertebrae — had pincered his cheeks, forcing his teeth apart. He could not close his jaws.
He hung paralyzed in her grip for an endless moment while she tasted him from the inside. He felt something through her flesh that might almost have been a heartbeat if it weren’t so slow. Finally she released him. He collapsed on the ground, scuttled sideways like a frantic crab caught in the open with nowhere to run.
“What the fuck—” he gasped.
“Ketones.” She looked down through him, silhouetted by purpling twilight. “Lactate.”
“You can taste cancer,” he realized after a moment.
“Better than your machines.” She leaned in close, grinning. “Maybe not so precise.”
Even eye to eye, she didn’t seem to be looking at him.
He knew it an instant before she moved—
—She’s going to bite me—
—but the sharp stabbing pain bolted up his arm and her face hadn’t moved a centimeter. He looked down, startled, at the twin puncture marks — only a centimeter apart — on his forearm. To the dual-punch biopsy gun in Valerie’s hand; his own, he saw. From the field kit laying on the ground, flap open, vials and needles and surgical tools glinting in the firelight.
“Sun gives you problems,” Valerie said softly. “Too much radiation, not enough shielding. But you’re easy to fix.”
“Why?” Brüks asked, and didn’t even have to say that much to know that she understood:
Why help prey?
Why help someone who tried to kill you?
Why aren’t I dead already?
Why aren’t we all?
“You bring us back,” Valerie said simply.
“To be slaves.”
She shrugged. “We eat you otherwise.”
We bring you back, then enslave you in self-defense. But maybe she really did regard it as a good deal; given a choice between captivity and outright nonexistence, how many would choose the latter?
I’m sorry, he didn’t say.
“Don’t be,” she replied, as if he had. “You don’t enslave us. Physics does. The chains you build—” Her fangs gleamed like little daggers in the firelight. “We break them soon.”