The following is an excerpt from a short comic space opera of cosmic disillusionment, Songs of Uncorrupted Space.
The plot: the multi-verse is being torn apart by too many hyper-spatial jumps, while few of the trillion sentient inhabitants are willing to give up the convenience of faster-than-light travel merely on the remote chance that reality will collapse.
The latest, most complete version can be online for free here. [Edit: fixed link…]
Molti was surprised, in the interview with Captain Wirwid, how little she actually knew about xeno-ethno-musicology, especially since the job description had specifically mentioned proficiency in human art forms.
Looking back, that should have been a clue that not everything about the job was on the up-and-up.
The first time he had met Wirwid, the Captain had been a female, and fully human, not just humanoid (mostly cyborg–that beard wasn’t just for show, hosting a colony of mechabacteria that enabled him to broadcast and receive low-level telepathic commands with the Remote, Multi-Hued Parabola), and her behavior had definitely seemed to imply that, should he take the job, there would be sex involved.
Then, when they had met in the dry dock, Wirwid had been male. Not that sex necessarily needed to take place between reproductive gender pairings, but there was a kind of code of etiquette among metempsychotic organisms that when two sentients adopted the same bioform but with opposing genders, this was shorthand for erotic interest. Wirwid’s sudden switch prior to departure–he claimed it was to grow the nanite-infested beard–struck Molton as a not-so-subtle rebuff, and a reneging on the implicit deal for sexual gratification they seemed to have struck.
So in all the time they had been in ship, nothing had happened. Well, it had, but only in the desultory way of mutually bored and slightly curious shipmates, but Wirwid was far more preoccupied and distant than the spiritual bedfellow the ethno-bard had imagined when accepting the post.
In the extended hypno-sessions they would fuck each other in all possible permutations at some point in the diffuse scenarios epic oneiric algorithms could devise, but that was just a necessary, once-every-few-months chore of psychic maintenance, required for their health but not notably significant, rather like sharing meals.
It didn’t take long, despite these entertainments, for the voyage to descend into the usual existential horrors of too much time in too little space. Dynamics soured, rhythms got thrown off by snored proximities and carelessly unfixed problems of passive aggression.
The problem was on an inter-spacer without real cold sleep, just the hypnogogic tricks our creepy bio-computer could plug them into, all relationships or connections took on cosmological import. On a voyage that long, you became archetypes to each other.