Canto Twenty-Five – Inside the Bio-dome
As Davalon, Tanith, and both of the Morrells scurried into the airlock of the Bio-dome, Brekka, Menolly, and George Jetson, already naked, were merely standing around watching them. There was a lizard girl covered in green and yellow scales, more human-looking than any Telleron, completely naked too, and only about the size of an eight-year-old human.
“Why aren’t you running?” cried Alden Morrell.
“Take off your clothes,” said the lizard girl, “and then you don’t have to worry either.”
Alden had gone all red in the face, a look that Davalon had come to know as embarrassment.
“The guardian machine-man reads anything artificial as signs of a scabby.” The lizard girl seemed no more embarrassed by her nudity than were the tadpoles. “It looks for manufactured goods like clothing or weapons to determine a target. Naked you become part of the flora and fauna that it guards.”
Davalon and Tanith quickly stripped down and the Morrells were forced to follow suit. When the machine-man came into the chamber, all clothing, skortch rays, monitors, computers, and tracking devices that the tadpole expedition had brought with them lay in a pile in a corner by the door. The artificial man wandered over to the pile, examined it, picked up a few items, and then put them down again. Davalon wondered at Alden, all red in the face, hands clamped over his genital area. Gracie, it seemed, was far more comfortable being nude and did not display the same behaviors.
“When can we get dressed again?” asked Alden immediately after the machine-man left.
“Never,” said the lizard girl. “I have a number of still-functioning machine-men guarding this place and all the bio-forms in it. You are only safe as long as you remain completely natural and bear no artificial clothing or gear.”
“We have to be naked as long as we’re here?” Poor Alden seemed distressed.
“It’s all right, Alden,” said Gracie with a huge grin. “You haven’t looked this good naked in a number of years. You need to let go and learn to love your new body. I certainly think you are handsome!”
Alden grimaced uncomfortably. Davalon agreed with Gracie. His foster father’s child-like form was not at all unpleasant to look at. In fact, he was beautiful to a Telleron tadpole who loved him for all the sacrifices he had made to be here with his foster son of another world. He had given up life in Iowa. He had given up his home and all his possessions. He had given up his former identity as Alden Morrell, Iowa farmer. And he had even given up his adult body to return to the body he had inhabited as a child so he could be the same age as his wife in her new simuloid body.
“You are Sizzahl?” Davalon asked the little naked lizard girl.
“Yes. I brought you here. Hopefully your cart is full of plants, seeds, and spores that I can use to save this world. I might need samples of your flesh and blood as well.”
“You brought us here to eat us?” squealed Brekka.
“Of course not, stupid frog-girl. I just mean I might have use for your froggy DNA.”
Davalon noticed how human-like she was. Sizzahl had no hair. She had a bony ridge on the centerline of the top of her head, and she was covered in soft-looking hexagonal scales, but otherwise she looked very human. Her body proportions were the same as an Earther primate. Her eyes had vertically-slitted pupils, but her face was human-shaped. Even her pre-pubescent breasts and genitals looked more human than Telleron-like.
“Why would you need our DNA?” asked Tanith.
“Haven’t you noticed? The biosphere of this planet is dying. The stupid politicians, warriors, and industrialists killed it by over-using and abusing all of its natural resources. And besides, boneheads like Senator Tedhkruhz poisoned what was left to bring his enemies down without realizing he would kill himself too.”
“How will you do that kind of restorative science without artificial devices?” asked George Jetson.
“There is plenty of tech built into this place that we can use without ever having to carry any of it with us and reveal ourselves to the machine-men.”
“How does that protect us from the scabbies?” Davalon asked.
“The scabbies are like the creatures in your Earther zombie movies. They carry whatever they were wearing or carrying in life. They don’t have enough brains left to get naked and put down their weapons. The few that wander in here naked are fairly easy for me to kill by myself. I assume that will be even easier now that you are all here to help me.”
“Who said we were willing to help you?” asked George Jetson.
“Will you not help me?” asked Sizzahl. Her eyes, though snake-like, seemed almost to beg. All tadpole eyes turned toward Davalon.
“I don’t see any reason not to,” Davalon said.