This Week's Contenders
And another huge thanks to this week's judge @redshirt6
“Have you checked your mail?”
I finally noticed the cream envelope in her hand. It looked old-fashioned and fancy. It even sported a red wax seal.
“Not in a few days,” I said uneasily. “I’ve been buried in trace analysis. Besides, I’m not expecting anything.”
“We’ve been chosen, Marcus.”
“Chosen? For—oh.” The only possible meaning of her words sank like a heavy weight in my gut. “For the Gaea project?”
“Yes.” The letter crumpled noisily as Tegan clenched her fist.
“Babe,” I started, “I thought we wanted this. Have you changed your mind?”
I’d signed up over a year ago and gone through every imaginable battery of tests. The idea of traveling twenty light years was barely conceivable and beyond risky, but life on Earth didn’t hold many prospects for a xenobiologist.
I’d never expected to meet the woman I wanted to spend my life with in the thirteen months that followed, and I’d nearly withdrawn my application. But adventurous, ambitious geologist Tegan Hernandez signed up, too. When we’d both made it to the final round of testing, I’d started to believe we might truly leave Earth. Together. Life had seemed full of promise.
But Tegan didn’t look excited or happy.
“Tegan, what is it?” I got up from my desk and crossed the room, pulling her into my arms. She stiffened, setting my nerves on edge. This wasn’t going to be good, I knew it. “Talk to me.”
“We’ve been partnered,” she whispered.
“With other people.”
“So we have to work with other people? Big deal. I don’t get the problem here.”
She shook her head, the sandy gold of her long hair spilling across my arms, tickling my skin. “We have to mate with other people.”
“We—what?” I set her back a pace, my hands locked on her shoulders. She didn’t want to look at me. “Tegan, what the hell are you talking about?”
“A number of the tests we took were designed to find mating pairs. They tested chemical attraction as well as potential physical and mental compatibility.” She pulled free of my hold. “You’ve been partnered with Commander Bryant. She’s a good woman, Marcus. You should give her a chance.”
“Partnered? As in ‘have sex with?’ No way.” I pawed across my desk, looking for my phone. “I’m calling EASA right now. I’m dropping out.”
“They’ll sue you, Marc. For breach of contract.”
“I don’t care.”
“We signed, Marcus.”
“Tegan, we’re not animals. We don’t act, think, or choose our partners like animals. They can’t pick mates for us.”
“Actually,” she sighed, her green eyes bright with tears, “they can. I’m not yours. And you’re not mine. Not anymore.”