Tamro sat in high synchronous orbit. His ship was the apex of his race's genius: it was the height of symbiotic engineering, totally enmeshing its occupant in a womb that kept it alive and in good health indefinitely. Its tough exterior was unscarred by the small space debris that glanced off occasionally, and it would automatically avoid any larger hazards like sizable asteroids, gamma ray bursts, scraps of space missions the planet sent up, solar wind, or hostile action by another space vessel. The only things it could not survive was a supernova or the swelling of a normal star as it expanded in its death throes. From his vantage point, he could not only monitor any broadcast from the planet below but transform any audio device into a monitor. No conversation was secret from him; he could hear anything he wanted.
"Fuck me, Billy, fuck me hard."
"I'm fucking ya as hard as I can. Ya like it when I pull your hair?"
"Yes, Billy, yes."
"Ya like it when I pound your pussy from behind?"
"Yes, Billy, yes."
"Ya like it when I spank your ass while I'm fuckin' ya?"
"Yes, Billy, oh my God, yes."
"Ya like it when I pull out when I cum, take all your money, leave and don't call till I'm broke and horny again?"
"No, Billy, no, ah please don't do that."
Billy groaned and slowed his pace to a crawl, releasing her hair as she fell on straight down on the bed exhausted and frustrated when he pulled out. He pulled up his pants, snatched a wad of bills from the dresser, and sneered. "Well, that's way it is again, bitch! Good luck and let me know when ya wanna get fucked again."
The Kalabaz ruled a third of the Milky Way galaxy, guiding the planets in their realm gently and peacefully. They weren't at perfect peace with all their neighbors, but their advanced technology and wisdom gave them a great advantage against their competitors. Most of them resigned themselves to waiting until the Kalabaz suffered a natural calamity or found a reason to destroy themselves.
The Kalabaz reincarnated, their souls moving from one body to another over the millennia. Most of an individual's lives were lost in infancy: they spawned in swarms up to a thousand offspring at a time, but only a few survived to adulthood. Tamro had lived many lives, producing many heroic Spawns that advanced his race's growth numerically and qualitatively. Not many of his race survived the Spawning as their offspring erupted from their bodies, but those who did became the Masters, who dedicated their existence to guiding their culture. Under many names, Tamro had been a Master, sometimes a researcher advancing Kalabaz knowledge and technology, sometimes a poet or musician, adding to Kalabaz culture, sometimes a philosopher, deepening the Kalabaz' self-understanding of themselves and the Universe. In one of his lifetimes he developed the Lifepod, which enabled the Kalabaz to travel the stars indefinitely in almost perfect safety.
In this current lifetime, Tamro reached maturity sooner than his Spawnmates, showing promise as a biologist, reaching some new fundamental insights Kalabaz physiology. The Masters hoped he would become the greatest geneticist in the history of their race once he regained Master status.
"What do you mean I'm fired? I've worked for this company for over 40 years."
"And the company appreciates this. But times are tough and we need to downsize."
"Downsize? Our profits are at a record level."
"Better now than later."
"But my contract says you have to keep me on until I retire."
"Not in cases like this, when we declare a fiscal emergency. Wall Street is too unstable right now, and the markets may tank any day. We're letting go of half our employees, so you're not alone."
"All right, all right. If you say so."
"Another thing we're cutting back are entitlements."
"Yes, Mr. Jenkins. We can only keep you on the health plan another six months; after that, you're on you own?"
"On my own? But what about my pension?"
Gildra was Tamro's favorite mate over the many lives he led. She was smart, talented, athletic, everything a Kalabaz could hope for in a mate. Tamro was beside himself with joy when she chose to join him in the Mating Dance, feeling himself unworthy of her. At mating, the Kalabaz were joined by a flexible appendage side to side, and they sat many times watching the dual suns set and the myriad stars near the Milky Way's core flooded the purpling sky. It seemed that their entire existences were overlaid with each other's, it was difficult for them to find where one began and the other ended.
The joy of their existence together was something he'd never experiences in all his lives before. He had never known such joy in mating, and dreaded the fateful day when their Spawn arose. Gildra was someone he wished could live forever.
At the time of the occlusion of Mahya their primary Star, all the joined Kalabaz pairs shared their genes, and Gildra took on a vibrant shade of green as she passed her time as Spawnhost. The Kalabaz took turns carrying their gestating young, the female for the first half and the male the second. Tamro pondered in the darkness and resolved that she should escape the doom of her gender. It was a time all the Kalabaz longed for, when they would be freed of the Ancient Curse of their homeworld Demos. Their mythology told them that the evil god Proceptus cursed them for stealing his magic, and as a result the propagation of their race could only happen in tragedy, sorrow and death. Tamro had lived over 30 lifetimes, seen more Spawnings than he could remember and mourned the loss of every mate. Gildra deserved better: she deserved to survive and become the first Female Master, as was foretold in prophecy. Tamro didn't usually spend much time contemplating his planet's mythology, it was usually irrelevant to his work and leisure. His research told him that it would be possible to alter history, to come up with an alternative to their destructive instincts, and that is what interested him in this myth. It was his destiny; it was the destiny of his race. He would undo the Curse.
"Freedom, now! Freedom now! The government must go! The government must go!"
Police squads lined the square where the protest began in riot gear. Periodically, the commander ordered the protestors to disperse, but they would not be moved by threats or by water cannons. "They're growing in numbers," the deputy commander told his superior, "They're calling on their cell phones and they're pouring out of the neighborhoods. What should be do?"
"Stand firm and wait for orders." The chanting reverberated through the streets of the city; the mob had found scraps of wood and metal to use as clubs and waved them at the police. A garbled voice came through the radio, and the commander got no clearer signal when he asked for repetition. The mob was creeping closer, their energy increased. A Molotov cocktail broke just in front of the riot squad, and the commander waited no longer. "Open fire."
At the time he became Spawnhost, taking the seeds of the next generation of Kalabaz, and breaking their physical joining, Tamro told Gildra of his vision. "I would be honored if this came to pass, if you can find a way, but I would also gladly fulfill my destiny to you if not. I love you, Tamro, and would be honored to give myself to you completely as every mother of our race has."
"No, Gildra. We must be the first free couple, the first to travel a new way. You are too valuable to lose: I can't lose you and Kalabaz can't lose you. Follow my instructions and we shall make the preparations. You must live You must become the first Female Master."
Both of them did their research, and made what preparations they could, finding alternative sources of protein to satiate him in the time of the Frenzy that followed Spawning and expending a lot of resources to gather the huge amount needed. Tamro spent hours in meditation, programming and disciplining his mind and body as best he could, using what safe drugs he could, drawing on his own experience and the recorded experiences of his entire race from the beginning of their consciousness. Hunger pangs filled his thoughts as he went through the Spawnfast: unlike the females of his race, Kalabaz males were unable to take nourishment as they bore his offspring within them. Gildra stayed silent, feeding and growing as her instincts guided her, looking at Tamro with love and sadness from time to time. His exoskeleton grew to accommodate the rapidly maturing Spawn, and he redoubled his efforts to control his emotions, particularly the fear of failure that dominated his thoughts before the day his Spawn would emerge.
*** "I don't care, I can't take it anymore."
"Look, Brenda, you can't leave. The kids need you to take care of them, and it's your duty as a wife and mother to be there."
"You've pushed me over the edge, I can't take it anymore. You swear at me in front of them, treat me like dirt and encourage them to do it. You tell them I work a no good Fuck all job and belittle everything I do around here. You made me sleep in the den, and you never tell me anything you're going to do before you do it. And I have to fill in the gaps, all the times you aren't there for the events in your children's lives, cook all the meals, do all the laundry and shopping and everything. You abandon them and I take the blame."
"So what? So fucking what? You have to stay, it's your duty. It's God's will, you can't leave, God will send you to Hell if you leave.."
"Bullshit, I'm leaving. The kids will be fine, they can stay with you. Go fuck yourself, you jackass,"
Gildra planned to be absent at the time of Spawning, but her instincts irrevocably compelled her return to her mate's side. She soothed her mate's antennae as he struggled to deliver, singing the song of Encouragement to give him strength, struggling to hold back the notes of Offering within it. He wailed and tried to suppress the Song of Delivery in his fear, regretting at that last moment he had not composed a new song to take its place earlier. A low humming filled the Spawnpit as the Spawn burst forth, singing hundreds of high pitched notes of liberty and flying away quickly to embrace their independence. The Guardians above sang the chorus of Protection, to keep the new swarm of Spawn safe from long dead predators that fed on the young in pre-history. The cycle of life had continued, and the question became whether Tamro would survive.
Tamro's mandibles thrashed wildly as he fought for self-control, feeling his life ebb away from him. He took no notice of the protein he had prepared for this moment, his many eyes clouded in pain and his reason lost to any persuasion. In the end, he could not resist his nature, ripping off Gildra's dear head and feeding on her body to restore his strength after Spawning. She submitted without resistance, not moving during her mate's Frenzy as instinct and tradition demanded, offering herself completely so he might live. It did not take long before he finished, his antenna twitching nervously as he feasted. When he came to his senses and realized what had happened, he wailed in grief long into the night as he held her empty exoskeleton.
"Mrs. Watson, I have some bad news for you. May I come in?"
June Watson looked at the state trooper in disbelief. The doorbell awakened her at 11:00PM, and she felt the chill night air through her thin bathrobe. "How can I help you, ah, ah, Trooper Ferguson."
"Your parents were driving north of Glendale on route 22 this evening around 8:00. As they were coming to the top of a rise, they met a truck going the wrong direction passing a semi."
"I'm sorry ma'am. There were no survivors."
The Watchers were the greatest heros of the Kalabaz. Giving up their voice as Masters, they allowed the genetic modification that developed the symbiont vessel, a special Lifepod, where they would spend the rest of their lives. Each Watcher was sent to observe a primitive civilization at the far reaches of their race's perception, far beyond the sphere of space their civilization ruled in peace and justice, even beyond the farthest reaches of their society's trade with other galactic cultures. When a new planet's races reached the stars, the Kalabaz were there to welcome them. If a new race was dangerous, the Watcher would track their development and the Kalabaz would be ready for them when they reached the stars. The Masters were glad Tamro volunteered to be a Watcher, and gave him every honor and great gift their race could provide during the time of his preparation. Watchers were difficult to create, and they could generate only one symbiotic Lifepod every 10 Kalabaz years.
Tamro disappointed them. Less than one Kalabaz month after arriving in Earth orbit, he sent off a short message saying: "This race will kill itself before it reaches the stars," and refused any further conversation with the Masters who oversaw him. It was then the Colloquium discovered his plans for Gildra's survival and realized his despair was born from the failure of his great purpose, the loss of the one he dedicated himself to preserving. In vain they sent out thoughts to heal him, emotions to regenerate his lost hope, but they could not repair the profound loss. For 200 Kalabaz years, he orbited the blue planet, using his many new senses to listen and watch as it moved through history, his body embraced, nourished and perpetuated by his Lifepod, but his soul was already withered, and deep within him, the emptiness Gildra created echoed through his mind.
"But Allie, it can't be over. You mean everything to me. I'm nothing without you."
"I'm sorry, Cole. We're not meant for each other. I've been trying to tell you that for the past two months, and you won't listen. I don't love you anymore."
"We've been together for almost a year and a half. We've gone through too much. I love you with all my being, I would die for you."
"No. It was special, it was sweet, but it's gone. Don't call me, don't write, don't. . .just don't. We need to make a clean break. Maybe we can talk again in a year or two. Have a wonderful life. Goodbye."
"But Allie. . ."
"No, Cole. Goodbye."
Tamro sat in his Lifepod in high synchronous Earth orbit, invisible to detection above and below, protected from almost all harm. Instead of tracking the development of the cultures below him, he focused on human pain: dwelling on every heartbreak, injustice, betrayal, and agony his senses could find, listening to the Mozart Requiem and Tchaikovsky's Pathetique Symphony and every sad song he could hear, letting darkness deepen and envelop him. On the edge of his perception, he could feel the Colloquium straining through his despair, looking for hints of Earth's progress to salvage their investment in him; he could hear Gildra's voice, feel her genetic presence in his molecules, murmuring the hope and love he could no longer bear. He didn't know if this race would survive or not, but he was ready for the Human Race to commit its suicide in arrogance and misconception and blindness, ready to watch the silent millennia of a planet turned to dust and remember its short lived beauty if it came to pass. The only hope he carried was that billions of years hence, when this planet's star swelled to engulf it and destroy his Lifepod, was that he would escape the Wheel of Suffering at last, and Nirvana would be his.