Space 2315… Peace, Chapter 16

Later that week, nearly ten days since Alyssia had been admitted to the hospital, David was sitting next to Alyssia’s bed like he always did after getting out of class. He was staring at his datapad going over some of his homework as Alyssia’s eyes opened and began to blink yet he didn’t notice it for he was staring at his datapad.

She looked about the room that was filled with flowers of all kinds and various kinds of stuffed animals all with some kind of message telling her to ‘get well soon.’ She moved her head about, yet again David didn’t notice; he was too involved in what he was concentrating on. “David?” she asked with a raspy voice. “Where am I?” David’s eyes shot wide open as he looked up from his datapad and at once looked to Alyssia whose eyes were open and looking about. “Where am I? What happened to me?”

“Oh honey,” he took hold of her hand, “you’re in the hospital. Don’t you remember what happened to you?” She shook her head and winced. “You were attacked, you were beaten to the point of being unconscious. If some good people hadn’t found you and scared the attackers off, you’d be dead; instead of me being here by your side, I’d be attending your funeral instead.”

Dead?” Alyssia asked, surprised that he would say such a thing. “How bad was I injured?” she asked with a raspy voice. “And why does my voice sound like this?”

“Alyssia?” He gently stroked the top of her head. “You’ve been in a coma for the last ten days. You’ve been lying here in this hospital bed all this time.” A look of shock and horror came over her as she thought about her predicament. “Uh-huh,” he hummed. “You’ve been unconscious for the last ten days. I’ve been here by your side all this time. The only time I’ve not been here is when I had to go get some sleep and go to class, between that I was here; spending time with you waiting for you to come back to me.”

“Ten days?” She asked. “I’ve been unconscious for ten days?” Again, shock and horror came to her once again.

“Uh-huh,” he hummed, “you were in a pretty bad spot there for a moment. You sustained a massive blow to the back of your head when they slammed it against the wall of the building, the doctors thought you had brain damage; however, the MRI thankfully indicated that you didn’t.” She could see tears begin to form in his eyes as he continued. “The doctor said your left eye socket was nearly crushed and that you might lose vision in it but again, thankfully that never happened and that your eye is intact. You also lost a lot of blood from where you had been stabbed in your stomach.” A look of confusion came to her face. “And worst of all, with how you were in that coma, I thought you’d,” she watched as he began to openly cry, “I thought you’d never wake up and come back to me.”

He began to bitterly sob as he fell to the floor on his knees and laid his head down on the side of her bed and draped his arms over her body. “I love you Alyssia, I thought I lost you forever.” Alyssia reached for him as he cried against her bed. “I need you, Alyssia.” He wept. “I can’t imagine my life without the light of you in it.”

“Me too,” she reached up and caressed his cheek, “me too. I love you too, David. I’m sorry I didn’t fight back harder. I should’ve tried harder.”

“Oh no honey,” he looked up and reached up to touch her face, “I don’t blame you for anything.” He stood up from the floor and tried to kiss her as she tried to look away. “If anything, I blame the people who attacked you; they’re the ones that put you here in the hospital.” She interrupted him. “But I’m a Zaltaen, I’m stronger than humans; I should’ve been able to fight them off.”

It was obvious that fire in her eyes, that Zaltaen confidence, was gone, and he missed it; he missed it dearly. He loved that hearty and dominating spirit that she had in the past. Then again, after what happened to her, he didn’t blame her; nearly being killed would deflate anyone’s self-confidence. He just hoped that with a little time and effort from him, she would once again be that confident and fiery Zaltaen woman that he had grown to love so much.

“But it was four against one, you were on the losing side of the fight even with your enhanced strength. They took you by surprise.” He tried to reassure her of that, but she still tried to look away. “I don’t blame you at all. As I said, I blame the people who attacked you for putting you here in the hospital.” He stood up from the floor. “However, I better get the nurses in here. I’ll be back my love,” he gently ran his hands through her hair, “I’ll be back.” David bolted for the door and ran for the nurse’s station. “She’s awake! Alyssia’s awake!” He screamed as a nurse looked up from her computer screen. “My Alyssia’s awake!”

Several nurses stood up from their stations and ran for Alyssia’s room as David calmly walked back into the room and watched as the nurses did their thing from across the room. They were checking on all kinds of things with her; everything from checking to see if she could feel her arms and legs, to the conditions of her stitches that were keeping her wounds closed to whether she could see out of her left eye.

As three of the four nurses walked out of the room, David approached the remaining nurse. “When can I take my Alyssia home with me?”

“Since she just woke up from her coma,” the nurse turned to look at David, “we’re going to want to keep her for a few days for observation. We just want to make sure that she doesn’t have any lingering side effects from her head injury. You understand, right?”

David sighed. “Yeah,” he looked to the floor, “I understand.” He walked up to Alyssia and bent over her. “I’ll be back for you later,” he kissed her forehead, “I love you.” He stood back up. “I’m going to go tell Amanda that you’re awake so I’m sure that she’ll want to talk to you, so keep your datapad handy for when she calls.” With that, he walked out of the room. Meanwhile, the nurses watched as David walked out of the room and turned back to Alyssia. “You know he was here right by your bedside every chance he had.”

Alyssia nodded. “Yeah, he told me as such.”

Another nurse walked in and overheard the conversation. “Maybe I shouldn’t tell you this but when you were still unconscious, David cried for you; he even begged for you to come back to him. He even said…” The first nurse shushed her. “Hey!” She shouted. “Don’t tell her that! Let her be surprised when he asks her.”

“Ask me what? What does David want to ask me?”

“He wants to ask you to marry him, he wants to have children and have a family with you; he wants to build a life with you.”

“Oh,” Alyssia closed her eyes, “I see.”

“In fact, he’s probably already out there with plans to buy you a ring right now.”

“What should I do?” Alyssia asked. “What do you think I should do when he asks me?”

The two nurses looked at each other, completely surprised that she would ask that kind of question, and then back at Alyssia. “You better damn well say yes!” They both said in unison. The first nurse continued. “A woman doesn’t find someone like David very often so as we both said before, you better damn well say yes to him when he asks you to marry him. It’s very obvious that he loves you very much.” The second nurse spoke up. “Yeah, Leslie’s right. There’s no question that David loves you and wants you in his life. Like Leslie said, you don’t find men like David very often; you really should feel very lucky that he thinks the way that he does about you despite…” Leslie stopped her. “Hey, don’t say that!”

“Say what?” Alyssia asked even though she had a good idea of what the nurse was about to say about her. She had heard it so many times before, it was nothing new to her.

“Despite you being an alien.”

“Oh,” Alyssia sighed as Leslie punched her colleague in her shoulder. “David’s told me that he doesn’t see me as an alien, he sees me as the young woman that he loves. Even back when we first started dating nearly a year ago he told me that he never saw me as an alien and that he never thought any different of me.”

“And it shows in how David thinks of you, what he feels for you. But anyways,” the first nurse began, “do you think that you’ll be up to eating anything?” Alyssia nodded. “Great, I’ll get you something easy so that we can get your digestive system started and you won’t get sick while doing so.”

“Can you get me some water though, I’m very thirsty. My mouth feels like cotton.”

“Sure thing, honey.”

Later that evening as David came walking down the hallway with a box in his hands admiring the ring that was in it, Irida saw David walking down. At first, Irida didn’t pay him any mind until the sparkle of the diamond that was on the ring caught her eye.

“Hey David,” she stood in his way, “what do you got there?”

“An engagement ring for Alyssia,” he looked down at it, “I plan on asking her to marry me.”

“Then am I to assume that Alyssia woke up?” Irida asked. “Please,” she folded her hand in front of her chest, “tell me that she woke up. Please tell me that she woke up.”

“As a matter of fact,” he looked up from the ring in his hands, “yes. Yes, she did.” He looked back down at the ring. “They want to keep her under observation for the next couple of days but that’s alright. They’ve said that I should be able to take my Alyssia home with me soon.”

“Oh, David.” She stepped forward at which he stepped back while closing the box to make sure that he didn’t lose the ring. “I know, you have no reason to trust me.”

“That’s right,” he put his hands on his hips, “I don’t. I don’t trust you.”

“That hurt,” she bit her lower lip, “but I knew that was coming. I’ve never done anything to earn your trust.”

“Yep,” he pointed at her, “you haven’t. You’ve given me every reason to not trust you.”

Zing!” She exclaimed. “That I haven’t, and I know that. But anyways, let me know when you bring Alyssia home with you. I want to organize a sort of get-together in the coffee shop where she works and welcome her back; a lot of us here on campus have been pulling for her.”

“And just why would you want to do that?” David asked, surprised that she gave a damn about her past the point of Alyssia being a good subject of her gossip blog. “Give me one good reason why…” Irida interrupted him. “Because if it wasn’t for my site, her hospital room wouldn’t be filled with the many flowers and teddy bears and all the people who came to see her a week ago wishing her good luck and for her to get better. I wrote an article on my site about what happened to her.” She handed him her datapad with the post on the screen. “I wrote about her being in the hospital. A lot of people read it and a lot of my readers came to see her because of that,” she pointed at her screen, “article. Suffice it to say, as much as you can’t stand my site, a lot of the student body gets their news from my site.”

“What about the campus newspaper?” David asked. “Don’t people read that?”

“HA!” Irida laughed loudly. “That rag?” She began to laugh again. “The campus newspaper is nothing more than a mouthpiece for the administration of this university. Really David?” She stood with her hands on her hips. “I thought that you were smarter than that.”

“What about that article that was written by Sofie Taske a little while ago about how the Blue Earth…” Again, Irida interrupted him. “Heavily redacted,” David’s jaw dropped open, “and I’ll have you,” she pointed at David, “know that Sofie told me as such. She was positively pissed that what she wanted to say was not at all included in the article. That article was heavily redacted to make the administration of this university not look nearly as bad as they truly were.” David thought back to when he had read the article and thought about how it seemed a little bit too clean. “More people read my site than anything else because they know that they’re going to get the truth about what’s really happening on campus.”

“But your site is nothing but a gossip blog.”

“Sure,” Irida laughed, “that’s what they want you to think. Sure,” she rolled her eyes as she put her hands on her hips, “there is that aspect of the site and I,” she took her left hand off her hip and put it to her chest, “don’t hide the fact that the site has a major gossip section but that’s not the only thing that I cover. I can’t help it that people want to gossip. I just provide what the people want. But I also include the things that the campus newspaper dares to not even come within a meter of touching. You should read the site some time.”

David rubbed his chin. “If you say that your site covers things that the administration doesn’t want to be covered, how do you do it? How do you not get shut down?”

“Easy,” she smirked, “I have free speech as a student here at the university, and Sofie as an official member of the student newspaper doesn’t; she has to kowtow to the administration. She has, however, penned some articles on my site under a pseudonym to not get into any trouble. And as for how my site hasn’t been shut down, that’s easy.” She laughed. “I have access to my daddy’s money and all the lawyers he has.”

“But what stops them from just kicking you out of the school?”

“Money,” she laughed again, “of course. Money, it’s the universal grease. How else do you think that new arena is being funded and built?” David rolled his eyes. “Yep, you got it! My daddy’s money.” She laughed. “Money makes the world go round, that’s for sure.” David rolled his eyes as he walked away and while he was walking, he ran into none other than Sofie Taske herself.

“Hey there Sofie, what’s up?”

“Irida told me that you write a few things for her site.”

Shush!” She exclaimed. “Don’t let anyone know that I write stuff for her, or I’d be in some serious trouble with the administration of this university. I’d probably,” she clamped her mouth shut as a faculty member walked by them. She gritted her teeth and whispered. “I’d probably be kicked out of the university if they knew that I wrote for her site.” David’s eyebrow rose. He thought that Irida was pulling his leg on how Sofie was writing for her site. Meanwhile, Sofie looked about checking to see if the faculty member was anywhere within earshot of them. “They’re still trying to find out who the hell released the real version of that article that’s in the campus newspaper. Don’t let anyone know that I published it, they already think that I did but I’m denying it. I told them that someone must have gotten a copy of it when I didn’t have my datapad locked when I was in the library writing it.”

“Sofie!” He exclaimed. “I’m surprised about hearing this from you.”

“What?” Sofie stood with her hands on her hips. “Someone had to tell the damn truth and they weren’t going to publish it, that’s for damn sure.” She was about to turn about and walk away when she turned back to him. “Go ahead, read the real version, and then come back to me. Trust me, it’s a whole different article.” With that she walked away leaving David stumped, he had no idea that Irida’s site was more than just some gossip piece.

He shoved the small box into his bookbag and took out his datapad, opened Irida’s site, and began to read it on his way to the room that he and Alyssia were sharing. He didn’t want to take all of his things with him, so he planned on dropping his stuff off there including the ring for he didn’t want to lose it. On his way out of his room, he found the article that Sofie had talked about, and sure enough, as he continued to read it shock turned to anger. He couldn’t believe that the president of the university herself colluded with the Blue Earth Movement and worked to cover up just how much of a hand the Blue Earth Movement had in the day-to-day operation of the university.

“Damn it!” He shouted. He wanted to throw his datapad to the side, but he knew that that would only result in a broken datapad. That’s when he ran into Sofie again.

“I take it that you read the real article.”

“Uh-huh,” David hummed. “And it pissed me off.”

“And it should!” Sofie exclaimed. “People like you, Alyssia, and me,” she pointed at herself, “are all victims of the decisions made by the faculty of this university. That’s why I doubt that unless there are some serious changes to the faculty that runs this university, your girlfriend will never,” she waved her hand in the air, “see any kind of real justice for what happened to her.”

“Damn it,” he whispered. “What do I do? What do we do?”

“There’s nothing you can do,” she pointed at him, “but I,” she pointed at herself, “have the power you don’t. I’ll work tirelessly to uncover the stink that’s at the top of this university so Alyssia can see some justice. I can promise you that.”

Sofie was about to walk off when David called after her. “What I can’t understand is why does Irida care so much about this kind of stuff? How does she have any skin in the game?”

“Don’t you know who she is?”

“Sure!” David’s exclaimed. “She’s Irida Geroti, big deal. What’s that got to do with anything?”

“You don’t know who the Geroti family is?” Sofie asked as David shook his head. “The Geroti family is the head of none other than one of the most powerful corporations in all of Human Space. Her dad, Rufino Geroti, is the CEO of Olympus Mons Shipyards.”

“What!?” David exclaimed. “Then why the hell is she slumming it with us here on Terra? She could go to any university she wanted to. Hell, she could have private tutors if she wanted.”

“Hell, if I know,” Sofie shrugged, “but that doesn’t matter. But anyways, I’ll keep digging. I’ll get to the bottom of this shit pile and get some justice for your girlfriend; I promise you that.” With that Sofie walked off leaving David to think about what Sofie had just said. “Well, I guess I have more than a few friends here on campus than I thought.” He began to walk down the hallway towards the elevator to go down to the parking garage to drive back to the hospital but first, he knew that he had to get Alyssia something better than hospital food to eat.

Later that afternoon David walked into the hospital room when he saw Alyssia sitting up in bed drinking something from a plastic cup. “Hey there David!” She exclaimed as she put the cup down on the tray that was hovering over her. “The nurses finally gave me something to eat though I have to admit,” she stuck her tongue out, “it was awful. Bleh!” David laughed as he came over to her and plopped a brown paper bag down on the tray. “That’s why I got you this.”

She raised her head in the air and began to sniff after which she quickly grabbed hold of the bag and tore into it, upon which she smiled when she saw what was in the bag. “Oh, thank you!” She exclaimed as she pulled out a small box that had a rather sizable cheeseburger in it along with some fries in another container. “Oh David, you know just what I needed.”

“Do you need any help?” He asked as he reached for the container that had the cheeseburger in it.

She rolled her eyes. “I may be in a hospital bed but I’m not completely helpless here.” She began to eat the French fries. “I feel a lot better now. The food may have been awful, but it at least gave me some of my strength back. They already had me up and walking about this morning.” She pointed at the walker across the room. “I told them I didn’t need it, but they insisted that I walk with it just in case.” She took a bite of the cheeseburger and happily hummed as she chewed it. “Great Maker,” she said as she chewed, “this is awesome. Thank you.” She reached for his hand.

“Aww,” he squeezed her hand, “don’t mention it. I wanted to get it for you.” He smiled as she ate another French fry. “I know how hospital food is universally bad.”

“Anyways,” she took another French fry, “the nurses were surprised that I’m bouncing back as fast as I am. I guess that they’re not used to dealing with Zaltaen physiology. They did, however,” she looked down at her stomach, “tell me that although this is all healed up, I’m going to have scars.”

“Hey,” he reached for her shoulder and gently rubbed it, “if a possible scar is all you have coming out of this whole ordeal that you’ve endured, then that’s really not a bad thing.” He looked down and closed his eyes. “You could’ve died.”

“Hey,” she reached for his arm, “but I didn’t. I didn’t die. I came back.”

“Yeah,” he reached up and took hold of her hand, “you didn’t and most importantly, you came back to me.” She watched as a tear slipped down his face. “You came back.” He picked her hand up and kissed it. “I’m so happy you came back to me.” He kissed her hand again. “I love you; I don’t know what I’d do without you.” She could hear his voice crack again as his emotions came over him.

“Me too,” he let go of her hand and she went back to eating, “the nurses say that at the rate I’m going, I should be getting out of here in a few days. And I’m sure,” she took another bite of her cheeseburger, “that with this,” she pointed at it as she swallowed, “I’m going to bounce back faster than by eating any of whatever this hospital calls,” she made the air-quotes gesture, “food.” That was when she realized that he wasn’t eating as well. “Didn’t you get anything for yourself?”

“Nah,” he waved his hand in the air, “I’ll eat later with my parents.”

“Your parents are here?” She took another sip of her water. “Why? How? I thought you told me that they live on Mars.”

“Well yes, they do.” He said as he watched her eat another French fry. “I called them a week ago when you first ended up here in the hospital.” He looked down at his lap and thought back to when he just saw her in the hospital bed and sniffled. “I didn’t know what to do. When I first saw you lying in this bed in a comatose state, I completely broke down.”

He looked up as he shuddered. Alyssia, meanwhile, looked at how he was reacting.

“I didn’t know what to do as I looked at your lifeless body, so I called my parents, and they were here the very next day for me.” He looked at her. “I needed someone while you were comatose, I didn’t know who else to call that day.”

“I take it,” she reached for his knee and patted it, “that my incident affected you quite badly.”

“Of course, it did honey,” he took hold of her hand, “when I say that I love you, I don’t just say it; I mean it. I need you in my life.” He shuddered. “I’ve never been happier than when I’ve had you in my life.”

She stopped chewing as she heard that and closed her eyes. “One of my nurses told me that you want to ask me to marry you.” He looked away and sighed. “What? Was she wrong in telling me that?”

“No,” he said without looking back at her, “she’s right. I did want to ask you to marry me.” He turned back to look at her. “But not here, I… I didn’t want to ask you here. I even bought the ring,” her jaw dropped open as she tried to wrap her mind around the reality of the situation that she had found herself in, “that I want to propose to you with. I have this whole scene planned out in my head when we both show up at the get-together that Irida has…” She interrupted him. “What are you talking to Irida about?” He could sense that she was none too happy about how he had been talking to Irida.

“If you had let me finish,” he held this finger up in the air, “I’d have told you.” Alyssia calmed down to let him explain. “Irida’s planning on some kind of get-together with some people at the coffee shop when you get out of this place.”

“Why does it matter to her?” Alyssia asked sharply, once again showing her disapproval of David talking to her.

“Here.” David reached into his pocket and handed her his datapad with the post about her asking the students at the university to pray for her in the hospital. “See?” He pointed at the screen. “There were a lot of people who were pulling for you, praying for you to get better. And not only that but,” he looked about the room, “but what do you see here in the room?” She looked about the room. “Look at all the flowers and stuffed animals you have about you wishing you a speedy recovery. Suffice it to say, Irida orchestrated all of it.”

“Oh.” She suddenly felt bad that she had talked so negatively about Irida.

“As I said before, she wants to have a bit of a get-together in the coffee shop as a sort of welcome back kind of thing. I planned on asking you to marry me then, but I guess now that the cat’s out of the bag, there’s no point in going through with all the theatrics.”

“Does it mean a lot to you for you to propose to me like that? You know, as you say… With all the theatrics.” She yawned. “Sorry,” she said as she put her hand to her mouth.

“Yeah,” he sighed, “I had this whole thing planned out. I’d kneel before you and ask you to marry me, that kind of thing.”

She smiled as she took hold of his hand. “Then I’m going to hold off on telling you if I want to marry you until then because I want that, I want you to ask me like that; theatrics and all.” She yawned again. “Sorry,” she put her hand to her mouth yet again, “suddenly I’m tired.”

“That’s quite alright my love,” he stood up from his chair beside her bed and bent over her and kissed the top of her head at which she couldn’t help but smile, “you get some sleep. You have a lot of healing to do, and I want to be able to take you out of this place soon and take you home and the only way that that’s going to happen is if you get better.” She nodded. “Sleep well my darling.” He touched the top of her head.

“Yeah,” she closed her eyes, “see you tomorrow, David.”

“I’ll be here, I promise.” He squeezed her hand but before he walked out of the room, he called to her. “Alyssia?” She opened her eyes again. “I love you.” She smiled and nodded as she closed her eyes, and he walked out of the room leaving Alyssia to get some much-needed sleep.

As he walked out of Alyssia’s hospital room and up to the nurse’s station. “When will I be able to take my Alyssia home with me?”

“The doctor’s shooting for tomorrow morning, later she has an MRI scheduled just to make sure that there are no residual issues from her coma but that’s about it. But other than that, she’s been recovering quite well.” Just then he heard his datapad ring after which he held his finger up as he looked at his datapad; it was his mom, Amy calling him. “Hey there mom,” he put the datapad to his ear, “what’s up?”

“What are you up to?”

“Well,” he reached for the elevator button and looked up as the lights approached the tenth number to indicate that it had arrived on the tenth floor, “I just left Alyssia’s hospital room. I’m getting out of here and going back to the university but I was thinking, do you two want to go get dinner?”

“Sure!” he heard his mom’s voice. “We can go out to dinner. It’s been a while since we’ve done anything like that. We’ll pick you up at the university.”

“Sure has been,” he stepped into the elevator, “I have some good news too. I’ll tell you all about it when I meet you two. But I think I should drive; I know the city more than you do.”

As David pulled up in his car to where his men and dad were standing on the sidewalk, he unlocked his car doors. “Get on it,” she shouted through an open driver’s side window.

“Well, well,” his dad rubbed his chin as he walked up to David’s car and looked it over. “You have a rather nice car you have here. I thought…” David butted in. “Thought what? That I’d be driving a run-down beaten-up car? Nope.” He patted his steering wheel. “I have quite a bit of money.”

“From where?!” His mom asked, surprised that her son had the kind of money to buy the car he was driving.

“I tutor students on campus and some of them pay handsomely for my tutoring services.”

“Like what?” His dad asked as he sat forward in the back seat while his mom looked at him from the front passenger seat. “What do you tutor in?”

“I tutor in calculus and trigonometry,” Steven sat back in awe as he thought about how proud he was of his son, “and since I’ve gotten good at speaking Zaltaen, all thanks to Alyssia,” Amy looked back at Steven out of the corner of her eye, “I’ve also taken up tutoring in the Zaltaen language classes. So yes,” he patted the steering wheel again, “I’ve got a pretty decent ride with more than enough left over to take Alyssia on dates with.”

“Who’s this person you tutor?” His mother asked.

“I tutor lots,” he put his car in gear, “of people. But one person, Erin Patterson, is one of the main reasons why I had the money to buy this car.”

“Patterson.” His dad said from the back seat. “Now where have I heard that name before?”

“Apparently,” David came to a stop light, “she’s the daughter of Samuel Patterson.” His dad smacked his forehead in complete shock that his son was tutoring the daughter of one of the richest men in all of human space. “He’s the CEO of Fusion Dynamics, one of the largest fusion reactor construction companies in all of human space.”

“Damn,” his mom whispered.

“And trust me,” he pointed at his mom, “she needs the tutoring.” He began to laugh as his mom and dad looked at each other. “She was damn near failing her calculus class until I started helping her and I’m only too happy to take her daddy’s money.”

“Now David,” his mom folded her arms across her chest, “don’t be taking advantage of her like that. We taught you better than that.”

“Who am I to not take her money?” David asked as he came to a stop light and looked at his mom. “If she’s willing to give it to me,” he shrugged, “I’m only too willing to take it.” His mother shook her head. “Hey, it’s capitalism. But anyways, I have some good news.”

“Sounds like it,” has data said from the back seat, “you seem happier than you’ve been these past couple of days. What’s going on?”

“Alyssia woke up this morning!” He exclaimed.

“That’s excellent news!” Amy shouted. “How’s she doing? When are they going to release her from the hospital?”

“They say,” he came to a stoplight, “that they’re keeping her for observation due to the nature of her injuries. But anyways,” he looked right and then left, “depending upon what you two want for dinner, we go right or left. Left for Italian and German, or we go right if you want a good steak.”

“Left,” his dad said from the back of the car, “if we’re in Germany, we’re going to have German food.”

“Left it is.” David turned into the left turn lane.

“You seem disappointed.” His mom said as he turned. “What’s wrong? Alyssia’s awake. How much more do you want?”

“I was hoping that I’d be able to take her home with me today but they’re saying tomorrow.” Both his mom and dad’s eyebrows were raised which made him rethink what he had said, he hadn’t meant to tell them that he had been living with her. “I mean, I was hoping that I could take her back to the university and get her out of that place. You know what I mean, nobody likes being in a hospital.”

“That’s not what you said,” his mom pointed at him. “Explain yourself David or we’re not going to be going anywhere.” David sighed and his mom knew something was up. “Let me guess, you don’t want your mom and dad to know that you’re sleeping with her.”

“It’s nothing like that!” He became flustered. “We just,” he closed his eyes and sighed for a second as he continued to drive. His mom shouted. “Hey, eyes on the road kid!” He opened his eyes again and continued. “Look, we’re just… living together.” His mom looked at his dad out of the corner of her eye. “We got a place we were sharing right before this whole incident with her being nearly killed and I’d like to have her back in… our place. And yes, I do,” he came to a stoplight, “sleep with her in the same bed but not in the way that you’re probably thinking. She’s not ready for that kind of stuff yet considering her cultural background and to be honest,” his parents once again looked at each other, “I’m not ready yet either.”

“Who asked who?” His dad asked.

“Surprisingly,” he looked back at his dad quickly before looking back at the road, “she was the one that asked me to move in with her.”

“Now that’s surprising.” His dad said from the back seat. “Zaltaens, at least the ones that I’ve known, are a rather private and conservative people.”

“I know!” David exclaimed. “I was as shocked as you are when she asked me but of course, I told her that I would and then this… this happened. She gets attacked. We only spent one day, one night together, and then…” He felt his mom take hold of his hand. “We moved in with each other so we could, you know… get closer.” He sighed. “Yeah,” he felt his mom pat his hand, “you only wanted to spend more time with her, the woman you’ve grown to be quite fond of.”

“Yeah,” he sighed again, “if anything that this whole ordeal has taught me, it’s that I need her in my life more than ever. That’s why I know I have to ask her…” His mom interrupted him. “Speaking about that. I know how you said you wanted to marry her but are you sure about this?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” He asked hotly, probably a little more hotly than he had intended. “Face it, mother; I’m not some young boy anymore. I know what love is, I know how it feels.” Amy bit her lower lip; she didn’t intend to anger her son, but she managed to do it anyways. “I love her, I want her in my life…” His mother spoke up. “Ask yourself… Does she even know what love is? Does she even know how it feels, what it means to love someone? She is an alien after all,” she watched her son close his eyes, “regardless of what you may think of her.”

David sighed. “I can understand where you’re coming from in that regard but trust me when you see her up and about, you’ll understand. You’ll understand, I know you will.” That, however, didn’t at all put her fears about her son’s future to rest and he knew it. “Trust me, mom,” he reached for his mom’s hand, “I know Alyssia loves me and I know that she’ll say yes.” He put his other hand to his chest. “I know it in my heart.”

The next morning David walked into Alyssia’s hospital room carrying some clothing in a bag. As he approached her bed, she looked up from her datapad that he had brought her the other day.

“Hey there David.” She watched him hold up a bag. “What’s in the bag?”

“Clothing.”

“Give me that!” She exclaimed as she held her arms out for the bag. “I want to get out of this damn hospital gown already.” She looked into the bag as he handed it to her. “Then am I to assume that since you brought me clothing, I’m going to get out of here today.”

“Uh-huh,” he hummed, “that’s the plan. Or at least,” he closed his eyes and sighed, “I hope so.” Just then a nurse walked into the room. “I have some good news,” Alyssia looked up as she was untying the string for her hospital gown, “the doctor checked out your MRI scan and found no abnormalities and since you’re doing so well, you’re ready for discharge. You can leave now.”

“Yes!” She screamed as she pumped her fists as the nurse walked out of the room. “You have no idea how bored I’ve been here. That and I want to sleep in my own bed, not this damn thing,” she leaned over the bed and smacked it, “that feels like the park benches that I slept on back on Zalta.”

“Huh?” David hummed. “You never told me that you were homeless.”

Alyssia rolled her eyes. “What did you think happened to me after I was cast out of my House?” She asked as she let the hospital gown drop to the floor. Meanwhile, he sighed as he thought about how hard her life had been after she was cast out of her House. “I was begging on the streets for scraps from anyone who’d throw me even a little bit of food.” He shuddered to think that she lived that way for years. “I worked odd jobs, sometimes doing the kinds of jobs that no one else wanted to do.”

While watching her get dressed, he couldn’t help but reflect on what she had said about being homeless back on her world. Why didn’t she tell him?

“I have to ask,” he watched her stand up from the bed and fasten her jeans at her waist, “why didn’t you ever tell me about how you were homeless back on Zalta? Why didn’t you ever tell me how you had to beg for food after what happened to you?”

“Because David.” She reached for his shoulders as she stood over him. “I don’t want to focus on what happened in my past. I want to focus on the kind of life that I have now here on Terra, the friends that I’ve made here, and most importantly,” she brought a hand up under his chin and drew him in for a kiss, “you. I have so much more here on Terra than I could’ve ever hoped for, and I want to focus on that instead.”

“But what about what happened to you that wound you up in the hospital?”

“A minor setback.”

He walked up to her, carefully put his arms around her to hold her and as he cupped the back of her head in the palm of his hand, he sniffled. “I’m happy you’re ok,” he felt her nod, “and I’m so sorry that all of this happened to you; you didn’t deserve it. Nobody deserved what you went through.” He backed away from her and tried to smile. “I love you; I want you to be happy.”

“Me too,” she smiled as she closed in for another kiss, “I love you too David. You’ve made me happier than I’ve ever been in my life. And it’s moments like this that’s proven to me that I made the right decision to come here to Terra.” She backed away from him and caressed the sides of his arms. “But can we go now? I want to get out of this hospital already.”

“Sure thing,” he put his arm around her waist and brought her close as they walked out of the hospital room only to find a nurse standing outside with a wheelchair. “Oh, not that damn thing again!” Alyssia exclaimed.

“Hospital policy,” the nurse pointed down at the wheelchair, “in you go. Though,” the nurse turned to David, “you can push her in it if you want.” David, of course, was all too happy to take hold of the handles of the wheelchair to push her along.

“When’s this get-together?” she asked as David pushed her along.

“Sometime this afternoon.”

“Good,” she sighed, “I’d like to go back to our room and take a proper shower.”

As David drove through the streets of Berlin, he looked over at Alyssia who was staring out the window from the passenger seat. He took hold of her hand, but she didn’t do anything in response; she didn’t flinch or say anything, she just stared out into space. “Honey?” He asked. “Are you ok?”

“I don’t know.” She just shrugged. “I suppose that I am, but I don’t know for sure. Pieces and parts are coming back to me.” He came to a stop light and closed his eyes. This was the part of her whole ordeal that he wasn’t looking forward to her having to deal with; the trauma of being beaten and nearly being killed. “Flashes of what happened to me are coming back but what sticks out is something they yelled as they began to beat me. They said and I quote… This is for you dating a human.”

He winced as she said those words. “Honey,” he took hold of her hand, “I’m sorry they said that to you.”

“But why?” She asked as she turned to him. “Why don’t they understand that when you get right down to it, I’m not any different than they are? You understand that; right David?”

“Of course, I do!” He exclaimed as the light turned green. “I’ve believed and known that from the very moment we started dating. I’ve never once cared that you come from another world and most of all,” he squeezed her hand, “as I’ve told you before, I don’t see you as an alien; I see you as the young woman that I love. Yes, it’s true; you may look slightly different than I do but really, those differences are only skin-deep. Inside,” he let go of her hand and put it to his chest, “you’re no different than I am. You want the same things that I do, that any of us want. You want to be accepted and most of all, you want,” he took hold of her hand again, “to be loved and… to love.”

“Then why can’t they see that!” She yelled as she hid her face in her hands and began to cry. “Why can’t more humans see me as you do?” She hid her face in her hands and wept.

He drove into a parking lot and parked after which he took hold of her and held her. “Oh honey,” he kissed the top of her head, “I don’t know.” He shook his head. “I don’t know.” He looked up and closed his eyes as he felt his heart break for her as she cried against him. “God… I wish I did though, I wish I knew.”

“Why?” She cried. “I just want to be happy.” She sobbed bitterly. “I just want some happiness in my life.” She said between sobs. “Is that so much to ask for?” She buried her face in his shoulder and continued to cry.

“I know you do.” He wrapped his arms around her and held her close. “I’m so sorry this happened to you. But you have to be strong,” he held her at arm’s length, “you can’t let it break you or you’ll let the people who did this to you win.” She nodded. “And you don’t want that, right?” She once again nodded at which he took hold of her once again. “Alyssia, my love,” he caressed her back, “I’m not saying that it’s going to be easy, in fact I know it’s going to be hard; but I’m going to be with you, by your side, every step of the way.” He backed away from her. “I promise you that,” he reached up and wiped his eyes, “because I love you and I want you to be happy.”

She took hold of him and once again she began to cry. All he could do was hold the woman that he loved. “Shh,” he caressed her back, “everything will be alright.”

In truth, he didn’t know what to say. What could he say? He had no idea what to do, he had never been in the kind of situation that he had found himself in and he sure as hell wouldn’t wish it upon anyone else for that matter; he just knew that he had to be there for the woman that he loved.

“I’ll be here for you, now and for always.” He kissed the top of her head. “Shh,” he continued to caress her back, “I’ll be there for you. I love you.” He wished that he could take her pain away, but he knew that it wasn’t how things worked. “Shh,” he cupped the back of her head, “I’ll be there for you. I love you, Alyssia.”

“I love you, David,” he felt her hug him, “I wish more people were like you.” She backed away from him. “I wish that more people saw me as you see me.”

“I wish for the same thing,” he hugged her, “I do. For the sake of you and others like you.”

“I’m sorry,” she wiped her eyes with the back of her hand as she let go of him. “I didn’t mean to start crying like I did.”

“Oh honey,” he took hold of her hand, “you have nothing to be sorry about. You had a very traumatic experience that happened to you. You were beaten to the point of being unconscious and for nothing else than for being what you are. Nobody,” he reached forward and took hold of her hand with both of his hands, “would blame you. I don’t blame you. As I said,” he looked down at her hands, “I’ll be there for you. Anything you need, I’ll be there for you.”

“But what about you?” She sniffled.

“That’s the beauty of a relationship, it doesn’t matter what happens in our lives,” he took hold of her hand, “we’re there for each other. No one person in the relationship has the strength to go at life alone. But together?” He smiled as she closed her eyes. “Together we can figuratively move mountains.”

“You know.” He watched her truly smile for the first time since they had left the hospital. “There’s nothing like this back on Zalta. As you’re probably already well aware, women far outnumber men back on Zalta and thus women shoulder much of the burden of running society. That’s not to say that Zaltaen women aren’t capable of shouldering that burden,” she shook her head, “because they are. Zaltaen women have been shouldering the burden of society for centuries, a millennium really. Zaltaens have gone to the stars. Built an empire. Fought a war. Made fantastical scientific and technological breakthroughs.” She looked down at her lap. “But I have to wonder how Zalta would be like if there was more cooperation, more…” David spoke up. “More teamwork?”

“Yeah,” she sighed. “I wonder where we’d be if that happened.”

“Who knows?” David shrugged. “Maybe it wouldn’t have taken nearly a thousand of your years to rebuild your world after you nearly exterminated yourselves much like we did. We recovered in a little over three hundred years and we also,” he raised his hand, “went to the stars. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not discounting what Zaltaens did,” he tried carefully not to say that she was one of them for he knew that she didn’t consider herself one of her people, “because rebuilding one’s society after what Zalta had experienced is a monumental task. Humans did the same thing. However, humans did it together; men and women rebuilt this world and rebuilt our society, we went to the stars and built out a truly intergalactic civilization in a fraction of the time that Zaltaens did.”

“Perhaps,” she too shrugged. “Honestly, we did it to ourselves. Too much inbreeding among the powerful Houses all to hold onto political power led to that happening on our world. We very nearly made our species go extinct… again.”

“When you reduce your family tree to that of a family bush…” Alyssia began to laugh. “Hey,” he took hold of her hand, “I’m happy to see you laugh.” He watched her shake her head slightly, she didn’t know what he meant by that. “It means that you’re well on your way to a full recovery. My mom has a saying in situations like this, laughter is the best medicine.”

“Your mom sounds like a wise woman.” She thought back to when she was still part of her House back on Zalta and how she had someone like that in her life.

“I’ve thought so too.” He thought back to how many times his mother was there for him. “I’ve always looked to my mother in good times and in bad. She’s celebrated with me in good times and has been there for me in the bad, often cried with me. She’s always been the one that I turned to in my life. For instance, when you were lying in that hospital bed, I called her because I knew that she’d be there for me. So yes, she is a wise woman, wise in so many ways.”

“I’d like to meet her someday.”

“And you will.” He touched her hand again. “But we better get back to the university.”

“Yeah,” she held her arms out to him again at which he hugged her again, “thank you David. Thank you for giving me this kind of life, a shot at acceptance and happiness, thank you for being by my side while I was in the hospital, thank you for,” she shrugged, “everything. Despite what recently happened to me, I don’t regret coming to this world.”

“You’re welcome my love,” he caressed her back while holding her, “you’re very much welcome.” He backed away from her. “From now on, we’re a team,” he took hold of her hands, “we’re a team.” She smiled as he held his hands in hers. “You don’t have to go at it alone much like I know that if something were to happen to me, I know you’d be there for me in my time of need.” She nodded. “This is what being married is all about, it’s how my mom and dad are even to this day.”

He put his car into gear and backed out of the parking space and began to drive off.

“I will say one thing,” he came to a stop light, “when the both of us graduate, we’re getting off this damn rock.”

“But I thought you liked Terra.”

“I did,” he pressed the ‘gas’ pedal, “but that was before you were attacked. Now?” He scoffed. “What happened to you soured my opinion of this place. Hell, if there was any university in Human space that had as good of a xenobiology program as this place has, I’d get off this damn rock in a heartbeat and I’d take you with me.”

“Really?” She asked, surprised that he thought that way considering how he often talked about Terra being such a wonderful place to live in the past. “Just like that? You’d take me with you?”

“Uh-huh,” he hummed, “I’d take you away from this place in a heartbeat and build a life with you. But until then,” he glanced at her out of the corner of his eye, “we have to watch out. Keep our eyes open. Be cautious when we’re out and about.”

“Yep,” she took hold of his hand, “that includes you too. You know.”

“That’s why I said we, not just you. I,” he pointed at himself, “have to be cautious as well. And since they already attacked you, I figure that their next target…” Alyssia shouted “Stop!!!” in English to get his attention. She lowered her voice. “Don’t say it! I don’t want to hear it.” She knew that he meant to say he was the next target but after everything that had happened in the last week, she didn’t want to hear it; she couldn’t take it. A moment passed. “What do you suggest?”

“To be honest,” he shrugged, “my best suggestion for all off-worlders like us is to not roam the university campus alone; always take someone with you. That way, if something does happen, you’d have a better chance at surviving an encounter with these people who would do people like us harm.” The car came to a stop in a parking space in front of their dorm. “But we’re back,” she looked out the front window of the car and saw the family surroundings of the university campus around their dorm building.

She reached for the door handle and climbed out of the car only to wince as she grabbed her stomach. “Ow, that hurt.” David ran over to her side of the car to find out why she had yelped only to find her holding her stomach. “Yeah, it’s going to be tender there for a while until you get your strength back.”

“Yeah,” she winced yet again, “who would’ve thought that just trying to get out of a car would be so… painful.” She rubbed her stomach once again. “Damn,” she cussed in English, “that hurt!”

“You alright?” he asked as he put his hands on her shoulders.

“Yeah,” she sighed, “I’m used to not being this…” David butted in. “Weak?” She looked off to the side in embarrassment. “You got stabbed, not once but four times so yeah, it’s going to hurt.” She sighed, though she knew that he was right she still didn’t like it; she liked being more independent, but that little incident proved to her that she would be relying on him more so than ever before. “Your outside wounds may be healed but your abdominal muscles are going to need time to heal and get stronger.”

“Do you have any suggestions on doing that?”

“I’m not sure, didn’t the doctors tell you anything?”

“No,” she shook her head, “they kind of just gave me my discharge papers and that’s that.”

“Can you give me your discharge papers?” he asked as he looked at the papers in her hand. “Let me read them.” She handed the papers to him, and he began to read them. “Hmm,” he hummed as he began to read them. “Interesting. They talk about doing some exercises but as for what kind,” he shook his head in disgust, “they aren’t exactly clear.” He handed the papers back to her. “I’ll do some talking to people that I know on campus and see what they say. We have a whole sports medicine department on campus, maybe they’ll know something that can help you.

“But in the meantime, you’re going to have to take things easy. I know how a lot of your other coworkers where you work often have you do the heavy lifting around the job due to how you’re much stronger you are but until you’re all better, that’s not going to be something you can do.” He put his hand on her back and led her along the sidewalk. “But let’s get you inside, I have a surprise for you.”

“A surprise?” She asked. “What kind of surprise?”

He smirked. “What kind of surprise would it be if I told you what it was?”

“Oh poo.”

“Trust me,” he caressed the back of her neck, “you’re going to love it. Amanda and I did a lot of work while you were in the hospital.”

As they walked into their dorm room that they shared, David walked about the room and shouted ‘Surprise!’ She looked about the room. “Amanda and I worked while you were in the hospital to move our stuff into this room. Though I did tell her that bringing your clothing over was a bad idea…” Alyssia interrupted him. “She did what?!”

“She packed your clothing up and situated it in the closet and the dresser…” Alyssia once again butted in. “I absolutely can’t believe her! What gives her the right to rummage through my stuff?” She watched as David looked down at the floor. “And did you try and tell her not to do that?” She yelled. “Why didn’t you stop her? There are boundaries! How would you like it if someone rummaged through your closet or your… unmentionables?” He gulped at the idea of someone else seeing his clothing like that. “This is a gross violation of my privacy! The only person who can see all of that is,” she pointed at herself, “me and you, David.” He looked up at her as she mentioned his name. “Did you even try and stop her?”

“I didn’t even know she was doing that!” He yelled, perhaps a little louder than he had intended. “I was helping her move your furniture into this place and after we were done, I figured that we were done for the evening and the next thing I know, she walked through that door,” he pointed at the door leading to the hallway, “with all of your clothing bagged up and such. I had no idea that she was going to be doing that or I would’ve stopped her before she had done so. Honest!” He exclaimed. “And I agree with you in that was indeed a gross violation of your privacy. She had no right to go through your clothing like that.”

“You’re damn right she had no right to do that!” She turned about. “I’m going to march down to her place and give her a piece of my mind.”

“Alyssia?” he called out after her just as she reached for the door handle. “Don’t be too hard on her.” She turned her head back to look at him over her shoulder. “She was, after all, just trying to help.” She scoffed as she turned the door handle and walked out into the hallway leaving him standing in the empty room shaking his head. “Damn it,” he cursed, “why didn’t I think that she would do that?” He looked to the floor and shook his head again. “Damn it.”

Meanwhile, Alyssia walked down to her old room where Amanda was still living in. She approached the door and banged on it. “Amanda!” She shouted at which some across the hall opened her door. “What’s going on out here?”

“It’s none of your business.” Alyssia waved her hand at which the young girl retreated into her room and locked her door. “Amanda!” Alyssia shouted again. “Where are you? We have some things to talk about.” The door opened but instead of Amanda standing behind the door, another Zaltaen girl was standing in front of her. “Can I help you?”

“Wait.” Alyssia shook her head. “Where’s Amanda? And for that matter, who are you and why are you here?”

“I’m Solia, Amanda’s dormmate.”

“Huh?” Alyssia shook her head. “Say what?” Her left eyebrow rose.

“I’m Solia, Amanda’s dormmate. I was assigned to this dorm last week. Who are you?”

“Alyssia,” Alyssia put her hand to her chest, “I’m Alyssia.”

Oh,” Solia hummed, “you’re Amanda’s old dormmate, the one that moved in with David. The one that was nearly killed a week ago by some thugs.” All Alyssia could do was nod her head. “Well, after you were assigned to a new place along with your boyfriend, David, I was assigned this place with Amanda.” Alyssia closed her eyes, she wanted to be angry at Amanda but things were starting to make some sense.

“Hey there Alyssia.” Alyssia looked down the hallway in the direction of the voice that called her name only to find that it was Amanda calling after her. “What’s up?”

“Uh,” Alyssia looked down, “I came down here to yell at you about packing up my items but…” Amanda spoke up. “Yeah, about that.” Amanda looked down at the flood and nervously extended one foot forward on the back of her high-heeled shoe. “I’m sorry but the dorm authorities forced me to do that. Please know that I didn’t want to.” She bit her lower lip, closed her eyes, and shook her head. “I begged them to wait awhile, at least until you woke up from your coma, but the university dorm authorities didn’t want to hear it. They said it was nothing…” Alyssia cursed. “Nothing personal?” Alyssia asked as she slammed her hand against the wall making both Amanda and Solia jump. “Great Maker! I was in a coma for fuck’s sake!”

“I know!” Amanda exclaimed. “I tried to tell them that you were in the hospital and that I wanted to wait until you were awake for you to pack your things up, but the dorm authorities wouldn’t hear it. They said that you had enough time to move your stuff into your new place with David well before you ended up in the hospital. They were completely cold and unfeeling about your circumstances.” Alyssia closed her eyes. “I had no choice, I had to pack your clothing up or they would’ve just tossed it all into the trash.”

“The trash?!” Alyssia was shocked. “I was nearly beaten to death and these jokers add insult to injury?” She balled her fist. “What assholes!” She stormed away.

Alyssia!” Amanda shouted after her.

“Amanda,” Solia put her hand on her shoulder, “just let her cool off. She’ll be fine.”

“And just how do you know that?” Amanda asked.

“Easy,” Solia tapped the side of her head, “I’m a telepath.” Amanda shook her head in surprise. “She’s much angrier at the administration of this university than at you. She’s just taking it out on you, don’t be offended by that. Hell…” Amanda looked at her. “Yeah, I suppose that if the roles were switched, I’d be pissed too.” Solia nodded her head. “Damn, I do wish things didn’t go this way.”

Meanwhile, in David and Alyssia’s room, Alyssia stormed into the room. “The trash!” Alyssia shouted at which David looked her way. “If Amanda didn’t pack my things up, I’d be dumpster diving right about now!” She flopped onto the couch and winced as she put a hand on her stomach. “Great Maker!” She screamed. “I was nearly beaten to death but oh no, that’s not enough. No sir! They had to add insult to injury and not give a damn about me.” She watched David’s reaction. “Yes David, they told Amanda that if she didn’t pack my things up, they’d throw it all in the trash even though I was lying in a hospital bed fighting for my damn life!” She let out a high-pitched scream. “I swear to the Great Maker that I hate this university’s administration!”

“Wait until Sofie hears this.”

“Sofie?” Alyssia looked his way. “Sofie Taske? The one that wrote that article in the campus newspaper about how the Blue Earth Movement had their dirty fingers in the operation of this place?” David hummed an ‘uh-huh’. “What about her?”

“Let’s just put it this way,” he handed her his datapad with the real version of Sofie’s article on it from Irida’s website, “the article that’s in the campus newspaper is nowhere close to the real version. The version that’s in the campus newspaper is a heavily redacted version of it, that,” he pointed at his datapad that she was holding in hands, “is the real version. The unadulterated, untainted, pure version.” She was about to begin reading it when David spoke up. “I’ll warn you; it’ll piss you off, but you have to read it.”

Alyssia began again at the beginning of the article and as she continued to read the article, she could feel her blood pressure rise with every paragraph that she read. She came to the end of the article and screamed. “Assholes! They’re all assholes! Every single last one of them!”

“I know,” he took hold of the datapad that was in her hands before she could throw it, “I was as pissed as you are right now.”

“I take it that the university administration doesn’t like this version of her article.”

“No ma’am!” He chuckled. “They’re still trying to find out who leaked the real version of that,” he pointed at his datapad, “article. As you may have seen, the article was written under a pseudonym. They’ve accused Sofie of releasing it yet she’s denying it, she says that someone must have seen the real version while she had her datapad unlocked in the library.”

Smart girl!” she exclaimed. “If they ever found out that Sofie leaked that,” she pointed at the datapad in his hands, “she’d be nailed to the damn wall.”

“For sure!” He exclaimed. “However,” he looked at this datapad and the time was 1300 hours11 PM., “you better get ready for this get-together. It’s already 1300 hours21 PM..”

“Yeah,” she sighed as she put her hands on either side of herself and tried to sit up only to collapse back down on the couch. “David?” she called him. “Can you help me get up? I’m… having some trouble here.”

“Sure.” He gave her his hand and pulled her up from the couch in one swift and smooth motion the likes of which she was rather surprised at. “There you go.” He took her into his arms. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help, as I said… I’m here for you.”

“Yeah.” She sighed. “Let me go take a… hot shower.” She took hold of his hand. “I’m sure that I’m going to need some help.”

“Sure thing.”

As the two of them approached the coffee shop where she worked and where the get-together was, a sense of nervousness came over her as she saw how many people were in the coffee shop through the windows. “I’m nervous, David.”

“Don’t be, honey,” she felt his hand on her back, “they’re just here to welcome you back. Trust me, they all want to see you. Come on,” she felt him nudge her forward, “it’ll be alright.” She felt him nudge her forward again as he reached for the door and opened it upon which Alyssia saw a whole crowd of people that instantly erupted in applause. “See?” He wrapped an arm around her. “And look at that up there?” He pointed up at the ceiling. “It says Welcome Back, Alyssia!” Alyssia meanwhile looked all about at all the people who were clapping and otherwise overjoyed to see her return. She looked to David who nodded. “See? What did I tell you? They’re all here to see you. Go on.” He nudged her forward. “Go on and say something.”

“Um,” she looked down at the floor, “I don’t know what to say.” She felt David come up behind her. “I didn’t expect quite so many people to come out to welcome me back. I didn’t know so many people cared about me.” She reached up and wiped her eyes. “Thank you, thank you to all of you.” She shuddered. “You have no idea how much this means to me. Thank you, to all of you.”

Irida came forward from the crowd of people. “Alyssia,” she approached her, “all of these people here,” she looked back at the crowd of people behind her and extended her arm in the air, “to welcome you back. Many of these people came to visit you and David in the hospital. Many of them also prayed for you and your speedy recovery. They also brought flowers and cards for you. So yes,” she turned back to look at the crowd, “we all wanted to show you how much you mean to the community here on this campus. Suffice it to say Alyssia, you’ve made a lot more friends than you think. If you need anything, someone to talk to about what happened to you, we’ll be here for you.” The whole crowd behind her nodded their heads in agreement. “So, what do you say Alyssia?”

“Again,” Alyssia looked over the crowd of people again, “thank you, to all of you. I never knew how many of you cared.” One by one, each person who was in the crowd came up to her and gave her words of encouragement and otherwise welcomed her back. For Alyssia, it was almost overwhelming to see the outpouring of support for her. Never did she think that anyone thought that much about her, she figured that she was a nobody on campus.

“Alyssia?” Irida came up to her. “If you need any help, any legal help in getting yourself justice, just ask; I know my father’s lawyers will help you. Just ask and I’ll talk to my dad.”

“What would lawyers do?”

Plenty!” She exclaimed. “We here all know that there’s a stink at the top of the administration of this university. Many of us have witnessed favoritism towards people who were born here on Terra and discrimination towards those who were born elsewhere in human space.” Alyssia looked out over the crowd and nearly every one of them nodded their heads. “We’re not trying to discount or trivialize what happened to you, not at all. All I’m saying is that all of us here,” she looked out over the crowd, “are victims in some way. Take Jessie here,” a young woman came forward at which Irida put her hand on her shoulder, “she was passed up many times for a scholarship to come here to this university simply because she was born in Alpha Centauri.” Jessie stepped back. “And then there’s Emily,” she stepped forward, “she was nearly thrown out of a class by a professor that we suspect, but have no concrete proof, is a member of the Blue Earth Movement.” She looked back over the crowd. “All of us here in this space are from elsewhere in human space and we’ve all been discriminated against for one reason or another all because of where we came from. Though we weren’t brutally attacked like you were, we’re all victims here in some way. Us off-worlders have to stick up for each other here,” she closed her eyes and bowed her head down, “no one else will.”

“Again, thank you. Thank you to all of you.”

The crowd was about to disperse when David spoke up. “I have one more thing to do that I’d like to have all of you witness.” He turned to Alyssia and pulled out a small box from his pocket. “Alyssia,” he took hold of her hand, “if there’s anything that these past two weeks have taught me, it’s that life is fleeting; you never know when something bad can happen in your life and take it all away from you. I love you Alyssia.” She blinked her eyes. He put his hands to his chest. “I love you with all my heart. When you were lying in that hospital bed in a comatose state, I felt like my world was falling apart.”

“I love you too David, you mean so much to me. You know that, right?” David nodded. Meanwhile, the crowd of people in the coffee shop gasped because they knew what was about to happen; David was about to ask Alyssia to marry him.

“Alyssia,” he took hold of her hands, “you’re a kind, beautiful woman with a beautiful heart.” She closed her eyes and blushed. “I know that in your life you’ve experienced far too much pain, loss, sorrow, and heartache than anyone should’ve ever had to endure in their life; most of all you. Please Alyssia, don’t ever change; please don’t ever let your past experiences change that kindness that you have deep down inside, don’t let the coldness of cynicism take over.”

He gulped.

“From that first date we had so many months ago, I knew that we’d be together just like this, just like we are today. I know you had your doubts back then,” she sighed as she remembered those doubts of hers like it was yesterday, “but not me. I knew all along that one day I’d be asking you this question.

“Alyssia, I want to give you a life full of happiness, love, and joy; something that I know you’ve not had a lot of in your life. That’s why I have to ask.” He opened the box at which Alyssia saw the ring inside and gasped as she put her hands to her mouth. “Alyssia, will you marry me?”

She smiled as she leaned in for a kiss. “Of course, I will marry you.” She took hold of his face. “I love you.” She whispered as she slowly moved in for the kiss and as their lips touched, the whole crowd erupted in applause.

As the kiss ended, she looked into his eyes. “Thank you, David; you’ve made me the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. I now understand why you wanted to ask me this way and not in the hospital.” Their lips met again as the applause continued. As the seconds passed by, their kiss deepened. “Oh David,” she whispered as the kiss ended, “this is everything I’ve ever wanted ever since I came here to live on Terra; someone to love me for me,” she pointed at herself, “someone who didn’t care who or what I am or what world I came from.”

“I know honey,” he took her into his arms again, “I know; I’m happy to have been the person to give you that kind of experience in your life, you very much deserve it after everything you’ve endured in your life.” He simply held her in his arms while those in the room congratulated them as they walked by them leaving the room empty save for Amanda and the other workers in the coffee shop. David took the ring out of the box. “Alyssia,” she held her hand out, “please accept this ring as a promise to you that one day we’ll be married, and we’ll spend the rest of our lives together.”

Alyssia held her hand out and let David slip the ring onto her finger after which she stared down at it. “It’s beautiful, I love it.” While she was looking down at it, his parents came forward.

“I’m happy you like it.” He motioned for his parents to come closer. “Alyssia?” He put his hands on her shoulders. “Turn around. I’d like you to meet my mom and dad.” Alyssia watched as an older man and woman came walking up to them. “Meet my mom and dad, Amy and Steven.”

“Alyssia?” His mom asked. “It’s so good to see you.” Amy held her arms out to her. “Come here, honey.” Alyssia looked back at David who nodded. “When we heard you were in the hospital, we hopped on the first shuttle flight from Mars. We saw you in the hospital bed. It’s nice to see you up and walking about.” Amy let go of her. “Though I’m sad to admit that I had my doubts about you two.”

“Doubts about what?” Alyssia asked wondering what David’s mom meant by that.

“Whether the two of you could make it work. I was afraid that David was only seeing what he wanted to see in you.” Amy reached for Alyssia’s hands again. “I’m happy to admit that I was wrong in thinking that way. As I watch the two of you interact with each other, I can see how much the two of you mean to each other.”

“I don’t blame you.” Alyssia began. “Honestly, if I were in your shoes, I too,” she slightly nodded her head, “would have some doubts seeing as how I am, after all, an alien from another world.” David rolled his eyes as she once again brought up how she was an alien. Amy, meanwhile, was relieved that Alyssia didn’t hold that against her. “However, believe me when I say this,” she looked to her side where David was standing beside her, “I care a great deal about your son, David.” She turned back to Amy. “I love your son very much. Like David has often told me, I too don’t know what I’d do without him in my life. He’s opened his heart and accepted me into his life,” she felt him put his arms around her waist, “in ways I never thought possible when I first came to this world. Especially after what happened to me back on Zalta.”

Meanwhile, Alydia, Alyssia’s sister was hiding in the shadows sensed Alyssia’s feelings and winced. Could she blame her for feeling the way that she did? No. What the matriarch of the House of Nightshadow did to Alyssia in the past was wrong. She just hoped that her sister would accept the invitation that the new matriarch had for her. Meanwhile, she continued to watch Alyssia interact with the three humans and waited for the right time to come out of the shadows.

“Yes, David did tell me something about how something happened to you on your world and that you had no home to go back to; however, he never did go into detail about what happened to you. I always figured that he never said anything because he felt that it wasn’t his place to tell you.” David nodded. “That’s exactly how I felt. I figured that she’d tell you if she wanted to.”

“I was,” Alyssia looked down at the floor as she began, “disowned, I was cast out of my House.” She looked back up. “I lost everything that I once knew back on Zalta. Everyone that I knew and loved, friends and family alike; figuratively and literally turned their backs on me as I was led out of the Great Hall of my House.” She watched as Amy put a hand to her mouth and gasped. “For the next four years, I spent my life living on the streets of the capital city of Zalta.” Alydia gasped in the shadows; she had no idea that her sister had endured that, or she would’ve tried to help her. “I spent my time scrounging up as much money as I could, sometimes begging for money just to afford to eat that day. I was eventually able to purchase a shuttle ticket to come here to Terra to try and build a new life for myself. I often did jobs that no one else wanted to do. I often went to sleep with the kind of hunger that just gnaws at your bones. By the time I had arrived here on Terra, I was severely malnourished.” She was about to continue when she found herself caught up in Amy’s arms. “Oh, God!” Amy whispered. “Oh, you poor thing,” Amy hugged her close, “nobody should’ve had to live like that.” She cupped the back of Alyssia’s head in her hand. “I’m so… so incredibly sorry you endured that.”

“Me too,” Alyssia sniffled. “I was… skin and bones when I arrived here on Terra.”

Amy continued to rub Alyssia’s back. “Oh my God Alyssia, I’m so sorry that happened to you.” She let go of her and held her at arm’s length. “But you know what?” Alyssia shook her head. “You’re welcome with us. I know we may never be able to replace your real family, but we’d like to at least try.” Alyssia reached up and wiped her eyes and Amy did the same. “Alyssia?” She nodded. “No matter what, you’ll always have a place to stay with us.” She took Alyssia into her arms again and hugged her closely. “Welcome to our family Alyssia, you’ll always have a home to come to with us.”

Meanwhile, Alydia looked on with shock. In truth, she had never really had a very high opinion about humans for like many on her world, she viewed humans as adversarial, oversexualized, greedy, hate-filled, selfish, ruthless, violent, bigoted, and racist. She imagined that she could go on with even more negative words to describe humanity but as she watched her sister not only be accepted by humans but be welcomed as one of their own into their family, she began to wonder if she and others like her of her world were wrong about their view of humanity. Perhaps they needed to come out of their cloistered society and think about truly joining the galactic community.

“Thank you,” Alyssia hugged Amy, “thank you so much.” Steven and David joined Amy in hugging Alyssia. “Alyssia?” Steven asked as Alyssia looked at him. “As my wife has said, you’re always welcome in our home. You’ll always have a place to stay with us.” Amy let go of Alyssia after which Alyssia hugged Steven. “Thank you, Steven.”

As Alydia looked on, she had never seen and sensed her sister to be so happy. In fact, she was happier than she had ever been even when she was still been living on Zalta. She was about to walk away when Amanda walked up to her. “Can I help you?” Alydia shook her head. “No,” she motioned towards the four of them, “I was just watching them.”

“Why?”

“Alyssia’s my sister; I’ve not seen her in years, not since she had been cast out of our House nearly six of your years ago.”

“Your sister?” Amanda asked. “Alyssia never told me she had a sister.”

“I suppose she didn’t.” Alydia shook her head. “But I can see that she’s happy.”

“Oh yes!” Amanda exclaimed. “Alyssia is quite happy. She’s got everything she’s wanted ever since she came to this world.” Amanda looked on as the three of them continued to hug Alyssia. “What are you waiting for? Don’t you want to see your sister? Talk to her?”

“Well, yes,” Alydia paused, “but it doesn’t look like she needs me. She’s doing fine on her own and with the humans who’ve adopted her as one of their own and into their family.” Amanda shook her head. “She may be happy with her newfound family, but I can’t imagine how she’d not want to see her own sister that she’s not seen, as you put it, in six years. I,” she put a hand to her chest, “certainly would if I had a sister.”

“Do you really think that?” Alydia asked as she continued to watch the three of them interact with her sister. “She looks so happy. Maybe I should just go and let her live her new life.” She was about to turn away when Amanda grabbed hold of the fabric of her Zaltaen robe to stop her. “Listen,” Amanda put her hand on her shoulders, “there’s no doubt in my mind that she’d like to see you.” She rubbed the sides of her shoulders.

“You know, you’re not like what I imagined.”

“How so?” Amanda asked.

“Please don’t take it the wrong way but you’re… human.” She shook her head. “This is all so surprising to me, I never thought I’d be treated like this by humans.”

“I take it that you’ve not had…” Alydia shook her head. “No, I’ve not had much experience with humans at all. In fact, this is the first time I’ve spoken English outside of an academic environment.”

“You’re doing fine honey,” Amanda rubbed her shoulders again. “Really. You are. I imagine that your opinion of humans isn’t very high.”

“Sadly, no. However,” she smiled, “I have to admit that your treatment of me is changing my mind about humanity in general.”

“I’m happy to hear that.” Amanda backed away. “I was Alyssia’s dormmate for nearly two years. We’re really good friends too. I consider her one of my best friends. I helped her get a job here on campus, I helped her start dressing more like a human to help her fit in, and most of all,” she pointed over at the four of them, “I helped set her and David up together. In truth, they had been eyeing each other for some time before they had gotten together like they are today; however, neither of them dared to go for it until I kind of forced the issue.”

“Forced?” Alydia asked. “Why would you do that?”

“Sometimes people need to have a bit of a nudge to go in the right direction. As for them,” she glanced over at them again, “they just needed some outside encouragement to get together. That’s all. In the end,” she shrugged, “I was right about the two of them. They hit it off quite easily right from the very beginning. Some would even say that they were made to be together. Those two,” she pointed at the two of them, “are proof that love can transcend species. I’ve never seen a more perfect couple.”

“Really?” Alydia continued to watch them from afar.

Yeah!” Amanda exclaimed. “After Alyssia was attacked, it didn’t matter to him if or when she would wake up, David was by her bedside while she laid in her hospital bed every chance he had. If that’s not a sign that he cares a great deal for her, I don’t know what is. They both care for each other. That’s why I said, it’s like they’re made to be together.”

“I suppose so.” Alydia rubbed her chin. “I’m happy to see that my sister has made such a great life for herself here on Terra among humans.” She turned to look at the door. “I’m going to go. It’s been nice talking to you.”

Oh no!” Amanda shook her finger at her. “You’re not getting away that easy. Not at all!” She grabbed hold of her robe. “We’re going to see your sister.” Alydia sighed; like with most humans, she figured that she wouldn’t win the argument for she knew humans to be quite stubborn.

“Hey, Alyssia?” Amanda called to her as they approached them. “I have someone here who’d like to see you.” She looked back at Alydia. “What’s your name miss?”

“Alydia.”

As Alydia mentioned her name, Alyssia gasped. “It can’t be. No. It just can’t be.” She whispered. Amy let go of Alyssia who turned to Alydia. “Oh, Great Maker.” She whispered. “It’s you. It’s really you.” Alydia nodded as she held her arms out only to have Alyssia run up to her and catch her up in a hug. “Oh, Great Maker, it’s really you.”

“Yes Alyssia, it’s really me.”

“But why?” Alyssia backed away from her. “When did you arrive? Why haven’t you tried to contact me all these years?”

“It’s not exactly like you made it easy to find you, it took me months to find you after I heard rumors that you were here on Terra. It’s really only because of a website that someone named Irida runs that I was able to find out about where you were. As for why I came here, well… I heard you were hurt.”

“Yes, I was. I was hurt pretty badly. I almost died.”

“Alyssia.” Alydia took her sister into her arms again. “I’m happy you’re ok.” Just then David walked up beside Alyssia. “Who’s this?”

“David?” Alyssia turned to him. “This is my sister, Alydia. I’ve not seen her in years.”

“Why are you speaking Zaltaen to…” she didn’t finish the sentence when David spoke up. “Hello Alydia, I’m David; Alyssia’s boyfriend. I’m pleased to meet you.”

“Was he,” Alydia pointed at David, “just speaking Zaltaen?”

“Uh-huh,” he hummed. “I am speaking Zaltaen. I learned the language as part of a xenobiology program here at the university and of course, Alyssia helped me master the language. These days, I speak with her in nothing but Zaltaen.”

“You’re very good, I can hardly tell that you’re not a native speaker.”

“Thank you,” David bowed before her much like what Zaltaen culture dictated to do when giving thanks to someone, “I’ve worked very hard to learn the language and of course, your culture.”

“That’s very… interesting.”

“Who’s this?” Amy came up behind David with a cup of coffee in her hands.

“This,” Alyssia put an arm around her sister much to Alydia’s discomfort, “is my sister, Alydia; I’ve not seen in years. Say hello to Amy and Steven, David’s parents.”

“Hello Alydia,” Amy extended her hand forward, “I’m pleased to meet you.” Alydia nervously took hold of Amy’s hand and shook it like she was taught to do so. “Welcome. When did you arrive here on Terra?”

“I just arrived here a short time ago, an hour or two ago.”

“You must be famished!” Amy put her arm around her shoulders much to her discomfort, but she didn’t want to let her know that for she didn’t want to embarrass her. “We were thinking that since we’re going to be leaving to go back to Mars later on this evening,” a look of hurt came over David’s face, “maybe we can all go out to dinner before we depart.”

“Oh no,” Alydia tried to protest, “I wouldn’t want to impose on all of you. I can eat at the consulate.”

“Nonsense!” Amy exclaimed. “We’re inviting you to have dinner with us, I wouldn’t have invited you if we didn’t want you to come along with us. Please,” Amy took hold of Alydia’s hand, “come with us. We’d love to have you at our table.”

“But you don’t know me.”

“True,” Amy looked into Alydia’s eyes, “but we’d like to get to know you. And how else would one do that if one didn’t take the time to do just that? So please,” she looked down at her hands, “come join us. We would love to have you at our dinner table.”

“Amanda?” Alyssia called to her as she was about to walk away. “Would you also like to come with us?”

“Who’s Amanda?” Amy asked as Amanda came back over to them.

“Amanda here,” Alyssia walked up to her and put an arm around her shoulder, “is one of my best friends here on campus. She’s been an amazing help to me. She’s helped me adjust to living among humans by helping me with my English, getting me a job, showing me how to better act among humans,” she began to laugh, “because trust me, when I came here, it was so damn obvious that I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. Right, Amanda?” Amanda rolled her eyes. “And then there’s how David and I are together, if it weren’t for Amanda here nudging me in the right direction, David and I wouldn’t be together like we are today.” She looked up at David. “Isn’t that right honey?”

“Yes,” he acknowledged Alyssia. “And not only that but Amanda was a big help while you were in the hospital. She helped keep me grounded and not fly off the rails.” He watched Amanda close her eyes. “Oh, but you were a big help to me.” He walked up to her and hugged her. “You helped me stay sane at a time in my life that I didn’t know how to. You helped me in what was the most difficult time in my life. I don’t know how to thank you.”

“Hey,” Amanda rubbed his back, “as I told you when all of this began… What are friends for if you can’t lean on them in times of trouble like this?”

“Yeah,” David hugged Amanda tightly. “I remember.” He once again hugged her. “Thank you.”

“It looks like you have made a lot of friends here on campus,” Amy spoke up. “Yeah, I have,” David answered her, “I’ve met a lot of good people here mom. Great people, in fact.”

“That’s great to hear.”

“But why are you guys so quick to want to go back home?” David pleaded. “I don’t see you two very much! I miss you two. Can’t you stay here a little longer?”

“You know we can’t do that.” The look on Amy’s face softened. “Both your dad and I have jobs to go back to. As for you missing us, that just means when the semester is up, you should come home to visit us and,” she put her arm around Alyssia’s shoulder, “we’d love to have Alyssia visit as well.” She kissed her cheek. “We’d love to have you.”

As the meal came to an end, Alydia began to think about how her people often thought about humanity and all of their prejudices and negative opinions about them. Yet, as she sat around the table and watched them talk with each other, even laugh with each other, she began to see that what she and her people often thought about humanity was wrong.

Firstly, there was how David was interacting with her sister; he was lovingly holding her hand and otherwise was attentive to her needs be it reaching for something on the table when something was out of reach or just simply being there for her. And then there was how Steven and Amy were talking to both herself and Alyssia and otherwise making them both feel as if they were welcome at the table. It was all so very different from all of the preconceived notions that she had for humanity.

“Excuse me?” Alydia spoke up at which the others at the table put their utensils down and looked at her. “I must admit that I came to this world with many preconceived notions, prejudices, and a rather negative view about humanity.” The others at the table looked about at the others sitting at the table. “And I must admit that I was wrong.” She looked down at the table. “I was wrong about everything.” She paused. “Amy?” She reached for her hand. “Thank you, thank you so very much for inviting me to this table and allowing me to take part in this meal with all of you. You, most of all, have opened my eyes to the best of what humanity is capable of.

“And then there’s you, David,” she looked to him across the table. “I can’t help but see how much you care about my sister. You’ve made her very happy, happier than I’ve ever seen her, and I thank you for that.

“And finally, there’s you Amanda.” She took hold of Amanda’s hand as she looked at her. “If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t have had the courage to meet my sister for the first time in nearly six of your years. Thank you, thank you so very much. You have no idea how much it means to me to have finally had the chance to see and talk with my sister after so long.” She looked about the table. “All of you here at this table have made a lasting change to how I see humanity.

“When I go back to Zalta tomorrow morning, I will take this experience that I’ve had with all of you to the Great Hall of my House, The House of Nightshadow, and proclaim to all that will hear me and not only that but all of your names will be highly spoken of. And if there is anyone here at this table that would like to come to see my world, don’t hesitate to ask, I will arrange it for you to come. All expenses will be paid including food, transportation, lodging, and not only that but you’ll be treated as guests of honor among those of my House.”

The others at the table looked at each other and thought about the prospects of being able to go to Zalta and be treated with such honor. Meanwhile, Alyssia closed her eyes and looked down as she once again thought about how she had been cast out of her House.

“As for you Alyssia, my sister, I’ve not forgotten about you. I’ve saved the best for last.” Alyssia looked up. “A great many things have changed back on Zalta since you’ve been exiled from our world and our House. Six months ago, the matriarch of the House of Nightshadow died.”

Alyssia scoffed. “Good!” She exclaimed. “As humans say, ding-dong the witch is dead.”

Alyssia!” Amanda exclaimed. “I’m shocked that you would say that! Have some respect for the dead.”

“She had none for me when she had me cast out of my House…” Amanda spoke up. “But still! It’s not nice to talk about the dead like…” She stopped mid-sentence when Alydia took hold of her hand. “I don’t blame her, not one bit. She was wronged by our past matriarch.” She looked to Alyssia. “With that being said, a new matriarch has been appointed and a new way of doing things has arisen in our House. Instead of only one person, the matriarch, being in charge of our House, there’s a new matriarchal council to help guide and otherwise advise the matriarch in her day-to-day decisions.”

“Why do you keep saying ‘our House’?” Alyssia made an air-quotes gesture with her fingers. “Remember, I was cast out of the House; I am a Zaltaen without a House. I have no honor among Zaltaens.”

“Because Alyssia.” She reached for her sister’s hand. “The new matriarch has seen fit to fix the wrongs of the past and make things right.” A look of shock came over Alyssia’s face as she gasped. “That’s right my sister,” she nodded, “as of six months ago, your name and your title have been restored. You are now one of us again. You are now a member of the House of Nightshadow in name and title once again.”

“You’re kidding.”

“No,” Alydia shook her head, “I’m not kidding. You’re now once again part of the Great Zaltaen House of Nightshadow. Hold your head high my sister, you are now one of us again.”

Amy looked to her son and began to worry about his future relationship with Alyssia. Would she leave David to go back to her world now that she had the chance? She didn’t have to wait long for an answer to that worrying question.

“But what about my life here on Terra? What of my relationship with my David?” Alyssia asked. “If the matriarch thinks that I’m going to leave all of what I have here on Terra, the life that I’ve built, all the people that I’ve grown quite fond of and of course,” she turned to David, “love, she’s sadly mistaken. I won’t leave Terra or my friends behind and I certainly won’t leave,” she squeezed his hand as she once again looked to him, “my David.”

Amy was instantly relieved to hear that from Alyssia.

“The matriarch foresaw you saying exactly that. That’s why,” she reached into her pocket and pulled out a plastic card and handed it to her sister, “she instructed me to give this to you.” Alyssia reached for and took hold of the plastic card and studied it; there was a seal of the House of Nightshadow along with her name on it. “If there are any expenses that you have while here on Terra, the matriarch has said that you can use this card to pay for them; it’s connected to an account in your name that will have a monthly stipend put in it.”

“I don’t know what to say.” she said as she stared at the card in her hands.

“Say thank you, that would be enough.”

“Thank you,” Alyssia reached for her sister’s hand, “thank you so very much. You have no idea what this means to me.”

“The matriarch has given me only one thing to say when it comes to the use of that card.”

“And what’s that?”

“Let me see if I can get the translation correct… I believe it is said, don’t go being stupid with that card.” Alyssia began to laugh at which David too chuckled. “You can take this message back to the matriarch, I will only use this card in emergencies.”

“I don’t think that that’s what the matriarch intended, I believe that she only means that she wants you to be responsible with the use of that card.” Alyssia nodded as she looked at the card in her hand again. “As for me telling the matriarch that, you can tell her yourself.” Alyssia looked up. “That’s right, expect a call from her later on this evening.” She watched Alyssia’s jaw drop open. “Yes, my sister, she wants to talk to you; she wants to find out if you’re alright, that you’re safe and happy. All she needs is a good way to contact you.”

“Of course!” Alyssia nodded as she fished in her purse and pulled out her datapad and tapped a few buttons on her screen. “Here’s my contact information, you can just scan the QR Code on my screen.”

“Right,” Alydia smacked her forehead, “I forgot.” She reached into her pocket and fumbled with the controls of her datapad until she found the app she needed and activated the camera on the front of it and scanned the QR Code that was on Alyssia’s screen. “Good, I’ve added your contact data.” She looked down at her screen again. “I’m going to send your contact information to the matriarch. Expect a video call from her tonight.”

“What about us?” Amanda asked. “You said that if we wanted to visit your world, all that we needed to do was contact you.”

“Oh right!” Alydia tapped her screen a few times to show a QR Code on her screen. “Here all of you, please scan it and add me to your address book.” The others at the table scanned the front of her datapad including her sister, Alyssia. “And yes, I’m not kidding. If any of you want to come to visit Zalta, don’t hesitate to call me and I’ll arrange everything for you to come.” Just then another Zaltaen came up to the table. “I’m sorry but this is my ride, I have to get back to the consulate.”

“Alydia?” Amy spoke up. “Wait.” Amy stood up from the table and held her arms open. “Come here Alydia, I want to give you a hug before you leave.” Alydia walked up to her and put her arms around Amy upon which Amy too put her arms around her and hugged her. “It was an absolute pleasure to meet you and I’d love to talk to you some other time.”

“The honor of meeting all of you has been all mine.” Alydia stood back from her. “It’s been an absolute honor to have this opportunity to sit at this table and have dinner with all of you. You really have changed my view of humanity and it would be an honor to sit down with all of you again in the future.” As she said that, a waitress walked up to the table with a piece of paper in her hands at which Alydia looked at it. “I’ll take care of this.” Alydia looked down and pulled out a plastic card much like the one that she had handed to Alyssia. “I’ll cover dinner.” The waitress took the card from her and tapped it against her datapad. “If there’s anything else that any of these wonderful people want, please add it to my bill.” With that Alydia walked off leaving the rest of the people sitting at the table.

“Do you have to leave right now?” David asked, more like pleading as they walked out of the restaurant. “I barely see much of you; can’t you stay another week? There’s so much we can do.” Alyssia touched his shoulder. “You know David, we have class work to do, and I can’t imagine how much work I have to make up since I was in the coma for a week.”

“Alyssia’s right,” Amy held her arms open to her son, “I know son. I wish we could stay longer too but your dad and I have to get back to our lives.” David sighed as he hugged his mom. “I miss you too David.” She let go of him. “That just means that when it comes to the end of the semester, you have to come home. Right, David?” He nodded as he reached up and wiped his eyes.

“Come here son,” Steven held his arms open to his son and hugged him. “When the semester is up, come home and visit us.” He patted his son on his back. “And be sure to bring Alyssia with you.” He watched Alyssia look up as he said that. “Yes Alyssia, we weren’t joking. You’re welcome at our place.”

“Alright,” Steven let go of his son, “I’ll be sure to bring Alyssia with me when I come home.”

“Goodbye son,” Amy held her arms open again and hugged him once again. “And Alyssia?” She opened her arms to her. “I’d love to have you come with David too.” Amy wrapped her arms around her and hugged her. “You’re welcome at our place anytime, you’re already practically family.”

“Yeah,” Alyssia felt Amy rub her back, “I’d like that, I’d like that very much.” Amy let go of her. “You get better Alyssia. Let David take care of you, don’t overstrain yourself. You hear me?” Amy pointed at her. “We want you to get better, get stronger. Got it?”

“I will,” Alyssia nodded, “I’ll let David take care of me.”

“Good,” Amy held her arms open to her again, “I look forward to seeing you again.”

“Yeah,” Alyssia nodded against her shoulder, “I want to see you as again as well.” Amy let go of her. “Take care of yourself.” Amy rubbed Alyssia’s shoulder gently.

“I will,” Alyssia smiled. Amy was about to turn away from her when Alyssia took hold of her again. “I’m so glad that you accepted me. I know you didn’t have to but I’m happy you did.”

“Oh honey,” Amy hugged her again, “it’s my pleasure. Goodbye.” Alyssia let go of her and waved as Amy climbed into the car and they drove away.

Alyssia came up behind David and hugged him from behind. “It just means that when the semester is up, we’ll have to go see them.” David looked down at Alyssia’s hands that were around his waist. “And I do want to go see your parents and spend time with them. They’re really good people. I’m happy that they accepted me like they have.”

“Yeah,” he took hold of her hands that were around his waist, “yes, they are. They’re very good people. That’s why I wanted you to meet them, I knew that they’d accept you.”

“Alright you two,” Amanda looked up at the sky and the sunset in the distance, “we better get back to campus. It’s going to get dark soon and with what happened to Alyssia, I really don’t want you two out and about on campus after dark.”

“Yeah, that’s a good idea.” David reached into his pocket and pulled out his key fob and pressed a button on it to unlock his car. “Let’s get back to campus.” Alyssia climbed into the front seat while Amanda climbed into the back seat. “You two buckled up?” The two women nodded. “Alright,” he put his car’s gearshift into reverse and looked at the backup camera’s view screen and pulled out of the parking space and drove away.

Later that evening, Alyssia was sitting on the couch thinking about what had happened at dinner. She finally had what she had always wanted ever since she had come to Terra, namely that her name and title had been restored on Zalta and that she was once again part of the House of Stormfeather. But as she thought about it, she began to worry.

She knew what her sister had told her at the dinner table that evening but did she really mean it? Would she have to give up some things? Would she have to leave the university? She looked down at the ring on her finger and closed her eyes as she thought about having to give up her relationship with David. Meanwhile, David was across the room finishing up arranging some things in their room along with preparing for the next day. David didn’t at all seem worried, not even in the least bit.

“How can you be so calm about all of this?” Alyssia looked up from her datapad that was in her hands. David meanwhile shrugged. “This is our future together that’s hanging in the balance.”

“Honey,” he sat down next to her and put his arm around her, “I’m not worried because no matter what, I know things will work out.”

“I wish I had your confidence in this matter.” She looked down at her datapad once again. “Ring!” She exclaimed. “Ring damn you!” David chuckled. “I don’t understand why you’re so worried, what will be will be.”

“David!” She exclaimed. “Again, this is our future that’s hanging in the balance here! She, as my matriarch, could order me to leave this university!” She cried. “I don’t want that.”

“She could do that?” David asked as he rubbed her shoulders. “How? Why?”

“She’s the matriarch!” Alyssia exclaimed. “To use a human phrase… when she says jump, people jump and ask how high on the way up. At least,” she looked down at the datapad in her lap, “that’s how it was when I was still on Zalta under the old matriarch. I have no,” she shook her head as she continued to speak, “idea how this matriarch is like. Hell, I have no idea who this matriarch is. I have no idea what to expect in all of this.”

“Then don’t work yourself up,” he caressed her back, “who knows, you could be working yourself up over nothing. You won’t know until you know. Right?” He moved in to kiss her cheek, but she turned away. “Alyssia, I think you’re worried about something just for the sake of worrying about something.” Just then her datapad began to ring. “Well,” he pointed at the datapad, “I guess you have a call to take.”

“Yeah,” she shuddered, “I do.” She looked down at her datapad and tapped the notification that had slid down from the top to take the call and on the screen was her matriarch. “Hello Alyssia, it’s so good to finally talk with you.”

“Ayenda?” Alyssia asked. “Is that you? Are you the new matriarch?”

“Yes, my child. I am the new matriarch of our House.” She could feel a sense of worry lift from her shoulders as she realized that it was her aunt that was the new matriarch of the House. She could reason with her aunt, unlike the old matriarch that had an almost outright hatred for her and others like her from that side of the House. “I can sense that you’re relieved to see that I’m the new matriarch of the House instead of someone else.”

“Yes, I am relieved.” She sighed. “I was worried, quite worried in fact.”

“About what my child?”

“I was worried that you would demand me to come back home to Zalta.” She watched her matriarch’s facial expression as she said that. “I have people that I’ve grown quite fond of here on Terra, a lot of them I even call my friends; I don’t want to leave them.”

“Are you happy living on Terra?”

Yes!” Alyssia exclaimed. “I’m quite happy living here.”

“Then that’s all I need to know.” Alyssia closed her eyes as she heard that. “You may stay on Terra for as long as you wish, and you may stay at the university that you’re at. Though I would like you to come home to Zalta at some point. Things have changed here and I’m sure that you’d appreciate and approve those changes.”

“I will,” Alyssia nodded. “There is one thing I have to tell you though.” She took hold of David’s hand. “I’m involved with someone here on Terra, his name is David.”

“Yes, my child; I already know about your relationship with him.”

“You already know?” Alyssia was shocked. She had to wonder how she could know. “But how?” She asked, still overcome with a shock that someone thousands of light years away could know something about her personal life.

“Your sister told me, she seemed to have learned it from a website run by someone named Irida who goes to the human university that you’re attending.” Alyssia closed her eyes and hung her head low. “So yes, I already know how you’ve been involved in a relationship with a human named David. I even know how the two of you shared what humans call a kiss.”

“You know about that?!” Alyssia exclaimed, which made David nearly jump. She was thoroughly embarrassed that her matriarch already knew that about her life, she wished to have been the one to tell her instead of her learning about it through other means.

“Let’s just say that I have my informants on Terra.” Alyssia sighed. “I take it from your reaction that something has recently changed in your relationship with David?” Alyssia held her hand up and put it inside the view of the camera of her datapad. “Yes, my matriarch. Something has most definitely changed.” She pointed to the ring. “David asked me to marry him.” She watched her matriarch’s eyebrow raise. “And I said yes. I want to marry him. I want to be with him. He’s made me happier than I’ve been in a very long time.”

“I can tell, I can tell in how you’re talking about him and how your facial expressions changed when you mentioned that he asked you to marry him.”

“With that being said, as David has so many times told me in the past, I can’t imagine my life without him in it. I can’t leave him; I won’t leave him…” Her matriarch interrupted her. “Who said that I was asking you to leave him? Your sister should have told you that.” Alyssia watched her matriarch smile. “Alyssia, I can see how much he means to you.” Alyssia looked down at her lap. “I’d never ask you to give him up for anything. I’m not the cold, heartless, and bitter person who cast you out of our House so long ago.” Alyssia looked back up. “I’m not like that at all so no,” she shook her head, “I’m not going to ask you to leave this David. Not now and certainly, not ever.” Alyssia watched as her matriarch smiled.

Meanwhile, David across the room nodded; he knew that things were going to work out just fine between the two of them long before Alyssia heard herself.

“Though I do have to ask you to do me a favor.”

“And what is that my matriarch?” Alyssia asked as a sense of worry came over her.

“I’d like to talk with this David that you’ve chosen to be with.” Alyssia let out a small sigh and looked up and called to David. “Please come over here, my matriarch wants to talk to you.” When she heard the word ‘alone’ from her matriarch, she immediately looked back at the screen. “Why?” Alyssia asked. “Why do you want to talk to him alone? Is there something that…” She wasn’t able to finish the sentence. “There are some things that you don’t need to know my child, and this is one of them. As the matriarch of our House, it is my prerogative to talk to David as I see fit.” Alyssia looked to David as he came over to sit down next to her and handed the datapad to him and did as she was told by her matriarch, she walked into their bedroom that David and her shared. Meanwhile, David gulped as he stared into the datapad, and on the screen was the picture of the matriarch of Alyssia’s House. “Ayenda is it?”

“Yes,” Ayenda replied in English for she did not know that David spoke Zaltaen yet. “It is I, Ayenda.”

“What would you like to talk with me about?” He asked in Zaltaen which took Ayenda completely by surprise. “Yes Ayenda, I know how to speak your language.”

“Has Alyssia left the room?” Alyssia looked over at David as she opened the door to the bedroom that they shared and as the door closed, David sighed. “Tell me, David, how did you go about learning our language?”

“I’m part of the Xenobiology program here at this university and part of the program is the requirement to learn the Zaltaen language to pass the program. In the time that I’ve gotten to know Alyssia,” he looked up from the datapad and at the now closed bedroom door, “Alyssia taught me even more about the language and helped me to fully grasp it. These days, I speak with her in nothing but Zaltaen, even in our day-to-day conversations. Alyssia’s sister, when she met me and found out that I spoke the language, told me that she was quite surprised much like you are. She said she could hardly tell that I was not a native speaker.”

“Yes, you speak the language quite well my child. It’s not an easy language for outsiders to pick up but I have to admit, you speak it quite well. You do, however,” she smiled to try and reassure him, “have an accent that I’m sure comes from how you’re a native English speaker.” David closed his eyes. “Oh no, my child. That’s not a bad thing, I applaud you for wanting to learn our language and learn more about our people. Not many humans have chosen to do so. However, when you say that you are part of a xenobiology program at your university, what are some things that are covered in your classes?”

“A big part of the program is teaching us that alien biospheres can be very different from that of say, Terra. We discuss things like how alien worlds may have different forms of plant life and different atmospheres, but there’s also a rather sizable portion of the program that discusses Zaltaen society, how your monarchy came to be formed, and other various things like proper etiquette and decorum to be followed if one were to ever find themselves on Zalta or among those of your people.”

“I see,” Ayenda breathed in. “I have to ask; how did you meet Alyssia?” He then went on to explain how he had met Alyssia. “We met in a coffee shop on campus…”

Meanwhile, Sofie was minding her own business while lounging in her room with her dormmate when out of the corner of her eye, she saw something shoved under her door. She got up to look and that was when she saw a manilla envelope with the words ‘You have got to see this!’.

“Hmm,” Sofie hummed, “this is strange.” She stooped down to pick the envelope up and felt around the envelope only to find that there seemed to be what felt like a USB Flash Drive in it. “Hmm,” she hummed again as she opened the envelope and sure enough, there was a USB Flash Drive in it. “I wonder what’s on this thing.”

She walked back over to her couch, picked her datapad up, and plugged it in. “Better do a scan on this thing before I open anything on it. She opened her antivirus scanner program and do a full scan of the files on the drive, all six files. “Only six files. That’s strange.” She opened the file explorer and found some image files, an audio file, and a simple text file. She double-tapped the text file to open it and began to read it.

Sofie, you’re going to want to see this. This is the kind of information that you’ve been looking for, the kind of information you need to uncover what’s really going on at the top here at this university. Below are the names of the four people who attacked Alyssia. Everything will be explained in the files on this drive. Don’t try and find me or contact me, I’ll deny everything.

Matthew Dean
Lucas Cortot
Niko Hautzig
Kacper Sekula

PW

“Hmm,” Sofie hummed again as she closed the text file and opened one of the image files and gasped as she clasped her hands to her mouth. “Sofie?” Her roommate, Layla, looked over and saw the image on her screen. “That’s the president of the university!”

“Yes, I know!” Sofie exclaimed. “And that’s,” she pointed at her screen, “that’s Mathias Kleiber! He’s a known high-level member of the Blue Earth Movement! What the hell is she doing with him!” She minimized the image and opened the movie file that was on the drive.

“Unfortunately, those students that I sent to take out Alyssia failed in their duty; she survived. When things calm down, I’ll make sure that Alyssia is dead by the end of the semester.” Mathias Kleiber nodded. “For a pure and blue Earth.” Sofie gasped. “For a pure and blue Earth.” The university president replied.

“Oh my God!” Sofie closed the video. “The president of this university is in league with the Blue Earth Movement.”

“Well, you knew that!” Layla exclaimed as she leaned back on the couch.

“I had my suspicions,” Sofie looked at the pictures which were even more shocking, “but I never had the proof until now. I have to get these to someone who I can trust to authenticate these. I have to know if these were edited or doctored in any way.”

“Who are you going to send them to?” Layla asked.

“Who else?” Sofie shrugged. “Irida. She knows people in her father’s company that can authenticate these.” She stood up from the couch. “I’ll be back, I’ll drop these off at Irida’s place, and afterward, I’m going to stop by David and Alyssia’s place and apologize for why I wasn’t at the coffee shop to welcome Alyssia back.”

“But who sent this stuff to you?”

“With the initials PW, I can only think of one person, the president’s secretary. Phoebe Walsh. Of course, as you can see,” Layla leaned in, “she told me to not contact her, or she’ll deny everything.”

“Sounds like she’s nervous.”

“You would be too!” Sofie exclaimed. “That woman can ruin Phoebe’s life in a heartbeat.” Sofie got up from her couch. “But anyway, I’m off to see Alyssia and David; I just hope that they’re home, I heard that they went out to dinner with David’s parents who had come in from Mars.”

“Mars?” Layla asked. “Damn, that’s a long trip.”

“Shorter than mine!” Sofie exclaimed.

David knocked on his bedroom door. “It’s ok, I’m off the video call with your matriarch.” The door opened and Alyssia was standing in the doorway. “What did she want to talk to you about? What kind of questions did she ask of you?”

“Oh,” he took hold of her hand, “she just wanted to know how we met, what I think of and feel for you, that kind of thing.” She sat down on the couch next to him and took hold of his hand. “She wants us both to come to Zalta to see her.”

“Uh oh,” Alyssia deadpanned, “what did you tell her?”

“I told her that when the semester is up, there’s a three-month period of time between semesters. I told her that during the first half, I planned on taking you to see my parents, and then the other half, we’d come to Zalta and spend the remainder of the off time on Zalta, and then we’d have to come back to Terra.”

“And she accepted that?”

“She was disappointed that I didn’t plan to come for the whole three months but she understood why.” He patted her knee. “I have always wanted to see your world. I mean, I’ve seen pictures of it but seeing it up close and personal, it ought to be a treat.”

“Zalta 4-B, we’ll be visiting Zalta 4-B.”

“Yes, yes, I know,” he scoffed as he waved his hand in the air, “I know about the planetary makeup of your solar system. Zalta 4-A has too high of a gravity well for humans.”

“That’s correct, for you it would be like tying a stone around your neck and telling you to walk uphill; your bodily systems wouldn’t be able to handle it. And besides, Zalta 4-B is so much prettier than Zalta 4-A. It isn’t called the premier vacation spot in all of Zaltaen space for nothing you know. But anyways,” she took hold of his hand that was resting on her knee, “now that I’m part of the House of Nightshadow again, I’m kind of looking forward to it. I have so much to show you like the waterfalls of the Quan Lagoon, the ski slopes of Mount Camray, and the sunset from the very grounds of my House’s estate. Believe me, it’ll take your breath away.”

“Ski slopes?” His eyes widened. “Why didn’t you tell me?! I look forward to it.” He smiled as he leaned in for a kiss but as their lips were about to meet, the door chimed. “Damn it,” he chuckled, “what horrible timing.” Alyssia chuckled as he stood up from the couch. “Don’t get up and don’t lose that thought, I’ll get the door.”

David reached for the door and opened it to find Sofie standing behind it. “Sofie!” David held his arms open to which she graciously accepted the hug. “What are you doing here?” He asked as he let go of her.

“Well for one,” she walked in as David put a hand on her shoulder as she saw that Alyssia was sitting on the couch, “I’m sorry I wasn’t at your welcome back thing at the coffee shop. I had a meeting with one of my professors and I couldn’t get out of it. You understand. Right?”

“Of course, Sofie.” She patted the couch cushion next to her at which Sofie sat down on the couch after which she crossed her legs in front of herself and gave her skirt a bit of a tug. David meanwhile pulled a chair up close. “I’ve had those kinds of meetings with my professors in the past and so has my David, we don’t blame you.”

“Thank you.” Sofie moved to face Sofie and pulled her legs up on the couch. “Before coming here, I had an envelope shoved under my door, and in it was a USB Flash Drive. I, of course, looked at the contents of the drive and found some seriously damning evidence. There was a video of the president of this,” she pointed at the floor with her finger, “university in a secret meeting with Mathias Kleiber, a known high-level member of the Blue Earth Movement, and not only that but she was the one that put out a hit on you.”

“You’re kidding me,” David exclaimed.

“No,” Sofie shook her head and sighed, “it seems that the president of this university wanted to make you an example of what happens to Zaltaens who attend this university. I even have the names of the suspects that attacked you.” David’s eyebrow raised. “Now I have several pictures, a video, and an audio recording as well but I have to have them verified for authenticity to make sure that they weren’t either photoshopped or deep-faked.”

“What will you do with this information if it does turn out to be authentic?” David asked.

“I’ll do what any good reporter does, report on it; write an article and release it and demand that the president of this university resigns.”

Sofie!” Alyssia exclaimed. “That’ll put a target on your back! The last thing I want to happen to you is for you to have a hit put out on you.”

“I’ve already got a target on my back!” Sofie exclaimed. “Even though there’s no credible evidence linking me to the leaked article, I still receive dozens of death threats in my email Inbox.” David’s eyebrow raised. “Besides, as my Investigative Journalism professor once said, if you don’t have a target on your back you aren’t doing your job. I’m a reporter, I’m not here to make friends; the truth must be set free if all of us off-worlders are going to be safe here on this campus and that includes all of us in this room. It’s very clear that those in the administration of this university have contempt for anyone who’s not been born here on Terra.”

“I wish this had gone a different way.”

“I wish it were too Alyssia, I wish too. However,” Sofie reached for Alyssia’s knee, “the important thing is that you’re alive, safe, and you’ve come back to us.” Sofie held her arms out to her and offered her a hug. “Sofie,” the two women engaged in a hug, “I’m so glad you’re up and about.”

“Me too Sofie,” Alyssia nodded against Sofie’s shoulder, “me too.”

“Yeah.” Sofie backed away from her and that’s when she saw the ring on Alyssia’s hand. “Say.” Sofie took hold of Alyssia’s hand and looked at it closely. “What is this? Is this what I think it is?” Alyssia nodded. “Uh-huh,” she hummed, “it’s an engagement ring. David asked me to marry him.”

“Alyssia!” Sofie screamed much to Alyssia’s dismay as she reached up and rubbed her ears. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to scream; I was just so surprised.” Alyssia held her hand up. “Don’t worry about it, just try and not do it again. Please? You know that Zaltaens have more sensitive hearing than humans do.” She rubbed her ears again.

“Yeah,” Sofie continued to study Alyssia’s ring, “it’s very pretty.” She looked up from it. “You know, I always knew that one day you two would end up getting married, I just knew it.” She looked back down at the ring on her finger. “I’m sure that you’ve heard from others, but I’ll say it again; you two make a great couple. It’s obvious that you mean a lot to David.”

“That she does, she means a lot to me.”

“And he means a lot to me as well. As he’s told me so many times, I don’t know what I’d do without him.” She sighed. “And now with what happened to me, until I’m all healed, I’ll probably need him more than ever. Even for the most basic things like getting dressed, taking a shower, getting ready for bed, etc. My arm and shoulder are still hurting me and probably will for some time.”

“I didn’t think about that.” Sofie turned to David. “Are you going to be up to help her in that capacity? I’m sure that you’re going to be seeing her while she’s,” Sofie gulped, “naked.” She turned back to Alyssia. “And are you going to be comfortable with that? I know how Zaltaens are when it comes to things like this, I’m dating a Zaltaen man myself.” Alyssia’s eyebrow raised as Sofie continued. “I could come by and help if you’d rather have a woman…” Alyssia stopped her. “That’s alright, I’m comfortable with David seeing me in that way.” She looked up at him across the room. “He helped me get dressed and out of the hospital gown this morning. Besides, he’s already seen me with no clothes on.”

“I see.” Sofie rubbed her chin. “Just the same, if you need any help just call and I’ll be here to help in any way.”

“It’s nice to know but I think we’ll be ok,” she looked up, “isn’t that right honey?” David, of course, nodded in agreement.

“Honey?” Sofie asked. “Wow, you really are getting used to this kind of stuff.” She stood up from the couch. “I got to get going though.” She held her hand out to her, “if you two need anything, I’ll be there; just call. In the meantime, I’m going to start working on that article. I will get you justice, you deserve it.”

“Thank you, Sofie.”

As Sofie’s left the dorm, Alyssia shook her head. “I really didn’t want her to get involved with this.”

“Yeah, but if there’s anything I know about Sofie, it’s that she doesn’t back down from a challenge. She confronts them head-on, and she’ll do what she sets out to do even if it gets her into trouble.” He shook his head. “That girl just won’t let anything go.”

“Has she always been like that?”

“As far as I know, yes,” he laughed. “You should’ve been here when she first arrived on campus, she stood up against an upperclassman that had to be half-again her size and practically put him on the ground after he thought that he could push her around.”

“How?” She wondered.

“You have to understand, she comes from a world that has a higher gravity; she’s genetically modified. Her world has a gravity of 1.25.”

“Oh,” Alyssia hummed, “I sensed there was something different about her. She had a much stronger grip than I thought she’d have.”

“Yeah,” David put his hand on her thigh, “that’s a girl that can definitely take care of herself. But enough about that.” He smirked as he closed in for a kiss. “Now where were we?” Their lips barely touched. “Oh yes, we were…” he wasn’t able to finish the sentence for she touched her lips to his. “Yep,” he kissed her again, “that’s where we were.”

“Uh-huh,” she hummed as she yawned.

“Are you tired?”

“Yeah,” she yawned again, “I didn’t really get much sleep last night in the hospital bed.”

“I imagine, you told me that the bed in the hospital room was rather uncomfortable.”

“To say the least!” She exclaimed. David stood up from the couch and gave Alyssia his hand and aided her in standing up from the couch. “Let’s get ready for bed.” She took hold of his hand and allowed him to help her get up from the couch. “You go into the bedroom. I’ll check the door; I want to make sure that it’s locked, and not just electronically locked, for our safety.”

“Good idea!” Alyssia exclaimed as she walked into their bedroom. Meanwhile, David approached the door leading to the hallway and pressed the button on the door handle to activate the lock. As he heard the physical lock slide into place, he nodded and walked away from the door and into their bedroom to find Alyssia sitting on the bed. “Can you help me with my shirt? My shoulder just doesn’t want to cooperate yet.”

“Sure honey.” He walked up to her and helped her out of the sweatshirt that she was wearing. “There you go.” He stood before her as she was wearing nothing but her bra above her waist. He knelt at her feet and took her shoes and socks off. “There you go, all done.”

“Is the door locked?”

“Yep.” He sat down on the bed next to her. “Not only is the door closed but the physical lock is engaged as well. Nobody’s coming in here tonight. We’re safe.”

“I hope so,” she looked at the bedroom door. “Did you lock the bedroom door?” David sighed; it was obvious that she was experiencing some form of anxiety. Could he blame her? No. She was brutally attacked and left for dead. “There’s no lock on the bedroom door, unlike the other two-bedroom dorms. It’s not meant to be locked.” He watched her sigh as he sat on the bed and put his arm around her. “I know, you’re anxious; worried even. Nobody’s going to be coming in tonight.”

PTSD. He thought. She has all the classic signs of it. He watched her look to the door once again. Yep, PTSD; it’s all there. I’ve got to see if I can get her some help.

It was 0400 hours34 AM.. David was sleeping peacefully, and Alyssia was next to him in the bed. All was well in their bedroom until Alyssia woke up suddenly and let out a yelp abruptly bringing David out of his slumber.

“Alyssia!” He reached above them to turn the light on in the room after which he reached for her to find her breathing heavily and shaking. He took her into his arms and held her tightly against himself. “Shh,” he rubbed her back, “it’s ok. I’m here. You’re safe. Nothing’s going to happen to you.” She continued to breathe heavily despite what he had said. “Calm down, I’m here; nothing’s going to happen to you.”

“David,” she gasped as she tried to desperately catch her breath, “help.” He could hear and feel her heart pounding in her chest as he held her close. “I can’t… catch my… breath.”

“Shh.” He held her in his arms as he cradled the back of her head in his hand and caressed her back. “I’m here for you.”

“What’s happening… to me?” She continued to gasp. “Help.” David, however, continued to just hold her in his arms and gently caressed her back. As the moments passed by, David could feel her heartbeat slow and her distressed breathing slow. “What happened to me?”

“You had a panic attack.”

“A what?” she asked as she began to tear up. “Why?”

“I imagine that it’s from when you were attacked.” He continued to hold her in his arms. “You haven’t processed all of your thoughts and feelings from when you were attacked. You’re showing all the signs of what’s known as PTSD.”

“But I didn’t like it. What’s PTSD?”

“I imagine you didn’t, it’s not very pleasant to deal with. As for what PTSD stands for, it means post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s something that people often get after a traumatic ordeal such as what you experienced.”

“How do I deal with it?” He could hear the fear in her voice. The once strong and confident young Zaltaen woman that he had fallen in love with was sounding very fearful and he wanted so much to be able to take the pain away; however, he knew that life didn’t work like that. “I’m scared David, it felt like someone was sitting on my chest. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t catch my breath. My heart was pounding in my chest, it felt like it was going to leap out of my chest.”

“I know you are,” he held her close. “As for how to deal with it, I don’t know.” She closed her eyes as he said that. “However, I know one thing for certain.” She turned to him. “I’ll be here for you; I’ll be by your side every step of the way.”

“But Zaltaens are supposed to be stronger than humans…” David interrupted her. “I’m going to ignore that insult towards humans because of how you’re hurting right now.”

“I’m sorry,” she sighed, “I didn’t mean to say that.”

“I know that… that’s why I’m choosing to ignore it.” Alyssia sighed. “Thank you, I didn’t mean it. As you said, I’m hurting.”

“Yes, you are,” he hugged her close, “and I’m hurting for you. I love you and I hate seeing you hurting like this.” She put her head down on his chest as he rubbed her back. “Now try and get some sleep.” She looked up at him. “Can you hold me?”

“Of course, I can.” He let go of her and she settled back on the bed up close to him. “Now try and get some sleep, my love.” He felt her snuggle up close. “See you in the morning.”

“Where are you going?”

“Nowhere. I’m going to be right here, I promise.” He moved and draped an arm over her and kissed her cheek. “Try and have a good night my love.” He heard nothing back from her. “Good night.”

The next morning, David looked at the clock on the nightstand; it read 0900 hours49 AM.. He then looked at Alyssia and was grateful to find that she was soundly asleep. He leaned over her and kissed her forehead at which she stirred only to move onto her side after which he smiled.

He walked over to his dresser and got some clothing for the day and quietly walked out of the bedroom but as he was about to close the door, he whispered ‘I’ll be back my love.’ He closed the door to get dressed in the main room. As he got his shoes on, he stood up and there was a knock at the door. “Oh, who could that be?” He asked no one because he was the only one in the room. He approached the door and unlocked it only to find Amanda standing behind the door.

“Hey there David,” Amanda stood with her arms open at which she walked up to David and hugged him. “How are you doing? How’s Alyssia?” David, of course, returned her hug. “She’s ok.” Amanda stood back. “I’m sensing something’s wrong.”

“Yeah,” David sighed as he closed the door as Amanda walked into the room. “You could say that.”

“What’s wrong?” Amanda asked as she sat down on the couch after which she crossed her legs and gave her skirt a bit of a tug. “You know I don’t bite.” She chuckled. “Amanda,” he looked at her deadpanned, “I do have Alyssia you know.”

“You’re no fun.” She laughed. “I was just playing with you.” David rolled his eyes. “But anyways… what’s wrong? You can tell me, David; what’s wrong? Alyssia’s my friend too, you know. I’ve known her longer than you have. Maybe I can help.”

“I… don’t think you can help her.” He watched a concerned look come across her face. “I believe that she’s suffering from PTSD.” He watched her raise her head in the air and breathe in. “Then am I to assume that you know what PTSD is.”

“Yeah, it stands for post-traumatic stress disorder.” She folded her hands in her lap. “However, what makes you think that she has that?”

“Well for one, she has all the classic signs of PTSD. She’s anxious, she looks to a door worried that someone will barge in, and worst of all.” He gulped. “She woke up in a full-blown panic attack last night.” Amanda’s mouth dropped open. “We’re talking about a scream followed by heavy breathing, heart pounding in her chest, etc. That sort of thing.”

“Oh.” Amanda looked down at her lap, now understanding what he meant by her having PTSD.

“All I could do was hold her in my arms as I did my very best to calm her down.”

“And did you?” Amanda sat forward on the edge of her seat and clasped her hands around her knee. “Please tell me you were able to calm her down so she could get some sleep. The poor girl needs to get some sleep to get better.”

“Of course, I was,” he smiled as he looked down at the floor and thought about how he had done so. “It just took some time; I eventually was able to calm her down and get her back to sleep. She did ask me to hold her last night; I, of course, was only too happy to grant her request.”

Amanda smirked. “I bet you were.” She snickered as David blushed. “Oh, come now, I’m just messing with you; you’re so easy to mess with.” She laughed as she watched him shake his head. “Oh, come on David; I know you love her, and you only want the best for her.”

“I hate seeing her hurting like this.”

“It’s things like that,” she pointed at him as she sat back on the couch, “that has shown me that I was right in helping the two of you get together. As I told Alyssia’s sister, you two are really made for each other. Your relationship with her is proof that love can transcend species.”

“I like to think that way too.” He looked to the bedroom door behind which she was still sleeping. “As I’ve told her so many times, she’s the light of my life. I don’t know what I’d do without her.” Amanda smiled; she was happy for both of them. “Anyways,” Amanda uncrossed her legs, “what were you planning on doing before I came over?”

“I was going to go get something to eat for the two of us and bring it back here.”

“That sounds like a good idea.” She stood up from the couch. “But I’ve got to run, I have to go to work at the coffee shop. With her being out, I’m shorthanded and I,” she put her hand to her chest, “as the manager, I have to fill in.” She held her arms open and walked up to him to hug him. “You take care of her. You got that?” He nodded against her shoulder as she held him. “And if you need any help, don’t hesitate to call me.” She patted his back. “You know I’ll be there in a heartbeat.” She let go of him and backed away. “I have to get going, see you later.”

As Amanda reached for the door leading to the hallway, David called after her. “Thanks, Amanda.” She smiled as she slowly nodded. “Anytime David. You’re my friend too, you know.”

“Yeah.” He sighed as he watched Amanda leave the room. He looked to the bedroom door, walked over to it, and peered into their bedroom to find that Alyssia was still sleeping. “Good,” he whispered, “you keep on sleeping. You need the rest.” He slowly and carefully closed the door to not wake her up.

As David was standing in line at the student cafeteria, he looked about and watched as the other students walked by but otherwise kept to himself. What with not knowing if he was in the room with the same people who had attacked his girlfriend and now fiancée, it was a smart decision to not draw any attention to himself for he was an off-worlder.

He sighed, it never used to be like that way on campus. He never had to worry if someone was going to attack him. It was generally one of the safest universities on all of Terra but that had somehow changed.

He watched two people who he knew as an off-worlder walk by. Yeah, he thought, good idea. Don’t walk alone. That was when he realized the irony of the situation that he was in, he walked alone. Well, that was stupid David. You’re not following your own advice.

He must have gotten so lost in thought that when someone touched him on his shoulder, he jumped. He raised his fist in the air as he turned about to see who had touched him.

“You wouldn’t want to do that David, I think that would be a bad idea; trust me, I could break your arm quite easily.”

Damn,” David put his arm down, “I’m sorry Mardrina. I’m just a little on edge ever since, well… you know.” He sighed as he looked at the floor. “Feelings about off-worlders isn’t at a very high mark these days.”

“Don’t I know it!” David watched Mardrina tap the side of her head with two of her fingers on her left hand. “I can sense it everywhere I go. This place used to be such a nice place but these days?” She shrugged. “I don’t know anymore. I’m glad my Marko and I are graduating in a month or two; I want to leave this rock as fast as I can, and I hate that I think that way. I mean Terra is such a beautiful planet, but the people here have soured this place.”

David chuckled. “You get no argument from me on that one. However, are you saying that you’re a telepath?”

“Yep,” he heard her voice inside his mind, “been a telepath since I was about twelve Terran standard years old. Why do you ask?”

“Just asking.”

David was about to turn about when Mardrina spoke up. “How’s Alyssia? I hope she’s doing well.” One look at David’s face was all she needed. “I take it that’s not the case.” David shook his head. “What’s wrong with her?”

“She’s suffering from what humans call PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder.”

“I know what it is.”

“She woke up screaming last night.”

“Aww,” Mardrina cooed, “I’m sorry.” she paused in thought. “You know, I could help her.”

“How so?” David wondered.

Hello?!” Mardrina once again tapped the side of her head. “I’m a telepath. Think about it.”

“Eh,” he held his hands in the air, “no offense and I know you mean well, but I’m not exactly keen on the idea of you poking and prodding around in my fiancée’s head.”

“David!” He heard her scream inside his mind, but he didn’t see her lips moving. “I’m very surprised by this kind of thinking. I’d have thought that you, of all people, would have no issues with this. I mean, you know the most about Zaltaens.” She switched to speaking. “And I wouldn’t be just, as you say, poking and prodding around in her mind. She would be guiding me the whole way.”

“And if, and I do mean if, you were to do this to Alyssia… What would you be doing to her?”

“I’d isolate the core memory and then lock it away so that it’s inaccessible to the rest of her brain. It would be like the memory didn’t even exist anymore.”

Ok,” David rubbed his chin, “what are the privacy implications of this kind of procedure? Would you know everything she knows?”

“No.” Mardrina shook her head. “At no point would I have access to any memory she doesn’t want me to have access to. She’s in the driver’s seat, I’m essentially along for the ride into her mind.”

“But I thought you, as a telepath, could tap into anything you wanted to…” Mardrina put her hand up. “That would be the case if I were to push into her mind but in this case, I wouldn’t be.” She could see the look of confusion on his face. “As a telepath of my world, I was taught to never interfere and otherwise violate the mental privacy of someone and that’s something that I take very seriously.”

The look on David’s face softened as she said that. “But why?” he asked.

“Because David, thousands of your years ago, people like me,” she put her hand to her chest, “those that had such abilities like me, had been persecuted. We were shoved into what amounts to concentration camps to isolate us from the rest of society all because they feared what we could do, what we could learn. Eventually, after nearly a century, those camps were disbanded and telepaths like me,” she once again put her hand to her chest, “were once again able to rejoin the rest of society. But not before all of us swore to never use our abilities to violate another person’s privacy unless absolutely necessary; and even then, most telepaths of my world don’t like doing so.

“There are two ways telepaths like me can enter another person’s mind. First, there’s the guided way in which the person who’s the… subject of the telepathic link is in full control. They have control over where I can go inside a person’s mind hence why I said that if I were to do what I propose, Alyssia would be in full control of the whole experience.

“The second method is much more invasive and one I,” she looked to the floor, “abhor.” She looked back up. “It’s more like a telepathic attack than anything else and as I said before, I abhor the very act of doing so for it often leaves the victim utterly broken inside. It’s akin to being raped, only telepathically.

“And then of course there’s the passive scan but that’s where I can only pick up on stray thoughts that most, and please forgive me for saying this, normals like you, are broadcasting at the top of your minds.” She chuckled. “I have to tamp down my abilities and otherwise build mental walls in my head to block it all out or otherwise it’s like hundreds of voices speaking all at once and as you could probably imagine, it can give one a headache.”

“Does your fiancé, Marko, know that you’re a telepath?”

“Oh, of course, he does!” Mardrina exclaimed. “That’s the first thing that I told him when we first started dating a long time ago. He knows it and as he’s told me so many times, my abilities have brought us closer to one another than anything he ever thought possible. There are no secrets in our relationship and that’s the way we like it. When we’re together, we don’t speak with each other in the way we’re speaking now, we instead communicate telepathically.”

“Out of curiosity, how does it feel to be connected with him in that way?”

“A level of intimacy that likes of which few humans will ever experience. Our minds touch in ways that no human has or will ever experience.”

“I see,” David rubbed his chin, “I do have one question though. A few weeks back, Alyssia and I were… well,” he closed his eyes, “I don’t think you need to know the details, but it felt as if our minds touched. However.” Mardrina nodded. “Yes, Alyssia told me as such. She, like all female Zaltaens, has the telepathic gene; except in her case, hers is latent, meaning it’s not strong enough to express itself. However, in certain situations like what you two experienced, her latent gene activated and briefly allowed your minds to touch at that moment.”

“I see,” he looked down. “It felt like nothing I’ve ever experienced. It felt… wonderful.”

“I’m sure it did, for the both of you.” She looked at her datapad and checked the time. “However, I have to get running along. You,” she pointed at him, “remember what I told you. Talk to her and see if she would like me to do that to her. Ok?”

“How do I contact you?” That’s when she showed her datapad to David. “Go ahead, scan the code on my phone.” David pulled his datapad out and scanned the code on her screen which promptly added her contain information to his datapad. “There you go,” she turned around on the heel of her high-heeled shoe, “see you later David.” She began to walk away but before she was out of earshot, she turned back to him. “Do talk to her. Please?” David nodded and waved to her as he went back to standing in line with the rest of the students in the café.

David set the carrier carrying the two cups of coffee down on the floor as he reached into his pocket and waved his CAC5Common Access Card. by the reader on his dorm room and walked into the room to find that the main room of the dorm was empty save for himself. He reached down and picked the coffee up and walked into the room and kicked the door closed with his foot.

He carried the container carrying the coffee and the bag that had four containers of food in it and set them both on the table before going back to the door and locking the more permanent lock on the door.

He went to the door leading to the bedroom and silently opened the door to find that Alyssia was still sleeping. He smiled. She looked so peaceful, so very much not like she was early that morning when she woke him up in the middle of the night. He almost felt guilty waking her up, but it was almost 1030 hours610:30 AM.. What would she do tonight if she slept the whole day through? And then there was how breakfast was waiting for her.

“Alyssia?” He gently nudged her. “Wake up. I have a surprise for you?”

She turned over and opened her eyes to stare up at him. “David?” She rubbed her eyes. “What time is it?”

“1030 hours710:30 AM..”

“Whoa,” she whispered. “Did I really sleep that long?”

“Uh-huh,” he hummed, “except for that bout of panic late last night, you slept nearly nine hours.” She sat up in the bed. “You needed the sleep. But come on, I have a surprise for you.”

“A surprise?” she asked as she sat on the side of the bed. “What did you get?” That was when the smell of breakfast came wafting into the room. “I smell something.” She sniffed the air. “I smell food.”

“Uh-huh,” he reached out and offered her his hand, “I got food for the two of us. I thought you’d like something to eat when you woke up. So, while you were still sleeping, I went off to the student café and brought back some take-out for us.” He put a hand on her lower back. “It’ll be good for you; you need some food to get better.” He sat down at the table and opened the bag. “I also got some coffee too.”

She sat down on one of the two chairs and took hold of one of the two cups of coffee and sipped at it only to smile as the hot liquid went down her throat. “About last night,” she said without looking up from her cup in her hands, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to wake you up as I did.” David knelt before her and took hold of her hand that was resting on her knee. “You have nothing to apologize for, my love.” She tried to look away. “Alyssia, you experienced a traumatic moment, nobody would blame you; I certainly don’t. I’m not mad at you, I could never be mad at you.” She turned back to him. “If I were mad at you for waking me up last night, would I have gone to get us both something to eat this morning?” She slowly shook her head. “That’s right. I told you last night I’d be there for you through this, and I meant that.” He stood up and reached into the bag and handed her a container. “Now please eat,” he reached for her hand, “before it gets cold.”

She reached for the container that he had handed her and opened it only to find that it was her favorite. Scrambled eggs, sausage, potatoes, and crispy bacon.

“And one more.” He handed another container to her.

“More?” She asked.

“Yep, French toast.” He smiled.

“Thank you, David.” She reached for his hand. “I appreciate it. I appreciate everything you’ve done for me these past few days.” She let go of his hand and began to eat. “I just wish I didn’t feel so,” she darted her eyes to the door as she heard someone walk by it, “anxious all the time. I hate thinking that there’s someone out there ready to attack me again.”

“You know,” he picked up a piece of the sausage with his fork, “I ran into Mardrina down in the café. She asked me how you were doing.” She paused with her fork suspended in midair as he said that. “I told her that you were doing ok, but not great.” She continued to eat. “She’s concerned about you. She said that she could help you but I’m not so sure about it.” She looked up. “Apparently, she can go inside your mind, isolate the core memory that’s causing your issue, and lock it away so you can’t access it anymore.”

“She said that she would do that for me?”

“Yes, but I told her that I wasn’t sure you’d be up for that and that I’d have to consult you first.”

Alyssia hummed. “It’s an interesting concept.” She stopped to eat the French toast. “But I take it that you don’t like the idea.”

“I’m not exactly thrilled with it if that’s what you mean.” He took a sip of his coffee. “I mean, she would be going into your mind. Would you be the same afterward?” He sighed. “I love you; I only want the best for you.”

“I get it,” she sipped her coffee, “but I’m sure you didn’t ever think you’d have a girlfriend who’s an emotional wreck when you started this relationship with me. Would you not want the old me back? The one that’s,” she sighed, “not suffering from… what did you call it again?” He was going to speak up before she continued. “PTSD?”

“Alyssia,” he reached for her hand, “no. I’d never think that way, it would be selfish of me to think that way. That’s not how relationships work and from your time with me, you should know that.” He watched her look down at his hands that were holding hers. “I started this relationship with you to be there by your side, no matter what; good or bad. And I certainly hope that you’d be there for me in that capacity if something bad were to happen to me. Right?” He watched her slowly nod her head. “So no,” he squeezed her hand, “I don’t think that way at all. I love you and sometimes love has to deal with bad things and endure things.”

“Yeah,” she sighed, “I get it.”

Meanwhile, he hoped to God that she wouldn’t run into Mardrina. Though he was sure that Mardrina had nothing but the best of intentions for Alyssia, it was his job to comfort and help Alyssia in her time of need. If he couldn’t do that, what use was he to her? He was, after all, her soon-to-be-husband and it was his job to help her in situations like this.

“So yes,” he stood up from the floor, “I will be here for you. I will help you in every way that I can.”

Continue to Chapter 17…

Last updated on Tuesday, November 29th, 2022 at 10:22 PM.

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