Ace lay on a beautiful beach of fine, royal purple, sand. Cool ocean water misted the clean air as the waves broke on the shore. Not-Jasmine released it's lovely scent throughout the seaside gardens. Children ran, hopped or slithered in and out of the water or they built sand temples to be gleefully jumped on.
The adults were much less energetic. A group of twenty or so sprawled, naked and enervated, across the sand. Ace felt a lethargic poke from the enormous lizard on her right. He was a L'zrd, appropriately enough. She nudged the grey humanoid woman, one of several Marzt (it was their lovely planet,) on her left who tapped a serpentine !Sst on the head who prodded another Marzt who sleepily reached into a tub of ice water and pulled out a dripping blue bottle. It was passed back hand over claw to the L'zrd who sighed "Seventeen Thanks," to them all as he bit the top off and took a drink.
A red beetle flew onto Ace's bare breast. She lazily flicked it off again and it journeyed on with a whirrrr of little wings. She sighed with contentment.
"Oh, it should be rrrather easy," a familiar voice purred some way away and Ace swore as she quickly covered herself with a spare towel. What does a girl have to do to get an all-over tan in this Universe?! The Professor strode into view. He was wearing a grey woolen bathing suit circa 1924, his hat low over his eyes against the warm sunlight, and he was waving his sonic screwdriver around in an all encompassing motion. He was being followed intently by a small group of aliens who seemed very excited. The screwdriver made a sickly noise and the Professor whacked it.
"What's this nonsense?" the L'zrd, Scraw, asked no one in particular.
The device suddenly blinked into life with a ping!ping!ping! and the Professor studied it carefully. His group waited in agonized anticipation.
Ace recognized the signs and she raised herself onto her elbows. "This nonsense," she whispered to her reptilian friend, "Is a trick of some sort."
"Ooooh," the Marzt woman, Pixti, also rose up to pay attention.
The Professor raised his other hand slowly into the air. And waited. And waited. And waited some more until Pixti was reduced to giggles, Scraw was tapping his claws on the sand and Ace was on the verge of screaming. Just before everyone dropped dead of suspense the Professor dramatically pointed West and shouted "SHE'S OVER THERE! Just inside the jungle!" His followers took off, kicking sand in all directions as they pelted en masse towards the treeline. "Quickly! Quickly!" the Professor jogged forward a few steps until the crowd passed, leaving him free to do a casual loop and come back to Ace's recumbent gang. He was grinning and he raised his hat to them all.
Ace squinted up at him and smiled. "What was that all about?"
He raised a finger to his lips and looked all around before he answered in a dramatic whisper, "There's a Human Female on the beach!" Pixti gasped. Scraw hissed. Ace looked on in burgeoning horror as everyone reacted, some with disbelief, some with disgust, to the Professor's news. "Her genetic signature was picked up at the resort but there's some sort of interference," he scratched his nose with his sonic screwdriver, "And they can't pinpoint her. But I can," he nodded in the direction of the trees.
No less than five people decided to take him at his word and they got up to investigate. Ace watched them go as she tucked her towel even tighter around herself. Gloom settled in. She had been having such a nice time. Well, of course she was. Always, always, you get lulled into complacency as the books say and then WHAM! Was she illegal for some reason? Should she run? The Professor calmly sat in the sand at Ace's feet. Apparently it wasn't time to run. So...
"Just what's wrong with being a Human Female?" Ace asked calmly.
Pixti was aghast. "Surely you can't be from such a backwater that's never heard of Human Females?"
"I assure you, she can," the Professor answered. "Her planet doesn't have interstellar travel yet."
There was general pity for Ace and she bore it well. Pixti decided to educate the ignorant, "You see," the grey woman began, "Humans come from, oh, far away..." she flung her arm out to indicate a vast distance, "So far away that they evolved differently from everyone else." Ace thought of the Australian platypus and nodded her head. Despite herself, she was intrigued. Pixti went on, her skin blushing blue with embarrassment, "Humans have no mating season."
She acted as if that explained everything but Ace looked at her blankly. Scraw decided to fill in the gaps. "She's not saying humans don't mate. They do."
"They do?" Ace asked innocently.
"Yes. The problem is they mate all the time! It's very hard to believe but it's true. Humans indulge whenever, however and with whoever they please any day of their year." He waited for some reaction from his audience.
"They have sex for fun!" Pixti emphasized.
Who didn't? Ace allowed her eyes to go wide with only half-faked astonishment. "And that's unusual?"
"Are you, perhaps, from a religious order that doesn't discuss such things? Or are you underage?" Pixti gently asked.
"No! Oh, no, I was just...er...all I know is what's normal for my own people. Sex is fun for us." Despite her assurance that she was worldly and mature this was quickly turning into a conversation she didn't want to have in front of the Professor. He was looking on with that horrible little half smile of his and Ace felt a blush lurking in the wings. She quickly looked down to make sure that her towel was doing its job.
"Fulfilling biological necessity is a relief, certainly, but I'd hardly call it fun," the !Sst, Mmarlsa, mused as she stretched out her coils. "I'm thinking seriously of retiring."
"Yes, I've gotten the operation myself," Scraw shared. "Two hundred and thirty healthy children is quite enough."
"Oh?" Mmarlsa asked, sweetly innocent. "Is that all?"
All the humanoids exchanged an amused glance at the competitiveness of egg-laying reptiles as Scraw started to tap the sand again. Ace quickly interrupted, "But the women? Why are the human females so bad?"
"The human males are limited," Scraw continued, "They can only perform once and then they have to build up their strength again. That takes days." A smile threatened and Ace fought it down. "But the Human Females can do this thing every day! Continuously! And enjoy it every time!"
"What?" said another Marzt woman, frowning. "Why would they stop then? They'd go insane."
"They ARE insane!" Pixti said.
"What?" Ace asked, staring at her.
Pixti nodded. "Their drive is too strong. It affects their minds. They rove around looking for pleasure."
"There are historical Human documents that show where Human Females have petitioned the courts for marriage to buildings and walls and bridges," Pixti went on. "I read it in a book."
The Professor outright snorted with amusement. "Are you enjoying yourself?" Ace asked.
"Oh, rrrather! The traffic is terrible on their homeworld. They can't keep them off the streets." Pixti didn't recognise the mockery but Ace curled her fingers into a fist at him. For twigging her friend and also for starting this entire...
"In all honesty," said Scraw, "If I could experience orgasmic ecstasy on a daily basis you couldn't keep me off the streets either."
"It can't feel that good if it can happen every day," Mmarlsa reasoned. Then she went on in a rush to show them all that she was as learned as anyone. "They will attack animals," Mmarlsa said. "And visitors to their world, and inanimate objects!" She gave a serpentine shudder. "They're covered in terrible scars," she continued. "From battles over males and for territory. And they're diseased with every venereal plague that exists."
"Ewww," Pixti wrinkled her nose.
"Wait. That's an exagerrr..." the Professor interjected and wilted a little.
He was eagerly interrupted in turn by a gawky teen. "I hear telepaths keep them as mistresses! They're addicted to the Human Female's constant pleasure," he said. The Professor, being a telepath himself, pulled a horrified face at the boy. "It's true! My cousins told me. Several got rich that way, they said."
"Your cousins know?!" the Professor began but the entire crowd interrupted again.
"But if they're lunatics how can they enjoy their wealth?!"
"How can mind-readers stand the insanity?"
"How do they get any work done?"
Ace picked her jaw up off the sand. Then she weakly waved her hands in the air. "Wait, wait, wait, hang on a minute." The Professor coughed. She lifted her chin and ignored him. "Why did that lot go galloping off after her then?" She pointed towards the trees. "If they're not, ah, in season or anything like that?"
"Don't be disgusting! Procreating with a Human Female?!" another L'zrd hissed.
"I'm sure they're only chasing a hilarious spectacle," Scraw said. "A crazy woman trying to breed with the drinks stand?" There was some snickering from the group.
"Or the vegetable market? They have all sorts of suggestive fruits there!" The laughter was in earnest now.
"My uncle's pet blood-raptor!"
"The games stadium?"
"No, not me!"
"The entire Galaxy? I'd like to see that spectacle myself!" Pixti pantomimed a delirious female pawing at the sky. Her tongue lolled out.
Guffaw, guffaw, snort, hiss, titter, hee hee har har har ha. Scraw was laughing so hard he was weeping and Mmarlsa was indenting swirly patterns in the sand as she writhed. "They're ridiculous. And just filthy!"
The Professor wasn't smiling anymore. He was suddenly hunched up as if he'd like to escape up into his hat. He caught Ace's eye and she waved a forgiving hand at him. He hadn't intended this. But her very human blood was boiling.
"WHO WOULD LIKE TO SEE A SPECTACLE RIGHT NOW?!" she shouted and the riot died down with some surprise. She reined in her temper and lowered her voice. "Who has a mobile gene-scanner?"
Most travelers in this sector did. It paid to be able to scan for people, places and things that might be poisonous to your species. Pixti reached into her large, woven bag. "Er. I do. But you won't find her. There's interference."
"Not anymore," Ace said as she shot the Professor a significant look. He brought forth his sonic screwdriver with a flourish and toggled a switch. "Now see if you can find her," Ace demanded. Everyone sat up, fascinated by Ace's sudden anger and her friend's obvious duplicity in blocking the resort's scanner.
Very interested and not wanting to give any more offense than she clearly already had, somehow, Pixti complied. She hit a series of buttons with her thumb and the small, circular screen lit up with a green light. Pixti studied the readings while Mmarlsa arched over her shoulder.
They reacted at the same time.
Pixti gasped and stared at Ace. Mmarlsa's tail whipped around and snatched the scanner out of her hand. The delicate tip hit the buttons again as she re-scanned. "What does it say?!" Scraw demanded.
Pixti pointed. "It's her! Ace is a...she's the..."
"Human," Mmarlsa confirmed, snapping Pixti's scanner back into the bag with a flick of her tail. "Great Serpentine Goddess, Ace is the Human Female."
"Hello there!" she waved at them, her mouth set in a wide, jolly smile.
"Not Ace!" Scraw objected, defending his friend.
"Oh, yes. That far off world without interstellar travel would be, ah, a human colony," Ace confirmed. Other scanners were produced and passed around. Ace watched the shock and fascination pass from person to person until she got tired of it. "Does anyone doubt that I'm human?"
"But you don't behave like a..." Pixti began.
"Just how many humans have you ever met?" Ace demanded. She glared while Pixti shrank a little smaller. The answer, of course, was "None! How do you know how they behave?"
"Don't anyone argue with me! I'm the expert, right?" The consensus was, yes, the various scanners said so. "Right. You want to see a human female, I'll show you a human female." She stood up and towered over them all. "Professor, look over there."
He gazed about. "Over where?"
"Over there!" Ace pointed out to sea.
"What? Why? There's nothing out there."
Ace smacked her forehead with the heel of her hand. "Don't look at me."
"Why not? I don't mind." Ace glared at him. "Oh! You mind?"
"Very much." The Professor mumbled something she couldn't hear but he turned around. Ace stared at his back for a moment but he was still. She dropped her towel. The cool breeze hit her warmed skin and she goose-pimpled. "See any scars? Anyone?" She turned around. "Any scars anywhere?"
"Any evidence of disease?"
"Did I attack or proposition any of you or any animals, vegetables or buildings at any time today?"
Pixti and Scraw, the first friends she'd made when the day was young, were looking down at the sand now. Scraw was twiddling his claws. Mmarlsa just continued to stare with a not-so-intelligent expression on her face. Then, very slowly, she raised her tail into the air and formed the tip into a circle.
Ace recognized the intent if not the gesture. "Yes, Mmarlsa?"
Mmarlsa dropped her tail and took a deep breath. "Every day? Is that truly possible?"
Ace scratched her nose and checked that the Professor still had his back turned. He did. Too bad he wasn't deaf. "Yes," she muttered. "Several times a day if I were in the mood. But it's nowhere near an uncontrollable urge. Call it, uh, a little gift from the Gods."
"I certainly do," Scraw agreed.
"Does it feel..."
"DON'T ask me to demonstrate," Ace warned them. God, what a party trick that would be. Standing in front of everyone, naked, the Professor listening, made her more than a little uncomfortable so she rushed on. "And our traffic is no worse than anyone else's and we get our work done with no great problems and I'm not a mind-reader's mistress." She picked up her bag and started to furiously stuff it with her possessions. Her final word on the subject was, "Ridiculous!" and she reached for her towel.
Pixti looked up at her with sad, guilty eyes. "Wait! Wait, please, Ace. Human Ace? I...uh..." She swallowed, still amazed. "I deeply regret the insult I've delivered upon you. It was unintentional." She stood up and bowed deeply from the waist, her hair swinging. Her Marzt protocol suddenly cracked and she burst out with a howled "I'm sorry! I'm so sorry." Her sincerity was evident. The Marzt prided themselves on their position as the mannered hub of this part of the galaxy. Pixti had let the team down and she was aghast. One by one many of the other Marzt stood and bowed, too, deep, embarrassed blushes on their faces. Scraw took his cue from them and ducked his alligator-ish head. Mmarlsa continued to stare rather wistfully into the distance. Suddenly Pixti was crying and Ace took a step back, her bag clutched to her chest. It was her turn to be gobsmacked. She had planned to blast them all in the name of righteousness and storm off back to the TARDIS, never to be seen again. She hadn't expected any of them to actually feel badly and apologize.
Ace never expected anyone to apologize.
"It's...that's...well." Ace breathed in deeply to regain her equilibrium. Uh. Wuh? Hmmm. Maybe she could finish out her holiday after all? Stay on these beautiful beaches? No! No, she'd become a tourist attraction. Everyone! Come see the Human Female do...nothing! She'd be followed around. Badgered with extremely personal questions. Urgh, how annoying.
Ace gazed longingly over her shoulder in the direction of the Professor's ship. Skip it! Skip it all. There were better beaches. Better people. Safer and more convenient that way. All she had to do was run.
Everyone was staring, waiting for her verdict. Pixti was flinching already.
Ace let out a breath. Run and she'd hate herself, she knew it. Stay. Answer their stupid questions. It had to be done, didn't it? Maybe. Well, it wasn't the same as clubbing the Daleks into scrap but it was just as worthy a fight. Right? Uuuuuugh, no. But yes. No! Yes. No, they can mind their own business. What about the next human to come along?
Ace decided to stay.
She heard another sob and turned to her friend. "Stop. Stop that, Pix, it's all right. You didn't know."
"Rudeness!" Pixti whimpered. "And you're my friend..."
Ace dropped her bag and patted the woman on her grey shoulder. "It's all right. Really." Pixti sniffed. Ace drew in a deep breath. "Everyone sit, please. Show's over." She waved everyone back down and sat on the beach blanket she'd been sprawled on for most of the day. She ignored the youngster who suddenly ran off towards the trees. Got a tale to tell, huh? Fine. So did Ace McShane. "So! Humans!" She clapped her hands together and rubbed them. "Who's first? With questions, I mean." Scraw rumbled with laughter and nudged Ace with his muzzle. His own apology. Ace smiled and patted him where his shoulder would be if he had one.
Suddenly one of the Marzt put his two forefingers together and held them in front of his eyes. "Yes?" Ace asked.
"He's looking," he said, pointing behind her.
"I am not looking!" Indeed, the Professor was radiating pride. "I'm admiring!"
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