Gates took Ryan by the hand and pulled him gently down onto a sward of fluffy
white moss. She could see that he was still worried about the others--still planning, and calculating in his mind how to best secure their safety.
"Don't worry for them." She smiled and reached for Ryan's helmet. "Can't you
hear with that off?"
"I suppose so," Ryan said, lifting the helmet off and setting it aside. He eased
himself back, groaning as the fatigue slipped from his tired limbs.
"I knew you were here," said Gates. "I could sense you were close by, but the
Brood was up in my blood, and I was lost for a while. Forgive me for not coming to you sooner."
Ryan gave her a confused look. He wanted to tell her everything about the danger they were in, and how
important it was for her to get safely back to the container ship. But his mind was a jumble of images, and
worried thoughts pressed in on him from every side. What happened to CLEM? Did Jekko get him back to
the Safe Zone in one piece? When would the Asects emerge again? Would they have enough time to reach the Safe Zone? What about the Lyrpa?
"You are troubled," Gates could sense his discomfort. "You want to fix everything, but you can't, and its
eating you up inside." She put her hand on his brow, smoothing away the lines of concern.
"This place is a nightmare," he said. "We've got more trouble here than we bargained for. If this virus isn't
stopped--" She hushed him, pressing a soft hand over his mouth.
"Please don't be so worried..." Her hand rested on his neck, and Ryan closed his eyes. "There are things I
must tell you" she said, "but not with my words. I must help you to understand in another way, and let you
see what I have seen." Her voice was soft and comforting to him. Her gentle touch seemed to soothe his
cares and quiet the ceaseless calculation in his mind. He let his guard down, easing off the constant vigil he kept.
Gates could feel the subtle shift in his thoughts. He had a strength of character and purpose about him. He
stood apart, stubborn and resolute, but fighting always for the good he perceived in his own heart. She
moved her hand, pressing lightly over his chest to the place where his heart was beating. She could feel the
steady pulse, and more--the rhythm of his emotion bound up in a swirling energy there.
"Let me comfort you..." Ryan felt a rustle of clothing, and opened his eyes to see that Gates had thrown off
her parka. She was naked from the waist up, and loosened her leggings to cast them aside. The sight of her
body stirred him, so smooth and shapely, and yet so fragile against the backdrop of the Wild Zone.
"What are you doing?" He questioned, but she settled in next to him without a word. Her hand traced over
his forehead, closing his eyes and smoothing his cheek. The silent persuasion of her touch stilled his
concern. She sat up and traced her hands over his shoulders and arms, as if easing away the fatigue from
his limbs. Gently, she tugged at the zipper of his flex suit, pulling it all the way down and peeling open the
protective garment as she did so. Ryan gave a start, but she placed her hands on his chest, gentling him
down onto the bed of moss once again. Her touch was so soft and nurturing to him. Her hands moved over
his skin, forgiving, absolving, opening him to a feeling that he had long denied himself.
She joined with him in her mind, feeling the quiet yearning of the man behind the solitary front of his self
-image. He was lost in his own determination. His strength of purpose and the courage of his will had
become a way for him to isolate himself from the pain he carried. She reached for it, like a nurse extending
her healing touch to a wounded patient. There was a loneliness about him and she could sense that he
wanted someone in an almost desperate way, but could never show the need. Images of a woman bloomed
in his mind. A beautiful woman with fair white skin and dark hair. He waited for her in his heart over long
empty years, and he filled the void in his life with his courage and the ceaseless energy of his mind. He
waited still, never complete, wanting her, needing her; loving her with a steadfast loyalty as true as his beating heart.
Gates could feel the love in him, and she wrapped her heart around it--holding it like a child. He would never
have her, this woman in his mind and heart, and Gates could sense that he knew this on some deeper level.
But in spite of the resignation that shrouded his heart, the love would not be stilled. He kept it safe in a quiet
place, that few could find in him. But she saw it, and blessed it with the strength of her own heart as she touched him in the Wild.
Her hands moved over him now, caressing and exciting where once they had comforted him. She would join
with his love, and take the part of the unseen woman he carried inside. She lowered herself and kissed him,
pleased to feel the growing response in his lips. Her mouth opened him, and drew him out to join with the
energy of the Wild. She traced a path of sweet wet kisses along the side of his neck as she moved his hand
to her breast. His touch was light at first, tentative and innocent. Then he took her in his arms as they
kissed more deeply. Her hand roamed and pushed the flex suit away. He shifted it over his shoulders,
sliding it off. His breath came faster when she touched him now, reaching down and finding him ready for
her; caressing him; giving him long moments of pleasure with her hand.
"Join with me..." She whispered, shifting her body over him.
Ryan could feel the soft wetness of her body envelop him. She eased herself down, surrounding him, taking
him in with a gentle rocking motion. They were joined, and Ryan felt a warmth and energy building in his
loins and rising through his body like a wave. No one had touched him this way for a very long time. He felt
the loneliness of his life open up to this woman, and his heart beat faster as she moved above him. He
reached for her, cupping her small breasts in the palms of his hands. He caressed her gently, as they
moved in a synchronous rhythm together. He traced his hands down over her torso and smoothed the
slender contours of her thighs. She touched the place above her heart with one hand, and pressed the other fast against his own...
There was a light in Ryan's mind. A light that grew brighter as the sensation of their lovemaking gathered
strength. It grew from the rising energy of their bodies and illuminated his deepest self. She was with him in
the light. He could feel the sweet presence of another being whispering to him, leading him away. His
awareness followed her, taken off on strange pathways filled with haunting shapes and colors which he did
not understand. But he could feel her strength and the benevolence of her purpose. The whispered coils of her voice tethered him, and drew him safely on.
Images of alien life blossomed in his mind, but he saw them with new eyes now. They were
no longer threatening and hostile to him--no longer something he had to guard against and oppose. The woman led him from one shape to another, each one adding to his
understanding when he passed through it. They played in the filaments of strange drifting
plants, and slid through tendrils of coiled vines. They roamed through the thick stalky trunk of
the Kesha plant, and emerged in the crown of the highest canopy of the Wild. They puffed
away on polyps of alien spores and drifted to the misted floor of the forest to land on the
glistening trail of a jellied creature grazing on the vapor moss. They fled into the twisting roots
which delved beneath the heavy red soil and fingered their way into the quiet darkness of the planet below.
Ryan could hear the rhythmic song of a great presence in the heart of the planet. It sang to them from far
away, like a whale song riding on the deepest currents of the ocean. They listened to the song, and followed
it home to the source. Darkness closed around them, illuminated only by the bright energy of their minds as
they moved. At last they came to a boundary, and Ryan saw the shape of a great barnacled shell in his
mind. The song of the planet emanated from deep inside, resonant and steady, coursing on with a purpose
he could not fathom. This was life, he thought, this was life itself.
Everything in the world around him now, every shape and form was nothing more than a varied expression of
this one life. And he was just another shape in the vastness of the world--a shape tempered by the light of
his mind which could choose to join with everything it had seen, or choose again to shut him away and
stand forever apart. But the sense of his own separateness was only an illusion in the end. Try as he might,
he could not defend the walls of his self for long. The life around him called him out. The song became a chorus, and it wanted his voice in the harmony.
He gave himself to the rhythm even as his body gave itself over to the inevitable sensation that was rising in
him now. His seed flowed into the warmth of the woman as their union was complete. Climax shook his body and he opened his eyes once more.
Gates loomed over him, still joined and moving in a steady rhythm. Her own crescendo added to the energy
of the moment when it came after his. He was taken with her beauty, the soft roundness of her body,
breasts flushed with passion as she arched her back. For that one moment he was emptied into her, one
with her in the giving of his deepest self. The sweetness and complete release of the moment overwhelmed
him. There was no greed in his union-- no taking for the sake of pleasure alone. Instead it was a
wholehearted giving that carried the essence of his self into hers, and blended them into another whole. And
with it all was the deep gratification of feeling he was wanted in the world, and desired here and now by this
woman in the Wild. There was nothing to compare with it. How could he have denied himself this joining for
so many years? How could he remain in the isolation of his self, the struggle and the loneliness when this relief could be experienced?
He sighed with a satisfaction that went far beyond the urges of his body. The joining was a reminder that he
was never alone in the end. It was as close as he could come to the immutable fact that in spite of his
seeming separateness, he was inextricably bound with the people and places of the life he led--bound so
securely that he could never walk apart from them again and not know it. The certainty of his place in the
world was apparent to him--and with it the sacred place of every other shape, even the hideous form of the Asects with all their hunger and vicious anger.
The Asects were just another part of the process here, the destroyer and the changer of shapes and forms.
The life they preyed upon was not lost, but only renewed in the endless cycle. And he even saw the
threatening virus in another light--a gardener, pruning and trimming at the tree of life on Dharma VI. His view
of the world around him was suddenly different. Instead of a hostile world which sought his life at every turn,
he felt the quiet strength and power of the planet--he heard its heartbeat, echoing in the stillness of his mind.
"Mother-Heart..." Gates whispered out a name, and Ryan understood what she meant at last. Against that
understanding the hard steel and plastic of the human shell seemed so ludicrous and unnecessary. The
ships in orbit above, the weapons they brought, the empty wound of the Safe Zone branded on the face of
this world stood out in stark contrast to the soft roundness of the woman above him. Gates fixed his eyes on
her own, and they looked at one another for the longest time. He reached for her, and pulled her close,
surrounding her with his arms. He held her tightly, afraid to release her for fear of losing the realization that had come to him with their lovemaking.
She felt his need and kissed him on the earlobe, whispering a reassurance. "You will not lose this...I am
here for you now, and if not me tomorrow, then another...You have only to give yourself up to find this place
again--to find the woman inside you that you love so deeply. Yes...She may never choose you in this world,
but she will be with you always...You created her! It was your love that gave her life all these years. Do you
see that? And you have only to look for her to find her again in the face of another when you reach this place
together." She paused, kissing him again for a long time. "Let me be here for you if she will not..." There was a question in her voice.
Ryan looked at her, sensing for the first time the admiration and secret feeling Gates had harbored for him.
He smiled at her, warming to the welcome in her face and hands. She was so different now. Her experience
on Dharma VI had changed the quiet young ensign he met on the Achilles into a beautiful woman with a
strength and presence that he found captivating. But there was still an innocence about her, and a shyness
in the question she had asked him. It touched the place in his heart that had waited alone for so many years.
"I understand,” he said. And they held one another for a long time, still joined and cradled in the loom of the
- Copyright (c)
John Schettler, 1992
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