On the Genesis space station, Triara opened her eyes as she lay next to Michael in his bed. “You’re awake?” She looked into his eyes and kissed him as he wrapped his arms around her and brought her close. “Yes, my darling,” he kissed her as he held her tightly, “but as much as I’d enjoy staying like we are, we better get ready if we’re going to catch that shuttle to the colony.”
“I know,” she pushed herself up off him much to her disappointment. She would’ve much rather stayed in bed lying next to him much like they had spent so many other nights together the last two months. They had been together for nearly eight months, but things changed in a big way two months ago when Michael popped the question. It was from then on that they shared a bed on several occasions.
She looked down at the ring on her finger and thought back to when Michael had given it to her nearly a month ago. They had been dating for several months and it didn’t take long for him to warm up to her after that one fateful date in the Officer’s Lounge when she had first met him many, many months ago.
She had been asked over to his place thinking they were going to have a private date with dinner and a movie like they had often shared in the past but this time, she had been asked to wear something nice instead of the usual more casual clothing that she normally went to his stateroom wearing. When she had asked why he had told her that they were going out on a date that evening. And it was a good thing that she dressed up for the date for he had taken her to one of the fanciest and most expensive restaurants on the station where one could even have a private booth complete with a privacy shield if one were to do so choose to use it.
They were having dinner like any other date that they had together, but she remembered that there was something different about him that night; he had been mentally closed off to her, unlike so many other times that they had spent together. He was hiding something from her and up until that moment, they had been rather open and candid with each other even going so far as to share telepathic sessions with her.
The question as to why he was so closed off to her kept nagging her and she asked him why, but she never got an answer which if she had to admit to herself, she was quite worried. She began to wonder if he had finally given in to the peer pressure that she knew he was receiving from several of his fellow officers and that this was his way of letting her down easily.
Her worries were put to rest when near the end of the date he took a small box out of his pocket. She knew enough from popular Human culture to know what that box meant and just why he had been so closed off to her, he didn’t want to spoil the surprise that he was going to give her.
It was that night that she allowed herself to experience a level of intimacy that she had been wanting for so long, a kind of encounter that she often thought about having with Richard in the past. After all, they were about to be married soon and she had often thought about having sex with Richard, so she threw caution to the wind that night with Michael. Triara thought back to that night and so many other nights including the night before with a sort of happiness that she had never thought she would have in her life.
“Thank you for last night,” she caressed his naked chest, “I’m embarrassed to admit that I wanted it quite badly.”
“Why are you embarrassed?” Michael ran his hands through her blue hair as she lay beside him with her arm draped over his chest.
“It’s not my people’s way,” she looked up to him, “my people are generally not like this. We don’t normally think of sex this way if you know anything about Zaltaens,” he began to nod his head for he knew where she was going with her next part, “we’re a rather prude bunch of people.”
“Yeah, but you dress like a Human.”
“Dressing like a Human is one thing, convincing yourself to give into one’s more carnal desires when all your life you’ve been told that it’s shameful is another thing altogether different. It’s taken me a long time,” she bit her lower lip, “to open myself up to doing such things and giving into those kinds of physical desires.”
“But didn’t you tell me that you often thought about having sex with Richard?”
“Thought about it? Yes.” She nodded. “But would I have gone through with it? No.” She shook her head. “Richard and I both agreed back then that if we had done such a thing, we’d probably hate each other and I,” she shook her head once again, “I didn’t want that to happen to the two of us.” He nodded in understanding. “I can’t believe how close I came to ruining it all between the three of us.”
“Then it’s a good thing that the two of you didn’t go through with it.”
“Yeah,” she looked up at him, “now that I have what I have with you, I’m happy that I didn’t.” She once again caressed his naked chest and happily sighed as he wrapped his arms around the Zaltaen woman that he had fallen in love with, and they would’ve stayed like that forever if they didn’t need to get ready. “But as much as I want to stay here with you like this,” he let go of her, “we better start getting ready.” She picked her head up from his chest. “Computer?” It chirped to indicate that it heard her activation phrase. “Turn the coffee maker on and turn the lights on low.”
“Certainly,” the computer said as she heard the coffee maker turn on and start heating the water with her enhanced hearing and watched as the lights came up low. She laid her head back down on his chest as he ran his hands through blue her hair. “Triara?” She glanced up. “I’m glad you decided to come along with me to the colony.” He once again felt her nod against his chest. “Meeting my daughter there on the colony is going to go a long way to giving her a reason she can trust you.” She raised her head from his chest and looked down at him with mere centimeters between them. “Don’t you think?”
“Yes, my love,” she smiled as she laid her head back down on his chest and caressed it. However, she still had her doubts about whether or not it was a good idea for her to go with him, but she didn’t want to tell him.
“It’s certainly better than bringing her here and surprising her with you. Right?” In that way, she agreed with him; she didn’t like the idea of herself being sprung on Jessie like some kind of surprise. However, that didn’t at all put aside her worry about whether or not his sister would accept her much like others didn’t quite accept her being with Michael. Sure, nobody voiced their opinion of them being together like they were, but she could sense their displeasure in it with her abilities.
“Yes, I imagine so,” she simply nodded in agreement with him.
“I figured that,” he smiled and hugged her tightly before letting go of her. “Do you want to get dressed first?” he asked.
“No,” she climbed out of bed and headed for the kitchen but then turned about, “I’ll start making us some coffee while you get dressed.”
A few moments later, she walked back in with two mugs of coffee in her hand and handed one to him. “Here you go my love,” he looked up and took hold of it and took a sip of it and put it down on the nightstand, and went back to tying his shoes.
“What?” he asked as she looked down at him.
“Oh nothing,” she smiled as she sat down next to him and looked at the ring that was on her finger that he had given her nearly two months ago. “I love you, Michael,” she looked up from the ring and put her arm around his shoulder. “I’m happy that you didn’t give into the peer pressure that I’m sure you received from your fellow officers.”
“I love you too,” he kissed her cheek. “And yes,” he took hold of her hand, “I did receive a lot of peer pressure to not date you.” She frowned as he said that; it was different knowing that he had received such peer pressure and thinking about it. “But I didn’t give into it and now look at us,” he turned to her and kissed her on her cheek, “I wouldn’t give up what we have for anything in the universe. If I had given into said peer pressure I know I would’ve regretted it.”
“I just hate that you still receive such peer pressure from your fellow officers.”
“Yeah,” he shrugged, “I get it. But you can’t change what others think, all you can do is ignore it and move on.” She nodded her head as she looked at him. “But you better get dressed now,” he let go of her hand and reached around to her back and caressed the part of her back that was exposed by her nightie, “we don’t have much time until the shuttle leaves without us and I know you don’t want that.”
With that he stood up from the bed and walked out of the bedroom to let her get dressed much to her disappointment, she had hoped that he would stick around to give a little input on what she was going to wear to see his sister and daughter. However, she knew that he was a bit of a sports fanatic and loved to check up on the sports news and scores in the morning.
While she was getting dressed, she heard a shout from the living room of the stateroom. “Yes! The Martians trounced them!” She shook her head and laughed at the thought that Humans still played such a sport because depending upon where you played the game, the outcome could be completely different due to things like gravity, atmospheric conditions, and even genetic modifications due to where a person came from.
There was talk about trying to standardize the conditions in which the games would take place by standardizing the atmospheric pressure and the gravity under which the games would take place using artificial gravity generators, but the idea had a lot of controversies and thus it was still caught up in committee.
She walked out of his bedroom and into the living room to find him sitting on the couch staring at his datapad and admired the smile on his face and the pure elation that he was displaying as she leaned against the doorframe. It was then that she remembered when she had first met him so long ago in the Officer’s Lounge and how depressed he was. He had done a complete one-eighty-degree turn from what he was nearly a year ago much to how she was in his life.
That wasn’t to say that he didn’t miss Mary, his previous wife, and the mother of his child. She supposed that he would always miss her in some way and that he would always hold a special place in his heart but now he didn’t seem to be so fixated on that loss in his life. He was happier than she had ever seen him.
“Ready?” He asked as he looked her over and noticed that she was wearing which consisted of a light grey sweatshirt that had the phrase ‘Property of the Space Force’ on the front of it, a pair of jean shorts, black tights, white ankle socks, and a pair of athletic shoes that had a stylized purple and white theme that matched the color of her skin, along with her blue hair tied up in a ponytail at the back of her head to complete her whole playfully sexy outfit.
“I don’t know about this,” she said as she walked up to him once again thinking that maybe going with Michael to the colony to meet his sister wasn’t such a good idea but this time having the courage to voice her concern with him.
“Don’t know about what honey?” He asked as he reached for her only for her to voluntarily sit down in his lap facing him with her legs under her.
“Um,” she said as he wrapped his arms around the Zaltaen woman that he had fallen in love with. “I want everything to go alright with your sister.” She stopped speaking as she felt him lovingly caress her back much like she so often enjoyed, it almost made her forget about what she wanted to talk with him about. “I know you were saying that you wanted me to come with you to meet your sister but maybe I should stay behind and let you go by yourself; I’d hate to be the reason why you can’t bring your daughter to live with you on the station.”
“But what if your sister doesn’t…” she didn’t get the chance to finish that sentence for Michael hugged her. “I want you there with me. You have to know that I wouldn’t have asked you to come with me if I didn’t think it was a good idea.” He felt her nod against his shoulder. “Besides, Jessie is my daughter; she has no legal right to be able to tell me that I can’t take her with me. If she tried to fight me for custody of my daughter, the JAG Corps would have a field day and you know it. No judge in all of human space would deny me access to my daughter seeing as I’m the only living parent that she has.”
“True,” Triara began to think about how a situation like that would drive a wedge between him and his sister and she didn’t want to be the reason for that happening. “However, you know I’d never want that to happen.”
“If it happens,” he let go of her and let her sit up after which he took hold of her hands, “it happens; we’ll deal with it.” She was about to open her mouth. “Together,” he said as he squeezed her hands. “You’re coming with me to meet my sister and that’s that, no matter the potential outcome. You have every right to be there with me to meet her and my daughter.”
“Alright,” she tried to smile but it just didn’t come to her face, “I’ll come with you.”
“Good,” he leaned in for a kiss. “Now come on my love, let’s go see my sister and introduce you to her.” She smiled once again as he used that term of endearment towards her as she stood up from his lap.
“By the way,” he stood up from the couch and reached around to her and cupped her backside in his hands, and brought her close, “I love your outfit, it’s… playful; if you know what I mean.” She smirked because she knew what he meant. She then turned around upon which she felt his hand on the small of her back.
As they came to the door, Triara picked up the bag that they were going to take with them and although the bag was quite heavy, she made lifting it seem like child’s play.
As the docking collar made a confirmed seal with the shuttle’s airlock, the red light at the top of the door changed to the color green and the door to the gangway leading to the colony opened.
Triara stood up from her seat, reached up to the overhead cargo bin, grabbed their bag and swung out into the gangway, and began to float her way down effortlessly and gracefully to the other side without so much as touching her foot or hand any surface even though she had their rather heavy bag in her hands. And if that wasn’t surprising enough, as she came to the other side of the gangway, she turned about on the toes of her left foot in one quick and smooth motion to watch him come down floating down in front of her.
Triara looked up the gangway and just like she gracefully glided down the gangway, Michael too gracefully floated down the zero-gravity gangway.
“Well now,” Triara held her hand out to him as he took hold of it, “I have to hand it to you, that was quite good; graceful even.”
“You know I grew up in space right,” Michael said as he came up beside her and put his arm around her waist as several people come walking towards them, “I’m used to dealing with zero-gravity.”
“Good point,” he said as he nodded to several people walking by, and they just nodded their heads in return without so much as a word between them. Meanwhile, Triara was rather surprised that nobody had said anything about them being together like they were, and it was obvious to anyone who looked at them for he had his arm around her, and they were walking together rather closely.
“You know,” she looked at him out of the corner of her left eye, “I’m rather surprised really.” He looked at her wondering what she was talking about. “Not one person here in the colony has said anything about us being together unlike on the station. I’ve not even picked up on any stray negative thoughts about us. Why’s that?”
“Colonials, like me and of course, Richard, are a more shall we say,” he looked up at the ceiling, “more accepting bunch of people. You have to remember, a lot of people back home on Terra can’t stand us out here in the colonies so as far as us Colonials are concerned, us Colonials have to stick together.”
“I didn’t think about it that way,” she slowly nodded her head. “If I ever leave the service, I’m coming to live on a colony like this. You couldn’t get me to live planet-side.”
“I certainly hope you think that way,” he smiled and kissed her on her cheek, “because that’s where I want to live after I get out of the service too and I certainly hope that you’ll be there with me.”
“I’d like that very much,” she sighed as she put her arm around his waist and took hold of his other hand.
They soon came to the end of a long corridor and from the ceiling hung a sign, colony A to the left and colony B to the left. Triara was about to turn to the right when she could feel the tug of Michael’s hand leading her in the direction of colony A.
“Aren’t we supposed to go,” she pointed in the direction of colony B where her long-time friend Rachel lived along with Richard’s parents, “that way?”
“Nope,” he shook his head as he led her to the left towards colony A, “my sister lives in colony A.” A look of disappointment came over her face. “What’s wrong honey?” Someone else who was walking past them overheard him calling Triara ‘honey’ yet once again, nothing was said. She was once again shocked, nobody cared; it was like a breath of fresh air for her. “Tell me.” He reached for her shoulder. “Tell me what’s wrong?”
“I was hoping to visit Rachel and she lives in colony B.”
“Oh,” he slowly nodded his head, “you do know that we’re going be here until late tomorrow evening so we should have more than enough time to visit Rachel.” She smiled as he said that. “I hope so, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen her, and I’ve heard that she’s pregnant so I want to see her.”
“And we will,” he tried to reassure her. “We will go see her; I promise.”
As they drove up to his sister’s house in a car that they had rented for the weekend, Michael turned to Triara. “You wait here,” he put his hand on her knee and caressed it, “let me find out if my sister is even home.”
“Ok,” she patted his hand that was still resting on her knee.
As he approached the door of the house he heard a familiar squeal, the sound of his daughter’s voice when she was happy and excited. It didn’t take long at all for the door to open for just as he mounted the first step the door flew open and out came running his daughter, Jessie. “Daddy!” she exclaimed as she jumped into his arms, and he brought her close and hugged her closely. “You’re here!”
Upon taking his daughter up in his arms, Michael couldn’t help but cry as he held his daughter close and lovingly rubbed her back. “Yes, my little princess,” he held her up in the air and looked up at her, “daddy’s here.” Meanwhile, Triara looked on and watched as he interacted with his daughter and couldn’t help but find him even more attractive what with how he interacted with his young daughter; she could tell that he loved his daughter very much just by how he held her in his arms and hugged her close.
“Michael,” Heather, his sister, came up to him. “It’s been too long, it’s so good to see you!” Michael put his daughter on the floor only for her to latch onto his leg while he hugged his sister. “Yes, yes it has been too long; too long indeed. I’m sorry, work has been hectic ever since I took my new position.”
“How long can you stay? Your daughter misses you a lot.” He looked down at her and how she was clinging to his leg. “Unfortunately,” he turned his gaze to look at Triara who was still sitting in the car, and motioned for her to follow him as they walked into the foyer of the house, “I can’t stay long. I’m only here for the weekend.” His daughter looked up and was instantly devastated, he could tell that she was hoping she’d have her father back in her life permanently. “But that’s why I’m here,” he looked down at her and patted the top of her head, “I have plans to take you with me.”
“Back up a parsec! Put the thrusters in reverse!” Heather yelled startling Jessie which sent her running for the couch. “Jessie,” she looked to her who was cowering on the couch, “leave the room. The adults have to talk.”
Jessie sheepishly walked out of the room with her head hung low leaving Michael and his sister to argue over her future and as she walked out of the room she noticed Triara. “Who are you?” Jessie asked as she looked Triara up and down. Jessie had no idea who she was or why she was standing in the hallway right outside the living room of her aunt’s house. “Why is your hair blue? Are you a Zaltaen?”
“Yes, I am a Zaltaen. My name’s Triara,” she crouched down to meet her gaze and pointed at herself, “Triara Moonbeam.” Jessie nodded.
“But why are you here?” Jessie asked. “Why are you in this house?”
“Because your daddy wanted me here, he brought me here.”
“Why?” Jessie asked. “Why did my daddy bring you here?”
“To meet you, of course,” she smiled. “I have to tell you something. You might not understand but you should know about it anyway.” Jessie looked at her with an inquisitive look on her face. “Your daddy and I are engaged. See?” Triara pointed at a ring on her finger. “Your daddy and I are going to be married soon.”
“If you’re a Zaltaen, why are you dressed like that?” Another person came into the hallway. “Hi, my name’s Amy.” She came up to her. “I’m Jessie’s cousin.” Triara turned her head and looked up at Amy. “Hi Amy, I’m pleased to meet you.”
“Pleased to meet you as well,” Triara stood up to meet Amy’s gaze. “I’m Triara, Triara Moonbeam.”
“Did I hear that you are engaged to be married to Michael?” Amy asked wondering what was going on. That was when Triara showed Amy the ring that Michael had given her. “Damn,” she gasped, “My God… it’s beautiful. That ring must have cost him a small mint.” Triara looked down at the ring on her finger and admired it once again. “He must think a lot of you to give you such a ring.”
“Yeah,” Triara smiled, “that he does. He means a lot to me as well.”
“I do have to ask, why are you dressed like that? You’re dressed very much like I am.” Triara looked Amy over and she was right, Amy was dressed much like she was complete with jean shorts and athletic shoes much like Triara was wearing except Amy was wearing purple tights instead of black like she, herself, was wearing. “I’ve not seen many if any Zaltaens dress like you are. Most Zaltaens that I know usually, and I hope that you don’t find it offensive when I say this, wear those fashion nightmares they call robes.”
“I’ve been around Humans for a long time and have gotten used to being among them and dressing like one.” She looked Amy over again. “Lately I’ve come to like dressing like a Human; the looks of shock that I receive from other Zaltaens are hilarious. And no, I didn’t find your comment offensive, in fact, I kind of find it funny.”
Amy was relieved about that last part. “I’ll bet,” Amy laughed. “You really could pass as a Human with that outfit you’re wearing. As you can see,” Amy looked down at herself, “I’m wearing something similar to what you’re wearing. But that doesn’t answer the question about why you’re dressed like that.”
“I,” Triara looked down at herself, “I generally don’t associate with Zaltaens anymore if I can help it. I work with a lot of officers in the Zaltaen Royal Space Navy that are members of the noble Houses and since I was cast out of my House, they generally want nothing to do with me outside of what’s required of our jobs. I don’t socialize with Zaltaens if I can help it.” Amy could tell that it wasn’t something that Triara liked to talk about, and it showed on her face. “I see that you know something about Zaltaen culture.”
“Yeah well,” Amy rubbed the back of her head, “I’ve been dating a Zaltaen but I’m keeping it a secret. My mom’s been hesitant of getting to them. I wish that she wouldn’t be so negative towards Zaltaens, considering that there’s not much difference between our two species.” Triara was surprised by Amy’s rather enlightened attitude much like Michael had. “I’m tired of having to make excuses whenever I go out on a date with him and why I haven’t brought him to the house.”
“You’re dating a Zaltaen?” Triara asked as she heard her name from the living room.
While Jessie, Amy, and Triara were talking in the hallway, Heather continued her ranting in the living room. “You can’t be serious!” Heather, Michael’s sister, folded her arms across her chest. “Taking your daughter to a military base? That’s no place to take your daughter! How will you care for her? What about if you’re on the job? Who will take care of her? You can’t just leave her in your barracks and expect her to take care of herself while you’re on the job. She’s six years old, damn it! Think this through brother! She’s better here with me.”
“But my baby needs her daddy,” he pleaded. “And that’s not all, I need her. I need her in my life again.”
“Then quit the damn Space Force already! It’s taken one of her parents already!” she exclaimed and as soon as she said that she looked to the floor. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that. It just,” she looked back up, “came out. I know you can’t quit the Space Force, it’s your job. I get it.” She sighed. “But you have to see it my way Michael,” she looked up, “a military base is no place for a little girl to grow up on.”
“But this place is different. Have you heard of Genesis?”
Heather thought back to when it was being talked about on the nightly news. “Are you talking about that new space station that was constructed right here in this star system?”
“The one and only!” He put his finger up in the air. “Genesis has become a major port of call for a lot of people, a major trading post for this and several other sectors surrounding it. There’s commercial activity going on every day, ships coming and going; we even have diplomatic envoys coming weekly from not only the Zaltaens but many of their other allies. People are coming and going at all hours of the day and most importantly, there’s a major civilian population on the station doing things like running restaurants, stores, and all kinds of things. It’s like a huge city in space. And because of so many civilians, there are schools and daycare and a whole lot more onboard. We even have an arboretum where you can walk and enjoy flowers and plants from Terra, Zalta, and many other human planets. It’s far more than just a military base, it’s become our… future.”
“I see,” Heather rubbed her chin, she had no idea that Genesis had become so built up. She had only heard about it as a sort of transit point for the system.
“And not only that but I have friends that can help with taking care of my daughter. I also have someone who I’m engaged to be married to.”
“Really?” Heather could hardly believe it. She knew how much Mary meant to him, they had after all been in love as far back as high school and as soon as they were out of college, they had got married. That, of course, was how Jessie came about; it didn’t take long for Jessie to come along after they were married.
“Yeah! I can’t imagine Mary wanting me to be sad for the next hundred and fifty or so years until I die, right?” Heather shook her head; she too didn’t imagine Mary wanting that either. “I’d think that Mary would want me to be happy and to move on without her, especially for my daughter, and that’s what I’ve done. While I was posted on the station, I met someone that I want to be with and spend my life with. She’s made me happy again.”
“Yeah,” Heather agreed, there was something different about him; there was no doubt in her mind about that. “Your attitude has changed. You’re no longer sulking. You seem far more cheerful than the last time you were here. It’s a big improvement.”
“I am more cheerful, a lot happier these days.” He called to Triara to which she walked into the room with his daughter nervously following behind her along with Amy. “It’s all because of Triara that I’m better now.”
When Heather realized that Triara wasn’t Human, she gasped and slapped her hands across her mouth. “But Triara isn’t… isn’t…” Michael interrupted her. “Human? Is that what you were going to say about her?”
“Yes!” Heather exclaimed. “She’s not Human!” Michael could see the look on Triara’s face, it was one of hurt and disappointment that his sister couldn’t see past the fact that she was an alien, but it quickly faded. “Does she even know how to love someone?”
“Of course, she knows how to love someone!” Michael exclaimed rather loudly. “How can you even ask that kind of question? I know that she loves me!” Michael took hold of Triara from behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist. “We’ve been together for close to a year now. I know what she feels for me, and I want her to be part of my life and I know she wants to be part of mine as well. That’s why I asked her to marry me. I love her.” Triara, meanwhile, looked down at his hands that were around her waist and took hold of them.
Heather looked to the floor and suddenly felt embarrassed that she questioned the idea that a Zaltaen could understand the concept of love for as she looked at the two of them holding each other, it was plain to see that they both meant a lot to each other; there was definitely something special between the two of them.
“I’m sorry,” Heather apologized, “it’s just that I never thought this was possible. I didn’t know that Zaltaens had the capacity for emotions like this, I’ve always known Zaltaens to be a rather closed-off people.”
“Yes, they do tend to be that way but,” she looked down at herself and then back up at Heather, “I’m not your typical Zaltaen. If you just take the time to get to know me as Michael has,” she looked over her shoulder at him, “I’m sure you’ll understand why Michael and I feel the way we do about each other.”
“I guess I have some things to learn about you.” Heather looked to the floor. “As for what I said about you, I’m sorry. I never meant to insult you like that, I just want the best for my brother. Can you find it in yourself to forgive me Triara?”
“Of course, I can!” Michael let go of Triara as she opened her arms and walked over to where Heather was standing and hugged her. “I forgive you; you didn’t know but I know in time that you’ll understand me better.”
“Thank you,” Heather hugged her in return, “but enough about this.” Heather nodded against Triara’s shoulder. “I better get dinner started but during dinner, I’d love to hear more about how the two of you met. In the meantime,” Heather held her arm out, “go ahead and sit down and take a load off. I’m sure you two would like to sit down and rest after a long shuttle ride.” She looked at Amy. “Would you mind getting them something for their trouble?”
“Yes mom,” Amy rolled her eyes at which her mom pointed at her. “I saw that. Now get your uncle and his girlfriend something to drink.” Heather walked into the kitchen leaving Triara and Michael sitting on the couch. “Now guys, what would you two like to have?”
“Coffee would be nice,” Triara said as she sat down next to Michael.
“And you uncle?” Amy asked.
“The same, thank you.”
Later that night after a rather late dinner that went a whole lot better than Michael and Triara could’ve ever hoped for considering how Heather had first reacted to Triara being involved with her brother. Much of the conversation revolved around how the two of them had met and eventually fell in love.
As Michael and Triara stood up from the table, he took hold of her hand. “Well guys, it’s been great talking and catching up on things, but we better get going. I need to find Triara and me a hotel to stay in for the night.”
“Why not stay here?” Heather looked up as she was picking her plate up off the table. “We have a spare room upstairs that you two can use. We’d love to have the two of you stay the night. You don’t have to run off like that, I’ve not seen you in a long time. Come,” she put the plate back down on the table for Steve, her husband, to take care of while she came up behind Michael and Triara and put a hand on both of their shoulders, “come with me and I’ll show the two of you to the room that we have upstairs.”
“Thank you,” Triara graciously accepted, “we’d love to stay here with all of you.”
“Likewise,” Michael let his sister guide the two of them up the stairs.
After climbing the stairs and walking down the hallway, Heather turned to the left and opened a door. “Here we are you two,” she walked into the room, “you can stay here. As you can see,” she pointed to the bed, “it’s a rather large bed so you two can sleep comfortably in it. And over here,” she walked off to the back wall and opened a door, “we have a full bathroom and a shower that the two of you can use.” She came back over to the two of them. “I do hope that you find the room acceptable.”
“Oh yes!” Triara exclaimed. “Thank you so much, it means a lot to the two of us that you’re being so kind to the two of us. After the initial reaction that we received, I was worried that you wouldn’t accept me.”
“I know,” Heather hung her head low and shook her head, “as I said before, I’m sorry about that. I didn’t mean for that conversation to go the way that it went. It just rather surprised me and I overreacted. As I said earlier, I don’t have much experience with Zaltaens, and I guess that my lack of knowledge of your people clouded my judgment of you.”
“What is it that you don’t know about Zaltaens? Is there anything you want to know? I can answer your questions if you want.” Amy walked into the room to listen in on the conversation. “Go ahead, ask away and Michael and I can answer them for you.”
“Well,” Heather took up a chair from a desk in the room and sat down as Michael and Triara sat down on the bed next to each other, “I have a lot of questions. The most obvious of them all is why are you dressed like that? I’ve never seen a Zaltaen dress like you are.”
“Like I told Amy earlier,” Triara looked to her as she too took up a chair from the desk in the room and sat down across from the two of them, “I don’t have much to do with other Zaltaens anymore. I was cast out of my House and as Amy can explain.” Amy spoke up. “It means that Triara who was once part of a noble House of her world, has no House, no family, no friends to rely on, and not much to go back to.”
“That’s awful!” Heather exclaimed. “You mean to say that you have no family?” Triara nodded. “Any friends that’ll take your call?”
“No,” Triara shook her head. “All I have in my life is Michael,” she patted his knee, “along with Richard and his wife Rachel and a few other friends that I have on the station. They’ve all been gracious enough to welcome me into their lives and look past the fact that I’m an alien and it’s something that I’m forever grateful for. Michael here,” he put a hand on her thigh, “has been so wonderful to me and I love him for that,” she reached up and wiped her eyes, “I’m sorry.”
“Oh, don’t be sorry my dear.” Heather walked across the room to the box of tissues that was sitting on the desk in the room, handed it to her, and sat back down across from the two of them.
“Thank you,” Triara pulled a tissue from the box and dabbed at her eyes. “When I look back at all that’s happened to me and how much I’ve lost, but most importantly, how much I’ve gained in the long run, how the two of us met and what we have together,” she took hold of his hand that as resting on her thigh and interlaced her fingers with his, “I can’t help but to get like this. I never thought I’d ever have the kind of love that Michael and I have for each other since I’m an alien but,” she squeezed his hand, “he’s been great to me. He’s been everything that I’ve ever wanted in my life.” She looked up at him. “Isn’t that right Michael?”
“Yes, you’re right my dear.” He looked at her and smiled. “I too feel the same way about you. After I lost Mary, I never thought that I’d ever find love again but here it is,” he squeezed her hand, “I’ve found love again with Triara and I thank God for her every day. She’s made a major impact on my life; she’s made my life better in so many ways, she might’ve even saved me. I’m happy again because of her in my life.”
“Saved you?” Heather asked. “Were you…” Michael slowly nodded his head down. “Yes Heather, I was indeed in that dark hole. When my wife,” he choked up, “died.” He closed his eyes. “I didn’t know what to do. I honestly thought about ending it all, to be with her once again.” He opened his eyes and tears began to fall down his face. “Until Triara came along,” Triara handed him a tissue, “she sensed how much pain I was in and helped me pull myself back from the edge of the cliff. I’m ashamed to admit that I very nearly committed suicide because of how much pain I was in after I lost Mary.”
“Oh my God, brother.” Heather put her hands to her mouth. “Why didn’t you tell me? I would’ve been there for you! I would’ve come at a moment’s notice. Mary was my best friend too you know. I set you up with her. When Mary died, I too was hurting; I lost my best friend.”
“I know sis, I know. I probably should’ve been more open to you about how badly I was hurting. I thought that my daughter would’ve been better without me, without the… broken me.” He dabbed at his eyes. “I can see now that that was a selfish way of looking at things. I was thinking about how much pain I was in, not the kind of pain that my Jessie would’ve been in if she had lost her father too.” He looked to Triara. “But Triara was there for me, she helped me. She was there for me when I needed someone to listen, she was even there when I needed a shoulder to cry on.”
“I guess I have to thank you Triara.” Heather shook her head. “You helped my brother when he needed it the most. Thank you for being there for him, I don’t know how to thank you for saving his life.” Heather stood up from her chair and held her arms out as she approached Triara. “Come here Triara.”
“Go on,” Michael looked to Triara, “go ahead.” He patted Triara on her shoulder.
Triara stood up and let Michael’s sister hug her. “Thank you,” she sniffled, “thank you so much for saving my brother’s life. Thank you for being there for him when he needed you the most.”
“And like I said to Michael, I was just trying to help. I’m happy to know that what I did helped him see that life was still worth living.”
“And I thank you,” Heather rubbed Triara’s back, “I thank you so very much.” Heather backed away. “I’m so sorry for insulting you as I did, you didn’t deserve it.” She hugged Triara again. “I’m so sorry.” Triara felt Heather begin to cry against her shoulder. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t know how much you meant to my brother.”
“That’s alright,” Triara looked up at the ceiling trying to hold back her tears as Heather cried against her shoulder, “you didn’t know.”
Heather backed away from her. “Thank you Triara, thank you for forgiving me of my stupidity.”
“Triara?” Amy asked. “I’m glad you were there for my uncle too.”
“Come here, Amy.” Triara held her arms open and took Amy into her arms and hugged her.
“So,” Heather sat back down as she watched her daughter being hugged by Triara, “how did the two of you meet?” Heather sat back down, and she too had the same question. “Yeah, how did you two meet? Spill it, my mom and I’d like to know.”
“Well, at the time the station that we’re both stationed on wasn’t as built up as it is now.”
“You mean Genesis?” Heather asked.
“Yes,” Triara nodded, “at the time the station had just come online so there weren’t a lot of places to go and meet people but now as Michael already stated before, the station has come a long way since it first came online. A lot of additional personnel and civilians have come onboard since the station first came online and so a lot more facilities are available to meet people in. But anyways, Michael and I first met in the Officer’s Lounge. I initially went there to hang out with my friend Richard who’s married to my best friend Rachel, it was there that I met Michael.”
“Lounge?” Amy asked.
“A bar.” Heather quickly said before Triara could interject.
“Yes,” Triara added, “it’s a bar like your mother stated. It’s a place where Space Force officers who are posted on the station can visit to get a drink, get something small to eat, and otherwise relax among their fellow officers. There are pool tables, dart boards, music, and on the weekends the dance floor opens where the officers come to otherwise let go.”
“Dance floor?” Amy asked.
“Uh-huh,” Michael hummed. “Every weekend the dance floor goes crazy where officers from across the station come to dance the night away.” He looked to Triara. “I’ve never been on the dance floor since I and Triara aren’t into that kind of thing. Triara’s friends have tried to get her out onto the dance floor, but she draws the line at that. Isn’t that right honey?”
“Yeah,” Triara chuckled, “as much I dress and act like a human, I draw the line at that. Besides, I can’t stand loud music seeing as how Zaltaens have more sensitive hearing than humans have.”
“Oh yeah!” Amy exclaimed. “I know, Narin has told me the same thing.” As Amy said that she clasped her hands across her face. “Oh shit, I didn’t mean to say that!”
“Narin?” Heather asked. “Who’s this Narin that you speak of?”
“Uh…” Amy stammered; she knew that she was in trouble now. “Nothing!” She exclaimed. “It’s just someone I know.”
“You wouldn’t be stammering about someone who you just knew. What’s going on Amy, I’m your mother and I think I should know what’s going on in your life.”
Amy hung her head low. “Narin is the name of a young Zaltaen guy that I’m dating, I started dating him about six months ago.”
“And why am I just now hearing about this, young lady!?” Heather shouted at Amy with her hands on her hips as she stood before her daughter with an intimidating stance. “I’m your mother! I should know who you’re dating!”
Amy looked up and shouted. “I didn’t tell you because I knew that you were going to react just like you reacted when Michael, your brother, brought Triara here! I knew that you were going to react like this, so I kept it from you!”
“Amy does have a point there, Heather.” Heather, of course, shot her brother a glare and pointed at him. “You stay out of this! Amy’s my daughter, not yours! You have no say in this!”
“But Michael is right!” Amy stood up. “Would you have yelled about Narin dating me like you had yelled about Michael wanting to marry Triara? Would you have made Narin as uncomfortable as you made Triara?” She raised her voice. “HUH! Tell me, mother! Would you!?”
“That’s not the point!” Heather yelled.
“Yes, it is the damn point!” Amy shouted. “I can’t believe that my mother thinks like this!” Heather stood there blinking her eyes as Amy, her daughter, said the things she said about her. “When was the last time that you even tried to talk to a Zaltaen?” Heather just stood there blinking her eyes yet again, she had no answer to her daughter’s question. “Yeah! I thought so! You’ve not even tried!”
“I can’t help it that Zaltaens are rather a reclusive and private people.” Heather tried to defend herself, but it was clear that her argument wasn’t working.
“That’s an excuse and you know it!” Amy shouted much to Triara’s dismay as she rubbed her ears. “You’ve not even tried! You judged them without even getting to know them! My God mom! Give these people a chance already! What have they done to you?!” Amy lowered her voice. “Narin is a very nice guy; he’s never done anything to me that has ever made me think that I couldn’t trust him. He’s very new to the idea of dating anyone let alone dating a human girl. They don’t have such a thing as dating in Zaltaen society.”
“That’s true.” Triara began. “There’s no such thing as dating in Zaltaen society.”
“Narin told me about that.” Amy sighed. “So yes, Narin is very new to the idea of dating someone. He’s so unsure of himself. I’ve had to be the one to initiate a lot of things. He didn’t even dare to kiss me, I had to initiate our first kiss. He was so afraid to even touch me, I had to take hold of his hand to permit him to simply touch me.
“I’ve been to his parent’s house. I sat down and ate a traditional Zaltaen dinner with them. I’ve talked with them and have gotten to know them. They’re wonderful people and they certainly don’t deserve the kind of response that you’re giving them.” She watched her mom look down at the floor in shame. “They too were cast out of their House much like Triara was, it’s why they’re here in our colony; they came here to make a new life for themselves and their son much like I’m sure that Triara did. All they want is to be a part of this community, our colony, and people like you,” she pointed at her mom at which she winced, “are preventing that from happening.
“I took the initiative to talk to their son, Narin. I befriended him and I got to know him. Yeah, it was a bit rocky at first but really,” she shrugged, “I don’t blame him. He doesn’t know how human relationships work but he’s learning much like I’m sure that Triara had to learn.” She saw Triara nod her head. “I like Narin, I like him a lot. He’s really a great guy. I know he’ll never hurt me. He tells me that I’m the best thing that’s ever happened to him and that he enjoys our time together.”
“Oh, God.” Heather sat down and hid her face in her hands. “What am I?”
“Mom?” Amy touched her mom’s back. “You just don’t know any better, but I can help you. If you want, I can take you to see them. Just please, please take the time to get to know these people much like Michael has gotten to know Triara. I’m sure that once you get to know these people like I’ve gotten to know Narin that you’ll understand why I know I can trust them, why I want to be with Narin much like Michael wants to be with Triara.”
“You’re right,” Heather sighed, “you’re right Amy; I was wrong.” She looked up. “I’ve not taken the time to get to know any Zaltaens that live here in this colony. You’re right, I let my prejudices of how they hid among us for so many years get in the way of getting to know them and talking to them. And I’m sorry.” She looked back down at the floor. “Can you forgive me for my stupidity?”
“It’s not me that you have to ask forgiveness of; you have to ask the Zaltaens that you’ve been so prejudiced of. You have to ask them, not me.”
“Again,” Heather sighed, “you’re right.” With that, she stood up and walked out of the room leaving her brother, Triara, and her daughter behind in the room.
“Alright, now that my mom is out of the room, I have to ask… Can a Human and Zaltaen have a child together?”
“Oh yes!” Triara exclaimed. “Humans and Zaltaens are completely compatible if you know what I mean.” Amy’s eyes lit up as she said that. “As soon as the two of us are married I want to have a child with Michael. I want Jessie to have someone to grow up alongside with.”
“How is your relationship received by others around you? Do Humans treat the two of you well? What about Zaltaens? Do they treat you well?”
“Um,” Triara frowned, “that’s where things get a little disappointing. Unlike how you think, not a lot of people approve of the kind of relationship that we have together. The two of us have had to endure a lot of ridicule, rude and hurtful comments, and just plain hate for what the two of us have together.” Meanwhile, Amy looked down, she didn’t think that people were still bigoted like that. “It’s been challenging, to say the least,” Michael spoke up. “But despite what Triara has said about what we endure, I’d never give up what we have together; it’s far too important to me to just throw away over what others may think and say about us. What we have together gives us the strength to keep going. Isn’t that right my love?”
Triara leaned her head on his shoulder. “Yes, it is,” she squeezed his hand that was still on her thigh.
“Anyways,” Amy stood up from her chair, “I’m going to let you two get some sleep.” With that, Amy walked out of the room leaving Triara and Michael alone in the room. Michael looked at her and put his arms around her and hugged her. “I see that this whole evening has gone a lot better than I thought it would.”
“Me too,” she nodded, “me too. Anyways,” she yawned, “let’s take our showers and get to bed.” She yawned again. “I’m tired, I didn’t get much sleep last night.”
“Me too,” he let go of her. “Do you want to take your shower first or do you want me to go first?”
“You go first my love,” Triara sat down on the bed and watched as he got undressed.
The next morning, Michael and Triara descended the stairs after packing the few things that they had brought with them, Amy came up to them with some luggage of her own in hand.
“Amy?” Michael wondered what was going on. “Why are you packed like that?”
“My mom wants me to come with you two and help get Jessie all settled in on the station. I hope that that’s all right, she’s going to need someone familiar with you when you’re at work, right?”
“I suppose,” Michael thought, “until she gets used to Triara in her life I imagine she’s going to be rather uncomfortable around her. But what about Narin? I thought you were going to have him come back and see your mom.”
“I called him last night and told him that I was going to be away for a while and that I’d be back in about a month and a half.”
“A month and a half?” Michael was shocked. “Why are you going to be staying that long?”
“Come on Michael,” Heather put her hands on her hips, “you know as well as I do that it’s going to take time for Jessie to get used to being with Triara so having Amy stay with you for that time will give her more than enough time for Jessie to get used to being around and living with Triara. Don’t you think?”
“I suppose,” Michael rubbed his chin, “now that I think about it, that sounds like a good idea. Having someone who she trusts will go a long way in establishing the idea that she can trust Triara.” He turned to Amy. “Now you’ve got to know that you’re going to have to be on your best behavior while on the station. Being that you’re related to me, anything you do reflects upon me. You got it?”
“Of course!” Amy rolled her eyes. “I’m not stupid. If I do something wrong while onboard, you’re going to be held liable for my actions. I get it. I’m not completely unaware of how all of this works you know.”
“Yes, of course, you do.” Michael underestimated how much Amy knew about his career in the Space Force.
“Now Michael,” Heather turned to her brother, “I’m putting you in charge of keeping my daughter safe while they’re on the space station. I trust that you will keep her safe.”
“We will,” both Triara and Michael said in unison, “Triara and I’ll keep Amy safe.”
As the shuttle came into Genesis’ shuttle bay carrying Triara, Michael, Amy, and Jessie, Jessie looked out the window of the shuttle and eyed everything as shuttles prepped to take off and other shuttles were coming in for a landing much like their own shuttle.
“Daddy?” Jessie called him. “When will they allow us to leave the shuttle?” It was obvious that she was getting impatient from how she kept squirming in her seat.
“Soon munchkin,” he looked out the shuttle’s side window, “soon. We just need to have everything checked before we,” the shuttle rocked from side to side slightly indicating that the gangway was connecting to the outside airlock, “can leave. OK? Keep an eye on that,” he pointed at the light above the door, “when it turns green, we’ll be able to leave. Got it, sweetie?”
“Uh-huh,” she stared at the now red light impatiently. He knew he had to give her something to look forward to or she would keep pestering them until they could leave the shuttle.
Triara looked to Michael and took hold of his hand and interlaced her fingers with his. “I’m glad you chose to bring her with you,” she said inside his mind, “when I first saw her, I could sense that she missed you a lot. She needs her daddy in her life again.” Michael nodded. “I know,” he squeezed her hand as she heard his voice inside her mind, “and I need her in my life again too. I’ve gone too long without my baby in my life. However, you know how the military life is,” she nodded for she understood, “it’s only now that I have a stable enough posting that I can bring her to live with me.”
Triara smiled as she looked back at Jessie who was still impatiently looking at the red light to turn green. “I get it,” she looked back to Michael, “I have to admit that she sure is cute.” He smiled as he heard that inside his mind. “I just hope that she won’t take too long to take to me if you know what I mean. I can sense that she still doesn’t completely trust me. Not that I blame her though, I just walked into her life two days ago. I want to help her; I can sense that she’s still in pain from the loss of her mom.”
“I know she is, and I know that you want to help her.” He turned to kiss her on her forehead. “That’s just one of so many reasons why I love you.” Triara couldn’t help but smile as he thought that way about her. For a long time, others helped her but now she had an opportunity to help someone else. “You want to help my Jessie just like you helped me.”
“I know,” she squeezed his hand, “I helped you cope with your grief and pain over the loss of your wife, Mary. But you know as well as I do that it’s going to take time for Jessie to learn to trust you and let you into her life as I did. And with Amy’s,” he looked to her out of the corner of his eye as she was silently sitting in her seat across the aisle from them, “help, I’m sure that it’ll come sooner rather than later. It’s why Amy’s here, to help her get to know you in a situation that she’ll find safe, secure, and trusting.”
Amy looked their way wondering what they were doing because the both of them had their eyes closed and every so often, they smiled for no apparent reason, at least, no apparent reason that she knew of. “What were you two doing?” she asked as they opened their eyes.
“Oh,” Michael let go her Triara’s hand and looked at Amy, “we were just talking with each other, privately that is.”
“I’m assuming using telepathy, right?”
“Uh huh,” Triara nodded as she let go of his hand and broke the telepathic link that she had with him much to her disappointment for they had both come to enjoy their mutual presence in each other’s minds. Michael had often referred to that level of intimacy with her as better than having sex to which she smirked at the time, he had no idea what it would feel like being with a fully sexually active Zaltaen woman. She smirked slightly at the thought that he would soon find out because she had turned her systems back on the night before.
“How does that work between the two of you?” Amy asked. “Do you share your innermost feelings?”
“A lot of the time, we do. For instance,” he looked to her as he took hold of her hand, “we spend many evenings together simply sitting next to each other on our couch often in complete silence. We don’t need words; our thoughts are all we need. Oh, and there are also no secrets in our relationship.”
“Really?” Amy was shocked. “No secrets? Like you two know each other on an intimate level?”
“Uh-huh,” Triara nodded as she looked at Michael, “we have no secrets in our relationship and that’s the way we like it. Our relationship is built upon a level of mutual trust that can only be formed from knowing each other’s innermost thoughts and feelings about and for each other.” He nodded in agreement as Amy looked at him, completely shocked that her uncle felt that way about Triara.
Unfortunately, that brought up some questions that Amy wanted answers to, and she was sure that Triara wasn’t going to like hearing them or talking about but she thought she had a right to know exactly how Michael had managed to go from a sulking young man who had just lost his wife to what was sitting in front of her. He was her uncle after all, he was family, and she was worried about just what Triara had done to him.
Triara knew what Amy was thinking. Even though she knew that Amy deserved some answers, she began to mentally prepare for the inevitable.
Amy was about to close her eyes and patiently wait until the light above the door suddenly turned green.
“It turned green, Daddy! It’s green! See?” She pointed at the light. “It’s green! It’s green!”
Triara couldn’t help but smile at how cute Jessie was as she jumped up and down in her seat.
“Yes, my little one,” Michael unbuckled his seatbelt, stood up from his seat, and held his arms out to Jessie. “Come on my little munchkin,” Jessie held her arms out begging to be picked up. “Here we go, just hold onto me. We’re going to be going through a zero-gravity area.”
“Yes, daddy.” With that, the door opened, and Michael carefully swung out into the gangway while Jessie hung onto him. Triara meanwhile grabbed hold of their bag along with the heavier of Amy’s pieces of luggage and swung out into the gangway followed by Amy. As Triara gracefully landed on the other side of the gangway, Amy was rather jealous as she, herself, landed on the other side she nearly took a faceplant and she would have had it not been for Triara who had caught her.
“Whoa there,” Triara helped Amy upright, “I thought you lived in a colony and knew how to do this.”
“Yeah well,” she looked down at herself and pulled her shirt down around herself, “I’ve never had a reason to leave the colony so I’m a bit out of practice here. It’s been years since I’ve had to deal with a zero-gravity situation like that.”
“I’m just happy that I was able to catch you as I did,” Triara lovingly brought her close and rubbed Amy’s back, “if I hadn’t, you’d be on the floor right now.”
“I know,” Amy took hold of Triara’s hand that was around her waist, “I’m happy you were there too.” Amy took hold of the lighter of the two luggage bags that she had for Triara had insisted that she take the heavier of the two bags that she had.
“I do have to ask, what the hell do you have in that bag of yours?” Triara pointed at the heaviest bag. “A ton of bricks? Great Maker, it’s heavy even for me and my enhanced Zaltaen strength. I can’t imagine you trying to struggle with it.” Amy looked at her worriedly. “Oh no, I’m fine.” Triara picked the bag up a few times just to show that she indeed had enhanced strength and could handle it.
“You and that enhanced strength of yours.” Amy laughed. “Are all Zaltaens like you?”
“You know, your strength.”
“Yes,” Triara flexed her muscles again, “all Zaltaens are stronger than humans, even Zaltaen women.”
“Why is that?”
“Zaltaens come from a world with 1.6 G’s.” Amy winced at the thought of being on Zalta. “So Zaltaens, such as I, evolved to have a much stronger skeletal and muscular system than that of normal, non-genetically modified, humans. I easily have twice the strength of even Michael.”
“Damn,” Amy whispered, “then I guess you have to be careful when dealing with us humans.”
“If you’re asking if I have to be careful when I hug a human,” she chuckled as she remembered back when she accidentally hugged Richard too hard out of joy in seeing him, “then yes, I do have to be careful. I nearly hurt my friend, Richard, when I hugged him too hard.”
“What does Michael think?” Amy asked as she walked beside Triara. Meanwhile, Triara had a questioning look on her face. “You know. What does he think about the idea that you’re stronger than him? I don’t know many men who’d be completely alright with that idea. Men throughout human history have always been the physically stronger gender and now Michael’s in a relationship with someone who’s a woman yet she’s physically stronger than he is.”
“If you’re asking me if he at all feels emasculated because I’m stronger than he is,” Amy nodded as if that was what she meant, “then no. He doesn’t feel that way in the slightest bit. He completely understands that Zaltaens, such as I, are naturally stronger than human males. He even makes me do all the heavy lifting. He once had me move a piece of furniture in his stateroom one day and I made it look like child’s play.”
Amy laughed. “One more thing that I’ve always wanted to know.”
“Sure, go ahead. Ask away.”
“Is Zaltaen society really a matriarchal society, that is, ruled by women?”
“Uh-huh,” Triara hummed, “it comes from the fact that there’s not a lot of men on Zalta due to a genetic issue among a good portion of the population.” Amy wondered what she meant by that. “There was a harmful mutation on our sex chromosomes that caused many male babies to either die at birth or not live long past the age of ten or twelve of age.”
“I was going to ask something about that since I don’t see a lot of Zaltaen men. Most Zaltaens that I’ve met have been women. Where I once went to school, there were only two or three Zaltaen men and the rest were girls. Narin was one of them.” She thought. “Does it affect all Zaltaens?”
“No,” Triara shook her head, “it’s largely a genetic issue among the higher Houses due to inbreeding. Richard once told me that when you reduce your family tree to that of a family bush,” Amy chuckled, “bad things tend to start happening at a genetic level. Among the lower Houses though, it’s not a problem but even then, you don’t see many Zaltaen men off-world because we need them, and I don’t think I need to tell you why. The men-to-women ratio on Zalta,” she was careful not to call it her world, “is about two-to-ten. For every two men there are ten or so women, sometimes fifteen. We still don’t know why most of our children are born female.”
“Yikes!” Amy hissed. “That’s not a good ratio there. Among humans, the ratio of males to females is about equal.” Triara nodded, indicating that she knew that. “And as for needing to keep your men on Zalta, I get it,” Amy laughed, “no you don’t have to tell me why.” She thought back to what Narin had told her. “Narin told me that he once belonged to one of the lower Houses before he and his parents were cast out of their House similar to what happened to you. I believe his House was named Blackthorn.”
Triara began to think about all of the various Houses that existed on Zalta and nodded. “Yeah, I’ve heard of the House of Blackthorn. They’re a rather small House that’s aligned with the House of Stormfeather. There’s talk that the two Houses may be merging soon for the sake of political reasons.”
“You have to understand something about Zaltaen society, all of the Houses vie for political power, and the larger the House the more political power they have in society as a whole. Merging the House of Blackthorn and the House of Stormfeather would result in a much larger and stronger House. If the two Houses do merge, the leaders of the House of Stormfeather would be the leaders of the combined House.”
“And what House did you come from?” The look of hurt on Triara’s face told her that she had made a mistake. “Sorry. Forget that I asked.”
“It’s ok. I,” Triara stopped in her tracks and looked down at the floor with a forlorn look on her face, “I come from, or should I say, came from the House of Moonbeam.”
“And where do they rank in Zaltaen society?”
“They’re one of the ruling Houses.” Amy’s eyes widened. “Yes, my House had many who sit in the House of Lords and the Royal Court so when I did what I did so many years ago, I was cast out of my House to save political face for my House. If they didn’t do what they did, they’d lose their political power and for a House such as the House of Moonbeam, that’s something that just can’t happen. It would ruin them.”
“Aww,” Amy propped up her luggage on its wheels and hugged Triara, “I’m so sorry that happened to you. A wonderful person like yourself didn’t deserve that to happen to you.” Triara gently hugged Amy for she didn’t want to hurt the young human woman. “Is that why you’ve tried so hard to fit in with humans?” Triara nodded against Amy’s shoulder. “Well, if you need anyone to talk to about girl things, call me… day or night; I’ll be there for you. I want you to know that Heather and I’ll be there for you if you ever need any help.”
“Thank you, Amy,” Triara’s leaned her chin on her shoulder.
“Hey,” Amy shrugged as she backed away from her, “what’s family for?”
“You know, until I met Richard, Rachel, Michael, and of course, you and Heather,” Triara began walking forward with Amy by her side, “I didn’t know. But now I do understand, and I thank the Great Maker for putting all of you in my life as She did.”
“She?” Amy asked, wondering if she meant that as a pronoun to describe their God. “Are you saying that your Great Maker in your religious mythology is a female?” Triara nodded. “I should’ve guessed that since your society is matriarchal. It only makes sense that your God would be seen as female.”
“Yep,” Triara nodded, “that’s exactly what I meant.”
As they continued to walk through the station’s shuttle dock concourse, Amy looked about. She couldn’t believe how busy it was. There were hundreds of people walking all about, some of them were Zaltaens, and others were Humans. She felt almost overwhelmed at how many people there were.
After walking for what seemed like forever through a crowd of people larger than Amy had ever imagined, something that looked like a massive security checkpoint where Amy imagined that people had to be checked for weapons and other such contraband before boarding shuttles and entering the internals of the station came into view. As they came near the security checkpoint, she saw Michael pull out his wallet and show a small card which she assumed was his CAC to what looked like a person in a military uniform of some kind. Triara did the same thing as she approached the same person.
“Alright,” the officer said as she approached Amy, “who’s she with?”
“This is Amy,” Michael walked up to her, “she’s with me.”
“I understand that, but I still have to do a security check of her before she’s allowed onto the station.” Amy looked at Michael wondering what she had to do but before she could ask a question the officer began waving some kind of security apparatus over and around her body that made funny noises as it scanned her. “Alright miss,” she motioned for Amy to step through a scanner, “we’re going to do a full body scan to make sure you have nothing on you. Alright?”
“Amy,” Michael assured her, “it’s fine. Just step through and you’ll be fine.”
Amy nervously walked up to the scanner and walked through it upon which it simply beeped once to indicate that there was nothing that could threaten the security of the station after which the officer simply nodded to indicate that Amy could walk the rest of the way into the station and past the security zone. Next came Jessie who Michael walked with through the scanner while holding her hand and much like with Amy, the machine beeped once.
Amy meanwhile watched as her luggage was put through a smaller but similar scanning machine and much like with her, the machine beeped once and her luggage rolled out the other side of the machine where Triara picked her luggage up and began to walk alongside Michael.
“Is it always like this?” Amy asked as she came up alongside Michael. “The security and all that.”
“Oh yeah,” Michael began to walk through the crowd of people with Jessie in his arms and the two of them walking beside him. “This place is, after all, a major trading port and military base. Security is taken seriously aboard this station.”
“Really?” Amy asked. “What are those officers back there? Security guards?”
“Nope,” he shook his head. “Though we may have civilians working on this station running many of the shops and restaurants aboard, this station is a military base first and foremost and that means that all security aboard this station is handled by the Space Marines.”
“So, you’re saying that all rule of law is enforced by the military?” Amy asked while wondering just how safe the station was for the average civilian.
“Uh huh,” Triara hummed, “all station security is handled by the Human Federation Space Marines and when it comes to handing down justice and sentencing, that would be up to the JAG Corps who has full autonomy aboard the station to enforce Human Federation law even when it comes to civilians. Because of that, crime aboard the station is virtually nonexistent.” Amy’s eyes went wide as Triara mentioned that because she wondered if crime was an issue aboard the station considering how busy the place was. “You can walk around this station even in the dead of… night,” she chuckled for there wasn’t a night aboard the station, “completely safe in the idea that nothing will happen to you onboard.”
“Why is that?” Amy asked just as she saw what looked like a huge piece of robotic equipment that was shaped much like a person and jumped as she saw it move.
“Think about it, would you want to mess with her?” Triara asked as she pointed at the person-shaped piece of robotic equipment. “That right there is a Space Marine in a fully enclosed piece of robotic-assisted armor capable of taking on just about anything you can imagine.” Amy looked at the suit of armor and shook her head. “Exactly what I mean.” Triara nodded to the woman who was inside the suit of armor at which she simply clapped her robotic assisted hand to the side of the rifle to indicate that she was ready to use her rifle if it came to it. “Nobody in their right mind would ever think about messing with her and if they did, trust me when I say,” Triara looked to Amy, “they’d regret it soon enough.”
They continued to walk through the crowd of people and once again Amy saw another such person in a fully enclosed suit of armor. When she had first come aboard the station and saw how many people there were, she began to regret coming to the station yet when she saw how many such armor-equipped military soldiers were around keeping the piece, her worries were allayed.
They continued walking until Amy noticed someone walking up to them. “Hey guys, who’s that walking towards us?” Triara turned to look at who it was and it was none other than Richard, her longtime friend. “That would be Richard, one of the few humans that has accepted me like Michael has.”
“Damn,” Amy whispered as Richard came towards them, “he sure is cute!”
“Cute?” Richard said as he approached all of them. “Who’s cute?”
“You are!” Amy exclaimed to which Richard’s jaw dropped. “Oh, come now, haven’t you ever been called that before?” Richard shook his head. “Well then, let me tell you are! Please tell me that you have someone in your life because if you don’t, it would be a total shame if you didn’t.”
“As a matter of fact,” Richard showed Amy his wedding ring, “I am married. Happily married.” As he had said that, you could see that a look of disappointment washed over her face. Triara meanwhile sensed what Amy thought about Richard but she couldn’t blame her, she thought those same things about him too, and to call her out on that would be hypocritical of her.
“Anyways Richard,” Michael coughed to change the subject, “meet my family. This is Amy, the one that called you cute; she is my niece.” He put a hand on her shoulder. “And this little one,” he looked down at Jessie who was standing beside him, “is my daughter.”
“Aww,” Richard knelt in front of Jessie, “you’re even cuter than I had imagined.” Jessie latched onto her father’s leg as he said that. “Oh no Jessie, I’m not here to hurt you. I’m your father’s friend,” Jessie looked up to her father at which he nodded, “and all of us are here for you. I know you’ve been through a lot but we’re all here for you. We’re here to help you settle in with your dad.”
“Daddy?” Jessie questioningly looked up at her daddy.
“Uh huh,” Michael put a hand on top of Jessie’s head, “he’s alright. He won’t hurt you; I promise.” He looked to Richard. “She’s just really shy, she’s not used to seeing new people. I’m sure that with time she’ll get used to having you around. Anyways,” he picked up Jessie in his arms, “did you do what I asked you to do for me?”
“If you’re asking me about making sure your stuff got from your old place to your new place,” Michael nodded to indicate that that was what he was referring to, “of course, I did! I’m the commander of the station you know. I tend to get things like that done. I made sure that your stuff as well as Triara’s stuff got moved into your new place safely.”
“Great!” Michael exclaimed as he looked over at Triara and saw the surprised look on her face for she had no idea that he had acquired a new place for them to live in. “Thanks, man,” Michael slapped Richard on his back. “It means a great deal to me that you helped me out like that.”
“Hey,” Richard slapped him on his back in return, “what are friends for? But I have to say, I’m happy for the two of you. You’re building a new life with her,” he looked back over his shoulder at his longtime Zaltaen friend, “I’ve never seen Triara this happy in like… ever!” He shook his head while thinking about all the time he had known Triara and had never seen a smile that genuine on her face before. “And as for you,” Richard rubbed his friend’s back, “I’ve not seen you this happy either.” Michael looked down at the floor. “Oh, come on, don’t be like that.” Richard rubbed his back again. “After all that’s happened to you and how much you’ve lost, you deserve some happiness in your life.”
Michael bit his lower lip as he looked over at Triara and saw the look on her face. “Yeah,” he turned to look at Richard again, “I do. Don’t I?” He slapped his friend on his back again. “Thanks a lot, you’ve been a great help to me. I mean it, Richard,” he rubbed Richard’s back, “I don’t know where I’d be in my life if you didn’t introduce me to Triara.”
“Again, what are friends for?”
Meanwhile, Amy whispered to Triara which brought her out of her shock. “Did he just say that he’s the commander of this station?”
“Yes,” she shook her head to shake the feeling of shock off, “yes, he did Amy.”
“Oh wow,” she clasped her hands around her mouth, “so what does that mean? Does that mean you can do anything you want on the station without getting in trouble?”
“Oh, no,” Triara chuckled, “in reality, it’s quite the opposite. Michael and I, since we’re friends with the commander, are held to a higher standard than everyone else. We really have to be on our toes around here since if we do something,” she pointed at Richard, “then it reflects upon him and that would be bad.”
“Anyways,” Richard put an arm around his friend as they began walking, “housekeeping did move your stuff but they didn’t do a good job of unpacking. They tried to put some of the stuff like clothing in closets and whatnot but besides that, you and Triara are going to have a lot of work ahead of yourselves in sorting out what you want to keep and what you don’t want to keep.”
“What about the furniture?” Michael began to worry about the couch that he had bought. “I hope that they brought that stuff over.”
“Yeah, they kept that kind of stuff. Anything that wasn’t standard-issue was put in your new place so you’re probably going to have double of a lot of stuff since Triara had bought some stuff too.”
“Great.” Michael smacked his forehead and shook his head. “There’s going to be a lot of work ahead of us for Triara and me.”
“You had to know that that was going to happen, right?” Michael looked at Richard. “I mean you are essentially combining two people’s lives into one here.” The look on Michael’s face said it all. “Yeah, you didn’t think that far ahead.” Michael shook his head. “But whatever, I’m sure that you and Triara will sort things out. Besides, Triara is pretty good at that.”
“I hope she is,” he looked back over at Triara who was walking with Amy.
“Speaking about Triara and Amy,” Richard glanced over his shoulder at the two of them, “from how the two of them are interacting with each other rather friendly, I’m going to assume that Triara and your family hit it off pretty well. Right?”
“Oh yes, but I’d be lying if everything started nice and clean.” Richard nodded, he figured that there were going to be some issues at first. “At first there was some friction but with time Heather, my sister, warmed up to Triara and rather fast if I do say so myself. As for Amy,” he smiled at her as they continued walking, “Amy accepted Triara right away.”
“Well, that’s good,” Richard stopped walking, “I’m glad to hear that. However, this is where I have to part ways. I have to get back to the CIC. I only took some time away to meet you here. Later on, this evening I’d be glad to swing by your new place and perhaps help you unpack and move your things in.”
“That would be great,” Triara thanked Richard and hugged him while doing so, “thank you. Maybe later we all get something to eat.”
“That sounds good.” He put his arms around her and hugged her in return. “Thank you. I’d love to have dinner with all of you.” He let go of her. “And with that, goodbye all of you. See all of you later this evening.”
“Well now,” Amy smiled, “I like Richard. He’s cute.”
“Amy!” Michael exclaimed. “He’s married.”
“I know,” she said as she continued to watch Richard walk away.
“But you have Narin.”
“Sure,” Amy shrugged, “but there’s nothing wrong with window shopping.”
“Yeah, but he’s way out of your price range.”
“A girl can dream, can’t she?” Amy sighed. “What’s his wife’s name?”
“Rachel,” Triara spoke up before Michael could, “his wife’s name is Rachel.”
“Then Rachel is one lucky woman.”
“Yes, she is,” Triara nodded as they continued walking through the receiving bay, “she is indeed lucky, in more ways than one.”
“What do you mean by that?” Amy wondered.
“She doesn’t live with him on the station, she has a job on the planet’s surface.”
“Damn,” she whispered. “So, you’re saying that they only see each other every so often yet he stays with her?”
“Uh-huh,” Triara hummed. “That he does. They’ve been together for a long time, longer than Michael and I’ve been dating. They’ll be celebrating their third anniversary soon.”
“Wow,” Amy whispered, “now that’s dedication.”
“No,” Michael answered, “that’s called true love in the face of adversity. The love that they have for each other and their relationship means so much to them that it doesn’t matter to them if they can’t see each other often. That’s what true love is all about and they definitely have it.”
“And I take it that that’s what you two have.”
“Yes, we do,” Michael said as he put an around Triara, “after all, we face a lot together,” Triara spoke up. “Yes, we have that kind of love for each other.”
“And it definitely shows in how you hold and look at each other.” As Amy said that, she once again began to wonder if Triara had somehow telepathically manipulated Michael into loving her like she was seeing before her very eyes. She had to know how and why they had become so close in such a little amount of time and because Michael was family, she thought that she deserved to know. Meanwhile, Triara could once again sense those kinds of thoughts from Amy and began to mentally prepare for the inevitable.
As they all came out into the main hallway right outside the receiving bay, Amy saw how many people were coming and going and gasped. There must’ve been hundreds of people all going to and fro. “My God,” she exclaimed, “is it always this busy around here?”
“Yep,” Michael looked back at his niece to make sure that she started with him while in the crowd, “and during the day it’s even busier than this. And when we get to the center of the station where the transit train is, things get even crazier.”
“There’s a train?” Amy asked incredulously as she looked about.
“Sure!” Michael exclaimed as they walked down the corridor. “If we didn’t have the train it’d take nearly an hour and a half to traverse the station from one end to the other.” Amy’s eyes widened. “This station is nearly four kilometers1Two and a half miles. long.” Amy gaped. “And that’s not all, there are several decks too.”
“Just how many people are living here?”
“Between the military personnel and civilians that live and work here as support staff,” Triara spoke up, “about a hundred thousand people are living and working here on the station.” Amy’s jaw dropped. “As for how many humans make up the population, humans make up a rather large percentage of the population whereas Zaltaens generally only make up about a quarter of the station’s total population.”
“And that’s not all,” Michael thumbed back at where they had come from, “there’s more coming every day. Projections state that we’ll be adding nearly twenty-five to fifty thousand to the station’s population over the next six months. People are coming from all over human space to find their niche. Needless to say, this place is booming and is showing no signs of slowing down. We’ve already had to add onto the station.”
“Oh wow,” Amy marveled at the sheer scope of the operation that was the space station. “You mentioned that this place was like a city in space and damn,” she pushed past someone, “you weren’t kidding. I have to admit that I feel a bit claustrophobic here. I’m not used to this; I’m used to more space.”
“You’ll get used to it,” Triara put a hand on her shoulder to help calm her down, “as we get away from the core of the station and into the living areas, things quiet down quite a bit. It’s just that in this area,” they came out into the area where the trains were, “it’s rather busy.”
“That’s an understatement.”
“And now we board the train,” Michael approached the boarding platform. “We’ll wait here for a few moments and the next train should be here soon.” He leaned forward a bit to look down the tunnel where the next train would be coming out of and sure enough, there was a train approaching. “And here’s that train I spoke of. We’ll be taking this train to blue section sector four.”
“How many sections does this station have?” Amy asked as she stepped onto the train behind Michael.
“There’s the purple section where Zaltaens primarily live. Blue section where Space Force personnel and human civilians live. Orange section where commercial stores such as the commissary and PX are. Green section where the station’s entertainment is with things like restaurants, diners, a movie theater, a rather large gym, and pool.” Amy’s eyebrows raised. “Black section where station system operations are that keep this station working with things like the fusion reactor, shield generators, communications, station computer systems, gravity generators, etc. Gray section where station operations are like CIC and other various military operations are. White section where there’s a full hospital and a school for children, daycare, and an Alpha Centauri University campus. And then finally, there’s the red section that you do not need to know about.”
“Let me guess,” Amy smirked, “it’s the seedier section of the station.”
“Yeah. So anyways, there are eight sections.” As he had said that, the word “university” sunk into Amy’s mind. “Did you say that this station has a university?”
“Uh-huh,” Michael nodded, “we have a full branch of the Alpha Centauri University here on the station for the civilians that live and work here on the station as well as for the military personnel who want to advance their careers.”
“Oh man,” Amy clasped her hands around her mouth, “I’ve been wanting to get away from home to go to college. I could stay here on the station and go here instead of on the colony.” That was when Michael realized that maybe it wasn’t a good idea to mention that they had a university onboard. He could just imagine how Heather was going to react when she found out that Amy wanted to stay on the station instead of going back home to the colony. “Can I stay here and go to college here on the station?”
“We’ll see,” Michael sighed, “we’ll have to talk it over with your mom.” He could just see the look of disappointment on Amy’s face as she said that. “But anyways, back to what I was about to say. Each section is subdivided into sectors for easier navigation.”
“I see,” Amy said as she tried to push away her disappointment in what her uncle had said. She was hoping to be able to get out from under the thumb of her mom and begin to live her own life and her uncle shot it all down. Triara could sense her thoughts about the situation and took hold of her hand to try and reassure her that they’d talk about it later. “Honey, I can sense your disappointment about that but you’ve got to realize that this station may seem like a great opportunity at first but you’re seeing things from the surface. Maybe after living here on the station for a month,” Triara shrugged her shoulders, “you might change your mind. You might want to go back home.”
Amy turned to Triara. “Do you have any idea what it’s like to live with my mom? She’s overbearing, controlling, etc.” She scoffed. “You saw how she reacted when I told her that I was dating a Zaltaen.” Both Triara and Michael nodded. “However, in reality, that’s how she reacts every time I even mention something about dating or wanting to date someone; human or otherwise. I’ve had to turn to my dad for a semblance of sanity in my life.”
“She didn’t seem like from my perspective,” Michael spoke up. “She seemed rather accepting of it.”
“You saw what she wanted you to see,” Amy looked to Michael with a stern look on her face, “after you two went to bed I got berated by my mom about how I was too young to know what kind of life I wanted and what kind of person I’d like to have in my life and that after college I’d be grown up enough to make that kind of decision.”
That was when Michael thought back on their childhood and how their parents had treated them and their parents were rather strict as well. He remembered how they treated her versus how they treated him. Whenever Heather wanted to do something like go on a date, they would always tell her no. Why that was so, at the time due to his young age, he didn’t know. But now that he had a daughter of his own, he could see why they wanted to protect her much like he felt that he needed to protect his daughter but as he thought back to how they had treated his sister, perhaps they had taken things too far.
With all of that in mind, the way that Heather was treating her daughter, Amy, now made sense. She was raising her daughter much like she was raised as a child but unlike her, Amy had a more independent spirit than she had when she was a child and teenager.
“Michael!” She exclaimed which brought him out of his contemplation. “I feel trapped! Suffocated even! I know she means well but I can’t even breathe without her knowing about it. How can I even begin to learn what I want from life if I don’t get the chance to experience it?”
“I get it,” he looked down at his lap, “she experienced much of what you’re experiencing back when she was a child. Our parents were very strict and I can only figure that that’s where Heather gets much of her parenting skills from, our strict parents. But there’s something that you should know about her.” Amy hummed in interest in what he was about to say. “Do you want to know how your mom and dad got married?” Amy stared at him. “They eloped.” A look of shock came over Amy’s face. “Yes, that’s right. They eloped after Heather graduated college and afterward, she put as much distance between our mom and dad as she could. But I’m sure that she never told you any of this. Did she?”
Amy shook her head. “But knowing how strict your parents were, why is she taking it out on me? Why is she treating me the same way that she was treated back when she was a child?”
“Because as messed up as it may seem, she probably feels that since she was treated like that, that’s how children should be raised. And the bitch about it is, she probably doesn’t even know she’s doing it to you. She probably doesn’t even know that she’s recreating the same kind of strict situation that she experienced and hated as a teenager.”
“Michael,” Amy looked down at her lap, “please get me out of there. As the only one in the family that understands all of this,” she looked up to him, “please help me.” He could see the pleading look on her face. “I need to get out of there. I need to live my own life.”
“I get it.”
“So will you help me?” She continued to look at her uncle with that pleading look on her face. “Will you help me get out of there? I need to get out of there or I’m going to go mad.”
“Amy,” Michael put an arm around her and pulled his niece close, “I’ll do what I can.” A look of hope came over her. “However, I have one favor.”
“Name it!” Amy exclaimed. “Whatever you ask, I’ll do it!” She pleaded. “I’ll agree to anything as long as I can stay here to have and build my own life.”
“If and when your mother calls, let me,” he thumbed at his chest, “handle it.” Amy nodded; she had a feeling that he was going to say that. “Don’t handle it on your own. The last thing your mother wants to do is alienate her brother so she’s not going to be as hotheaded with me as she is with you. I can disarm her, you can’t. I can reason with her, you can’t.” Amy nodded her head again. “So, if and when your mother calls, let me talk to her. That’s all I ask. It’ll go much smoother for the both of us if you let me handle the situation.”
“Got it,” Amy hugged her uncle. “Thank you, Michael.”
“Don’t thank me yet, we still have to get past that hurdle.”
“I’m going to look at it on the bright side.” She looked about the train. “So, how do you know how to get around this huge place? Is there a navigation app you can use?”
“As a matter of fact,” Triara spoke up. “There’s an app that can be gotten on your datapad that can help in that regard. It uses a network of navigational nodes that are placed all around the station.”
Amy pulled out her datapad and right away she saw a notification to download the station’s navigation app. “It says here that I can tap this and it’ll download the navigation app to my datapad.”
“Yep,” Triara looked over at her datapad and tapped the notification, and upon tapping it a new app icon showed up on her home screen. “That app there is what you’ll need to get around this place until you learn the layout of the place. It’s a very intuitive app to use. It has a full directory of what’s on the station by category and when you choose a place it’ll tell you how to get there and even what train to take.”
“Wow,” Amy tapped the app icon and the app opened to show her a complete map of the station with indications as to what each section of the station was much like how Michael had indicated. “So, if I tap this menu here,” she tapped it, “I can just choose a category and it’ll tell me what’s available on the station?”
“Uh-huh,” Triara tapped the screen where it said restaurants. “And here we have a full listing of the restaurants onboard the station along with a description of the kinds of food that each place serves. You can even find a menu if you click on the place.”
“Wow,” Amy tapped Murray’s Steakhouse. “Can we go there,” she pointed at the datapad, “tonight?”
“Sure!” Michael exclaimed. “Triara and I already had plans to go there with you and Jessie anyways. It’s a great place to go, they have some of the best steaks this side of Mars.”
“And what will Triara have?” Amy asked because she knew that Zaltaens generally were vegetarians.
“Well, that’s a silly question. I’m going with all of you to a steakhouse. What else would I have other than a nice steak?”
“But I thought that Zaltaens are…” Triara interrupted her. “Vegetarians?” Amy shrugged. “Yeah well, I told you that I wasn’t a normal Zaltaen. I’ve been eating human food for nearly fifteen years, ever since I started my undercover assignment among humans so long ago. And before you ask, yes… I was a bit apprehensive about eating meat when I first was inserted into human society but to blend in with humans, I had to become less of a picky eater. And if you ask me, lately I’ve come to enjoy a nice steak and damn does Murray’s make a good filet.”
“We’re going to have filet?” Amy asked as she was shocked that her uncle would be willing to spend so much on her since she knew how much it cost to have a filet shipped out that far from Terra.
“Yep,” Michael grinned, “you’re going to be eating like a queen tonight!”
“Oh wow,” Amy whispered.
Just then a voice came over the PA system of the train. “Blue section, sector four coming up. Please stay seated until the train comes to a complete stop.” Another voice then spoke something that Amy knew was native Zaltaen even though she didn’t understand a word of it. “And here’s our stop,” Michael stood up as the train came to a stop, “blue section, sector four where Richard had a new place assigned to me and Triara.”
As they exited the train, Amy thought that things would start calming down but that wasn’t at all the case. It seemed like things got even busier. As they were trying to exit the train more people were boarding it destined for other areas of the station so much so that she had to suppress her anxiety at how many people were around her, sometimes even brushing up against her in what she thought were rather inappropriate ways for she could feel people slide up against her. Part of her wanted to yelp but she knew that it wasn’t meant to be nefarious, it was just that they were all in close quarters and that whoever had done so, they didn’t mean to have done it to her.
As they all walked away from the rather crowded train station that opened up into the section where Michael’s suite was, the crowd began to thin out a great deal. Now there were only but a few people, not the many hundreds that were crowding to get on and off the train, Amy felt a sense of relief come over her.
“Maybe now that you’ve seen how busy this station is, you might…” Amy looked at him out of the corner of her eye. “If you think that a little commotion in the halls of this station is going to change my mind about staying here, you’ve got another thing coming. I don’t care,” she stopped in her tracks and slammed her foot to the floor, “I’m not going back. I want to make this work.” Michael sighed. “It may take some time but I’ll manage to get used to this place; I know I will.”
“I’m just trying to get you to think about…” Amy once again interrupted him. “And what?” She looked at him with a deadpan look on her face. “Go back to a home where I feel like I can’t be myself? Go back to where I have to worry about if my mom approves of what I wear?” She looked down at the jean shorts and tights she was wearing much like what Triara was wearing. “Getting my mom to approve of even this was no small endeavor. I told her just about everyone my age wore outfits like this but even then, I could sense her disapproval in how she often shook her head whenever I left the house dressed like this.” She put her hand out in front of her, spread her fingers out, and lowered her hand down through the air. “No thank you!”
“Jessie?” Michael looked at her in his arms. “Does any of what Amy is saying have any truth to it?”
“If you’re asking if Heather and Amy always fight,” she turned to Amy, “then yes. I always went to hide in my room when they started fighting.”
“Crap,” Michael sighed as he hugged his daughter close to his chest while she buried her face in his shoulder. “I’m sorry my love,” he rubbed his daughter’s back, “if I had known that was going on in their house, I’d have come for you sooner.”
“That’s alright Daddy,” she said as she put her arms around her father as best as she could, “you’re here with me now.” She laid her head down on his shoulder while he looked up at the ceiling while tears began to form in his eyes. Meanwhile, others that were in the hallway were looking at him holding Jessie close to himself but he paid them no mind. Triara, however, had to tell a number of the people who were passing by that the young girl that he was holding in his arms was his six-year-old daughter.
“Hey,” Amy came up beside him and put a hand on his back, “as Jessie said, you’re here with her now and that’s what counts.” He frowned. “Now’s your chance to make things better for both Jessie,” she pointed at herself with her left thumb, “and me.”
“Yeah,” he handed Jessie over to Amy as she held her arms out to her, “I get it. And yes Amy,” he wiped his eyes, “I’ll do something about you and your mother, I promise you that Amy.”
“Thank you.” Amy let Jessie down on the floor of the hallway they were walking down and rubbed Michael’s back. “That’s all I ask of you.” She threw her hands in the air and shouted. “I’m free!” Others that were walking down the same corridor looked at her wondering what she meant by that. “I can finally be myself; I no longer have someone telling me what I can and can’t do.”
“Excuse me?” Michael interjected. “You do have me to answer to.”
“But you’re the cool uncle.” Michael rolled his eyes as she said that.
“But you’ve got to know that there’s going to be some restrictions, right? I can’t be having you go off all half-cocked you know. I can’t have you roaming the halls getting into God knows what kind of trouble.” She shot a glare at him. “Oh, alright. But you have to know that you’ve got to have a plan as to what you want to do here. What about a job? A source of money to be able to buy things onboard the station. Uncle Mike can’t be buying you everything you want, you know.”
Amy stopped in her tracks while Jessie looked up at her wondering why she had stopped so suddenly. “I didn’t think about that.”
“I bet you didn’t,” Michael put his hands on his hips. “Living here is costly and you can’t expect me to support you if you choose to live here. Right?” Amy lowered her head and shook it. “So, you’re going to have to find a job, earn some money, and pay into the little household that we have here.”
“I get it,” Amy continued walking down the corridor, “I’m going to have to find a job.” She turned to Michael. “Do you have any ideas?” He shrugged. “Great,” she held her head low, “I’m going to have to do this on my own.”
“Not necessarily,” Triara added. “Last time I heard they’re looking for help in the Officer’s Lounge.”
“Oh no!” Michael exclaimed. “I’m not going have Amy working in the Officer’s Lounge where every male officer aboard the station can ogle her and otherwise gawk at her like she’s a piece of meat. I won’t have it!”
“What’s the Officer’s Lounge?” Amy asked because she was intrigued as to what it was.
“Nevermind Amy, you aren’t…” Triara interrupted him. “And you don’t have a problem going to the Officer’s Lounge with me. Right?”
“That’s different and you know it Triara!” Michael exclaimed as he pointed at her with his index finger. “You’re a grown woman, Amy’s like what? Seventeen years of age?”
“Eighteen!” Amy yelled. “And I’m going to be nineteen soon!” Others still walked by wondering why the four of them were talking out in the middle of the hallway.
“That’s beside the point!” Michael exclaimed as he stopped in his tracks. “I don’t want young male officers undressing her with their eyes much like I know damn well they do with you.”
“Oh,” Triara huffed and put her hands on her hips, “so it’s alright for other officers to undress me with their eyes but it’s not alright for them to undress your niece? I get it.”
“I didn’t mean it that way Triara, I just…” Triara came up to him and hugged him. “I know what you mean, I’m just messing with you. You just want to protect your niece and that’s commendable.”
Amy bit her lower lip as she thought about what the place might be from how her uncle was describing the place. “I take it that the Officer’s Lounge is some kind of bar where young officers come, relax, drink, and otherwise have fun. Right?”
“Correct,” Michael said as they all once again continued to walk down the corridor. “It’s not a place for a young… woman should be working. You’re much too young and inexperienced with men to be working there. Maybe in a few years when you know more about how men’s minds work, you can work there.”
“Now you’re sounding like my mom.”
“I can’t help it,” Michael turned to the door of his new stateroom, “I feel much like your mom, I need to protect you somewhat.”
“You know Michael,” Triara spoke up as he was about to reach for his CAC, “there are other opportunities here on the station. We could talk to some people at Murray’s Steakhouse. And then there’s Steve’s Diner in Green Section Sector Two.”
“Oh yeah,” he smacked his forehead, “I forgot about Steve’s Diner. I hear that they have plans to open another diner in Sector Sixteen on the other side of the station.” He turned to Amy. “You could work there. Just please… not the lounge, anything but the lounge. I don’t need your mom thinking that you’re working in some seedy bar.”
“Alright,” Amy looked to the floor.
“Who knows,” Michael put his hand on her shoulder, “you might find something tonight when we all go out to dinner.” Amy meanwhile tried to put forward an illusion of being hopeful but it wasn’t easy. Meanwhile, Michael took out his CAC from his pocket and tapped his CAC against the card reader and the door to the suite opened to reveal the inside of their new place which was rather sizable compared to their old stateroom which seemed positively tiny by comparison.
The first thing that he noticed was that the living room was nearly twice as big, big enough to host a party in if they had so chosen to do so. He didn’t know if he ever would but he imagined that there was enough room to do so. He walked the rest of the way into the room and noticed that on either side of the room, there were two couches and a chair facing the vid-screen. It was a great setup but he thought that the way the couches were set up was a waste of space for they could be turned at an angle for better viewing of the vid-screen without turning your head too much to face it.
It was then that he heard Amy’s voice as she came out of one of the bedrooms. “Wow!” Amy exclaimed. “You have got to check out the bedrooms!”
Triara, however, was walking about the kitchen area and staring out into the living room area of the suite and couldn’t believe what she was seeing, it seemed like three of their previous staterooms had been stitched together. She imagined that it was almost the size of Richard’s stateroom and the only reason why he had such a huge place was that he was the XO of the station and he deserved it while the rest of the officers, including her and Michael, got a place with a bedroom and little much than a small kitchen and a small room attached to it.
As she looked about the kitchen, the size of it again surprised her. They had a full kitchen in the place including a full stove, a full refrigerator, a sink, and cooking space whereas their previous staterooms were lucky they had a stove with just two burners, a mini fridge in which Michael often stashed beer, and a barely adequate workspace to prepare food at.
“What do you think, my love?” He asked as he walked into the kitchen finding Triara still looking about completely surprised at what kind of amenities they had at their disposal. “I’ve been planning all of this for quite some time, it’s just that…” He didn’t get any more words out of his mouth for Triara caught him up in a rather intense kiss. “Michael,” she kissed him again, “I love it. But why?” She looked about the suite again. “This place has got to be expensive. Right?” He nodded in agreement with her, it may’ve been expensive but if you asked him, it was more than worth it having a place for the two of them to call their own. “Why do all of this for me?”
“Well,” he kissed her, “I know you were disappointed when you had to go back to your stateroom, especially when I worked crazy hours and I know how you’ve been wanting a place where we can live and be together. Right?” She nodded slightly as their foreheads touched. “And you have to admit that our old suites were rather cramped compared to this,” he looked about the room as he held her in his arms, “this place. Right?” She again nodded in agreement. “Besides, this is the first step in building a life with you.” She shuddered as she heard that. “And I know that you’ve been talking about having a child with me,” she once again nodded for she remembered telling him that after he had asked her to marry him, “and if we’re truly going to do that together, we’re going to need the space. Right? I can’t imagine having children with you in a cramped little officer’s stateroom. Not to mention,” he looked over at where Jessie was standing by Amy’s side, “with Jessie and Amy here, we’re going to need the space.”
“I get it,” she hugged him tightly, “I love it, Michael.” They stayed like that until Amy coughed. “Alright you two,” Amy put her hands on her hips, “you two can make out like teenagers later. I’m starved!”
“Way to go at ruining a romantic moment there Amy,” Triara looked over her shoulder. “You could’ve let Michael and I have this moment together.”
“Yeah well,” Amy put her hands on her hips, “as I said before, you two can make out like teenagers later. I’m starving for some steak.”
“Maybe letting Amy stay with us was a bad idea,” Triara muttered.
“I heard that!” Amy started for the door. “Come on you two, Jessie’s hungry too you know.”
“Alright,” Triara reluctantly let go of Michael, “let’s go get dinner, my love.”
As they were walking down the hallway, they saw Richard coming up to them. “Hey guys,” Richard said as he approached them, “what do you think of your new place? I hope you like it. I had to pull a lot of strings to get you the place seeing as how you’re technically not married yet and technically it’s against the regs. I made the argument to the captain that since the two of you were engaged to be married and since the regs don’t distinguish between married and engaged couples, I didn’t see a problem.”
“We love it, Richard,” Triara walked up to Richard and hugged him. “Thank you for whatever you had to do to make it happen for Michael and me. We,” she glanced over her shoulder at Michael, “really do appreciate it.”
“I thought you would,” he let go of Triara. “I just wanted to check in on all of you to find out how you settled in.”
“Great,” Michael too hugged his longtime friend, “I really do appreciate all the work you did to get Triara and me the suite. It sure is pretty nice compared to what we had before.”
“Say,” Richard asked, “what does it look like in there? I’ve never been in one of the family suites before.”
“Here,” Michael walked back over to his door and waved his CAC next to the card reader, “come see for yourself.” Michael held his hand up and waved it as an indication that Richard could walk in. As he looked about, he nodded; he was more than impressed. “Nice,” he continued to look about, “it’s quite impressive what they do for families on the station. My stateroom is pretty big but nothing like this.” He turned back to Michael. “I take it that it has two bedrooms, just like mine does. Right?”
Richard once again found himself rather impressed. “Anyways,” he walked out of the suite and back into the hallway, “I’ve got to get going. I just got off shift and if I want something to eat so I better make it to the officer’s wardroom within the next fifteen minutes or I’m going to be standing in a long line to get dinner.”
“Why don’t you join us?” Amy asked. “We’re all going to Murray’s.” She looked at her uncle. “Can Richard come with us?”
“Sure,” Michael shrugged.
“Oh,” Richard looked down at the floor, “I wouldn’t to impose on all of you.”
“You wouldn’t be imposing on us at all,” Amy tried to reassure Richard. “I’m saying that you can come with us,” she put her hand to her chest, “I’m welcoming you to come with us. It’ll be fun. Michael here says that we’re all going to have filet tonight,” Richard’s eyebrow raised, “so come on with us, it’s the least we could do for you since you help my uncle get that sweet place you managed to get him.”
“Alright,” Richard began to walk with them, “but I insist on paying for my dinner.”
“What part of us inviting you out to have dinner with us did you not understand?” Amy asked as Richard looked at her with a rather shocked look on his face. He didn’t think that Amy would be that forward with him, after all, she only knew him for a couple of hours. “We invited you, besides,” she thought, “I have some credits in my account so I can chip in on the cost which I can imagine it’s going to be expensive.” She looked at her uncle. “Isn’t that right Michael?”
“Yeah,” Triara spoke up before Michael had a chance to, “but we’re taking you out, Amy. I have quite a bit of credits too, you know, so I can more than afford to pay for the evening. I insist on paying for the evening.”
Later that evening Triara walked into the bedroom across the hall from the one that Amy and Jessie had chosen. She sat down on the side of the bed and took her shoes off, stood up and folded down the covers on one side of the bed, laid down on the bed, and happily sighed as she felt herself sink into the bed’s surface. “Oh, Great Maker,” she whispered to herself for she was the only one in the room, “this is nice.”
And it was nice, the mattress that she was laying on was so much better than the one that she had in her old place. She supposed that that was the difference between being in the section of the station where a majority of the civilian support staff lived, whereas the military was seen as not needing such luxuries. She had to laugh at that thought for she would’ve figuratively killed for a mattress that was as soft and comfortable as the one that she was laying on.
“What’s nice?” Michael asked as he walked into the bedroom to find Triara laying on the bed with part of her laying on the top sheet of the bed and her feet on the folded back covers.
“The bed silly,” she sat up on put her hands behind her to steady herself, “it’s nice.” She patted the bed beside her. “Why don’t you lay down next to me and find out for yourself?”
“Alright,” he sat down on the side of the bed to take his shoes off because he, like Triara, didn’t want to dirty the bed with whatever was on the bottom of his shoes. As he looked back at her she laid back down on the pillow and once again patted the bed next to her. “Come, my dear; lay down next to me.”
Michael, of course, didn’t take a lot of time at all to take her up on her invitation to lay down on the bed next to her and as he lay down next to her, she took hold of his hand and interlaced her fingers with hers and gave his hand a slight squeeze. “What do you think?” she asked as she turned to look at him. “Is it nice?”
As he felt himself sink into the cushions of the mattress he sighed. “Oh yes, yes, it is. I can definitely get used to this.” Triara chuckled as he had said that and much to his surprise, she climbed atop him and straddled him. “Thank you, my love,” she leaned down over him and kissed him upon which he put his arms around her backside and pulled her tightly against him upon which she could feel his aroused state. “Well now,” she smirked as she felt a certain part of his body react to her presence atop him.
She didn’t have to say much more for he nodded in understanding at which he gasped as she pressed herself against him even harder. “Triara.”
“And now,” she reached up and began to take her sweatshirt off, “you’re going to get a chance to experience sex with a fully sexually active Zaltaen woman.”
“What do you mean?” he asked as he watched her throw her sweatshirt to a corner of the room, reach up and take the hair tie out of her hair and shake her head letting her hair fly in the air.
“All the times we had sex before, I had my… shall we say, systems turned off.” He simply blinked his eyes in confusion. “Zaltaen females can turn off their reproductive systems much like Buddhist Monks can lower their heart rate with deep meditation.” He continued to stare at her as she began to take her bra off. “While human women don’t have the mental abilities to turn off their reproductive systems hence having to deal with monthly periods, Zaltaen women don’t have to deal with those.”
“What does that mean for all the times that we’ve had sex before?” he had to wonder. Was she holding back? He asked himself.
“It means that until I turned my reproductive systems back on last night, you’ve only experienced a quarter of the sexual pleasure that one can have with a,” she tossed her bra aside leaving her hovering over him naked from the waist up, “fully sexually active Zaltaen woman.” He had to admit to himself that she was displaying a level of foreplay he had never seen her use as he watched her reach down for the button of her jean shorts and unfastened it and unzipped them and slowly slid them down her thighs which only heightened his state of arousal. “I hope you’re ready,” she smirked, “because trust me when I say this, you’ve experienced nothing quite like this in your life.”
Meanwhile, in the bedroom across the hall where Amy and Jessie were laying on the bed together playing a game on her datapad, Jessie heard Michael shout Triara’s name.
“What was that?” Jessie asked as she looked up from the datapad. “Is daddy in trouble?”
Amy smirked as she made her next move in the game with her game controller. “Oh no little one,” she laughed, “your daddy is just having some fun with Triara.”
“Fun?” Jessie squealed. “Can we join him?” Jessie asked with the childlike innocence that was only to be found in a young child like her.
“No!” Amy exclaimed as she reached for Jessie and stopped her from running off to her daddy. “You can’t join in the kind of fun that your daddy and Triara are having right now.”
“Why not?” Jessie asked as she fidgeted against Amy. “But I want to have fun with Daddy.”
“Jessie,” she paused the game, “what your daddy and Triara are having right now is something you’ll learn about when you become older like me.” Jessie looked at her questioningly. “Trust me, you’ll understand when you get older. But right now, let’s continue our game.”
“But you’re beating me.”
“Don’t be a sore loser.” And with one flick of the thumbstick on Amy’s game controller, the game came to an end with the appearance of the winner screen indicating that Amy had won the game. “Yes!” Amy threw the controller down on the bed. “I win!” She watched Jessie pout. “Hey,” Amy pointed at her, “don’t be a sore loser. Besides, you won the last round. You can’t win them all you know.”
“I know,” Jessie pouted once again, “next game I’m going to beat you again!”
“That’s the spirit!” Amy began another game and they once again started playing the video game together.
Later that night, Triara stepped out of the bathroom after taking a shower and walked up to the door of the bedroom that Amy and Jessie had chosen and reached out with her mind to Amy and then spoke the words “all clear” into her mind.
Meanwhile, Amy gasped as she looked at Jessie. “Did you hear something just now?” Jessie shook her head. “I could’ve sworn that I heard Triara’s voice.”
“No,” Jessie shook her head again, “I didn’t hear a thing.”
“Whatever,” Amy shook her head in confusion, “I could’ve sworn that I heard her voice. I heard her say the words ‘all clear’. But whatever, I’ll talk to Triara about that in the morning. In the meantime, you better get ready for bed.”
Last updated on Tuesday, October 10th, 2023 at 6:26 PM by trparky.
- 1Two and a half miles.