Chapter 2

Jeri accompanied Robin out to the culvert every night after that. She had only tried to fit into the drainage pipe one time, and, after a panicked moment of thrashing around with her head and right shoulder stuck inside its maw, she gave up. Instead, she would wait for Robin to return each night with whatever treasures he had gathered as the humans slept.

At first he only pulled things out of garbage cans, such as old newspapers and magazines. Human news sources were not admitted to the Center without being heavily censored first.

In one such paper, she read about a human group in the city of Waco, Texas that had recently burned to death after the human nation’s law enforcement had raided their compound. Jeri saw why this news story was censored. It concerned a religious group that kept itself separate from the rest of humanity, and was considered to have unorthodox beliefs. It had too many parallels to how they lived, and it might create a panic amongst the residents of the Center. If the humans ever discovered them, they would receive worse treatment than this religious group had received.

After a few weeks of hunting through garbage cans, Robin got bolder. He stole a Polaroid Instamatic camera and some film from an unlocked car, disabled the flash on it, and started coming back with pictures.

“They’re having sex in this one,” Jeri noted as Robin lay a group of pictures out in front her by the stream one night. It was a picture of a bedroom to a house, with a human man mounted atop a female. Her long legs were rapped around his muscular lower back, while he had her arms pinned above her with one hand. His other hand held him up on the bed as he plunged inside of her.

“The books we read about human sexuality don’t do it justice,” Robin noted. “I watched them all the way from foreplay to ejaculation. At first I thought he was trying to hurt her. She would sort of resist, but not really. He was very forceful, but the rougher he was, the more excited she became. By the time he actually penetrated her, she must have been close to orgasm, because she started screaming loud enough to cause the dog in their backyard to howl.”

“Do you think she’s pregnant with a human baby now?” Jeri asked.

“Impossible to tell. It would be a while before even a doctor could know, and, for all we know, he’s one of us.”

“Or she is,” Jeri added.

Jeri tried to imagine her Intermediate parent in female phase, having sex with her human father. Had she enjoyed it like the woman in the photo? Then Jeri thought of her Intermediate parent, later in one of its male phases, having sex with her human mother. Her human father’s genetic material having been combined inside the body of her Intermediate parent with its own genome, and then ejaculated inside of her human mother, impregnating her ovum with not-entirely-human DNA. Impregnating her with Jeri.

Did she have an orgasm like this human woman? Jeri wondered.

Regardless, about nine months later, just like a human baby, Jeri had been born, and her Intermediate parent would have reported it to the Syndicate. They would have sent members of Security to surreptitiously karyotype Jeri’s genome, looking for the characteristic extra chromosomes that indicated she was not human. Then they took her away, to be raised by her own kind, so that someday, after taking the enzyme, she too could go out into the human world and carry on her Intermediate parent’s genetic lineage.

The ones in the English-speaking countries called themselves “Intermediates”. Their kind took a great interest in the fields of genetics and biology. Their own scientists often debated whether they should be thought of as a sort of parasite gender or as another species –a sort of genetic cuckoo for mankind. They had their own culture and recorded history that went back to the times of Mesopotamia, but they were unknown to the mass of mankind. Here at the end of the 20th Century, human astronomers turned their radio telescopes to the stars in search of extraterrestrials, but the aliens were amongst them, hidden in plain site, and had been from the beginning, quietly evolving alongside mankind.

When Robin started sneaking into human houses, Jeri got scared again.

“You’ll get caught!” she said one night when he brought back a bag filled with cash.

“I watch certain people every night. I know their routines and their sleeping patterns. I know the doors they frequently forget to lock. I just walk in and look around, and I only take things they won’t miss.”

“Someone’s going to notice that much money missing,” Jeri said.

“The person I took it from is a criminal by human law. He made the money selling illegal narcotics, so he won’t call the police. Besides, he had so much, I don’t even think he’ll notice.”

“My god, Robin, then he’s dangerous. If he caught you…”

“He had been consuming alcohol and some of his own product. He was out cold.”

“What do you even need the money for?”

“I’m going to leave here, eventually. I’ll need it when I go.”

“You’re going to desert? They’ll find you, and you’ll be punished. You’ll never be certified to take the enzyme and leave the Center as a breeder.”

“I don’t want to be a breeder. I want to live like the humans.”

“You can’t live like the humans. We can’t have children like they do.”

“I don’t care. I want to live free of the Syndicate, and have a human wife. Maybe we’ll adopt human children.”

“When will you leave?” Jeri asked.

“In a few weeks. I want to gather a few more supplies outside the Center first. Then, one day, I’ll just leave and not come back. By the time they find out I’m gone, I’ll be far away.”

But, it wasn’t going to be that easy.