Author’s Notes: When you see quotations that are italicized, these are words being said telepathically between the two people involved.
As the shuttle came into Genesis’ shuttle bay carrying Triara, Michael, Jessie, and Lisa, Lisa looked out the window of the shuttle and eyed everything as shuttles prepped to take off and other shuttles were coming in for a landing much like their own shuttle.
“Daddy?” Lisa called to him. “When will they allow us to leave the shuttle?”
“Soon munchkin,” he looked out the shuttle’s side window, “soon. We just need to have everything checked before we,” the shuttle rocked from side to side indicating that the gangway was connecting to the outside airlock, “can leave. OK? Keep an eye on that,” he pointed at the light above the door, “when it turns green, we’ll be able to leave. Got it sweetie?”
“Uh huh,” she stared at the now red light impatiently.
Triara looked to Michael and took hold of his hand and interlaced her fingers with his. “I’m glad you chose to bring her with you,” she said inside his mind, “when I first saw her, I could sense that she missed you a lot. She needs her daddy in her life again.” Michael nodded. “I know,” he squeezed her hand, “and I need her in my life again as well. I’ve gone too long without my baby in my life but you know how the military life is, it’s only now that I have a stable enough posting that I can bring her to live with me.”
Triara smiled as she looked back at Lisa who was still impatiently looking at the red light to turn green. “I get it,” she looked back to Michael, “I have to admit that she sure is cute.” He smiled as he heard that inside his mind. “I just hope that she won’t take too long to take to me if you know what I mean. I can sense that she still doesn’t completely trust me. Not that I blame her though, I just walked into her life two days ago. I want to help her; I can sense that she’s still in pain of the loss of her mom.”
“I know she is and I know that you want to help her.” He turned to kiss her on her forehead. “That’s one of so many reasons why I love you.” Triara couldn’t help but to smile as he thought that way about her, it was nice to be thought of that way. For a long time, others helped her but now she had an opportunity to help someone else. “You want to help my Lisa just like you helped me.”
“I know,” she squeezed his hand, “I helped you cope with your grief and pain over the loss of Mary. But you know as well as I do that it’s going to take time for Lisa to learn to trust you and let you into her life like I did. And with Jessie’s,” he looked to her out of the corner of his eye as she was silently sitting in her seat across the aisle from them, “help, I’m sure that it’ll come sooner rather than later. It’s why Jessie is here, to help her get to know you in a situation that she’ll find safe and secure.”
Jessie looked their way. “What were you two doing?”
“Oh,” Michael let go her Triara’s hand and looked Jessie’s way, “we were just… talking with each other.”
“Uh huh,” Triara nodded.
“How does that work between the two of you? Do you like share your innermost feelings with each other?”
“A lot of the times, we do. For instance,” he looked to her as he took hold of her hand, “we spend many evenings together simply sitting next to each other on our couch in complete silence. We don’t need words; our relationship has grown beyond them. There are also no secrets in our relationship.”
“Really?” Jessie was shocked. “No secrets? Like you two know each other on an intimate level?”
“Uh huh,” Triara nodded as she looked to Michael, “we have no secrets in our relationship and that’s the way we like it. Our relationship is built upon a level of mutual trust that can only be formed from knowing each other’s inner most thoughts and feelings about and for each other.” He nodded in agreement.
“Just like I know,” she looked down at his hand that was resting on her thigh, “about this secret of yours,” she said inside his mind so as to not have Jessie hear it. Michael gulped; it was the one secret that he had hoped he had buried in his mind where she couldn’t find it. She could sense his anxiety about the situation so she patted his hand that was still resting on her thigh. “Don’t worry, I won’t tell her.” His anxiety started to come down now that he knew that she wouldn’t say anything to Jessie.
“Know what?” Jessie asked as she watched her pat his hand.
“Oh, nothing.” Triara wore a blank face. It was an outright lie and she was hoping that Jessie would buy it.
“Uh huh,” Jessie hummed, “sure. I buy that. There’s something you shared with Michael but I have no idea what it is but I’m not going to press the matter; I know better than that.” Meanwhile, Michael was relieved that Jessie didn’t press the matter for he didn’t want Jessie to know that about him.
Jessie turned about just as the light above the door turned green.
“It turned green, Daddy! It’s green! See?” She pointed at the light. “It’s green! It’s green!”
Triara couldn’t help but to smile at how cute Lisa was.
“Yes, my little one,” Michael unbuckled his seatbelt, stood up from his seat, and held his arms out to Lisa. “Come on munchkin,” Lisa held her arms out begging to be picked up. “Here we go, just hold onto me. We’re going to be going through a zero-gravity area.”
“Yes daddy.” With that the door opened and Michael carefully swung out into the gangway while Lisa hung onto him. Triara, meanwhile grabbed hold of their bag along with the heavier of Jessie’s pieces of luggage and swung out into the gangway followed by Jessie. As Triara gracefully landed on the other side of the gangway, Jessie was rather jealous for as she, herself, landed on the other side she nearly took a faceplant and she would have had it not been for Triara who had caught her.
“Whoa there,” Triara helped Jessie upright, “I thought you lived in a colony and knew how to do this.”
“Yeah well,” she looked down at herself and pulled her shirt down around herself, “I’ve really never had a reason to leave the colony so I’ve a bit out of practice here. It’s been years since I’ve had to deal with a zero-gravity situation like that.”
“I’m just happy that I was able to catch you like I did,” Triara lovingly brought her close and rubbed Jessie’s back, “if I hadn’t, you’d be on the floor right now.”
“I know,” Jessie took hold of Triara’s hand that was around her waist, “I’m happy you were there too.” Jessie took hold of the lighter of the two luggage bags that she had for Triara had insisted that she take the heavier of the two bags that she had.
“I do have to ask, what the hell do you have in that bag of yours?” Triara pointed at the heaviest bag. “A ton of bricks? Great Maker, it’s heavy even for me and my enhanced Zaltaen strength. I can’t imagine you trying to struggle with it.” Jessie looked to her worriedly. “Oh no, I’m fine.” Triara picked the bag up a few times just to show that she indeed had enhanced strength and could handle it.
“You and that enhanced strength of yours,” Jessie laughed. “Are all Zaltaens like you?”
“You know, your strength.”
“Yes,” Triara flexed her muscles again, “all Zaltaens are stronger than humans, even Zaltaen women.”
“Why is that?”
“Zaltaens come from a world with 1.6 Gs.” Jessie winced at the thought of being on her world. “So Zaltaens, such as I, evolved to have a much stronger skeletal and muscular system than that of normal, non-genetically modified, humans. I easily have twice the strength of even Michael.”
“Damn,” Jessie whispered, “then I guess you have to be careful when dealing with us humans.”
“If you’re asking if I have to be careful when I hug a human,” she chuckled as she remembered back when she accidently hugged Richard too hard out of joy in seeing him, “then yes, I do have to be careful. I nearly hurt my friend, Richard, when I hugged him too hard.”
“What does Michael think?” Jessie asked as she walked beside Triara. Meanwhile, Triara had a questioning look on her face. “You know. What does he think about the idea that you’re stronger than him? I don’t know many men who’d be completely alright with that idea. Men throughout human history have always been the physically stronger gender and now Michael’s in a relationship with someone who’s a woman yet she’s physically stronger than he is.”
“If you’re asking me if he at all feels emasculated because I’m stronger than he is,” Jessie nodded as that was what she meant, “then no. He doesn’t feel that way in the slightest bit. He completely understands that Zaltaens, such as I, are naturally stronger than that of even human males. In fact, he makes me do all the heavy lifting. He once had me move a piece of furniture in his stateroom one day and I made it look like child’s play.”
Jessie laughed. “One more thing that I’ve always wanted to know.”
“Sure, go ahead. Ask away.”
“Is Zaltaen society really a matriarchal society, that is, ruled by women?”
“Uh huh,” Triara hummed, “it comes from the fact that there’s not a lot of men on Zalta due to a genetic issue among a good portion of the population.” Jessie wondered what she meant by that. “There was a harmful mutation on our sex chromosomes that caused many male babies to either die at birth or not live long past the age of ten or twelve of age.”
“I was going to ask something about that since I really don’t see a lot of Zaltaen men. Most Zaltaens that I’ve met have been women. Where I once went to school, there were only two or three Zaltaen men and the rest were girls. Narin was one of them.” She thought. “Does it affect all Zaltaens?”
“No,” Triara shook her head, “it’s largely a genetic issue among the higher Houses due to inbreeding. Richard once told me that when you reduce your family tree to that of a family bush,” Jessie chuckled, “bad things tend to start happening at a genetic level. Among the lower Houses though, it’s not a problem but even then, you really don’t see many Zaltaen men off world because we literally need them and I don’t think I need to tell you why. The men to women ratio on Zalta,” she was careful not to call it her world, “is about two to ten. For every two men there are ten or so women, sometimes fifteen. We still don’t know why most of our children are born as female.”
“Yikes!” Jessie hissed. “That’s not a good ratio there. Among humans, usually the ratio of males-to-females is about equal.” Triara nodded indicating that she knew that. “And as for needing to keep your men on your world, I get it,” Jessie laughed, “no you don’t have to tell me why.” She thought back to what Narin had told her. “Narin told me that he comes from one of the lower Houses, I believe his House is named Blackthorn.”
Triara began to think about all of the various Houses that existed on Zalta and nodded. “Yeah, I’ve heard of the House of Blackthorn. They’re a rather small House that’s aligned with the House of Stormfeather. There’s talk that the two Houses may be merging soon for the sake of political reasons.”
“You have to understand something about Zaltaen society, all of the Houses vie for political power and the larger the House the more political power they have in society as a whole. Merging the House of Blackthorn and the House of Stormfeather would result in a much larger and stronger House. If the two Houses do merge, the leaders of the House of Stormfeather would be the leaders of the combined House.”
“And what do you come from?”
“I,” Triara stopped in her tracks and looked down at the floor with a forlorn look on her face, “I come from, or should I say, came from the House of Moonbeam.”
“And where do they rank in Zaltaen society?”
“They’re one of the ruling Houses.” Jessie’s eyes widened. “Yes, my House has many who sit in the House of Lords and the Royal Court so when I did what I did so many years ago, I was cast out of my House to save political face for my House. If they didn’t do what they did, they’d lose their political power and for a House such as the House of Moonbeam, that’s something that just can’t happen. It would ruin them.”
“Aww,” Jessie propped up her luggage on its wheels and hugged Triara, “I’m so sorry that happened to you. A wonderful person like yourself didn’t deserve that to happen to you.” Triara gently hugged Jessie for she didn’t want to hurt the young human woman. “Is that why you’ve tried so hard to fit in with humans?” Triara nodded against Jessie’s shoulder. “Well, if you need anyone to talk to about girl things, call me… day or night; I’ll be there for you. I want you to know that Heather and I’ll be there for you if you ever need any help.”
“Thank you, Jessie,” Triara’s leaned her chin on her shoulder.
“Hey,” Jessie shrugged as she backed away from her, “what’s family for?”
“Until I met Richard, Rachel, Michael, and of course, you and Heather,” Triara began walking forward, “I didn’t know. But now I do understand that and I thank the Great Maker for putting all of you in my life like She did.”
“She?” Jessie asked, wondering if she meant that as a pronoun to describe their God. “Are you saying that your Great Maker in your religious mythology is a female?” Triara nodded. “I should’ve known that since your society is a matriarchal society. It only makes sense that your God would be seen as female.”
That was when Jessie noticed someone walking toward them. “Hey guys, who’s that cutie that’s walking towards us?” Triara turned to look at who it was and it was none other than Richard, her longtime friend. “That would be Richard, one of the few humans that’ve accepted me much like Michael has.”
“And damn,” Jessie whispered as Richard came towards them, “he sure is cute!”
“Cute?” Richard said as he approached all of them. “Who’s cute?”
“You are!” Jessie exclaimed to which Richard’s jaw dropped. “Oh, come now, haven’t you ever been called that before?” Richard shook his head. “Well then, let me tell you are! Please tell me that you have someone in your life because if you don’t, it would be a total shame if you didn’t.”
“As a matter of fact,” Richard showed Jessie his wedding ring, “I am married. Happily married, in fact.” As he had said that, you could see that a look of disappointment washed over her face. Triara meanwhile sensed what Jessie thought about Richard but she couldn’t blame her, she thought those same things about him too and to call her out on that would be hypocritical of her.
“Anyways Richard,” Michael turned to him, “meet my family. This is Jessie, the one that called you cute. She’s my niece.” He put an arm around her. “And this little one,” he looked down at Lisa which was standing beside him, “is my daughter.”
“Aww,” Richard knelt down in front of Lisa, “you’re even cuter than I had imagined.” Lisa latched onto her father’s leg as he said that. “Oh no Lisa, I’m not here to hurt you. I’m your father’s friend,” Lisa looked up to her father at which he nodded, “and all of us are here for you. I know you’ve been through a lot but we’re all here for you. We’re here to help you settle in with your dad.”
“Daddy?” Lisa questioningly looked up to Michael.
“Uh huh,” Michael put a hand on Lisa’s back, “he’s alright. He won’t hurt you; I promise.” He looked to Richard. “She’s just really shy, she’s not used to seeing new people. I’m sure that with time she’s get used to having you around. Anyways,” he picked up Lisa, “did you take care of what I asked you to take care of?”
“If you’re asking me about making sure your stuff got from your old place to your new place,” Michael nodded to indicate that that was what he was referring to, “of course, I did! I’m the commander of the station you know. I tend to get things like that done. I made sure that your stuff as well as Triara’s stuff got moved into your new place safely.”
“Great!” Michael exclaimed as he looked over at Triara and saw the surprised look on her face. She had no idea that he had a new place for them in mind. He had managed to keep that from her despite her special mental abilities.
“Thanks man,” Michael slapped Richard on his back.
“Hey,” Richard slapped him on his back in return, “what are friends for? But I have to say man, I’m happy for you and Triara. You’re building a new life with her,” he looked over at his longtime Zaltaen friend, “and I’ve never seen her this happy in like… ever!” He shook his head. “And as for you,” Richard rubbed his friend’s back, “I’ve not seen you this happy either.” Michael looked down at the floor. “Oh, come on man, don’t be like that. After all that’s happened to you and how much you’ve lost, you deserve some happiness in your life.”
Michael bit his lower lip as he looked over at Triara and saw the look on her face. “Yeah,” he turned to look at Richard again, “I do.” He slapped his friend on his back again. “Thanks a lot, you’ve been a great help to me. I mean it Richard,” he rubbed Richard’s back, “I don’t know where I’d be in my life if you didn’t introduce me to Triara.”
“Again, what are friends for?”
Meanwhile, Jessie whispered to Triara which brought her out of her shock. “Did he just say that he’s the commander of this station?”
“Yes,” she shook her head to shake the feeling of shock off, “he did Jessie.”
“Oh wow,” she clasped her hands around her mouth, “so what does that mean? Does that mean you can do anything you want on the station without getting in trouble?”
“Oh, no,” Triara chuckled, “in reality it’s quite the opposite really. Michael and I, since we’re friends with the commander, are held to a higher standard than everyone else. We really have to be on our toes around here since if we do something, then it reflects upon,” she pointed at Richard, “him and that would really be bad.”
“Anyway,” Richard put an arm around his friend as they began walking, “housekeeping did move your stuff but they didn’t do a good job of unpacking. They tried to put some of the stuff like clothing in closets and whatnot but besides that, you and Triara are going to have a lot of work ahead of yourselves in sorting out what you want to keep and what you don’t want to keep.”
“What about the furniture?” Michael began to worry about the couch that he had bought. “I hope that they brought that stuff over.”
“Yeah, they kept that kind of stuff. Anything that wasn’t standard issue was put in your new place so you’re probably going to have double of a lot of stuff since Triara had bought some stuff too.”
“Great,” Michael smacked his forehead and shook his head, “there’s going to be a lot of work ahead of us for Triara and I.”
“You had to know that that was going to happen, right?” Michael looked to Richard. “I mean you are essentially combining two people’s lives into one here.” The look on Michael’s face said it all. “Yeah, you didn’t think that far ahead.” Michael shook his head. “But whatever, I’m sure that you and Triara will sort things out. Besides, Triara is pretty good at about that.”
“I hope she is,” he looked back over at Triara who was walking with Jessie.
“Speaking about Triara and Jessie,” Richard glanced over his shoulder at the two of them, “from how the two of them are interacting with each other rather friendly, I’m going to assume that Triara and your family hit it off pretty well. Right?”
“Oh yes, but I’d be lying if everything started off nice and clean.” Richard nodded, he figured that there was going to be some issues at first. “At first there was some friction but with time Heather, my sister, warmed up to Triara and rather fast if I do say so myself. As for Jessie,” he smiled at her as they continued walking, “Jessie accepted Triara right away.”
“Well, that’s good,” Richard stopped walking, “I’m glad to hear that. However, this is where I have to part ways. I have to get back to the CIC. I only took some time away to meet you here. Later on, this evening I’d be glad to swing by your new place and perhaps help you unpack and move your things in.”
“That would be great,” Triara hugged Richard, “thank you. Maybe later we all get something to eat.”
“That sounds good,” he hugged Triara back, “thank you. I’d love to go out and have dinner with all of you.” He let go of her. “And with that, goodbye all of you. See all you later this evening.”
“Well now,” Jessie smiled, “I like Richard. He’s cute.”
“Jessie!” Michael exclaimed. “He’s married.”
“I know,” she said as she continued to watch Richard walk away.
“But you have Narin.”
“Sure,” Jessie shrugged, “but there’s nothing wrong with window shopping.”
“Yeah, but he’s way out of your price range.”
“A girl can dream, can’t she?” Jessie sighed. “What’s his wife’s name?”
“Rachel,” Triara spoke up before Michael could, “his wife’s name is Rachel.”
“Then Rachel is one lucky woman.”
“Yes, she is,” Triara nodded as they continued walking through the receiving bay, “she is indeed lucky, in more ways than one.”
“What do you mean by that?” Jessie wondered.
“She doesn’t live with him on the station, she has a job on the planet’s surface.”
“Damn,” she whispered. “So, you’re saying that they only see each other every so often yet he remains loyal to her?”
“Uh huh,” Triara hummed. “That he does. They’ve been together for a long time, longer than Michael and I have been dating. They’ll be celebrating their third anniversary soon.”
“Wow,” Jessie whispered, “now that’s dedication.”
“No,” Michael answered, “that’s called true love in the face of adversity. The love that they have for each other and their relationship means so much to them that it doesn’t matter to them if they can’t see each other often. That’s what true love is all about and they definitely have it.”
“And I take it that that’s what you two have.”
“Yes, we do,” Michael said as he put an around Triara, “after all, we face a lot together.” Triara spoke up. “Yes, we have that kind of love for each other.”
“And it definitely shows in how you hold and look at each other.” Jessie couldn’t help but to smile at how Michael and Triara loved each other. “I just hope that in time Narin and I’ll have the same thing that you two have together.”
“If the two of you work at it, then yes,” Michael glanced at his niece over his shoulder, “you will. A serious relationship like Triara and I have together, like anything that’s worthwhile in life, is work. You have to work at it to make it happen.” Triara spoke up. “Michael’s right. A relationship is work but, in the end, if everything happens like it should, it’ll be worth it. Isn’t that right honey?”
“Uh huh,” Michael again looked over his shoulder at Triara.
“I see,” Jessie thought.
“A relationship such as the one we have together and the one that your mom and dad have isn’t something that just happens,” Triara snapped her fingers for dramatic effect. “It takes time to cultivate that kind of commitment, grow it, and make it strong enough to stand even the most strenuous of situations. Take for instance,” Jessie looked to her, “the relationship that Richard and Rachel have together.” Jessie nodded; she had a feeling where Triara was going. “Do you think their relationship would’ve been strong enough to withstand him being here and she being on the planet’s surface let alone being more than ten light years apart like they once were if they didn’t have a strong commitment to each other?”
“I think I get it.”
“Relationships like that take time and effort to build. Take Michael and I,” Triara paused for dramatics, “it took us months, close to a year, to build what we have together. It’s something that grew with time while being together. I hope you understand, it’s really rather hard to put all of this into words.”
As she said that they came out into the receiving bay and as Jessie saw how many people were coming and going, she gasped. There must have been hundreds of people all going to-and-fro from inside the station and to other corridors like they, themselves, just walked out of. “My God,” she exclaimed, “is it always this busy around here?”
“Yep,” Michael looked back at his niece to make sure that she started with him while in the crowd, “and during the day it’s even busier than this. And when we get to the center of the station where the transit train is, things get even crazier.”
“There’s a train?” Jessie asked incredulously as she looked about.
“Sure!” Michael exclaimed as they walked out of the receiving bay. “If we didn’t have the train it’d take nearly an hour and a half to traverse the station from one end to the other.” Jessie’s eyes widened. “This station is nearly four kilometers1 long.” Jessie gaped. “And that’s not all, there’s several decks too.”
“Just how many people are living here?”
“Between the military personnel and civilians that live and work here as support staff,” Triara spoke up, “there’s about a hundred thousand people living and working here on the station.” Jessie’s jaw dropped. “As for how many humans make up the population, humans make up a rather large percentage of the population whereas Zaltaens generally only make up about a quarter of the station’s total population.”
“And that’s not all,” Michael thumbed back at where they had come from, “there’s more coming every day. Projections state that we’ll be adding nearly twenty-five to fifty thousand to the station’s population over the next six months. People are coming from all over human space to find their niche. Needless to say, this place is booming and is showing no signs of slowing down. There’s even plans to expand the size of the station.”
“Oh wow,” Jessie marveled at the sheer scope of the operation that was the space station. “You mentioned that this place was like a city in space and damn,” she pushed past someone, “you weren’t kidding. I have to admit that I feel a bit claustrophobic here. I’m not used to this; I’m used to more space.”
“You’ll get used to it,” Triara put a hand on her shoulder to help calm her down, “as we get away from the core of the station and into the living area of the station, things quiet down quite a bit. It’s just that in this area,” they came out into the area where the trains were, “it’s rather busy.”
“That’s an understatement.”
“And now we board the train,” Michael approached the boarding platform. “We’ll wait here for a few moments and the next train should be here soon.” He looked down the tunnel where the next train would be coming out of and sure enough, there was a train approaching. “And here’s that train I spoke of. We’ll be taking this train to blue section sector four.”
“How many sections does this station have?” Jessie asked as she stepped onto the train behind Michael.
“There’s the purple section that’s primarily where Zaltaens live. Blue section where Space Force personnel and human civilians live. Orange section where commercial stores such as the commissary and PX are. Green section where the station’s entertainment is with things like restaurants, diners, a movie theater, a rather large gym and pool.” Jessie’s eyebrows raised. “Black section where station system operations are that keep this station working with things like the fusion reactor, shield generators, communications, station computer systems, gravity generators, etc. Gray section where station operations are like CIC and other various military operations are. White section where there’s a full hospital and a school for children, daycare, and a branch of the Alpha Centauri University. And then finally, there’s the red section that you have no need to know about.”
“Let me guess,” Jessie smirked, “it’s the seedier section to the station.”
“Yeah. So anyways, there’s eight sections.” As he had said that, the word “university” sunk into Jessie’s mind. “Did you say that this station has a university?”
“Uh huh,” Michael nodded, “we have a full branch of the Alpha Centauri university here on the station for the civilians that live and work here on the station as well as for the military personnel who want to advance their careers.”
“Oh man,” Jessie clasped her hands around her mouth, “I’ve been wanting to get away from home to go to college. I could stay here on the station and go here instead of on the colony.” That was when Michael realized that maybe it wasn’t a good idea to mention that they had a university onboard. He could just imagine how Heather was going to react when she found out that Jessie wanted to stay on the station instead of going back home to the colony. “Can I stay here and go to college here on the station?”
“We’ll see,” Michael sighed, “we’ll have to talk it over with your mom.” He could just see the look of disappointment on Jessie’s face as she said that. “But anyways, back to what I was about to say. Each section is sub-divided into sectors for easier navigation.”
“I see,” Jessie said as she tried to push away her disappointment in what her uncle had said. She was hoping to be able to get out from under the thumb of her mom and begin to live her own life and her uncle shot it all down. Triara could sense her thoughts about the situation and took hold of her hand.
“Honey, I can sense your disappointment about that but you’ve got to realize that this station may seem like a great opportunity at face value but you’re seeing things from the surface. Maybe after living here on the station for a month,” she shrugged, “you might change your mind. You might want to go back home.”
Jessie turned to Triara. “Do you have any idea how it’s like to live with my mom? She’s overbearing, controlling, etc.” She scoffed. “You saw how she reacted when I told her that I was dating a Zaltaen.” Both Triara and Michael nodded. “However, in reality, that’s how she reacts every time I even mention something about dating or wanting to date someone; human or otherwise. I’ve had to turn to my dad for a semblance of sanity in my life.”
“She didn’t seem like from my perspective,” Michael spoke up. “In fact, she seemed rather accepting of it.”
“You saw what she wanted you to see,” Jessie looked to Michael with a stern look on her face, “after you two went to bed I got berated by my mom about how I was too young to know what kind of life I wanted and what kind of person I’d like to have in my life and that after college I’d be grown up enough to make that kind of decision.”
That was when Michael thought back on their childhood and how their parents had treated them and their parents were rather strict as well. He remembered how they treated her versus how they treated him. Whenever Heather wanted to do something like go on a date, they would always tell her no. Why that was so, at the time due to his young age, he didn’t know. But now that he had a daughter of his own, he could see why they wanted to protect her much like he felt that he needed to protect his daughter but as he thought back to how they had treated his sister, perhaps they had taken things too far.
With all of that in mind, the way that Heather was treating her own daughter, Jessie, now made sense. She was raising her daughter much like she was raised as a child but unlike her, Jessie had a more independent spirit than she had when she was a child and teenager.
“Michael!” She exclaimed which brought him out of his contemplation. “I feel trapped! Suffocated even! I know she means well but I can’t even breathe without her knowing about it. How can I even begin to learn what I want from life if I don’t get the chance to experience it?”
“I get it,” he looked down at his lap, “she experienced much of what you’re experiencing back when she was a child. Our parents were very strict and I can only figure that that’s where Heather gets much of her parenting skills from, our strict parents. But there’s something that you should know about her.” Jessie hummed in interest of what he was about to say. “Do you want to know how your mom and dad got married?” Jessie stared at him. “They eloped.” A look of shock came over Jessie’s face. “Yes, that’s right. They eloped after Heather graduated college and afterwards, she put as much distance between our mom and dad as she could. But I’m sure that she never told you any of this. Did she?”
Jessie shook her head. “But knowing how strict your parents were, why is she taking it out on me? Why is she treating me the same way that she was treated back when she was a child?”
“Because as messed up as it may seem, she probably feels that since she was treated like that, that’s how children should be raised. And the bitch about it is, she probably doesn’t even know she’s doing it to you. She probably doesn’t even know that she’s recreating the same kind of strict situation that she experienced and hated as a child.”
“Michael,” Jessie looked down at her lap, “please get me out of there. As the only one in the family that understands all of this,” she looked up to him, “please help me.” He could see the pleading look on her face. “I need to get out of there. I need to live my life.”
“I get it.”
“So will you help me?” She continued to look to her uncle with that pleading look on her face. “Will you help me get out of there? I need to get out of there or I’m going to go mad.”
“Jessie,” Michael put an arm around her and pulled his niece close, “I will do what I can.” A look of hope came over her. “However, I have one favor of you going forth.”
“Name it!” Jessie exclaimed. “Whatever you ask, I’ll do it!” She pleaded. “I’ll agree to anything as long as I can stay here to have and build my own life.”
“If and when your mother calls, let me,” he thumbed at his chest, “handle it.” Jessie nodded; she had a feeling that he was going to say that. “Don’t handle it on your own. The last thing your mother wants to do is alienate her own brother so she’s not going to be as hotheaded with me as she is with you. I can disarm her, you can’t. I can reason with her, you can’t.” Jessie nodded her head again. “So, if and when your mother calls, let me talk to her. That’s all I ask. It’ll go much smoother for the both of us if you let me handle the situation.”
“Got it,” Jessie hugged her uncle. “Thank you, Michael.”
“Don’t thank me yet, we still have to get past that hurdle.”
“I’m going to look at it on the bright side.” She looked about the train. “So how do you know how to get around this huge place? Is there a navigation app you can use?”
“As a matter of fact,” Triara spoke up. “There’s an app that can be gotten on your datapad that can help in that regard. It uses a network of navigational nodes that are placed all around the station.”
Jessie pulled out her datapad and right away she saw a notification to download the station’s navigation app. “It says here that I can tap this and it’ll download the navigation app to my datapad.”
“Yep,” Triara looked over at her datapad and tapped the notification and upon tapping it a new app icon showed up on her home screen. “That app there is what you’ll need to get around this place until you learn the layout of the place. It’s a very intuitive app to use. It has a full directory of what’s on the station by category and when you choose a place it’ll tell you how to get there and even what train to take.”
“Wow,” Jessie tapped the app icon and the app opened to show her a complete map of the station with indications as to what each section of the station was much like how Michael had indicated. “So, if I tap this menu here,” she tapped it, “I can just choose a category and it’ll tell me what’s available on the station?”
“Uh huh,” Triara tapped the screen where it said restaurants. “And here we have a full listing of the restaurants onboard the station along with a description of the kinds of food that each place serves. You can even find a menu if you click on the place.”
“Wow,” Jessie tapped Murray’s Steakhouse. “Can we go there,” she pointed at the datapad, “tonight?”
“Sure!” Michael exclaimed. “Triara and I already had plans to go there with you and Lisa anyways. It’s a great place to go, they have some of the best steaks this side of Mars.”
“And what will Triara have?” Jessie asked for she knew that Zaltaens generally were vegetarians.
“Well, that’s a silly question. I’m going with all of you to a steakhouse. What else would I have other than a nice steak?”
“But I thought that Zaltaens are…” Triara interrupted her. “Vegetarians?” Jessie shrugged. “Yeah well, I told you that I wasn’t a normal Zaltaen. I’ve been eating human food for nearly fifteen years ever since I started my undercover assignment among humans so long ago. And before you ask, yes… I was a bit apprehensive about eating meat when I first was inserted into human society but in an effort to blend in with humans, I had to become less of a picky eater. And if you ask me, lately I’ve come to enjoy a nice steak and damn does Murray’s make a good filet.”
“We’re going to have filet?” Jessie asked as she was shocked that her uncle would be willing to spend so much on her since she knew how much it cost to have a filet shipped out that far from Terra.
“Yep,” Michael grinned, “you’re going to be eating like a queen tonight!”
“Oh wow,” Jessie whispered.
Just then a voice came over the PA system of the train. “Blue section, sector four coming up. Please stay seated until the train comes to a full and complete stop.” Another voice then spoke something that Jessie knew was native Zaltaen even though she didn’t understand a word of it. “And here’s our stop,” Michael stood up as the train came to a stop, “blue section, sector four where Richard had a new place assigned to Triara and I.”
As they exited the train, Jessie thought that things would start calming down but that wasn’t at all the cast. In fact, it seemed like things got even busier. As they were trying to exit the train more people were boarding it destined for other areas of the station. She had to suppress her anxiety at how many people were around her, sometimes even brushing up against her in what she thought were inappropriate ways. She could feel people slide up against her. Part of her wanted to yelp but she knew that it wasn’t meant to be nefarious in nature, it was just that they were all in close quarters and that whoever had done so, they didn’t mean to have done it.
As they all walked away from the rather crowded train station that opened up into the section where Michael’s suite was, the crowd began to thin out a great deal. Now there were only but a few people, not the many hundreds that were crowding to get on and off the train. Jessie felt a sense of relief as the number of people were not nearly as many as the number on the train.
“Maybe now that you’ve seen how busy this station is, you might…” Jessie looked to him out of the corner of her eye. “If you think that a little commotion in the halls of this station is going to change my mind about staying here, you’ve got another thing coming. I don’t care,” she stopped in her tracks and slammed her foot to the floor, “I’m not going back. I want to make this work.” Michael sighed. “It may take some time but I’ll manage to get used to this place, I know I will.”
“I’m just trying to get you to think about…” Jessie once again interrupted him. “And what?” She looked at him deadpanned. “Go back to a home where I can’t even feel like I can be myself? Where I have to worry about if my mom approves of what I wear? No thank you!”
“Alright!” Michael exclaimed as he began walking down the corridor again. “I get it. You don’t want to go back home.”
“You got it.” Jessie snapped her fingers. “Being here,” she raised her arms in the air, “has given me a sense of freedom that I’ve longed for… for so long.” She shouted. “I’m free!” Others that were walking down the same corridor looked to her wondering what she meant by that. “I can finally be myself; I no longer have someone telling me what I can and can’t do.”
“Excuse me?” Michael added. “You do have me.”
“But you’re the cool uncle.” Michael rolled his eyes as she said that. “But you’ve got to know that there’s going to be some restrictions, right? I can’t be having you go off all half-cocked you know. You’ve got to have a plan as to what you want to do here. What about a job?” Michael asked as Jessie stopped in her tracks. “I didn’t think about that.”
“I bet you didn’t,” he put his hands on his hips. “Living here is costly and you can’t expect me to support you if you choose to live here. Right?” Jessie shook her head. “So, you’re going to have to find a job, earn some money, and pay into our little household that we have here.”
“I get it,” Jessie continued walking down the corridor, “I’m going to have to find a job.” She turned to Michael. “Do you have any ideas?” He shrugged. “Great,” she held her head low, “I’m going to have to do this on my own.”
“Not necessarily,” Triara added. “Last time I heard they’re looking for help in the Officer’s Lounge.”
“Oh no!” Michael exclaimed. “I’m not going have Jessie working in the Officer’s Lounge where male officers are going to ogle her and otherwise gawk at her. I won’t have it!”
“What’s the Officer’s Lounge?”
“Nevermind Jessie, you aren’t…” Triara interrupted him. “And you don’t have a problem going to the Officer’s Lounge with me. Right?”
“That’s different and you know it Triara!” Michael exclaimed. “You’re a grown woman, Jessie is like what? Seventeen years of age?”
“Eighteen!” Jessie yelled. “I’m going to be nineteen soon!”
“That’s beside the point!” Michael exclaimed as he stopped in his tracks. “I don’t want young male officer’s undressing her with their eyes much like I know damn well that they do with you.”
“Oh,” Triara huffed and put her hands on her hips, “so it’s alright for other officers to undress me with their eyes but it’s not alright for them the undress your niece? I get it.”
“I didn’t mean it that way Triara, I just…” Triara came up to him and hugged him. “I know what you mean, I’m just messing with you. You just want to protect your niece and that’s commendable.”
“I take it that the Officer’s Lounge is some kind of bar where young officers come, relax, drink, and otherwise have fun. Right?”
“Correct,” Michael said as they all once again continued to walk down the corridor. “It’s really not a place for a young girl… I mean, woman, such as yourself, should be working. You’re much too young and inexperienced with men to be working there. Maybe in a few years when you know more about how men’s minds work, you can work there.”
“Now you’re sounding like my mom.”
“I can’t help it,” Michael turned to the door of his new stateroom, “I feel much like your mom, I need to protect you somewhat.”
“You know Michael,” Triara spoke up, “they’re looking for someone who can handle the day-to-day things like ordering, receiving, inventory management, etc.” Jessie’s eyes widened as she said that. “They aren’t just hiring people for the bar you know. There’s the business management side of the house that they need help with you know.”
“And I took some AP courses back in high school in business management. I could work there making sure that things are working smoothly on the backend.”
“We’ll see,” Michael took out his CAC from his pocket, “I’ll talk to Kelea about possibly getting you a job in the office doing… something,” he threw his hands up in the air. “Just not the bar or waiting on tables.”
“Kelea?” Jessie questioned. “Is Kelea a Zaltaen like Triara is?”
“Uh huh,” Michael tapped his CAC against the card reader, “Kelea’s the head bartender and one of the managers of the place.” He was about to say something else when the door opened to reveal a rather sizable room that made his living room look positively tiny by comparison. As he walked into the suite he looked about and was blown away by the kind of room that he had. There were two couches on either side of the main room and a chair facing the vid-screen. The only thing he didn’t like is how the couches were arranged, he imagined it would be better where the couches were at an angle so that you didn’t have to turn your head so much when watching something on the vid-screen.
Suddenly he heard Jessie’s voice for as Jessie had walked into the suite, she lost her voice in shock at what the suite had to offer them. She never imagined that living on a space station would offer up such a posh place to live. “WOW!” Jessie continued to walk around the room. “This place is amazing!”
Meanwhile Triara looked about the suite and couldn’t believe what she was seeing. There was more room than she could imagine having, it was like three of their previous suites stitched together. Even the kitchen was far more equipped for the suite had a full kitchen with a full stove, a full refrigerator, a sink, and cooking space whereas in their previous suites they were lucky that they had a stove with just two burners, a mini fridge, a barely adequate workspace to prepare food at.
“What do you think, my love? I’ve been planning this for quite some time, it’s just that…” He didn’t get any more words out of his mouth for Triara caught him up in a kiss. “Michael,” she kissed him again, “I love it. But why? This place has got to be expensive. Right?” He nodded. “So why do all of this for me?”
“I know you’ve been disappointed that you sometimes have to go back to your stateroom when I work crazy hours and I know how you’ve been wanting a place where we can be and live together and you have to admit that our old suites were rather cramped compared to this,” he looked about the room as he held her in his arms, “this place. Right?” She nodded in agreement. “Besides, this is the first step in building a life with you.” She shuddered as she heard that. “And I know that you’ve been talking about having a child with me,” she nodded for she remembered telling him that, “and if we’re truly going to do that together, we’re going to need the space. Right? I can’t imagine having children with you in a cramped little officer’s stateroom. Not to mention,” he looked over at where Lisa was standing with Jessie, “with Lisa here we’re going to need the space too.”
“I get it,” she hugged him as she began to tear up, “and I’m so happy that you want to build a life with me despite how…” He stopped her midsentence with a kiss. “Shh,” he smiled, “I know what you’re going to say but what my fellow officers think about our relationship isn’t important. What is important is what we have here, what we mean to each other. What they think and say is…” she kissed him.
“Alright you two,” Jessie put her hands on her hips, “you two can make out like teenagers later. I’m starved!”
“Way to go at ruining a romantic moment there Jessie,” Triara looked over her shoulder. “You could’ve let Michael and I have this moment together.”
“Yeah well,” Jessie put her hands on her hips, “like I said before, you two can make out like teenagers later. I’m starving for some steak.”
“Maybe letting Jessie stay with us was a bad idea.” Triara muttered.
“I heard that!” Jessie started for the door. “Come on you two, Lisa’s hungry too you know.”
“Alright,” Triara reluctantly let go of Michael and wiped her eyes, “let’s go get dinner my love.”
As they were walking down the hallway, they saw Richard coming up to them. “Hey guys,” Richard said as he approached them, “what do you think of your new place? I hope you like it. I had to pull a lot of strings to get you the place seeing as how you’re technically not married yet and technically it’s against the regs. I made the argument to the captain that you were, at least, engaged to be married.”
“We love it Richard,” Triara hugged Richard. “Thank you for whatever you had to do to make it happen for Michael and me. We,” she glanced over her shoulder at Michael, “really do appreciate it.”
“I thought you would,” he let go of Triara. “I just wanted to check in on all of you to find out how you settled in.”
“Great,” Michael too hugged his longtime friend, “I really do appreciate all the work you did to get Triara and I the suite. It sure is pretty nice compared to what we had before.”
“Say,” Richard asked, “what does it look like in there? I’ve never been in one of the family suites before.”
“Here,” Michael walked back over to his door and waved his CAC next to the card reader, “come see for yourself.” Michael held his hand up and waved it as an indication that Richard could walk in. As he looked about, he nodded; he was more than impressed. “Nice,” he continued to look about, “it’s really quite impressive what they do for families on the station. My stateroom is pretty big but nothing like this.” He turned back to Michael. “I take it that it has two bedrooms, right?”
Richard once again found himself rather impressed. “Anyways,” he walked out of the suite and back into the hallway, “I’ve got to get going. I just got off shift and if I want something to eat so I better make it to the officer’s wardroom within the next fifteen minutes or I’m going to be standing in a long line to get dinner.”
“Why don’t you join us?” Jessie asked. “We’re all going to Murray’s.” She looked to her uncle. “Can Richard come with us?”
“Sure,” Michael shrugged.
“Oh,” Richard looked down at the floor, “I wouldn’t to impose on all of you.”
“You wouldn’t be imposing on us at all,” Jessie tried to reassure Richard. “I’m saying that you can come with us,” she put her hand to her chest, “I’m welcoming you to come with us. It’ll be fun. Michael here says that we’re all going to have filet tonight,” Richard’s jaw dropped, “so come on with us, it’s the least we could do for you since you help my uncle get that sweet place you managed to get him.”
“Alright,” Richard began to walk with them, “but I insist on paying for my own dinner.”
“What part of us inviting you out to have dinner with us did you not understand?” Jessie asked as Richard looked at her with a rather shocked look on his face. He didn’t think that Jessie would be that forward with him, after all, she only knew him for a couple of hours. “We invited you, besides,” she thought, “I have some credits in my personal account so I can chip in on the cost which I can imagine it’s going to be expensive.” She looked to her uncle. “Isn’t that right Michael?”
“Yeah,” Triara spoke up before Michael had a chance to, “but we’re taking you out Jessie. I have quite a bit of savings too so I can more than afford to pay for the evening. In fact, I insist on paying for the evening.”
Later that evening Triara walked into one of the bedrooms opposite the one that Jessie and Lisa had chosen as the one that they’d use. She sat down on the side of the bed and took her shoes off, folded down the covers to one side of the bed, laid down on the bed and happily sighed as she felt herself sink into the bed’s surface. “Oh, Great Maker,” she whispered to herself for she was the only one in the room, “this is nice.”
And it was nice, the mattress that she was laying on was so much better than the one that she had in her old place. She supposed that that was the difference between being in the section of the station where a majority of the civilian support staff lived whereas the military were seen as not needing such luxuries. She had to laugh at that thought for she would’ve figuratively killed for a mattress that was as soft and comfortable as the one that she was laying on.
“What’s nice?” Michael asked as he walked into the bedroom to find Triara laying on the bed with part of her laying on the top sheet of the bed and her feet on the folded back covers.
“The bed silly,” she sat up on put her hands behind her to steady herself, “it’s nice. Why don’t you come lay down next to me and find out for yourself?”
“Alright,” he said as he too sat down on the side of the bed and took his shoes off because he, like Triara, didn’t want to dirty the bed with whatever was on the bottom of his shoes. As he looked back at her she laid back down on the pillow and patted the bed next to her. “Come my dear, lay down next to me.”
Michael, of course, didn’t take a lot of time at all to take her up on her invitation to lay down on the bed next to her. As he laid down next to her, she took hold of his hand and interlaced her fingers with hers and gave his hand a slight squeeze. “What do you think?” she asked as she looked to him. “Do you think it’s nice?”
“Oh yes,” he felt himself sink into the bed’s surface. “Yes, it is,” he happily sighed.
That was when she climbed up on top of him and kissed him and while doing so, she formed a telepathic connection with him. They had learned a long time ago that close and otherwise intimate contact initiated a telepathic link between them. They both had to admit that it was quite ironic that said acts was what made that connection between them.
“Thank you, my love,” she put her hands on her chest and looked about the room, “thank you for all of this. It really means a lot to me that you thought about this. I wasn’t expecting you to do this for me.”
“That’s why it’s called a surprise.” He kissed her as she laid back down on top of him. “I didn’t let you know because I wanted to see the look on your face when I revealed that I got a place to call our own. This place is more than just a place for the two of us to live together, this is the beginning of a new future for us.”
She laid her head down on his chest as he held her close. They stayed like that for what seemed like forever and it seemed like time stood still all the while they once again shared their most intimate of thoughts with each other like they did so many other times in the past. Soon a naughty thought came to her mind.
“Triara,” he thought, “what are you…” He didn’t finish that thought of his for the next thing he knew was that she brought her right leg up and pressed herself against him at which he gasped. “I can feel that you’re rather aroused right now.” He gasped as he felt her press harder against him which only made him that much more aroused. “Well then,” she smiled as she sat up, “let’s take care of that, shall we? Oh, and there’s one more thing,” she sat up on her knees, “I’ve turned my reproductive systems back on and I don’t think I need to tell you what that means.”
“Triara,” he whispered. “I thought that you wanted to get married first before trying for a baby. Are you sure about this? Is this what you really want?”
“Uh huh,” she hummed as she stepped off the bed and began to get undressed. “And trust me, what you’ve experienced in the past is like nothing you’re going to experience with me tonight.”
“Why is that?” he wondered. “Does it have something to do with what you said about turning your reproductive systems back on?”
“Uh huh,” she, again, hummed. “Suffice it to say that when a Zaltaen female has her reproductive systems turned off, the state of her sexual arousal is much lower than I am right now.” His eyes went wide at the prospect of being with her in her heightened state. “Now come on lover boy, get undressed…” she said in the kind of voice that low and sultry. “I want to have some fun tonight. I hope you’re ready.”
Meanwhile in the bedroom across the hall where Jessie and Lisa were laying on the bed together playing a game on her datapad, Lisa heard Michael shout Triara’s name.
“What was that?” Lisa asked as she looked up from the datapad. “Is daddy in trouble?”
Jessie smirked as she made her next move in the game with her game controller. “Oh no little one,” she laughed, “your daddy is just having some fun with Triara.”
“Fun?” Lisa squealed. “Can we join him?” Lisa asked with the childlike innocence that was only to be found in a young child like her.
“No!” Jessie exclaimed as she reached for Lisa and stopped her from running off to her daddy. “You can’t join in the kind of fun that your daddy and Triara are having right now.”
“Why not?” Lisa asked as she fidgeted against Jessie. “But I want to have fun with daddy.”
“Lisa,” she paused the game, “what your daddy and Triara are having right now is something that you’ll learn about when you become older like me.” Lisa looked to her questioningly. “Trust me, you’ll understand when you get older. But right now, let’s continue our game.”
“But you’re beating me.”
“Don’t be a sore loser.” And with one flick of the thumb stick on Jessie’s game controller, the game came to an end with the appearance of the winner screen indicating that Jessie had won the game. “Yes!” Jessie threw the controller down on the bed. “I win!” She watched Lisa pout. “Hey,” Jessie pointed at her, “don’t be a sore loser. Besides, you won the last round. You can’t win them all you know.”
“I know,” Lisa pouted once again, “next game I’m going to beat you again!”
“That’s the spirit!” Jessie began another game and they once again started playing the video game together.
In Michael and Triara’s bedroom, Triara gasped as she collapsed atop Michael and kissed him. “Oh Michael,” she kissed him again, “that was amazing. I’ve never felt so alive before.” She slid her hands up and down his chest as she laid atop him.
“You’re telling me!” he exclaimed inside her mind. “When you said that the experience was going to be like nothing I’ve ever had before with you, I thought you were just joking.” Triara shook her head. “But that… that was… my God. That was… just… Triara, words can’t describe what I felt.”
“I know,” she kissed him again, “that’s what I meant when I said that it was going to be intense. What we shared both physically and telepathically was…” she heard his voice inside her mind. “Beyond anything I’ve ever felt before.”
“I know,” she kissed him, “I want to stay like this for a little while longer.”
“That’s perfectly alright my love,” he put his arms around her and simply held her tightly much like she often did with him, “I want to as well.”
Later that night, Triara stepped out of the bathroom after taking a shower that was just as glorious as Michael said it was, she walked up to the door of the bedroom that Jessie and Lisa had chosen and reached out with her mind to Jessie and the spoke the words “all clear” into her mind.
Meanwhile Jessie gasped as she looked to Lisa. “Did you hear something just now?” Lisa shook her head. “I could’ve sworn that I heard Triara’s voice.”
“No,” Lisa shook her head again, “I didn’t hear a thing.”
“Whatever,” Jessie shook her head in confusion, “I could’ve sworn that I heard her voice. I heard her say the words ‘all clear’. But whatever, I’ll talk to Triara about that in the morning. In the meantime, you better get undressed and ready take a shower. I’m going to be helping you.”
“Jessie,” Lisa pouted, “I know how to take a shower.”
“True,” Jessie looked to her as she unbuttoned her shirt, “but it’s a new place with new fixtures and they may be a bit strange to you. That’s all. I just want to make sure you don’t get hurt seeing as how you may not know how to work the shower in this new place.”
“Oh alright,” Lisa once again pouted.
- Two and a half miles.