Zora almost knocked on Ignatius’ door at least three times on the way to Mercur Omega. She dreamed about it more than once, slipping down the corridor and leaning seductively against the doorframe, tapping lightly and hearing him shuffle awake. He’d come to let her in, bleary-eyed and with his hair mussed from tossing and turning all night without her. He’d smile, and she’d say something cute. Exactly what varied from dream to dream, but every time without fail, Ignatius would motion for her to enter, and every time, her gigantic, pregnant belly would get lodged in his doorway.
Zora sat on the edge of her cot and glared at the exit. She didn’t want an Earth Burger anymore, that was certain, but this new manifestation in pregnancy side-effects made her long for the days of obsessive food cravings. She needed a man, as soon as possible, and while she preferred the self-proclaimed clone Emperor, her body insisted that just about anything with the proper equipment would be an acceptable substitute.
She was hornier than a Lunar Cow during the rainy season.
Even the ex android was starting to look good, though every time she caught herself thinking that, she flashed back to her nausea phase. She shivered and scanned the room for something to crawl under, but her cabin offered no relief.
They’d crammed two of the portable incubators into the cabin. Their blinking lights made pretty patterns on the ceiling, but the huge contraptions left her enough space to sidle from the bed to the door and back and that was about it. The sleek, silver containers gleamed around the glass front where each shelf bore a tray of sticky, round white eggs. The shimmer and curve of metal reminded her of when they first met Rook.
“Shit.” She stood up and turned sideways, making sure to keep her back to the metal boxes. The baby kicked, disturbed by the sudden change in elevation or possibly just feeling ornery. Its little tantrums had shifted from fluttery butterflies to outright jabs in the gut or bladder, and Zora groaned into the impact and shifted down the length of the cot. “You’re gonna pack one hell of a punch, kiddo.”
Her arm brushed the belly that most of her clothes had given up trying to hide. Her wardrobe had been reduced to the Bingies nightgown and two smocks borrowed from Murray. If they didn’t get to Mercur Omega soon, she was going to surrender to the pirates and pray for a quick end. Whatever they could do to her couldn’t compare to slow death by fashion disaster.
She closed her eyes through a direct hit to the bladder, and scuttled to the door panel, slapping blindly at it until she heard the panel hiss aside. Escape. She needed a little space, a quick jaunt around the corridors and maybe a cold shower.
“Are you well, Zora?” Her brother-in-law stood in the center of the hallway. He no longer had silver muscles, no longer gleamed exactly, but she’d never been the one with the android fetish either. “Shall I call Murray?”
“No!” She stumbled a step back, and he reached out to steady her. His new body had muscles that stretched the fabric of his shirt, and the shoulders were just as broad as ever. “No. I’m fine.”
“You seem disoriented. Is the baby—”
“Fine. All fine.”
“You’re flushed, and your body temperature is slightly elevated.”
Shit. His stupid Damascan super-senses exposed her distress as if she were naked. And if they both were naked… “I gotta go.”
She heard him start a protest, but her feet already pivoted toward freedom. She ran three paces to the corner and ducked around it while Rook still stammered out his concern for her welfare. He’d probably tattle to Mur. Fine. At least he’d do it out of arm’s reach.
Her slippers snagged on the grating, and she stumbled down the next hall with one hand against the wall to steady her trajectory. She’d never found the stupid android attractive, for Pete’s sake, and she didn’t like his new body any better. It was the damned hormones on overload keeping her all fired up with no place to go. Still, if her sister could read her mind right now, she’d probably toss her out the nearest airlock.
The ship was too small, her mid-section was too big, and they had pirates on their tail and way too many babies to protect. She stumbled, pulled herself back to level and considered running some more, but where the hell would she go? She didn’t really want Rook, nor he her. She didn’t want broad shouldered, tight muscled walls of gleaming anything. She wanted an Emperor.
A tiny foot stabbed her bladder. She moaned and leaned forward. What if the baby wasn’t his? What if he figured her situation out before she could be certain? What if she peed her pants in the hallway?
“Come on kid, give me a break.”
Lusting after her sister’s husband was bad enough without adding incontinence.
Zora shook it off. She stood up and tossed her hair. She could handle this situation. She’d been through worse and came out shining like a sun. She was Bloody Red damn it.
A door slid open in the passage ahead. The galley yawned for a second, and Ignatius Superius I stepped into the hallway. He tilted his head to one side, and a smile curled the corner of his mouth. Zora breathed in.
“Zora.” He took a step closer. The smile deepened and the little lines at the corner of his eyes appeared. “I was hoping to speak with you before we reach Mercur.” He came nearer, and Zora felt her throat dry up. She saw the tiny twitch of his jaw tensing. She heard him inhale. Exhale. “Are you okay?”
She nodded. The baby poked her in the gut. The engine hummed beneath her feet, and the clone Emperor took another step in her direction. It wasn’t like she could help herself. She could blame just about anything on the hormones. Didn’t pregnant women get away with stuff like that all the time?
“Zora?” Ignatius stopped and his eyes narrowed just a tiny bit. He had a sparkle about him, a depth that had nothing at all to do with muscles.
She smiled, gave a wobbly sort of nod, and pounced on him.