...Sundown was a catalyst, rare among the Chal. Without him, the clan would eventually die out. Only a catalyst had the ability to merge beyond the skin of another, to become one with them. I stared him down.
“When you appeared to me as the girl, you touched my arm and left a few molecules of yourself behind, didn’t you?”
He nodded slowly. “Yes.”
An uneasy shiver prickled the skin across my back and chest. Okay, they wouldn’t hurt me, but would they eventually change me? “Are they multiplying inside me?”
“No. No, they are not.”
“I don’t believe… “ I leaned back. “Oh, I get it. They’ve finished doing their job by now, right?”
“So when do you teach me how to change shape?”
His eyebrows shot up to his hairline. “Fallon, wearing a different skin is not possible for you.” Sundown blinked rapidly, looking more and more shocked. “You would wish it?”
I shook my head. “No, I do not wish it for myself. It’s not normal for a human, Sundown. Come, sit on the couch with me.”
I picked up my coffee cup and eased down on the brightly colored scarves covering his sofa. I loved his room with its red and gold brocades, bead curtains, and bright cloths. It made me nostalgic for the days of Woodstock, even though I’d not been born until nine months after the Summer of Love changed the world. I lifted my arm and Sundown nestled in against my side.
“Are you angry with me, Fallon?”
Was I? Some inner knowledge assured me he’d not harmed me in any way.
“I’m concerned. That’s different. What happens if I get hurt and some doctor discovers weird little cells dancing around inside me?”
Sundown sipped his coffee. He licked his full lips and took another drink. He was trying to stall me in the hopes I’d ask something else and give him the opportunity to bypass giving me an answer. I wasn’t going to allow him to get away with such a ploy, not this time. I waited. Sundown finally sighed.
“It hasn’t happened yet, Fallon.”
His answer didn’t surprise me. The Chal used every means at their disposal to protect themselves and the clan, whether or not we humans would approve their actions.
“Here’s a news flash for you, lover. Forensic medicine has come a long way in a short time, and it’s possible today’s technology can detect those cells now.”
Sundown sat up straight and twisted to stare at me. I saw Czun Dun Nhunfi, the pride of his clan, before me. His quick intelligence absorbed the information, considered the ramifications, and developed options. I stroked his smooth cheek with my knuckles and gave his words back to him, gently.
“It hasn’t happened yet, darling. How many humans have you done this to?”
His chin lifted. “You once accused me of using you as my science project. In this, you’re correct. The knowledge handed down to me said it was indeed possible to blend with a human in this way and thus know their thoughts. I needed to know if this were true.”
“You’re avoiding giving me a number, Czun Dun Nhunfi.”
“What was handed down said it was possible for those like me. My ancestors who were catalysts did this to gain knowledge of their captors. It is said without doing this, the Chal could not have escaped slavery on this world thousands of years ago.”
If the folks at SETI only knew how right they were…and how late they were to the game...