Heron crawled into the next maintenance shaft but its mind was at the other end of the station.Specifically, it was thinking of Subah Doisson, its maddening, magnificent, mysterious landlady.
In the two weeks since Heron had moved in, it had uncovered only snippets about the bio-engineer during several shared meals. She liked her job and was good at it, and that seemed to be the start and finish of how she regarded her career. She had lived on the station for a number of years, but never specified how many. She considered her dead husband a good provider, and her voice was affectionate when she said so, but she volunteered few additional details beyond that. That particular reticence was instructive in itself, one thought. She displayed no glistening eyes from unshed tears. She divulged no nostalgic retellings of how they first met. If Heron could glean anything from such limited confidence-sharing, it was that the marriage had been…adequate.
And, Heron was beginning to think, maybe Subah was slowly preparing herself for something different. There were the speculative glances she darted at it, quickly masked. Then the brushes of bodies and casual states of half-undress it sometimes caught Subah in.
At first, Heron considered the episodes as merely the result of lack of privacy in such cramped quarters, but now it wasn’t so sure. Was she trying to spark a sexual relationship with it? More to the point, was Heron averse to an amorous adventure with the widow? It snorted as it checked Life Support relay 389-R1. After six years of enforced celibacy, one was ready to jump anything suitable.
What a shame, then, that only Subah appeared suitable. Of course, it had caught various subtle body cues from both men and women as it wound its way through the station, but Heron knew it was more what its strangeness represented than the person it was that appealed to them. They weren’t interested in getting to know Heron; they were just interested in fucking it then boasting about it to their friends afterwards.
Only Subah appeared to take it at face value, treating one as a person and not just a walking sex-toy. It was a tragic circumstance, then, that she was the one person it had to keep at arm’s length, simply because it didn’t want to antagonise her in any way. Do that, and it was a short trip to the station’s jail before getting kicked off the station. That was the reality that Heron had to live with. But in private, its hot fantasies of lust, combined with peeks of that voluptuous body, were driving it crazy.
Heron shook its head and checked the instrumentation, noting the green light of the display and moving on. No, it had to push such erotic thoughts out of its head. For one, despite Subah’s subtle come-ons, she was probably just going through a―very temporary―adventurous phase, aggravated by a previously lacklustre sex-life. And, as Heron had found to its cost, it was usually the casualty of any sexual fad that had run its course.
“No,” Heron murmured. “I will not endanger my only accommodation choice. I will not succumb to lust with someone who holds the power of veto over where I spend the next five years.”
The words sounded firm and full of commitment, and Heron was proud of itself, but they only kept the doubts away for a handful of seconds.
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