By Lisa Cooper
Tuesday, March 17, 2161
Midnight is not the time to stumble around the darkened catwalks of a starship looking for the women’s restroom.
That night, I relieved my bloated and always weak bladder and returned to the poker game, which was a mistake. The players were the officers of the Earth and Space Forces and our sly new allies, the Beldans.
The Beldans, tall, fierce and slightly feline looking, were the first aliens we met. Territorial and hostile to intruders, their space empire was seven thousand years old. Two years ago they wiped out our colony on Eridani 4, killing thousands of human troops and civilians including my husband.
Now the war was over, and we were all supposed to be friends.
My superiors assigned me to teach the card game poker to these aliens. One of them, Colonel Rhycin, a Beldan officer, took to five-card draw like a pig to mud and enjoyed his natural talent for taking my money.
Rhycin’s six-fingered cat-like paws stacked the chips he’d won, sorting them by color.
“How much have you lost?” His raspy baritone voice purred through my translator.
I shrugged my uncertainty and took another sip of my second beer. I’d lost a lot of money drinking and gambling on the recreation deck of the starship Europa, and I didn’t need to lose more. Not that after-hours beer and poker were my usual thing, but it had been over three years without sex or beer, never mind even poker. So two out of three seemed like a great release. That second beer put me into a satisfyingly numbed state that blocked out most of my resentment toward the Beldans and all of my better judgment about placing poker bets.
A greedy delight filled Rhycin’s green, hawkish eyes. “Can I exchange these for gold or some other precious metal? Your Human currency has no value on my planet.” He pointed at his poker chips with a toothy grin. “Or perhaps you’d like to earn them back?”
This one is treacherous. My hair prickled up as Rhycin studied me too intently for comfort. I gave him a weak sugar-coated smile.
“F.U. sir,” I replied. I doubted he’d know what that meant, but I was wrong.
“Several boring human females have made me similar offers tonight.” Rhycin’s bird-like eyes narrowed, and he looked me up and down. “But you’re Wilder aren’t you?”
I was buzzed and puzzled. How did this alien know me? And how did he have enough savvy with Standard English to turn my name into a sleazy suggestion?
My stomach rumbled from the beer, and I released a most unladylike belch of alcoholic breath.
Rhycin’s pale gray skin peeled back from his indigo mouth to expose a glint of white teeth and pointed fangs made to shred meat.
“Jereine West is or was your grandmother,” he stated emphatically. “She discovered the gravity well in your star system. That discovery let you humans lose in the galaxy to invade Beldan territory. Some say that she even had a way to move freely around the galaxy. Is that true?”
A chill ran down my spine with a vague thought. I felt it on the edge of my awareness, but the fleeting glimpse escaped before I could grab it.
“Sorry sir,” I said. Rhycin’s curiosity made my heart race and turned my stomach into a twisted knot. I knew better than to be curious about what people thought of my grandmother. “I haven’t seen her in years.”
Time to put some distance here, I hazily thought. A few light years should do it. In six days, I’d be back on Earth with my son and far away from these felid menaces. The treaty mission raised my profile much higher than I liked.
I lived with strange thoughts and feelings. Things my brain half processed only to have them hidden behind a curtain of consciousness I couldn’t probe. Rhycin’s remark created another mental image that would make me crazy if I tried to understand why it scared me. What he said was true. Jereine West was my grandmother. She discovered the gravity well between Jupiter and Saturn almost forty years ago. Humans used the well, a temporary bend in the fabric of space created by the periodic conjunction of the two massive planets, to travel to nearby stars and start our first extrasolar colonies.
One of these colonies, Eridani 4, was a star system the Beldans claimed as their own. The attack, swift and deadly, nearly killed everyone in the Eridani colony.
I left the gambling table and cashed in my remaining chips with Alan Tolman, the duty officer for our makeshift casino and my former bandmate. He snickered when I attempted to hand him my poker chips but dropped them at his feet instead.
“You’re a lightweight as always. It’s ok to play the bass like that Gail,” he said in his South Jersey accent when I stooped to pick up the chips. “But poker? That’s a bad idea.”
I grabbed Tolman by the neck and rubbed his smooth, bald head with the palm of my hand. “For luck,” I told him and hiccupped.
Tolman drew back and fanned the air in front of his nose. “Whoa, your breath.” He untangled himself and nudged me towards the door. “You’re drunk. Shitfaced. Go sleep it off kido.”
I stumbled through the ship’s dim corridors to the cabin I shared with another engineer, Carole Rankin, and keyed my code into the door’s lock. The auto-lights cut on and glared blindingly into my face. I didn’t feel like sleep. Instead, I stripped, pulled on my robe, and grabbed a towel and my last sliver of soap. My stomach, still bloated by the beer, knotted tightly and rumbled again making me explosively burp up more air.
“Damn you!” Carole screamed and turned over in her bunk. Her bright red hair was sleep-tousled and matted. “Shut up! And turn the lights out, will you?”
She hurled a pillow at me, but I dodged and stumbled backward into the narrow metal catwalk outside our cabin. My butt and right knuckles slammed into the rail making me groan when the stinging pain raced through my bruised fingers. I shook my hand frantically and dropped the soap, which fell through the cold grates under my bare feet.
This is why you don’t drink, I reminded myself. And you shouldn’t gamble either.
I peered down through the grates, but the darkness of the narrow passages prevented me from seeing where the soap landed. A dull throb welled in the knuckles of my right hand. I, licked them, belched again and kicked the pillow back inside our tiny berth. I slammed the hatch shut, and Carole screamed another curse.
The sheet metal wall of the crew compartments braced my unsteady hand, and I leaned against the panels for support. Feeling my way along the passage, I followed the row of dull, red emergency lights in the darkened ship toward the showers and toilets. The sound of rushing water and the warmth of steam lured me to the bathing area. I narrowed my eyes against the bright lights reflecting off the glistening steel walls, slung my towel onto a hook near the door and peered around the corner to see who else opted for a midnight shower.
Hot water pelted down on his calloused, leathery hide and bathed his feet in a cloud of steam. His blue phallus slid within the grip of his six fingers under a lather of soap and hot water. He stroked solidly, pumping his hips to hump his hand. He didn’t see me since he was too preoccupied with himself in his pleasure.
This should be interesting.
That unique voice inside my head was not my sensible one. She belonged to the part of me that enjoyed crazy risks and always got me into trouble. I never knew what she was thinking, except during moments like these.
Shut up. We’re leaving. That Rhycin character scared the shit out me.
Forget Rhycin. Beldans have great butts and tight muscles. Watch.
Like all Beldans, he had an almost lipless cat-like mouth and big hawkish eyes. Dark gray, thick skin covered his body except where pale, bluish wheels formed long scars down his arms, back, and legs. A wet, thick mane of long black hair with red and gold highlights cascaded down his well-muscled back. Cream spots crossed his chest, thighs, and back. His left arm, covered with raised black tattoos was firm and robust. Here was a being of teeth, talons, and deadly stealth and he was jerking off in the women’s shower of Earth’s last battleship.
Look at him. He’s lean, and every rippling muscle is taught and etched in the perfect definition of masculine power.
His body was more human-like than I expected given the teeth and claws. I caught myself and tried to silence the analytical voice.
It’s a Beldan stupid. You shouldn’t enjoy this. Plus, this is the women’s bathroom. He’s either a pervert or an idiot.
A pervert, with the body of a competitive swimmer.
My inner dialogue could argue with itself all it wanted, but my eyes couldn’t leave stunning sight before me. Here was a powerful and gorgeous creature. His long-fingered paws caress along the engorged blue shaft. My lips were wet and chewed before I noticed the aroused fire between my thighs.
A rumbling baritone purred from his throat. His lipless mouth flexed upward in obvious enjoyment. He grunted and thrashed his hips in the spraying hot water.
The steam dampened my robe and intensified the heat rising in my blood as I imagined myself wrapped around those thrashing hips.
Not good, I thought, leave now. This is the enemy and a world of trouble if someone walks in. Go and report him.
The beer got the best of me. Another noisy belch escaped my gut with a horrid rumble.
The Beldan turned and gold, hungry eyes stared at me, unfazed by my voyeurism. There was no white around them, just a burnished yellow the same color as my own, surrounding a round black pupil. His thick brow ridges knotted together, and his jaw fell, exposing a dark indigo tongue and sharp, shiny teeth encased by a heavily muscled jaw. The tips of hard black talons peaked out from their finger sheaths. His masturbation slowed but didn’t stop as he studied me. He sniffed the steamy air between us with a look more puzzled than angered.
Play this right; I told myself, put him on the defensive. I parked both hands on my hips.
“Don’t let me interrupt. I’ve never seen a Beldan jerk off in the women’s bathroom before.”
He gazed around the room and shrugged. His voice, rendered through my cochlear translator implant, purred in a baritone vibrato.
“I’m pretty sure this is the men’s shower honey.” His neck flexed with a feline’s supple grace as he nodded to my left.
I turned my head and saw the steel urinals. He was right.
Men’s shower room; oh crap.
“I… my bad here,” My bravado evaporated in the steam, and a surge of volcanic heat flooded my face. I pointed towards the exit. “I’ll just be going. Excuse me.” I backed away eager to leave the smoldering room and the sight of his naked ass.
His response rumbled with confidence. “Wait!” he commanded.
The power and poise of his voice rooted me to the tiles beneath my feet. I froze and turned to look over my shoulder at him. Bony protuberances along his jaws brightened to the indigo of his member. His head tilted to the side, and he sniffed again.
“Stay for the show if you want.” His eyes wandered slowly from my ankles up to my eyes and back down again. “Or maybe, you could help me.”
I learned to hate the Beldans with a passion that only a visit from death brings. At that moment, all I focused on was the cat-like purr of his voice, his gorgeous eyes, and crinkling nose that sniffed me out like an animal.
“Oh?” I replied and snatched a glance at what was in his hand. “How would that work?” I was mesmerized.
Go for it, the risk taker inside my head prompted. I promise you won’t be sorry.
The blue tongue licked the corner of his mouth, and he held out his free hand. With a beckoning motion, he urged me to come closer.
“Come over here, ”he commanded. My grandmother had warned me about the power of the voice, and this Beldan’s purred control through my every nerve and muscle.
Beldans are strong enough to shred a human into finger food with their razor-sharp claws, but my mental resistance had been lowered by the alcohol. I obeyed, without caution, drawn in by his voice and eyes and the surging steam.
I stared up at him unblinkingly, but fear knotted my insides.
He reached out his hand and stroked me under my chin, then pulled me closer to him to study my face.
“Well?” I tried to sound insolent. “Do I suit your needs?”
He chuckled. “Hmm, sultry, healthy, defiant. Good,” the Beldan mused. He took my hand and replaced his with mine on his member. He moaned then and exhaled deeply. “Your hands are filled with the fire of life. I’ve never felt ecstasy like this from a mere touch.”
I pull my hand back and forced control to my mind. The rebel in me submitted unwillingly.
“I don’t think you’re going to experience it now either,” I told him. “Enjoy the rest of your shower.”
A low chuckle rumbled from his barrel chest. “You are surly also,” he replied and stepped closer. “I like that.” He nestled his nose against my damp hair and nuzzled down across my ear to my neck. “I like that.”
A shock wave of pleasure bolted down my body and stuck between my thighs. Desire and fear competed for my attention as his tongue licked just behind my ear.
The Beldan raised his head from my neck, and the golden eyes met mine again. His right hand came up to my face, and his thumb gently caressed my cheekbone. He felt along the curve of my jaw from my ear to my mouth and then brushed across the fullness of my lips.
“What’s your name?” he whispered.
I closed my eyes and leaned into the touch of his hand. A living current flowed between us. I kissed his thumb as it caressed my mouth. That gentle touch was at odds with the reputation they had earned during the war.
“Gail, what’s yours?”
“Ambi,” he whispered. “I’ll be aboard for another two weeks, perhaps we can meet again. I have a private cabin.” His mouth curled in the Beldan equivalent of a smile.
“I can’t.” I pulled back and turned my gaze away from his curious stare; down into the pooling water at our feet and wiped away the steam and sweat that clung to my face. This Beldan had an excellent sense of irony and a natural talent for seduction. No was the last word I wanted to explain right now. I looked up into the penetrating golden eyes and drew a deep breath.
Damn even his eyes are hot, I thought, like gold coins.
“I’m due to be shipped back to Earth in two days to visit my family.”
Ambi stepped back from me, and the ridges over his brow drew together. His eyes narrowed, and he stood silently for a moment.
“You have a mate?” his tone filled with indignant ire and his mouth opened slightly to reveal the teeth and azure gum line. “You should have said that right away. This is how you honor him?”
“He’s dead,” I spat the word at him. “He died two years ago in the war killed by Beldan commandos.”
Ambi stared at me as it slowly sank in what that meant. His mouth snapped closed, hiding the fearsome teeth and he scratched the back of his head.
“But I have a son,” I continued in the same harsh tone. “He’s with my sister on Earth. That’s my family.”
Ambi nodded and folded his arms across his chest. “Oh.”
“I’m leaving this ship to take a two month leave to visit my son and my sister now that the Beldans have decided they aren’t trying to kill us all!”
I turned away, but then he said the most amazing thing; the very last thing I would have expected.
“Gail!” he cried. “I spoke in haste. I also lost many friends in that war and was almost killed myself. I am sorry for your loss. It was a foolish war started by Beldans who did not think before they pulled the triggers of their guns. It is good to have family and children, so I envy you. One day, perhaps I will have a family as well.” He stared down at the wet floor. “These are not easy choices or times, but I’ll do my part to make it’s a galaxy that’s safe for your children and mine. I hope in the future, humans, and Beldans will,” he paused and shrugged, letting his eagle eyes travel up and down my body before continuing. “I hope we’ll find better ways to relate to each other, ways that don’t involve bullets and death.”
Ambi wrapped himself in his towel, then nuzzled my neck again, lingering to nestle his nose gently below my ear.
“Be well Gail,” he whispered, “I will treasure this moment.” He stepped away from me and wrapped himself in his towel then walked out of the shower and out of my life.