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Space Available Series: Dar's Adventures in Space, Book 3 By K. Rowe

Dar rolled over in bed. The delicate scent of Softsuckle flowers reached his nose. Wait a minute, he thought, opening his eyes and realizing there was a blonde head of hair occupying the pillow next to him. Okay, too freaky, he mused, remembering that his mother wore Softsuckle in her hair nearly every day. No, not his mother lying next to him, but the other woman in his life: his chosen mate, Princess Parnela Vischof.
Space Available Series: Dar's Adventures in Space, Book 3
Space, Book 3  

He glanced up and saw the stars streaking by. The Marsuian vibrated gently, a feeling that always soothed Dar’s restless heart. He wondered how long he’d been asleep. When he left Kruelis, he was in bad shape. The chemicals in his body had gone crazy, poisoning him because he could not satisfy his true love for Parnela. Thinking he'd die, Dar wanted to return to the Marsuian. He’d left Schmuff instructions for his burial, if needed, and given the Nouian command of the ship.

Fortunately, Parnela changed all that. She’d forsaken her mother, Queen Vission, and ran off with Dar, her true love. Now, all seemed right in his life again. He had a female in which to share his love, his ship, and the stars he called home. He only hoped his mother would approve of his mate. Dar was confident she would, if she were still alive.

Parnela rolled over. “Dar?”


“How do you feel?”

He wrapped his arms around her. “Fine. How long was I out this time?” He groaned. “This seems to be an unfortunate occurrence with me.”

She giggled. “Over a week. I was so worried about you.”

“You weren’t the only one worried. I figured I’d died.”

“I don’t know how you got us back to the ship, but after we landed, you passed out. Schmuff helped me get you to bed.”

“If I passed out, how am I still alive? I should be dead.”

“I managed to get some Mind Blow in you, and you came around long enough for us to join.”

Dar caressed her shoulder. “We did?” He furrowed his brow ridges. “I don’t remember.”

“Yeah, and I guess that was enough to save you.”

He rubbed his face. “I feel bad for not remembering a joining with the love of my life.”

“It’s okay. You were really ill.”

“Still…Thank you.” Dar leaned over and kissed her cheek.

“I love you too much to let you die. I stayed right here. Schmuff brought me food and drink.” She wiggled from his grasp and got up, heading to the bathroom. The princess paused at the door. “And we dropped Aggalith and Emelith on Thokin—they’re doing just fine.”

Dar smiled slightly, seeing her naked body. “I wish I could’ve said good-bye.”

“I’m sure you’ll see them again; you always have shipments going there.”

There was a knock on the door. “Yes?” he called.

The door opened and Schmuff poked his head inside. “Kaptaw?”

“Hello, my friend.” He beckoned his furry little engineer. “I hear you’ve been taking good care of the princess.”

“Ga, Eg dok.”

“Thank you,” Dar said softly, sitting up.

“Prigness kndon lef je.”

“She never left me, huh?”


“Are we on course for Erotis?”

“Ga, je teg’di mekka tek.”

Dar ran his fingers through his hair. “I don’t remember telling you that, but thanks.” He tried to recall the last time he’d seen his mother. He couldn’t. It had been far longer than he’d wanted, but life had been interrupted by slavery and an epic war between planets.

“Je teg’di mekka apikta je lef ikta Kruelis.”

“Schmuff, I told you that before I left for Kruelis just in case I made it back, but died.”

“Churee, Kaptaw.”

“No, no, it’s okay. I wanna go home and see if my mother is still there.”

“O-K. Erotis ikt treg leegat yakkas.”

“I’m three light years from home?”


Dar scrambled from the bed. “I need to get a shower and look presentable.”

The dusty outpost of Aknarra looked even more desolate since the last time Dar saw it. The desert encroached on the small town, devouring the outermost buildings and leaving a thick coating of sand on everything. Sparse greenery dotted the landscape, only the strongest vegetation surviving the years of drought that now plagued the settlement. The town looked deserted.

As the cloud of dust settled, Dar, Parnela, and Schmuff walked down the gangplank of the shuttle. His best friend, Garnic, still worked in long-range communications. His was a welcomed voice to hear after all this time.

“This is where you grew up?” Parnela asked.

“Yeah. It’s not exactly the same; I guess the drought’s gone on longer than expected and more have left.” Dar walked along looking at all the boarded-up buildings. Even the general store where his mother worked had an “out of business” sign.

“Hmm, the store’s closed. I wonder what else is gone?” He continued down the street, finding the Aknarra Tavern. “This place is still open. Curious if Krodus is still running it.” Grabbing the handle, he opened the door and held it while Parnela and Schmuff entered.

Dar looked around. The inside of the tavern had changed little since the last time he was there. It was dark, dusty, and held only a few aged patrons. A familiar face gazed at him from behind the bar. “Hello, Krodus.”

Krodus was a formidable purebred that had made Dar’s early life difficult. An odd twist of fate years later brought them together as friends. “Dar?”

“Been a few years, my friend.”

Krodus grabbed a glass and poured Dar his customary Malikin port. “I wondered what happened to you. No one has seen or heard from you in years.”

Dar sat down at the bar and took his drink. “Well, like you, I had a brush with slavery—although mine only lasted about six months.” He pointed to Parnela. “I would like you to meet my mate, Princess Parnela Vischof.”

Krodus nodded and offered his hand. “Princess.”

Parnela took it. “Hello.” She looked up to see the purebred’s head of rich green hair. Krodus kept it reasonably short. He was probably twice the size of Dar.

“You’re Kruelian?” he asked.

“Yes. My mother is Queen Vission.”

“I’m pleased to make your acquaintance. Would you like something to drink?”

“Oh, no thank you,” she replied.

Dar pointed to Schmuff. “And this is my Nouian engineer, Schmuff.”

Krodus offered his hand to Schmuff. The engineer bared his teeth and growled.

“Schmuff, that’s not polite. I told you, Krodus is my friend. Be nice and shake his hand.”

“Ga, Kaptaw.” Schmuff thrust his hand at Krodus.

The big Satiren took Schmuff’s hand and gently shook it. “I guess you’ve told him about me, huh?”

“Well, yeah. But he seems to have forgotten we’re friends.” Dar took a sip of port. “How’s your father?”

“He died two years ago.”

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.”

Krodus grabbed a towel and wiped the dark wooden bar counter. It wasn’t dirty, but he was looking for something to do. “And I’m not sure I can keep this place going much longer. The drought’s pretty much killed off the settlement.”

“Where will you go?” Parnela asked.

“South. They’ve had plenty of rain. If I have to close up shop, I’ll go to Ozbok.”

Dar rubbed the edge of his glass. “I don’t mean to pry, but have you found a female?”

Krodus shook his head. “Maybe if I leave here; there’s none left in Aknarra.”

“Have you seen or heard from my mother?”

“Mmm, saw her the other day, out walking the dunes.”

He sighed softly. “Is she well?”

“Looks it.” Krodus shrugged his shoulders. “She was at a distance.”

“Did a male ever take up with her?”


“I was hoping one would after I left.”

Krodus refilled Dar’s glass. “There’s only a handful of us here. Most have moved to Tarnig or Ozbok.” He shoved the cork into the bottle. “You might wanna move your mother to Ozbok; there’s not much in the way of food or supplies now. The owner of the store closed and moved, taking Cogg with him.”

“How long ago was that?”

“Maybe six months…I heard Garnic has been making sure your mother is cared for.”

“He didn’t mention that when I talked to him.”

Krodus nodded. “He told me when he came in for his pint.”

Dar tipped back his port. “I guess I need to make sure she’s cared for.” He stood. “Thank you for your hospitality.”

“There’s always a drink for you here, Dar.”

“And if you move to Ozbok?”

Krodus chuckled. “There’ll be a drink there too.”

Dar smiled as he opened the door, ushering out Schmuff and Parnela. “I’ll see you again, my friend.”

Once outside, Dar made a beeline for his mother’s house. Parnela and Schmuff had to walk quickly to keep up with him. “What are you going to do?” Parnela asked.

“I dunno, but I need to do something. I can’t leave her here by herself.”

“Do you think she’ll move?”

“If the town folds up and goes away, she’ll have to. But I’d rather get her moved before it does.”

“Do you think she’d come with us? The Marsuian is quite big.”

“No. Space is not her thing. She’s lived here all her life, and I’m hoping she’s got enough sense to move.” He covered the last few yards and stopped at the door. The house was a single story building made from blocks of pressed mud and covered with a rough, stucco-like substance. It was the same color as the sand, and showed years of wear. “At least I hope so.”

Reaching up, he knocked loudly on the solid wood door. It was several moments before it was answered. Denrika stood peering out at him. Her once brilliant green hair was now streaked with gray, and she had quite a few deep lines and wrinkles on her face.

“Mother,” Dar said softly.

Tears welled up in her eyes as she held out her arms. Without a word, he slid into them, embracing her tightly.

“Dar! Oh, Dar!” she cried, her words coming out garbled. “I thought you were dead.”

“No, Mother, I’ve been rather busy.” He slid from her arms. “I won’t scare you with everything bad that’s happened to me in the last years, but I do have happy news.”

Denrika dried her eyes. “What?”

Dar put his arm around Parnela. “I’d like you to meet Princess Parnela Vischof, my mate.”

“Mate?! Oh, Dar, how wonderful!” She started crying again. “Any younglings?”

He laughed. “No, not yet.”

Denrika looked at Parnela. “They will be beautiful younglings!”

“Umm, yes, Mother.” His cheeks flushed.

“Please, please, come in.” She held the door wide for them. They entered, and Dar led the way to the living room. Everything was how he remembered. Not a single new piece of furniture graced the tired old house; the area rug on the floor was threadbare. He felt like he was thrown into a time warp. Part of him felt good to be back in familiar territory, the other part knew Denrika couldn’t stay there.

Standing in the center, Dar regarded Denrika. “Mother? Why are you still here?”

She settled into her favorite blue overstuffed chair. “I’m here because this is my home.”

“I see the store is closed. Krodus told me they left six months ago.”

“Yes, it’s been a bit difficult.”

“And he said Garnic is helping you.”

“He’s a good neighbor; he brings me things.”

Dar growled lowly. “Mother, why didn’t you move to Tarnig or Ozbok? Aknarra is dead.”

“This is my home.” She fiddled with her fingers. “And I knew if you ever came home, you’d look for me here.”

“You could’ve left a note…You can’t continue to live here; everyone is leaving. Krodus is probably gonna close the tavern, and it’s only a matter of time before Erotin long-range communications will move as well. I don’t think the drought will end.”

“Dar?” Parnela said softly.


“You have the Plexus; can’t you do something?”

He shook his head. “No. Erotis is fine. There’re other places not in drought. It’s just a matter of moving to a settlement with water. Aknarra has very deep wells, but not enough to sustain crops.”

Denrika started to cry. “I don’t want to leave my home, Dar; my memories are all here.”

Kneeling in front of her, Dar took her hands. “Mother, we may have memories of this place, but all of them are in our hearts.”

“If I move, where will I live?”

He leaned and kissed her hands. “Anywhere you want. I have plenty of drig to buy you a new house.”

“You would do that for me?”

“Of course! You need only say the words and I’ll whisk you away from this dusty outpost and put you in a nice new home where you’ll never have to worry about a thing.” Dar stood and walked around. “Mother, I worry about you. I worry that you’re here all alone and there’s more leaving the settlement every day. I’d feel better if you’d move where you can get food, you’re safe, and there’s help if you need it.”

“Oh, I don’t know.”

“Please? Please, Mother?” Dar begged.

“And you’ll come visit me?”

“Any chance we get…Uh, and hey, who knows, you may have a grand-youngling one day.”

Denrika smiled through her tears. “I’d like that very much.”

“Then let me help. I can get things fixed up in Ozbok for you.”

She looked around the room, and then sighed deeply. “All right.”

Dar kissed her on the forehead, feeling the fragile skin covering her brow ridges. “I’ll make sure you don’t have a care in the world.”

It took Dar and Parnela five days to find just the right house. Situated near the middle of town on the rise of a hill, the house was the best resemblance of the one Denrika had in Aknarra. It boasted a wonderful view of the town and surrounding dunes. The floor plan was even similar. Dar felt his mother would be quite comfortable with his choice.

Ozbok was nearly four hundred miles from Aknarra. Dar used the shuttle to take his mother to see the new house. After much fretting, she agreed. Now all that remained was to move her belongings.

Parnela and Schmuff carefully packed dishes while Dar was in the living room helping Denrika empty a desk. As he flipped through some papers, a tattered, yellowed one fell out. He picked it up, studying it. “Mother, what’s this?”

She took the page. “Ah, yes, your father drew this when he was here.”

“He did? Why have you never shown this to me?”

“Oh, I’d long forgotten about it.”

“May I have it?”

Denrika gave it back. “Certainly.”

Dar ran his fingers over the crinkled paper. “It looks like a map of some sort.”

“Edward said it was a map of his solar system. It’s supposed to be in the Milky Way Galaxy.” She pointed to one circle. “He said that’s Earth.”

“Earth, huh?” He traced his finger from the center circle out. “If that’s the sun, then Earth is the third planet from it.”

“I guess.”

He turned the page over. “What’s this?” There was a drawing of a large circle with what appeared to be a land mass on it.

“He said that was where he came from. He called it A-mer-i-ca.”

“America,” he said softly.

Denrika sat back in the chair. “I wonder if he made it home? The science advisors who helped them weren’t sure the tiny little vessel could make the return trip through the wormhole.”

“Yeah, I wonder what happened to them?” He looked at the paper. “Thank you, Mother, I shall cherish this.” Dar carefully folded the paper, tucking it in his jacket.

Three weeks later, the Marsuian broke orbit from Erotis 3. Denrika was more or less settled into her new home. Dar felt good that she was in a larger settlement and would have more neighbors to keep watch over her. And he hoped she’d make some new friends.

He also decided he didn’t want to be away so long. Denrika was nearly in her seventieth year, and Satirens lived perhaps ninety years. He wanted the last years of her life to be happy ones. And if it meant taking more time to visit with her, so be it.

Dar stood at the control panel; Parnela sat in the captain’s chair. “Dar?”

“Hmm?” He kept his back to her, working the controls.

“Now where are we going?”


“Are you going to use the Plexus there?”



He turned partway. “Because Satiris is where Satirens belong.”

“What if you fix the planet and then they don’t want to go home?”

He turned back, making a few adjustments to the helm. “I dunno.”

“Well, you could always take the Plexus to Erotis, right?”

“Yeah, but that’s not the point.”

She got up and wrapped her arms around him. “I know. And I understand your motivation. You have a good heart, and despite your species disliking you because you’re a half-breed, all you’ve ever done was try to help them.”

“Maybe by doing this they’ll finally accept me,” he said softly, laying in the course.

“What they think shouldn’t matter. Dar, you’re smart, handsome, and successful. You don’t need them to tell you that. You’re living your dream, and no one can take that away from you.” She caressed his chest. “What they think of you shouldn’t matter. You have friends all over the galaxy who think highly of you.”

“Just for once, I’d like to hear it…To have the Satiren High Council accept me.”


Satiris looked like a tan ball of dust in the front window of the Marsuian’s bridge. Dar stared blankly at it. He’d never see the planet of his ancestors. Satiris sat in a rather empty part of the Beta Sector. There weren’t any other planets nearby, and trade in that region was sparse. Having been “asked” to work in the dark side by Gwog, Dar had little reason to come this way—until now.

“Not much to it,” Dar said as he prepared to put Marcy in high orbit. He poked a button and magnified the image on his computer screen. The planet was nothing more than desert which was dotted with the occasional empty outpost. Several deep scars on the surface caught his attention. “Looks like it’s taken quite a few meteor strikes over the years.”

“Perhaps that’s what knocked it from its position and set the planet into ruin,” Parnela replied from her spot in the captain’s chair. Dar had long ago surrendered the seat to her; instead, he preferred to stand at the control console so he could keep track of everything.

“Maybe. It’s strange that no one ever talked about what led to the demise of Satiris.” He studied the screen. “I’ll put us in orbit, then I’m gonna take a shuttle down and have a look.”

“Can I go?”

“I’d prefer you stay here. Please.”

“Oh, all right.”

“If everything looks good, I’ll land Marcy, and we can deploy the Plexus.”

“I hope it works.”

“Me too.” Dar watched the controls as the freighter slowly edged into orbit. “Okay, she’s set.” He took off his headset and grabbed a phaser rifle from the wall. “I’m not expecting trouble, but the one time you don’t take a weapon, you end up regretting it.”

“Better to be safe than sorry.”

“Definitely.” He went over and gave her a rather passionate kiss. “I’ll be back in a few hours. Then we’ll see about landing and exploring more after the Plexus is working.”

“Could I come along then?”

“Maybe, Princess.” Dar kissed her again. “See you later.” He headed to the shuttle bay. Trotting up the gangplank on the larger shuttle, he closed the door, and placed his rifle on the seat next to him. He’d given Schmuff orders to monitor him on the surface. And Dar hoped he wouldn’t run into any trouble. He was excited and a bit scared; Satiris may be a deserted planet, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t without danger.

“Schmuff?” Dar said over the radio.

“Ga, Kaptaw?”

“I’m heading to the surface. Keep an eye on the place, will you?”

“Ga, Eg dak.”

“Good, I know you will.”

“Kaptaw, ewebbe cafa.”

“Yeah, I will be.” Dar started the engine and navigated out of the containment field. He didn’t think it mattered where he landed, so he aimed the shuttle toward the planet’s surface.

As he got closer, Dar noticed small settlements cropping up from the dust. He couldn’t tell if they were inhabited, most were nearly swallowed up by the sand. Then he saw what appeared to be a city. It had buildings, which rose hundreds of feet into the air. He aimed the shuttle toward it.

Dropping in altitude, he saw much of the city covered in a heavy layer of sand. Here and there were tiny specks of greenery. “Schmuff, can you read me?”

“Ga, Kaptaw.”

“I’m circling around what must’ve been the main city; it’s deserted and almost engulfed in sand.”

“Nak liff?”

“No, don’t see any life; a few bits of green, but mostly sand.” He made a lower pass. “There’s a nice flat area to land. I’m gonna go down, have a closer look, and make sure it’s good. Then I’ll head back and we can make preparations.”

“O-K, Kaptaw.”

Dar brought the shuttle in for a landing. He waited while the dust cleared, checking his instruments to ensure the air was breathable and temperature tolerable. “Hmm, doesn’t seem too bad, just a lot of sand.” He grabbed his rifle and set out. As he stepped onto the pale sand, he sank in up to his ankles. Dar walked carefully, noting that there seemed to be a firm base under the sand. A warm, gentle breeze blew across the barren land kicking up swirls of dust. The landscape on Erotis was similar in parts, so he felt rather at home.

Walking farther, Dar headed toward a mountain range. The deep sand gave way to hard, crusty, cracked sand. It was certainly easier walking for him. He paused for a moment, looking at the two Satiren moons: Sadrik and Thalik. They were full and hung fairly low on the horizon with Sadrik being the closer of the two. Then he studied the surroundings; this might be a good place to set Marcy down and deploy the Plexus. The ground was firm, and from what he could guess, it might have been a dry lakebed. “Well, this’ll do, as long as the lake doesn’t fill back up.” He turned in a slow circle taking everything in. There was, indeed, some green left on the planet, but hardly enough to sustain a race of aliens that once numbered in the millions.

Returning to the shuttle, Dar closed the door and took his place at the controls. He pondered if his species would ever return to their former numbers. Could he convince them to come back? And would they? Thoughts flooded his mind with the impending job. He also wondered if the Plexus would work. It was a long shot, but he had to try.

He started the engine. “Schmuff?”

“Ga, Kaptaw.”

“I found a good place to land. I’m heading back. I’ll be there shortly.”


Dar decided to fly around a little more, surveying the area. As he neared another set of mountains, he saw a settlement. This one appeared a little greener than the others. On closer inspection, he saw faint footprints in the sand. “Hmm, curious.” He decided he’d check that out later.

Half an hour passed, and Dar was back on board the Marsuian, making preparations to land. Parnela hovered around him, wanting to know the details of his trip.

“Well, you said there are settlements? What do they look like?” she asked.

“Similar to those in Aknarra, except most are covered in sand…There’s one large city; it’s covered pretty well too.”

“I’d love to see some of them.”

“In time, Princess. Lemme get the Plexus working and then maybe I’ll show you around.”

“Maybe? Why only maybe?”

“I didn’t see anything dangerous, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something down there.”

“You’ll protect me.”

“Uh, right.” He typed on the keyboard inputting the approximate coordinates of where he wanted to land. Once they got lower, Dar would use his dead reckoning to find the dry lakebed. “I’ve never been here before so I don’t know what perils could befall us.”

“Certainly no Satiren left would be a threat. You said your species is a peaceful race.”

“Yes. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other things that might wanna make a meal out of us.”

She rubbed his shoulders. “I think you can protect me.”

“I hope so—if it comes to that.” He watched the monitors as the ship slowly descended to the surface. Seeing the dry lake, he adjusted the thrusters. A light blinked on the control panel. “Schmuff?”


“I’m getting a warning light. How’s the power to number four thruster looking?”

“Eg chee set. Nakt churg.”

“You see it, but you’re not sure?”

“Nak. Eg’ll wurg ong set lakkar.”

Another light blinked, followed by a buzzing tone. “Shit! Now I’m getting a light on six. I can get down with four, but not out of here.” He watched the planet’s crust approach. They were going a little faster than he’d like. “Princess, you might wanna strap in. This could be a bumpy landing.” He hit the switch for the landing skids. The ship shuddered and vibrated. Dar worked the helm trying to steady it. “Hold it together, Marcy, you can do this.”

“Oh,” she said, returning to the captain’s chair and grabbing the shoulder harness that hung behind the seat. “Are we gonna be okay?”

“I hope so.” Dar held firmly on the controls trying to regulate the descent of the ship. Several buzzers sounded. He poked buttons to silence them, and more sounded. “Marcy, don’t let me down now, please.” He saw the ground getting closer; dust was kicked up by the massive ventral thrusters. “Come on, you can do it.”

Several seconds passed before the Marsuian hit the ground with a loud rumble. The whole ship shook as the skids absorbed most of the impact. Dar got knocked from his feet. As he sat up, he looked at Parnela. She was stone still in the chair, a rather shocked expression on her face. “Are you all right, Princess?”

“That wasn’t good.”

Dar stood. “No, it wasn’t. Now I’m gonna be spending time trying to figure out what went wrong.” He turned to the control panel, shutting everything down. “Marcy’s always been a good ship—very little in the way of mechanical troubles. I wonder what happened?”

Parnela threw off the harness. “Little in the way of trouble? Wasn’t it bad fuel that got you captured by the pirates?”

“Yeah, that wasn’t her fault.”

“And then the conduction conduit blew so you had no aft shields…”

“It got hit by a disruptor blast from a pirate ship. Come on, give ol’ Marcy a break. Most of the repairs I’ve had to make were battle related.”

“I suppose so. Do you think you can fix whatever is wrong?”

“Not sure. We’ll have to take a look.”

“What happens if you can’t fix it? Are we stranded?”

“Uh, maybe. The worst case is I have to take the shuttle, load up on food, and try to make it back to Erotis. The shuttle can only do warp one; so it’ll take me a few days to get there. And then I hope they have the part I need.”

“This isn’t sounding very good.”

“Relax, Princess, lemme take a look. It may be something simple.”

“I hope so.”

Dar squeezed his way into the diversion pipe for the number four thruster. It was a very tight squeeze, and he wished Schmuff would have done it instead. But this was his ship, and he needed to find out what was wrong. For the last three hours they’d been going over the main components of the propulsion system. Now all that remained was a visual inspection of the ventral thrusters. “Schmuff?” He was thirty feet down the pipe and hoped he’d reach the end soon.


“Can you open the diverter coupling?”

“Ga, Kaptaw.”

He waited while Schmuff operated a large crank to open the entry where the main engine thrust was diverted into the landing thruster. As it opened slowly, Dar shined a light inside. The thruster pipe was large and dark. A strange odor emanated around him. Wiggling in, he got to the main compartment and had a look around. “Schmuff. I smell something.”


“I don’t know. I’m still searching.” He followed his nose, climbing into the downward-facing pipe. There was little in the way of footholds, so Dar got the toe of his boot into one of the deep grooves of the focusing cone and hefted himself higher to find the source of the odor. He moved the light around. “Aw, I see it.”

“Esha magga, Kaptaw?”

“The main thermocouple for the diverter is burned out.”

“Eg wunkteer whahak?”

“Yeah, I wonder why too.” He reached up and tried to work the part loose. It snapped off in his hand and Dar lost his balance, falling toward the ground far below. “Shit!” His head smacked the edge of the pipe with a loud crash, his foot lodged in one of the grooves. He ended upside down in the pipe.

“Kaptaw?!” Schmuff hollered, not knowing what happened.

“Ow,” Dar moaned, feeling the blood rush to his head.


“I’m okay, Schmuff…Kind of.”

“Neg hek?”

He looked to see the ground fifteen feet below. “I need all the help I can get right now.”

“Hogk kun Eg hek?”

Dar tried to get free, but his foot was stuck. “Shit, I don’t know how you can help.” He hung for several moments before growling and thrashing about angrily about, his arms and free leg bashing the pipe loudly. “Fuck!”

“Churee, Kaptaw.”

“Sorry? Not half as sorry as I look right now.” He glanced up at his foot, unsure of how he could get free. “Schmuff? Can you crawl down here?”


Dar heard the Nouian clambering down the long piping system toward him. “Watch that last step; it’s a big one.”

“Ga, Eg nakka.”

“You know. How do you know?”

He listened while Schmuff explained that when Marcy was being refitted many years ago at the Newrillian space station, he was working with the engineer, checking the thrusters, and nearly fell down the pipe himself.

“Nearly took a dive, huh?”

“Ga.” Schmuff finally poked his head down the pipe. “Uh oh.”

“Yeah, uh oh. Got any idea how to get me out of this?”


Dar grunted and tried to reach his foot. “Ah, ah, close…” Straining harder, he got one hand into the groove just above his foot. “Umm, this is helpful—maybe.”

“Kaptaw, frook je fuktt ag puugg pud.”

“Huh? What do you mean ‘take my foot and push up’—I’m stuck!”

Schmuff pointed to Dar’s free foot. “Puugg pud.”

He studied the situation for a moment. “Ah, I see what you mean.” Dar got his free foot onto the edge of a lower connection ring. With all his might, he pressed his weight on that foot while trying to push up with his other. His hand held the sharp metal of the groove. He glanced over his shoulder at the ground below. “Oh, this is gonna hurt.”

With one quick jerk, his foot was free. His hand felt the bite of the metal and he let go, crashing to the ground. Schmuff peered down at him. “Kaptaw?”

Dar lay flat on his back, arms and legs sprawled on the hard sand. “Ow,” he whimpered.

Dar and Schmuff searched another hour to discover the thermocouple in the number six thruster was burned out as well. That night, as he lay in bed nursing a sore back, and drinking a glass of Malikin port, Dar tried to come up with a plan. Parnela lay next to him. “So what are we gonna do?” she asked, rubbing his arm gently.

“I’ve been thinking. I may have a couple options. For starters, those kinds of thermocouples don’t burn out very often—in fact, they looked like Marcy’s original ones. So there had to be a reason for them to fail. Schmuff’s checking things in the engine room and mix tanks.”

“What are your options?”

“I can venture into the city and see if I can find a place that may have parts. Or, I can load up the shuttle and try and make it to Erotis.”

“If you go into the city, can I come?”

“No. It might be dangerous.”

“But Dar, I’m getting bored here.”

“Sorry, Princess, I can’t risk taking you out there until I know it’s safe.”

“Well, can I at least go outside and stay around Marcy?”

“Yeah, I think that’d be okay. We’re on a flat, so hopefully you’d see any danger coming in time to get back inside.”

“It’s better than just sitting here staring out the window.”

“Look, as soon as I can determine it’s safe, then you can go with me.”


“What do you reckon?” Dar said as the shuttle circled slowly over the city ruins. From what he could see, it appeared to have been a grand city at one time. Several buildings towered over the others. The streets were mostly filled with sand; a few scruffy shrubs grew here and there.

“Eg thriink eeg neg tek finkket aa spakt parkut,” Schmuff replied as he looked out the window.

“Find a space port? But where?”

The Nouian scanned the area. “Makeeba thekk.” He pointed to a tall spire poking out of the sand on the outskirts of the city.

“Maybe there, huh?” Dar changed course. “Well, let’s go take a look.”

They flew lower and circled twice more. “Kaptaw, liiuk!”

“Ah, yes, I see it. Good call, Schmuff.” Dar landed the shuttle near a large building. A portion of it was covered with sand, but enough was visible that Dar saw a broken sign that read, “Parts.”

They grabbed phaser rifles and went down the gangplank into the bright sun. “Hello!” Dar hollered, scanning the area. “Hello!” He turned to Schmuff. “No one. Let’s go in and do some shopping.”


Going to the door, they found it locked. Dar leveled his rifle and blasted the lock. Carefully, he opened it and peered inside. “Hmm, the place appears in pretty good shape.” He noticed skylights providing light inside. Dar entered, Schmuff followed close behind. “Let’s start on the first row and see what we got.”


They went behind the counter and Dar started looking at the shelves. Most contained boxes of parts; others had parts lying out in full view. “Well, we seem to be in the environmental controls section,” Dar said, picking up a length of tubing. “Let’s try another row.”

Finishing that row, they turned the corner. Dar thought he heard noise far back in the warehouse. “Did you hear that?”


“I wonder what it was?”

“Eg kndon nakka.”

“Yeah, you don’t know either, I was just saying.”


“Animals? Maybe. I’m not familiar with Satiren flora and fauna…Keep on your toes, okay?”


Dar continued his search. As he walked slowly down the long aisles of parts, the noise got louder and closer. “Schmuff?”

“Ga, Kaptaw?”

“Whatever it is, it sounds like more than one.”

“Ga, Eg heggr.” Schmuff listened for a moment. “Kaptaw?”


“Eg heggr summaakk beghinkkd udz.”

Dar turned, listening. “Yeah, and I’m not getting a good feeling about this.” He readied his rifle and continued down the row. Just as he was nearing the end, he spotted the part. “Hey, there’s the thermocouples.”


“Good indeed, my friend. What luck.” Dar reached up to get the part. A low growling echoed through the warehouse. He looked to the left and saw a huge, four-legged, dark brown, hairy beast moving toward them. “Shit!”

“Kaptaw!” Schmuff cried, pointing to the other end of the row. Another beast was closing the distance quickly.

“I don’t know what they are, but they don’t look friendly.” He leveled his phaser and fired a shot at the closest one. The shot was intended as a warning, perhaps to spook the creature off—it didn’t work. “What are these things?” Dar took notice of the beast’s long, sharp teeth. “Enough being nice.” He fired, and in a bright flash, the creature disappeared. “One down.”

Schmuff fired his rifle but missed; the beast was moving at amazing speed. Just as he was getting ready to fire again, the beast jumped clear over him and was on Dar in an instant.

“Arrrhhhhh!!” Dar cried as the creature knocked him to the ground. It growled and snarled as it attacked. He tried to get his rifle to bear on the beast, but it got swatted away by a big paw. “Schmuff!”

“Kaptaw, murr!”

“More?” Dar gasped as he tried to fight off the beast. It slashed with its claws, gashing him across the face. Then it sunk its teeth into his right thigh. Dar screamed and thrashed. Schmuff saw two more heading their direction. He carefully aimed and fired, eliminating both. Then he spun around and targeted the one attacking Dar. Schmuff had to be careful, he didn’t want to shoot his beloved captain. Dar did his best to fight, but the beast was more than twice his size.

Holding his aim as steady as his scared little body could manage, Schmuff fired. In a flash, the beast was gone, leaving Dar on the floor in a pool of blood. In the distance, they heard more snarling and the sound of claws on the hard floor. “Kaptaw, ghasse pud!”

Dar moaned and struggled. “I can’t get up.” His body screamed in pain. Schmuff grabbed Dar’s arm and tried to get him to his feet.

“Kaptaw, murr aklinas.”

He slowly got up. “Shit.”

“Eeg roon!”

“You can run, but I can’t. My leg’s chewed up.”

Schmuff helped Dar back toward the door. The animals were getting closer. Glancing over his shoulder, Schmuff saw three galloping toward them. He gave Dar a shove and turned, his rifle ready. Summoning up all his courage, Schmuff engaged the creatures. Two fell quickly to phaser blasts, the third made it all the way to Schmuff, where it had jaws open ready to devour the little Nouian.

“Nak!” Schmuff cried as the beast hit him with such force it knocked him off his feet. He tumbled to the floor, his rifle lost in the fight. The beast snarled and attacked. Schmuff covered his face in fear. It managed to get its mouth on Schmuff’s shoulder before it disappeared in a flash of light.

Uncovering his face, he looked over to see Dar on the floor, his rifle pointed at him. “Ka goo, Kaptaw.”

“You’re welcome.” He got up. “But we’re not out of danger yet—more coming.”

“Shit,” Schmuff hissed as he stood and went to Dar. They hurried outside and into the shuttle. As Dar was closing the door, four creatures burst from the warehouse and headed toward the shuttle.

“I hope they can’t get in here,” Dar said, limping to the pilot’s seat. He frantically started the engine, hearing the crashing, banging, and slashing of claws on the outside of the craft. “Whatever they are, they aren’t friendly.”

Taking off, Dar circled back. The creatures were on the sand below. “I don’t play nice either,” he said, switching on the weapons panel. The targeting crosshairs appeared on the cockpit window, and he lined up. “Enough fun and games.” Dar fired, killing all four of them. He looked over at Schmuff. “I had the parts just inches from my fingers.”


“How are we gonna get them now?”

Schmuff shrugged his shoulders and winced in pain. “Murr faktig.”

Dar groaned. “More fighting, yeah, great.” He looked at his leg; blood ran freely from several gashes. “Can you find something to bandage me up?”

“Ga.” He got up and found a first-aid kit. Schmuff did his best to wrap Dar’s leg, and his own injured shoulder.

“At least we know there are parts, and exactly where they are.”

“Eeg jakst hekt tek nwat ghasse theem.”

“Yeah. Of course we just have to go get them. You, me, and what army?!”

“Makeeba queetta.” He held his finger to his lips.

“What do you mean?” Dar lined up on the shuttle bay and landed. “Sneak in there?”


“Worth a try. We gotta have those parts or we’re stranded.” He shut off the engine and noticed Parnela coming down the stairs. With effort, he stood and hobbled to the door. He opened it and found her standing on the deck.

“Dar!” she cried, seeing the blood seeping through the bandage. “What happened?”

“This is precisely why I didn’t want you going with me.” He limped down the gangplank. “There are animals out there, and they aren’t friendly.”

She went to him, putting her arm around him for support. “Did you kill them?”

“Some, but I’m sure there’s more…Schmuff and I found a parts warehouse.”


He held up his hand, thumb and index finger close together. “I was this far from having the parts in my hand when they attacked.”

“How awful! Are you going to try again?”

“Yeah, but we’re pretty beat up. Might take a couple of days before I feel good enough to go in there again.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll do my best to nurse both of you back to health.”

“I’m sure you will, Princess.”

Five days passed before Dar and Schmuff were feeling up to returning to the warehouse. Even then, both had reservations. Those creatures were fast, powerful, and dangerous. Dar hoped he could slip in without alerting them.

“I think I’ll set down a little farther away, maybe they won’t hear the shuttle,” Dar said as he ate lunch in the galley.

“That might be a good idea,” Parnela replied. “But what if they chase you? It’ll be harder to get away.”

He rubbed his face. “Yeah, I know, that’s a risk we’ll be taking.”

“And what about the Plexus?”

“What about it? I need to make sure this ship is fixed before I do anything else. If we have to make a quick escape, Marcy’s gotta be able to get off the surface.”


“Once she’s fixed, then we can deploy the Plexus.”

“Do you know how long it will take to fix the planet?”

Dar shook his head. “Nope. I figured we’d leave it go for a while and I can get back to work.”

“Are there any jobs you have?”

“I can always swing by Jamarais and find a rum shipment that needs hauling.” He finished eating and wiped his mouth. “Schmuff? Ready to try this again?”

The Nouian looked at him with fear and dread in his eyes. “Ga, Kaptaw.”

Dar put his hand on Schmuff’s good shoulder. “I know, I don’t wanna go either, but we have to.”

“Eg nakka.”

“Uh, Dar? Did you ever find out what caused the problem?”

He stood. “Schmuff found a mix valve for the eunerium that was stuck partly open. That caused way too many charged particles to get diverted into the accelerator.”

Parnela gave him a blank look. “Huh?”

“My fuel mixture was too hot. Let’s leave it at that.”

“Is it fixed?”

“Yup, a little grease and she’s fine.”

“Oh, good.” She got up and walked with them to the shuttle bay. “Please be careful.”

“I’m always careful, but I can’t control what I don’t have power over.” He held her close for a few moments, kissed her, then headed up the gangplank. “If all goes well, we should be home in an hour or so.”

“I’ll be waiting.”

Dar waved good-bye as he closed the door. Schmuff was already in his seat, starting up the engine. They flew to the city and Dar found a place to land. “Let’s be quick about this. I thought I saw a sandstorm brewing to the east.”

“Ugh!” Schmuff growled as he grabbed his rifle.

“If we can get the Plexus working, that may help with storms. I don’t know about the nasty creatures around here though.”

“Eeg hankt theem.”

“Hunt them? Yeah, right.”

They walked in silence to the warehouse. The sun was dipping low in the afternoon sky. Dar stopped at the door. “Okay,” he whispered, “when we go in, I want you to stay back at this end. Keep watch while I get the parts.”

“Ga, Kaptaw.”

He opened the door and slid in; Schmuff was right on his heels. Dar crept down the aisle, his rifle at the ready. He listened for noises. All he could hear was the sound of his boots on the floor, and he was trying to be careful with his steps.

Reaching the end of the row, he saw the thermocouples. Gently, he reached up and took four of them, figuring it would be good to have spares. He glanced around, seeing Schmuff standing guard at the end. So far, so good, he thought, tucking the parts into his jacket pockets.

Dar quietly made his way back down. When he reached Schmuff, he tapped him. “Let’s go,” he whispered.

As they stepped outside, six creatures were waiting. “Shit!” Dar said, fumbling for his rifle. Schmuff was ready and fired. He hit two of the beasts before they charged.

“Take the left!” Dar swung his rifle and fired at the ones on his right.


The battle was short, and they somehow survived unscathed. Dar looked around for any more. “Come on, let’s get out of here.” He took off at a mad run, not looking back. Dar knew Schmuff was with him; he could hear the Nouian breathing heavily.

As they drew closer to the shuttle, two more creatures sprang from behind a building and attacked. Dar tried to dodge one, but was tripped when it swung a paw and hooked his leg. He tumbled and got right back up. “Fuck!” Lurching, he caught his balance, turned, and fired, blasting a beast.

Schmuff dove behind a large decorative plant pot. He poked his rifle around the side and fired. The beast swerved, the phaser round missing its mark. The beast turned and made another attack. This time, Schmuff let it get closer before pulling the trigger. The beast disappeared in a flash of white light.

“Let’s get out of here!” Dar hollered as he resumed his dash. The shuttle was a hundred yards away. Schmuff ran as fast as his short legs would carry. He saw Dar reach the shuttle and take up a defensive position. He gasped for air, his legs getting tired. Nouians weren’t made for running; they were made for trudging through deep snow on their home planet.

“Come on!”

“Argh!” Schmuff grunted, running as hard as he could.

Dar spotted another creature closing the distance on Schmuff. He aimed his rifle and fired, killing it before it reached his friend.

Another three broke from what appeared to be a clothing shop and gave chase. “Schmuff, hurry up!” He fired, taking out two of the animals. The third was smart enough to break off the attack. It retreated to a safe distance and watched.

Schmuff ran up the gangplank and collapsed into the rear cargo compartment. Dar closed the door and slid into his seat. “I got four thermocouples. That should hold us for a while.” He started the engine and saw several more creatures run into the street.

Getting the shuttle into the air, he headed back to the ship. Along the way, he took a detour, flying over the area where he thought he’d seen footprints. Today, there were more prints. Someone or something had to be living down there, Dar thought as he changed course for Marcy.

Parnela was waiting for them. She sat on the steps and stood as Dar landed. He held his hand to the window, thumb pointing in the air, signifying all was good.

“Come on, Schmuff, let’s get these things installed.” He glanced back to see the Nouian passed out on the floor. “Schmuff?”

“Nouians nak roon.”

Dar chuckled as he opened the door. “Yeah, Nouians don’t run—you get eaten!”

Schmuff growled at Dar as he got to his feet. “Battarrd!”

“Thank you for pointing that out.” He gave Schmuff a smack on the arm and headed toward Parnela. “Mission accomplished, Princess.”

“No one hurt?” she asked.

“Other than Schmuff being exhausted from running, yes, we’re fine.”

“Any more of those creatures?”

He wrapped his arms around her. “The streets were full of ’em.” He kissed her. “But I got what we needed.”


Dar reached in his pockets and removed them. “Got a couple spares too.”

“Great. So you’re gonna fix it?”

“Yup, on my list as soon as Schmuff catches his wind.”


“Easy! Easy!” Dar called over his headset. “Just a little more.” He was perched precariously on the slippery, shiny, silver-colored Plexus as Schmuff maneuvered Marcy above the deployment site. The midday sun was brilliant. Dar found himself squinting in order to see. A warm breeze blew across the barren plain. Noise from the Marsuian’s ventral thrusters was deafening. Dust clouds wafted away from the force of the engine trying to maintain such a low altitude.

Without the availability of proper loading and unloading equipment, they had to improvise a way to get the massive “tin can” from the front cargo bay. Dar decided to attach the loading winch to the machine and carefully lower it. He discovered, however, that the winch didn’t work well in a situation with gravity. So he instructed Schmuff to tip Marcy’s bow and let the device slide out, the winch hopefully keeping it from sliding too fast.

“A little more…There! Hold!” Dar grabbed one of the tethering cables and slid to the ground. “Okay, let the winch out slow.” He watched the bulky machine gently settle to the desert floor, resting on the special wedges he’d made to keep it from rolling the wrong way. “Detach the winch head.”

There was a loud clanking as the magnetic winch disengaged and plopped to the ground, stirring up more dust. “Reel it in and land Marcy over there.” He pointed to an area about a quarter mile away. Dar wanted to make sure they were at a safe distance from the Plexus, but close enough so he could monitor it for a while.

“O-K, Kaptaw,” Schmuff replied. Dar watched as Marcy gained altitude, the winch retracting into the cargo bay.

Dar opened the access hatch and wiggled inside. “Ah, here we go again.” Picking up his instruction sheets, he went to work poking buttons and toggling switches. Soon, the machine was humming away. Dar poked more buttons and the hum got louder. Crackles of energy started flowing through the control room. “Ow!” he barked as the tendrils of energy shocked him. “Not this again.” Hurriedly, he threw the last few switches and jammed his thumb on the big red button. The device jolted and vibrated roughly. Arcs of energy curled throughout the control room. Dar was shocked several more times. “Hey!”

He stayed briefly to check everything, then hurriedly got out. As he closed the hatch, he saw the brilliant white beam of energy being directed into the planet. “Hope this works.” Dar retreated to what he thought was a safe distance and watched for a while. He knew it would take time for the device to start regenerating the planet. There was nothing else he could do.

Walking back to the Marsuian, Dar tried to imagine what Satiris looked like before it fell into decay. The city he’d flown over looked grand, but it was the only city he’d seen thus far. He wondered if there were more. Everywhere else had small settlements, looking much like Aknarra. One that he saw was bigger, reminding him of Ozbok. Could he fix the planet? Would the Satirens come home? His thoughts wandered as he headed toward the Marsuian.

Dar stopped for a moment and looked at the mountains. The Plexus was now about three hundred yards away. He watched the pulsating glow of the machine, and saw the moons rising. Dar thought the shiny Plexus looked odd in the stark surroundings. He hoped that would soon change.

“What are you looking at?” Parnela asked, startling Dar.

“Ah!” He spun around.

“A little jumpy?”

“Uh, after what’s happened to me lately, yes.”

She wrapped her arms around him. “I hope it works.”

“Me too.”

“Are you hungry? I made bovidis shoulder sandwiches from last night’s leftovers.”

“Mmm, sounds wonderful. I’m famished.” He turned, putting his arm around her, and they walked back to Marcy. “You know, as my mate, you might wanna learn how to cook.”

“Why? You have Schmuff for that.”

“Uh, Princess, he won’t be around forever. Some day he might wanna settle down, or he’ll get too old to be my engineer.”

Parnela sighed. “Oh, I suppose I should take some lessons from him.”

“Besides, no one but my mother can cook a bovidis shoulder like he can. Schmuff gets the skin nice and crispy—just how I like it.”

“I feel they will be a tough act to follow.”

“And you must learn how to make frostberry pies; I love those.” He guided her up the stairs into the ship. “And I like game fowl too.”

“Is there anything you don’t like?”

“Hot Skrinnian curry!”

Dar lay in bed looking at the stars. While he was overjoyed to be on Satiris, part of him longed to be racing through space again. He wondered if he could ever settle down and be happy. Or would he roam the stars the rest of his life? Having a life in space was not what Parnela really wanted. He knew at some point she’d want to call a planet home—especially when the younglings arrived. Whether it was Satiris, Erotis, or Kruelis, she’d want to settle.

He took a sniff of the air. Parnela was lying on her side, facing away from him. Dar could smell she was coming into her fertile cycle. No, he didn’t want younglings right now, so he’d politely refuse her affections toward him. He wasn’t sure she knew that he could tell; it was a rather special Satiren adaptation that proved key in preventing overpopulation. Since the species and their whole culture was based on love and joining, the males acquired a keen sense of smell so they knew when the female was in her fertile cycle; it was their only form of birth control.

As much as he wanted her right now, he didn’t dare. His thoughts wandered to his mother. He hoped she was doing well. She seemed settled into her nice new house in Ozbok. Dar wondered if he got Satiris restored, would she want to come home? Then his thoughts shifted to his father, the Earthling he never knew. What was he like? Did Dar have any of his traits? Part of him longed to meet the male that fathered him. Was he still alive? Did he get killed going back through the wormhole? If he was alive, how could Dar even begin to track him down?

The questions kept coming, and soon, it was late in the night. Parnela rolled over and snuggled with him. Dar put his arm around her and nuzzled her hair. He tried to sleep, but the wormhole near Erotis kept occupying his mind. He lay on his back and stared at the stars.



“What’s wrong?”


“I think that’s a lie.”

He sat up. “Yeah, it is.”

She rolled over and looked at him. The moonlight coming through the window above the bed cast a faint light on him. Despite his Satiren features, Parnela loved him; he was her chosen mate. “So tell me, what’s wrong?”

“Just thinking.”

“About what?”

“My father.”

“The Earthling?”

“I wonder if he’s alive. Mother said Earthlings live about as many years as Satirens.” He reached over and ran his fingers through her hair.

“Don’t tell me you’re getting a silly notion of going to find him?”


“You’re crazy.”

Dar chuckled. “Everyone says that about me.”

“You wanna go through the wormhole?”

“My thoughts are strongly leaning toward it.”

“That could be very dangerous; you could get killed.”

He looked at the stars. “I realize that. And I won’t ask you to come with me. I can drop you on Erotis, or take you back to Kruelis if you want.”

“I don’t want to lose you.”

“You could lose me at any moment. My job’s not exactly without peril.”

“Can’t you just settle down?”

“That’s not who I am, you know that, Princess. You’ve known it all along.”

She sighed. “Yes, I know. And despite your restless nature, I love you.”

“I was born to explore—it’s in my blood.”

“And I understand that…So if you go, I’m going with you.”

Dar shook his head. “I wouldn’t ask you to take that risk.”

“I’m doing it because I want to.”

“All right,” he said softly, hoping he hadn’t just sealed their fates.

“When are we going?”

“I have some things to do here, then I’ll give it more thought.”

The next morning, Dar set out in the shuttle. He wanted to check out some of the settlements he’d seen earlier. Flying parallel to the mountains, he found the settlement with tracks leading from it. As he flew lower, he noticed more tracks in the sand. They weren’t made by a two-legged creature. Nearby, he saw the ones that someone obviously made. He debated about landing, fearing the creatures would come after him.

He circled twice and didn’t see any signs of life. Setting the shuttle down, he got out and made sure he had his phaser rifle. Dar was tired of surprises. The air was warm, dust swirled in the light breeze. The sun seemed to be shining even brighter than the previous day. Just over the top of the mountain, Dar saw the two Satiren moons.

“Hello?” he called in Ontarrin as he reached the edge of the settlement. The buildings were arranged in a semi-circular fashion with something of a courtyard in the middle. He’d noticed that many of the smaller outposts were set up like that, and he wondered if there was a purpose for it.

As he walked between two of the buildings, he realized that a well sat in the middle of the courtyard. It must have been the gathering place for the inhabitants. “Hello?” he called again. Out of the corner of his eye, Dar thought he saw movement. With phaser at the ready, he walked into the courtyard, seeing large pots with plants growing in them. Some clothes hung on a line, flapping gently in the breeze.

Stopping at the well, he looked down. A clay pot sat on the edge; it was damp from recent use. “Anyone about?” he called louder. Turning slowly, he surveyed the area. A flash of motion in another window caught his attention. “Hello? Who are you?” He thought he saw green hair.

The figure appeared momentarily in another window. Dar was sure it was Satiren.


Thinking that perhaps this mysterious being didn’t speak Ontarrin, he switched to Satiren. “Hello, who are you? I mean no harm.” The face showed up in a window, but much closer this time. “Please, come out. I’m friendly.” He lowered his rifle and held his hands up, showing he wasn’t a threat.

It was several minutes before the figure appeared in a doorway. Dar gasped. About twenty feet away stood a purebred Satiren female. She was absolutely beautiful, and looked close to his age. His heart beat faster and he could feel his eyes beginning to glow. All his life he’d longed to be with a purebred, and here she was.

“I’m Dar,” he said softly.

“Lukxia,” she replied, keeping her distance.

“How are you the only one I’ve seen on this planet?”

She came from the building, across a small covered porch, and into the sun. Her skin was tanned from being out so much. “I am the lost one.”


“I was supposed to be on the last freighter out of here. I was six when my parents decided to leave for Thokin.”

“What happened?”

“I went to play that morning and got snatched by a pack of vulefs.”


“Big mean hairy creatures on four legs.”

“Is that what they are?” Dar pointed to his face and leg. “I think I’ve met them.”

“They took me.”

“And they didn’t tear you to shreds?” Dar was shocked by her story.

“They took me back to their den, and when they were hunting, I ran away. But by the time I got back to the settlement, everyone was gone.”

“And no one came back to look for you?”

Lukxia shook her head. “I’m sure they saw my tracks with those of the vulefs and figured me for dead.”

“Mmm, true.” He moved a little closer. “How have you survived all these years?”

She backed away slightly. “The well here is very deep. And I’ve been careful about how much water I use.”

“How have you avoided the vulefs?”

“There is a cavern below one of the houses. When I hear them, I hide.”

“And they can’t get you?”

“It has a very strong door.”

Dar ran his finger around the rim of the water pot. “Did your parents teach you to farm?”

“Some. Most I learned from texts in the old schoolhouse.”

“But you never learned Universal Ontarrin?”

“No. I used to know a few words, but have forgotten.”

Dar sat down on the low wall surrounding the well. “I was born on Erotis 3; this is my first time on Satiris.”

“You don’t look like the others that I remember.”

“No, my mother is Satiren, my father is Earthling.”

“Earth-ling? What is that?”

“He came by accident from another galaxy.” He pointed to his patch of dark brown hair. “I’m a half-breed.”

Lukxia regarded him curiously. “I don’t know what that means.”

“It means that purebred Satirens don’t exactly like me.”

She sat next to him. “I like you.”

Dar got a faint whiff of her scent. She smelled lovely. “Well, that’s nice.” Every hormone and chemical in his body was fighting madly inside him. He swallowed hard, trying to suppress his emotions. “Lukxia?”

“Yes?” She moved closer to him.

“You need a mate.”

“Oh!” She grabbed him and kissed him hard.

Dar struggled and got free. “Wait, hang on a minute.” He moved a few feet away.

“For years, my body has been crying for a mate. Please, join with me.” She stood.

He stepped farther back. “No, I…I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“Because I have a mate.” He rubbed his face in frustration.

“Then take me too. My father had two females.” She got up and went to him.

“No, no, it’s not right.”

She put her hands on his chest. “Why not?”

“Lukxia, you’re very special. You’re the last purebred Satiren female on this planet. You deserve to be joined to another purebred.”

“You won’t take me? Why not? I want to join.”

Dar brushed his fingers through her long, flowing green hair. As much as he hated to admit it, he knew what needed to be done. “No. But if you come with me, I’ll take you to a suitable male.”

“He will join with me?”

He managed a smile. “Pretty confident of that.”

“Where is he?”

“Erotis 3.”

“Is that far?”

“Just over a day traveling in my ship.” As the wind shifted, he got more of her scent. Oh dear, he thought, she’s coming into her fertile cycle; this trip is gonna be mighty uncomfortable. He hoped he could keep her down in the crew quarters, away from temptation.

“I’m ready to meet someone new. I’ve been so lonely here all these years.”

“Sure you’ve been. Do you need to pack anything?”

“Just a few things. I don’t have much.”

“Your new mate will take good care of you.” He accompanied her inside as she gathered her belongings.

Lukxia tossed some clothes in a bag. “Okay, let’s go. I can’t wait to meet my mate.” She left the house and stopped on the porch. “Is he handsome?”

Dar scratched his head. “Umm, I think you’ll find him to your liking.” He closed the door. “Despite all you’ve been through, you’re taking this well.”

“Dar, I’ve been alone on this empty planet with only school texts to educate myself. I read about joinings and the blush, and I’m ready to experience it.”

“All right, all right, hang on, we’ll get you there.” He led her toward the shuttle. They were perhaps fifty yards from the settlement when Dar heard growling. “Lukxia? Do you hear that?”

She stopped. “Oh, no, vulefs!”

“Shit! Run!” He gave her a nudge on the arm. “Get to the shuttle.”

“But, Dar—”

“Just go, I’m gonna try and fight ’em.” He saw her take off running. Dar scanned the area, attempting to find which direction the vulefs were coming from. Motion in the foothills of the mountains caught his attention. A pack of eight or ten was thundering toward him.

He glanced back and saw Lukxia nearing the shuttle. Dar turned and ran, deciding to get as close as he could before making a stand. The growling and snarling got louder. When he heard the pounding of their feet on the hard sand, Dar stopped and spun around. Quickly, he leveled the rifle and started blasting. Three vulefs disappeared in bright flashes. Two more charged, the remaining three slowed up. Dar fired, killing one, but the other closed the distance faster than expected. It leaped into the air, mouth open, claws at the ready.

Dar ducked. The beast sailed over him and landed a few feet behind. It skidded to a stop and turned. “Ha!” he jeered, still crouched, he aimed and fired. Then he stood and lined up on the other three. They were keeping their distance. “Come on, you want me?!” he taunted.

The remaining vulefs decided it was too risky to tangle with Dar, so they trotted off. He walked to the shuttle and up the gangplank. Peering inside, he saw Lukxia hiding near the cockpit. “It’s okay, I ran ’em off.”

She grabbed him firmly. “You’re so brave, Dar!”

“Uh, yeah, all part of the job.” He slid from her grasp and closed the door. “Let’s get back to my ship; I’ve had enough excitement for the day.”


Dar was doing everything in his power to ignore Lukxia. Her amazing beauty, her purebred blood, and the fact she was entering her fertile cycle was almost enough to make him fly the shuttle right into the ground.

“Do you have water on your ship?” she said from the back.

“Sure, loads.”

“Oh, I want to take a nice long hot shower!”

Dar bit his lip. “Umm, yeah, I’ll show you to your quarters. There’s a shower there.”

It took roughly ten minutes before they arrived back at Marcy. “Is that your ship?” Lukxia asked.

“Yeah, she’s called the Marsuian. She was built here on Satiris a long time ago.”

“Why are you here?”

“I have something that might fix the planet.”


“Yeah, it’s called the Plexus, and it can make a dead planet come alive again.”

“Then why are you taking me away from it?” She came forward. “If you make it alive again, won’t Satirens come home?”

“I hope so. But I’m not even sure it’ll work.”

“Why not?”

“I dunno, but if it doesn’t, I figured you’d like to be with other Satirens.”

“Yes, very much.”

Dar lined up on the shuttle bay and landed. Parnela was waiting. “Is that your mate?” Lukxia said, pointing.

“Yes, her name is Parnela, she’s a Kruelian princess.”

“Your mate is not Satiren?”

“No,” he said softly. Shutting off the engine, he got up and opened the door. He walked out, Lukxia right on his heels.

Parnela came around the shuttle. “Dar, who’s that?”

“Her name is Lukxia. She was accidentally left on the planet when she was a youngling.”

“Are there anymore?”

“I didn’t find anyone else.”

“Does she speak Ontarrin?”

“Nope, just Satiren.”

“What are you going to do with her?”

“I have a plan,” he said, guiding Lukxia up the catwalks toward the crew quarters.

Parnela wasn’t feeling too good about having another female on board, especially a purebred Satiren female. She wondered if Dar would keep Lukxia as another mate. “A plan?” she said, standing next to the door as he went in with Lukxia. Dar didn’t reply.

He showed Lukxia to the sleeping quarters. “Here’s a place for you to sleep.”

“Dar, where do you sleep?” Lukxia asked.

“I have a cabin on the bridge.” He opened another door and gestured. “There’s the shower room.”

“Oh! Wonderful!” She grabbed his face and kissed him.

“Lukxia, please,” he hissed, wiggling away from her. “Look, I need to get us underway. I’ll check on you later.” Dar made a hasty exit. Parnela was waiting for him.

“So, what is this plan?” she said, a hint of jealousy in her voice.

“Just lemme handle it, okay?” He headed to the bridge.

She followed. “Why will you not tell me?”

Dar said nothing until he was at the control console. Putting on his headset, he contacted Schmuff. “Hey, we’re gonna lift off. Have you checked the eunerium valve?” He waited patiently for a reply. “Good? Okay, let’s get going.” Pushing a few more buttons, he started the engine. “Diverting main engine to ventral thrusters.”

The Marsuian rumbled as the thrusters slowly lifted the massive ship from the ground. Dar watched the controls and checked readings on the monitor. As they gained altitude, he thought he saw a few patches of green that hadn’t been there before. Perhaps the Plexus was working, he thought.

“Come on, Marcy, let’s get to Erotis.” He chuckled. “You should be getting to know the way by now.”

“Dar,” Parnela said in a stern voice. She didn’t like being ignored.


“Would you kindly explain your plan?”

He growled lowly. Part of him really wanted Lukxia, and the other part knew he needed to let her go. “I’m giving her to Krodus,” he replied in barely a whisper.

“Huh?” She got up and approached him. “What did you say?”

He was silent for a few moments, then sighed. “I’m giving her to Krodus.”

“Oh, Dar, what a gift! And to think he was your worst enemy.” She hugged him firmly. “Lukxia is so beautiful; I thought you’d keep her as another mate.”

“No.” Everything inside him knew it was a lie. Dar coveted Lukxia, but deep down, he knew she belonged with a purebred.

Once Marcy was on the right heading to Erotis, Dar went down to check on Lukxia. He figured she might be hungry. “Lukxia?” he called as he entered the crew quarters. There was no reply. “Lukxia?” Listening, Dar thought he heard the shower running. Surely she wouldn’t still be bathing? he pondered, pushing the door open to the shower room.

Dar stopped dead in his tracks. Not more than ten feet away was a completely naked Lukxia. “Uh…umm…err,” he stuttered, trying to avert his gaze. Every hormone and chemical in his body surged to life.

“Dar?” She turned off the shower and approached, making no effort to cover up.

He turned, putting his back to her. “Lukxia, please.”


“Look, I’m a life-joined male, and…and—”

“And what?” She slid around so she was facing him.

Dar snatched a towel off the rail. “Can you cover up, please?”

“Why? Were you not taught that Satirens view the body as a beautiful work of art?”

“Yes, I was, and I’m not wanting to look at beautiful art right now.” He walked away.

“Dar, what’s wrong?”

“My mind and heart are fighting a terrible battle.”

Lukxia giggled. “You want me, don’t you?”

He felt his eyes beginning to glow. “No.”

“I think you’re lying.”

“So I am, what does it matter?”

She quickly closed the distance once again, letting the towel fall to the floor. “Then take me.” Lukxia grabbed Dar and smothered his lips in a passionate kiss. He fought it for a moment, then gave in. His hands encircled her body, feeling her smooth, warm, and wet flesh. The chemicals in his body burned hotter than they ever had.

Dar’s body cried for her, his chemistry igniting the passion pent up inside. His mind was nearing the point of surrender. Lukxia was the beauty he’d only found in his dreams. His primal urges yearned to be with her, to give her the experience of a lifetime, and to join with a very rare purebred. Pressing his body against her, he could feel her small but firm breasts against his chest. His hands wandered down, feeling her equally firm and beautifully shaped behind. He felt his blush starting to rise.

Lukxia kissed him ravenously, her arms pulling him even tighter against her. She could feel every chemical coming to life. Chemicals she’d read about in old texts from the ruined school. They surged forcefully through her body. She felt a tingling in her eyes, and as she glanced over at her arm, she saw the rosy aura starting to show. It was her first blush.

Dar felt the energy building between them. Lukxia’s blush was flooding over into his. He’d never felt anything like it. Satirens were designed to share their blush, thus enhancing the joining. Since Parnela wasn’t Satiren, Dar had only shared his blush with her; he wanted more. He wanted to feel it in return. Deep inside his pleasure core he felt an immense amount of energy building. It was almost uncontrollable; an energy unlike he’d ever known.

“No!” he sputtered and pushed her away. “No, I can’t do this. I’m giving you to someone else, and I’m not going to defile his gift.”

“But you want me.”

He walked over and banged his head against the wall a couple of times. “Maybe so. But I have a mate, and by tomorrow afternoon, you’ll be mated as well. Can you keep your hands off me? Huh?”

“I’m sorry, Dar. I meant well. I’ve been alone nearly all my life, living in incredible solitude. And now there is someone in it, someone I find very handsome.”

“I appreciate the gesture, really, but Parnela is my mate. And as much as I’d like to have another, I can’t take a purebred female.”

“I know,” she grumbled, starting to dress. “You said purebreds need to be with purebreds.”

“Yes. The health and existence of the entire Satiren race depends on the few remaining purebreds.”


Dar sat down on a bench. “Since Satiris fell into decline, our race has been scattered across the galaxy. As you know, some went to Thokin, others to Erotis, and some even ended up on Gardinis…”

“In the dark side?”

“Yes…Many of my classmates found their way to pleasure barges and red districts where they sell themselves for drig…Lukxia, Satirens are a threatened species.”

“I didn’t know.”

“Well, you do now.” He stood. “Are you hungry?”


“Finish dressing and come with me to the galley.”

Dar fumbled as he made a sandwich. Admittedly, he wasn’t much of a cook, and he highly regarded Schmuff’s skill in the galley. He placed the slice of bread on top, and it kept sliding off because of all the meat he’d piled on. Dar growled and put the slice back on, smashing it down with his fist. Placing it on a plate, he carried it to Lukxia, who patiently waited at the table.

“Sorry, it’s leftovers. I’m not a good cook.”

“Thank you,” she said politely. “What is it?”

“Braised bovidis shoulder.”

She took a bite; pieces of meat fell out all over the place. “Mmm, I can’t remember when I’ve had something this good!”

“Thank Schmuff, he’s the cook here.”

“I’ve had no meat for years. Only the vegetables I was able to grow…If I ever see another head of brosh, I’ll cry!”


“Yeah, it’s green, grows in the ground, and makes big heads of sour leaves.”

“Hmm, can’t recall ever having it.”

“You’re lucky.” Lukxia scowled. “Tastes terrible!”

Dar laughed. The communications panel behind him beeped. He got up and poked the button. “Yeah?”

“Dar, there’s blips on the screen,” Parnela said.


“Yes, blips. Perhaps ships coming toward us.”

“How many?”

“Four or five.”

“I doubt it’s a welcoming committee from Erotis.”

“Didn’t think they had one,” Parnela replied.

Dar let out a big sigh. “I thought we were rid of the pirates after I killed Nokkis.”

“I guess not.”

“Princess, do you remember how to raise the shields?”

“Yes, I think so.”

“Get the shields up and I’ll be there in a minute.” He went to the door. “I suggest you go back to your quarters and ride it out there.”

“Pirates? That sounds dangerous.”

“Yeah, it is. Please, go.” He darted out the door and hurried up three levels of catwalks. As he burst through the doorway to the bridge, he looked around. “What’s the status?”

“I got the shields up, and I told Schmuff we have company.”

Dar put on his headset, then leaned over and gave her a kiss. “Thanks, Princess, you’re wonderful.”

She smiled. “I know.”

“Right, let’s see what we got.” He checked the screen. “Hmm, they got balls, coming right at us—and I’m at warp seven.”

“Can we avoid them?”

A loud beeping noise sounded on the control panel. Dar poked a button. “Who is this?” he barked.

“Neiriis, son of Nekis, brother of Nokkis.”

“I haven’t killed all of you yet?”

“We are many, and grow stronger every day.”

Dar rolled his eyes. “And I thought I was doing a good job of pruning the family tree.”

“Surrender your cargo.”

“Neiriis, you’re just as dumb as your brother; I’m empty.”

“Then you will surrender your ship and crew.”

Dar brought the weapons online. “Not gonna happen either.” Throttling back to full impulse, he lined up and targeted the lead ship, hoping it was Neiriis. Firing a torpedo, he watched it streak from the underside of the Marsuian and disappear into the darkness. “Come on, come on,” he whispered, watching the weapon track on the computer screen.

A few moments later, Dar looked out the window and saw a bright flash in the distance. “Hah! Yeah!” He laughed and gestured at the window with exuberance. Parnela clapped and cheered. His celebration was cut short as the remaining ships dropped out of warp right in front of him. “Shit!”

All four ships immediately opened fire.

“Sorry, Captain, you haven’t killed me,” Neiriis said.

“So much for my one lucky shot.” Dar returned fire, hitting them with everything he had. The Marsuian shook and jolted as the pirates unloaded salvo after salvo at her.

Parnela hung onto the captain’s chair for dear life. “Dar, do something!”

“I am! Shields at fifty percent, Marcy can’t take much more, I need to get us out of here.” He yanked on the helm, turned the ship away hard, and hit the throttle. Marcy jumped to warp almost instantly. “Need some breathing room.”

“Can you get us away from them?” Parnela asked.

“Gonna try.” Grabbing his tablet, he checked some coordinates, and then made a change in the computer. “We’re gonna be passing near the mouth of the wormhole. I can’t go the other way, we’ll run the risk of hitting the gravitational pull of Carfidius—which could sling-shot us into the sun.” He checked the monitor. “They’re right on our ass.” He saw more ships appearing on the screen ahead of them. “Oh, shit!”


“Neiriis set up an ambush; we’re headed right into it! There’s eight more ships farther out.”

“Oh no! What are you gonna do?”

“If I bank Marcy hard in front of the wormhole, that’ll change our course and maybe lose ’em.”

“I hope we don’t get sucked in.”

“Me too. I’m not ready to head out on that adventure. I need to get Lukxia to Krodus.”


He changed coordinates and took in a deep breath. “Here goes.” Hitting the lock key, he felt Marcy begin to bank. Dar monitored their trajectory as they swung away from Erotis. “They’re trying to match me, but I don’t think they can.” He nudged the throttle to warp eight. “If I go fast enough, they can’t catch me.”

“Then why not continue on our course?”

“Because it may sound strange, but there’ve been reports of ships hitting head-on in the great void of space. I don’t wanna test that theory.”

“Ah, I see.”

Dar looked out the window. “Shit, there it is.”


He pointed. “See that ripple in space? That’s the mouth of the wormhole.”

“We’re headed right for it!”

“No, no, I’m gonna swing us to the left.” He grabbed the helm and banked even harder. “Come on, Marcy, just skim by it.” Dar pushed the throttle to warp ten. “Shit, I can feel it dragging us in.” The ship groaned as the opposing gravitational forces pulled at it. “Ah, come on, Marcy, you can get us out of this.” He felt the ship losing speed. “Please, Marcy!” He pushed the throttle all the way forward.

“What about the pirates?”

“Still behind us.” Dar fought the helm trying to keep Marcy on course. “I don’t know if I can hold it, the pull is too strong.”

“Oh, no!”

He banked harder, Marcy groaned more. “The pirates are right on our tail.” The ship shook as it was hit by a phaser blast. “Shit!”

“They’re shooting at us!”

“Thank you, I’m well aware of that!” He leaned harder on the helm. “Marcy, come on, you gotta get us out of this mess.” The groaning and creaking got louder; somewhere in the forward cargo bay, several loud banging noises could be heard. Dar was sure bolts were shearing off due to the extreme forces the ship was being subjected to. “Hang in there.”

“Are we going to get sucked in?”

“Not if I can help it.” He thought for a moment. “Schmuff? Can you reverse the polarity of our shield matrix?” His reply was a string of Nouian profanity followed by more questions. “Schmuff, I don’t have time for this, can you do it?”

“Ga, Eg thriink su.”

“Don’t think—do!” He watched as the shields went off line. Marcy shook with more phaser blasts. “Come on, Schmuff, Marcy’s vulnerable without those shields.”

“What will that do for us?” Parnela asked.

“If I’m guessing right, changing the matter constitution of the shields may act like an anti-matter pry bar.”

“Kaptaw, chelds recunfugred.”

“All right, let’s give it a try.” He braced as the ship took a solid hit to the stern. “Ah, sorry, Marcy.” Pushing the button, he turned on the shields. Outside the window was a brilliant blue flash, and then the ship violently lurched to the left. It was everything Dar could do to stay on his feet. As Marcy veered away from the entrance to the wormhole, her warp drive found stable space, and she rocketed off.

“Woooohoooo!” Dar cheered. He watched the monitor. “Two have disappeared, the rest are losing ground on us.”


Dar maneuvered Marcy farther away from the wormhole. “I need to run her hot for a while so we lose them. Then we’ll double back and put in orbit around Erotis.”

“We certainly don’t want them finding us.”

“Nope.” He checked the monitor again. “I wonder where those two went?”

“Did they get sucked in?”

“Dunno. Maybe.”

“Does that wormhole only go to the Milky Way Galaxy?”

Dar scratched his head. “Dunno.”

“So you’re saying if we go in there, we may not end up where we want to be?”

“It’s a possibility.”

“How would you know if we were in the right place?”

“Mother gave me something when she was cleaning up to move.”


“A map.”

“A map?”

“A map of the Milky Way Galaxy.”

“Where on Erotis did she get that?”

“My father gave it to her.”

“Figures.” She stood and wandered over to him. “So you think this map will guide you to Earth?”

“I hope so.”

“And what will we do when we get there?”

“I dunno.”

Parnela put her hand on his shoulder. “Dar Meltom, you are such a wealth of information.”


Dar was going out of his mind. Today of all days, it just had to be. Lukxia was at the peak of her fertile cycle. She was ripe to conceive a youngling, and he knew it. He’d put Marcy in stationary orbit around Erotis, and was preparing to take Lukxia down to Krodus. Going to his cabin, he went to check on Parnela. “Are you ready?” he asked.

“Yes, are you going to get Lukxia?”

“Right before we leave.”

“Is Schmuff coming along?”

Dar took some drig from his desk drawer and put it in his pocket. “If he wants to.”

Parnela approached and wrapped her arms around him. “Think Krodus will like her?”

He growled lowly. “Pretty sure he will.”

She sensed something was wrong. “Dar?”


“You’re acting strange.”

Dar shrugged her grasp and headed out the door. “I’m fine, really.”

“You don’t sound like it.” She followed along.

“Don’t worry about me. How about I meet you at the shuttle?”

“All right.”

On his way to the crew quarters, he picked up her scent. Dar could barely keep his composure. Here on his ship was a beautiful, purebred Satiren female in the height of her fertile cycle, and he couldn’t do a damn thing. He’d never known such torture until now. It was bad enough when Parnela was in her fertile cycle. He knew she wasn’t ready for younglings, and as difficult as it was, he wasn’t ready either, so he respected that. It was imperative for his sanity that he get Lukxia to Krodus quickly. As much as Dar wanted to finally join with a purebred, he would save that for his friend. He’d bring him a gift of unprecedented value—a young purebred female from Satiris, something long thought extinct.

Dar opened the crew quarters door. “Lukxia? Are you ready?”

“Yes, Dar,” she called. A moment later she appeared.

He nearly had to hold his breath, her scent was overpowering. He felt his eyes starting to glow, his outward state of arousal becoming evident. No, Parnela can’t see this, he thought, shaking his head hard to fight the sensation. “I’ll meet you at the shuttle. I’m gonna see if Schmuff wants to accompany us.” Quickly, he made his escape and went to the engine room. “Schmuff? Schmuff?”

“Ga, Kaptaw?”

“You wanna go with us?”


“Come on, get moving, I can’t take much more of this.” Dar paced nervously in a small circle.

“Esha magga, Kaptaw?”

“What? No, who is the matter.”


Dar nodded. “Ga, my little friend…Right now is a really bad time to be cramped in a shuttle with her.”

Schmuff studied Dar for a moment before realizing the problem. “Oh, shit!”

“You have no idea how tempted I am to climb into my spacesuit so I don’t have to smell her.”

Schmuff laughed, then made gyrations like he was joining with a female.

Dar frowned. “That’s not funny.”

“Ga, set ikt!”

“No, it’s not!” He went to the door. “Let’s go before I totally lose my mind.”

As they walked toward the shuttle bay, Schmuff offered words of encouragement. Dar was doing his best not to pay attention to Lukxia. Just being in the same shuttle with her would be tough. He tromped up the gangplank ahead of everyone, taking his place at the controls. Parnela accompanied him. “What happened to females first?” she asked, seeing a sour expression on his face.

“Sorry,” he grumbled and started the engine.

“Dar, talk to me, please.”

“We’ll discuss this later, okay?” He wanted nothing more than to be left alone in his misery.

Parnela wondered what could have him so upset. Was it because he was handing Lukxia over to Krodus? She wondered if Dar secretly wanted to keep her for himself. Lukxia was beautiful, and probably a few years younger than Dar. Parnela saw the way he looked at her, a faint hint of green glowing in his eyes. She figured she couldn’t fault him; Dar had never mentioned joining with a purebred, and Lukxia was one of the purest.

The shuttle flight to Erotis took only fifteen minutes. Every moment Dar was subjected to the beautiful scent of Lukxia, his willpower declined. He wanted her badly. She needed to be with another purebred to make purebred younglings, not some scruffy half-breed. Dar at least wished for his own sake that she hadn’t been in her fertile cycle; it would have made the trip a lot more comfortable.

He landed the shuttle not far from Krodus’s new tavern. The settlement of Ozbok was far larger then Aknarra, yet he found an empty lot where he could land.

“All right,” Dar said in a rather authoritarian voice, “Let’s go.” Quickly, he worked the door and lowered the gangplank. Stepping out, he took in a deep breath of clean air. He needed to purge the scent of Lukxia from his lungs and mind. Dar debated if being tortured by Lukxia was better or worse than fifteen lashes from a Versithian fire whip. At this point in time, he figured it was a draw.

Lukxia, Parnela, and Schmuff walked out into the bright sun. It was Mokas, one of the warmer spring months. Dar took the lead and headed to the tavern. He’d taken the liberty of tucking a bottle of fine Halgarian champagne in his jacket, pulling the front closed, attempting to hide it. Krodus would probably be doing some serious celebrating with the other gift he’d brought.

Dar wondered if his friend managed to find a female. Aknarra was a dead town, but Ozbok held more promise. He’d seen a few mature females out and about, the question was: were they already life-joined to someone else? It didn’t matter. Dar was bringing him an extraordinary female, and if Krodus was joined with another, that was perfectly acceptable. Satiren law allowed for more than one partner in a life-joining. Krodus was strong and healthy; having two females would suit him fine.

They reached the tavern and Dar stopped. “Can you wait out here?” He looked up at the two-story building. It was tan in color, matching its surroundings. A sign hung above the front door: Old Aknarra Tavern.

“Certainly,” Parnela replied.

Dar opened the door and went it. Krodus’s new tavern was only slightly better lit than the old one, and it seemed like his following of bar regulars made the move from Aknarra with him. The place was edged in dark wood, and the bar looked as if it was made from one large piece of wood that was nearly black. He found Krodus behind the bar.

“Hello, my friend.”

“Dar, two visits in such a short time?”

“Well, I happened to be in the neighborhood.” He produced the bottle of champagne. “Here, for you to celebrate.”

Krodus picked up the bottle. “Celebrate?”

“Come, I have another gift for you.”

“Huh?” He stepped from behind the bar and followed.

Dar went out and stood next to Parnela. He pointed to Lukxia. “Krodus, this is Lukxia, she comes from Satiris…I brought her here for you.”

Krodus felt every muscle in his body lock up. He couldn’t move, he couldn’t say anything, he was entranced. A gentle breeze blew through, bringing her scent to his nose. Without word, he approached and quickly embraced her, pressing his lips to hers in a passionate kiss. Lukxia didn’t argue. They kissed madly for a few minutes. Krodus let his hands wander all over her body feeling her perfect curves.

Doing his best not to watch, Dar fought the emotions going through his brain. He knew his eyes were starting to glow; he couldn’t fight the arousal he was feeling as he watched the spectacle. He found it funny not a word had been uttered between them. It was love, and words didn’t have a place at that moment. He hoped they would be happy.

Krodus knew what needed to be done and guided Lukxia toward the back stairs of the tavern, his lips locked on hers.

“Uh, Krodus? What about the tavern?” Dar called.

“Watch it for me; I’ll be down to celebrate in a couple hours.” With that, Krodus and Lukxia went up and closed the door.

Dar let out a big sigh.

Parnela sensed a hint of relief on his part. “Can you tell me what was wrong now?”

He took her in his arms and kissed her. More than ever he wanted to join with his lovely mate. “I’m sorry for being rude, but you have no idea the torture I’ve been through.”



“You wanted her, didn’t you?”

“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t.” He kept his arm around her as they headed inside so he could play bartender.

“Why didn’t you keep her as another mate?”

“She’s the purest of purebreds; she deserves to be with another.”

Parnela kissed him on the cheek. “You did a very good thing.”

He went behind the bar and found an apron. “I’m glad she’s off the ship.” Dar had no clue as to what to charge the patrons; he figured they would know.

“The temptation too great?”

“Yes, that, and she was at the peak of her fertile cycle. I couldn’t stand it one more minute.”

“How did you know?”

“Satiren males have a very keen sense of smell. We know when a female is ready.”

“And she was, huh?”

“Very!” he said with a crooked smile.

“Oh, poor you!”

“Join with me later?” he pleaded.

Parnela smiled. “Of course…Am I safe?”

Dar took a couple of sniffs for emphasis; he knew she wasn’t in her cycle now. “Yes.”

* * *


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