Bright Blue Planet by Kim Catanzarite
“I’m sure you’re aware of what’s going on with the humans in Philadelphia?” Evander said.
Uncle Jimmy pulled some dried leaves from the plants to his left, then began to pluck the dead blossoms from a tray to his right. Without looking up, he said, “The human beings are doing fine as far as I can tell.”
That was a disappointing statement if ever Evander heard one. “They may be on the cusp of warring with the clones you created,” he said. “Something needs to be done.”
Uncle Jimmy removed his focus from the flowers and met Evander’s gaze. A gentle innocence settled over his face. “I’ve never made a human clone. I was against making the clones from the very beginning.”
“And yet somehow, with your help, an entire race of them lives on this planet. How is that, I wonder, and please don’t tell me it was written in the stars. Things like cloning don’t just happen.”
“Cloning has been and always was sewn into the tapestry of human fate, even if that’s not what you want to hear,” he said, his cheeks pinkening. “You seem upset, are you?”
“I don’t know. Maybe.”
Jimmy went back to tending to the various plants. “You’re human. It’s to be expected.”
“Yes, you’re right. I’m human and I’m Jovian and I have emotions. From what I’ve been told you experience them, too. Is that correct?”
Jimmy gave up on gardening and stepped up to Evander, tilting his head in a contemplative way.
“I feel empathy. Empathy and all that comes with it.”
“So you can understand when I tell you that I made a promise to my mother to protect the human race, and I intend to follow through because she means a lot to me.”
“But you’ve already followed through. You’ve protected them with your legislation. You saved their planet, made it inhabitable again, safe again. I suspect you’ve done more for this planet than any other individual ever has … or will, for that matter.” He paused before placing a heavy hand upon Evander’s shoulder. “Your mother would be proud of you.”
“That may be so, but what’s happening in Philadelphia would concern her nonetheless,” he said, stepping aside so he could get out from under Jimmy’s hand. “I thought you cared about my mother. She always spoke so highly of you.”
Jimmy blinked as if some dust had fallen into his eye. “I care for her just as I care for you.” He rubbed the back of his head, the thin shock of hair left standing in a whirl. “And, for your information, it was the humans who came up with the science that led to cloning. I only nudged them in the right direction. Either way, it had to be done in order for other occurrences to … occur.”
“In spite of that,” Evander said, “the humans and clones are at odds. The humans are the physically weaker species, and they know it. They’ve been fearful of the clones from the start.
The only leg they have to stand on is a societal one. They are purebred. ‘Real,’ as they like to say. But they’re not stupid. They know the clones are smarter and stronger, and therefore destined to take over the species.”
“What you describe may be an issue now,” Uncle Jimmy said with optimistic light in his eyes, “but it won’t always be. Minds will change. In time, all of the genes will have mixed.
There will be no such thing as a purebred human. No reals or fakes, clones or hybrids. Only humans with varying degrees of Jovian DNA. That’s the beauty of it.”
Uncle Jimmy argued with ease and self-assurance, but Evander knew it wasn’t that simple. Life never was. Humans, in particular, never were.
Shifted by Roxanna Mason
I didn’t know what Owen had in mind, but it was already obvious to me that I would go anywhere this man was leading. He kept his hand in mine as he guided me through the crowded bar and toward the pool tables. Thankfully, because the band was still playing, the back of the bar was far less populated.
“Is playing pool normally part of a first date with you, or are you just trying to get me alone?” I teased.
Owen took a step towards me, pinning me between him and the pool table.
“Both,” he said with a smile on his face that I could only describe as wicked.
I tilted my head to the side as I looked up at him. “Let’s make it interesting, then.”
I took a step to the side, sliding out from between him and the ancient wooden table. I grabbed a pool cue off of the rack and tossed it to him before grabbing a decidedly smaller one for myself. “We’re going to need more shots,” I said to him.
A smile crept over his dark features. “My kind of girl…” he murmured as he lowered his head towards mine.
“Nope, if you want to kiss me, you better plan on winning.”
Owen shook his head and left me at the table while I started to rack the balls. A few minutes later, he returned with four shots; two of whiskey, two of tequila. I took one of the shot glasses filled with dark brown liquor straight out of his hand and threw it back. I winced as the alcohol made my throat close in on itself. The truth was, I might have been putting on a show. I enjoyed the way I felt around Owen, but I didn’t know if I was as wild as I wanted him to believe.
“So what are the stakes here?” he asked me as he set the remaining shots on a nearby hightop.
“If you win, you get to take me home…” I said in a voice I barely recognized as my own. It was breathy and seductive. Those two shots apparently went to my head faster than I thought.
“And if you win?” Owen asked with a raised brow.
“If I win, I get a second date.”
“Who said we can’t do both?” he said with a chuckle.
I rolled my eyes. I didn’t have this whole impulsive, whiskey-drinking, short skirt-wearing Jacey completely figured out yet.
Owen took a step towards me. He reached for my hips and pulled me toward him. “What do you really want?”
I could feel my pulse banging in my ears, and the loud, crowded bar faded into the background. He reached around my head, threading his fingers into my hair and tugging me towards him. I leaned forward, expecting him to kiss me, but his mouth hovered over mine.
“What do you want?” he asked again.
“You,” I said, my voice caught in my throat.
“What was that?” he asked teasingly. His deep voice, vibrating through me.
“I want you.”
Finally, he brought his lips to mine and kissed me deeply. Kissing Owen wasn’t new to me; we couldn’t stop kissing the night he drove me over the Brooklyn Bridge. But this was something else. I wasn’t sure I even knew my own name anymore.
“When I take you home, it’s going to be because you’re begging me to…not because I won at pool.”