Space 2315… Peace, Chapter 8

Later that night in the officer’s lounge, Richard sat down at the bar and looked around. It was about 2300 hours, well into the station’s official night. Yet even at that late hour, the Officer’s Lounge tended to fill up quickly. Unlike on a warship, the station had a little bit more laidback atmosphere in its day-to-day operations, thus the crew tended to take a few more liberties. So long as they didn’t party too hard, nobody saw any need to act like the station was a warship.

He knew that if he wanted anything close to a decent seat in the lounge, he’d have to get there early before the place filled up. That and the fact that he generally didn’t like it when the place was too busy. He liked a sort of quiet bar experience and just about now was the best time to visit the lounge. He looked about at the lounge and then back to the bar as the bartender came close.

“Your usual?” Kelea, the Zaltaen that managed the officer’s lounge at this time, asked as she placed a cardboard coaster in front of him that had the Space Force emblem on it. He had the admit that when the lounge first opened on the space station, he was surprised that a Zaltaen was managing it. But sure enough, when he’d looked at the plaque at the door indicating the name and the managers of the establishment, her name was listed as one of the managers; Kelea Meadowbrook.

Why was he surprised? Perhaps it was because Zaltaens weren’t exactly known to want to come around to the more colorful places in human communities, let alone want to manage such a place. About the only Zaltaen that Richard knew that was comfortable with going to places like the lounge was his friend Triara and that was only because of him and Rachel. Zaltaen cultural mores were quite puritanical when compared to humans. Humans often joked that Zaltaens made even the most conservative of Evangelicals and Mormons look positively liberal in how they dressed and acted by comparison. It was only recently that the younger generation of Zaltaens were breaking away from the old ways which Richard knew was scaring the daylights out of the older Zaltaen generations back on Zalta.

Unfortunately for the older generations, there was nothing they could do. What could they do? They knew that anything they could try would only serve to anger the younger generations of Zaltaens who were already sick and tired of the heavy hand that was atop them and as a result of that, they were leaving Zalta for human worlds in droves. Angering the younger generation even more so than they already were would only serve to increase the stream of people leaving Zaltaen Space and that wasn’t something they wanted to see.

The officer’s lounge served not only as a place to sit down and have a drink and otherwise sit back and let the worries of duty wash away in the contents of a glass of alcohol, but it also served as a place to get a bit of a bite to eat for they served hamburgers, wings, sandwiches, and other such food that people often referred to as bar food. Richard adored the place’s pastrami sandwich served with house-cut chips along with a tall glass of beer.

Richard simply nodded his head as Kelea placed an empty rocks glass on his drink coaster and poured a double of Johnnie Walker Black neat. When he picked the glass up and looked at the contents, he swore that she had poured more than a double of the Scotch. She then pulled up a mug from under the bar and went over to the beer taps to draw a pint of beer.

When the lounge first opened, it didn’t have a good selection of beer at all. All they had at first was the standard brands like Budweiser, Miller and the other long-lasting American beers that persisted into this century. Seeing as how Richard was a bit of a beer snob, he’d managed to convince Kelea to bring in some more obscure stuff including some brews from his own home colony of Alpha Centauri.

Brands like Centauri Brews, Mars Ale (which surprisingly didn’t just make ales), and even a few from the Corporate Republic of Sirius. And now that they weren’t at war with the Union of Free Stars, trading operations opened which brought some genuinely interesting brews from the former colonies. Some of the whiskeys from said former colonies were exceptionally good as well, but none of them had that distinctive taste as those from Terra. There was just something about Terran whiskey that made it special and unable to be duplicated; perhaps it was the water used, the grains, soil conditions, atmosphere, or any other of many factors that made Terran whiskey the best in all of Human Space. That or he was just biased, like most people, to Terran-made anything.

As he watched Kelea walk away he damn near had to tear his eyes away from the sight of her for she was wearing a miniskirt and a rather tight shirt and vest that he knew damn well most Zaltaens wouldn’t be caught dead wearing. He knew that she was a bartender and he knew that job entailed entertaining the guests and if she chose to give the patrons a bit of a show, that was her choice now, wasn’t it?

However, if you asked Richard, Kelea often took the whole appearance to a whole other level. “God damn,” he whispered as he watched her put a bit more sway in her hips as she walked. As Richard’s eyes slid down her curvaceous figure, he noticed the slight shine of nylons on her legs and a pair of what seemed like an impossibly tall pair of high-heeled shoes that he wondered how she even walked in them. God, I have got to find a way to either visit Rachel or have her come here, even if it’s only for a few days, he thought to himself.

“Ah, Richard, looking at the bartender I see.”

Richard choked as he heard the woman’s voice. He turned to see his captain, Danielle Byrne. “C…” he stopped before he completed the word, he remembered the House Rules about leaving rank at the door and that generally meant that rank and official business were left at the door. That didn’t mean that you forgot yourself or who was who, but you generally didn’t use words like “ma’am”, “sir”, or even rank in here.

He then thought back to how some poor bastard forgot those rules and was forced to buy the whole house a round of drinks.

“Danielle Byrne. I didn’t expect you to show your face in place like this.”

“And why not?” Danielle asked as she situated herself better on the bar stool next to him. Richard looked her over, she’d changed out of the suit that she had worn to the dinner party with the president and the queen into what appeared to be a baggy pair of sweatpants and a sweatshirt that had the Space Force emblem on it.

“It’s just…” he shook his head and tried to think of a reason why he didn’t expect to see her there. “I didn’t expect a person like you to want to mingle with, you know…” he paused as he pointed across the lounge at an ensign sitting in the far back corner, “everyone else. I figured that if you wanted a drink your steward can scare up something far better in your stateroom than what they have here. I can’t remember the last time that a person like you came to the lounge to have a drink.”

“I know what you’re thinking, and yes, I do have a rather well-stocked wet bar in my stateroom for when I have the officers over for working lunches or dinners. But I just wanted to be out among people tonight. Yes, my steward will share a drink with me, but sometimes I just want to be out and not be the Old Lady, if you catch my meaning.” Richard shook his head in agreement.

It was then that Kelea came back with a rather large mug of beer in her hand and put it down on the bar top in front of Richard. “Mars Ale Olympus Mons Porter. Will you be starting a tab tonight?”

He thought about it for a few seconds. “Nah,” he shook his head, “though I will put an order in for a half-pound of the boneless hot Cajun wings.”

“Coming right up!” Kelea then walked over to the computer terminal and punched in his order along with the drink items that he had.

“You’re a regular here?” Danielle asked.

“Often enough that she knows what I like or what I might like to try, but it’s not like I’m in here all the time,” he answered as he lifted his mug of beer and took a quick pull at it.

Danielle shrugged her shoulders. “Me too, I’m a bit of a regular since neither I nor my steward can make a Martini worth a damn.”

“You like Martinis?” Richard asked as he took a sip of his beer.

“Yeah,” she said as Kelea put a napkin down in front of her and placed a drink down in front of her. “Kelea here knows just how I like my Martinis, dry and strong.” She looked to Kelea. “Don’t you Kelea.” She nodded and walked away leaving the two of them to talk.

“I can’t stand vodka,” Richard told her.

“You’ve just not had top shelf,” she pointed to him with her index finger. “Now if you made this drink that I have with what’s in the well,” she pointed to the bottle of Vernier Thruster1 Vodka which Richard remembered drinking the whiskey version of it and immediately recalled feeling nothing but regret. “Then of course you’re not going to like vodka. About the only thing that’s good for is cleaning electrical contacts. Now Grey Goose is another thing altogether different; that stuff is so smooth you’d swear you’re drinking water. That is, until you go to stand up.” She laughed. She then looked at the two glasses in front of Richard. “What are you having?”

“Johnnie Walker Black Scotch. Neat. And a glass of Mars Ale Olympus Mons Porter,” he answered before pausing for a second. “I will however take soju as an alternative to vodka.”

That stuff can get dangerous, really quickly,” Danielle said with a chuckle before going on, “I’m strictly a martini and wine lady. I can’t stand whiskey or beer.”

“Whiskey in all its forms is an acquired taste but as far as beer is concerned, that’s just because you haven’t been introduced to the good stuff. If you’re drinking the fizzy yellow swill, then of course you’re not going to like it, just like you said about vodka.” He then pointed to his beer glass. “Take this beer for instance, it’s got chocolate and coffee notes.”

“A beer snob I see.”

“Oh, most definitely.” He then signaled for Kelea. “May we get a taster of what I’m having for her?” he asked, gesturing to his captain.

“Sure,” Kelea said as she walked away up to the beer tap with a small glass in her hands.

“If I do recall from your personnel jacket, you’re married. Right?”

“Yes,” Richard said as he took a sip of his beer. “What of it?”

“But you’re looking at Kelea.” Richard sighed, wishing that his captain hadn’t called him out on it. The captain saw his discomfort and went on. “Look, there’s nothing wrong with doing that Mister Smith. As I once told my husband, you may be married but you’re still a man. There’s nothing at all wrong with looking at another woman, just as long as all you’re doing is looking but in the end your heart stays with your spouse. Your honor isn’t damaged by looking, it’s only if you act on an improper impulse that your honor would be stained.”

“I didn’t know you were married ma’am. It’s not in your personnel jacket and I certainly don’t see a wedding ring.”

“I was married Richard. My husband, Michael, died in battle aboard the HFS Cromwell with the then ACF at Tau Ceti toward the end of the war. She was lost with all hands. Direct hit to one of the fusion plants, there wasn’t time to get to the escape pods. It went up so fast there was no chance for the failsafe to engage.”

“I’m sorry,” Richard stared into his Scotch. “I didn’t know.”

“It’s not like I gave you any reason to look. Besides, I’ve gotten over it. For the most part. At least my kids are safely at home with my sister while I’m here running this station. And before you ask why I don’t bring them here, this place isn’t exactly conducive to raising children just yet, at least not until it goes fully online. And even then, running a station like this is a fulltime job. I wouldn’t have the time I’d need to be a proper parent.”

“True,” he nodded his head, taking all of that in, “I didn’t know you had kids either. How old?”

“My oldest, my daughter, is sixteen Terran-years old. She has dreams of being just like her mom. Wants to join the Space Force. My youngest, my son at twelve, thinks he wants to be a Marine. I’m doing my best to dissuade him of that notion,” she said with a brief chuckle.

“Why not let him?” Richard asked with an answering chuckle.

“Our whole family has served Richard, going back generations. Air Force, Navy, and within the last hundred years, the Space Force. Not one Soldier or Marine. Call it not wanting to upset our ancestors by letting him be a ground pounder.”

Richard couldn’t help but laugh a little at that. “Did your sister serve?” he asked her.

“Yes,” the captain said with a nod. “She did ten years in the Air Force and got out of the Active Service as a tech sergeant. She went into the Reserve and has been there since.”

Richard paused, took a sip of his beer, then went on. “If I lost my Rachel, I don’t know what I’d do.”

“Some are better at dealing with loss than others. Besides,” she took a sip of her drink, “there’s programs for us to take advantage of to help us deal with loss. I took every advantage I could and I’m better now. Not good,” she shrugged her shoulders, “mind you, but better.”

Richard looked at her out of the corner of his eye. At least she hadn’t tried to say that she was a hundred percent again. He then looked to his glass and raised it in the air. “Danielle,” he waited for her to raise her glass too, “to the success of this station and her mission. May it always be as successful as it has been so far.” She smiled as she clinked it against his. “I can definitely drink to that!” She then took another sip of her martini and set it back down on the bar top.

Just as she did that Kelea put the taster of the beer that Richard was drinking and as she did that, Richard pointed. “Try it,” he said as Danielle took up the small glass and put it up in front of the light only to discover that no light was shining through it like most of the beers that she knew of.

“Alright,” she nervously took the glass closer to her mouth and breathed in. She didn’t know what to expect from the scent of the beer but immediately, as Richard had noted, she caught a hint of those chocolate and coffee notes that he had talked about. She took a sip of the beer but unlike with most beers, she didn’t have that immediate feeling of revulsion that she so often had with beer. It wasn’t hoppy, overly carbonated, or any of the other things that she couldn’t stand about beer. “Whoa,” she whispered, “now I hadn’t expected this.”

“Expected what?”

“It’s… it’s smooth, creamy almost. Not at all like I often think of when I think of beer.”

“That’s because what you just had isn’t just beer, it’s the premium stuff; dare I say, art in a glass.” He could see her roll her eyes at that. “I know that I sound like a beer snob with that last comment but it’s true. This isn’t just produced to get you drunk, this stuff is produced for those of us who want some taste with our beer.” He paused. “But enough about the snob stuff, what do you think of it?”

“Well,” she took another sip of the beer as she looked at the glass in her hand that still had a bit of the drink in it, “it’s definitely not like anything I’ve ever tried before, I’ll tell you that.” Richard motioned for her to continue. “It’s not fizzy, it doesn’t make me want to immediately burp. It definitely doesn’t leave me wanting to violently convulse at the taste. No, this stuff,” she took another sip, “this stuff is definitely some good stuff.”

“See?” Richard asked. “Not all beer is bad, just that mass produced stuff that made for mass consumption.”

“Yeah,” Danielle put the empty glass down on the bar. “What’s it called again?”

“Mars Ale Olympus Mons Porter.” She nodded as she mentally took note of the name. “If you need a way to remember what it’s called, just think about that volcano on Mars. Most bartenders will know what you mean if you simply call it by ‘Mars Ale Olympus Mons’.”

“I see,” she nodded. The two of them sat in silence until she picked her martini back up and threw back the last of it and stood up from her seat. “Well Richard, I’ve got the watch in the morning so have a good night.” With that she walked away leaving Richard looking down at the bar. “Oh,” she turned back to him as a last thought, “thanks for introducing me to that beer. I’ll have to see about getting some at the Class Six.” Richard shook his head. “What?” she asked.

“Trust me,” he laughed, “after having it on draft, you’ll not want it in the bottle or can. Draft is so much better. You’re much better off coming here to have it.” That was when she saw Kelea nod her head in agreement with Richard as she held a basket of food in her hands that she imagined was for Richard. “I’ll keep that in mind.” And with that she walked away.

“Alright Richard, one order of wings,” Kelea put the basket down on the bar in front of him.

“Thank you Kelea.” He took hold of a wing and bit into it and smiled. “I can never get enough of this sauce,” he said as he pointed to the wing in his hand.

“And here I thought you came here for the scenery,” Kelea smiled as she whipped her purple hair back.

Richard laughed. “Well, the scenery is nice.” She then picked the bottle of Johnnie Walker Black from under the bar and refilled his glass. “I didn’t order that. Are you trying to get me drunk?”

Maybe I am,” Kelea smirked as Richard rolled his eyes, “maybe I’m just trying to get you to open up. As the humans say, you need to open up for God’s sake. Hell, this is the first time I’ve ever seen you be sociable and actually talk to someone here. You usually sit at the bar with a datapad or some other kind of personal computing device while you bury yourself in it. You’re always so closed off. Even when I try a surface scan of your mind all I can sense is your focus. You close off everything.”

Richard couldn’t help but to smirk as he thought about what Triara told him about how to keep her and others like her out of his mind. “That’s because a friend of mine who is also a Zaltaen taught me how to keep other Zaltaens out of my mind. She taught me to keep my thoughts jumbled and sing songs in my head for a noisy mind is difficult to read without additional effort. That or maintain a tight focus on something, thus why I’ll be as focused on something like a book or a HD show.”

“Oh really,” Kelea squealed as she leaned back over the bar and rested on her elbows leaving her face so close that he could feel her breath on his nose along with being able to smell the perfume that she was wearing. And oh, was her perfume divine! As he sniffed her perfume again, he realized that it was the same perfume that his own wife often wore which only served to make him miss her all that much more. “Who’s the Zaltaen, maybe I know her.”

He shook his head, there was no way that she would know Triara. Triara was in the Space Force and Kelea was just a manager and bartender. “You probably don’t know her,” Kelea pressed for more. “Alright,” he sighed, “her name is Triara Moonbeam.”

“Moonbeam,” Kelea said as she began to think and then chuckled. “If my memory serves me correctly, the House of Moonbeam is one of the oldest and most prestigious of all the Zaltaen noble houses. It’s obviously not as powerful as the House of Greenfeather.” Richard looked to her with a rather confused look on his face. He wasn’t exactly up on the names of the noble houses on Zalta. “The House of Greenfeather is the house from which the Queen of Zalta comes from.”

Richard nodded his head in his buzzed state. “Ah yes.”

“Anyways,” she continued, “the House of Moonbeam is pretty high up there. Probably in the top five of the most important and powerful of the noble houses on Zalta. To tell you how powerful they are, they have several members in the Royal Court and in the House of Lords. To have as many as they do is highly prestigious.”

Richard’s eyebrow raised as she said that he had no idea about that for Triara never told him of that.

“I take it that Triara never told you that little bit about her.” Richard shook his head slightly.

“Is she also a telepath?” He nodded his head in confirmation.

“I imagine that she also told you some kind of sob story about her childhood and how she was taken away from her family and sent to The Royal Order of Telepaths to help her develop her talents.” He again nodded his head.

“Well, that’s not entirely true.”

“Triara told me that only some Zaltaens have telepathic abilities and that those who do are taken away from their families and sent to The Royal Order of Telepaths.”

“A lie, a bald-faced lie as you humans say.” Kelea paused as Richard waved for her to go on. “You see, in reality, it’s up to the family or House to send a child that has telepathic abilities to the Order to have their talents developed further beyond what comes naturally to most Zaltaens. Only but the noble houses do this because of the considerable expense. My house didn’t send me. We didn’t have the money or resources for that kind of stuff. In the end, those in my family or House helped me develop my talents. Those that are sent to the Order usually end up in government or military roles.”

“Wait a damn second here, she even told me how she was forced by her family.”

“Forced?” Kelea paused, wondering why Richard was told this. “You’ve got to understand something about Zaltaens. Most Zaltaen families are traditionalists. As I told you before, the House of Moonbeam is pretty up there. Her house, the House of Moonbeam is, let’s put it this way… you can’t get any more traditionalist than those people. As I said before, they’re an incredibly old noble house that works hard to save face. For them to lose face would mean they’d lose political power, and they can’t have that. While it may be true that only some Zaltaens have telepathic abilities, the percentage of our society who do have it is much higher than what is generally known.”

“So, to get back to Triara, she was probably sent to the Royal Order of Telepaths because it was tradition, it’s what the old houses do.” He took a sip from his glass to which Kelea refilled it and not only that but gave him a whole lot more than just the usual amount that he normally got. He idly wondered what her angle was as to keep pouring him Scotch other than to get a bigger tab. “Where did you meet Triara?”

“The Human Federation Space Force, where else?”

“Oh,” Kelea began to laugh. “The ultimate form of rebellion for a member of a House as old as hers.”

He gave her a questioning look, wondering how and why something like that would be considered to be a rebellious move.

Kelea went on. “For a House as old as the House of Moonbeam, it’s expected of a Zaltaen of her stature and her abilities to serve the House be it take up a position in the Royal Court, sit in the House of Lords, or any number of other things that the nobility does, including serve in the Zaltaen Armed Forces as a military telepath. For her to break away from tradition and do what she wanted to do, it must’ve been scandalous to her house. More than likely, she was disowned and cast out of her house. That is, after all, the only way for her house to save face. It’s one of the things that scares the living crap out of the older generations of my people, the sense from you humans that one can do whatever you want to do and that upholding the old ways is a bunch of bullshit.”

“I take it that she joined the Royal Zaltaen Navy and signed on for service to Terra because she was pissed off at her family for doing what they did to her when she was younger. She saw it as a way to tell her family, as humans put it, to go fuck themselves,” Richard inquired.

“Got it in one Rich!” She pointed to him with her index finger. “Most Zaltaens of her societal stature wouldn’t volunteer for Terran service. Most of the noble houses are full of the same types that wanted to keep from formal contact with your people.”

“Um, that’s rather…” Kelea interrupted him, waving an apology as she did so. “Condescending? Unfeeling?” He nodded his head as his eyebrows rose. “Well yeah, that’s the noble houses for you. They may be of high society but as for the kind of people they are, well… they’re real shitty people, at least in my opinion.” She shook her head as she scoffed. “Just because you’re of high society doesn’t make you a good person. I believe in your society there’s those that are the elites and your so-called ‘social betters’ that are some of the worst of the lot, am I right?”

Richard couldn’t help but nod at that last part. After a brief moment he asked, “Do other Zaltaens feel the same way?”

“Of course, they do!” Kelea exclaimed. “However, most Zaltaens who aren’t of the noble houses know that trying to change our society would be like trying to herd,” she paused to think, even going as far as snapping her fingers on her right hand much like some humans do. “What are those animals that humans keep that make a meow sound and like to lick themselves clean?”

Richard laughed. “They would be called cats, Felis catus or better known as the domestic cat.”

“Yeah… those!” she exclaimed as she pointed at him with her index finger. “Trying to herd cats would be easier than to try to change the way those of the noble houses act. That’s why so many young people like Triara and I took it upon themselves to leave the damn place. Many of us saw that life on Terra, despite your own issues, was better than what we had on Zalta; we could get away from the oppression of the noble houses.”

She was about to refill his glass when he put his hand up. “If I have any more to drink, I’m not going to be able to walk out of here.” His speech was already slurring, and he knew it. Even though he had a little something to eat, he wasn’t planning on drinking so much that evening. He simply planned to have a little nightcap and a snack but Kelea seemed to have other plans for him. “I may have the next two days off, but I’d still like to be able to walk out of here without stumbling down the hall. That would look really bad on my part. Besides, who’s going to pay for the extra drink?”

“Well then,” Kelea smiled. “That means you have more time here to sober up. Here,” she reached down under the bar and pulled out a tall glass and filled it with water. “That should help you.” He nodded his head in thanks. “And as for the extra drink, don’t worry about it darling; it’s on me.” He blushed as she called him such a term of endearment, even if he knew that she was only doing it as any barkeep or waitress would.

He took told of the glass of water from across the bar and took a sip of it as Commander Amanda Shelby of reactor control sat down next to him. Why the short (she was only 152cm2 tall) and very pretty blonde had chosen to sit next to him at the bar, he didn’t know. Scuttlebutt on the station had it that Amanda was interested in Richard despite the fact that everyone aboard knew that he was married. Married, though he may’ve been, he often found that that didn’t at all stop women from looking his way; in fact, it only increased the number of women who looked his way. It wasn’t like he was going to give into their advances or anything. So why did they bother trying at all?

“What’ll it be Amanda?” Kelea looked away from Richard. “Your usual?” She simply nodded her head as Kelea put a glass down in front of her on a cardboard coaster, walked to the bar to grab the bottle of Crown Royal and filled her glass. “Thank you Kelea,” she said as she waved her CAC above the credit card reader.

Richard looked to Kelea as she came back from putting the bottle back on the bar. “Anyways, do you come from a noble house?” he asked as he took another sip of the water. Normally he wouldn’t have sat there and spoken to the bartender at length like he was. She was right about him. Normally he took his drink to go or had it and left soon after. But something had compelled him to stay tonight. Meanwhile Amanda Shelby began to listen in on their conversation for she too was interested in Zaltaen culture.

“I’m from one of the, shall we say, lesser or lower houses.” Meanwhile she couldn’t help but to think that she couldn’t get any lower than dirt. “For a person from my house, there’s not much you can do other than hope to the Great Maker that someone from one of the upper houses sees value in you and allows your house be merged into their house through arranged partnerships that were usually set up by the matriarch of the two houses.”

“Partnership?” Amanda asked. “What are those?” Kelea turned to look to her. “A partnership is much like what you humans call a marriage. There’s no vows or anything that’s made like what humans do, a partnership is for little more than bringing two houses together.”

“So, what made you come to Human Space?” Richard asked.

“Ah,” she sighed. “Like I said, I come from one of the lesser houses so for me I saw going to Terra as a way to escape the trappings of our houses and traditions that generally keep the commonfolk from rising above their station. Back before that civil war of yours there was a lottery of sorts to win a chance to go to Terra. I didn’t think I had a chance of actually winning the lottery but somehow, I did. I won the chance to go to Terra and, so, off I went.”

“They, of course, sent me prepared. I had to pick somewhere to live in human space, so I chose North America. As Triara probably told you, most Zaltaens already learn English but usually they only learn the basics of the language. As a Zaltaen going to Terra, I needed to learn far more than just that. I needed to learn slang and other human mannerisms to allow me to better fit in with humans. Our English courses teach us the language in an academic fashion, with none of the things that native-speakers take for granted.”

“I do have ask, what did you think of humans when you first met us?” Amanda asked for she had to know what she thought. She’d heard of other Zaltaens talk about how they weren’t at all prepared for going under cover among humans. The prominent thing that she’d heard about Zaltaens was that they were shocked by how humans dressed and acted, and that humanity was far less prudish than Zaltaens were.

“I’d like to know that as well, Triara also told me as such.”

“You’re friends with a Zaltaen?” Amanda asked. She was rather shocked that a Zaltaen would be as open to being friends with a human. All the Zaltaens she knew kept to themselves and rarely socialized with humans. Of course, the only ones she knew were the ones aboard this station and they tended to stay in the Zaltaen sector. Richard looked up from his glass of water. “Yeah, I’ve been friends with one for quite some time. It’s why I’m here on this station, befriending her prepared me to help bring about a joint crew like what we have here.”

“I imagine that Triara told you that she too was horrified by how humans dressed and acted. I can say that I was the same. Great Maker! I was horrified by what human women thought of as clothing. Just about everything that most human women wore revealed some portion of their body for it was so skintight that I had to wonder if there was any purpose to wearing said clothing. Every curve, every line, it was all on display. No Zaltaen would ever dare show off so much!” Kelea exclaimed, recalling to herself how she reacted the first few times she’d been in public.

“I remember my first roommate on Terra. What she wore damn near made me want to run back to Zalta.” Kelea laughed, feeling silly at how she’d first reacted then and how she was now. “However, I told myself that there was no way in hell I was going to go back to Zalta seeing as how I would be going back to a life of basically serving some upper house with little chance to be anything more than that. So, I put my discomfort aside and eventually with time it didn’t bother me anymore. I accepted it, grew into it, and became comfortable with it. That’s when I started wearing more human clothing that any Zaltaen wouldn’t be caught dead wearing on my world, although I wasn’t wearing anything like this at the time. It would probably make them older generation people on my planet faint out of fright simply by gazing their eyes upon me right now.”

She backed away from the bar to allow Amanda to see what she was wearing. “Take this skirt for instance,” she tugged at the hemline of her short miniskirt all while Richard watched and Amanda rolled her eyes; she knew that Kelea was doing that for Richard’s benefit. “No Zaltaen would ever dream of showing off so much leg even with these nylons that I’m wearing with this outfit. And that’s not all,” she pressed her hands to her chest, “no Zaltaen would ever show off this much of themselves,” she said as she pointed at the cleavage that she was showing off. “It just wouldn’t happen. It would be scandalous. Scandalous I tell you!”

Amanda piped in. “So why do you wear that kind of outfit if your people would find it to be so scandalous? Aren’t you afraid of what your people would think of you?”

“To be quite honest,” she put her hands on her hips as she looked to Amanda, “I don’t give a fuck what my people think of me or what the hell I wear.” Amanda was surprised by how she had responded to her question, she didn’t at all think that a Zaltaen would swear so flagrantly and not only that but drop an F-bomb like she did. “It’s my own damn business after all.” Amanda’s eyebrow raised as she heard her swear again, she was acting very much not like Zaltaens often acted like.

“And besides,” she looked about the bar, “do you see any Zaltaens other than me here?” They both shook their heads. “Nope, none of them dare hang out in a place like this. They’ve their own places to go where they can feel more comfortable. Granted, the ones that volunteer to serve aboard human ships and space stations are more liberal in their thinking and mannerisms than others, none of them are like me.”

“But you’re living on a station where there’s quite a number of them living here. Don’t you live in the Zaltaen sector?”

“No,” Kelea shook her head, “I live in the human civilian parts of the station and as for the other Zaltaens on the station, I do pass a few of them on my way to work. But other than that, I don’t have much interaction with them, nor do I care to interact with most of them.”

“Why is that?” Richard asked.

“Let’s just put it this way, I’m not well liked among my people and it’s not for how I act and dress. There are extenuating circumstances that happened in the past hence again I say,” she shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t give a fuck!” Again, Amanda was surprised at how easy she used the word ‘fuck’. “Most of them don’t like me and I don’t like most of them, so the feelings are mutual. But enough about that, I really don’t like talking about what happened to me.”

“Anyways, to continue my experience when I first came to Terra, you wouldn’t have caught me dead wearing something like this.” She then ran her hands down her sides to emphasize her figure and then took hold of her breasts. Meanwhile Richard’s alcohol addled mind couldn’t help but to stare at her as she brought attention to herself like that. Amanda rolled her eyes again as she did that, she knew that Kelea was toying with Richard much like she’d often seen with other female bartenders across all of Human Space. It was just a part of the game.

“Anyways,” Kelea smirked as she leaned over the bar again. “That’s when I started going to the local bars and learned a whole lot more about humanity there than I ever learned on Zalta. I’m sure that your friend Triara has the same story, that is, she got to Terra and realized just how ill-prepared she really was.” He nodded his head, he remembered Triara saying as much.

“What really surprised me about humans was their lack of an issue with alcohol whereas on Zalta, alcohol was saved only for high traditions and other such bullshit like that. I noticed how alcohol brought people together, made people happy of sorts and allowed people to loosen up. That’s when I asked the barkeep at the bar that I often went to about how I, myself, could become a bartender. By the end of the week, I had a job there as a sort of an apprentice to the barkeep. They were surprised at how fast I learned how to make and mix drinks and in three years I was the bar manager of The Gold Nugget Casino in Chicago.”

“So how did you end up here?” Amanda asked.

“I really wanted to be in space; so, when the Space Force was looking for civilians to run some of the things on this station, I jumped at the chance. Maybe it was me just wanting to be among and see Zaltaens again. I don’t know,” she shook her head. “As much as I sound like I dislike my people, nothing could be further from the truth. I like my people; I just can’t stand a lot of their backwards traditions that I find to be outdated.”

“There’s nothing wrong with that,” Richard said as he stood up and then had to brace himself against the bar. He was more than buzzed, not stupid drunk by any measure but definitely not anywhere close to being sober. He couldn’t help but to think that he was going to have a hell of a morning. He turned to Kelea. “Thanks for the talk, it was informative. Good night, ma’am.”

“I could call someone to help you get back to your room.” Kelea supplied.

“I’ll make sure he gets back to his suite alright,” Amanda said as she stood up from her barstool. He looked a question at her, to which she answered, “Richard, you’ve had quite a bit to drink. I just want to make sure you get there safe.”

“Thank you.”

The next morning Richard opened his eyes and was glad that he had drank the water that he had drank in the bar the night before, though he didn’t feel all that great, he still felt a whole lot better than if he hadn’t drunk it the night before.

As he walked about his stateroom, he heard the sound of his door beeping. “Oh, what the hell?” he asked himself as he grabbed his datapad, opened the door app and saw Amanda on the other side of the door, in uniform. “Oh, what the hell does she want?” he asked himself as he stood up from the bed and found a housecoat to drape over himself. He belted the sash, so he’d be decent before saying, “Computer, open the door.”

“Commander Shelby,” he stood in the doorway so she couldn’t walk in, “what brings you here?”

“Just checking up on you, that’s all,” she answered.

“I’m doing fine, thank you. I just needed time to sleep it off. I’m good now.”

“Good,” with that she turned around and walked away leaving Richard thoroughly confused.

“Whatever,” he muttered to himself as the door closed. “Computer, activate do not disturb mode please.” The computer chirped and the suite went into lockdown mode.

He walked over to his kitchen and turned on his coffeemaker. Waiting a few moments for the machine to heat up he found his favorite mug and slid it into place. Finding one of the coffee pods that were standard aboard all space stations and space-going vessels for individual use–for space efficiency they said–he put it into place and tapped another button for “strong.” Within a minute he had a steaming cup of coffee. As he sipped at it, he smiled, it was as if a fog was being lifted from his mind as the caffeine went to work on his still hazy mind.

Picking up his datapad he opened his emails, found Triara’s name in his contact list, then fired off a message to tell her that he had some time to have her over. After sending that message, he stood up and walked over to his kitchen with his coffee cup in hand. Not feeling up to cooking anything or even going to the wardroom he found a ration bar in a drawer. They were what the armed forces were trying to use to phase out the centuries’ old Meal-Ready-to-Eat (MRE) and First Strike Ration (FSR) packs.

Most people said they’d rather keep the old stuff, mostly because why try and fix something that wasn’t broken? That and the modern MREs and FSRs actually tasted quite good. The Bureau of Logistics insisted that the new ration bars were far more space efficient than a MRE or FSR; and in that they were correct. BuLog had BuMed’s support saying that the new ration bars could provide all of a person’s nutrient requirements for a meal in one bar.

A servicemember could carry three of them in a pocket and that would serve for every meal of the day, thus freeing up space for something else. They were mostly targeted at Army and Marine units, seeing as how they had to ruck a lot of equipment and begrudged every centimeter of space and every gram of weight.

Initial reports from most people said that BuLog and BuMed could shove the bars into a fusion reactor and forget the whole affair.

Richard looked down at the ration bar in his hand. “Southwestern-style omelet,” he read aloud in a dubious voice. He tried not to look at the ingredients list as he tore the ration bar’s wrapper open–complete with a patriotic image of Marines in power armor standing before Terra–and took a bite. After that first bite, he decided that he’d rather not taste it after all and finished it as fast as he could between gulps of coffee. It certainly filled his stomach, which was its only virtue.

An alert sounded on his datapad indicating a received email. “Computer?” it chirped. “Where did that email come from?”

“It’s an automated email from the rep…” The computer didn’t have a chance to continue. “Never mind computer, I’ll read it later.” The computer chirped again indicating that it understood. He couldn’t help but to feel some disappointment that it wasn’t a reply from Triara. Taking the mug of coffee, he sat down in his chair and read the email that he received, it was just another status report email that he usually received about this time of the morning.

“Come on Richard,” he said as he finished the report. “She’s a busy woman, just like you’re a busy man. You’ve got to let her have some time to reply to it.” Halfway through reading another report, his datapad dinged again. But he had to get through the report first before he checked any personal messages first. Quickly getting through it he applied his digital signature and returned it. Then he opened the email that had come in from Triara.

Richard,

It’s so good to hear from you! I’m glad you have some time off; I’m looking forward to seeing you. If everything goes according to plan, I should be able to get off work by 1700. Obviously, I’d like to change out of my uniform and freshen up before I come see you so give me some time. See you later at around 1830 hours in your stateroom. ❤❤❤

CMDR Moonbeam, Triara
Human Federation Space Force
HFSS Genesis
(The rest of the signature line gave the various comm codes to contact her on different networks)

Richard laughed as he saw the emoji that she included in the email. He often thought it was dumb to use emoji in any kind of text or email. But to see her using it now drove home the fact that she was adapting to human norms.

I’m looking forward to seeing you too. Do you want to eat in, or do you want to go out to one of the many restaurants we have aboard?

(The rest of the email had his signature block).

He closed his email app and looked around the room. He figured that, like the email he received from her before, a reply from her again would take some time. But shortly after that another email from her arrived.

Don’t worry about food, I’ll bring that; I have just the meal in mind for us to share. Just be sure to have a good bottle of Scotch for us to share. 😃

Richard thought back to when he was on Zalta 4-B with Rachel and Triara, she’d taken the two of them on a whirlwind tour of Zalta and introduced them to much of her people’s cuisine. He thought back to all of the different Zaltaen foods that Triara introduced them to; a lot of it closely matched or approximated human cuisine so at least it wasn’t too unfamiliar. Triara tried to keep their cuisine exploration to things that she at least had an idea of them possibly liking.

That wasn’t the only thing that they did on Zalta, it was then during that vacation on Zalta that he’d gotten married to Rachel. It wasn’t a big wedding at all, and Rachel didn’t even have a wedding gown, but it didn’t matter to them. They knew they had to quickly get married and found a Human Federation consulate in one of the planet’s major cities. There an official had legally married them. The officials there only raised a few eyebrows at Triara being the witness, but other than that nobody said much of anything about it. Since they were on Zalta 4-B though, and away from any Christian priests or ministers, the two decided that they’d have the bigger ceremony, complete with family, at a later date. For now, they just wanted to be married.

As soon as they were back from their vacation, they were posted at two different posts. Richard here on the station and Rachel in Tau Ceti with nearly ten lightyears of distance between them. It could’ve been a galaxy away for all he cared for he missed her so much. At least they made the most of the days–and nights–they had while on Zalta!

Since then, the two would oftentimes send full holographic messages to each other, usually just talking about how their days and work were going. He fondly remembered one she sent of her lying in bed, wearing nothing but a smile, while she talked about what she and her friends did that day. Seeing her naked like that was better than any hentai or porn he’d ever seen simply because she was his wife!

He had to admit that when holographic technology came on the scene it was an instant hit, it made the whole idea of watching a two-dimensional HD show seem antiquated by comparison. A whole new industry and form of art came about because of the new technology which surprised most Zaltaens for even though they created it, they had never imagined using it purely as a form of entertainment. The Zaltaens simply used it as a form of communications whereas humans started using it to create truly immersive movies and HD shows where you really did feel like you were part of the scene. It didn’t hurt that the technology actually worked unlike the gimmicky ‘3D’ crap from the early 2000s.

“A bottle of Scotch it is,” he said as he walked over to his liquor cabinet. Like he told the captain, he had quite the selection of whiskey in his place. He had Terran-made bourbon whiskey, Irish Whiskey, and Scotch Whisky.

He reached in and pulled out a bottle of Glenfiddich Bourbon Barrel Reserve Fourteen Year Single Malt Scotch. He did have a better bottle in his collection, but he wanted to keep that for when Rachel could visit the station. When that would be, he didn’t know but it didn’t matter to him. Until then that bottle would remain on the shelf of a closet, still in the box the bottle came in, so as to keep light from touching the bottle.

“Alright,” he said as he walked across the room and picked up his datapad. “Let’s see if Rachel is available to talk.” He opened the video communication app, found her in her contact list and told it to connect. The app rang a few times until the hololink was established.

There were a few seconds until she reacted due to the time lag there was between Alpha Centauri and the Tau Ceti system. Even with using subspace to transmit the signal there and back, through a micro jump gate passage, there was a twenty second time delay one-way. That wasn’t intolerable, but it did draw out conversations.

When she did answer he found her sitting at her desk wearing a loose-fitting tee and shorts. It’s what she normally wore when she was off of work. It wasn’t anything fancy, but he loved seeing her in it, nonetheless. Hell, he loved whatever she chose to wear. “Richard!” she exclaimed. “How have you been doing?!”

“Good, I usually get the weekends off. I have to tell you something. Something incredible happened.” A few seconds passed. “Alright, spill it. I can see the excitement on your face.”

“I met President Christina Crow and Queen Raina the Fourth of the House of Greenfeather yesterday. There was this huge dinner party yesterday with her, some members of the royal court, and the senior officers and enlisted. The queen came aboard because she wanted a personal tour of the station.”

“No way! And you were there?!” Rachel screamed. “Oh my God! That must have been an amazing time to be rubbing elbows with people that important. You should be honored; I can only imagine that you’ll be going places after all of that.”

“You know me, I hate social situations.”

“I know. Please don’t tell me that you made yourself look like an idiot.”

“I tried not to. I was mostly left alone by everyone and I spent time talking to the senior most Marine and Space Force enlisted before someone called attention to me.” He stopped talking after that to await her reaction.

When it did come, she simply nodded her head. “In some ways I don’t blame you one bit. I guess if it were myself surrounded by that much braid, I’d find a way to keep quiet too. Sometimes it’s best to be seen and not heard.”

Richard breathed a sigh of relief that his wife hadn’t reacted badly to that. She understood him and his social issues, as well as her own to a much lesser extent than his. While she was the more social of them, he could see how that much seniority around her would make even her nervous. But she probably wouldn’t have reacted like the proverbial deer-in-the-headlights like he did. “I have another thing I have to say though. It’s about Triara.”

“Triara? What about her? She left this place a couple of days ago. Last I heard she was stationed where you are. Obviously not the same command because… obviously, but yeah.”

“Let’s put it this way, she didn’t tell us everything about the Zaltaen culture. I had a rather eye-opening discussion with a Zaltaen bartender in the Officer’s Lounge.”

After the time delay Rachel couldn’t help but smile and ask, “Is she hot like Triara?”

“No!” he exclaimed as he nervously shook his head. “I mean… yes, yes she is. But I’m married to you; I try not to look at other women like that.”

A few seconds later Rachel was laughing. “I’ve seen you look at other women, don’t think I haven’t seen you looking.” Richard’s eyebrow raised. “However, I know that your eyes always come back to me though.”

“It’s just that I love you, I don’t want to…,” he paused as he looked down, “I don’t want to lose you. You’re the single best thing that’s happened to me in my whole life, I don’t want to mess that up. And if you must know, my captain said much the same thing, except she couched it in terms of honor.”

“She sounds like a smart woman there Richard. You won’t lose me,” he looked up as she said that. “I married you because I love you and I know in my heart that you love me as well. I wouldn’t have asked you to marry me if I didn’t know that about you. And you know that it’s quite rare for the woman to ask the man.” He nodded his head in agreement. “That should tell you something about our relationship and just how important our marriage is to me. I wouldn’t give it up for anything. Anyways, what about Triara? What did you learn about her?”

“Well,” he paused. “Let’s just say that there’s things about the Zaltaen culture that isn’t so nice. They portray a society that’s so pure and clean; but based upon what I’ve recently learned, nothing could be further from the truth. Granted, what the bartender told me could be biased since she admitted that she comes from one of the lower houses.”

“Interesting,” Rachel said as she rubbed her chin. “I wonder what that all means.”

“And not only that but it seems that our friend Triara comes from one of the highest of the noble houses. Apparently, the House of Moonbeam carries some significant political clout in the Royal Court and the House of Lords.”

“Alright,” Rachel shook her head. “If she comes from such a powerful family, why is she hanging around with humans? Wouldn’t she be on Zalta serving her house or whatever the fuck they do on their world?”

“That’s what I’d like to know too, the bartender seems to think that it may have been because she was cast out of the house so as to allow the house to save face.”

“Oh crap,” Rachel said as she slapped her hand against her forehead. “I forget that this kind of crap comes with monarchies. If you look back at early British history, you’d probably find similar things complete with things like the House of Commons and the House of Lords like you said.”

“Yeah,” he nodded his head in confirmation. “I’m going to ask Triara about all of this when I meet up with her later.”

“Richard!” he looked to her. “Don’t hurt her. Please don’t hurt her! She is our friend!”

“I don’t plan on hurting her, I just want to know the truth. Is that so bad?” Richard asked. “I’ll try my best to be as sensitive to her as I can. Hell, I see her as a sister I never had. I’d never want to hurt her like that, you know it. Hell, she knows it.”

“I know, it’s just that it may be a sensitive subject for her so be… careful. Alright?” she nodded her head. “Please… please be careful, for her sake. I’d hate to have her calling me telling me that you had her in tears or pissed her off because then, and you know this, I’d call you and rip you a new asshole.”

“Since when have I ever been someone who doesn’t consider another person’s feelings? I’d never do such a thing to Triara.”

“I know, it’s just that you need to be careful. Alright?” she yawned. “Sorry, I’ve been up for nearly eighteen hours. I’ve been debugging programming code for the last eight hours and I need sleep. Caffeine can only take you so far.”

“Alright my love,” Richard said as he kissed his fingers and pressed them to the screen. “I love you Rachel, I wish you were here.” She too kissed her fingers and pressed them against the screen. “I love you too Richard, I terribly miss you too.”

“As do I.” he said. “I have some leave to burn. If I recall correctly, we both have more than two weeks of accrued leave. Maybe we can both take some leave soon and spend some time together.” She nodded her head as she smiled. “I’d like that, I’d like that very much.”

“Just tell me when you have a good time to take it and I’ll put in for leave too. Maybe we can go visit my parents. They’ve been hearing so much about you and now that we’re married, they want to see their daughter-in-law. My mom’s been chomping at the bit to see you. She’s been wondering if you’re only a figment of my imagination and that the picture of you is just some virtual camgirl I got off the Galactic Internet.”

She laughed. “A figment of your imagination, huh? A virtual camgirl? Wow, just wow.”

“Before you, I was single for so long that mum just dropped the issue after she got tired of asking when I was going to find someone.”

“Anyways, as for that plan of yours, I like it; I like it a lot. The project that I’ve been working on, which obviously I can’t talk to you about…”

“Yeah, I’ve not been read in on it, therefore I don’t have a need to know.”

Rachel nodded once. “Exactly. It’s almost finished, we just have a bit more debugging to do but it should be finished in about two weeks. The command staff here know that many of us here have a lot of leave to use, they’ve told many of us that leave will be guaranteed. It’s been a long six months getting all of this done and I can tell you one thing, it’s not been fun. I’ll be sure to put my leave request in tomorrow.”

“That’s great!” he exclaimed. “I’m sure that my captain will grant my leave too. She’s been on me about taking leave already. I figure since the war ended BuPers is adamant about personnel taking leave so they can see their homes. Just let me know if and when your leave is approved, and I’ll put mine in.”

“Sounds good,” she said with a smile.

“Good night, Rachel, sleep well.” With that the communication link was cut. Richard drew in a deep breath as he wiped his eyes with the back of his hand quickly. He didn’t want to show his wife just how close he was to crying, because then she’d start crying and then nothing good would happen. He missed her and he’d give anything to be with her, even if only for a day.

Unfortunate that was the life of a military person. The military almost always put married servicemembers in different commands, the better to avoid the appearance of favoritism. Oftentimes this led to married servicemembers being posted light years from each other and even with modern subspace communications and jump gates, it created the time lags that he and his wife experienced. At least a twenty second time lag one-way wasn’t as bad as some he’d heard about. Some couples had to endure a minute or more.

Which was still better than it had been during the early days of space exploration before subspace comms. Back then you had to put up with mere lightspeed communications, even within the same star system, where messages took hours to go one-way. And if you had family in another star system you had to rely on lightspeed comms through the jump gates. And before that it had been courier boats between star systems, moving message traffic as fast as a ship could traverse hyperspace and then transmit messages at lightspeed.

“Good night my love,” he said as looked to the ceiling. He got up from his seat and put the datapad down as he tried his hardest to put the fact that he missed his wife to the back of his mind.

Meanwhile on Tau Ceti, Rachel too was looking up at her ceiling. “I love you Richard,” she whispered and then wiped at her eyes. She told herself that she wouldn’t get too weepy and that was what she was bound to do. As she stood up from her bed and walked out of her private room and into the common area that she shared with three others in her quad.

“Hey they Rachel!” Lisa exclaimed as she noticed that her friend had walked out of her private room. “How was your talk with your husband?”

“Well, as good as it can ever go. It’s the goodbyes that really get to me.”

“I know,” she said as she took her fork up and put a piece of food in her mouth and began to eat it but instead of finishing her chewing, she began talking again which annoyed her a bit but not so much that she was willing to call her friend out on it. “You’ve told me many times.”

“Honestly, the hardest part of it all is the silences, the separation, the lonely nights. Some days I can handle it, and others…?” Rachel looked up at the ceiling as she closed her eyes. “Some nights are better than others.”

“I know what you mean,” Lisa told her. “We’ve all been there. And that’s why we all look out for each other, we keep ourselves company. We have to for if not for each other, there’s no one else. Right?” she looked over at Heather and Hayakawa as they both nodded their heads.

“I don’t know what I’d do without the three of you here.”

“Probably wallowing is self-pity.” Hayakawa snidely said.

“Hayakawa!” Lisa shouted.

“Hey!” Hayakawa shouted. “I’m only saying what we all think.”

“But that doesn’t mean you have to call her out on it.”

“That’s alright,” Rachel looked to the floor, “Hayakawa is right. I’d probably hole myself up in my room and never come out unless it was for work or food if it weren’t for the three of you in my life here.”

“Damn straight!”

“Since I’m rather new here,” Hayakawa spoke up, “how did the two of you meet? You know, you and Richard?”

Rachel turned to look Hayakawa’s way. “We initially met on some rainy ass planet where we were both waiting for new orders but what really started the whole thing off was our time in a diner where we shared a table that night. I remember like it was yesterday,” she closed her eyes as Lisa rolled her eyes. She had heard the story before, many times. “We went out to dinner in a diner in a rather rough part of town. Hell, who the hell am I kidding?” Rachel began to laugh. “The whole town was rough. I’ve never seen a colony so run down in my life. But anyways, back to the story. We shared a dinner table that night and we sat there just talking the evening away as we ate dinner together. We really hit it off that night. I’d have to say that we just,” she snapped her fingers, “clicked. Eventually we started seriously dating while onboard the ship that we were both posted on.”

“What’s he like?” Hayakawa asked. “Is he hot?”

“You tell me,” Rachel handed a datapad over to her with a picture of him on the screen. “I think so.”

“Hmm,” she began to lick her lips, “damn girl, I can see why you miss him.” She began to wave her hand in front of her face. “He’s hot! I’d love to have him by my side every night.”

Rachel pulled the datapad out of her hands. “That he is,” she began to laugh, “I just wish that he’d see more of that in himself.” Hayakawa looked to her wondering what she meant by that. “He’s a bit, shall we say…” Lisa spoke up. “He’s got self-esteem issues.”

“Self-esteem issues?” Hayakawa asked. “How the hell does a guy that looks that hot have self-esteem issues?”

“You’d be surprised,” Lisa nodded, she knew what she was talking about since she had heard her friend talk about Richard in the past. “He didn’t exactly have a great childhood school life; he was the target of a lot of ridicule back when he was in school and much of that ridicule came from…” Hayakawa interjected. “Let me guess, girls.”

“Yep,” Rachel nodded, “it took me days to get him to be really comfortable around me. He didn’t have all that much experience with females before he joined the Space Force. After he graduated from the academy it only got worse for him. He became married to the job. He told me that before he met me, he hadn’t been on so much as a date in years.”

“I’ve not been on a date in years, what does that makes me?” Hayakawa asked.

“A typical soldier in the Space Force.” Rachel rolled her eyes. “No, he really didn’t know what to do. He was so unsure of himself what with the rules and regulations and such and let me tell you, he knew those rules and regulations like the back of his hand. He even quoted them to me word for word.”

“What was he, an XO?” Hayakawa asked.

“As a matter of fact, yes he was,” Rachel exclaimed. “He was so afraid of even looking at me since he knew several people who had been thrown out of the Space Force for looking at a woman the wrong way.”

“God damn,” Hayakawa shook her head as she pushed back on her chair, “BuPers has everyone running around scared.”

“That they do,” Rachel thought back to when she had asked him. “After spending so much time with him, I knew that he was perfect for me. He never pushed himself on me if you know what I mean.”

“No one alive is perfect Rachel,” Hayakawa said dryly. “He just sounds like he’s good for you.”

“Oh, that he definitely is Hayakawa, he definitely is.”

Continue to Chapter 9…

  1. Vernier Thruster, the Space 2315 take on Military Special alcohol.[]
  2. Just a shade under five feet, approximately 4.98 feet.[]