“I’m not saying it’s wrong, I only…-”
“You just said it was!”
“No, I didn’t! Look…”
Haylen heard Cory’s and Felicia’s voices even before he went inside the shuttle hall with his gear. There was a couple of smaller room for weapon and armor maintenance, but the soldiers usually sat on the floor in the more spacey shuttle hall unless there were a lot of small parts involved. Haylen considered using that other room for half a second, but put his things down where the others were anyway.
The shuttle hall wasn’t very crowded this morning. The scouts and Morgan were in the workshop for technical equipment, taking care of and filling up their air tanks. Paavo was still locked up at the med bay, probably more to keep him from unnecessary use of his leg rather than actual medical surveillance, and Rashida’s concussion made it impossible for her to even turn her head without throwing up, and was ordered to rest in bed.
That left Matsuko and Mourad from team 3, who were quietly focusing on their own work, and Tianyi, who was engaged in Cory’s and Felicia’s discussion. As Haylen sat down, Cory briefly looked at him before he took a deep breath and continued to explain to Felicia and Tianyi.
“What I’m saying is, that in this galaxy, humankind is struggling. We have stillborn babies, babies born without arms or legs, babies born with flawed inner organs – the people is growing frail. This means we need as many people as possible to reproduce, to get more able people actually making it into adulthood, and to adapt quicker to life at least in this solar system. And, since it takes two components to make a baby, people should consider that when choosing a partner.”
“Oh, you think it’s our duty to have children?” said Tianyi, her usual cheeriness having a scrappy touch to it. She was brushing a legplate clean, but her ribcage was pretty sore from last day’s mission, and it was obvious she would need help eventually if she wanted to be done before lunch.
“I never said ‘duty’”, Cory objected, “I just think that sometimes people think too much about themselves as individuals instead of part of a society.”
“So if two people love each other”, Tianyi said, “and they happen to be two ciswomen, you think they’re being selfish?”
Cory shook his head dismissively. “I wish you people would stop putting words in my mouth.”
“But you’re not answering the question”, Felicia urged, sounding as angry as she looked, in tailor seat leaning forward with her hands on her knees.
Cory raised his eyebrows. “I don’t even know what the question is any longer.”
Before Felicia got to remind him, Tianyi interrupted.
“Then what is it that makes you so upset with this whole same-sex partner thing, is it the lack of baby making?”
Cory scoffed softly. “I’m not upset about anything, it’s you who are.” He gestured at them.
“Okay, okay”, Tianyi said, raising her hand, “what if I hooked up with, say… Halo’s girlfriend.”
Haylen silently looked up at her. She knew he found it annoying that she still insisted on calling Ziva his girlfriend, and she enjoyed every time she got to say it. She grinned, and continued.
“Let’s also say we found a couple of suitably equipped people to produce offspring with, then you would be all fine and dandy about two women having a romantic relation?”
“I would say”, Cory said, slowly as if weighing his words, “that you at least were thinking about our species’ survival.”
Felicia wasn’t satisfied though, and her voice was even sharper now.
“But what you said was that you don’t like to see non cis-hetero couples.”
“Again, I never said that…”
“You said, and I quote, ‘I think it’s sad’ when I told you about my cousin and her girlfriend!”
“If you’re quoting me, at least humor me enough not to leave any parts out”, Cory answered dryly. “I said it was sad that she didn’t even bother to try out a cismale partner.”
“How the hell is that not saying it’s wrong?”
“Because not all unnatural things are wrong.”
Felicia threw her head back in disbelief. “Oh my god, ‘unnatural’!? What are you, an old-earther?”
“That’s you having a weird relation to the word ‘unnatural’, not me.” Cory looked at his own two teammates with a smile, but only got uncommitted ones in return.
Tianyi started to talk before Felicia got the chance. “Is contraceptives a good kind of unnatural to you?”
Cory looked at her with a mildly impatient smile. “Your point being?”
“Well, if you were banging a nice chick and the condom broke, or your pills didn’t work, and she got pregnant – would you insist on keeping the child? No options considered?”
“And with ‘option’ you mean ‘abortion’ I take it?”
“Among other things.”
“Of course I would insist on keeping the child. If I’m fine with having sex I should be fine with having a child. That’s the main purpose of it, after all.” He said the last sentence with a meaning look at Felicia.
“What?!” Tianyi burst out in pretended astonishment. “My life is a lie…!”
Matsuko and Mourad chuckled at her, but Felicia didn’t share their amusement. “So you think Malenka was selfish and irresponsible to have that abortion?”
“I’m not going to discuss Malenka’s abortion when she’s not around, Lissy”, Cory said.
“Okay okay”, Tiany intervened eagerly, “how about this: A guy rapes me, and I get pregnant. Should I keep the child?”
Cory gave her a look. “You’re being very hypothetical now.”
“And you aren’t with all this talk about preservation of the human species and all? Answer the question.”
Tianyi’s tone had gotten sharper now too. Haylen glanced at Matsuko and Mourand, but they had their eyes mostly set on their work just like himself.
“Well”, Cory said and looked at her thoughtfully, “the child can’t help that you were raped. It’s a child no matter who’s the other parent.”
“But that other parent would never ever be a real parent, never help with the kid once it was born even if he got out of prison.”
“Not every parent lives to see their children being born either.” Cory shrugged.
“Yeah but this guy isn’t someone who planned to have a family, it’s someone who’s only after some quick fun and power play.”
“I heard you the first time you said ‘rape’, Tia, and I repeat: It’s still a child, even if it came to exist because of a rape.”
“We have laws though”, Felicia pointed out. “Legally…-”
“You don’t have to lecture me on abortion laws, Felicia”, Cory interrupted.
“Hang on, let me get this clear”, Tianyi said, “you do think that if someone rapes you, and you get pregnant, you should still keep the child.”
“If there’s no threat to your health, of course.”
“Alright.” Tianyi nodded and turned back to her work. She suddenly seemed weirdly indifferent.
Cory looked from Tianyi to Felicia, who also had picked up her chore.
“I honestly don’t understand what all the fuss here is about.”
“Really, Cory?” Felicia’s voice oozed of sarcasm as she looked up at him. “You can’t understand why someone would be offended if you called them selfish and irresponsible for doing what’s best for them and their lives?”
He gave her a somewhat teasing look. “Selfish – best for themselves. I rest my case.”
Felicia slammed her palm on the floor. “You know what I mean!”
“Maybe it’s hard to face the truth?” He shrugged. “Either way, I’m entitled my opinion.”
“And the rest of us aren’t? We’re not entitled to object when you’re spilling your sucky opinions around?”
“Of course you are, I just wish you could do so with less shouting and wild interpretation of what I’m saying.”
“How the fuck am I supposed to interpret ‘make more biological babies even if you’re gay or rape victim’ in any other way than exactly that?” Felicia stared at him. “Also, how the fuck is rapist genes helping humankind here!?” She was about to continue, but Tianyi stopped her.
“Scopes, leave it”, she said, very calmly. “He’s not worth your breath.”
Cory raised his eyebrows. “Wow. Now I’m offended. It’s one thing you don’t agree with me, Tia, you don’t have to attack my person.”
“Mourad?” Tianyi said. “If Cory ever uses the nickname ‘Tia’ when talking about me again, would you please tell him not to? It’s bad enough that his mouth gets to say my official name.”
“Very mature, Tia, very mature”, Cory said.
“You can tell him yourself Tia, oh my god…” Mourad said awkwardly despite the eyeroll.
Tianyi didn’t say anything more. Felicia got on her feet, gathered her stuff and left the docking bay. When she walked past Haylen she snarled: “Thanks for the help.”
He looked up at her, but it was too late to answer.
“Is this a womb thing?” Cory asked with a sigh. “Or a gay thing perhaps?”
“I think it’s a you-thing”, Matsuko answered calmly.
“How so, Matsuko?” Cory peered at her. “Do tell.”
She shook her head without looking up. “Because you like winding people up.”
“Do I now? I can’t really help if people get wound up by my opinions, can I?”
As Matsuko kept working in silence, Cory finally looked Haylen’s way. Haylen looked back, even if he knew he was going to regret it.
“What do you think, Haylen?”
“I get the whole society thing, don’t see the point of guilt trippin’ people for not goin’ all rabbit though.”
Cory frowned, but with that little smile still on his lips. “Guilt tripping? Is that what you think I’m doing?”
Cory shifted into a position leaning more forward and looked at Haylen, not unlike a hunter zooming in on its prey.
“In what way am I guilt tripping anyone? And, while we’re at it, for what exactly?”
Haylen looked at him silently for a few moments, but Cory waited.
“You didn’t listen to Felicia an’ Tianyi while you talked to’em?”
“Of course I did. I just didn’t hear any valid argument for their stand. I got to say, it’s rather interesting to see you all so strongly convinced I’m wrong yet you can’t explain why.”
“That you don’t understand don’t mean you be given bad arguments.”
“Trick questions and insinuations hardly count as arguments.”
For a moment Haylen was tempted to bring up the fact that he personally didn’t want to have kids at all. But he had to admit that he had stepped into the same trap as Felicia and Tianyi. Whether or not Cory liked to wind people out, he had succeeded in just that. To try and give him a serious explanation would be a waste of time and energy; Cory would be more keen on winning a word feud than actually making an effort to understand.
So instead of answering, Haylen put conditioner on a cloth and began to silently work it into the now brushed clean boot. Taking sides and defending his own had been natural as well as required in the Tyrian Tanks, but ‘sides’ had gone irrelevant when he signed up for Praesidia, and ‘his own’ had narrowed down to pretty much Ziva and himself.
With the inevitable blur of legal and moral lines that came with that kind of work for that kind of company, he had found that the least frustrating solution to situations like this was to simply shut the fuck up. If he tried to argue for himself or others, it usually only made things worse.
Still, standing idle had never felt right. That added extra bitterness to the fact that while his silence came out of resignation, Tianyi’s silence was an act of aggression.
Cory smiled, pleased with the outcome, no doubt. “If you’re out of arguments, maybe you can elaborate this rabbit thing instead?”
“Can we just drop this now?” asked Matsuko and looked at Cory tiredly.
“If you don’t like the subject, then sure”, Cory answered with exaggerated indifference.
After a couple of minutes Matsuko and Mourad started to talk about something less emotion stirring. Tianyi and Cory got involved too as if nothing happened, but Haylen noticed that Tianyi didn’t answer Cory directly even once.
Tianyi caught Haylen’s eyes to give him a brief smile, either as encouragement or a thanks for the support. He didn’t really think he deserved either.