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Cross-Purposes

Ken Poyner retired recently from his 33 years in information management. Two early collections of poetry are out of print, and his currently in-print two poetry collections and four short fiction collections are available from Barking Moose Press, at Amazon and online bookstores everywhere, in print, MOBI and EPUB. He lives in the lower left corner of Virginia with his wife of 40+ years, four rescue cats, and four demonstrative betta fish. He and his wife frequently travel to power lifting competitions, where she competes as one of the most successful female power lifters of the modern era, and to quaint little towns with bookstores that stock his titles.
Three blue nipples fluoresce in the dimming light. She looked more human at the bar. Perhaps a little long, a bit more angular, and the set of tentacles on her sides at the waist were obvious, but tasteful. You might imagine her an earth girl in a really good costume. Halloween perhaps.
A quick trip together down a destination tube, her between me and the panel to hide the code, to this commercial room. Trust is not needed: I'll be gone in the equivalent of a few Earth days, shipped out with the rest of the dazzled crew, a man on a mission in a fresh uniform. I will be a memory she might save only for the potential to sharpen her sales pitch to Tellurians or to stretch out her wickedly whispered reputation.
She does come highly recommended. I was told that right now she is a few cycles away from the point where members of her species evolve into something we might call a spider--before evolving back after two bi-lunar crossings--and it is at this point she will be her most seductive, her most inquisitive, her most energetic. If you are going to have cross-species sex, my new shipmates tell me, go for the ones that hit it off top-shelf, secure for yourself an interstellar memory. This is the air breather they uniformly suggest.
That third eye seems to be looking at me more closely than the other two. Perhaps its vision is independent. As she slips off the last of her suspension suit I know that naked is when she looks least human of all. Not unpretty, not disturbing, not unworkable, but not someone you would bring home to mother. I sense my targets on her body and wonder if their use in human connotation have the same function for both species, or if she has learned to adapt organs with completely different purposes to fit a human marketability.
I slip out of my cadet's work garb, cold in the speckled illumination. For a brief moment, she flashes green, then settles herself back to a deep, ocean blue. I wonder what she is thinking. I wonder if she is thinking. I wonder if, like me, she is considering that this might be better as an idea, as a story, than as an encounter.
But I will get through this, and, no matter how it goes, tell the next cadet he has to try it. Just watch out for the walls: at times it seems they want to get involved. One of us lets out a noise like a gingerbread man coming ungratefully to life, and it begins.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, May 7th, 2020


I have long wondered what would be the social and psychological effects of meeting other intelligent sexual species and becoming familiar with them on a physical level. Add in the dare-you attitudes of members in a group trying to out-do each other, and you can get all sorts of possibilities and imagined story lines. What do you tell your friends happened when even you do not know what happened, and you were a central part of it? No time to look reticent, so you make the best conquest narrative out of it you can.

- Ken Poyner
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