Sharing Atmosphere
by S Shane Thomas

“It’s beautiful,” Jillian said. She pressed herself closer to the view port and snapped pictures on her communicator to share on the colonial starship’s social network. She had become the most popular person onboard since she and her partner transferred to the Colonial Security Force’s off ship detail.

“Do you see that?” her partner Leroy asked. He had no interest in pictures or intranet social activity. Leroy's social circle was small and nearly complete. He only hoped for the attention of the colony’s most popular CSF officer, his partner.

The shuttle’s viewport revealed a green world and its small desert moon. The moon’s orbit passed so close to the planet that their atmospheres commingled. Small flecks glinted in the light of their star, people and small vessels traversed the expanse between planet and moon with no more propulsion than a jump. Gravity simply weakened between the opposing forces. Leroy and Jillian were on assignment to pass through the phenomenon with sensors to give scientists in the colony a better idea this unique relationship.

Their craft landed in a clearing on the forested world near the outskirts of the town their telescope reports indicated as a daily contact point with the desert moon. A man approached with a thin book in his extended hands. He looked remarkably more human than the handful of sentient species Leroy and Jillian had encountered since their posting began. The book he held contained a flash card collection intended to assist foreigners in communication. After bartering shuttle rations for the book, Jillian and Leroy made their way into town.

None of the locals seemed surprised to see aliens in their midst. Jillian reasoned that the anomaly had attracted the attention of other sentient space explorers. Most of the villagers they saw worked with lumber, tilled fields, or tended shops. Others looked to be visitors from the desert moon wearing lighter garments shopping in pairs and threes. There seemed to be no species differentiation between the groups, Leroy suspected this atmospheric link had enabled commingling for thousands of years.

Leroy and Jillian saw a large group of women from the desert moon gathered in the clearing. They conferred among one another that the clearing seemed like the place where gravity and atmospheres touched. The lightly garbed flock spotted Leroy and he returned a half dozen coy smiles. A local shop keeper saw the exchange, scoffed loudly and ferried his wares back inside of a small cottage. One of the women approached the explorers and batted lashes on huge, innocent doe eyes.

“Hello,” Jillian said with a wave.

The woman smiled in return and pointed to the book, indicating that she wanted to communicate through the drawings. As Jillian pored over the picture translations for better than five minutes she failed to notice the remainder of the desert moon women encircling Leroy and enticing the man away from his partner with gestures and coy smiles.

“Woman…group…explore…star…man…” Jillian puzzled over the message for a moment and turned to confer with Leroy. Her partner and the rest of the desert women were no where near the clearing. The CSF officer latched upon the wrist of the doe eyed distractor just as she attempted to slip away. The desert woman attempted to wrench her arm free, but Jillian proved tougher than her pretty farm girl features let on. She put years of combative training to work and whirled the woman about into a shoulder lock nearly touching her opponent’s hand to her shoulder blades. Jillian shoved the pages for star and man into her face.

With a whimper the trapped girl pointed up and Jillian saw a group of women with Leroy bound by the wrists floating toward the moon propelled only by what looked like cloth paddles attached to the arms of a woman who had wrapped her legs around Leroy to pull him along. Feelings of urgency and something unfamiliar pounded in Jillian’s chest. Still holding her captive, Jillian raced toward the point where the others departed, cuffed the woman’s wrists, and lashed them to her belt. There remained one pair of the wing like fans and Jillian flapped without hesitation, despite the cries of protest from her captive.

Jillian thought the experience was some mix between the zero gravity of a spacewalk and swimming. The blonde explorer worked the fans attempting to close the distance and recapture her partner. She worried about what those women could want with Leroy. Poor man, he mooned over her in secret; except that a woman knows when someone wants more than friendship. Was that stray feeling jealousy? Jillian dismissed the thought and focused all her will on the pursuit.

While the floating came easy, the landing required skill. Jillian and her captive tumbled into a heap, limbs tangled, hair entwined. The moon woman once again had the space man pages thrust in her face and she pointed a trembling finger into a tangle of squat, mud brick buildings. After traversing a maze of alleys and avenues the unlikely pair came at last to a door left slightly ajar.

Jillian burst into the home, captive in her wake. The front rooms looked empty but a light shone from under a rear door and strange noises could be heard. A boot sent the door flying open and Jillian gasped at the scene. Leroy wore nothing but crimson cheeks and the women pawed him, giggling. The man looked first confused, and then happy to see Jillian and raised hands, still bound, in greeting. One of the women prepared to charge Jillian, but her captive partner yelled a short warning and the giggling stopped.

After another session in the translation guide Leroy had dressed and the captive woman was released. The women explained that their custom allowed for the capture of men from the forest women for a night of fun. The males on the desert moon were sorely outnumbered by females. After apologies and salutations the CSF officers made their way back to the forest town through the atmospheric tunnel and onto their shuttle.

 “You know Leroy, you haven’t thanked me for saving you yet.”

“Oh, I uhh…”

“I did save you from something you didn’t want to do right?”

“Well you saved me from doing something with the wrong someone, or lady gang from all appearances.”

Jillian was taken by surprise. “You’ve got a girlfriend in the colony?”

“Oh, a no… No one I’m involved with. Just, ah… you know someone I’ve got my eye on.”

Jillian pecked her partner on the cheek. “Lucky girl.”

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