Summary: No one ever said science was easy, and alien scientists are only human, after all.
Spoilers and/or Warnings: non-con (an alien made them do it)
Title, Author and URL of original story: Let's Hope They're Not Allergic by iambickilometer
Free Range Subjects (The Scientific Method Remix)
Ka'tok ran down the corridors at a break neck pace, already hearing his tutor's disapproving snarl in his head. It served him right, of course, he should have written up the notes right after the last experiment - his lab partner always had them done in time for dinner and a smug smile to go with the jamworms. Hmm, jamworms. Maybe he could just-
No. Lab now, food later.
"I see you have finally decided to grace us with your presence," Ka'tok's tutor grunted. His lab partner, El'ain, glared through her tangled fringe. He shrugged and grabbed one of the summary papers.
El'ain sidled up to him, fury digging into her features. "Please tell me you have at least read the itinerary for today."
Ka'tok nodded. "Of course I have."
She narrowed her eyes. "Right, so, tell me what species that is." She pointed at the pressure chamber. Ka'tok sighed and stepped a little closer.
The creatures had already woken, which told him that El'ain and the tutor had to have been here for the last half hour or so. He winced, hoping they were still disoriented. Often a whole experiment had to be scrapped if too much time went by in which the subjects could make sense of their surroundings. The Academy had rather stringent rules when it came to uncontrolled variables.
They seemed to be talking to each other, the dark-headed one in an excited manner, the light-headed one with its arms crossed. The dark one was slightly taller, and for lack of any obvious status symbols on either of them, Ka'tok named it Subject One. Subject Two barked out a few words, clearly agitated, but showing restraint.
"They look like human males to me," he said, not quite sure but hoping it didn't reflect in his voice. "Can we have their language translated?"
El'ain went to the control pad and frowned down at the buttons. "What language is it?"
Their instructor perked up at that. "Ah, language! If you have paid attention in the lecture last week, you should be able to tell from their clothing to which of the tribes they belong and choose the language accordingly. I will deduct points for wrong attribution, so deliberate carefully."
Ka'tok stared at the two specimens. Their clothes were brightly coloured; thin-layered, so they couldn't be more than 20 degrees toward either of the poles, but covered their entire bodies with the purpose of more than just modesty, so they weren't from the equatorial regions either. Subject two wore metal wristbands with a dragon imprinted on them.
"Are there any tribes with dragon symbols?" he asked El'ain, whispering to avoid more attention from the instructor - receiving advice, even unsolicited, could also mean point reduction, and his grades really didn't need that blow.
El'ain brightened suddenly and poked a few of the buttons, information flashing before their eyes. Earth. Albion. Camelot. He gave a little prayer to the god of lazy students and put in the code.
Right, what's your plan? Subject two said, his face contorted in some kind of emotional expression.
There seemed to be a bit of an argument about their situation, which was about to blow hte whole experiment out of the water, so Ka'tok did what anyone in his situation would do - he winged it. He didn't have time to check the itinerary. There were three experiments scheduled for the day, one involved conditional learning and electric shock, one was language acquisition and one, well-
"Why aren't they engaging in courtship rituals?" he asked, whispering to himself as an interesting aside. He'd meant it as a rhetorical question: most subjects came prepped for the main event, but not all species had the same idea about how to express their arousal or woo a partner.
What? No! We're not a pair, we don't-
El'ain stood with her back to him, still mucking about with the computer. The tutor seemed engrossed in some reference text or other. No one was double-checking his work. He pushed the button to release the pheromone spray and settled in to watch.
The spray induced a spike of sexual arousal, so heady that someone falling victim to it would rub and push against anything to get release, while the telepathic component insinuated in the subjects' brains that another person would make this feel even better. It wasn't as cruel as some people in the ethics committee made it sound, but the students were generally only supposed to use it on established partners.
Arthur, Subject One said. It was a guttural moan, but Ka'tok recognized it as a name.
They were ripping at their clothes, frantically searching for skin on skin contact, when El'ain turned around and shrieked.
"By the Academy, what have you done?" Her eyes were wide and full of anger, and Ka'tok swallowed the stupid joke he was going to make.
"What do you mean," he said, feeling his face cool rapidly from terror, "what have I done?"
She stomped forward, shaking her heavy locks, grumbling under her breath. Her gaze locked onto the writhing mass of limbs in ecstasy. She sighed and slapped Ka'tok across his headridge. "You utter buffoon," she said, resignation and anger warring for dominance in her voice. "These aren't the human sexuality subjects. They were meant for conditional learning."
Ka'tok stopped breathing. This was how careers died before they began. This kind of thing could ruin him, his clan and possibly his house. The Academy would end him.
El'ain turned to him and smiled. "Okay, okay. We can handle this. We'll write this one up as 'induced sexuality in non-bonded species', yeah? And you better pray we can get the rabbits to pull a lever."
Ka'tok stared at the couple, mind still reeling with the implications for him, when El'ain spoke once more.
"Oh, and you'll write a report on debriefing the subjects about their forced encounter. Is that clear?"
Her voice was sweet like death. Ka'tok gulped and nodded.
The subjects were huddled in different corners of the holding chamber. The room was warmer than Ka'tok was used to and smelled of human in a slightly unpleasant way. He stayed by the door, ready to escape in case of attack, and announced himself with a cough.
You, said Subject Two.
Subject One narrowed his eyes in a way that made Ka'tok shiver. They were shorter and slimmer than Ka'tok but there was no telling what kind of damage they could do.
What do you want from us? Subject One said, threat heavy in his voice. His anger transcended species.
Ka'tok balled his fists in a gesture of appeasement. "There has been a mistake."
I'll say. Subject One's gaze flickered to Subject Two. His skin reddened around the ears and cheeks.
"I," Ka'tok began, haltingly, "have made this mistake. I have come to apologize in the name of myself, my house and the Academy."
You want to apologize? Subject Two exclaimed, voice loud, more than just agitated now. Ka'tok took a step back. He could almost feel the wall at his back, knew that another step would have him up against it with nowhere to run.
"I am authorized to offer you certain reparations-"
Subject Two lunged at him, hands pressing into soft, vulnerable parts of Ka'tok's anatomy. This was going from scary to embarrassing, and in a lot of ways the humiliation of being touched there, where his rudimentary gills lay under the skin, was worse than mortal terror.
What could possibly repair my breached honor, or that of my servant?
Ka'tok swallowed and twisted in Subject Two's grasp. "Please, if you would let me go, I could explain."
Subject One laid a hand on his shoulder and the rage abated almost as fast as it had come. Subject Two pulled a grimace, an expression that had to be uniquely human, because Ka'tok couldn't make sense of bared teeth and flaring nostrils, the lines curving around drawn brows.
Let it go, Arthur, please. There is nothing to be gained by killing this one when we don't know how many are out there to replace him. Subject One made a gesture toward the door. His eyes seemed to glow with an inner light, even though nothing in the dossier on humans suggested they had bioluminescence.
"I will arrange your release," Ka'tok said, a little unsteadily, as he edged toward the door. "Unless you wish to stay to partake in a prolonged debriefing and analysis of your..." He trailed off, unsure how to phrase their ordeal, his mistake. "If you wish to stay, we will accommodate you in any fashion you wish."
Subject Two glared at him. We should ask for your head.
Ka'tok turned blue and hot with horror. "That is... if that were your wish, the, uh, the Academy would certainly..." He couldn't finish, not even on the threat of dishonoring his entire house. They could ask for his termination. They could ask for anything. The Academy was nothing if not eager to hide such incidents. Their silence was worth far more than Ka'tok's life.
No. Subject One spoke, a quiet sound, but hard somehow. I'd rather not think about this ever again. His skin reddened and he glanced away, toward the floor. Ka'tok dared to breathe.
"I will arrange your release posthaste."
Subject Two crossed his arms. You do that.
"I want to write my thesis about them," Ka'tok said, a month later, over breakfast.
El'ain glared at her baked Andorrian roaches and shook her head. "Do not draw me into this foolishness. Your debriefing was a disaster, you have not the sufficient objectivity to study them properly and a field study is expensive. The Academy will never allow it."
Ka'tok contemplated his jamworms. They wriggled half-heartedly on their flatbread. "They will if you vouch for me."
El'ain laughed harshly, almost choking on her bugs. "And why would I do that? You have done nothing but jeopardize my degree; you have brought shame on our house and shown no respect for scientific ideals."
He thought back to his first day at the Academy, barely out of his second skin. He remembered El'ain's ribboned hair as she turned her nose up at him, so long ago. They'd been rivals, partners, best friends, occasionally and to both their embarrassment even lovers. He had never cashed in on their relationship, never asked for anything. He would for this.
"You'll back me up," he said, "because you've seen the vid from the debriefing. You've seen their strange behavior, you've seen his eyes."
Bioluminescence in humans. It would be a revolutionary discovery, if he could document it.
El'ain sighed, took a bite out of a large blue and violet insect, the one with the cheese filling. "You're right. By the Academy, you're right. I can't let this opportunity pass just because you are an idiot."
He took a small vessel down to the surface of their planet. In his environment suit he could follow them around without being noticed. He took a lot of useless notes on how much they ate, what they said, how they interacted with others of their species. It appeared that Subject Two was, in fact, of higher status than Subject One, although this was only truly visible in their behavior when others were around. It was quite curious, because those others seemed to be of lower status to Subject Two, but almost everyone also appeared to be of higher status than Subject One. This disparity suggested that in some ways they may be part of a pair-bond after all, and he sent El'ain a message to revise the report of the original experiment.
Subject Two kept touching Subject One, little touches that seemed to have no true purpose. It didn't look like courtship, not any kind Ka'tok had ever heard of or witnessed, but the frequency of the touches was unique. No one but Subject One merited that sort of attention.
Ka'tok witnessed the bioluminescence quite a few times over the first day, with no particular pattern or reason. It seemed that Subject One simply had glowing eyes. He made a note to El'ain to research glowing in other species as a vanity or courtship ritual, although the behavior manifested mostly when everyone had their backs turned to Subject One. Perhaps it was an unconscious reaction to arousal.
And then, a few days into his observation, Subject Two was attacked. Ka'tok operated on a strict policy of non-intervention. He couldn't stop it, even though the attackers seemed fairly incompetent at first. He could have taken them out without anyone ever being the wiser - but he couldn't risk it. His reputation was on the line.
It was not, after all, a sign of arousal. The attackers' eyes glowed with the same kind of light that Subject One exhibited, and now that they were in such volatile circumstances, Ka'tok realized that the glow was connected to other, more useful abilities. The glow was an outward sign of psi. He bashed the keys of his tablet interface in excitement, using rather more exclamation cyphers than necessary. El'ain would love this.
HUMANS HAVE PSI!!! He typed furiously, watching with one eye as the altercation unfolded. Subject One was obviously more powerful, dispatching one, two, then the third attacker with ease, but he had handicapped himself for some reason, hiding his eyes from Subject Two as if - as if Subject Two was unaware of his abilities. Ka'tok could read the skirmish to its end, and it did not look good. With Subject One incapacitated half the time they could not win.
Ka'tok raised his stun-gun.
Subject One didn't let him get a shot in, instead he yelled something untranslatable and within a split second the attackers where knocked away by incredible force. Subject Two stared, open-mouthed and bleeding. The silence in the small clearing was deafening. He raised his sword, dropped it again, then let it go thudding on the ground.
You're a sorcerer. Subject Two seemed calm, breathing regularly, no sign of fear or anger that Ka'tok could read. He wished he'd paid more attention in the "facial expressions in primates" seminar.
Silence again. Ka'tok didn't dare move, for fear of disturbing the moment. Non-intervention applied here, too.
You saved my life.
They weren't moving, their expression appeared empty, devoid of emotion. Ka'tok holstered his gun.
We will talk about this, but not here. Get the horses.
Subject One scrambled away, while Subject Two stared at their unmoving attackers. Ka'tok let out a breath.
"...and so I have come to the conclusion that further study is necessary regarding the humans' ability to use psi energy and the form of bonding that the two subjects exhibited before their pair-bond."
Thunderous applause followed Ka'tok off the stage. El'ain grinned at him, no hint of displeasure in her face. "You've really done it this time. Two new avenues of research opened on this stupid planet and an alpha grade on your final paper. Amazing."
Ka'tok let the praise wash over him, even as he rolled his eyes at the sarcastic undertone in her voice. He had a sacrifice to make later, thanking the gods, even if he didn't quite believe in them - but then what else was luck but this? A botched experiment turning into a great and magnificent destiny.
He would be a professor!