Triara opened her eyes as she laid 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 have 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 had popped the question. It was from then on that they had 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 for 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.
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 for 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 so choose to want 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. 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.
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 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 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, scratch that… needed it last night.”
“Why are you embarrassed?” Michael ran his hands through her blue hair as she laid 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. And then let’s not forget that there’s that little stigma among humans…” Michael put his fingers to her lips. “Shh,” he shushed her, “I know what you thinking but if you ask me, whatever people think about you in that regard, fuck them.” Her eyes went wide as he said that. “They don’t know you like I do; they don’t know the kind of life that you’ve lived and so they have no right to judge you in that way. And you’ve got to know that I’d never think of you like that.” She nodded while she still had her head on his chest.
“And when it comes to how you people think of you,” he shrugged, “it’s not like you care, right? And not only that but it’s not like they can do anything to you, right?” She nodded; he was making a lot of sense. “You finally have what you’ve been wanting for so long, the freedom to live your life as you see fit, free of any possible repercussions from your people.”
“If you’re referring to how I’m now an officer of the Human Federation Space Force and not only that but a full citizen of the Human Federation, then yes; I do have that now. And again yes, you’re right about all of that stuff. I shouldn’t care what others think of me.”
“Exactly,” he hugged her close. “I’ve always thought that if two consenting adults love each other like we do,” he kissed the top of her head, “then why should there be any shame over what two people do in private behind closed doors?”
“You’re right my love,” she lifted her head off of his chest and kissed him, “you make a lot of sense.” They stayed like that for another couple of minutes. “However,” she raised her head off his chest, “I think we should start getting ready. 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 up 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.
“It’s certainly better than bringing her here and surprising her with you. Right?” She agreed, she didn’t like the idea of herself being sprung on Lisa like some kind of surprise. “Yes, I imagine so.”
“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 love you too,” he kissed her cheek. “But you better get dressed,” he gently caressed 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.” She stood up from the bed and walked over to his closet where she kept a few things to wear the next day in case she had an overnight with Michael in his stateroom.
“Can I ask you something?” She looked his way as she looked through his closet. “Do you want children and for that matter, can you even have children?”
“What kind of question is that?” Triara had to chuckle at the sheer stupidity of it. “Of course, I can have children! I am a woman after all.”
“You don’t understand,” he looked down at the bed in embarrassment for he really didn’t know much about how Zaltaen biology worked. “I mean I know you’re forty-two years old,” she looked his way and began to understand where his questioning was going. “Are you even biologically capable of having a child at your age?”
She began to laugh, there were so many things that he didn’t know about Zaltaen biology and how it all worked. “If you’re asking if I can still bare a child, then yes; I can. Most Zaltaens are capable of having children as old as eighty years of age.”
“Wait. What?” Michael was stunned. “How does that work? Eventually human women go into menopause around forty-two years of age depending upon a number of factors.”
“It doesn’t work like that with Zaltaens.”
“How so?” he wondered.
“Well for one,” she continued to look through his closet, “Zaltaens have much more mental control over their biological systems than humans do. Unlike with human women, we can mentally control our reproductive systems much like how some Buddhist Monks can lower their heart rate with deep meditation. While humans don’t have this kind of mental control and have monthly periods, Zaltaens don’t. I’ve had mine turned off for nearly ten years. I, however, turn it off and on every couple of months to make sure everything still works down there if you know what I mean,” he chuckled, “but that’s about it. I keep it off most of the time for obvious reasons; it tends to make life a lot less complicated.”
“And all you have to do is just think about it and you can turn it all off?” Triara nodded. “Do you have any idea how many human women would figuratively kill for that mental ability?”
“Trust me,” she began to laugh, “I’ve been told that on a number of occasions when I described the level of mental control that I have over my biological systems. All I have to do is do some meditation and I can have it all turned back on in an hour or two. I’ve done it many times. So yes, I can still have a child even at my age and yes Michael,” she came back around to his side of the bed and wrapped her arms around him, “I love you and I want to have a child with you so your daughter can have someone to grow up with.” He put his arms around her and hugged her tightly like she enjoyed so often. “And from how you’re physically reacting,” she smirked as he held her tightly, “it’s obvious that you’re excited about that prospect.”
“Uh… yeah,” he gulped, “I’ve been wondering if you wanted any children.”
“Yes, I do,” she said as she held up the dress that she had picked out at the PX while on shopping trip with him to pick out some new furniture for his stateroom. “What do you think?” she asked. “Do you think I should wear this? It’s the dress that I mentioned to you that I liked and you bought me for my birthday.”
He shook his head. “As much as I’d like to see you wear that dress, we are going to be dealing with a zero-gravity situation and if you remember, Richard told you that zero-gravity tends to do funny things with dresses and skirts. The last thing we need is for you to recreate that famous Marylin Monroe scene.”
“You mean the one where she was standing over an air vent and she had her whole dress fly up?”
“That’s the one,” he snapped his finger and pointed at her. “But how do you know that and not know anything about Star Trek?”
“I don’t know,” she shrugged as she put the dress back in his closet. “I guess when it comes to science fiction, I’m just not that interested in it. I’m much more of a fantasy person. You know, like…” Michael spoke up. “Like Lord of the Rings?” She too snapped her fingers. “That’s the one. I guess when you have all this technology around you, you don’t really need to have a TV show to show you what technology will be like.”
“Star Trek is more than that,” he began to think of a way to describe it, “it’s a vision into what humanity at the time thought that going out into space would be like. It’s a sort of look into the psyche of the human mind.”
“I think you’re seeing Star Trek through rose colored glasses. I tried to watch Star Trek; it was rather painful to watch.”
“What series did you try to watch?”
“I believe it was referred to as TOS.”
“Yep, no wonder why you had a shitty time with Star Trek. TOS is euphuistically referred to as Tons of Shit and even I,” he put his hand to his chest, “a hard-core Star Trek fan, can’t bring himself to watch it. It was campy as all hell. Star Trek really got good with The Next Generation after Gene let go of the reigns at the beginning of season three. I don’t suggest watching seasons one and two, they were nearly as bad as TOS. However, the best series has got to be Deep Space Nine.”
“I see,” she turned back to the closet to find something else to wear. “I’ll take your opinion into advisement and reconsider picking it up one day.”
“Anyways,” he stood up from the bed, “I’m going to let you get dressed while I get some more coffee. That and I want to find out how the Martians did in last night’s baseball game against Alpha Centauri.”
“Alright my dear,” she watched him walked out of the bedroom a little disappointed that he didn’t stick around to have a little more input in what she was going to wear to see his sister and his daughter but she knew that he was a bit of a sport 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 considering the fact that depending upon where you played the game, the outcome could be completely different due to things like gravity and atmospheric conditions.
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 controversy 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 from what he was nearly a year ago much to how she was in his life.
She walked up to Michael who was sitting on the couch and as he looked up, he noticed what she was wearing a white sweatshirt that had the phrase ‘Property of the Space Force’ on the front of it, black leggings that as far as he was concerned clung to all the right places on her amazing figure, 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 incredible outfit.
“Ready?” He asked as he looked her over.
“Uh huh,” she offered a hand to him at which he took hold of it and allowed her to pull him up to his feet. “We better get going if we’re going to catch that shuttle, I don’t want to miss it.” She was about to press the button on the side of the door when she turned back to him. “Be sure to grab the bag on your way out.”
“Yep,” he bent over to pick the bag up that was sitting next to the door. It was rather light since they were only going to the colony for one night and they didn’t need much beyond a simple change of clothes and few other personal items.
As the shuttle came to land in the colony’s docking bay and the docking collar made a confirmed seal with the shuttle’s airlock, the door opened and with a kind of grace that he didn’t know she had, she swung herself into the gangway and effortlessly floated her way down without so much as touching her foot or her hand on any surface. He had to admit that he was more than impressed at how effortless she made it appear to be.
At the other end of the gangway, she performed one quick and smooth motion as she touched down on the deck to turn about to watch him floating down in front of her with the bag floating in front of him. Before going into the gangway, he threw the bag forward while holding onto it which gave him the momentum to float across the passageway. As he came to the other side, he too came to a stop and touched down.
“I didn’t know you knew how to do that,” he put his arm around her as they began walking away from the dock, “have you been here before?”
“Yeah,” she nodded as she watched some people walk by but unlike on the station, more people seemed to approve of their relationship or at least they weren’t so openly negative about it. Maybe what Richard had told her was right, colonials were more accepting of different things than people from the core worlds such as Terra. “I’ve been here before; I came here about a year ago to see Richard’s folks. I thought I told you that.”
“Ah yes,” he thought back to when she had told him. “You went to visit them in colony B.”
“Yep,” she said as she watched others walk and a great many people were giving them both a nod of approval, far more than she had anticipated. “I see more people are approving of our relationship and our public display of affection for one another than on the station. I wonder why.”
“We are in a colony,” he looked about at the gray hallways of the more industrial section of the colony, “colonials are a more accepting group. I’m sure that Richard told you as such.”
“Yes,” she nodded, “but seeing and hearing it are two different things you know.”
“I get it,” they came to a fork, “we go left to colony A.”
As they drove up to his sister’s house in a car that they had rented for the weekend, he turned to her. “You wait here,” he patted her knee, “let me find out if she’s even home.”
“Ok,” she patted his hand that was still resting on her knee. “You go find out if your sister is home.”
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, Lisa. “Daddy!” she exclaimed as she jumped into his arms and he brought her close and hugged her closely. “You’re here!”
He began to tear up as he held her close and rubbed her back. “Yes, my little princess,” he held her up in the air and looked up, “daddy’s here.” Meanwhile Triara looked on and watched as he interacted with his daughter. She couldn’t help but to find him even more attractive what with how he interacted with his young daughter, she could tell that he loved his daughter very much by how he held her in his arms.
“Michael,” Heather came up to him. “It’s been too long, I’m happy to see you.”
“Likewise, Heather,” he held his daughter close again.
“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, she was hoping that he would be back in her life permanently. “But that’s why I’m here,” he reached down to pat her head, “I have plans to take you with me.”
“Back up a parsec!” Heather yelled which startled Lisa and sent her running for the couch. “Lisa,” she looked to her who was cowering on the couch, “leave the room. Adults have to talk.”
Lisa walked out of the room with her head hung low leaving Michael and his sister to argue over her future. That was when she noticed Triara. “Who are you?” Lisa asked as she looked Triara up and down. She 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.” Lisa nodded.
“But why are you here?” Lisa asked. “Why are you in this house?”
“Because your daddy wanted me here, he brought me here.”
“Why?” Lisa asked. “Why did my daddy want 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 anyways.” Lisa looked to 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 room. “Hi, my name’s Jessie.” She came up to her. “I’m Lisa’s cousin.” Triara turned her head and looked up at Jessie. “Hi Jessie. I’m please to meet you.”
“Pleased to meet you as well,” Triara stood up to meet Jessie’s gaze. “I’m Triara, Triara Moonbeam.”
“Did I hear that you are engaged to be married to Michael?” Jessie asked wondering what was going on. That was when Triara showed Jessie the ring that Michael had given her. “Damn,” she gasped, “that ring must have cost him a small mint. My God… it’s beautiful.” 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 Jessie over and she was right, Jessie was dressed much like she was complete with black leggings. “I’ve not seen many if any Zaltaens dress like you are. Most Zaltaens that I know usually wear those fashion nightmares they call robes.”
“That’s because I’ve been around humans for a long time and have gotten used to being among them and dressing like one.” She looked Jessie over again. “Lately I’ve come to like dressing like a human; the looks of shock that I receive from other Zaltaens are hilarious.”
“I’ll bet,” she laughed. “You really could pass as a human with that outfit you’re wearing. As you can see,” Jessie 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. They turned their backs on me a long time ago, I really have nothing to go back to.” Jessie could tell right away that it wasn’t something that Triara liked to talk about. “Ah,” Jessie nodded, “then am I to assume that you’ve been cast out of your House.”
“I see that you know something about Zaltaen culture.”
“Yeah well,” Jessie 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 know your people. I really wish that she were considering that there’s not much difference between our two species.” She was surprised by Jessie’s rather enlightened attitude. “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 Lisa, Jessie, 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!” 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 recalled it 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 become a major port of call for a lot of people, a major trading post. There’s commercial activity going on every day, ships coming and going; we even have diplomatic envoys coming on a weekly basis 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 that live there 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’s schools and daycare and a whole lot more. We even have an arboretum where you can walk and enjoy flowers and plants from Terra, Zalta, and many other planets. It’s far more than just a military base, it’s become our… future.”
“I see,” Heather rubbed her chin.
“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 for they had been in love as far back as high school and that as soon as they were out of college, they had gotten married. That, of course, was how Lisa came about; it didn’t take long for Lisa to come along after they were married.
“Yeah! I can’t imagine Mary wanting me to be sad for the next a hundred and fifty out 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 found someone that I want to be with and spend my life with. She’s once again made me happy.”
“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 Jessie. “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 too. That’s why I asked her to marry me. I love her.”
Heather looked to the floor, she 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; that there was 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 your people 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 like Michael has,” she looked over her shoulder at him, “I’m sure you’ll understand.”
“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 and why Michael fell in love with me.”
“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.”
Jessie, meanwhile, had some hope that maybe her mom’s idea of Zaltaens was changing and that perhaps today would be the day that she would tell her mom that she was dating a young Zaltaen man.
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 I 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 in back of 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 but I doubt you two won’t need much space.” She smirked for she imagined that the two of them had already shared a bed together. “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 really 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, “like I said before, I’m really 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. Like I said earlier, I don’t have much experience with Zaltaens and I guess that my lack of knowledge of your people clouded my judgement.”
“What is it that you don’t know about Zaltaens? Is there anything you want to know because I can answer your questions if you want?” Jessie 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 Jessie 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 really don’t have much to do with other Zaltaens anymore. I was cast out of my House and as Jessie can explain,” Jessie spoke up. “It means that Triara has no House, no family, no friends to rely on, and nothing to go back to on her world. For many on her world, a Zaltaen without a House is no Zaltaen at all. It’s a dishonor the likes of which most Zaltaens never recover from.”
“That’s awful!” Heather exclaimed. “You mean to say that you have no family on your world?” 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. 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 absolutely 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 to him. “Isn’t that right Michael?”
“Yes, you’re absolutely right my dear.” He looked to 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.”
“Aww,” Jessie smiled, “I can see that you two are very much in love.” Heather spoke up. “Which brings up my second question. I didn’t think that Zaltaens knew what love is.”
“As you can see,” Triara dabbed at her eyes, “I very much know what love is and what it feels like to be in love. I love Michael, I can’t imagine my life without him in it and he thinks the same way I do.”
“Ok but one final question before I leave you two alone for the evening, can you two even have… you know.” Jessie spoke up. “What I think my mom is asking is if you two can have children? 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.” Jessie’s eyes lit up as she had said that, unknown to her mom. “In fact, as soon as the two of us are married I want to have a child with Michael. I want Lisa to have someone to grow up alongside with.”
“I do have my own question though,” Jessie spoke up to which Triara nodded indicating that she could ask. “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 what we have here in this room, a lot of people don’t exactly approve of the kind of relationship 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 Jessie 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 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.
“I’m happy to hear that,” Jessie looked up. “Why I asked that is because mom,” she looked to her mom, “I have something to tell you.” Heather’s eyes opened wide as she had said that, Heather knew that her daughter only opened a conversation like that if there was something that she might not like. “I’ve been dating a young Zaltaen man. His name is Narin and we’re very much like Triara and Michael here.”
“And just why,” she put her hands on her hips, “am I just hearing about this now? How long have you two been dating?”
“Well for one,” Jessie put her hands on her hips as well, “you’ve not exactly shown me that you were very accepting of Zaltaens so that’s why I was afraid to tell you. As for how long we’ve been dating, we’ve been dating for about six months now.”
“Honey,” Heather stood up from her chair and knelt down in front of her daughter, “I’m sorry I ever gave you the impression that you should be fearful of telling me about Narin. Do you love him?” Jessie sniffled as she nodded and wiped her eye. “Well then, I insist that you bring him to the house, I want to meet him.”
“I will,” she sniffled once again as she hugged her mom, “I’ll bring him the next chance I get to meet you now that I know that you’ll accept him like you’ve accepted Triara here.”
“Good,” Heather hugged her daughter again, “I don’t ever want you to think that you can’t tell me something. OK?” She hugged her daughter tightly. “Don’t be afraid to tell your mom things like this.”
“Thank you, mom,” Jessie let go of her mom. “As for you Triara,” Heather stood up and held her arms out and walked up to Triara where she was sitting next to Michael on the bed, “come here you.” Triara stood up and Heather put her arms around her. “Welcome to the family Triara, I’m more than happy to have you be a part of our family.” Triara put her arms around Heather and carefully hugged her for she didn’t want to hurt her. “You have to come here more often; you’ll always be welcome here.” Triara nodded against her shoulder as tears began to fall down her face. “Anyways,” she backed away from her, “I’m going to let you two get some sleep. Tomorrow morning, I plan to take you two out for breakfast. Does that sound good?”
“Yeah,” Triara sat back down next to Michael and took another tissue, “that sounds good.”
“Michael?” she asked to which he nodded.
With that Heather and Jessie walked out of the room leaving Triara and Michael alone in the room. Michael looked to 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 as she sniffled against his shoulder, “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.
Little did they know that the shower was rather large so as Michael walked into the bathroom to get undressed, he looked into the shower and realized that the two of them could take a shower together. “Hey Triara,” she looked up from her datapad, “come on in. I want to show you something.” Triara got up from the bed and walked in. “What do you think? The shower is quite large, don’t you think?” A wide smile came to her face. “Yep, exactly what I was thinking.”
“Let me go get undressed too and we can take a shower together.”
Later that evening, after the two of them went to bed, Triara heard some yelling elsewhere in the house but she couldn’t make out what was being said. All she knew was that it was Jessie arguing with her mom but what they were arguing about, she didn’t know.
“Honey?” Michael asked. “What’s wrong?” he asked as he reached up and pushed a piece of her hair from her eyes. “Is something wrong?”
“I hear your sister and her daughter arguing but I can’t make out what they’re arguing about.”
“It’s probably just a mother-daughter kind of thing. It’ll be alright.”
“I suppose,” Triara flipped over onto her side and reached for him. “I hope you’re right.” She closed her eyes and tried to block out the arguing. “Good night my love, I love you.”
“I love you too.”
And with that the two fell asleep.
The next morning Triara and Michael walked down the stairs and into the kitchen where Jessie and Heather were sitting at the table drinking their morning coffee. “Hey, you two,” Heather looked up from her cup of coffee, “good morning. How did you two sleep last night?”
“Very good,” Triara yawned, “Michael and I slept rather nicely last night. As soon as our heads hit the pillow we were out like a light.” She lied, she didn’t want to tell her that she had heard them arguing.
“I only heard the shower once last night, do Zaltaens not take a shower?” Heather asked for she didn’t know much about their personal grooming habits.
“Oh no, we do. It’s just that,” she blushed as she turned to Michael, “we took a shower together.”
“Oh really,” Heather’s eyebrow raised, “now that’s something I didn’t expect from you. Zaltaens are generally known to be a bit on the conservative side when it comes to nudity and the way they dress. At least, that’s what I’ve heard.”
“You aren’t wrong but as you can see,” Triara looked down at herself and then back up at Heather, “like I told you last night, I’m not your typical Zaltaen. I don’t look like or act like your typical garden-variety Zaltaen. I don’t even talk like one, my vocabulary is far more expansive than that of your typical Zaltaen.”
“I get that,” Heather looked at Triara over her shoulder as she prepared the coffee maker to make another pot of coffee, “you don’t act like typical Zaltaens do either. Most Zaltaens that I’ve met have been rather cold and distant, even amongst their own people. They didn’t seem to want to get to know me so I sort of just gave up trying to get to know them.”
“Yeah, that’s true. It’s mostly because of the war with the Vonosh. It’s left Zaltaens a rather battered people, that, and the absolutely soul crushing House system. In a lot of ways, my species has forgotten how to live our lives and to have fun. In reality, I see a dying people; a dying culture.”
“How so?” Heather wondered. “What do you mean by that?”
“Well,” Triara thought, “Zaltaen society hasn’t really advanced much in the last two hundred or so years. The society been stuck in a rut so to speak. The whole of the Zaltaen society is on a wartime footing so most things like art and culture has been put on the back burner but as I think about it, I have to wonder what are we trying to save? As I once told Richard, a friend of mine, my hope is that as more humans interact with Zaltaens things will change for the better.”
“I didn’t think about it that way,” Heather put her cup down on the table as the coffee pot stopped brewing. “Jessie,” she looked back at her daughter, “be a dear and get Michael and Triara two cups from the cupboard and pour them some.”
“Yes mom.” Jessie went over to the cupboard and did as she was asked by her mom. Meanwhile she listened to her mom’s conversation.
“I know we touched on this topic last night but why are you dressed like you are? Why go through the effort to look like a human?”
Triara sat down at the table while Michael sat down next to her. “I’ve tried to dress more like a human so as to better fit in in human society. What I didn’t tell you last night is that I renounced my Zaltaen citizenship.”
“You did what?” Jessie asked as she finished pouring the coffee into Michael’s cup. “Why did you do that?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” Triara began. “Like I said last night, I’ve been cast out of my House so I have nothing to go back to on my world; I have no House, no family, no friends, no status, no… nothing. My name might as well be mud on my world. It’s why I’ve worked so hard to fit in with humans, I have nothing of value back on my world. I’ve since become a full citizen of the Human Federation and I have all the rights and privileges that the Constitution of the Human Federation has therein.”
“Wow,” Jessie poured some coffee into Triara’s cup, “that must’ve been a scary endeavor to take on. I can’t imagine trying to fully immerse myself into a completely alien culture and society. I give you a lot of credit.”
“Me too,” Heather spoke up, “I give you a lot of credit too.”
“Oh yes, yes it was scary. It wasn’t at all easy for me to give up everything I’ve ever known and to fully embrace an alien culture and society but I knew that I had to. It helped a lot that I had some really good friends along the way to help me, namely Richard and Rachel, who welcomed me into their lives and often defended me when others would speak bad of me while in public.
“And thank you,” Triara reached across the table and took hold of Jessie hand as she sat down across the table from her, “thank you for that.” She reached for Heather’s hand. “It means a lot that the two of you think that way about me. Everything that’s happened in my life including what’s happening right here at this table is proof to me that I made the right choice in my life.”
“I’m glad you think that way Triara,” Jessie smiled as she squeezed Triara’s hand.
“I’m glad you think that way as well,” Heather stood up from the table and came around to Triara’s side and put her arms around her and hugged her. “I have to say that I now understand what Michael sees in you and why he’s accepted you into his life like he has. You’re an amazing person and one that I’d be proud to call my sister-in-law.”
Triara looked down at Heather’s hands as she hugged her from behind and took hold of them. “Thank you, Heather, thank you so very much.” She looked to Michael as she began to tear up. “And thank you for bringing me here to see your sister,” she reached for Michael’s hand, “it’s been a wonderful experience.”
“Speaking of which,” Jessie spoke up, “can we get some breakfast soon.” Just then, Lisa came running into the room and into Michael’s arms. “I’m starving.”
“Speaking of which,” Heather said as she continued to hug Triara, “do you want to go out for breakfast or do you want me to make it here? Either way, it doesn’t matter to me.” Triara looked up to her. “I’d like to go out if you don’t mind. I’ve not seen much of this side of the colony so going out for breakfast would be nice.”
“You’ve been to this colony before?” Heather asked as she let go of Triara.
“Yeah,” Triara watched Heather walk around to the other side of the table where her cup of coffee was, “I visited colony B a couple of months ago. I’ve never been to colony A though so I have no idea what’s here.”
“Great!” Jessie exclaimed. “There’s a wonderful little place where we all can get breakfast. My mom, Lisa, and I go there all the time on the weekends. It may be a bit expensive but it’s well worth it considering how much you get.”
“Alright then,” Triara stood up from the table, “then let’s go. But I have to insist, I’m going to pay.”
“Oh no Triara,” Heather shook her head, “don’t worry about paying. I invited you so we’ll pay.”
“Say,” Michael looked about, “where’s Steven?”
“Oh, he’s at work,” Jessie said as she put Triara’s cup down on the table in front of her, “he has some kind of department meeting to go to this weekend so we’re going to be on our own this morning.”
As the five of them walked into restaurant that Jessie had mentioned earlier that morning Triara noticed just how many Zaltaens were there dining like it was no big deal. Truthfully, she didn’t expect to see so many of her people at what was obviously a very human place to be.
She turned to Michael and formed a telepathic connection with him. “I wasn’t expecting this,” he heard her voice inside his mind, “I didn’t think that Zaltaens would hang out in a place like this.” He shrugged his shoulders. “Say,” she turned to Jessie, “I see a lot of Zaltaens here. Is there any reason for that?”
“Hell, if I know,” Jessie too shrugged her shoulders, “I guess it’s a bit of a hotspot for Zaltaens. It’s where I met Narin so I don’t know.”
“I see.” Triara looked about at the other Zaltaens walking about and talking amongst themselves and otherwise ignoring her. The thought of reaching out to them telepathically crossed her mind but she thought that maybe it wasn’t a good idea.
“We may have to wait a while for a table so why don’t you two sit down over there,” Heather pointed at a set of chairs at the entrance. “Meanwhile I’ll get on the wait list for a table.”
“OK,” Triara sat down as Michael sat down next to her and as he sat down next to her, Lisa hopped up into his lap and hugged her daddy. Meanwhile the other Zaltaens that were standing about looked at the three of them wondering what was going on between the three of them but she just kept to herself while trying to ignore the looks from them.
“Alright,” Heather came back with Jessie walking behind her, “there’s going to be a half an hour wait. I hope that’s no problem with you Triara.” That was when they all heard someone gasp. Triara looked up to Heather as she stood over her. “No,” she shook her head, “it’s no problem. I just wish people would stop staring at me and Michael, I find it rather annoying already.” Just as she said that the Zaltaens around her turned their backs to her.
“Good,” Triara sighed. “Maybe now I can get some peace.”
“I know,” Jessie sat down next to Triara and took hold of her hand that was resting on her thigh, “it’s all really strange. I’ve never seen Zaltaens react like this before.”
Later that morning, Triara and Michael walked up the stairs to where their room was and began to pack up the few things that they had brought with them to the colony. Meanwhile Jessie and Heather were helping Lisa pack up her things to go with Michael and Triara to the space station.
As Michael and Triara descended the stairs after packing the few things that they had brought with them, Jessie came up to them with some luggage of her own in hand.
“Jessie?” Michael wondered what was going on. “Why are you packed like that?”
“My mom wants me to come with you guys and help get Lisa all settled in on the station. I hope that that’s all right, she’s going to need someone who’s familiar with 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 Lisa to get used to being with Triara so having Jessie stay with you for that time will give her more than enough time for Lisa 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 Jessie. “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 with reflect upon me. You got it?”
“Of course!” Jessie 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 Jessie 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 there on the station. I trust that you will keep her safe.”
“I get it,” he looked to his niece, “Triara and I’ll keep Jessie safe.”