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2. Adaptive Adoption

1. The Drafting Board

Adaptive Adoption

on 2018-04-12 20:50:57
Episode last modified by nothingsp on 2018-04-14 13:36:28

2020 hits, 171 views, 7 upvotes.

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"Scott, are you awake?"

Scott groaned and pulled his comforter closer. Why does she always have to do this? I already have an alarm clock... Really, he knew, it was because she thought acting strongly maternal would help both sides of the family bond, but he was plenty old enough to get himself up when it was necessary. Besides, it's Saturday...

"It's nearly five marks into the daycycle now!"

He sighed. That's, what, seven-thirty? Jeez louise...

"If you're not going to awaken yourself, I'll have to come in, dear..."

"Alright," he answered, somewhat irritably. "I'm up, I'm up..." He rolled out of bed, already regretting it as the cold November morning seized him in its grip as soon as the comforter was off. Even with heat being cheaper than ever, he thought to himself, Dad still refuses to keep it at a decent temperature around here...

Scott shivered as his feet touched the floor and pulled on a pair of socks as quickly as he could, followed by sweatpants and sweatshirt. Suitably dressed against the frosty morning air, he shook his head to toss his hair into some semblance of order and went out into the hall, where his stepmother was wearing a pale silver-blue lamé minidress cinched with a pale gold belt around the waist, long silver-white stockings, and not much else, and hovering patiently about three feet off the ground.

The aliens had formally arrived on Earth early in the twenty-first century, although there were always those who claimed they'd made visits for decades or centuries or millennia before that. All things considered, first contact had gone surprisingly well; they had come for peaceful purposes and not conquest, and humanity had, on the whole, managed to keep its shit together well enough to establish a working relationship with them.

As it had turned out, they were primarily interested in humanity for study and cultural exchange - what they had pieced together of human culture from nearly a century of radio-frequency audio and video transmissions, they found intriguing, and the simplest way to learn more about it was through direct contact. In exchange, they were willing to share some of their technology with the human race, though humanity's own assessments of its warlike nature (as seen in multiple classic science-fiction movies broadcast on the late-night block) made them leery of being too free with such things.

But what was more interesting than the worldwide implications, for a lot of people, was the fact that, broadly speaking, the "aliens" were pretty much human. In fact, the only differences that were apparent at a glance were the antennae and headband and the fact that they had, at best, a loose relationship with gravity. The antennae were a pair of flexible metallic stalks that grew out of the upper forehead, with a colored metallic sphere at the end, while the headband was another metallic structure that rested slightly above the antennae and spanned the head like a bridge from one temple to the other, connecting to the skull at those points. As far as humanity knew, both of these were some kind of sensory organs.

As far as the gravity thing was concerned, it wasn't so much that they were totally unaffected by it - hair and other loose body parts would be drawn towards the ground just as with Earthly creatures, and strictly speaking they must have had some means of allowing the Earth to draw them with it since they could remain stationary relative to a point on the surface and not shoot around the world at thousands of miles per hour. But however it worked, the body of an alien, as a whole, was under no particular compulsion to touch the ground unless they decided they wanted to, and they could easily move around in mid-air without any obvious means of propulsion.

There were a few other differences that weren't so immediately apparent. Somehow or other, they were adapted to an outer-space environment, somehow able to breathe in a vacuum; this was probably also the reason they didn't seem particularly bothered by temperature, which was why they tended to dress light even in cold weather. Of course, there were rumors of other strange powers as well, but if they had these, they were good at keeping them under wraps, and such accounts were generally dismissed as fringe theories.

However, one ability they did have was about to have a major impact on Scott's own life.

Scott stood in the hallway as his stepmother greeted him with a warm, if slightly odd, smile. "Your father was called in to work already," she said. "You should prepare to start your day soon. Breakfast is nearly ready if you'll come downstairs." He nodded in acknowledgement, and she turned, with a flourish of her long purple hair, and sailed downstairs. Across the hall, through the window of the master bedroom, he could see her saucer parked above the front lawn. It was, after all, much too big to fit in the garage.

His stepmother was, as he understood it, assistant secretary of something-or-other to one of the diplomats at the local alien embassy, which was one of the more recently-opened ones. She'd come to Earth about five years ago, shortly after it opened. He'd even seen one of his stepsisters transfer in and graduate from high school at that time. In fact, his father had met his new bride at the graduation ceremony, and after a little over a year of dating, they'd decided to get married; the wedding had taken place only a month ago.

After well over a decade of contact, this was hardly the first time such a thing had happened, but it got no small amount of attention regardless, and Scott had wound up on the butt-end of that more than once at school, even before the actual marriage. Part of him felt a bit resentful over that, but he generally reminded himself that, in fairness, his new siblings got targeted just as frequently, and that was on top of the attention they drew just by being aliens. And it wasn't as if he'd led a particularly fulfilling social life to begin with.

Yawning and missing his warm bed, he made his way down to the kitchen. Zomu was sitting at the table, her neck-length dark blue hair somewhat tousled, idly munching on a piece of whole-wheat toast which had been copiously slathered with butter and honey, a mug of steaming coffee next to her plate. He waved hello to her, and she acknowledged him with a nod and a barely-monosyllabic noise of affirmation before returning to her book, taciturn as usual. She was the older of his stepmother's two daughters, the one that had already graduated, and she was currently majoring in English at a college not too far away.

She was, he supposed, home early for the weekend; she'd probably rolled in late last night, since she was obviously not too long out of bed herself and currently wearing her usual lounging-around-the-house outfit of not very much at all, save for a dull gray aluminum-foil-looking bikini-type affair that was only just this side of actually being underwear. Alone of the three aliens who were now part of his family, she actually sat down at the table (or, at least, hovered in a sitting position fairly close to the surface of the chair.) Scott had never asked, but he was fairly certain this was because she usually ate with one hand and held one of her books in the other, and it was easier to juggle food items if she was actually at the correct height for the table.

Layka, on the other hand, was currently curled up like a cat close to the ceiling, napping on the updraft from the furnace register, and still wearing the loose, baggy golden pajama shirt and pants that she normally slept in. She stirred gently when he entered the room, turned a sleepy eye to him, and smiled groggily, her warm green bangs half-obscuring her face. "Mmmmmornin', danzi," she said, her drowsiness still evident in her voice.

Scott nodded acknowledgement. "Mornin'," he said, still fairly sleepy himself. "Danzi" was, as far as he could tell, a term of endearment for an older sibling (she called Zomu the same thing,) but he didn't know what the counterpart for her would've been. He looked up at her as she curled back up and went back to sleep like she'd never stirred in the first place. Layka was the younger sister, somewhere around eleven or twelve in Earth years if he understood correctly; that looked to be about right, anyway. When she was awake, she was cheery and energetic, but actually getting her to that state was a challenge in itself. For the time being, Scott left her to her dozing and went about getting breakfast.

"Breakfast" in the blended family was a bit different than he was used to, at least on the weekend when his stepmother had time to make a full spread. They were prevented from importing too many off-world plant items until studies were completed regarding their potential as invasive species, though processed, non-seed-bearing things were allowed - like the thick, chewy, cactus-ey-looking leaves that were currently sitting out in a baking dish after roasting in the oven until the fringes just started to turn crispy. Scott thought these were pretty good - they had a bit of a caramelized flavor, like sauteed onions, only with a mellow, nutty taste at the base, and there was enough there to bite into that it didn't feel like eating a salad.

For other dishes, they simply made do with near-equivalents from Earth; the aliens' tastes tended to run towards savory, spicier foods, which meant that overall the cooking in the household looked oddly Southwestern, minus the alien leaves and the ever-present bottle of sriracha sauce. Fortunately for Scott, there were enough things that weren't too hot for his taste that he was able to get a satisfactory meal, although the whole idea of having such an enormous breakfast was kind of odd to him. (He wondered where it all went, on them - maybe defying gravity just took a lot of energy?)

Though admittedly, he did seem to be adjusting a bit in his own tastes - he actually enjoyed some of the spicier items now, like the chorizo that apparently substituted for some back-home meat in a sort of "things embedded in scrambled egg" omelette-ish affair he was currently loading onto his plate. After a moment of consideration, he figured what the hell and decided to try adding a little sriracha on top. It went down easier than he'd expected, but he noticed his stepmother giving him a surprised look.

As Scott was finishing his breakfast, his stepmother gave him a meaningful nod in the direction of the living room. Zomu was still winding down - she ate the slowest of anybody on account of almost constantly having some reading material in one hand - and Layka had only just drifted down to the table a few minutes before, still half-asleep but roused by the smell of her mother's cooking, so it was just the two of them as he followed her over and sat down on the couch, wondering what this was about.

She leaned in toward him, sitting cross-legged a few inches above the coffee table, a thoughtful frown showing on her face as if she were trying to think of how to broach an awkward subject. "Scott," she said tentatively, "it's been nearly a lun-er, a 'month' since your father and I were married..."

Scott nodded, feeling awkward and wondering where she was going with this. He knew that perfectly well - though in reality they'd moved in together as soon as they'd gotten engaged, in an effort to give the kids more time to adjust.

She looked almost as hesitant as he felt. "And...well, since you've become my child...I feel like I ought to explain about the changes your body is going through."

Scott hadn't known until now that it was even possible to lurch forward in astonishment and cringe simultaneously. His eyes went wide. Was...was she really doing this!? Did she actually think he'd ended up in high school without ever getting "the talk?" He sputtered. "Lal-uh, Mom!" he said, trying to cut her off before it got seriously mortifying. "I...I already know all that stuff, okay?"

She looked a little surprised. "Really? I thought..."

"Y-yeah, really," he said, trying to sound firmly authoritative. "Dad already told me all about it, in way more detail than I ever wanted."

His stepmother brightened. "Well, I'm glad you're alright with it, then. I was worried you might not know what to expect."

Scott nodded, forcing an awkward smile. "Yeah, well, you know how it is. Nothing you can do about the awkward bits, right...?" He began edging toward the door in an attempt to escape the conversation.

She smiled. "That's a good way of thinking. I just want you to know that you can always come talk to me about it if you ever need to."

Scott smiled, nodded, and darted out of the room.

Lalaxi leaned back against nothing, folding her arms behind her head and crossing and uncrossing her legs as she thought back over the conversation. She honestly hadn't expected her stepson to be too well-informed on the subject. It wasn't something they kept secret, but it wasn't exactly common knowledge, either, since only a handful of her people intermarried with Earthlings each year, and only a certain number of those involved partners who already had children.

That last was the key point. It was her people's custom, when two families became one, to encourage the familial bond by having the mother take the father's children as her own. This was accomplished by means of a localized spacetime distortion, effectively altering reality such that the children's bodies had always been born of their new mother, so that the instinctive attachments to family that became ingrained in the brain in childhood would be translated to the new family arrangement.

Of course, it couldn't actually change history - which would have been ethically questionable in any case - so Scott's friends and classmates would have some adjusting to do, and his own consciousness would remain perfectly aware of the true story, but the net result was a sort of temporal stitch that caused present reality to gradually realign itself to the correct state of being.

And now that she thought of it, Scott had been surprisingly willing to cooperate - he'd even carried the crystal orb that housed the energy lattice which performed the temporal surgery during the wedding ceremony. She'd been a little surprised by that at the time, wondering if he really understood the significance, but if David had already explained things to his son, as Scott claimed, then surely he must have been ready and willing to go through with it. Perhaps even his hesitance in the conversation just now was a sign of his commitment to being a part of her family - had he feared that her words might cause him to develop...what was it they said here, "cold feet?"

She smiled warmly at that thought. Fortunately for him, it was too late to change his mind now. The orb had done its work during the ceremony just as planned, and reality would gradually have been rewriting Scott's genetic code for the last month. In fact, it was already reaching the point where it would begin affecting more complex structures - she'd noticed at breakfast that, at the very top of his head, his roots had turned from the old dirty blonde to a lovely cotton-candy pink. She couldn't wait to meet the new child of hers that he would become.

Still, she thought to herself, it was surprising that he was apparently taking it so well, considering. She was certain she'd explained to David about her reproductive system, and he must certainly have understood the implications of that when he was explaining to Scott about the adoption process...

After all, women of her species were born with one or the other of the two possible ovary types, and hers, as anyone could tell by looking at Zomu and Layka, was the kind that bore only daughters.

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