Taken from my WIP:

Worlds Apart

Her security system confirmed his arrival; it scanned not only every molecule in his body but also analyzed his DNA down to the base-pair level. Zerrana had read an account of how Roidon had once been cloned – or perhaps replicated was the correct word – by the Elusivers, just in the same way as had Toramin.

Roidon looked young, possibly no older than naturally thirty. No one needed to look over twenty-one, but many who wanted to convey a sense of authority or were chronologically older than fifty chose the compromise of about thirty-five. It was funny how throughout previous millennia the appearance of age had such a huge influence on how one was treated. Sometimes humans and B’tari alike preferred to look younger simply because they did not want to bear the responsibility of maturity – what society expected of them, standards to be maintained. While the embarrassments of youth faded with much less in jeopardy, it seemed that middle-age was the most difficult time: the expectations of achievement, so commonly felt to have fallen short. At least this had always been typical of the human male.

So what was Roidon trying to convey now: a sense of not wanting to be loaded by such responsibility? No, it had to be because he felt it maximized his chance with the opposite sex – having the edge on his rivals. But maybe, she reflected, that was too simplistic an analysis. After all, he no longer had any human rivals on this planet.

The door to her suite would have opened automatically but she chose to let him in personally. Have to remember, she reminded herself, this is about business, a colleague – helping a colleague.

He presented to her a bottle. A bottle of wine, with a somewhat mischievous smile, knowing the symbolism in this. Was he playing with her?

“Roidon I,” she began. “A bottle of white—“

“Yes it was, you remember, one of my stipulations for returning to this earth. One of my indulgences. But it would seem sad to drink it alone.”

And so it begins, she thought. “You’d better come in,” she said, in a flat tone, hoping not to sound too inviting. “I’m not one for alcohol,” she added. “It may not agree with my constitution.”

“Most B’tari can process alcohol as well as we human types,” Roidon reminded her.

“You been doing your research, have you?”

“Oh, I know this from personal experience.”

“I bet you do!”

“Zerrana. I am most grateful for your offer to allow me to stay. This bottle of wine is simply a gesture of gratitude,” he said as he followed her into the dining room.

“And gratefully accepted, Roidon.” She did a sweeping gesture at the dining table, a very basic layout of cutlery. She was very conscious not to make it seem like she had gone to any special effort. “I was about to have my supper. I think I can spare some for you. I can put the wine in cold storage for now.”

Roidon nodded reluctantly. Zerrana indicated towards an old-style door. “Make yourself at home,” she suggested. “It will be a while yet.”

“That’s fine,” he said. “But if you need any help with anything.”

“No. Unless you want something more than scrambled egg on toast.” Suitably basic human food, she thought. That wouldn’t really go with the wine, would it?

“My favourite,” he said brightly, which may have been a false cheeriness.

In the kitchen Zerrana assembled the various cooking items: saucepan, spatula, eggs, butter – for a start. Even something as basic as scrambled egg still seemed a bit daunting to cook. Human food still took some getting used to, certainly anything that qualified for cuisine. The standard B’tari process would be to simply replicate it from a preprogrammed memory. But for some reason humans had stuck to the old process of cooking even when the automated process had been available to them for many decades. The process of preparation could be done optimally if automated; so it had seemed curious that any advanced species had elevated the old method to some kind of exalted status. It was as if they enjoyed the labour of it, but she suspected it was something more: a demonstration of skill, a statement of … well, love – or maybe respect. Cooking to some was an art-form, it was competitive. It wasn’t that food was something the B’tari had merely regarded as a means to survival (which, she mused, was probably how the now currently most advanced human lifeforms did regard it). No, eating for her people had had a recreational component for millennia. But why have it less than optimally prepared?

She imagined Roidon imagining her struggling right now, becoming stressed right now. And he’d be feeling a sense of amusement at that thought. Because of course he would know how to cook, he’d know it well. At some point it would have been used as a strategy for seducing a female, just another skill set in his armory. But Zerrana was determined she was not going to give him the satisfaction of intervening. Of being helped. Of succumbing of to whatever trick he had used on all those others. (Perhaps those felt too ashamed to include such accounts for his psyche report. There were only the rumours.)

So, it may be basic. But it would be just right.

“Computer,” she whispered. “Inform me when I have cooked this scrambled egg to optimum taste level … for a human.”…….