Hunted Hermaphrodite Lover by KS Augustin by KS Augustin - Read Online

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Hunted Hermaphrodite Lover - KS Augustin

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2008 Gaylactic Spectrum Award Recommended Short List (Short Fiction) under the title PRIME SUSPECT.

A lonely being in a lonely galaxy…

Heron Meed has two strikes against it. It is a hemaphrodite in a galaxy dominated by two-gendered beings. And it’s a convicted criminal.

After six years of incarceration, Heron is trying to start a new life, but that isn’t easy when so many avenues are closed to it. It finally finds a refuge of sorts on the Castor Xeni Orbital and a surcease from its pain in the arms of voluptuous Subah Doisson, but then various systems on the Orbital start getting sabotaged. With a small engineering population, and Heron the only newcomer to the station, how can the hermaphrodite prove its innocence amid a sea of entrenched prejudice?

2016 update: this book, previously titled PRIME SUSPECT, has been re-edited for this edition. A compact list of people, places and things is also included.

People

Heron Meed / Fusmic / Acqui K’liven / Subah Doisson / Georg Sessen / Erdonn / Oerter / Inras Idis / Tix / Jay / Tumi / Kiz Vin E

Places

Scribus sector / Bliss / e’Bultar Detention Centre / Castor Xeni Orbital / Morhea sector / Tuskel / Sabreo sector / Dobos VII / Fodox Stellar Barrens

Things

hermies / 389-R1 / mem-stick / memory-vibe

Chapter One

Heron Meed tried to look nonchalant as it handed over its identity chip.

Immigration. Not for the first time, the hermaphrodite wondered what selection process seemed to award the role of planetary gatekeeper to people who looked either like sadistic bastards or apathetic sloths. Not that it had, in all honesty, too much face-to-face experience with such people.

Once, years ago, as a member of the Republic Space Fleet, it and its cohorts could enter and leave territories with impunity, laughing at the petty bureaucrats that seemed to find pleasure in harassing tourists. But that was before the mutiny charge, and six years of lonely incarceration.

While the queue slowly shuffled forward, it wondered, as it always did, whether the sentence at the penal colony in the Scribus sector was in recognition of its previous service or a fiendish punishment. On the prison-planet of Bliss, there was no chance of escape, but liberation from e’Bultar meant that Heron would have to live with being one of the little people for the rest of its life. Stripped of all its former privileges, Heron Meed would now have to cultivate an air of shallow humility and abide by the petty rules it had previously abhorred.

The person in front of Heron, a salesman bearing samples of advanced radiation shielding, completed his formalities and moved beyond the holding area. Heron stepped forward and handed over its identity chip.

What was your last place of embarkation? the Immigration officer asked, his colourless eyes alight with a perverse pleasure as his gaze flicked over the information displayed on his monitor.

You already know that, you bastard.

The e’Bultar Detention Centre, Heron replied quietly. It didn’t have to turn around to see fleeting expressions of distress flash on the faces of passengers behind it. The shuffling of feet and sound of sudden furtive movements said it all.

Were you visiting an inmate perhaps? the officer asked with false innocence.

Heron didn’t hesitate. Its voice was firm. No.

The condescending smile was wiped from the officer’s face as quickly as it appeared and Heron knew the game was now on: it versus officialdom.

There was nothing anybody could do to stop Heron from entering the Castor Xeni Orbital. According to the regulations—and it had read them most carefully before leaving e’Bultar—artificial habitat constructs were not off-limits to recently released criminals the way precious natural planets were. It couldn’t see the logic in such a policy but, for the moment, was glad of the loophole. But it also knew that Officer―Heron quickly scanned the ID badge―Fusmic would make things as difficult as possible.

Tough. The passenger transport it had arrived on was the last one for three days and if there was no pretext for throwing the hermaphrodite into a holding cell―which there would not be―then Immigration had to let it through to enter the orbital proper.

There seems to be an irregularity, the Immigration officer said, after a lengthy pause. He looked past Heron and gave the other passengers in the queue a conciliatory smile.

Not my fault at all, ladies and gentlemen. Who knows where scum of the galaxy will turn up?

According to this, your gender…

Fusmic left off and ran his eyes suggestively down the slim figure on the other side of the low, steel counter. The being identified as Heron Meed had regular features: olive skin, square jaw, high cheekbones, slightly slanted silver-grey eyes and dark straight hair cut short. There was the slight protuberance in its throat, at odds with the soft curves that the snug-fitting faded jacket could not hide. Much as it also could not hide―Fusmic’s eyes moved lower―the bulge in its military-style trousers.

Heron was used to the looks, the almost-physical stripping that it was forced to endure more times than it liked, and remained impassive.

I’m a hermaphrodite from the Morhea sector. The last I heard, Heron drawled, unable to contain its contempt, "Morhea is still part of the Republic. Or are you telling me that the secessionist movement succeeded in its aims?"

Fusmic’s eyes widened and he threw the chip back across the counter where it skittered to a stop in front of the hermaphrodite.

We don’t like your kind here, he snarled, although whether he meant Heron’s immediate past or gender was unclear. See to your business then get lost. His eyes finally moved past Heron. Next.

Heron picked up its chip, hoisted the backpack on its shoulder and kept walking.

Could have been worse, it said softly.

Could have been a hell of a lot better.

Now that Heron was clear of the first major hurdle, it stopped to take a good look around.

Upon release from a detention centre, the Republic generously offered a single one-way trip to the destination of the ex-prisoner’s choice, provided the destination was limited to neighbouring sectors no more than two crease-jumps away. Knowing its behaviour had been exemplary and that release was looming, Heron had spent the last several months of imprisonment trudging through stick after stick of data, sifting through the blaring Denied! on most worlds before finally compiling a shortlist of four possible destinations. Going home―to the Morhea Sector, to admitted failure―was not an option. Which left two orbitals, one moon habitat and an asteroid belt. At the time, staring at the dull grey walls of its cell, the Castor Xeni Orbital had seemed the best choice.

Heron knew of Castor Xeni from its old days in the Space Fleet. The privately-owned orbital specialised in the repair and refitting of commercial and luxury spacecraft and even the Fleet had been known to dock there for emergency repairs. It was a busy place, full of dynamic ship traffic, supporting several cadres of engineers and an extensive array of maintenance and infrastructure crews. Between working on ships, personnel were often also involved in intensive mining operations on the planet the orbital circled, the source of many of the exotic ores its commerce relied on.

Busy, however, did not translate to a high turnover of personnel. Ships came, carrying no extra passengers, and ships left, better than before but also carrying no paying passengers. Castor Xeni was strictly a place of business and not many people’s first choice of pleasure spot, which explained the low frequency of commuter services.

Heron considered this lack of a transient population as good news. Few visitors meant a dearth of loud-mouthed tourists, overzealous security personnel and inane shallow pleasure-seekers who viewed sex with a hermaphrodite as nothing more than a notch on their hedonist belts. Although, now having passed Immigration and its condescending