Author : Rosa King

It’s the fifth day and she still hasn’t given up. She sits just outside the range of the station defenses and she watches.

I look out of the window and shiver despite the warm fug of the laboratory. “She knows.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Tom says. “It has no way of knowing what’s in here. You’re imagining things.” He catches sight of my hand where it cradles my still flat belly and sneers, and I wonder what I ever saw in him. “You’re anthropomorphizing. It’s a low level life form and there’s no way it will miss one egg from fifteen.”

“She knows,” I insist. “Look at her. She knows we have it.”

Tom throws down his data module and stalks away, leaving me to stare out of the window and face her.

The creature gets up in a ripple of iridescent scale and walks away, graceful on her six delicate legs. She disappears into the cover of the yellow bushes, so similar to our own but subtly different.

My other hand steals to my abdomen unbidden, and I stare at the space where she was and wait.

The alarm buzzes and Tom runs to the main console and swears. “Something just hit the back wall. How did it get past the defenses?” He moves to the airlock and the suits and guns, preparing to check the damage.

I stay where I am and, sure enough, she comes back and sits right where she was before and stares at me.

My chest tightens as I face her golden slotted eyes and I try to force down the lump rising in my chest. “I’m so sorry,” I whisper, and I know that she wouldn’t care if she knew. Not as long as we have her baby. Something flutters under my heart and it feels as though my own child knows my shame.

I turn and look at the yellow egg, nestled in its bed of native sand sealed within a protective atmosphere. It glows red-gold in the warmth of the heat lamps and I watch it shift under my gaze as the baby tests its tiny world, waiting to see its mother when it wakes. Except it won’t, because we stole it. I wrap my arms around my abdomen and hate myself a little bit more.

She’ll be back tomorrow, and I’ll have to face her again, the same way that I have to face her every day until Tom decides that we have enough samples and we return to Earth with our stolen treasure.

I don’t think I can do this job anymore.


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