Jazmura De'an, First Fleshmaker of the Celesti, woke with a fresh appreciation of being corporeal.
That she appreciated it at all made her a bit of an outcast among her people. The Celesti had transcended the flesh when this galaxy was still a dimly-glowing cloud, living a life of the pure mind for countless aeons. They contemplated the secrets of the universe and the very nature of being, some focusing on a single question for a billion years, others investigating matters that might or might not be understood before the heat-death of this universe.
To Jazmura, it was all horribly, terribly dull. She'd transcended the flesh with the rest of them, but grown restless with the contemplative life after only a few millennia and longed to return to more primal times. There was only so much navel-gazing you could do if you didn't actually have a navel.
She had a navel now. She and a small group of malcontents had undertaken to study the living. There had been many among the Celesti who thought it a waste of time or an outright heresy. Some sought to forbid it outright. But that would take an action of the Council and they moved slowly, even by Celesti standards. They'd started arguing a procedural issue around time one of the Fleshmakers thought the primordial soup on this particular planet would be greatly improved with a bit of lightning and they were still weighing the pros and cons.
In the interim, Jazmura had studied a billion souls and walked the flesh dozens of times. Each time, it was a new thrill - to feel gravity and heat and electromagnetism and know the inevitability of death and decay. Her missions were important, but she'd become a Fleshmaker, a pervert even among the biophiles, most perverse of the Celesti.
Her fresh appreciation of the flesh this morning came from being fucked in a most satisfying and thorough manner. She had experienced sex as twenty-two different species including one that laid its eggs in the corona of a dying star. But she'd never experienced a rapture of the flesh like she had with Mohammed Wang the night before. He would make a most magnificent father for the human-Celesti hybrid that must certainly be already gestating in her womb, eager to accept its mantle as the messiah who would lead humanity to leave the flesh and join the Celesti in their glorious destiny.
Feeling Mohammed's eyes on her, she rolled on her back, letting him enjoy the sight of her bare breasts. She knew human males were fascinated with those particular fat deposits and had spent a few years getting them just right. It was nice to have her work appreciated.
"Good morning." He let his hand slide over the flat of her belly, fingertip dipping into the navel she'd shaped over a long winter. "Feel like going again?"
Jazmura was tempted. That phase of her mission was complete, but she would have to hold this form for three quarters of a year while the messiah gestated. She needed to do something while she waited and a constant shagfest seemed like a much better choice than macrame.
Still, if she were going to keep Mohammed around, he might as well be the one to raise their child. The human mind was malleable. It would be easy to guarantee he loved and adored the child, becoming both father and high priest.
She only hoped her manipulation wouldn't interfere with his spectacular skills as a cocksman. Tenderly, she reached out with her thoughts to touch his mind. What she found was not at all what she expected.
Wang leapt out of the bed, staring down at her. "Did you just try to glamour me?" At the same time, Jazmura pointed an accusatory finger at him. "You're not human?"
"Shit!" Wang pushed his long, black hair out of his face. "You're not human either. What the hell are you?"
Feeling she was at a disadvantage, Jazmura rose to her feet and announced, "I am Jazmura De'an, First Fleshmaker of the Celesti."
"You said you were Jasmine, the dental hygienist from Lodi!"
"And you said you were a venture capitalist," Jazmura shouted back at him. "Not an Ordoni Warlord!"
He scowled at her. "How do you know that?"
"I studied your people during the Unification Wars," admitted Jazmura.
"Which Unification Wars?" asked Mohammed. "We've had a few."
"I don't know," said Jazmura. "The first ones, I guess. I incarnated as one of you. They called me Karresha-Golon, Battle-Goddess of a Thousand Skulls."
"No." Mohammed was clearly taken aback. "That was you? My cousin is one of your priests. He's going to be tickled pink when he finds out I had sex with you." He frowned. "Wait. Why are you slumming on Earth, having sex with humans?"
"I'm not apparently. I'm on Earth having sex with an Ordoni." She pushed her hair back from her face. "Wait. Your people are solid. You don't shape shift. How do you look like that?"
"Thousands of hours of very painful surgery," said Mohammed ruefully. "For the glory of Karresha-Golon."
"Really?" Jazmura was oddly touched.
"Actually, I follow Mandargon-Furyl of the Severed Limb," admitted Mohammed. "Or I did. I'm totally converting when I get back. You were ... amazing last night."
"So were you," said Jazmura. "I should have known you weren't human as soon as I heard your name. What kind of name is Mohammed Wang?"
"It's the most common first name and the most common last name among human males," said Mohammed. "I chose it to blend in. What about you, 'Jasmine Belle?'"
She shrugged, "I like Disney movies." She shook her head. "Shit. I'm supposed to be carrying a human-Celesti hybrid who will unify this planet's warring tribes and lead them to their destiny as beings of pure thought."
"What? Like the Celesti?" Mohammed asked. When Jazmura nodded, he frowned.
"What?" she asked.
"Nothing," said Mohammed. "I wish you luck on your project."
"No, tell me," said Jazmura. "You were going to say something."
"Just that I thought humanity might prefer the glory of joining the Ordoni Empire in our struggle against the Void Lords of the Oort Cloud," said Mohammed.
Jazmura poked a finger into his chest. "You're here to father a half-Ordoni on some poor human woman?"