In the three plus years of working beside her, Kalehia had managed to successfully suppress her feelings for Tanisha Begay. After graduation, she couldn’t manage it for another minute. Fortunately, she didn’t have to. It was Begay who made the first move. They became lovers. It happened quickly. As they grew closer, Kalehia felt vaguely guilty for not telling Tanisha about Hiko. She didn’t think she could bear it if the woman she loved thought she was having a mental breakdown. Nor could she bear the love of her life knowing the truth about the possibility their work was setting the stage for a nightmarish future. Kalehia didn’t want to take the passion from Tanisha’s sails.
Instead of slowing down, the ScaDrive project sped up faster than anyone anticipated. Kalehia knew Hiko would return. She counted on it. And so he did, three plus years since the last time he’d visited. She was home packing at the time, fantasizing about how her life would change after moving in with Tanisha. There was a flash of light and, without any fanfare, he simply stepped out from behind a stack of boxes, wearing the same summer clothes as before. This time they were seasonally appropriate. The controls on his arm gave off a blue glow but winked out after a moment. Kalehia realized that the device embedded in his skin allowed him to time travel. Scalar-powered, no doubt. The idea excited her but Hiko had other matters to discuss.
He appraised the state of her casita. “Today is the day, then. You two are moving in together?”
“Here to congratulate me?”
He went to the fridge but on finding it empty helped himself to a glass of water. “Time travel makes me thirsty.”
“I never wanted children,” Kalehia blurted out.
For the first time since she’d met him Hiko looked off balance.
Kalehia strode over, reached under the kitchen sink, pulled out the mug Hiko had used on his previous visit and held out for him to see. “How long has it been for you?” she asked. “A few minutes? For me it’s been about three and a half years since you drank tea from this cup. And left me a sample of your DNA.”
Hiko’s expression grew wary.
“I suppose I’m young enough to change my mind about reproducing but I don’t really see it. So, the traces of DNA indicating you’re my descendant are a mystery to me. Maybe you stole it the first time you visited, or the second, to make a clone or something. Who knows? You probably have technologies I can’t even fathom.”
Hiko seemed unsure. “I guess it’s that powerful imagination that makes you such a creative scientist.”
“And what does the extra-terrestrial DNA that you carry make you? Devious? Calculating? What’s it like being an alien-human hybrid? Uncontrollable feelings of wanting to betray half your heritage?”
Hiko snatched the mug from her hand and threw it across the kitchen where it shattered on the tiles. Kalehia flinched and thought of sprinting for the door but he blocked her exit. What had she been thinking? She was trapped now. And he was angry.
Hiko visibly struggled for control of his temper.
“You can’t kill me.” Kalehia said. “Not without jeopardizing your existence.”
He stumbled away from her. “You live in my bones. I respect my kūpuna. Maybe more than you ever did.”
She was puzzled by that statement. Was he referring to the voices she’d once denied and eventually abandoned? “So, what’s your play then? You clearly want to delay human technological development. Why?”
He sadly shook his head. “Not everything I told you was a lie. They came here in peace. Humans waged a brutal, unforgiving war. You can’t defeat them but you can cause a lot of damage. They thought about wiping you out but some could see your redeeming qualities. So, being essentially a nonviolent species, they tried a different tack.”
Kalehia could fill in the blanks. “Re-engineering us?”
“We’re better now. Peaceful. Cooperative.”
“It’s not like that. But you wouldn’t understand. You’re only human. I’m really sorry about what happens next.”
“What does that mean?” Kalehia demanded but as soon as she’d uttered the question, she knew the answer. She bolted out the door and sped across UNM campus. Tanisha would be in the lab at this hour.
Flashing red lights greeted Kalehia as she rounded the corner to the Engineering Department. Fire trucks, police cars and a collection of gawkers pointing at the black smoke billowing out of a hole in the pink adobe wall assaulted her eyes. The smell was acrid and vile. She vomited.
Two days later the coroner confirmed the identity of the charred remains recovered in the lab. Five graduate students, three lab techs and Dr. Tanisha Begay. All burned beyond recognition.