Mary and the Organic Shipbygynoid©
Three long strides brought Mary from her apartment into the elevator compartment, just seconds before the doors slid silently shut. She put her palm flat on the glass panel at her side, waited a moment for the bar of light to sweep from fingertips to wrist, and spoke two crisp words: "Mary Brooks." The elevator AI system, which was antiquated - indeed, some of her colleagues had recently sent round a petition calling for an update to the technology - took some time to respond before it came to life with a low hum. ACCESS: SUB-LEVEL 12 flashed onto the panel in neon yellow letters, and she felt her stomach turn as she was dropped swiftly through the floors. She spent the ride finishing off the braid in her hair, which was the most practical way to wear it for work, especially when work involved an environment suit.
The elevator opened onto the locker room, which housed this suit as well as her other site equipment. It also contained too many people for this time in the morning. There were four in all, and she knew three of them extremely well, having worked some months with them on this project. Sandra, Perry and Juan were the lab rats, all talking in excited, hushed voices. The fourth, Lenoir, was in the corner stripping off his environment suit. Strange, that - she frowned to see it, since he was due to go in with her imminently, and the suit was absolutely necessary unless...
"Mary! We've finished the scans - well, Juan finished them last night, actually..." Sandra was talking very fast, a sure sign that something had happened.
"More like this morning," Juan said with a tired smile. "Hi, Mary. Good news for you and Lenoir. It's totally safe for you guys to go in there and play around." His eyes were bleary and bloodshot, but he managed to look very well satisfied. With his single-minded approach to his work, he probably hadn't left the lab at all.
Mary glanced at Lenoir, who had edged up to their little group, clad in only his long-sleeved underall. He made no comment, only folding his arms across his wide chest and gazing at the floor as if it held something of great interest. It gave her an opportunity to study him, a guilty pleasure she indulged in only at times of great weakness. This was such a time. The way the skin-tight cloth clung to those thighs... Sweet lord, I wish he'd walk around like that more often, she thought, and then stopped herself with a mental shake, turning back to Sandra.
"I take it there's no activity in any sectors? This thing is completely dead? Does HQ know?" She felt a thrill of anticipation. For weeks, she and Lenoir had been kept outside the artifact, stumbling around in their suits and trying to be useful while the real work - the lengthy analyses, scans, projections and simulations - had been done by the trio of scientists in front of her now. The prospect of being able to enter it and do her job properly was more than exciting.
"I've already copied our findings to the big guns upstairs," said Perry. "We should get the green light for your first walk-through in the next hour. In fact," he added apologetically, "I should be in the lab waiting for it. I just wanted to see your face when you heard the news. You didn't disappoint." With a smile and a wink, he turned, and went up the short flight of stairs that led to the laboratory with a decided spring in his step.
Mary didn't know quite how to respond - was her eagerness so obvious? Without knowing why, she looked enquiringly at Lenoir. He looked back with no change in his impassive expression, but she felt another thrill go through her when she met his pale eyes, made more startling by the darkness of the lashes that framed them.
"I must admit, I'm looking forward to getting a proper look at this thing," she said. "Any more of this 'monitoring' business and I'd have been petitioning HQ for a redesign of the e-suits."
"They are a little confining," he agreed, before going back to his locker and taking out a regulation grey jumpsuit. Inwardly, Mary rolled her eyes. It was pretty usual behaviour, but at such a turning point she had expected some show of emotion. She exchanged a look of complete understanding with Juan, who then yawned hugely.
"I'm gonna get some coffee. I'd sleep but I wouldn't miss this for the world."
"I'll make you some," Sandra offered. "Last night's work earns you a cup."
"What, you make coffee? Get a load of this, Mary - the world's worst cook is about to make me a drink. I better start writing my will." Juan chuckled and took Sandra's arm companionably.
"Hey, my cooking might be crap, but my coffee is spectacular, as you're about to find out, mister," Sandra countered, and their banter continued all the way upstairs.
Mary was alone with Lenoir. She decided against attempting further conversation, and crossed the room to her locker to change clothes. Usually at this point in the day she would have been climbing into the e-suit, and so had dressed in a black underall with a cotton tee and loose trousers on top for decency's sake. The underall covered her completely, but she felt too exposed with every curve on display, and didn't quite have the confidence to wear it around the locker room with an attractive man watching her. She didn't think Lenoir ever had watched her, but that didn't change her embarrassment. A walk-through of the artifact required something with more pockets, however, so she quickly slipped out of her top and trousers, and began to unfold her jumpsuit.
"Do you want to decide who goes in first?" She jumped when Lenoir spoke, his voice seemingly just behind her left ear. Flushing and clutching the grey fabric to her breasts, she turned around and saw him not two feet away.
"Ah... well... I don't know. Do you have a preference?"
"No, but I thought that you might." Something approaching a smile touched his lips. "You seem quite passionate about this project."
"Well, that makes one of us." She regretted saying it instantly, but Lenoir didn't appear troubled. Then again, did he ever? She couldn't tell if his stony expression was a response to her words, or simply a return to his usual cheerless self. "I mean - yes, I am passionate about it. It's a tremendous find and I'm lucky to be a part of it." She willed her face to coolness. "But then, I've only been on an initial study team once before. I guess it's not so interesting after a while."
"I wouldn't know," he said, surprising her. "You can go in first." He drew back and opened the equipment locker, taking out the things they would need: cameras, handscreens, portable scanners. The unexpectedly personal conversation - he never talked about anything but the job - might never have taken place. Mary zipped herself into the jumpsuit and went to help. He handed the gear over without a word or a look, and started to fill his own pockets. The silence became too much.
"Lenoir, I think you should be first. I've done this before, after all." He said nothing, and she reached over to touch his shoulder, suppressing the urge to move her hand a few inches to brush against the fall of his dark hair.
"No, I don't mind," he replied instantly, but she thought that he did.
"I insist," she said firmly. He gave her that odd half-smile again and her heart leapt.
The artifact was a ship. At least, Mary thought so, and the scans seemed to back her up. Lenoir refused to commit himself, but they could at least agree that it was impressive. They stood in front of it now, in the large empty hall. Everything was shades of grey - their uniforms, the walls, the floors, and the scanning machinery that lay dormant on one side - but the ship was iridescent, the surface shimmering as though it were coated in oil. The way the colours shifted gave her the creeps, but the scans had shown nothing but a hunk of organic matter.
Large organic constructs didn't officially exist; no one had figured out a way of making it work - or of making it affordable. The ship was not made by human hands. Unfortunately, determining its age was proving difficult, since up until recently it seemed to have been rebuilding itself on a regular basis. Whatever HQ had done to deactivate it had stopped that process. It was not the first sign of alien life, but it was the most recently active.
"Mary, whenever you're ready," came Sandra's voice over the speakers. Mary turned and looked up to the windows set into one of the walls. The science team gave her smiles and thumbs-up, and she waved back. They would enter through a man-made opening, since there were no others to be found on the inert surface of the ship. HQ defense batteries and their heavy weapons fire had apparently neutralised it, and had also created a handy doorway.
"I'll be right behind you," she told Lenoir. He nodded and fumbled with his camera - was that nerves? Surely not! - then stepped cautiously through the narrow gash. Mary followed, the bright lights of the hall changing abruptly to damp, hot darkness. She gulped in air and blinked hard, fumbling for her torch. The floor gave slightly beneath her feet and felt like dense sponge.
"It's like a sauna in here," she said, and flicked the torch on. The beam showed more of the same oil-slick surfaces: walls, floors, ceilings, with openings in all three. "Do you think we should get some proper lighting in here?"
"That'll take time," said Lenoir, torch in hand. "I'd like to get an initial impression of the atmosphere in here. Whoever... whatever lives in this environment must thrive on heat."
"Don't jump to conclusions too quickly," she corrected him, but gently. "When it's active, it could have a cooling system, for all we know. Remember that there were no lifeforms found on recovery. It might be a drone, or it might have a sentience all its own."
There was a silence in which she feared she had overstepped. The air seemed even more oppressive than before. "You're right," he said at last. She could only see his profile, stern and focussed.
"There'll be time for hypothesising later. Let's take a room each," she suggested hastily.
"Stay within hailing distance," was all his reply as he walked through the opening to his right. Mary took the one across the way.
There was no real danger, she thought - the scans had confirmed that there was nothing to threaten them - but still, something made her glad that there was someone just a shout away. She supposed that it must be the sheer weirdness of the place, and pushed the feeling to one side. Her first duty was to see if her comms unit could breach the hull, although the exterior survey had indicate that it might not. It didn't, so she left the ship briefly to assure the scientists that they would check in at half-hour intervals to upload their data to the lab.
"What's it like in there?" asked Perry, his voice echoing around the large space.
"Hot and dank. Not pleasant."
"Next time, wear less," he advised with a grin she could hear as well as see.
Back inside, she got to work. Photographs, detailed scans of surfaces and interesting features, and note-taking were the main tasks to be dealt with. The space was disappointingly uniform. There seemed to be no interesting features, no controls or systems or anything that was conventionally found in a ship. The room was all smooth curves with rounded doorways of differing sizes and shapes: quinessentially organic design. She had to remind herself that the data collected with the handscanner might eventually reveal something much more interesting, but it was a trial to keep going, especially given the conditions and the semi-darkness. Soon she felt like she was burning up, despite the frequent trips outside. Sweat dampened her skin, and her braid felt like a hot weight down her back. Modesty be damned, she thought desperately. I'll faint if I don't get out of this jumpsuit.
In the end she compromised and opened it to the waist, shrugging out of the top half and letting it hang around her hips. She also unzipped the underall to her breastbone and rolled up its sleeves. It wasn't as good as, say, a bikini would have felt, but it was an improvement. She thought about Lenoir and wondered if his rigid adherence to proper uniform would allow him to work in a state of undress. She hoped it would.
In the seventh and last chamber, she found out. He was kneeling by a pile of his gear, taking notes intently. His jumpsuit was neatly folded under his camera and he had pulled his hair back with an elastic band. Mary sat down by the doorway - collapsed would have been more accurate - and fanned herself. They had been inside the ship for six hours.
"This is unbearable," she gasped. "We need fans in here."
"Yes," he said without looking up. Mary tried not to ogle his beautiful body, shown off so well by the blessed underall, but even when she looked aside she remembered clearly how the broad width of his shoulders tapered down to slim hips. She cleared her throat.
"Do you need any help in here?"
"I'm almost finished." He tapped and swiped the screen with the ease of long practice. "Just a couple of minutes."
She closed her eyes and leant back against the wall. It wasn't slippery, but it did remind her a little of skin, and with its slight softness, it was comfortable. Perhaps that was why there was no furniture...
"Brooks?" She opened her eyes to see Lenoir standing above her, looking down with a strange expression on his face.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I thought I only closed my eyes for a minute."
"You did," he said, his voice tight. She glanced down at herself and, with horrified embarrassment, saw that the treacherous zip of her underall had slid open, far past the point of decency. She wasn't quite falling out of it, but another deep breath and... it was too mortifying to even think about. Quickly she yanked the zip up and gathered her equipment, hoping that the half-light concealed her blushing face. They left the ship without another word.
Mary elected not to change in the locker room, but shoved her gear into its proper place, grabbed her clothes, and hurried into the elevator. Lenoir was well able to tell the labrats about their findings. She couldn't stand another minute in his company. Everything seemed to go wrong when she was with him in that ship. It was bad luck, or something equally superstitious and ridiculous. As the doors began to close, she fantasized about the long, cool shower she would take the minute she got back to the apartment. Perhaps she'd use her favourite vanilla soap.
Two large hands stopped the doors before they sealed, and slowly prised them open. Lenoir slid through, a bag in hand. He looked about as hot as she felt, in the bright light of the compartment. His hair was falling out of its ponytail, a few strands clinging to his face, and his skin gleamed. He was, she noted with secret delight, still wearing the underall and nothing else.
"I've talked to the team about the lights and fans," he said, after performing the requisite identification with the AI. "Tomorrow should be more comfortable."
"I... ah." That made her look at him. He never stumbled over words. "Don't feel embarrassed about earlier. There's no need."
"Oh. Good." She felt out of her depth. Perry would have made a witty remark about her cleavage, easy to laugh off or put down, but this almost earnest concern was different. She thought he meant that he wasn't remotely interested and hadn't been looking at her lustfully. She probably should have been grateful. She wasn't. Thankfully the doors opened onto her floor a moment later, and she escaped into the sanctuary of her apartment without a backward glance.
* * * * * * * *
In the quiet darkness of the ship, something shifted.
Although HQ had been terribly concerned about the working conditions - or so Sandra had said - no lights or fans materialised on the following morning. Mary had slept badly and the news didn't improve her sour mood. In silence she and Lenoir stripped down to the ubiquitous underalls, rolled up their sleeves, and prepared to continue with the internal survey.
Lenoir seemed to sense her bad temper; he spoke little and chose to study the weapons damage in and around the entry room. She decided to work in the deepest chamber from the entrance, hoping to get the worst of the heat over with as early in the day as possible. In a perfunctory gesture, she swept the narrow beam of light over the featureless surfaces, then set up the 3D scanner to make a model. While it ran, she went outside to check in with the lab.
"This is Brooks," she told the mike.
"Morning, Mary," said Perry. "You okay in there?"
"Yeah, just fine," she muttered, tugging her zip down to let the cool air in. "See if you can get HQ to put a rush on those fans, would you?"
"Will do. You should really consider a bikini."
"In your dreams, idiot," she said, and broke the connection.
"We could swap rooms, if you like," said Lenoir. Like the day before, he was right behind her and the sound of his soft deep voice made her both flinch and shiver. She faced him and smiled ruefully.
"I'm complaining too much, aren't I? I'm fine where I am. Thanks for the offer."
* * * * * * * *
When she returned to the scanner, it was beeping to indicate that the sweep was finished, so she slid it into its well-padded case and picked up the camera. Thanking heaven that HQ didn't stint on the equipment budget, she flipped on the internal torch and looked around for something interesting to capture. It was all just the same, curved smoothness - no sign of controls, power lines or propulsion systems. All the same as before. She turned in a slow arc, gazing into the viewscreen to line up a good shot, and then stopped. It wasn't all the same. Something had changed, something that hadn't been there when she'd taken the 3D scan. There was a hole in the floor.
It was over two feet in diameter, but some exploration with her torch showed it to be perhaps five feet deep, or a little more. Mary lowered herself into it and felt around for anything unusual. The walls around her were as smooth as the rest of the ship. Funny, she thought, it seemed bigger when I wasn't inside it. She began to climb out, and couldn't. What the hell? Her arms were stuck, and when she looked down, she saw with a jolt of terror that the pit had closed itself around her, molding itself to her form so that she was effectively buried up to the neck. Struggling did nothing. Her entire body was trapped in a warm cocoon. She forced herself to breathe slowly and calmly, although every instinct was tuned to fear and she felt panic rising in her throat. It's okay. It's okay. This might be how the pilot controls the ship.
It was impossible to prevent a strangled gasp when she felt something hard press between her legs. "No," she whispered in amazed horror. It pressed again, exploring the recesses of her body slowly and carefully. It touched her inner thighs, her belly, her mons, and then unerringly began to slide up and down in small rhythmical movements, stroking the fabric over her clitoris firmly, pressing her buttocks back against their confining prison. Her brain emptied of rational thought. It was unbelievable, surely a dream sent to punish her for her inappropriate fantasies about Lenoir. A wave of bliss swept through her as she thought of him, of his gorgeous butt and muscular thighs... and she gave in completely to the sensations that were starting to course through her body.
The stroking sped up. She groaned, and tried to push back, feeling wet heat moistening the crotch of the underall. It felt like large fingers were manipulating her, were coaxing this incredible pleasure from her while she was helpless to do anything. She imagined that the fingers belonged to Lenoir, that he was holding her down and caressing her slick folds with merciless concentration until she begged for more. Her nipples were achingly hard; she longed to rub them against something for relief, but couldn't. Being so powerless turned her on in a way that shocked her; similarly, being stimulated and aroused by an unknown being should have disgusted her, but her only thought was that she badly wanted - needed - to come. Mary rocked and squirmed as much as she was able, panting for breath as the protusion began to tremble and swirl in little circles over her nub. The vibration was too much. She clenched her teeth to keep from crying out as she had one of the most intense orgasms of her life. It consumed her fully, making her body shake and her mind explode.