Space 2315… Peace, Chapter 11

As Richard walked into the Officer’s Lounge, Kelea approached him, noting the look of disgust on his face.

“It’s been some time since you’ve been here,” she remarked, observing his demeanor.

“Tell me about it,” he sighed, leaning over the bar with weariness evident in his posture. “It’s been a hell of a month. Between coordinating the expansion of the space station to the upgrades to the computer systems to handle the new additions, it’s been a hell of a month. It was a wonder that I found time to eat and sleep. But now,” he lifted his head off the bar, “the work is done, and I’ve taken some leave to go see my wife, Rachel.”

“Good,” Kelea smiled sympathetically, “it’s about time you go visit your wife.”

“Yeah,” Richard glanced at his datapad, “I’ve got a shuttle to take in about an hour and a half to go planet-side. I just hope my daughter still recognizes me when I get there,” he added with a hint of concern.

“I have no doubt that your daughter will still recognize her daddy,” Kelea reassured him, reaching for his hand.

“I hope so,” he murmured, closing his eyes briefly before opening them again. “But I’m going to go this weekend. I told the captain that I needed to do this. She, of course, understood when I told her how long I’ve not seen my daughter.”

Just then, Triara approached and began to massage Richard’s shoulders, eliciting a sigh of relief from him. As her skilled fingers worked out the tension in his muscles, he expressed his gratitude.

“My God, you really know how to help me relax,” he admitted.

“Of course I do,” Triara replied, leaning in close. “Your wife taught me this, and from the feel of your shoulders, you’ve been bottling up too much. You really do need to vent.”

Richard nodded in acknowledgment, realizing the truth in her words. After a moment, he turned to Kelea with a sheepish grin. “Okay, I get it. I’ll shut up now.”

Kelea chuckled softly as she settled onto a barstool beside him. “I’ll take a double of Johnny Walker Black, please,” she ordered, gesturing to the bartender.

“And I’ll have the same, Kelea,” Richard added.

“Kelea?” She spoke up. “Put his drink on my bar tab.”

“So,” he looked sideways at his Zaltaen friend as he leaned against the bar, “how’s being a newly minted Space Force officer treating you?”

She scoffed as she picked up the glass of Scotch that Kelea had just put on the bar in front of her and looked at it. “I swear to the Great Maker that you humans must love paperwork because that’s all I feel like I’m doing these days.” He chuckled. “The Zaltaen Royal Space Navy never had as much paperwork to do as you guys seem to have to do.”

“Welcome to the bureaucracy of the Space Force, we’ve been expecting you.” He laughed mirthlessly as he held his glass of Scotch up. “I deal with the same crap too and it seems the higher you ascend in the ranks, the more paperwork you end up doing.” She shook her head as she gently swirled the Scotch around in her glass, breathed in some of the smell of her drink, and took a sip at which she smiled. “Oh, Great Maker, that’s the good stuff.” She took another sip of the Scotch and looked back at him. “So, what are your plans this weekend? Are you going to be hanging out with Michael and me?”

“Nope,” he shook his head as he put his glass back down on the bar after taking a sip, “I’m going to go visit Rachel. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen her and, of course, my daughter.” She slowly nodded and smiled. “I was telling Kelea here,” he pointed at her and put his hand back down on the bar top, “that I hope my daughter still recognizes me after being away for so long.”

“Aww,” she reached for his shoulder and patted it, “I’m sure she’ll still remember her daddy.”

“Yeah well,” he sighed as he bit his lower lip, “I wish I had your confidence.” He looked at his glass, picked it up and took another sip, and smiled as the Scotch went down his throat. “But enough about me, how about you? How are you and Michael getting along?”

“Well,” she shrugged, “I think we’re getting along, but you know, I have no frame of reference for this kind of stuff.” Richard, as expected, rolled his eyes. Just then, Michael walked into the lounge.

“Hey there, Richard,” Michael slapped him on the back, nearly causing him to choke, “are you going to hang out with Triara and me tonight?”

“Nope,” Richard replied tersely, getting up from the bar. “I have a shuttle to catch.” With that, he walked away, leaving Michael and Triara still at the bar.

“Hmm,” Michael mused, standing in place as he surveyed the lounge, uncertain of what to do now that his plans with Richard and Triara had abruptly changed.

“You know,” Triara interjected, “we don’t need Richard to hang out. It can just be the two of us, you know?” she suggested, turning on her bar seat to face Michael.

Michael looked at her, intrigued by the suggestion. “Um,” he hesitated, “I suppose we don’t. But,” he hesitated for a moment, “would you even want to hang out with me?”

“Well,” she shrugged, “I did extend the invitation,” she reminded him. “I wouldn’t have made the suggestion to hang out with me if I didn’t want to spend the evening with you.”

“Um,” Michael nervously rubbed the back of his head, trying to regain his composure. “Right,” he muttered with a nervous chuckle, shaking his head at his unease. Damn, he thought to himself, feeling frustrated with his lack of confidence. I used to be better at this. What’s wrong with me? Why am I so nervous? He stole another glance at her, acknowledging her undeniable beauty, yet unable to shake off his anxiety. She’s just a woman, for God’s sake, he reminded himself, but the nerves persisted, leaving him perplexed.

“Come on,” she said, motioning for him to follow her with a playful smile. “I don’t bite, you know,” she added, teasingly.

“Bite?” he echoed, slightly puzzled, as he trailed behind her, following her away from the bar toward a secluded booth.

“I meant that as a joke,” she clarified, glancing back over her shoulder at him with a smirk.

“Oh… right!” he exclaimed, realization dawning on him. “A joke,” he repeated, chuckling nervously as he caught up to her.

He trailed behind her, his gaze lingering appreciatively on her attire. The sleek black dress she wore hugged her curves in all the right places, emphasizing her feminine silhouette with finesse. Its form-fitting design accentuated her hips and backside, falling gracefully to just above mid-thigh. As his eyes traveled downward, he couldn’t help but admire the way her long legs seemed to stretch endlessly beneath the fabric of her black tights, which enhanced their allure. Completing the ensemble were a pair of high-heeled shoes, adding a touch of elegance to her already captivating presence. The combination of her dress, tights, and heels created an effortlessly chic and sophisticated look that left him momentarily breathless.

Observing her stride ahead, he couldn’t shake the feeling that she was purposefully accentuating the sway of her hips, as if teasing him with each step. Meanwhile, Kelea shook her head in bemusement from behind the bar, observing the interactions between Michael and Triara with a knowing smile.

Meanwhile, a soft chuckle danced within Triara’s mind, amused by his transparent thoughts. Like so many humans, his mind seemed to spill forth its contents with all the subtlety of a rushing river.

“Well, here we are,” she said, settling into the booth and gesturing for him to join her.

“Yeah,” he admitted, taking a seat across from her, though he found himself struggling to maintain eye contact, his gaze drawn inexplicably downwards to her ample chest. “Yes, we are,” he echoed, aware of the subtle glances they were receiving from others in the lounge. As he turned his attention back to her, he couldn’t help but feel a twinge of frustration at how nervous he was. “Damn it,” he muttered under his breath, his nerves getting the better of him. “I used to be better at these situations. I never used to be this nervous when out with a woman.”

“Consider me,” she gestured towards herself with a playful grin, “I’m an extraterrestrial alien. I haven’t got a clue what I’m doing here either,” she shrugged nonchalantly, “so, you’re in good company. Relax.” He felt her fingers gently envelop his hand, a comforting gesture that momentarily eased his nerves. “Don’t worry,” she reassured him with a reassuring squeeze, “I think you’re doing just fine.”

As her touch enveloped his hand, a wave of comfort and serenity washed over him, a sensation he had yearned for ever since the passing of his wife and mother of his daughter. He couldn’t quite understand why her touch evoked such a profound feeling within him, but he didn’t dare pull his hand away. It was as if, in that moment, he found a fleeting respite from the ache that had lingered in his heart for so long.

“What’s wrong?” she inquired; her concern evident in her expression.

“Nothing,” he replied, taking a deep breath. “Nothing at all. For the first time in a long time, nothing’s wrong.” He lifted his gaze from their intertwined hands. “I’ve been a mess for a while now, ever since I lost my wife,” he confessed, his voice tinged with emotion. “I know,” he continued, shaking his head as he closed his eyes, “I haven’t exactly been the most fun person to be around these past couple of months.” Before she could respond, he pressed on. “But I want to thank you for sticking by me despite the figurative dark cloud that’s been,” he glanced up, “hanging over my head.”

“Aww,” she cooed, her eyes softening with warmth. “It’s no problem at all. It’s been fun getting to hang out with you.”

“Really?” he asked, his surprise evident in his tone, considering how he had been feeling and acting for the past couple of months. “Are you saying that just to be nice to me?” he questioned, his insecurity peeking through despite her reassurance.

“No!” she exclaimed emphatically; her sincerity evident in her expression. “I’m not just saying that. It’s been genuinely great to have someone else to hang out with besides Richard what with how he’s married and all.” She glanced down at their still intertwined hands. “Contrary to what you might think, I really don’t have a lot of friends because, as you can probably imagine,” she met his gaze again, her tone somber, “not a lot of people want to socialize with Zaltaens, and much of that is for good reason. The only others that I can even remotely call a friend were transferred to another posting, so I don’t get to hang out with them.”

He shrugged. “Their loss.”

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“What I mean is that it’s their loss for not wanting to get to know you,” he asserted, his voice filled with sincerity as he looked down at their intertwined hands. “I really do appreciate you wanting to hang out with me what with well, you know.”

“Not at all!” she exclaimed, shaking her head earnestly. “I know you’ve been through a lot. Nobody would blame you for your emotional state. Hell,” she chuckled softly, a hint of sadness lingering in her eyes, “I’ve had my own share of loss in my life,” she admitted, bringing her gaze back to meet his, “so I understand where you’re coming from. Not that I’m discounting your loss.”

“If you don’t mind me asking, what happened to you?” He watched as the expression on the alien woman’s face, which was otherwise a happy expression, suddenly turn to that of which he often had when he looked at himself in the mirror. “Hey,” he gave her hand a squeeze, “if you don’t want to talk about it, you don’t have to.”

“Thanks,” she sighed, “I’d rather not. It’s not easy for me to talk about,” she responded softly.

He reached out to gently touch her hand. “I understand. Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt and burned it afterwards.”

“Bought the T-shirt?” she asked, a hint of confusion in her expression. “And why would you burn it after you bought it?”

He stifled a chuckle, realizing she didn’t understand the idiom. He didn’t want her to feel bad. “It means that I’ve been where you were, and I never want to go there again,” he explained, giving her hands a reassuring squeeze. “And a big part of the reason I’m… not as depressed as I was, is because of you and Richard.”

“Oh, I know,” she nodded, a soft smile playing on her lips. “Both Richard and Rachel were there for me when I needed a friend the most.” She glanced down at their intertwined hands. “And I’m happy to have been there for you as well.”

“Thanks,” he replied, offering her a grateful smile. “You know,” he began, steeling himself, “I’ve been thinking… would you, um,” he hesitated, “like to go out with me sometime?” His voice carried a touch of nervousness.

“Um,” she glanced around the lounge, her brow furrowing in confusion, “aren’t we out right now?” He chuckled at her response. “I take it that I don’t understand the question.”

“No,” he shook his head, amusement flickering in his eyes, “but that’s alright. I should’ve been clearer with you. What I mean is,” he paused, steeling himself again, “would you like to go out on a date with me?” He met her gaze as she sat there blinking, seemingly unable to comprehend his question. “Triara.” He waved his hand in front of her face. “CIC to Triara, come in Triara,” he joked, trying to lighten the moment.

“Um,” she stammered, “are you really asking me what I think you’re asking?” she questioned, her tone laced with disbelief.

“Uh-huh,” he confirmed with a soft hum, his own smile widening in anticipation of her response.

“Great Maker,” she whispered, her eyes scanning the room until they landed on Kelea, who was at the bar with her thumbs up in approval. Returning her gaze to him, she hesitated before speaking. “I, um…” she stuttered, her nerves evident, “I would love to. However,” she gulped, her anxiety mounting, “I have no idea how any of this stuff works. I don’t know how dating works among humans.” She glanced down at the table, uncertainty clouding her expression. “Maybe this isn’t such a good idea.”

Meanwhile, inside her head, she could hear Kelea screaming at her, questioning why she had responded in such a way.

“Honey,” he said, using a term of endearment that made her blush with a mix of surprise and warmth. “You’re being much too hard on yourself.” She looked up at him, her eyes wide with astonishment. “I’ve not been out on a date in years,” he continued, sensing her apprehension. “I was married to Mary for a long time, five years in fact. And even before Mary and I got married, we never actually dated.”

“You never dated her?” she asked, her curiosity piqued. “How did you get to know her?”

“Like I told you before, we were high school sweethearts,” he began, his voice carrying a nostalgic tone. “My family lived right next door to hers. Heck,” he reminisced, a fond smile tugging at his lips, “I remember playing with her when we were both seven years old in her parents’ backyard back on Terra. We used to play ‘camp,’ setting up a makeshift tent out of blankets and lawn chairs and having loads of fun.

“Then we went to grade school and high school, and throughout those years, we were inseparable. Other students teased us for being nearly attached at the hip, but even then, we knew we’d be together.

“I remember graduating eighth grade, and during our end-of-the-year ceremony, right in front of the whole student body, we kissed,” he recounted with a chuckle. “We actually kissed, on the lips,” he gestured to his own lips. “It was so very wrong, but at the time, it felt so very right. We both got called into the principal’s office and got chewed out, but the kiss made it all worth it. Even back then, in eighth grade, I knew I loved her and that I wanted to spend my life with her.”

“But how am I supposed to compete with that kind of life experience?” she asked, her voice tinged with uncertainty, seemingly unable to fathom why he would want to take a chance on her.

“Because though there may be a part of me that will always love Mary because she was my first love, she died, and no amount of wishing or praying will ever bring her back to me,” he explained, his voice tinged with sadness and acceptance. “In these past few months, with the help of,” he looked down at their intertwined hands, “you,” he met her gaze once more, “and Richard, I’ve grieved for her and gotten over the loss of her in my life. I’ve also learned that I need to open myself up to love again, to be able to find someone else to love and cherish much like I did with Mary.”

He closed his eyes briefly, collecting his thoughts. “I know Mary would want that for me and, of course, for my daughter. I don’t think she’d want me to go through life without someone to have and to hold in my life.”

“I understand that, but why me?” She placed her hand over her chest, her gaze searching his earnestly. “Why take a chance on me? I’m an alien.”

He shrugged, his expression softening with sincerity. “Because every relationship involves taking a chance. Moreover, why should it matter that you’re an alien?” She sat there, blinking in surprise. “To me, it doesn’t matter where you’re from or what species you are. What’s important is who you are as a person.” He observed her as she looked down at the table. “And besides, even though you barely knew me, you’ve shown me incredible kindness over these past few months. You’ve been a tremendous help to me,” he confessed, his voice filled with gratitude. He paused, collecting his thoughts before continuing.

“Triara, I wanted to end my life, yet you and Richard gave me a reason to live; and I can’t even begin to thank you for that,” he confessed, his voice trembling with emotion. He gently lifted her hands off the table, holding them tenderly in his own. “You saved me from making one of the biggest mistakes one could ever make.”

Even though she was aware of the impact she had on him, hearing his heartfelt gratitude stirred something deep within her.

“Thank you,” she whispered, her voice barely audible, “and I’m…” Her voice faltered as tears welled up in her eyes, a single tear slipping down her cheek. “I’m happy to know that I saved your life. I don’t know what I’d have done if I had to stand over your casket.”

“Well,” he smiled warmly as he squeezed her hands, “thankfully,” he glanced down at their intertwined fingers, “we’ll never have to know.” His gaze met hers again. “So, how about that date? Does next weekend sound good to you?”

He observed as she bit her lower lip and nodded. “Yeah, next week sounds great.”

“Then it’s a date!” he exclaimed enthusiastically, leaning back in his seat.

Meanwhile, she passively reached out with her mental abilities and sensed his thoughts, finding them to be completely genuine in nature; it was as if he was genuinely eager to go out on a date with her.

“But what should I wear? What are we going to do on this… date?” she asked, her mind racing with anticipation at the idea of going out with him.

“Hmm,” he hummed in thought. “Have you ever been to Murray’s?”

“Murray’s Steakhouse?” she exclaimed, her eyes lighting up with recognition. “Of course, I have! It’s only the best steakhouse this side of Mars. In fact,” she recalled the memory of her first dinner with Richard and Rachel, “it was at Murray’s Steakhouse that I met Richard and Rachel for the first time. Though at the time, they knew me as Hoshi.”

“Hoshi?” he asked, intrigued. “Was that your name while you were undercover?”

“Uh-huh,” she nodded. “That was the name I was given.”

“How did you come to know Richard and his wife, Rachel?” he inquired further.

“Well,” she recalled, her thoughts drifting back to her time on the HFS Valiant, “I was posted on the HFS Valiant by BuPers1Bureau of Personnel., and it was aboard that ship that I befriended Richard and Rachel. We first met while aboard a space station similar to this one, during a busy night just before our ship was set to disembark. A few months later, after we Zaltaens were instructed to drop our disguises, I revealed my true self to Richard.”

“Then I take it that your initial experience with him was good?” he asked.

“Very much so!” she exclaimed with a smile. “They even compared me to something straight out of a Tolkien novel.”

At her words, he burst into laughter. “Oh God! That sounds like Richard, alright! He’s a geek through and through.”

“Actually,” she corrected with a chuckle, “it was Rachel who compared me to something out of World of Warcraft or The Lord of the Rings.”

“Oh my God,” he joined in her laughter, “she’s right. You do look like an elf!” He reached for her hand. “Not that that’s a bad thing because,” he looked into her purple eyes, “you’re… beautiful.”

“Thank you,” she blushed, genuinely appreciative of his compliment.

“But anyways,” he continued, getting out of the booth, “I’ve got an appointment with my therapist in half an hour, so I must get going if I have any intention of not being late. The central corridor is busy this time of day.”

“Therapy?” she inquired, curious.

“Yeah,” he sighed, rolling his eyes. “Space Force mandated. They want to make sure I’m alright up here,” he tapped the side of his head. “Once a month, I must go. Thankfully, they’ve reduced the frequency from once a week to once a month since this all started.”

“Well, if you ask me, I think you’re doing just fine. You’re a whole lot better than when I first met you,” she reassured him.

“That may be so, but they still want to see me,” he sighed. “Hopefully, this will be my last session with the shrink. See you later, Triara.” With that, he walked away, leaving her sitting at the table, lost in thought.

Kelea came up to the table where Triara was sitting and took a seat across from her. “You know, you very nearly blew it. You know that, right?” Triara hung her head low, feeling a pang of regret. “Thankfully, he already has a thing for you, or you would’ve, as humans say, struck out.”

“I know, but…” Triara began, but Kelea cut her off sharply.

“But nothing!” Kelea exclaimed, pounding the table for emphasis. “You very nearly blew the whole thing with him, and you,” she pointed a finger at Triara, “know it!” Triara nodded sheepishly, feeling a sense of guilt creeping in.

“Do you really want to live your whole damn life lonely and shit?” Kelea continued, her tone stern. Triara shook her head, her eyes reflecting her inner turmoil.

“Then start acting like it already! Nobody wants to hang out with a sad sack,” Kelea admonished, her words hitting Triara like a wake-up call.

“A sad sack?” Triara asked, puzzled. “What’s that?”

“Hell, if I know,” Kelea shrugged nonchalantly, “I just overheard someone say it and I thought it was funny. But I digress, you’re lucky that he’s just as messed up in the head as you are,” she chuckled. “The two of you are practically made for each other; the both of you are sick in the head.”

Triara sighed, feeling a mix of gratitude and determination. “I’ll try.”

“As Yoda said… Do or do not. There is no try.” Kelea quoted with a smirk, knowing how much Triara rolled her eyes at such human pop culture references. “You have a date with him next weekend,” she reminded her, rising from the table. “Give it your all.”

“I will,” Triara promised. “I hope everything goes well next weekend.”

“There’s that self-doubt again!” Kelea exclaimed, pointing accusingly at Triara. “Have some more confidence in yourself.” Triara looked back up at Kelea, her expression softened by her friend’s words. “Any guy would be lucky to have you in their life. Like Michael said, quit being so damn hard on yourself already. As humans say, you’re a catch,” Kelea insisted, her tone firm but supportive.

Triara hesitated for a moment before responding, her mind still clouded by uncertainty. “Yeah, but remember,” she began, pointing up at Kelea, “we are aliens and humans still aren’t…” However, her sentence trailed off as two figures entered the Officer’s Lounge, catching their attention.

Commander Nathan Fox from reactor control entered alongside a Zaltaen woman, their hands intertwined as they made their way towards the bar. Triara’s gaze lingered on the Zaltaen woman, specifically noticing the crest on her Zaltaen Royal Space Navy uniform; the crest of the House of Nightshadow.

Observing the unlikely pairing, Triara couldn’t help but wonder why someone from such a prestigious and powerful political house on Zalta would be hanging out in the human section of the station.

“See?” Kelea pointed towards Nathan and the Zaltaen woman as they approached the bar together. “She’s with a human. Why can’t you be with one?”

“You do have a point,” Triara conceded with a sigh, her thoughts still lingering on the mysterious Zaltaen woman and the human she was accompanying.

“I’m glad you agree with me on that one. But anyways…” Kelea turned away from her, but at the last second, she turned back to look at Triara. “I have to get to the bar and serve them. Why don’t you take your sorry self over to the bar and get a drink yourself? It would give you an excuse to talk to them.”

“Kelea!” Triara exclaimed, her frustration evident. “Hello? CIC to Kelea, come in, Kelea.” Kelea chuckled at the military term Triara had used.

“I’m a Zaltaen without a House; I might as well be a nobody to her. I doubt she’d even say one damn word to me. She’d probably find it beneath her to even utter one word to me.”

“There’s only one way to find out,” Kelea insisted, pointing at the bar. “Go up to the bar and find out.” With that, Kelea left Triara fuming.

Triara sighed, feeling a mix of apprehension and curiosity as she stood up and walked up to the bar. She ordered a double of Johnny Walker Black, keeping her eye on Kelea as she served the male human and the Zaltaen woman two pints of Olympus Mons Porter.

“Say,” Triara began, attempting to strike up a conversation, “I don’t think I’ve seen the two of you around here. Are you guys new here?”

“Yeah,” the male human spoke up, “Nelyssia and I just got transferred here, two weeks ago in fact. Now that we’ve had the chance to get to know the station, we decided to get out and find somewhere fun to go.”

“Well,” Triara looked around, “this is about as good a place as any. Although, I do have to admit that other than myself,” she gestured to herself, “and the bartender, Kelea,” she gestured towards her behind the bar, “not too many Zaltaens choose to come to this section of the station.”

“Yeah well,” Nelyssia interjected, “I don’t care.” Triara noticed the engagement ring on Nelyssia’s finger and couldn’t resist asking about it.

“What’s that?” Triara asked, pointing at the ring on Nelyssia’s finger.

“Oh!” Nelyssia exclaimed. “This is my engagement ring that Nathan here,” she reached out to touch Nathan’s shoulder, “gave to me when he asked me to marry him.” She extended her hand to show Triara the ring. “Isn’t it pretty?”

Triara examined the ring, feeling a pang of envy at the idea that she had someone who loved her enough to ask her to marry him. “Nathan asked me to marry him about a year ago, and seeing as how I’m wearing the ring, you can probably tell that I said yes.”

“Obviously,” Triara replied, her mind racing with thoughts.

“Say,” Nelyssia turned to Triara, “what’s your name? I’m Nelyssia of the House of Nightshadow.”

“Triara,” she responded, trying to hide her unease.

“What House do you come from?” Nelyssia inquired further.

“I… I don’t come from a House,” Triara admitted, her discomfort evident.

Nelyssia’s expression softened as she understood the implications. “I was… was…” Triara began, but Nelyssia reached out to touch her hand.

“I understand. Say no more,” Nelyssia reassured her. “I imagine that it’s not an easy subject to talk about.” Triara nodded, feeling a sense of relief.

“What happened to Triara?” Nathan asked, his curiosity piqued. “Though I’ve been with Nelyssia for some time, I don’t know everything about Zaltaen culture.”

“Triara is a Zaltaen without a House,” Nelyssia explained, turning to face Triara. “Meaning she was cast out of her House, which is pretty much the worst thing that a noble Zaltaen could ever have happen to them.” She then turned back to Triara. “What House did you once come from?”

“The House of Moonbeam,” Triara admitted reluctantly.

“Oof,” Nelyssia grimaced, “I’ve heard that the matriarch of the House of Moonbeam is, as humans say, a real bitch. She’s really old-school and still believes in all that traditional way of thinking, that one has to uphold the honor of the House and all that stuff.”

“That’s putting it mildly.” Triara took another sip of her Scotch. “With that being said, can we change the subject? I don’t like talking about it.”

“Of course.”

“So,” Triara took a longer sip of her Scotch than Kelea would’ve liked as she watched from afar, “when will you two be getting married?”

“We would’ve liked to get married sooner but,” Nelyssia scoffed, “they won’t get us get married until I get my Human Federation citizenship; something about making sure that I’m not marrying Nathan here,” she reached up and rubbed his back, “simply to get my citizenship. As if I would do something like that.”

“Trust me,” Triara pointed at her, “get ready to wait. I put my application in nearly a year ago and I just got my citizenship. As humans say, hurry up and wait.” She watched as Nelyssia and Nathan looked at each other worriedly. “I guess the powers that be weren’t at all prepared to have an actual extraterrestrial alien want to become a citizen. But who knows.” Triara put her glass back down on the bar and motioned for Kelea to pour her another drink. “With that being said,” Triara began, “how did the two of you meet?”

“Do you remember back when all of us Zaltaens dropped their disguises?” Triara nodded. “Well, I was serving onboard a Human Federation ship at the time and Nathan,” she reached up and rubbed his back again, “and I had been dating for some time; the only thing was that he knew me as Erin at the time.”

“Erin was your undercover name?”

“Uh-huh,” Nelyssia hummed, “that it was. What was your undercover name?”

“Hoshi was my undercover name.”

“Ah,” Nelyssia hummed, “but anyways, Nathan and I had been good friends for a long time when it came time for all of us to drop our disguises, I called Nathan to my room under the pretext that I wanted to watch a movie with him that evening and that was when I dropped my disguise.” Nathan spoke up. “As you can imagine, I had a lot of questions and Nelyssia was more than happy to answer them for me.”

“As far as reveals go, I think mine went very well considering how I’ve heard many others didn’t have such a good experience.”

“That’s very true,” Triara began. “I’ve heard some seriously bad horror stories as I’m sure you’ve heard some yourself.” Nelyssia spoke up interrupting her. “Tell me about it, I’ve heard a lot of them myself. Thankfully,” she wrapped her arm around Nathan’s waist as she took a sip of her beer, “my reveal to Nathan went very well.”

“Likewise,” Triara began, “I revealed my true self to two Humans: Richard and Rachel. Ever since then, they’ve been two of my best friends, really the best friends that a,” she sighed as she closed her eyes, “Zaltaen could ever have in her life.” She opened her eyes again. “Recently, Richard welcomed me into his family.” She watched Nelyssia and Nathan look at each other. “I even met Richard’s parents; they too welcomed me into their home. Richard tells me that he sees me like a sister that he never had.”

Wow,” Nelyssia breathed out, “that’s amazing. You’re lucky to have met them and of course, I’m lucky to have met Nathan.”

“The three of us had a really good time when I revealed myself to Richard and Rachel. Rachel even joked that I looked like something,” she chuckled, “straight out of a Tolkien novel.”

Nathan laughed. “Yeah, that’s the same thing I said!” Nathan exclaimed. “Right, honey?” He kissed her cheek. “To this day, I call Nelyssia my space elf.” Nelyssia smiled as she turned to kiss him. “Right, you are.”

Nathan once again kissed her and as Triara watched the two of them show obvious signs of affection towards each other, she couldn’t help but feel jealous of what they had. She hoped that perhaps one day she would have the same kind of relationship they had.

“But I have to ask,” Triara looked over at Nathan and then back at Nelyssia, “what does your matriarch think about how the two of you are together? I can’t imagine that she’s happy about your relationship with Nathan. Or, have you,” she pointed at Nelyssia, “told her of the kind of relationship that you have together? And if you have,” Triara watched Nelyssia nod her head, “how have you not been cast out of your House like I was over how the two of you are together?”

“Well,” Nelyssia paused, “my House recently had a new matriarch appointed as leader of our House that’s more, shall we say, liberal in her ways of thinking. She’s not like many of our elders that caused our society to stagnate, she’s open to new ideas. Now, had I told the old matriarch about our relationship then yes,” she rolled her eyes, “I would also have been cast out of my House much like you were. However, I’m happy to know that that didn’t happen to me. As for you,” Nelyssia reached for Triara’s hand, “I’m deeply sorry that that happened to you. You seem like a nice person; you didn’t deserve it.”

“Thank you,” Triara smiled as she squeezed Nelyssia’s hand and briefly scanned Nelyssia’s thoughts telepathically, “I appreciate it. I really do. Richard thinks the same way as you do in the sense that he too thinks I didn’t deserve it. As you can probably imagine, after what happened to me, I don’t have many friends besides Richard and Rachel,” she pointed at Kelea at the other side of the bar, “Kelea, and a few others. And when it comes to the other Zaltaens aboard this station because many of them come from prestigious Houses, they want nothing to do with me.”

“It’s their loss,” Nelyssia shrugged. “However, speaking about not having many friends, Nathan and I,” she looked at Nathan over her shoulder, “just got assigned to the station two weeks ago.” Triara, meanwhile, had wondered why she hadn’t seen them before. “If you ever want to hang out with us,” she felt Nathan’s hand on her shoulder, “we wouldn’t mind; we’d love to have you join us.”

“I’d love to.” Triara yawned. “But I’ve got to get going, I have an early morning shift and I need to get some sleep. I didn’t get much sleep the night before.” She was about to stand up when Nelyssia reached for Triara’s hand. “Wait.” Nelyssia looked back at Nathan and they both tossed back what they had left of their beer. “We’ll come with you.” They both came up behind Triara. “Where do you live?”

“Blue section, sector two.”

“That’s where we live,” Nathan said as they approached the lift that would take them to the tram level. “Nelyssia and I live together.” Triara looked back at them as the door to the lift opened. “Wait.” She stopped in the middle of the doorway to the lift, turned about, and put her hand on the door to stop it from closing. “You two live together?” They both nodded. “As in… together?” She made the air quotes gesture with her fingers. Again, they both nodded as Triara walked backward into the lift allowing the two of them to come inside.

“Why do you seem so shocked Triara?” Nelyssia asked. “You know you don’t hold a monopoly on Zaltaens embracing more of what humanity has to offer, you know.” She put her hands on her hips. “I got off Zalta because I couldn’t stand the place anymore after I heard how many opportunities were in Human space and the rest of the galaxy. As you’re probably already aware,” she pressed the button for the tram level on the console, “Zalta’s a snooze fest when compared to what’s going on out here in the rest of the galaxy.”

“You’re not wrong about that.” Triara pointed at Nelyssia. “There’s so much more going on out here than back in the Zaltaen star system or for that matter, any Zaltaen star system.”

Exactly!” Nelyssia exclaimed. “I got out here in Human space to explore and experience new things.” She scoffed. “I came out here to learn about humanity and in the time that I’ve been among humans, I’ve learned that Zaltaens back home have humanity all wrong. Oh sure,” she laughed, “humanity may be a bit rough around the edges.”

Hey!” Nathan exclaimed.

“Let me finish my love,” Nelyssia smirked. “As I was going to say, humanity may be a bit rough around the edges,” Triara watched Nathan roll his eyes, “but they’re nowhere near as bad as the elders back home would like you to believe and you, yourself, already know that. Right?” Triara nodded as the lift came to a stop and the three of them walked off the lift at which Nelyssia turned back at Triara who was walking behind her. “In the time that I’ve been among humans, I’ve become quite fond of humanity in general. I love being among humans! They’re so not like the sticks in the mud that Zaltaens can generally be.” She laughed. “I’ve tried to talk to some of the Zaltaens here on the station to try and get them to open up to humanity as I have, but damn,” she raised a hand in the air, “it seems like I’m talking to a damn wall.” Triara chuckled for she too had similar experiences. “They’ve, to use a human phrase, bought the line that our elders back home are selling hook, line, and sinker.”

The three of them came to the edge of the tram platform and waited for a tram to come.

“Let me tell you this,” Nelyssia pointed at Triara, “ever since I’ve come to live among humans and, of course, ever since I started dating Nathan here,” she reached down and took hold of his hand, “I’ve been the happiest I’ve been in years! Going back home to Zalta seems like torture.”

“You do have a point,” Triara looked down at the floor of the tram platform, “however, I do have to ask,” she looked back up at Nelyssia, “how have you two been together?”

Excellent!” Nelyssia exclaimed. “As I said before, ever since I found Nathan,” she looked at him and kissed his cheek, “my life has been rewarding. I mean come on,” she once again showed Triara her engagement ring, “Nathan here proposed marriage to me! I mean seriously! I have no doubt that if I had stayed back home on Zalta, I’d be absolutely miserable.” She put an arm around Nathan. “I have everything I could ever want with Nathan in my life. I have someone in my life that doesn’t care what I am or what world I came from and most importantly,” she turned to Nathan, “he loves me, and I love him.” She turned back to Triara. “I have everything that I could’ve ever hoped for and a whole lot more. So, with all of that being said, what’s stopping you from finding love in your life? Are you dating someone?”

Just then the tram came up to the station and the three of them boarded the tram at which they sat down in the relatively vacant tram for at that hour of the night, traffic on the tram wasn’t that heavy for they were in the middle of a shift, and it wouldn’t be a busy again for another couple of hours.

“Well,” Triara nervously reached up and rubbed the back of her neck, “I have a date with someone next week but it’s a bit complicated because of his baggage.”

“Complicated how?” Nathan asked. “What kind of baggage are you talking about here?”

“Well.” Triara looked down at her lap. “I have a date with this guy named Michael and he’s got a young daughter, she’s six standard Terran years old.” Both Nelyssia and Nathan looked at each other and raised their eyebrows. “And during the war between the Human Federation and the then ACF, he lost his wife and mother of his child. His wife was his… high school sweetheart.”

Ouch!” Nathan exclaimed as he winced. “Now that complicates things.”

“Have you gone out with him yet?”

“No,” Triara shook her head, “our first date is next weekend.”

“Well,” Nathan spoke up, “he must be interested in you in some way for him to ask you out on a date. Right?” Triara began to think about that when Nathan continued. “All you can do is go out with him and hope for the best.”

“Alright Triara,” Nathan began, “if there’s any advice that I can give you, it’s that you need to give him time. People like him, especially after he’s lost so much in his life, need time. He needs to learn to trust you and only time will make that possible.”

“Yeah,” Nelyssia reached over to Nathan and took hold of Triara’s hand, “that’s what I was going to say. Give him the space he needs. And as Nathan said, if he’s indeed interested in you like you say he is, he just needs time. And when it does come time for him to open up to you, be there for him; he’s going to need you.”

“I will.” Just then the tram stopped in blue section, sector two. “Well, here’s my stop.” Triara stood up from the seat and approached the door. “This is where I get off.” They too stood up. “Where are you two going?” They both pointed at the door as the door opened. “We’re in this section too.” They continued to walk down the hallway to the respective staterooms when Triara stopped at hers and when she looked behind her, Nelyssia and Nathan stopped at a room right across the hall. “Wait,” she called to them before they had a chance to walk into their room, “you live across the hall from me?”

“Yeah.” Nelyssia turned about. “You didn’t know that?”

“I thought Ensign Leah Pearce lived there.” Nelyssia turned about. “Yeah, she used to live here; she was transferred to the shipyard about a month ago. She received a promotion to Lieutenant and a change of station in the process, I’m surprised you didn’t hear that.” Triara shook her head. “I had no idea. Honestly,” she reached up and rubbed the back of her neck, “I’ve been far too busy with my workload to know what’s happening on the station.” She yawned. “Anyways, it was nice talking with the both of you, but I need some sleep. Good night.”

“Good night.” The two of them smiled and walked into their stateroom that they shared.

Triara typed out her response on her datapad, her fingers tapping against the smooth surface.

“Yeah, you were right,” she replied, adding a wry smiley face at the end before hitting send. Leaning back against the closed door, she couldn’t help but reflect on Kelea’s advice. It seemed like she always had a knack for predicting how things would turn out.

As the door closed, Nathan turned to Nelyssia. “What do you think about her?”

“Well,” Nelyssia began to unbutton her uniform blouse, “she’s got some issues.” She took her uniform blouse off and threw it on the couch. “That’s for sure! Then again,” she reached down around herself to take her uniform t-shirt off leaving her wearing only her bra and her uniform pants and boots, “if I were in her position and I,” she pointed at herself, “had been cast out of my House, I’d have some issues too.”

“That’s true,” Nathan sat down on the couch and watched her get undressed, “you can take your shower first, I don’t mind.” Nelyssia nodded and continued to undress. “That’s probably the case. She’s trying to not let it affect her but it’s clear that she still has some issues.”

Any Zaltaen would.” She sat down on the couch and began to take her combat boots off. “For a Zaltaen to be cast out of their respective House, especially in the upper Houses, is to lose said honor among our people. It’s kind of a big deal,” she sat back up, “and I’m not surprised that she still has some lingering issues that she might not want others to see in her despite her putting on a brave face. She’s trying to remain strong but there are, as you said,” she stood up and undid her uniform belt, “cracks in that armor she wears.”

“Yeah,” Nathan shook his head, “but you better go take your shower so I can take mine.” He looked up at his fiancée while she was wearing very little. “We both have an early morning to look forward to, seeing as how we’re finally going to get married.”

“I know,” Nelyssia walked away, “I can’t wait.”

As Kytia entered the halls of the House of Moonbeam and faced its members, her gaze fell upon Queen Raina, who nodded in silent support, bolstering her confidence for the address ahead.

“Members of the House of Moonbeam,” Kytia began, her voice steady yet imbued with emotion, “the sudden loss of my mother and our matriarch has undoubtedly shaken us all. We prayed fervently for her recovery, but alas, she has departed from us. Yet, I believe she watches over us now, granting us the strength to carry on in her absence.”

After a moment of collective acknowledgment, Kytia continued, “With careful consideration, I have been entrusted by the Matriarchal Council to assume the role of the new matriarch of the House of Moonbeam.” Applause and expressions of approval rippled through the assembly.

“With this appointment comes change,” she announced, observing the reactions of the elders, aware of their apprehensions. She maintained her resolve to keep her plans confidential, even from her own sister, until she officially assumed her role.

“For too long, our House has remained mired in antiquated thinking,” she declared, allowing a brief pause for the elders to absorb her words. “We have clung to the past while neglecting the opportunities that lie ahead. Unlike my mother, I embrace the future with optimism and determination.”

Kytia’s declaration hung in the air, marking a profound shift in the House’s trajectory. “From this moment forward, there will be a new ethos guiding the House of Moonbeam,” she concluded, her voice resolute. “Though many deserving individuals are absent from this grand occasion, their absence ends today.”

The elders exchanged uneasy glances as Kytia continued, defying the traditions upheld by her mother. “Today, I extend a personal invitation to every member wrongfully cast out of our House, inviting them to return and reclaim their rightful place among us.” As she said that, the younger generation erupted in jubilation, while the elders watched in disbelief at Kytia’s audacity to challenge her mother’s decisions.

“I have always believed that our House is strongest when united as one,” Kytia proclaimed, meeting the elders’ apprehensive gazes head-on. “But division weakens us. It is time to acknowledge that the expulsion of our own kin has weakened our House. It is time to rectify these injustices.”

Her words hung in the air, challenging the elders to reconsider their stance on exclusion and division within their House.

“It’s time that we welcome those who aren’t among us back into the fold,” Kytia proclaimed, her voice carrying conviction. “Individuals like Triara,” she continued, naming others on her list, “who should be here celebrating with us. I will personally undertake the mission to extend invitations to each of them, welcoming them back into our midst.”

Once again, the younger members of the House of Moonbeam clapped and stood up before the newly appointed matriarch while the elders looked on horror.

“I know there are some of you,” she looked to those who hadn’t stood up, “that don’t necessarily agree with me but know this,” she raised her finger in the air, “in the end, all of this will result in a stronger, more powerful House. With these changes I promise all of you that the House of Moonbeam will be stronger than ever. Perhaps even be a House that a future queen will arise from.”

Queen Raina chuckled at the thought of a queen emerging from any other House; for nearly a thousand years, the House of Greenfeather had been the most powerful of all the Houses of Zalta and she wasn’t at all about to let the power of her House slip away.

“From this point on, the future of the House of Moonbeam will be a glorious one.”

Later that evening, Kytia’s sister, Alise came to her. “Kytia,” she sat down in front of her sister’s desk, “that was pretty bold of you to make those claims.” Kytia, of course, smiled; she didn’t care much about what others thought of her including that of her sister. “You know that the elders of our House are going to be coming for you, right?”

“That’s the wonderful thing about being the matriarch,” she mirthlessly laughed, “I don’t have to care. Let those fools come for me, they’ll be dead soon much like our mother that stood in the way of progress.”

“Kytia, that’s our mother you’re talking about!” Alise exclaimed. “She just died a week ago, have some respect for the dead.”

“You know as well as I do that if it weren’t for our mother, we wouldn’t be facing the loss of nearly a quarter of our political capital in the House of Lords, right?” Alise nodded, she agreed with her sister. “Even the other matriarchs of the other Houses of our world saw her as an antiquated old fool holding onto the past. You couldn’t tell her anything because in her mind, the matriarch is always right even when she was wrong.

“And you know that we’ve lost of a lot of political capital these past few years and I,” Kytia hit her desk, “blame her.” She pointed at a picture of her mother that was hanging on the wall. “This House used to be second only to that of the House of Greenfeather. Now we’re what? Behind Nightshadow in sixth place?” She scoffed. “What a joke!”

“That may be so,” Alise began, “but still, you angered a lot of people today with that little speech of yours. I heard what the elders said about you. I was in the crowd.”

“Again, I don’t care,” Kytia defiantly said. “I will restore the prestige that this great House of Zalta once had, with them or without them.” Alise shook her head. “You’ll see,” Kytia pointed at her sister, “I’ve been building coalitions and cultivating alliances for months behind my mother’s back. I knew that this day would come so I’ve been preparing for it and I’m more than ready to lead this House to greatness once again. We will see this House rise once again.”

Alise stood up. “I hope you’re right, for your sake.” She then walked out of her sister’s office and shook her head at her sister’s stubbornness.

Continue to Chapter 12…

Last updated on Saturday, May 18th, 2024 at 6:29 PM by trparky.

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    Bureau of Personnel.