Authors: Harmony Raines
Tags: #Romance, #Multicultural, #Science Fiction, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Alien Invasion, #Colonization, #Exploration, #First Contact, #Galactic Empire, #Genetic Engineering, #Multicultural & Interracial, #General Fiction
“I hadn’t thought of it like that. But I suppose that’s what I am isn’t it?”
“Not to me,” he said so quickly that she had to believe him. If the Hier Ruler had a purpose for her, other than to just be another breeding female, then she was certain Niko wasn’t in on it.
“Thank you,” she said, and watched the colours dance across his skin. “Are those like your emotions?”
He put his hand to his cheek and touched his skin, which was exploding in red stars now. “A little. Usually we keep them under control.”
“But you can’t with me around?” she asked, half teasing, half hopeful.
“I think it was the pollutants in the air on Earth,” he said, his face serious.
She laughed, unable to stop herself. “If that’s what you want to think.” He looked at her, his face worried, his skin lit up like a rainbow, which he obviously hated because he turned away from her.
Petra smiled. She liked Niko, and after days of pent-up tension, whilst dealing with the news her mother was the President, she was glad to be relaxing with her new alien friend. If they were friends.
“So tell me, what we are going to do in deep space.”
He glanced at her sideways, not wanting her to see his lack of emotional control. “Have you been told anything?”
“Only that we are looking for a new Earth, but I’m not exactly sure how we’re going to do that. Do we go to sleep, you know, cryogenics? How long do we travel for?”
“Days, weeks, we use wormhole technology. We don’t sleep,” he said, and then pointed in front of them.
She stared out of the window, and then saw what looked like three lumps of space debris with flashing lights. “What are those?”
“They are the beacons that keep the wormhole open. That is how we are going to travel through space.” He eased the throttle back, slowing them down so she could have a good look at the beacons. Then he throttled forward and they entered the wormhole, and the whole of space lit up as they tumbled around in what seemed like a garbage chute.
Round and round, the colours coalescing and then separating as they flew past stars and planets, but they weren’t really there, they looked as if they were in a different part of space, and even if the cruiser stopped right now, they would not be able to change direction and fly over to them and land.
“This is amazing,” she said, as they slowed momentarily, giving her the briefest look at a red dwarf, before they shot forward again. Despite the feeling she had left her stomach a million light-years away, she was excited to see where they were going next.
But then it was over, and the garbage chute analogy came back to her as they were spat out into space.
“Is that Karal?” she asked, pointing at a violet-coloured planet to their right.
“It’s very beautiful,” she admitted.
Maybe even more beautiful than Earth
. But she would never admit that to him.
“Before we can land, you have to go through decon’,” he said, and nodded to a silver space station before accelerating towards it. “Then we can go to my planet.”
“What exactly is decon’?” she asked.
“It is our way of protecting our planet. Everyone has to go through decon’ if they have been in contact with another planet or another alien.”
“Does it hurt?” she asked, wondering why this had never been mentioned before.
“No. It is quite safe, and quite necessary.”
“That doesn’t mean I’m going to like it.” But she understood their need to protect their planet, and so she didn’t object.
Until she found out she had to strip naked.
“You are joking?” she asked, folding her arms across her chest.
“You expect me to strip naked in here? Where anyone who walks by can see me.”
“You are out of your mind. What is this, some kind of cheap thrill for you and the rest of the crew on this tin can?”
“I have no idea what a
is.” He was puzzled by her response; he had expected her to be cooperative. Now this.
“And what if I say no?”
“Then we either wait until you change your mind, or I strip you by force,” he said matter-of-factly.
“You wouldn’t dare.”
“Yes, Petra, I would. You agreed to come here. As you said, no one forced you, and this is part of the deal.”
She flattened her lips, but that didn’t make him want to kiss her any less. The way she talked to him, as if they were on the same level, amused him. He had always pictured humans as being some grateful little species only too willing to be compliant in return for being lifted from their dying planet. But Petra was all fire and heat, and that was exactly what was creeping through his body right now.
They stared at each other, until finally, with a dramatic sigh, she turned from him and began undoing her shirt. He studied her back, feeling the anger rolling off her. It was strange that he could pick up on her emotions, considering she did not have colours flowing over her skin like a Karalian. But such was the depth of her emotions that she didn’t need those colours for him to be able to pick up exactly how she was feeling. And
what she was thinking.
It made him feel ashamed to be standing here watching her. She honestly hated the idea of stripping naked in front of him, although it was something she would have to get used to. The thrill of seeing her with no clothes on passed, and he turned and walked to the control panel and programmed the decon’ cycle. “I’ve set it on a delay timer. It will begin in five minutes. You need to strip and sit in the chair. I will come back for you when it is time to leave.”
And then he left her, shutting the door behind him and standing with his back to it, counting in his head as the five minutes ticked by, ensuring that nobody else who might walk by could stop and stare at
Earth female. Then he headed for the adjacent decon’ room, stripping quickly and sitting in the chair. As he lay back and let the decon’ cleanse his body of any bacteria or germs he may have picked up, his mind drifted to the woman in the room next to him. She was so different than he expected, more complex. For some reason, he had expected them to be simple beasts, but he suspected he got that very wrong.
He had never been more eager for the decon’ to end, and as soon as it had, he got up from his chair, quickly dressed, and went back to Petra. Pressing the button on the outside of the decon’ room, he eagerly awaited the doors to slide open and stepped in to find her fully dressed and waiting for him.
“Are you ready to leave?” he asked, trying to gauge what she was thinking, now that her emotions were under control, just as his colours were.
“Yes. I am ready to leave; I can’t wait to see Karal.” Although she didn’t seem as happy as she was earlier. He wondered if these females held grudges, and she would try to make him pay for making her strip for the decon’. Niko nearly opened his mouth to explain again that it was necessary, but he knew it would make him sound weak. He sighed. As if he cared what she thought.
He couldn’t care, could he? Not yet. He didn’t know her. She didn’t know him. But his thoughts had already turned to what would pass between them later, when he took her to his bed. It had been made very clear that it would be better for them to consummate their relationship before they left for deep space. It meant that if, for any reason, they were not compatible, things could be sorted out on Karal rather than in deep space. Although, looking at Petra, he could not believe that they would be in any way incompatible.
He led her back to the space cruiser, passing two more members of the Karal as they went. Niko found a strange emotion creeping over him. He was jealous when they looked at Petra. He wanted to tell them that she was his, a strange thing to say when the Karal were used to sharing everything they had. They had homes, they had material objects, but always they knew that they worked for the greater good. The farmers grew their crops to feed the species. The miners worked tirelessly for the precious irons and metals that the Karal needed to build the components of the space cruisers, and anything else they had to manufacture. The warriors risked their lives in deep space, finding new technologies and searching out females when the time was right to breed. This was how they worked, for the common good. So why did he feel so possessive of Petra?
“You will land on Karal in approximately fifteen of your Earth minutes,” he said to her, for no reason other than he felt the need to make conversation.
She just nodded in answer, watching in silence as they pulled away from the space station and turned to head towards Karal. It was as if his brain had all thoughts extracted from it; no matter how hard he tried, he could not think of anything else to say to her. Nor could he work out why it mattered. They could sit here in silence; it’s what he would have done if he was travelling with another Karalian. But for some reason, he wanted to engage in conversation, to find out who she really was, to break the silence that was like a barrier between them.
“We should have some time to explore the planet tomorrow. If that is something you would like to do?” Niko asked.
He thought she wasn’t going to answer, but then she did. “I’d like that. Maybe you could show me your favourite place on Karal. I know we don’t have long, but I would like to see some of your planet before we go into deep space.”
“I would very much enjoy showing you the ocean.”
“I’d like that,” she said, sounding enthusiastic. “The oceans on Earth aren’t the sort of place you visit. There’s no life left in the water, and when the waves wash up on the shore, they are a sickly thick green. We are told not to touch it, and certainly not to venture into. Can we walk in your ocean?”
“Yes, we can,” he said, smiling and his colours once again lit up across his skin. She made him feel strange, she made him feel alive, but more than anything, she made him want to please her. He was now already reassessing his thoughts about them being equal, because he knew that if he wasn’t careful, she would have the upper hand. It was like she had some control over him.
And they hadn’t even slept together yet.
Karal grew larger as she looked out of the window of the space cruiser, the violet skies vibrant as they descended through the atmosphere. She could see white fluffy clouds, similar to those that used to drift in the clear skies above the Earth. A sense of excitement filled her, the thought of landing on this new planet, of breathing fresh air and eating fresh foods, was awakening her adventurous spirit, and allowing her to come to terms with leaving Earth. She could imagine that if she had entered the lottery and was coming here willingly, she would have been more excited than any time in her life.
But she wasn’t ready to let go of the past and admit that. Not yet. The episode on the space station, where she had been forced to strip, had brought home to her everything that would be expected of her on Karal. Not, least of all, that she had to be obedient to Niko, in all ways. She was the alien here, the outsider, and she wasn’t sure she could expect to be treated any better than an animal. Not when she was here to be a breeding machine.
Yes, she knew she was going into deep space with him, but her mother had told her the only reasons that humans travelled into deep space with the Karal was so that they would not miss this thing called their
. A short period in their lives when they could breed. It was why they were being so accommodating to humans, because they needed the females of Earth to produce their next-generation. In reality, the two species needed each other, humans and Karalians, each needing something from the other to survive.
However, looking at Niko, Petra was fairly certain that the Karal didn’t see things quite that way.
For them it was a question of who needed whom more, and to him that answer was obvious. Humans were the weaker species, and he was probably right: all the Karal had to do was go down to Earth and take what they wanted, and she was certain humans would not be able to defend themselves. This left Petra with a new outlook on this journey. Maybe her mom had let her go so that there would be someone on this mission who understood what was at stake.
They had travelled through the atmosphere now, the cruiser getting lower and lower as Niko guided them into land. He aimed for what looked like a small compound, but which turned out to be some kind of airport with a landing strip. Once the cruiser touched down they didn’t get out; instead, he drove it like a car, heading towards a barrier, where he slowed down and stopped. There was a Karalian guard waiting and Niko spoke to him briefly, indicating Petra sat by the side of him.
Then the barrier was lifted and Niko drove forward, and Petra got her first glimpse of Karal and the life that filled it. Not just animals, but plants too. Green grass stretched for miles, dotted with shrubs and trees. She took it all in, as they drove along the empty road.
She wondered where everybody was, for they did not pass anybody; the only signs people lived here were the small houses dotted about randomly on the grasslands. There were no villages that she could see, only single dwellings. Maybe the Karal were not very sociable.
It took a while for her to get used to seeing so much vast emptiness, when she was used to the towns and cities on Earth that were always teeming with people. Even if you left the perimeter of the cities there were always people walking here and there and everywhere. The Earth was so crowded, which was where most of the problem lay.
Petra could not imagine the Earth had ever been this empty, even though she knew it would have been in the days before man began to dominate it.
“Where are we heading to?” Petra asked after they’d been travelling for around ten minutes. Not that she wanted to get to their destination any time soon, she was more than happy for them to simply travel across Karal and never stop. The deep space mission now seemed to be an inconvenience. Despite the fate of the human race resting on it, she would much rather spend some time here on Karal, looking at the plants and animals, learning about them. It made her feel sad beyond measure that there was nothing like this on Earth, that the human race had wiped such wonderful things out of existence.