Specially for those of you who want a sneak peek….
FROM THE ASHES
Eggs produced purely for human consumption were rare and hideously expensive commodities. Calista considered herself immensely privileged to have actually dined on one, given that the majority of commoners had never even laid eyes on one. The menu had claimed it was “soft boiled”, with the white cooked until firm but the yolk warm and runny. And given the fuss and ceremony which had accompanied its journey to her table, afterward she’d been too embarrassed to admit to her host that she didn’t much care for the taste.
So Calista knew a real egg when she saw one. What she didn’t know was what the hell kind of creature might have laid this monster.
She dug her hands into the gel and extracted the egg from its goopy cocoon. It weighed about three pounds. She lugged it over to a packing bench and laid it carefully down.
Despite knowing that it was fragile and that she risked cracking it, she couldn’t resist touching it again. She stroked the gel from its surface with her palms, marveling at its size.
Sheesh! Some Libertine chef was gonna be cooking up a heap of omelets with this sucker. No accounting for the gourmet tastes of the rich and libidinous. Dudes! Didn’t your mothers tell you that when it comes to edibles, big is not always tastier? Little wonder the crate had been shielded and its contents so carefully packaged. This thing was worth a fortune!
She’d allowed herself to be distracted by wishful calculations as to how many credits this egg would fetch in various illegal marketplaces, when one very important fact smacked her upside the head. The egg’s shell was warm. Which meant….
A living embryo.
As if voice-activated, the egg came to life and shuddered beneath her hands.
Calista forced her rubbery limbs to move and backed away. Whatever manner of creature was eventually going to hatch from it, and whatever the purchaser’s plans for it might be, she wanted no part of it.
A faint tapping noise cut through her panicked thoughts.
She saw fine cracks marring the egg’s shell.
Calista’s heart thudded like a mad thing in her chest. It couldn’t be hatching now….
Images of some nightmarish, ravenous creature skittered through her mind. She whirled on her heel, intending to flee.
Don’t look. Do. Not. Look!
Of course she halted. And looked. She couldn’t help herself. She was just dumb that way.
The shell split in two, revealing a human infant. Amidst the shattered remains of eggshell, it uncurled itself, its torso glistening with fluids, hair slicked to its skull. It waved its arms and legs, as if luxuriating in the freedom of movement after being cramped in a fetal position. Then it yawned and rubbed its eyes with its tiny fists.
It was such an inherently human gesture that Calista’s fear dissolved and she couldn’t help the goofy smile spreading across her face because it was so gosh-darned cute!
She ventured closer, staring down at the baby. The smile froze on her lips. No freaking way! She had to be dreaming. Not even the most sought-after and talented enhancement specialist could replicate that!
She squeezed her eyelids shut, rubbed them, and then for good measure, blinked a couple of times. But the extra er…appendage was still there.
Two sets of male genitals? Oookay then. Definitely a “he” not an “it”.
He opened his eyes and focused on her.
A sharp pain bloomed in Calista’s skull, a close-your-eyes-and-grit-your-teeth pain that spiked but before she could scream, almost instantly dissipated, leaving her clutching her temples and sagging with relief.
When she finally dared pry open her eyelids, the infant had grown to the size of a small child. His eyes were mesmerizing, blacker than black irises, with diagonal golden striations shaped like tiny lightning bolts bursting outward from the pupils.
He swung his legs over the edge of the bench. And before Calista could even understand what she was actually witnessing, the child hopped off the bench and morphed into a fully grown man.
FROM THE ASHES