Eve the Explorer
Mark A Davis
A blue gorilla blew into a strange, twisting tuba, the sort that might have been imagined by Dr. Suess. A tentacled elephant pressed buttons on some sort of accordion. A strange, gelatinous creature tapped on a kind of xylophone, while a tall, thin being with lavender skin drew a bow across an instrument that resembled four violins and an oboe fused together.
Ethereal music played -- that of an alien orchestra with instruments that chimed and hummed and whistled and buzzed in a manner most unlike those of earth. The resulting sound was quite pleasant, however, and clearly designed for a ballroom -- and indeed, humans and aliens alike were spinning and gliding across the dance floor. At one end of the dance floor were the stairs from which they'd descended after being introduced, while at the other end was a raised dais upon which sat the king and queen and royal prince of this planet. It was just like a scene from an animated Disney movie, save that some of the dancers had green skin, chitinous armor and/or tentacles. In point of fact the queen, king, and prince resembled violet frogs.
Eve Jaskulski twirled about, green hair trailing. She and Grandpa Anarchy danced. Grandpa was dressed in a sharp black tux, while his dance partner wore a gown of silver and pale blue with a full gown, which billowed as she was spun and swept about. Scenes of a countryside filled with blue grass and blue trees played across the voluminous skirt, as if it were a movie theater screen.
Until a recent encounter with a biblically-minded shaggy god, Eve had been a boy named Evander.
"You look different," Grandpa said.
"They... altered me," she replied. "Made me shorter and curvier. Gave me a cuter face, too, and fuller hair. They call it babe-ification. Of course, the green hair was my idea -- just like Sally Stardust, you know. But the Space Babes have certain size and shape requirements. All of their clothing -- even these gowns -- are the same size. Our clothing is interchangeable."
She nodded to a girl with green skin and blue hair standing against a back wall. "Muriel there, for example. She was tall and thin as a rail before she joined -- most of her race are. Now she and I have nearly identical measurements. And Lucci, the one with red hair, dancing with the Thoranian Ambassador? She was an overweight guy, and now she fits that gown like she was born to wear it.
"Speaking of which, can I just say that I hate wearing a gown?" she added as they drew close. "Especially one that doubles as a docudrama."
"Yet for two days you've pranced about in a silver bikini," said Grandpa, "and you didn't complain about that."
"A bikini allows for freedom of movement," the young woman replied. "In this outfit I feel like I'll trip and fall at any moment. If there weren't a reason for us doing this...."
"Well you look lovely," said Grandpa Anarchy. "Of course, you do realize that the Eieio (pronounced Ee-Yow) Empire's 5E division can change you back to your old male self at any time. You can go back to being my sidekick Evander the Explorer -- for a fee."
"Not if I sign a three-year contract, I can't," said the girl. "For now I'm a temporary member of the Society of Intergalactic Space Babes, and all of them are female -- or at least, appear to be female."
Grandpa nodded, well aware that one of the most famous members of the S.I.S.B. was Llahna, an alien girl who looked anatomically identical to a human female, but was technically a male of her species. To everyone concerned, however, she was a she.
"I'm surprised they would let you join," said Grandpa, "seeing as how you're not really a girl."
"That's all you know," his dance partner replied. "Right now I'm as female as any natural-born girl. Furthermore, nearly one-third of S.I.S.B. members were male before joining, did you know that? That's 31% of new S.I.S.B. recruits! And why not, after all? Throughout the Eieio (pronounced Ee-Yow) Empire, changing your gender is like flipping a switch! All it takes is money -- but the government pays if you join the S.I.S.B."
Grandpa Anarchy spun her about to the music. "Yes, well, that might make sense to native-born members of the empire, but as I recall, you were decidedly not interested in being female at first. You freaked out."
"It was too sudden," she said. "I was in shock -- and that shaggy god wanted to make me the mother of a new race of people. With you. I mean, most girls would balk at being forced into that, let alone boys. But my dream as a child was always to explore the galaxy like a Buck Rogers or a Dr. Thomas Nova -- and now I get the chance to do it as a member of the Space Babes. Why, I'm even working with the granddaughter of Dr. Nova herself! If I have to wear a silver bikini then so be it!"
"So you're going to sign the contract?" asked Grandpa.
"Maybe." She tripped on her gown and stumbled. Grandpa grabbed her by the waist to steady her. "Curse this gown!" she swore. "After tonight, I never want to wear another ever again!"
"You know," said Grandpa, "I hear the Space Babes attend balls like this every month."
They settled back into the dance. "I know," Eve said. "Quite apart from being excellent bodyguards, we're considered among the most beautiful young women in known space -- and that's not just hype, every Space Babe is young and beautiful, because the government pays for whatever youth and beauty enhancements we require. It's the goal of many a spaceman -- or spacewoman! -- to marry a Space Babe. We often escort important political figures and even royalty. Joining the Space Babes is a good way to marry into money and power, to climb socially."
"Even for boys?" asked Grandpa.
"Even for boys, yes," she said. "Especially for boys, I think. Of course, men and women can do well in the space marines , and it's not unheard of for exceptional marines to marry into wealth and power -- but even in an empire of a thousand races, where everyone can be genetically engineered, it's amazing how many consider the space babes the pinnacle of beauty. There's a certain mystique with the organization. It's actually quite an honor that they've asked me to join."
"Become a sexy half-naked bimbo and marry into power, then?" Grandpa asked. "Somehow I expect more from an advanced alien civilization -- even if they are at least 30% human."
"We're not bimbos!" Eve retorted. "Some of the empire's best scientists are members of the space babes!"
"Somehow," said Grandpa Anarchy, "the idea that leading scientists are parading around in silver bikinis does not change my mind about the sexism inherent in this organization. I've always wondered where's the beefcake division?"
"The Interstellar Fraternity of Bunny Boys..." Eve began.
"I'm being rhetorical!" Grandpa Anarchy snapped. "I mean, I know Major Tom Nova personally. Great guy, but not exactly the person whose ideas I would use to model an entire military branch of an interstellar empire. When it was just his wife and daughter and her friend, it was cute maybe. But then they added more people, and it became an enforcement arm of the 5E, and...." Grandpa Anarchy shrugged. "Anyway, the Space Babes exist, I've known about them for years, it's not apparently going to change, so that's neither here nor there.
"What interests me is that you keep saying we," Grandpa noted. "It seems you've already made up your mind."
"I..." Eve began, then stumbled again. "Darn these stupid heels!" she swore. "I think I would have signed already, if it weren't for...." She indicated the ball gown. "This!"
"Well," said Grandpa, "it's only three years, and you can switch back when you're done. Unless you decide to marry a Prince or Princess or whatever....."
The music was of a sudden drowned out by laser fire. Several large creatures with wide mouths and white, blubbery bodies, like walking beluga whales in fancy suits, stood at the top of the stairs. There were four in all, and they carried laser carbine rifles.
People screamed and dove for cover. An acrid burnt smell filled the room. "Death to the crown prince!" one of the newcomers yelled. Even as he said this, Grandpa Anarchy and Eve the Explorer were drawing, from beneath Eve's skirts, weapons of their own. Two more girls nearby also drew weapons, while another girl leaped to stand in front of the prince.
A gunfight ensued, but it was short and one-sided. The members of the Society of Intergalactic Space Babes were well-trained. Their shots hit their mark, while those of the terrorist group were wide. In seconds it was all over. Grandpa Anarchy charged the last, mortally-wounded beluga-like creature and punched him in his blubbery jaw, just to make certain he went down quickly.
Later that evening, the king and queen thanked the members of the Space Babes for their service to the crown. Four gowned girls and one Grandpa Anarchy stood before the throne as the king extolled the virtues of the S.I.S.B. and how grateful he and his entire kingdom were for having saved the life of the prince. He offered each a reward.
"For the human known as Grandpa Anarchy," said the king, "we offer 10,000 credits, rendered in whatever form of currency or tradable goods you wish."
Grandpa Anarchy bowed. "Your Highness is most kind," he said. He wasn't exactly sure how much money this was, but it sounded like a reasonably good reward indeed.
"Also a passport is yours, with an invitation to visit our planet again at any time," the king added. "This we give to all five of you. As for the girls of the S.I.S.B. -- Eve, Muriel, Lucci and Sashi -- we are most grateful for the aid of your organization. The gowns you wear tonight are yours to keep, and we are prepared to offer an even greater reward, suitable for such beautiful young ladies. We have arranged with the finest dressmakers and clothiers of the city of Koreetla, on Prokone 4 in the Xiatopath Sector of the Empire -- where orbits the S.I.S.B. space station headquarters. Each of you will receive three new outfits each month, including a new ball gown, for the duration of your service in the Society of Intergalactic Space Babes, fully paid for by the Throga crown." The froglike king smiled and added, "of course, we do not expect the tailors of Koreetla to match those of Throga, but we're told they're still quite good. Our only request is that you forward to the crown a holovid of you in each new outfit. We look forward to seeing how lovely you four look!"
The girls gasped. One said, "Oola! New dresses, a fortune is!"
"Three years, then?" Grandpa asked Eve. "That's... one hundred and eight outfits, a third of them fancy ball gowns. More if you re-up...."
Eve sighed. "Just... kill me now...."