Authors: Erin Tate
Tags: #scifi romance
NOT QUITE TERRAN is a five-part serial (like a TV show) with a new installment out every Monday. The entire storyline will be available for FREE with Kindle Unlimited, or you can wait to download the full story as a bundle for $2.99.
Rebecca had learned two things during her six years of service as an intake officer on the Rilli space station—how to fend off an eight-armed Mazon from Ladza with a Terran fork, and that a smiling Varr was never a good thing. Ever.
She ignored his approach, pretending the alien wasn’t skirting the clearly marked pathway from the station landing platforms to intake. Rilli had a clearly defined and oft transmitted set of protocols that each and every ship was required to recognize upon approach and landing. Apparently, that didn’t include Varr. At least he didn’t seem to think so. It was only their long association—she would call it friendship if his kind had such a thing—that kept her from sending a correction jolt to his federation identifier.
A small, three-legged Luvendari leaned over the pathway barrier, breaking the perfectly organized line this group had established. “Why does Varr not must wait?”
He skittered beyond the barrier, his talon-like feet clicking and clacking over the station’s metal flooring. A rush of goose bumps slid down her spine and the hair on the back of her neck rose with the sound. Something got to her when she heard the rhythmic clatter of their small claws. It was one reason she ensured the Luvendari adhered to federation protocol without fail. Because if it was ever broken, both Rebecca and the offender would be called to the stationmaster’s office. She did not want to be secured in a small room with one of their kind.
She reached over and tapped a single key on her console. The soft press changed the pale white glow of the guide lines along the ground to a sickly yellow. “Federation code 17647 subsection 721.3 states all visitors to a federation sanctioned facility must first process through intake. Failure to do so will make the offender subject to correction. You have three tics to return to your position in line. Comply.”
Varr finally arrived at the front of the line and stood to the left of her current arrival in process. “Hello, Rebecca. This morning is good?”
He was one of the few Rilli visitors who attempted to speak her native language, even if his grammar lacked. That was one of the few reasons she was a little lax when it came to him. That and their few shared moments of a violent past… The way he’d saved her ass more than once, how he’d snatched her from aliens intent on violating her…
“Bright sun to you, Varr.” She gave him a narrow eyed glare. “If you’re here for processing, get in line.” She removed her finger from the console and pointed down the row of aliens she had yet to admit.
Sad. Right. His people never felt sadness. They were logical and passionate about business, but “sad” was not part of their vocabulary. “Try again.”
As she spoke, she beckoned for the next visitor’s data pad while also snaring her scanner with her other hand. When she sought to remove the device from the alien’s grip, the large Knara hesitated. It took a small step back while gesturing with its primary tentacle and yelling something about physical inspection not being a part of policy. The movement of the massive alien sent the whole row shuffling and stumbling back toward the landing bay.
God of All save her from off-worlders’ expectation of lax inspections. “Federation code 17658 subsection 372.4 states visitors to a federation sanctioned facility must present their federation documentation to an official intake officer. Both digital and physical inspection are
to be performed by the intake officer. Present your data pad. Comply.”
At the same time she was giving her directive, the scraping and skittering step of the Luvendari reached her once again and his voice rose. “Varr must waiting.”
“Terran Rebecca, please speaking with you?” Varr added to the small drama playing out at her station.
Rebecca dropped her scanner and reached for the console, once again intent on dealing with at least one of her three problems. “Per federation code 17647 subsection 721.4, you have been warned, all visitors to a federation sanctioned facility must first be processed through intake. Failure to comply will subject offender to correction. You were provided with three tics to return to your position.” As she spoke she flicked through the species database and quickly found the appropriate punishment for Luvendari. “Failure has been determined.”
The alien attempted to forestall her action, but once an officer shows a course, they must proceed. Otherwise respect would be lost. Without waiting another moment, she pressed the small square on her panel which delivered the appropriate level of shock to a being so small. Speaking over its scraping wails, she continued. “The Luvendari ship Zuria V has been denied access to Rilli Space Station. It may attempt processing in sixteen zentics.” She raised her voice to yell over the low rumblings on the intake platform. “Departing officer needed immediately at intake!”
Knowing her order would be followed, she returned her attention to the Knara to find she no longer occupied the space before her. Rebecca sighed and turned her attention
to her control console. It took moments to bring up the data feed and isolate the alien’s image. It took even less time to blast the picture to other intake desks with a warning that the documentation may be falsified.
There was typically only one reason a being bolted from a federation intake officer and it wasn’t because they needed to relieve themselves in the facilities.
Hardly one tic passed before her brief message was sent. Then the other intake officers secure in their stations turned their attention toward her with various expressions from annoyance to anger. Annoyance she could understand because issuing the warning meant the others would have to be conscious of those beings that were processed. The anger stemmed from the fact those corrupt officers could no longer take a bribe now that she’d identified the Knara as a suspected unsanctioned visitor.
“Making friends, you do not, Terran Rebecca.” Varr stated the obvious.
“You’re kidding,” she drawled. “You got into the old
vids again didn’t you? Yoda does not set a good example for standard Terran.”
Varr ignored her. “Must speaking, Terran Rebecca. Shift’s ending?”
If it wasn’t for the fact Varr’s kind were asexual, she’d accuse him of trying to sneak his way into her quarters. “I’ve worked a double. Any talking will have to wait. Besides, if you don’t get back in line, you won’t even be around to speak with me.”
Something close to mirth filled the alien’s tight features. “Your ass is hard, Terran Rebecca.”
Well, she could either keep her nose clean and follow the rules to the letter, or break them and lose her job and be snatched up as a slave to any number of species that passed through Rilli. Not because she was an unsanctioned officer. But because a being was only as strong as their species, and Terrans were babies in the federation timeline. They wouldn’t rescue a single member of their race. Especially not one who was an orphan with no connections to the home world.
So, yeah, she was a hard ass. It kept her alive.
* * *
Rebecca managed to get off a full wentic—nearly a Terran day—after pulling her double shift in intake and she’d slept half of that time. Now she was hungry for more than her allotted reprations. She
replicated rations. Today—tonight—called for something more substantial. Meat. And she almost didn’t care which planet it came from. She had a bone-deep craving and her body yearned for the heavy protein of real food. Which was unusual for her.
Oh, God of All, it couldn’t be
time again, could it? She’d just gone through her semi-annual fertile period a few Terran weeks ago. Unlike other Terrans—and a blessing to her—she only went through this Terran “period” twice a year.
“No fucking way,” she grumbled as the truth drifted forward. But her lower stomach clenched and tightened, a small cramp assured her that yes, it was time. Again.
She gave one of the waitresses a small wave. Kiarana, Kia, befriended her the first night she’d arrived on Rilli and they’d been close-ish ever since. Or rather, they were at least on a first name basis and she didn’t spit acid at Rebecca when they spoke. That had to count for something.
She internally sighed. Being the law abiding and supremely strict intake officer had its drawbacks just as it had its benefits.
Kia glided forward, her lithe body seeming to float across the scuffed and scraped bar floor. She easily avoided the rough hands that grabbed at her small curves and she struck the occasional rude male who managed to make contact. That particular alien went flying across the room with a small gesture from the female. Many visitors saw Kia as weak and easy prey. They often forgot she was more than a waitress who smiled pleasantly. They forgot the only way a female Tsumazoar was allowed off her home planet was after she’d honed her skills as a warrior against all threats, great and small.
The woman didn’t miss a step as she tossed him aside and finished her approach. “Welcomes, Rebecca Varda.”
“Rebecca, Kia. Rebecca,” she reminded her friend-of-a-sort.
Her face softened with a Tsu smile. “Welcomes, Rebecca. Would you like a table?”
Rebecca appreciated that Kia attempted to speak Terran and she’d slowly grasped the language and grammar. Other than this woman and Varr, she was forced to speak federation common and… she missed the reminder of her home planet. “For one, please.”
Kia tsk’ed and shook her head, sending the tendrils of her long hair trembling. It quickly snuck around Kia’s neck, forming a twined and twisted necklace. Prehensile strands. Different yet beautiful. No such thing as a bad hair wentic for the Tsu. “Must find a mate, Rebecca Var—” Rebecca narrowed her eyes and Kia quickly cut the word off. “Must find a mate, Rebecca.”
“Uh-huh. I see you’re rushing to bind yourself to a male. You first.” She grinned, taking the sting out of her joke and fighting to hide the pang that came with her words. Find a male? Sure, she’d love to. Too bad there weren’t any on the station worth her time.
The alien led her to a small table in the back near the door. The one time she’d attempted to enjoy a seat near the rest of the bar ended in violence and blood. That eight-armed Mazon… She hid her shudder of revulsion and fought to banish the memory of him scraping her skin and snatching at her clothes. The flash of blades when her savior interceded…
Varr’s battle cries echoing off the walls…
“Thanks, Kia.” She slid into the seat, back to the wall to ensure no one snuck up on her, and Kia slid a glass of the bar’s version of water across the smooth surface.
“Albe believes he has perfected ‘pizza’ and would like you to test the meal.”
Rebecca just bet. The translation was Albe knew it was the end of the month and her credits were running out, but he wanted to make sure she ate well. “That sounds great.”
With that, Kia nodded and turned to leave but stopped. She glanced at Rebecca. “Varr has been hunting for you.”
“Searching,” she immediately corrected. Varr’s people didn’t hunt. They grew their food and were what Terrans called vegetarians. “And I know.” She sighed. “He approached me at my station yesterday.”
Kia hummed. “Yesterday. That Knara you warned of was attempting to sneak an unsanctioned species onboard. Word is Poxu is greatly impressed by you.”
She swallowed her groan, noting a group of nearby males would interpret the sound as an invitation. During her time, she’d also learned to keep her body language and sounds to a minimum and not stray from words alone.
Poxu, the stationmaster, was the one male she could
discourage. No punching or stabbing allowed. Communication with Poxu was like walking a Terran tightrope. One misstep and she’d find herself in his bed before she could form an appropriate discouragement.
“I’m pleased my work impresses him.” Especially considering the station tended to balance on the edge of being put on probation with the federation.
Another hum from Kia. “I shall return shortly.”
Yes, Rebecca was sure Kia would return shortly. Unfortunately, it wasn’t before Varr found her. “Hello, Rebecca, this dark zentic is good?”
Yes, her evening was good. Until he appeared. She didn’t bother correcting him and simply delved into the heart of the matter. “What do you want, Varr?”
“Harmed.” He clutched his chest.
“I’m so sorry. That doesn’t change the question.” She lifted her drink and took a long swallow. It was smooth and sweet without overpowering her taste buds. “What do you want?”
“Must speak with yourself.” His coaxing smile dropped. “It is of importance.”
“Varr, I’m having dinner. I haven’t eaten since yesterday. I wrapped my shift and then crashed.” As if to confirm her statement, her stomach growled.