Bastina’s Necklace

Galactic League of Planets

Roscoe James

 

Chapter One

 

“I implore you, father, you must reconsider. We can do it tonight, after the christening. We can steal the Ark and find our world and our people.” Princess Anleen of Bastina continued her plea, “We can finally save them!”

The air, as always, was heavy with soot and the smell of vanstar oil burning in big brass wall sconces that struggled to keep at bay the suffocating gloom that clung to the great cavern much like the shroud of oppression the planet Aznate had become for the Bastina people as a whole.

Somewhere in the dark recesses of the maze of caves the Bastina people called home, the relentless sound of dripping water was a constant reminder of just how urgent the situation had become. The experts of both peoples agreed that within the next twenty years the sun’s decline into the death rattle of a newborn nebula would ravage the planet, melting all the surface ice, flooding the tunnels, caverns and caves, forcing them all to the surface where ultraviolet levels would kill them almost as quickly as drowning below ground.

Her father, the current king of Bastina, a kingdom neither one of them had seen or set foot on, as was the case with the last hundred and seventy-four Bastinan kings and queens, was adamant. “It has been decided. Bastina is gone, lost forever. No one even knows where to look. We have only stories and fairytales of where we come from. It is time to accept the Aznate’s invitation and join our two great peoples as one. It is the only way to insure our passage to the new world.”

“You forsake them! You are nothing more than a traitor! And,” she stepped closer to her father’s throne and sneered, “I refuse to marry that stinking Aznate, Druuk!”

Her father was not a man to be denied and was on his feet before she could take a breath, his face pressed inches from her own as he stated in a flat, menacing tone, “You, daughter, will do exactly what I say, with exactly who I say, exactly when I say. And I curse the memory of your fool grandmother for putting those stupid ideas into your head! Bastina is nothing more than a fairytale. Now,” he continued to challenge her stare, “I believe you have a wedding to prepare for. I am the King and that is my order!”

Her gaze steady, her nostrils flaring with each breath, she matched his tone, “And I am your daughter, a free woman of Bastina, not this Haark forsaken rock, and,” she mocked, “how can you claim to be the King of a place you say is nothing more than a fairytale? I would rather be a virgin sacrifice than marry that piece of Aznate slime!”

“Careful what you wish for, my daughter. Married or not, I will chain you to Druuk’s bed and let him have his way with you. Better a royal consort than a dead virgin!”

She had expected as much. Her grandmother, the King’s mother, had told her once: “My son does not believe these things; he will only laugh in your face. If he actually gave credence to these so-called fairytales he’d have to admit that he and all the rest of our family have failed the Bastina people miserably.”

Yes, she knew the fairytale well. Every child of Bastina had fallen asleep to the stories. Far, far away, circling a star not unlike Earth’s Sol, a glimmering collection of six planets, all traveling in the same orbital path and plane, all seemingly connected to each other by a thick band of asteroids that, from a distance, seemed to form an elegant necklace circling a smiling golden sun goddess.

The asteroids, an eclectic mix of white, shimmering, frozen carbon dioxide and water, gleaming nickel and iron chunks with rough jagged edges and black monoliths of silicates and space debris, tumbled lazily as they bumped and cajoled their neighbors in perpetual territorial fights.

Touching her own necklace she steeled herself to advance the attack. When her father saw where her fingers landed he bellowed, “And get that thing off your neck!”

When his hand shot out to jerk it off she jumped back.

“Don’t you dare!” she shot back, “While you may be a fairytale King, this,” she lifted the heaviest stone and stretched the necklace out below her chin, “is the oldest known relic of my people! Of the lost system of Bastina!”

This was not the first time they’d had this argument, however this time, she decided, it would be the last.

Her father mocked her. “Ha! Lost system of Bastina! Your people! A fairytale! Nothing more!”

She could feel it happening. It always did no matter how hard she tried to stop it. Her eyes burned and the first traitorous tear slid slowly down her cheek. She determined not to blink before spinning on her heel, leaving him to gloat.

She hated it most when he would no longer argue. When her father, the Bastinan king suddenly realized his arguing only fueled the fire. He would pass off the thought of another Bastinan people, a people not stuck on his precious Aznate, as completely insignificant with a wave of his hand and a few sarcastic barbs to shut her up. His flippant attitude was more infuriating than the fight.

I will show him.

“Oh, and Princess.”

Now I’m the princess and not his daughter. She kept walking and ignored him.

“Don’t forget about your wedding plans. There is still much to do.”

Once she was sure she’d been swallowed completely by the shadows at the far end of the great royal hall she let her emotions boil to the surface and stood sobbing quietly, shoulders heaving, and let resolve harden her heart.

Anleen lifted the biggest stone, one of six that on the necklace that represented the six planets of Bastina, again, brought it to her lips, kissed it, and whispered the words of the old language, the Bastinan tongue, words her grandmamma had taught her, “Hi-ek tan da ko leet Bastina. Ny-ka da ko lilt.”

* * * *

Dirk Roberts punched a button on the overhead, silencing the proximity alarm, checked his heading, and hit the COM link to request emergency docking clearance.

He tried to recall the last time he’d put into port, any port, for more time than was needed to take on provisions, drop off a load, and pick up another. Enough time to come out of his light speed tin can, asses the current state of humanity and alien-anity and crawl back in.

A full bird colonel in the Corporate Space Fleet by the time he was 28, in line for his first admiral’s star before 30, he found the politics of military command much more demanding than any enemy confrontation.

Seen as a natural leader, a man not to be overlooked or ignored in any crowd, his natural wit and strict sense of justice and fairness had taken him a long way.

It had been a simple thing that had changed his outlook as well as his look forever. No longer a colonel in the Corporate Space Fleet he now looked more like the pirates of days gone by the fascinated him so. A natural occurrence between two beings no matter what planet they happened to hang their hat on. A naturally fulfilling moment in his life ravaged by the unnatural hate of other world racism.

But that was then. This was another time in another place with a decidedly unfulfilling purpose.

Then he saw it peeking around the edge of the mottled white planet. He’d heard about it. Everyone in the galaxy had heard about the Aznate Ark. More than a hundred miles long with a girth at its widest point of twenty, a height of five, and light-beam bells at each end that could swallow small moons whole. It was the biggest machine of any kind, to date, anywhere.

“Ah, right Aznate control, Q-class 33265, captain Dirk Roberts requests docking for emergency repairs. No cargo, no crew, technical assistance required.”

He punched the coordinates into the NAV unit and sat back to take in the sights while Aznate control took care of docking.

He’d been limping along in deep space at LS-2 for over six months, a trip that should have taken less than a week, after dropping a load of machine parts at Meline; then setting off for Handrac on a deadhead to snag a load of yandaw crystals, when his light-compression unit had blown. Sniffing the stale cabin air, he wondered if the entire ship was as dank as he was.

Limited to light speed 2 he’d had to run for the nearest port he could find. In spite of Galactic League of Planets Regulations that required all inter-galactic-transport to carry one year’s provisions during any light-beam jump, just like compliance with light-compression unit maintenance schedules, his operating budget wasn’t quite up to GLOP standards and he’d been rationing everything, including water, for the past six weeks.

He didn’t care. He’d survived worse.

He smiled at the skull and crossbones, a genuine pirate’s flag he’d bartered away from a slag hauler just outside Earth’s asteroid belt, stuck to a bare patch of wall beside the front observation window. He decided the story might not be as good as a pirate’s tale, but it would get him a free drink or two in the port bars.

As his ship got closer, he studied the ark closely, especially the small silver glimmers along one side. With a start he realized the glimmers were actually galactic class star cruisers, the latest in GLOP bullet ships that could hit LS-200. Huge ships in comparison to his freight hauler. The dimensions of the ark dwarfing the bullet ships put the true bulk of the ark into perspective. He whistled in admiration.

Dirk grabbed his long, black coat and three cornered hat and got ready to leave the stinking tin can he called home. At least long enough to take a shower and get a drink. Or three.

Patting the bulkhead of his ship affectionately, he promised to put his mistress right again.

* * * *

“But, Mother. How can you expect this of me?”

“You are the only heir to the Bastina royal line…”

“How can we claim royal blood rights to a place my father doesn’t even believe exists?”

“That’s beside the point. The Aznate believe and it’s the Aznate who are offering passage off this Haark forsaken melting snowball and safe haven on their new planet. There’s even talk with the League of Planets of getting our own world some day.”

Petulant and rebellious, Anleen insisted, “But we mustn’t! Safe haven may be four hundred light years in the wrong direction! Four hundred light years further from true certainty for the Bastinan people! Even the ones on Bastina!”

Her mother had grown weary of her protests and it showed.

“You will listen here, young lady, if you really do believe in Bastina and your people, you will do this thing and be glad. This marriage has been arranged since your birth as payment to the Aznate people for all they’ve done for us, the real people of Bastina. You should feel flattered and overjoyed that such a debt can be paid by only you.”

“You! You! You! That’s all I hear from everyone! You do this! You do that! I’m sick and tired of it! I’m the only twenty-six year old virgin on the whole Haark forsaken planet and all because my father wanted to make sure the Aznate didn’t back out on the deal.”

“Yes, you. And we all thank Haark for you every night in our chants,” her mother sniffed in the elitist fashion most royals used when discarding other people’s feelings. “Druuk isn’t all that bad, dear. Really…”

“My Haark, Mother, the man—No, the thing doesn’t even have a cock! He’s going to lick his way into me and spit! Spit, mother! Spit into his virgin bride until she writhes in blissful joy and happiness! Then, in six months, a … a … purple thing will come out!”

Her mother’s face clouded at the image, but with a stiff upper lip and jutting jaw she was undeterred. “Now, Anleen, I will have no more of that kind of talk in my chambers. The experiments have been done, everything has been proven viable and one of our young women has even spoken very highly of the whole experience.”

Anleen grabbed her overfur and threw one more gallon of vanstar oil on the fire, “Yes, but have you really looked at the results?” She leaned close, “Just remember, Mother, when my firstborn, a purple thing with scales and stubby little antenna sticking up, something that stinks and has no cock, calls you grandma, be sure to smile.”

Throwing the overfur around her shoulders she stormed out slamming the door behind her.

* * * *

Anleen carefully pulled the white half-mask in place over her eyes, the one all Bastinan were required to wear in public during the day because they were considered too ugly to be looked upon by the Aznate young, pulled her overfur tight around her shoulders and trudged down the dark, dank hallway being jostled mercilessly by passing Aznate and other masked Bastinans.

She knew what she needed and she knew exactly where to find it. Maybe there’d be some Marjing or Meline in the place. Anything nice to look at. Even a Zandill would be better than what awaited her on her wedding night.

She smiled at the soft tinkle of the bell above the door as she pushed into the only exclusively off-world pub on the planet and headed for the bar. A place the Aznate would never enter. Her only refuge from the stinking beasts. Her parents would kill her if they knew. Ha, a fate worse than marriage! Or not!

After her first thimble full of jank death-blood, her preferred libation, she had an idea and giggled at the absurdity of it.

After her second, she stopped giggling.

With the third, she had no idea how she was going to do it but she had decided. Reaching inside her overfur she found the heavy ball that hung lowest on her necklace and, without looking, counted right two balls to the smallest, the planet Odan, the royal planet, and recalled her grandmother’s words.

“This, Lee,” her grandmother had explained invoking the nickname she’d given her, “this one is the royal planet. Odan. The land where all Bastina royals were born and raised. A snow world of beautiful blue ice, lush green trees and lichens, a permanent blanket of clean white snow, and birds and animals that are the most beautiful in all the galaxy.”

“But tell me about the sky, grandmamma, please. The sky!”

“Oh, the sky. You always want to know about the sky, don’t you? Well, the sky is a deep azure and as the world spins, ever so slowly, night or day, you can glimpse the rest of our system’s planets lumbering along, all of them holding hands.”

She ordered another drink and scanned the mirror behind the bar looking at the off-worlders, imagining another life in another place at any other time. Any place and time other than the one she was now stuck in.

The first thing she noticed was the hat. How odd, she thought. She’d seen something like it before in D’s but she couldn’t place it. And a feather sticking up! Is it a real one? From a real bird? Having never seen a real bird, she had no idea.

She watched the being push its way between chairs, its back to her, and she could guess nothing else about the shrouded figure. She did see two legs and funny looking boots.

When it turned and spoke with one of the waitresses, she still couldn’t tell. With that much hair on its face it could be an Andrine female. The hands looked like a Rangdon’s or Meline’s but much bigger. And black.

And what’s that around its neck?

Anleen’s mouth fell open and she grabbed her drink.

When she looked back it was gone. Dropping some coins on the bar, she found the waitress, a Meline, and inquired. Staring at the door at the back of the pub, she wondered if she dared.

Slipping into her overfur, she dared.

* * * *

Dirk turned a lever until the hot water became soapy, then ducked his head under the spray, scrubbing his fingers over his scalp. This, he decided, is what heaven will be like.

He couldn’t wait to get rid of the beard and shave his head again. He slid his hands over his body, turned, and let the hot spray pelt his back, then grabbed his cock, cupped his balls, and turned again.

He was surprised to find so much activity, all of it normal, on Aznate. He knew the planet’s days were numbered, but also knew there was a Zandill that ran a small mining operation near the surface who claimed to have six gold doubloons.

His passion for pirates, and everything he could find that looked, claimed to be, or, in rare instances, really was pirate, was as big a mystery to him as it was to everyone who knew him.

The fascination had started in his childhood and had only gotten worse as he’d grown up. He had D-books, D-pictures, D-movies, and even some old flatscreen films; all of them about pirates.

He loved to imagine himself at the helm of a creaky old three-master on a frothy sea, commanding a crew of luckless brigands while they fired their cannons and prepared to board a ship laying low in the water, holds heavy with gold. A fair maiden who conjured memories he sometimes couldn’t avoid, was always swooning on the foredeck, while his sword sliced through the air… Ah, he had to admit, it was easy to get carried away.

He was drawn to the lore and romance of the pirate life and tended to take loads that weren’t always 100% aboveboard because of it. Not every load—he was careful to maintain his legitimate status as an independent space hauler—but enough to keep life interesting.

He fancied himself working alone on the high seas of deep space and imagined the last six months had been just another big adventure.

*

My Haark! Definitely male! Then she realized—he’s an earthling.

Anleen leaned dangerously around the edge of the doorway and was dumbstruck by the sight. Rippling muscles on his back, shoulders broader than any she’d ever seen. Thighs as thick as tunnel supports, more ropes of muscle pulling and bulging on each.

She felt flushed.

Not black, she thought, a dark brown color. Yes, she’d seen it once, even tasted it. Chocolate. Does he taste like chocolate?

She squelched an urge to get closer and touch, and instead fixed on the purpose of her stealthy visit. When she started to turn away, he grabbed his cock and ran his hand along the length, chasing soapsuds. She froze. Even on Bastinan men, and in books, she’d never seen anything so big.

She sucked the tip of her finger into her mouth and chewed on her nail. What on Bastina would something like that feel like? She shuddered.

Now. She had to do it now. His head was soapy, his eyes closed and, ah, his hands occupied. With regret, she turned away again and quickly scanned the pile of filthy clothing on the low stone bench beside the sink.

Where is it? She was going to have to get closer and search his clothing.

On tiptoes, she took two steps and froze. What was that? Glancing sideways, she nearly passed out when she realized he was talking. More importantly, who he was talking to?

She spoke all the GLOP languages—what else would a twenty-six-year-old virgin do with her time? But she’d never practiced English with a real live earthling.

She gulped.

*

He tried a second time, “Are you the girl they sent?”

His only request had been humanoid and, deep inside, he’d wished for a Zandill. He told himself the appeal was their skin. Smooth and slick, almost oily. Well, that and their skill. Another part of him knew better and was relieved to see none had been available.

Then it hit him—what was she doing? When she jerked upright she looked … guilty?

And what was with the mask?

“Are you here to give me a massage?”

When she didn’t answer immediately he decided she didn’t speak English. Rubbing his hands over his naked body, his upper arms, sliding soap around, he pointed at her and said, “You,” then pointed at himself and said, “me.” Rubbing his chest again he said, “Massage.”

She seemed to hesitate before her hands came up and she shoved her big furry coat shyly off her shoulders. Then she stopped as if at a loss.

He could see her mouth and when she finally smiled, he felt his breath catch.

He’d never seen skin so white. It reminded him of a fresh snowfall. And her hair… Not a blonde as blonde’s go, her hair was yellow. No, not yellow, it was a shimmering gold halo that framed her face and fell behind her shoulders.

When her hands found the leather tie that held the front of her vest together, he didn’t even think about where his hand had wandered and what it might be doing.

She’s tall. Almost as tall as I am.

When the leather fell away and the vest slid off her shoulders, he forgot about how tall she was. My god. How long has it been? He pondered and gulped as her fingers moved to leather ties on each side of her leather pants.

*

Anleen hoped he hadn’t noticed her hands shaking. How do you know what a human is thinking?

She wasn’t sure what he wanted. Something called a massage. She was still searching for the word when his cock visibly swelled.

She couldn’t let him catch her trying to steal something. How to find it and get out? Turn and run? Forget about it? Maybe it wasn’t what I thought it was.

She chanced looking higher than his waist. But his eyes. Yes, his eyes. Blue, captivating, smiling and, most of all, beautiful. They brought the Azure sky of her grandmother’s tales to mind.

Her fingers trembled when, trying to buy time, she tugged on the ties of her leather pants. She couldn’t help smiling when his mouth fell open.

Is a massage a kind of sex?

No, she thought, I have to get it and get out of here. Now!

But his lips. Oh, his lips. They looked soft and were sculpted so beautifully.

Dare I? It’s what I decided I would do. Why not? He definitely has a cock.

She looked at him one last time and decided. Her fingers snaked into the tight leather that clung like a second skin to her ass and, with a wiggle; she shoved down and bent forward letting her long golden hair hide her face.

She felt the leather stick and pull at her crotch as she slid her pants past her hips, below her knees and finally stepped out of them.

Still bent at the waist, she chased the top of her boots down one at a time and stepped out of them as well. When she stood, she heard him whisper something.

“Oh my god!”

This time she thought she understood. He was either cursing or thanking his Haark.

Glancing nervously over her shoulder she caught a glimpse of gold chain peeking from beneath his clothes. Yes! There it is!

“What a lovely creature.”

That she understood completely and felt a warm rush race up her chest and blossom on her face.

Now what? A massage? What’s a massage?

Her knees trembled with the first step but her resolve held.

It wasn’t what she’d come for but why not? She’d decided. If she wasn’t a virgin the deal was off. Druuk would shun her.

When the reality of what she was going to do hit her she shivered. The Bastinan people would also be shunned. Druuk’s father would see to that. They’d be left to drown or roast on this Haark forsaken rock.

Such an odd expression he wears. Is that what lust looks like on a human’s face? And now he’s just standing there, unblinking, waiting for my next move.

This whole thing is all my father’s fault! It was he who honored the deal and promised that which wasn’t his to give. Let him be the first to burn! Blast him! It will stop now. Here. I will no longer be worthy after this human finishes with me!

She took another step and almost jumped out of her skin when the hot spray of water, the same water that was cascading down his beautiful ebony skin, hit her foot.

Then she did jump when someone behind her said, “Sorry, I was busy…”

When she turned, she found the Meline waitress standing, staring at them both. Realization dawned and the waitress said, “Wait! I know you! What are you doing back here?”

Anleen panicked. Grabbing his clothes and hers, abandoning her boots, she hugged the bundle to her chest and ran naked down the long hallway past other shower rooms, burst into the pub and continued her escape, knocking chairs over, bumping into people as she went. She hit the door so hard a small window set into the wood shattered.

Hiding in a dark corner along the cold dank hallway, shivering, chest pounding, she rifled his clothing a second time and cursed. Tossing it all aside, she grabbed her own clothes and dressed as quickly as possible.

Thank Haark for my mask. No one will know who I am.

* * * *

More than anything Dirk thought the situation was funny as hell. He was still laughing when the waitress returned with his clothes which he promptly sent off to be cleaned. Not because they were dirty but because they were filthy from six months in space.

After shaving his face, he sat in a chair while Prid, the Meline waitress, carefully shaved his head.

Dirk moved to the massage table and was still so amused by the whole thing, he didn’t notice when the svelte Prid slipped out of her own clothing.

“My mate has died his final death. I can offer more than just a massage if you wish.”

He politely declined and continued to ponder his intruder.

An hour later, pulling his boots on, he found where the golden haired beauty had abandoned her own and picked them up. Turning them over in his hand, he found an elegant gold crest sewn into the outside cuff of each. Holding it out for Prid to look at, he asked, “Any ideas?”

Her hand came to her mouth and she exclaimed, “Why, that’s the royal seal of Bastina!”

Five minutes later, when he turned to leave, Prid called after him, “Wait, you forgot something.”

He tucked the gold ball he’d won in a poker game in his pocket and left whistling.

* * * *

Anleen slammed the door to her bedroom and threw herself on top of her bed hiding her face in a pillow. What a mess! I can’t believe I did that! What was I thinking?

How on Bastina could the sun goddess just walk in on the chest of an earthling like that? Not only that, but around the neck of the most desirable creature from any planet she’d ever laid eyes on. Not that she’d laid eyes on that many but, oh my Haark, what a … what a…

She didn’t know but she knew that the sight of his big hand chasing soapy water up and down his very big cock wouldn’t go away.

The skin was so tight and the end looked so smooth. Like a ball! What would happen?

Anleen rolled on her back and tried to imagine it. She knew how everything worked, she wasn’t a kid. A virgin, maybe, but she knew her body and how to please herself.

Slipping the hastily tied knots on each side of her leather pants loose, she let a hand wander while she tried to put it all together.

There, she thought, touching herself again. It would go in there. Pressing her finger into her sopping pussy, she tried to imagine the big bulbous end pushing in, and had trouble resolving apparent size differences.

Her hips rolled and her breath caught.

So big. So strong. So daunting.

She spread her legs and tried to slide her hand down further but was trapped by her leather pants. In a huff she pulled her hand out, wiggled her hips, and shoved then down to her thighs.

Wet finger back in place, she started making a little circle and her mind became a flood of thoughts. A stream of consciousness that her finger directed like an orchestra leader’s baton.

He wants me.

She found the small pearl in her folds and pressed.

He has to have me.

She let her finger slide down further and explored.

He burns with desire.

Another finger joined in.

His hands are on me.

She shivered and rolled her hips.

His lips are on mine.

She sighed.

His touch is rough, demanding.

Her finger curled and slid in.

He grabs his cock and pushes the big round end against me.

She shivered.

He’s on top of me.

She closed her eyes in anticipation.

He’s going to take me.

She bit her lip and hoped.

Her other hand found an opening in the leather lace that held the front of her vest together and slid in. Trapping her swollen nipple she squeezed.

“Yes,” she whispered.

His lips. His big beautiful lips, she thought, and licked her own.

His eyes. The color. The steely-eyed stare with a smattering of … compassion?

She spread her pussy with two fingers and pressed on her swollen folds until she felt the familiar jolt.

He’s talking. Saying something. Imploring me.

Her hands moved quickly. Pulling her knees up she shoved the top of her leather pants to her ankles, pulled a foot out and, legs akimbo, rolled onto her stomach and buried her face in the mattress. Hand between her thighs she raised her finger and found her swollen nub again.

She could see him smiling, feel his hands on her bare ass pulling, holding, guiding her.

Rocking her hips, her cunt wet and swollen, she rode her finger and closed her eyes. Her legs jerked, her knees pushed and her toes dug into the bedspread. Her ass came up with another jerk and her breath caught in her chest.

With a sheen of sweat, a grunt, and a pull in her thighs, she found the prize.

“Yes,” she yelled into her mattress and pressed her fingers over her swollen nub repeatedly.

Her thighs quivered and air came in fast gulps.

She smiled back when he smiled up at her.

* * * *

It had been over four hours and Anleen still felt flushed. She couldn’t believe she’d actually gotten undressed in front of the earthling. Or, more importantly, what she’d intended to do.

Now, standing beside Druuk, her stinking Aznate husband-to-be, she felt relieved that she’d run. Not because she didn’t want to. And, certainly not because she didn’t think it might have been the most glorious experience in her entire life.

No, simply because the small crowd of Aznate and Bastina people gathered on the observation deck of the GLOP ship they’d transported to, were all chatting and laughing, the anticipation and excitement of their coming trip palpable.

She had to admit that even though the Aznate were ugly, perpetually stunk, and had no redeeming qualities whatsoever, they had taken the Bastina people in when the ragtag bunch of castaways had washed ashore on their planet. And for that, and only that, she was glad she hadn’t gone ahead with her plan.

The gala, the first she’d ever attended above ground, was an unveiling and celebration. Parked on the dark side of the planet, with spotlights playing across the shiny surface, the big ark seemed overwhelming. Music played softly and she could hear exclamations of awe mixed with the clink of fine crystal and soft murmurs of excited conversation.

She felt sexy and she wasn’t sure if it was the day’s adventure or the slinky white floor-length dress of mijon silk that was perpetuating her lascivious rush.

Druuk’s maw found her hand and she looked over and smiled, hoping her response didn’t look like the croak she knew it to be.

“Soon,” he said.

And yet another thing she hated about Druuk and his people! The entire race was given to single word exclamations and responses. Why waste a word if a grunt would do? And, by all means, if a look said just as much as a grunt, why waste a breath? If she could just have a conversation with him, explain her doubts, her fears, how she felt, hear him say she was beautiful and that he too had doubts… If only!

Yes. Soon. Many things would happen soon. The largest galactic migration ever and the union of their two peoples were at the top of the list. And she was front and center as the glue that held it all together.

Druuk’s father walked by, glanced at the two of them, and his purple lip twitched in … disgust? So what, she thought, willing him to read her mind. Good enough for your son to spit in but not good enough to be seen in public without a mask? Ha!

She saw a smattering of Corporation and GLOP people milling around, everyone looking at the huge presence that floated serenely just outside the long observation windows.

Anleen scanned the crowd from left to right looking for her parents. With a jerk, her head stopped and she looked back at the man in the GLOP diplomatic sash balancing hors d'oeuvres and a flute of champagne in an animated discussion with someone she hadn’t expected to see for at least the rest of her life.

She thought it was him. He looked different. His face was smooth and hairless as well as the top of his head.

She glanced at Druuk, trying to gauge his demeanor, and desperately scanned the sea of people immediately in front of them to find someone to occupy her Azanate prince. When her mother stepped out of the crowd she turned to Druuk and announced dramatically, “Oh, here she is. My mother has something she’s been wanting to ask you.” Her mother’s expression of shock just goaded her on and she added, “It’s about sex.”

Before either could react, she planted a light kiss on Druuk’s cheek and disappeared into the crowd.

The human didn’t have his strange hat on, which made him difficult to find in so many people. And she was glad she didn’t have her mask on. Hopefully he won’t recognize me.

The greeting would be easy. It was speaking with him after that might be a problem.

The GLOP flunky bowed slightly, cleared his throat, and addressed her, “Good evening, Princess. What a glorious day for you and your people.”

She had no idea what the GLOP flunky’s name was and he hadn’t bothered to introduce himself, but she smiled anyway and let him kiss the air above the back of her hand. Then, with more courage than she felt, she turned to the ebony earthling, raised her hand and willed him to take it. His eyes sparkled, he smiled, and she willed again.

His touch was warm and gentle, his smile, the kind people have when telling a secret, sent a shiver up her spine and, more importantly, up the inside of her thighs. She felt a knee tremble and held her own smile as the man leaned over, his shiny ebony pate like a planet floating above her hand, and did more than kiss the air.

She thought she’d faint when his warm soft lips landed on her knuckles.

When he raised his head and smiled back she didn’t notice that he was still holding her hand.

“Captain Dirk ‘Black’ Roberts, at your service Milady.”

A gold ring was hanging from one ear and dimples appeared.

“Pay no attention to him, Princess,” the flunky was saying, “Captain Roberts fancies himself a pirate. I can assure you, he’s absolutely harmless.”

Pirate! That’s where she’d seen the hat! In D drawings of ancient stories of pirates on the high seas of earth! Dashing bandits that traded in gold and maiden’s virtues.

Harmless? She certainly hoped not.

“Captain Roberts,” and, recalling something from one of her books, she bent her knees slightly and lowered her head in a curtsy, “I’m Princess Anleen of Bastina. How nice to your acquaintance make.

When both men stared, she rushed to correct, “Sorry, I haven’t practiced my English enough. I meant to say how nice it is to make your acquaintance.”

Her dark prince bent over their joined hands and, his warm breath washing over the back of her fingers with each word, said with a strange lilt to his voice, one he hadn’t used when she’d heard him speak earlier in the day, “The pleasure is all mine, Princess.”

The rush of her own pulse was loud in her head.

He released her hand and his smile broadened. A smirk? Is he laughing at me?

She wanted to run, yet his eyes held her captive as surely as any chain.

The flunky intruded, “And what do you think, Princess?”

About what? His beautiful eyes? His lovely warm lips? His captivating smile? His very big cock?

Breaking the hold the Pirate captain had on her eyes, she saw the GLOP flunky gazing out the observation window and realized he was talking about the Ark. I think it blasphemy, she thought, but said instead, “Oh, I think it’s wonderful. Our chance to escape this Haark forsaken rock at last.”

“Yes,” the flunky went on as if she weren’t there at all while she let her eyes surrender to the human’s gaze once more…

“It truly is amazing. I mean, just the size of the thing!”

Yes, she let a smile play lazily across her lips, the size. Oh, my, the size.

The flunky was thoroughly captivated with his own monologue, “I just can’t imagine what it will be like when it first gets underway.”

She saw a twitch at the corner of her tormentor’s mouth and amended the flunky’s thought with a thought of her own. Or under me.

Then, his teeth as white as Odan, his eyes as blue as Odan’s skies, he spoke, and the only sound on the crowded observation deck she heard was his voice. Her ear had grown accustomed to the soft cadence of earth English and she hung on every word.

“You certainly are fetching in your dress, Princess.”

She blushed, was happy the human seemed to enjoy her dress, and realized a response was called for, “Thank you, Captain. But I must ask, is it Captain Roberts or Captain Dirk?”

His eyes smiled along with his lips and he offered in that strange lilt he’d used earlier, “Ah, ‘tis Captain Black, Milady, late of Treasure Island and the waters off the shores of New England.”

She brought her hand to her mouth and laughed when she recognized the title of the book by an earth author named Stevenson. She tried to recall some of the old English used in the book and said, “Then Captain Black it shall be, my kind gentleman.”

When he leaned in, his eyes wide, she thought he might pounce like a wild animal but the thought turned quickly to wishful thinking.

“Ah, do not insult me with such a word, my fair maiden. A pirate and a scallywag I would be! Never a gentleman!”

They both laughed and she looked around for the GLOP flunky. Suddenly finding she was alone with her dark pirate, she felt uncertain and dropped her eyes to her hands and stifled her laugh. The silence was causing her distress and he dropped the pirate’s brogue and came to her rescue, “I must apologize, Princess. That was forward of me. Too long in space, I guess.”

“Please, my name is Anleen. And what of space? I understand that space travel across the galaxy is fast. How long have you been traveling?”

She mapped his face while he told his story. She catalogued it as noble. And standing so close, his size and strength became apparent. His shoulders were straight and broad, his neck offering just enough skin to … nestle my head and plant a kiss?

Anleen banished the image and let her eyes follow the lapel of his strange black coat and experienced a rush of almost uncontrollable excitement when she saw the ancient relic, the small pendant of the Smiling Sun Goddess nestled against his white shirt. Her true purpose for searching out the earthling came rushing back as she gazed at the bright reddish orange crystal on a gold chain that hung from his neck.

Her grandmamma had explained it all to her when she’d given her the necklace.

“You must guard and cherish this necklace all your life, my child. It is with this necklace that you will finally find our people.”

She’d let the heavy round crystals slide through her fingers and inspected each one carefully. At last, she’d asked, “But how, grandmamma? I don’t see it. Is there a map?”

“The map is hidden, my child, and to see it, you must first find the key. The golden orb of the sun goddess that will make the necklace come to life and tell its secrets.”

“But how will I find the key, grandmamma?”

She recalled her grandmamma’s whispered words, “You must believe, my child, and Haark will bring it to you.”

And she had. In spite of what her father and the rest of the people of Bastina thought, she had always believed.

And there it was. She was almost certain. Close enough to touch, yet given the chest it rested on, light years away.

“…even more so with that lovely dress, Princess.”

She froze. My dress? What on Bastina is so interesting about my dress? When she didn’t say anything he went on.

“Well,” he said, and his teeth shined when he smiled. “It’s just that the last time we met, you weren’t wearing much of anything.”

Her blush was so furious and hot she wanted to find an airlock and slip into the icy nothingness of space. She couldn’t believe he’d recognized her. Blast!

She smelled her savior before she saw him.

“I am Druuk.”

She wanted to hit him. He couldn’t come to her rescue with something witty like, I’m the prince of Aznate and you shouldn’t say such things about my future wife. No, that would be entirely too much to ask for. As was the Aznate way he simply arrived and announced himself.

“And I am Dirk.”

Is he making fun of Druuk? Before she could find out, the GLOP flunky returned.

“Prince Druuk! This is great. I mean, isn’t she a beauty?”

She watched Druuk turn and gaze out the observation window. She also caught the good Captain gazing but his object of fascination was much closer. He seemed to only have eyes for her.

Druuk turned back and answered simply, “Yes.”

She wanted to pull her hair out, but before she could extract the first golden strand, the flunky disappeared, leaving her alone with a stoic Druuk and a grinning pirate.

*

“Good evening ladies and gentlemen, peoples of Aznate and Bastina,” the amplified voice of the GLOP flunky intruded and she looked up to find him standing in front of one of the observation windows, his larger than life D image floating above the gathering.

“As the representative of the Galactic League of Planets, I wish to thank everyone for joining us for this very auspicious occasion and, once again, I want to applaud the valiant efforts of the Aznate people in saving not only their own people, but the people of Bastina as well.”

The observation deck filled with polite applause and her heart burned with hatred at the idiot’s words.

“Unfortunately, as great as it’s been to meet everyone and get a feel for the friendship and brotherhood of the two peoples, as with all good things, this one must end as well. We must all leave the ship now so we may prepare for an early departure.

“So, I want to thank everyone one last time and ask you all to be careful as you make your way to the transporters on deck C. Congratulations on a wonderful achievement!”

Anleen’s entire being burned with anger when the idiot fisted the air above his head and gave the traditional Aznate victory hale of, “Seentoo Aznate!”

When the crowd, Bastina included, parroted the foul cry she wanted to vomit. Where’s the pride in this? What of our people? What of Bastina?

“Oh, and one more thing—”

Anleen eyed her prize on the still smirking pirate’s chest, trying to decide what to do.

The GLOP flunky smiled and raised his champagne flute a second time, “I also understand that other congratulations are called for. I want to raise my glass and toast the Prince of Aznate, Druuk, and his lovely bride to be, Princess Anleen! Cheers!”

She wanted to strangle the imbecile.

It surprised her when Druuk raised his arm in a rare show of possessiveness, pulled her against his body, and smiled for the crowd. Even more amazing was his monosyllabic admonition that she should smile in kind.

And she did. And when the attention waned and she searched for the smiling sun goddess of Bastina she discovered the small golden orb was gone.

And so was the dark pirate who held more than her golden orb hostage.


 

 

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