Tom's World Tech Blog

Space 2315… Peace, Chapter 11

Richard walked into the officer’s lounge and looked about at some of the pretty young female officers flaunting their looks by wearing outfits that he would’ve sworn almost broke the regs and the place’s dress code, not to mention pushing the boundaries of good taste. Not all the female officers mind you. A majority had the good sense not to dress like they were back in college and trying to pick up a date at the campus bar. Aside from that casual look he tried to pay them no mind. He was a married man after all, and while he could look, he wouldn’t do more than that.

“Hey Richard,” a young female officer walked by and as she did so, he shook his head to try and get the image of what she was wearing out of his mind for she was wearing a sort of one-piece kind of outfit that had a completely open back along with the shortest miniskirt that he had ever seen. And if that wasn’t bad enough, her whole outfit was so tight he wondered if it was painted on her instead of it being actual clothing.

He looked her over very quickly, seeing that it was Lieutenant Nancy Tuncer from the station’s quartermaster office, and wondered just what the hell was getting into the young people these days. He didn’t think of himself as old fashioned, or old, by any stretch of the imagination, but Rachel had taught him that sometimes more was better; or rather, that the less shown the better. He liked seeing his wife wearing less, or nothing at all but that was his wife, not a fellow officer.

She was a pretty enough brunette, he’d give her that. But he was off limits and the crew knew it. That and he didn’t need people thinking that he was being too friendly with his subordinates. And on this station, just about everyone, servicemember, civilian and contractor was his subordinate. There really was only one woman he could be with, and she was on the planet a few light minutes away.

And if he was going to be honest with himself, seeing his wife naked as much as he could was something they both enjoyed, evidenced by some of the photos and HD video messages or calls they shared where she was in various stages of undress. In fact, he was expecting a call tonight and he was hoping… he shook his head to clear his thoughts. There was a time and place to think of such things.

The XO in him began to wonder if there were any regs in the book he could throw at her for wearing something that was–in his mind–very inappropriate. Conduct unbecoming of an officer, he thought. However, he likely couldn’t make the charge stick and any court would throw it out. There really wasn’t anything in the regulations about what a servicemember could or couldn’t wear while off duty, as evidenced by some of the swimsuits Rachel had worn while on leave. But that was on leave at a beach somewhere. Time and place after all.

If he wanted to try and bring the younger woman up on charges he could kiss his reputation goodbye, that’s for damn sure! He’d probably be instantly and universally hated by everyone. Yes, he sometimes had to be the hardass, so the captain didn’t have to be, but he didn’t want people using his image on a dartboard behind his back. Thus, he politely ignored the younger officer and kept walking.

Said younger officer watched him walk off and she shrugged. Well, he was the XO after all, and he was married. It should’ve been expected that he’d not see her. With a slight chuckle she moved off to find someone similar in rank and unattached. And on this station that wasn’t exactly a difficult thing to do. Males still outnumbered females in the service something like three to one so she had her pick.

When Kelea, the Zaltaen bartender approached his seat at the bar, she couldn’t help but grin and shake her head at him. “I saw what Lieutenant Tuncer did back there,” she watched his reaction but waved it off, “you handled that just fine. She just wanted to be a little playful, but she needs to pick her targets better.”

“You’re telling me,” Richard said with a sigh as he rested his chin in his right hand.

“Don’t worry about it,” she said as she looked around the bar to catch sight of the lieutenant in question. She discreetly pointed her out and said, “if you look now, she’s found someone closer to her rank to chat with.”

Richard did his best to look without making it obvious that he was looking and did see Lieutenant Tuncer speaking with one of the new officers who just rotated in. Seeing that he breathed a quick sigh of relief and glanced up at his bartender friend. “Give me a shot of Buffalo Trace, neat.”

Kelea chuckled, reached under the bar for a shot glass and turned to the back wall where the bottles of the better stuff were kept. If he eyed his Zaltaen friend a little closer than he did the lieutenant, it was only natural. Their friendship was strong enough that they didn’t worry about such things.

She returned and set the whiskey before him. “Not only the rank difference, but you’re very dedicated to Rachel and I like that about you.” Even as she said that she couldn’t help but think that Rachel was a lucky woman to have such a wonderful and loyal man in her life for she had seen many “geo-bachelors”, spouses who were separated from each other by distances, make themselves available despite being married.

And it wasn’t just the men that had such relationships for it was known throughout the Space Force that women often did the same thing and were often more frequent in doing so. As the head bartender, Kelea often heard the words “location-ship” or “situation-ship” thrown around quite a few times and being that she had been around humans for as long as she had, she knew very well what those words meant. She’d heard those words from both males and females, so she knew that it happened either way.

Was it right? No. But some people coped with the separation in whatever way they could. Kelea didn’t know how Richard dealt with the separation from his wife. She knew that he didn’t fool around with the women on the station. She remembered him speaking of the rather spicy messages he sometimes got from his wife and on more than several occasions she had to put her own mental walls up just block said stray thoughts pouring out of the Richard’s mind.

Shaking her head to clear her mind she watched him down the bourbon in one pull. That both amused and disappointed her. While she knew why he was tossing it back like that, she hated to see good bourbon drank like that. She was used to seeing Richard treating his liquor with more respect than that. At least it isn’t Scotch whisky he’s doing that with, she thought to herself. If it were, I’d have words with him. She thought.

“I’m glad that you’re a little more relaxed than when you first came aboard,” she told him. “When you first got here you were so uptight,” she again watched his reaction and couldn’t help but snort a laugh at his expense. “Yes, I’ll use that word. You were, come on, admit it already.” She waited until he nodded his agreement before going on. “But now you’re more, I don’t want to say open, but at least you don’t look like you want to develop a nosebleed and pass out like those old Japanese anime shows whenever you see a pretty female who tried to be friendly with you.”

For a moment he stopped the mental songs which allowed Kelea to read his mind. “Okay then,” she said as she performed a brief surface scan, “you had a conversation with your wife.” He slowly nodded his head. “The captain and I told you that, but you didn’t want to believe us. See?” She asked. “We were right! When are you going to realize that women are always right?”

“No comment,” he said with a slight chuckle. “I won’t touch that one even with someone else’s three-meter pole.” Kelea gave him an answering chuckle before Richard went on. “Chalk it up to general male stupidity, I guess. Rachel even told me that she’s seen me look at other women in the past, but she knew that my eyes always came back to her.”

“Right you are!” Kelea exclaimed as she pulled out a glass from under the bar, set it in front of him then pulled out a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black from wherever it was that barkeeps kept their bottles. “Make it two please.”

She nodded and put another glass in front of him and poured out a generous amount of the Scotch in two glasses. He watched her pour a little more into his glass, dropping him a wink and a nod as she said, “here you are my friend.”

“Triara’s coming later,” he explained to her, “and I want to have a drink ready for her when she comes.”

“Ooh,” Kelea squealed, “I finally get to meet your other Zaltaen friend.”

Just then a crashing sound rang out in the back kitchen. “Shit!” she exclaimed. “I better go check out what those idiots in the kitchen did.” She walked away and as soon as she passed through the doors into the kitchen, he heard her yell something in an otherwise unintelligible language that he guessed was her native Zaltaen dialect. “Just get a broom already and clean it up!” she yelled in English.

As he turned away from the kitchen door, someone came up behind him and slapped him on the back so hard that he nearly choked. He turned around and raised his fist up in the air but when he realized who it was, he jumped out of his seat to give his old friend from back in the day a similar hard slap on his back.

“Michael!” He shouted over the noise of the lounge. “How the hell are you dude? I’ve not seen you since,” he looked up at the ceiling in thought. He really didn’t know. “Fuck, I don’t even know anymore.”

“I think the last time I saw you we were back in the academy together.” Richard looked to his right and saw that the barstool was empty. “Please,” he motioned for him to sit down, “relax and have a seat and a drink with me. We’ve got a lot to catch up on.”

“We sure do good buddy!” he exclaimed as Richard motioned for him to sit on his right side at the bar. “Speaking about catching up, what are you doing in a place like this?”

“This lounge?” Richard asked. He was playing dumb even though he knew that it wouldn’t work on his long-time friend.

“No,” Michael sighed and rolled his eyes. “I’m talking about this space station, you dummy.” Kelea overheard the conversation and couldn’t help but chuckle. “What are you doing in a dump like this? What did you do? Did you do something wrong to be sent to the back of beyond?”

“First off,” Richard was annoyed that his long-time friend for saying what he said about the station. “Alpha Centauri isn’t the back of beyond, I grew up in this system. Second, this is one of the core systems and was the first out-system colony from Terra, and thirdly, this station is hardly a ‘dump.’ It’s important to the future of humanity!” Richard’s enthusiasm and the force behind his voice became more apparent as he continued, and Michael had to wonder why. “We need to form a coalition with the Zaltaens and that’s the purpose of this station, to build the future. We need them if we’re going to survive as a species against the looming threat of the Vonosh.”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa dude,” Michael held his hands up, “why the hell are you acting all defensive like that? You’re acting like you have a personal stake in the success of this place.”

“That’s because I do,” he tapped the bar top with his index finger, “Do you have any idea who the executive officer of this station is?” He extended his thumb out and pointed at himself with his thumb. “I’m the XO of this place?”

“What!” Michael exclaimed. “You’re the XO?”

“Hey, hey, hey… cool it down a bit,” he looked about the lounge hoping that nobody heard that. “Do you want us to have to buy the whole place a round of drinks or what?”

“Sorry,” Michael calmed down, remembering the rules about such things only after Richard reminded him. He took a look around the bar and could only imagine what the resultant bar tab would’ve been, even if people didn’t order top shelf. “I heard that the XO of this place was a Commander Smith, but I didn’t figure that it’d be you. Like I said, the last time I heard you were on some battleship.”

Richard shook his head. “Nope, I’ve been here on this station since it first came online almost six months ago.”

“So why are you here?” Michael turned to face Richard and leaned on the bar. “I didn’t imagine you to be some pencil pushing bureaucrat, that’s for damn sure! I didn’t think you’d ever let yourself be tied down to one location. I always thought of you as being more of an adventurer and eventually ending up on one of those new explorer ships that are coming off the production line soon. They laid the keels down six months ago in orbit Mars. Either that, or your own battlecruiser. I just can’t see you tied down to a single orbit about a star for months or years at a time.”

“I always thought that too, but I didn’t want to give up my Active commission and go into the Reserves.” Richard laughed. “When BuPers comes to you with orders, you damn well better say yes, otherwise you’ll never see a promotion for as long as you live!” he exclaimed. “I wasn’t about to kill my career like that, so I said yes. Scuttlebutt has it that I was on a list somewhere that was on the president’s desk,” Michael’s jaw dropped ever so slightly as he said that, “to command this place but I don’t have the rank, so I was picked to be the XO instead.”

“Why’s that?” Michael motioned for the barmaid to come. “What makes you so special?”

“I have experience with Zaltaens.”

“Speaking about Zaltaens,” Michael said as one of the human barmaids came up. Eying the cute woman he said, “Hun, I’ll take a double of Johnnie Walker Black, please.” She was about to turn around when he added the word “neat” to which she nodded.

“I see you still are a fan of Johnnie I see,” Richard smiled. “Put it on my tab Holly.” She turned about and nodded.

“Yep,” Michael laughed, “ever since you got me off that swill called Vernier Thruster. After having the good stuff, that stuff tastes like turpentine.”

“You got that right!” Richard exclaimed. “I had the awful experience of having that shit a few years ago.” Michael gave him a sidelong glance that wondered what the hell was wrong with him. “It was all they had on the bar, and I wanted some whiskey and wasn’t feeling very particular. I regretted it after the first sip.”

“Yeah, I believe it,” Michael responded. The barmaid came up and placed the glass down in front of him with a cardboard coaster under it. He picked the glass up and examined it and he could’ve sworn that the barmaid poured more than a double in his glass, but he shrugged it off. He then took a sip of it. “Ah,” he put the glass down on the bar, “now that’s a proper whisky. I couldn’t get this back on my old ship, apparently there was no demand for it. The entire ship’s company was a bunch of fools who wouldn’t know good alcohol if they drank it. I couldn’t even get a decent pint either!” He shuddered at the thought of what people aboard his old ship considered beer. “All they had was light beer and regular Bud.”

“Hey!” Richard exclaimed. “Don’t knock Budweiser, it’s good in a pinch.”

“You?!” he exclaimed. “A beer snob telling me that Budweiser is good?” Michael scoffed. “I don’t buy it for one damn second.”

“If that’s all you have, that’s all you have; you drink it and shut up. And I never said it was good.”

“Good point,” Michael shrugged his shoulders, “I didn’t think of it that way. I managed to get some decent beer when we put into port somewhere. Luckily, I was friends with the people who worked in the mess hall, so they let me stash it in the cooler with no questions asked.” He glanced over at the beer tap. “At least they have Mars Ale Olympus Mons Porter on tap here.”

“Thank me for that,” Richard had to laugh, “I convinced them to bring it aboard.”

“Speaking about the Zaltaens, how’s it working for them?”

“First off, we don’t work for them, we work with them.”

“Yeah sure,” he leaned on the bar, “now tell me one I’ll believe.”

“We’re equal in this alliance.” Richard told him.

“Sure…,” Michael said rather sarcastically, “like they don’t see themselves as the senior partner in this alliance that we were very quick to sign. Need I remind you that they spied on us for nearly four hundred Terran years?”

“No, you don’t. However,” Richard tapped the bar, “considering how many of us have treated them, can you blame them for hiding as long as they did?”

“Yeah,” Michael sat up straight on his stool. “But I still don’t like it. If they wanted us to like them or trust them more, why hide literally in plain sight like they did? Then they expected us to forgive and forget? Nah, I don’t buy it. And I’m not the only one out there that feels this way. There’s plenty of average people who feel… violated. Like, someone was peeping through our window.”

“There’s plenty of them that don’t think they should’ve done that, or for as long as they did,” Richard countered.

“Like whom?”

“Their queen,” he replied dryly and watched in amusement as his friend nearly choked on his whisky.

“You did that on purpose,” Michael told him with a severe look.

“Why I would never!” Richard replied with mock innocence. “I’m an officer and a gentleman and above such things.”

Michael gave a sniff or two before saying, “wow, I smell some serious bullshit.”

“Anyways…,” Richard went on. “Their queen expressed not only her government’s sincerest apologies, but also her people’s, over the policy of past governments. When she spoke to our leaders in the Zaltaen home star system she said as much.”

“And many of our leaders were just as skeptical as I,” Michael said.

“I remember that,” Richard said with a sigh as he picked up his glass again to sip. “I also remember reading the reports on what the Midas delegation did. So, if we want to talk about dickish ‘superior behavior’ there’s plenty to go around.”

“That’s fair,” Michael conceded. “Aside from that, how are you handling them?”

“Very well in fact,” Richard tapped the bar top, “that’s why I was ordered here. I have a lot of experience with Zaltaens. It’s like I know how and why they think and act. Some of them have even,” he chuckled, “have come to call me the Zaltaen Whisperer. Scuttlebutt has it that my name is circulated in the Zaltaen Royal Court and that I have favor with them.”

You?!” Michael had to laugh. “You have favor in the Zaltaen Royal Court?!” he laughed again. “Now you’ve got to tell me how you managed to get that kind of prestige. Surely you must be pulling my leg here.”

“Well for one, I befriended a Zaltaen and during the time that I had gotten to know her, she taught me how and why her people act the way they do and how to interact with her people. It’s why I’m here,” he looked about the lounge, “I’m here so as to help us build a coalition with the Zaltaens so that we can survive the coming Vonosh war when they come for us.”

“Speaking about your Zaltaen friend, can I meet her one day?” Just as Michael had asked that question the whole lounge went silent except for the sound of high-heeled shoes on the hardwood floor of the lounge. The silence only lasted for a few moments until the lounge’s patrons returned to their previous conversations after getting over the initial shock of seeing another Zaltaen here, and not one employed by the lounge. “Now would you look at that over there, my God,” Michael put his hand to his chest, “despite what I was saying about Zaltaens, she’s a looker!”

Richard shot Michael an old-fashioned look. “Please don’t refer to my friend that way.”

“Your friend?” Michael asked. “That’s your friend?”

“Uh huh,” Richard hummed, “she’s my friend alright.”

“Friend?” Michael leaned against the bar as he continued to watch the woman walk through the crowd of people in the lounge. “Do you mean friend or… friend? And I don’t think I need to tell you what I mean by that one.”

Richard shook his head. “She’s just a friend, honest.”

“Buddy,” he looked the woman over, “ok then. Sure, I believe you.” She may’ve been an alien and all but that didn’t stop Michael from thinking of her as being attractive.

“No. Seriously. We’re just friends.”

Michael scoffed. “I have no idea how you can be just friends with her because… if the circumstances were different in my life right now,” he looked her over again, “I’d seriously be chasing after her. Alien or not, she’s beautiful. Stunning really.” Once again Richard found himself annoyed that he was talking about his friend like that but then as he watched his friend continue to walk across the floor of the lounge, he had to admit that she was very attractive. Only a blind man wouldn’t see that.

As Triara came closer, Michael got a better look at how the Zaltaen was dressed in in the dim light of the lounge. Like the night before, she was wearing a fitted blouse that if one were to have asked Michael, it did wonders for her ample sized chest and because the top two buttons were unbuttoned it showed off quite a bit of her cleavage. He then scanned down her figure and saw that she was wearing a very short and tight miniskirt that if you had to ask him clung to all the right places. To complete her outfit, she was wearing a pair of black dress shoes were whole lot taller than the ones that she wore the night before in Richard’s stateroom.

Hello! CIC to Michael!” Richard jokingly said to his friend as he waved his hand in front of his face. “Come in Michael.” Michael shook his head then turned back to his longtime friend. “The reason I’m not after her is the fact that,” he pointed at his finger, “I’m married.”

“Wait,” Michael slapped the top of the bar, “you’re married? When the fuck did that happen? And why the fuck am I just hearing about this now?” He asked as he hit the top of the bar with the tip of his index finger to add emphasis.

“About a standard year ago.”

“And you didn’t tell me?!” Michael scoffed as he slapped the bar top again.

“It… just… never came up,” he shrugged.

“It never came up,” Michael said very dryly, giving him a very old-fashioned look. “Sure… it was only the biggest event in your life besides graduating from the academy. And you’re really going to try and tell me that it wasn’t worth mentioning? Come on! Don’t try that kind of bullshit with me.”

“Well,” Richard shrugged, “you never asked.”

“I… never… asked,” Michael said with that same tone of voice. Kelea, who’d been trying not to listen in, sighed on the inside but otherwise stayed the hell out of that conversation.

“Getting married isn’t something you hide from your best friend!” Michael exclaimed. “These are the kinds of things you tell your friends and family! I would’ve sent you and your wife a card or something. You know, something to congratulate the two of you on probably the most important day of your life. Maybe I would’ve come to your wedding if I had the leave and were close enough to do so. I could’ve been your best man!”

“It was a rather small ceremony, nothing special.” He thought back to how they had gotten married in the chapel of the Human Federation Consulate on Zalta 4-B. “All we had were three of us; myself, Triara, and my Rachel. And of course, the priest who married us. It may’ve been small, but it meant so much to us knowing that we were going to be apart.”

“I take it that you two got your orders while off on some planet?”

“Uh huh,” Richard hummed, “we were vacationing on Zalta 4-B when we got our orders. We were going to be separated and we just knew that we had to get married. It was a spur of the moment kind of thing. I turned to my Rachel and said… let’s get married. She, of course, reacted like you probably would’ve thought.” Michael nodded, not really needing to be told. “I, however, insisted; I said there was no way that the two of us were going to leave Zalta 4-B before the two of us were married. That very day we said our vows to each other and that was that.”

“So, it was a kind of quick thing to solidify your life with her. Right?”

“You got it. It means so much more than that, but I guess if you get right down to it, yes.”

“Alright,” Michael lowered his head, “I’ll give you a pass on that one. Sometimes in the military you need to do things on the spot and marriage is up there on that list of things to do in quick fashion. But I must ask, where is she? Where is Rachel? Can I see her?”

“Sadly,” Richard shook his head, “no you can’t. She’s living on the primary inhabited world of this system. Her job is there instead of one of the orbiting colony clusters like the one I grew up in.”

“Oh,” Michael looked to the floor of the lounge, “I’m sorry. You probably miss her a lot.”

“Yeah, yeah I do.” As he said that Triara came up to the bar he stood up from his stool and embraced her and while she was in his embrace, she gave him a quick kiss on his cheek which caused the volume of the bar to drop a few decibels. She then took a seat next to Richard on the barstool after which she crossed her legs and gave her skirt a bit of a tug that really didn’t do a damn thing because of just how short her skirt was. “Thank you for saving a seat for me. It was nice of you to do that for me considering how busy this place is. I’m sure that this place fills up quite fast at this hour.”

“Yep,” he patted her hand that was resting on the bar as he looked about the lounge, “it sure does! Here,” he looked down at a glass with some Scotch in it and gently pushed it over to her, “I bought you a drink. I know how you like Johnny Walker Black.”

As he watched the two of them interact, Michael was stunned. He’d never known Richard to be as comfortable around women as he was now. He was talking with her, embracing her, and otherwise being rather friendly with her which was nothing like how his friend used to be back when he had first gotten to know him. He supposed that perhaps his wife had a lot to do with that.

“Thank you,” she smiled as she picked the glass up and took a sip of the drink. “I do sense that you were worried that I wouldn’t come join you tonight.”

“Well yeah,” Richard turned on his barstool to face her, “when you left my stateroom last night you weren’t exactly in the best of emotional conditions.”

“Yeah,” she put the glass back down on the bar, “but I’m alright now. I told you that there was going to be some uncomfortable things that needed to be talked about and sure enough, I was right. You, however, deserved answers as to how my people treat one another on my world and why I came to live among humans.”

“Wait,” Michael spoke up, “you were in his stateroom last night?”

“Sure!” Triara exclaimed. “We’re friends, good friends in fact. I’m Triara, Triara Moonbeam.” She extended her hand to shake Michael’s hand. “And my name’s Michael, Michael Whitfield.” He graciously accepted her handshake and while they shook hands, he noticed the look Richard gave him; it was the kind of look that told him to tread carefully.

“How did the two of you meet?” Michael asked.

“Well, it was some time ago,” Triara began to explain how the two of them had met, meanwhile Michael nodded as he listened to show that he was engaged in the conversation while he observed Richard’s reactions to Triara’s choice of dress. “It was some time ago that three of us, meaning myself,” she put her hand to her chest, “along with Richard and Rachel, his wife, went to one of my worlds, Zalta 4-B, and the two of them got married.”

“Yeah,” Michael nodded, “Richard told me about how he had gotten married on one of your worlds.” He paused in though. “Speaking about Rachel, can I see her? Do you have a picture of her?”

“Yeah,” Richard pulled out his datapad and pulled up a picture of Rachel and gave it to his friend. “There she is,” he pointed at his datapad that was in Michael’s hands, “the love of my life.”

Michael looked down at the picture of Rachel on the datapad and much like Triara, Rachel was beautiful beyond words. He couldn’t believe that his longtime friend managed to have such a woman in his life, let alone two. There was no way he would’ve been comfortable being in the situation he was in years ago. Meanwhile, Triara could pick up on his thoughts about both her and Rachel and smirked, finding it quite amusing.

“Richard,” he put his hand on his friend’s shoulder, “it must suck to have to spend so much time away from each other. I can tell that it hurts.” Richard didn’t reply, letting the silence speak for him. “When was the last time you saw her? You mentioned something about her living somewhere else in this solar system.”

“About a month ago but as you may’ve guessed, it’s not easy. Between her new career and me being the XO of this place, I don’t get much time to see her.”

“Oh, I get it,” Michael looked down at his drink and remembered how he had felt when he was married to his high school sweetheart. It was then that he remembered how much he missed her. They’d had many happy years together until…

Triara picked up on the sudden burst of emotions from Michael but chose to not say anything yet for she didn’t want to scare him away. It was up to him if he wanted to talk about it. She wouldn’t pry and reveal that she was a telepath.

And to her relief he did say something. “I miss my wife as well,” he said.

“You’re married too?” Triara asked while trying not to sound too disappointed for she found Michael to be rather intriguing.

“I… was married,” Michael looked down at his drink, “I was married some time ago, but she died.”

“Your wife died?” Richard asked. “What happened to her? That is, if you don’t mind me asking.”

“During the last battle of our stupid war with the then ACF, I lost my wife.” Triara’s jaw dropped ever so slightly as she heard that, she wasn’t prepared to hear that kind of story. She figured that they had had a divorce like so many other humans often did when their marriages went bad. “She was aboard the HFS Cromwell, she died when the ship went up.”

Richard thought about the ship for a moment and that’s when he remembered that his captain told him about it. “Wait, the HFS Cromwell? I’ve heard of that ship.”

“Yeah,” he paused as he saw the shock on Richard’s face, “what about it?”

“The captain of this station lost her husband too aboard that ship, she said that the ship took a direct hit to the fusion reactor; she said there was no time to get to the escape pods before the whole ship went up in the heart of a miniature sun.”

“Yep,” he put his elbows on the bar and looked down at his drink all while trying not to start crying over the loss of his wife while in front of Richard, Triara, and the rest of the lounge. “My Mary died that day,” he started to tear up so he blinked a few times during which Richard could’ve sworn that he had seen a tear drop to the bar top. “We were married for five years and now I can’t help but to think about how my six-year-old daughter will now have to grow up without her mom in her life.”

Triara’s heart sank in her chest as she heard that, no young child should have to grow up without their mom; it absolutely broke her heart to know that Michael’s daughter had to live her life without her mom during what she knew that humans often referred to as their formative years.

“Ah shit,” Richard whispered hoping that Michael didn’t hear him. “Where’s your daughter now?” Triara asked out of morbid curiosity. “Does she know what happened to her mom?”

“She’s living with my sister on the Alpha Centauri colony, I plan on going to see her as soon as I have leave and I plan on bringing her to the station to live with me. She’s been asking why her daddy has to spend so much time away from her. I can’t help but to think that she’s feeling abandoned by me.”

Richard didn’t quite agree with that idea, he didn’t think that the station was the right place for children to grow up on. With the fact that he was her only parent, he understood why he was thinking of bringing his daughter to the station; she needed him in her life. But then he thought about how there wasn’t even a school or a daycare onboard the station, though there was talk about how one was going to be started what with how more civilian families were coming aboard to find work on the station. Perhaps with some pressure from a member of the Space Force such a school would finally be started.

“But where will she stay when you’re on duty?” Richard asked. “This place isn’t exactly conducive to raising a family, at least… not yet.”

“There’s no daycare onboard?”

“No,” Richard shook his head to which he could see Michael’s shoulders slump. “Though scuttlebutt has it that one will be started soon what with how many more civilians are coming aboard as support staff. This place is really turning into one of the most important military bases in this sector of space and for several sectors surrounding it. We have more cargo being transported through this station than I ever thought possible, it’s become more important than the transfer point at Io. So, who knows,” he shrugged his shoulders, “maybe it’ll happen.”

“Yeah well, even if we don’t have one, God knows that she needs her daddy in her life more than anything right now.” As he turned to the two of them, somehow, they both knew what he was going to ask them. “Maybe one of you two can watch her when I’m on duty. Either way, she needs her daddy in her life.” He looked up to the ceiling with visible tears in his eyes as he remembered telling her that her mom had died.

“And yes, before you ask, I sat down with her and told her that her mom was gone and that she’d never see her again.” He looked back to the two of them as he wiped his eyes. “You have no idea how hard it was for me to tell my little Lisa. All I could do was hold her as she sobbed against me and cried out for her mom after I told her that she died.”

All the two of them could do was sit there. There was nothing to say. What could they say?

“Great Maker,” Triara whispered. Both of them had heard of others who had lost sons, daughters, wives, and husbands in the war against the ACF, but it was another thing altogether different to personally know someone who had lost someone in their lives and to hear about how some young girl who now had to live her life without her mom; it hit both of them in ways they weren’t at all prepared for.

Minutes passed as they just sat there sipping their Scotch until Triara managed to find her voice again. “I’m… sorry for you and your daughter’s loss.”

“Yeah, me too,” Richard put his hand on his friend’s shoulder. “I’m sorry for you and your daughter’s loss too. My captain was telling me about how her kids now have to grow up without a father, but I suppose it’s different when the mother was the one that was lost.”

“Yeah,” Michael shook his head as he wiped his eyes again, “it’s different when the mother is gone. It somehow hurts more, especially for a young girl.”

“Michael?” Triara asked as she got up from her barstool and came around to him and put her arms around him from behind. “If you need anything, the both of us,” she looked to Richard out of the corner of her eye, “are here for you. If need something, just ask.” Michael looked down at her arms that were wrapped around him, he couldn’t help but to feel a kind of solace that he had wanted in his life for a long time but never seemed to be able to find it. He didn’t know why it suddenly came to him but he welcomed it with open arms.

“I don’t want to seem ungrateful to you,” she let go of him at which he turned around to face her and as soon as he had done so, he found himself face-to-face with her chest and blushed as he looked up. “But how? And for that matter… why?” She looked to him questioningly, she didn’t know where he was going with his question. “Why are you acting this way towards me?” She continued to look at him questioningly. “Most of your people that I’ve known have been rather cold and unfeeling yet here you are displaying anything but that and not only that but towards someone you hardly even know. Why? I’m not saying that I don’t welcome it because I do,” she put her hand on his shoulder and looked up at her and he began to feel his heart race.

Why is my heart racing like this? He asked himself. Sure, she was gorgeous beyond words but that didn’t explain why his heart was racing. He couldn’t remember the last time his heart raced like that except for the time so long ago that he had gone out on his first date with his Mary so long ago back when they were both still in high school. And it wasn’t just how Triara was dressed that made his heart race, there was much more to it than that. But was he ready for Triara, let alone another woman, to come into his heart like that?

He shook his head slightly at the thought of that happening for he was still grieving the loss of his wife. Perhaps with time he would be ready for Triara but he wasn’t ready yet. And he knew that she was interested in him from the way that she was acting towards him, it was plain to see that; it was the same way that his Mary acted towards him so long ago back when they were mere high school sweethearts.

He’d be lying to himself if he didn’t find Triara attractive. He nodded slightly at the thought that perhaps one day he might be ready to date someone and he was sure that Triara would be the first one that he would ask.

“Sadly, I know that my people are generally known to be rather cold and unfeeling. It comes from being at war for such a long time. But as for me,” she paused in thought for a moment, “I suppose that humans have rubbed off on me more than I knew.”

“Either way,” Michael stood up from his barstool and embraced the female Zaltaen during which once again the sound of the lounge came down a few decibels, “thank you. Thank you for your kindness. It was much appreciated.” It was as she held him that she sensed some serious dark thoughts from him, the kind of thoughts that he tried so hard to keep buried.

“You know,” Richard turned to him, “you know that there are programs available to help people like you that have experienced this kind of loss in their lives. Have you attended them?”

“Yes,” he picked his glass of Scotch up and took a sip of it, “I’ve gone to the programs, more so for my daughter than me. I sat down with a counselor and explained how I had a young daughter that was looking to me now and it was her, my counselor, who helped me find a way to break it to her.”

“But what about you? What about your grief?”

“Like I said, I’m still learning to cope with it.” He once again began to tear up. “Mary was my high school sweetheart; we had been dating all throughout high school. We were meant to have a happy life together and then the war broke out and like everyone, we signed up for our patriotic duty to defend the nation that we both loved. We didn’t know that one day we’d have to say goodbye to each other,” he wiped his eyes again. Triara couldn’t help but to feel an overwhelming sense of sadness from him. “And the bitch of it all is, I didn’t even have a body to bury. All I have is gravestone to lay flowers at.”

“Like I said, the Space Force has programs to help people like you deal with that kind of grief and pain.”

“And like I said, I went to them. The counselor even told me that dealing with this kind of grief is a process; you can’t just turn your pain off for a lost loved one like one does with a light switch. It takes time.”

“I guess I wouldn’t know,” Richard reached over and rubbed his friend’s back, “I’ve not had to deal with that kind of pain in my life.”

“And let me tell you this Richard,” he pointed at him with his index finger, “you better hope you never do.” He put his hand to his chest. “It hurts like nothing I’ve ever felt before. I knew something was wrong when my captain called me into her office and at once told me to sit down. I still remember how I just walked out of her office as she tried calling to me, went to my stateroom, and sobbed into my pillow but more so for my daughter than me. I wouldn’t wish that kind of grief and pain on even my worst enemy.”

“I get it,” Richard frowned, “I don’t know how it feels.”

“And I wouldn’t want you to feel it.” He picked his glass up and threw back the last of his Scotch. “Sorry you two but I have an early morning department meeting to head up in the morning. I got to get going to bed if I’m going to wake up for it and I’m still trying to get used to my stateroom.”

“Why is that?” Richard had to wonder. When he came to the station, he took to his stateroom rather quickly. He loved the amount of room that he had as versus onboard a ship.

“I’m not used to all the room that I have!” he exclaimed. “I’m still wondering what the hell I’m going to do with it all and worst of all, it feels so… so empty.” With that he stood up from his barstool and came up in back of both of them. “See you two some other time.” With that he walked away leaving the two of them sitting alone at the bar.

“Well,” Richard took a sip of his Scotch, “what do you think of Michael?”

“He reminds me a lot of you a number of years ago.”

“How so?” Richard wondered.

“It’s just that you both have similar mannerisms and um,” she blushed once again which once again did interesting things to the color of her cheeks. He had to wonder why she was blushing like that, then it dawned on him. “Oh, no,” Richard gasped, “you’re interested in him. Aren’t you?”

“Would it be wrong of me to say that I am?” She once again blushed. “I don’t see a problem with me being interested in him.”

“Well for one, he’s still mourning his late wife and he’s got a daughter in the situation. If you’re interested in him, you’ll have to play it carefully. You can’t push for what you want from him too hard and too fast, or you’ll only push him away and I’m sure you don’t want to do that. Right?” She shook her head. “He’s lost the woman he loved and not only that, but he’s got a daughter that needs him in ways that I can’t even begin to imagine so you have to play the situation lightly.”

“I’d have to agree with Richard here,” Kelea came up to them as she noticed that he was sitting with another person, not Michael. “And you must be the Zaltaen that you talked about before, right?”

“Uh huh,” Richard put his arm around her and kissed her cheek, “meet my friend, Triara Moonbeam.” Meanwhile, the whole lounge once again dropped a few decibels as he has kissed her cheek.

“And you must be,” Triara looked her over, “the Zaltaen bar manager that Richard often speaks of.”

“Yep,” she Kelea said as she put a glass down after she was done wiping it with a towel. “I’m one of three managers in this place. I mainly run the bar and the kitchen while the other two managers handle much of the ordering, bookkeeping, and various other business-related things that I couldn’t give a damn about dealing with. I’d rather be out and among the people serving up food, drinks, and fun instead of behind a computer screen dealing with numbers all day.”

Richard knew that to be the truth, he hated dealing with numbers and reports but that was part of his job as the XO of the station. All of the reports went to him for him to deal with so that nothing but the most important of things ever showed up on the captain’s desk just like what a good XO was supposed to do. It was often said that if a ship or a station had a good XO, the captain wouldn’t ever have to leave his or her stateroom. Thankfully, Captain (Danielle) Byrne didn’t think that way and often took a far more active role in the command of the station than other captains that Richard had experience with.

As Kelea looked down at the bar, she noticed that their glasses were empty. “Do you want more?” They both nodded at which Kelea refilled their glasses with more Scotch. “Based upon what little I overheard of your conversation, I’d have to say that Richard’s right. Going too fast with this Michael is going to result in the opposite effect you were looking for, you’ll only push him away. You’ve got to let him deal with his grief in his own time. You have to wait until he’s ready to let someone else into his life.”

“But how will I know that he’s ready for someone else in his life? How do I reach out to him to let him know that I want to help him? Perhaps even be with him?” The more that Triara asked things like that, the more Richard began to realize that maybe she had seen a spark of something in him. What that was, he didn’t know; all he knew was that he wanted his friend to find some happiness in her life and if his friend Michael could bring her the kind of happiness that she wanted, far be it from him to stop her.

“Oh, honey,” Kelea patted Triara’s hand that was resting on the bar top, “you’ll know it. He already finds you quite attractive,” Triara looked up from the bar top, “so I can only imagine that when he is indeed ready, he’s going to approach you.”

“But when will that be?” Triara wondered. “When will he be ready?”

“I’ve been inside his head all evening.” Richard shot her an angry glance. “Hey,” she raised her hands up, “I was only gently poking around in there and I was careful while in there to not disturb him. Suffice it to say,” she turned back to Triara, “even after all that I learned while inside of his mind, even I don’t know that. It could be days, weeks, or even months.” Triara frowned, she wanted to help him and his daughter. “You have to let things play out inside his mind; you can’t hurry it along. As Michael already told us, his counselor told him that it’s a process.” She then turned back to Richard. “Do you want to see what his daughter looks like?”

“How do you know what his daughter looks like?” Richard asked.

“He was thinking about her the whole time, that’s how.”

“But how can you show me?” Richard asked. “I’m not a telepath like your people are.”

“True,” Kelea took hold of his hand, “if you open your mind to me, I can project the image of his daughter into your mind. Just relax and let me touch your mind for a moment.” Richard began to relax and suddenly he felt Kelea touch his mind much like he had felt when Triara had touched his mind so many times in the past. It was then that he could’ve sworn that the image of Michael’s daughter began floating in the air, it was as if someone was superimposing the image of Michael’s daughter over the visual input from his eyes.

Upon seeing his friend’s daughter, Richard couldn’t help but to smile. “Aww,” he leaned on the bar, “she’s such a beautiful angel.” He looked down at the bar with her still in his vision. “Too bad that poor little angel is going to have to grow up without her mom during a time in her life when she needs her mom the most.”

“Can I see?” Triara asked.

“Sure,” Kelea let go of Richard’s hand and simply looked to her and projected the image of Michael’s daughter into her mind. Unlike with Richard, she didn’t need direct physical contact with Triara to telepathically transmit the vision of Michael’s daughter to her.

“Aww,” Triara too couldn’t help but to smile as she saw the image of Michael’s daughter in her mind. “Oh,” she put her hand to her chest, “she’s beautiful. I hate knowing that she now has to grow up without her mom. It sucks.”

“Yes,” Richard took hold of Triara’s hand and gave it a slight squeeze, “I know it sucks but again, you can’t push things with Michael no matter how much you want to help him and his daughter.” Kelea nodded in agreement. “I think it’s commendable that you want to help. It lends credence to the kind of person that you are,” again she couldn’t help but to smile, “you want to help people much like you’ve helped me,” he pointed to himself with his thumb, “so many times over these last few years I’ve known you.” She nodded in agreement. “This is one such situation that you just can’t fix; at least, not right away.”

“I know,” she thought about Lisa, Michael’s daughter and how much pain she was in from having lost her mom, “I just want to take her into my arms and hold her and let her know…” she looked back down at the bar.

“And I’m sure that you will hold her like that someday,” Richard squeezed her hand again, “just not now. If and when Michael decides to let you into his life, I’m sure that you’ll have that opportunity. But for now, you have to let things play out.”

“As much as you don’t want to admit it Triara, you know it to be true.” She nodded. She may’ve not liked it but like Kelea had said, she knew it to be true. “I know,” she looked down at her glass of Scotch on the bar top and took a sip of it. Richard put an arm around her. “Now enough with the sad thoughts, we’re here,” he extended his other hand in the air, “we’re in a happy place. Let’s eat, drink, and be merry.”

“For tomorrow we die?” Kelea laughed.

“Well hopefully not that last part,” he laughed. “Come on Triara,” she looked to him and tried to smile but it just didn’t form on her face, “we’re here. Let’s enjoy the rest of the evening until we both have to be on duty tomorrow morning.”

Later that night Richard got up from his barstool and stumbled at first, he hadn’t realized just how much he had drunk. All he knew was that Kelea had kept refilling his glass so he had no idea how many shots of Johnnie Walker he had had. That was when Triara had noticed him stumble a bit.

“Are you going to be alright?”

“Yeah,” she shook his head, “I just didn’t know how much I drank. Damn,” he put his hand to his forehead and shook his again. He stood up straight and breathed in deeply but then decided to sit back down at the bar. “Kelea.” That was all he had to say for she had a glass with water in it ready for him to drink. “Ah,” he said as he took a sip of the water, “maybe after this and a little bit of time I’ll be able to walk without stumbling.”

“You better be,” Triara put her hands on her hips as she turned to face him, “or I’m not going to let you walk out of this lounge.”

“What are you? My mother?” He asked in a sarcastic tone of voice. “You know I’m an adult.”

“True,” she rolled her eyes, “but the last thing you as an officer need is to be seen stumbling about the station. What will people think?”

“I ain’t going to be first officer to stumble out of here and I ain’t going to be the last,” he watched another officer stumble out of the lounge, “that’s for damn sure.”

“Again, true,” she rolled her eyes once again as she shook her head, “but he’s,” she pointed at the officer who nearly took a faceplant into the floor, “not you.” She was trying her best not to use ranks or anything for she knew the house rules, no talking about rank or you buy the whole house a round of drinks. She may’ve had a lot of credits stashed in her account but that didn’t at all mean that she wanted to buy everyone in the lounge a round of drinks.

“And you worry too much!” He took a rather large gulp of the water from the glass in front of him. He could already start feeling the water start clearing his head, that and the nanomachine treatment going to work in breaking down the alcohol in his system. “See?” he said as he turned to Triara, “I’m already starting to get better.” He took another sip of his water until he felt the urge to go to the head. “I’ll be back,” he stood up from the barstool still a bit wobbly but otherwise he was much better than few minutes ago before he had drunk the water.

“Kelea,” she cocked her head to the side, “you know humans have a much lower alcohol tolerance than us Zaltaens have. You can’t be giving him so much. I can handle it, you can handle it, but he,” she thumbed towards the head, “he can’t.”

“He didn’t say no, did he?” Kelea asked. “If he didn’t want any more, he’d tell me; he’s told me as such.” Triara shook her head. “That’s beside the point Kelea, sometimes people don’t know how much they drank.”

Richard came out of the head and sat back down at the bar and continued to drink the glass of water that was before him. Kelea reached for the water pitcher and refilled his glass. “Thank you,” he nodded as he continued to drink the water and while doing so, he felt better and better as the minutes went by. Sure, he was still quite a bit buzzed but no longer was he nearly falling over.

“Well girls.” He stood up and leaned over Triara’s shoulder and turned to kiss her on her cheek during which she smiled at his obvious show of affection towards her during which Kelea smirked. “It’s 2300 hours and I’ve got to get going. I have an early duty shift in the morning. Good night you two.” He then walked away leaving Kelea and Triara sitting at the bar.

“So,” Kelea put her hands on her hips and began to speak in their native language, “you really do like Michael?” Triara nodded. “Why is that?” Triara was about to speak when Kelea began again. “And don’t tell me that you want to help his daughter because that’s a pack of lies and you know it.”

“I thought our people agreed to speak English around humans.”

“Do you see any humans with us right now?” Triara looked about the nearly empty lounge and shook her head. “Exactly.” Triara rolled her eyes. “I figured we can talk in our native language with no humans around. Anyways, back to my question. Do you really like Michael?”

“Yeah,” Triara looked at her glass of Scotch that was nearly empty and took a sip from it. “Yeah, I do. Why? Is there a problem?”

“No,” Kelea poured some more Scotch into her glass, “but I do have to wonder why? What is it about Michael that you find so interesting to want to date him?”

“He’s much like Richard is, he exhibits a lot of the same qualities and mannerisms that Richard had when I first met him. In a lot of ways, both of them are nothing like our own people; namely cold and distant.” Kelea nodded in understanding, she knew all about how their people could be towards each other and often it was the one thing that she hated about her people. “And then there’s the fact that he doesn’t care that I’m an alien while most humans still have that bit of a hang-up. Michael talked to me like I was just another person and he didn’t flinch when I took hold of him like so many other humans do.”

“Oh, I get it,” Kelea put the bottle of the Scotch back under the bar, “I very much get it. I’d just be careful. I’d hate to see you get hurt.”

“I will,” Triara picked her glass up and tossed back the rest of the Scotch. “No more Kelea, close Richard’s bar tab. I don’t want him to wake up in the morning wondering why he’s got a two hundred credit bar tab to pay.” And with that she stood up from her barstool and walked out of the lounge leaving those who were still there in the lounge wondering what was going on between the two of them.

As Triara walked out of the lounge, a woman called to her. “Hey Triara,” Triara stopped walking when she heard her name, “it’s Triara. Right? Is that your name?”

“Yes,” Triara began to wonder why this woman was talking to her but she didn’t want to be rude so she at least wanted to respond. “What of it?”

“You may not know who I am…” Triara shook her head for she didn’t know who the other woman was. “I’m Amanda, Lieutenant Amanda Gibson. I saw you with Richard at the bar and I have to say, you were rather friendly with him and yet he showed no hesitation with you.” Triara looked at the other women with her. “Yeah,” another woman spoke up, “you were rather friendly with Richard and I don’t think I’ve ever seen Richard be as friendly with a woman as he was with you. He even kissed you, twice even.” Yet another woman spoke up. “You know he’s married. Right? He’s got a reputation for being loyal to his wife which if you ask me,” she shrugged, “I wish more men were like that these days.”

“Yes,” Triara paused, “I know he’s married. He’s married to a very good friend of mine.” She could see all of their eyes open wide as she said that. “In fact, Richard and I are also friends. Very good friends in fact. I’ve known Richard and his wife, Rachel, for nearly four and a half years. And recently,” she couldn’t help but to smile at the thought of him inviting her into his family, “I’ve become part of his family.”

“Family?” Amanda asked as the other women with her gasped. “What do you mean by that?”

“I’m a Zaltaen without a House.”

“What does that mean?” Amanda asked as another woman in the group came forward. “Hi, I’m Chelsea, Lieutenant Chelsea Porter.” She turned to Amanda. “I take it that you don’t know much about Zaltaen culture.” Amanda shook her head in response to Chelsea’s statement. “What Triara means is that she is a Zaltaen without a House and a Zaltaen without a House is effectively no Zaltaen at all. It’s like being disowned by your family but for a Zaltaen, it’s even worse. In Zaltaen culture, Triara is a nobody. And more than likely everyone she once knew, be it friends or loved ones, have turned their backs on her.”

“Yes, that’s exactly what happened to me. I have no family, no House, and no status on my world except my rank and I’m working to change that.”

“Wait.” Amanda was shocked. “Zaltaens do that to each other? That’s some really fucked up shit right there. I can’t imagine how much of a blow that was to you.”

“You have no idea,” Triara bit her lip as she thought back to the day that it happened to her. A sense of sadness and grief threatened to come back to her but she fought it back, she refused to show how much it affected her to people she hardly knew. “It happened to me twenty or so standard years ago and it still feels as raw as it did the day I was cast out of my House. It still hurts even to this day.”

“I’m sorry.” Amanda was floored. She couldn’t believe a people could do that to each other. “But that doesn’t explain what’s happening between you and Richard. What did Richard do for you and why are you so friendly with him?”

“Richard invited me into his family. He said and I quote… if I couldn’t have a Zaltaen family, I could at least have a human one.” The looks of shock on their faces said it all. “Richard cares about me and in a sibling sort of way, he loves me.” Their jaws dropped and she said that. “Richard sees me like the sister that he never had and he’s rather protective of me because of that. Sometimes a little too protective,” she stopped to smile as she thought back to when he, himself, admitted that, “but his heart is certainly in the right place.”

“Oh,” Chelsea spoke up, “so there’s nothing going on between you and Richard? No hanky-panky?”

Triara laughed at her choice of words, it sounds so… childish. “No,” she smirked, “there’s no hanky-panky going on between Richard and me. We’re just really good friends that happen to care for each other. Richard loves me like a sister and I,” she put her palm to her chest, “I love him like a brother. Richard and Rachel are really the only family I have in this life. Besides, I wouldn’t betray Rachel, my best friend, like that.”

“How did you all meet?”

“Well,” Triara thought back, “do you all remember the day that Zaltaens dropped their disguises?” They all nodded. “Well anyways, I was aboard the ship that Richard and Rachel were on and Richard was the first one that I showed my true self to. When the rest of the crew found out who and what I was, you can probably imagine that I received a less than warm reception. Yet Richard and Rachel accepted me as one of their own, right from the beginning. We even had a good laugh about how I looked like something straight out of a Tolkien novel, specifically Lord of the Rings.”

“Oh,” Chelsea spoke up, “I remember. I had a Zaltaen on my ship too. My crew treated her awful, just awful. I still remember how she was silently crying in the mess hall as she took dinner. She tried to hide it, but I knew.” The other women in the group nodded, they had seen the same thing. “The rest of my crew made her life a living hell and of course nobody wanted to sit with her. Many walked by her and often sneered at her and told her some rather nasty stuff that I, as a Colonial, often heard myself. They told her to go back to where she belonged in some not very nice ways.”

“Did you do anything to help her? Did you show her that not all humans are… well, you get the idea?”

“Yeah,” Chelsea thought back to what she did that day as she watched the Zaltaen woman crying into her food that evening. “Yeah, I did. I walked up to her as she sat there silently crying, sat down next to her and hugged her. She tried to resist at first but I kept holding onto her until she…” Amanda interrupted her. “It’s the same thing that happened on my ship too. My God, it’s a story that mirrors mine.” The other four women in the group spoke up saying something similar. “I remember holding onto her,” Chelsea continued, “and she just broke down and sobbed into my shoulder as I held her. We’ve been friends ever since.”

“Luckily I didn’t have such an experience but I know many of my people who did. Richard and Rachel were there for me right from the very beginning. They stood up for me, defended me, and otherwise helped me adapt to living among humans. They really are the two best friends that a disgraced Zaltaen could ever have in her life and I thank the Great Maker for sending them to me. Anyways, are you all still in contact with the Zaltaens that you helped that day?”

“Yeah,” Chelsea nodded, “she’s here on the station and we talk every so often and I invite her over sometimes but we’re not like you and Richard.” The others shook their heads as well. Amanda spoke up. “The Zaltaen that I helped that day went back to Zalta, we email each other from time to time. We even video chat. She wants me to come to Zalta 4-B to meet up with her one day, she said she wants to show me her world.”

“Good, I’m happy to hear that.” Triara slowly nodded. “I’m glad to know that there’s a lot more people like Richard and Rachel among humans and that they are open to,” she reached up and wiped her eyes, “I’m sorry. I usually don’t get like this.”

“Oh honey,” Chelsea hugged her, “don’t worry about that. You’ve been through a lot; nobody would blame you if you got emotional. And yes,” Chelsea rubbed Triara’s back, “we get it. There’s not a lot of humans who’d want to befriend a Zaltaen.”

“Speaking of which,” another woman who hadn’t spoken up yet, “I’m Zoey Higgins.” Chelsea let go of her. “Do you have many other friends?” Triara shook her head. “Maybe you can hang with us, maybe we can… you know.” Amanda spoke up. “Yeah girls. Who wants to have Triara in our little group?” Triara was rather surprised at the thought that maybe she might have a chance at having more then a few people in her life. “Yeah!” Zoey exclaimed. “Why don’t you join us Triara? It’ll be fun.”

Triara dropped her mental walls and did a passive scan on the six women in front of her and she could sense no hostility or malice towards her. “I guess so. I don’t really have a lot of people to be friends with besides Richard on the station.”

“Aww,” Chelsea put her arm around her, “that’s too bad. But now you have us.”

“Yeah,” Amanda spoke up as they all started walking away from the lounge, “it’ll be fun. Say,” she looked down at Triara’s choice of dress, “I really like your outfit. As you can see,” she looked down at herself and at the other women with her, “we’re all dressed much like you are. Who helped you put your outfit together?”

“Rachel helped me, like I said before… Rachel has really been a great friend to me. She helped me become more comfortable wearing stuff like this. In fact, I have to admit that I like dressing like this. I find it to be quite fun to go out on the station looking like and dressing like this.”

“Why is that?” Amanda asked. “I don’t know many, if any, Zaltaens that dress like you are right now. It’s nothing but those robes that most of your people wear.”

“To be honest, I find how my people react to how I dress to be absolutely hilarious.”

“Why is that?” Zoey asked her. “What could possibly be so funny?”

Just then another Zaltaen passed by and looked at what Triara was wearing and she gasped as she collapsed against the wall in shock. “See what I mean? Did you see how that Zaltaen took one look at me and gasped? I find it to be absolutely hilarious I tell you.”

“Oh right!” Zoey exclaimed as they all began to laugh. “That was funny.”

“I had one straight-up faint, as in out-cold, as I walked by. Great Maker it was hilarious I tell you! I hadn’t laughed that hard in so long.” The other women began to laugh with her at the thought of watching the Zaltaen faint to the ground upon seeing Triara like that. “Where are you all going? Where do you all live?”

“Blue sector, where else?” Amanda asked. “Where do you live Triara? Do you live in the Zaltaen sector?”

“Nope,” Triara shook her head, “I live in blue sector like you do. I chose to live there since I really have no want to have anything to do with my people. I even applied for Human Federation citizenship and if what I’ve heard has any truth to it, I’ll have my citizenship by the end of the week.”

“Wow,” Zoey put her arm around her, “you really are going all out on this endeavor of yours. You really don’t want anything to do with your people.”

“Why should I? They’ve not done a damn thing for me. As far as I’m concerned, they can all fuck off for all I care.” Another Zaltaen that walked by heard what she said and her jaw dropped. “I don’t care anymore.” They were all completely surprised at how Triara reacted. “Why do you all seem so surprised? Wouldn’t you not want a thing to do with your people if they turned their backs on you like they did to me?” They all shook their heads as the train approached. “That’s right. It’s why I say fuck them. I have no use for my people anymore.”

Continue to Chapter 12…

Exit mobile version