Dreamed 5/17/1982 by Chris Wayan
The Starship Enterprise visits a world where genetic engineering is routine.
Jeanette, a biologist, joins the landing party. Soon as we're down, she gets so involved in the local debates over biological sculpting that she goes AWOL and won't come back.
Jeanette doesn't just dabble in local politics--she wedges herself deep into the local grass-roots movement. She gets so popular, she's finally elected Bug Princess!
But the Prime Minister, an aristocratic woman, hates Princess Jeanette: an alien and a commoner! The PM constantly tries to kill Jeanette via biochemical shenanigans. They get more and more blatant, and rumors fly.
I wonder--is Jeanette a fool, or is she provoking the PM so she'll go too far, and bring herself down?
After lunch one day, Jeanette lies out on a lawn to relax, and rolls around...
So the grass grabs and covers her, pierces her skin, sending probe-roots down her arteries and veins, searching for the wound. Friends hear her screams and strip the grass off, but she's bleeding for real, from hundreds of incisions. Severely injured. Nearly assassinated by grass--in well-meaning innocence. Jeanette's rushed back to the starship Enterprise. She may live...
On the planet, the case spurs political chaos and biological sniping. Parliament degenerates into a stew of mutants with designer flu. And the rest of the landing party's caught in the chaos. For a long time, they're incommunicado.
Eventually, the Grass Roots party gains the upper hand and contacts the ship. "We found your landing party..." But what they beams up to the ship is... a huge snake! The voices of the landing party call out from inside it. Bones assumes it's a snake built to eat aliens, but he's wrong. The snake IS them. Not eaten, but MERGED! Their voices emerge from different zones of the snake. Spock is one, but it's hard to be sure just who else is in there...
The Captain considers just leaving the planet to fester in its own bioengineering mess, but Dr. McCoy points out "Compared to these people, we're in the biotech Stone Age. I can't subdivide a snake, Jim, I'm a doctor, not a developer!"
So the captain reluctantly decides to stay in orbit and demands that the new planetary government sort out its snake.
A NOTE NEXT MORNING
The world full of biochemical traps, Jeanette the Bug Princess, disastrous well-meant intervention, and people inside the snake--all this echoes Philip Jose Farmer's THE LOVERS, which I just read. On a world full of biological mimicry, a well-meaning Earth guy falls in love with a local girl who's humanoid-looking but reproductively QUITE different. Jeannette's ashamed to tell him, and it leads to... well, trouble.
I noted the echoes of The Lovers, but ignored the differences. They matter. Well-meaning grass, a rescue attempt that nearly kills... Some grass-roots system of mine was doing something well-meaning that's harming me! Most likely, it was a warning that my immune system was dangerously hyperactive. When I finally got allergy testing and shots, I improved sharply... and realized that I really did get sick whenever I roll in the grass... it's just that for me, the reaction was delayed enough (up to 24 hours) that I'd never made the connection--consciously.
But my dreams had.
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