Chapter Two – A Room from Which to View the Stars
Once the security agent swiped her identification card through a reader, a wide door opened to another hallway, this one white and well-lit, but also very long and empty. The couple followed her down the hall, saying nothing because the agent did not seem to want them to talk.
“Endan Clarendon and Citlally Winterhawk have been granted security clearance,” the alien agent told the pink-skinned girl at the desk.
The girl was taller than most humans, but not as tall as the security alien. Her rosy color was mottled with spots of creamy ivory that ran down her cheeks and the sides of her neck. Since the backs of her hands were also spotted, Endan assumed that her arms also were, though they were covered by a long-sleeved jacket of the faintest gray. Her hair was quite short– not even falling past her ears– though he was not sure whether it had been shorn that way or if it grew only to that length naturally. It was also white, and looked both thick and soft. Her eyes were slitted like a cat’s, a pale shade of yellow that startled him when she looked right at him.
“Yes, ma’am,” the pink-skinned girl said, and stepped aside to let the security agent type a few lines into her terminal. “I will see to it that they are checked in.”
The security agent nodded and walked away without saying anything else, back through the door that they had just come through, and presumably back to the security room. A couple minutes later, another tall agent, this one male, came through the door with a group of passengers whom Endan recognized from the shuttle. He was so distracted with watching them that he hardly realized that the pink-skinned girl was asking him a question.
“Endan!” Citlally scolded, grabbing his shoulder and shaking him to get his attention. “She’s asking about the room you wanted.”
“Oh!” he replied, blinking and shaking his head as his pulled his mind away from the other group. “Aye, it was a very special room that I requested. Is it still available?”
“Yes, sir, of course,” she said in a soft, purring voice. “Your deposit ensured that you would have the room you asked for. Is that still the room you want then, sir?”
Endan looked down at Citlally and smiled warmly. She raised a brow, clearly not understanding what he had planned. “It most certainly is, lass.”
The girl smiled to Citlally, seeming happy for her that she would be getting such a treat, then typed a few things into her terminal. “Your room key will be available as soon as we add your hand-prints to the key files. Please place your hands on the scanner here.” She gestured to a pad on the counter, where Endan laid his hands. When she nodded, it was Citlally’s turn.
“Thank you both,” she said with a smile. “Each door is coded to open to specific hand-prints, and your door is now set to open to both of yours.”
She placed two key-cards on the counter and added, “Your room will also open with these cards, should you prefer this method. They also grant you access to the meal center and entertainment sections. You will find information in your room about other amenities that your room level grants you access to here at Regulus Station II. May I answer any questions for you before you go?”
“Yes!” Citlally cut in before Endan could get a word in. “What is our room number?”
“Your room number is 3R-422. It is–“
“3R?!” Citlally exclaimed. “Endan, what did you–“
“Trust me,” he told her with a grin, “ye’re goin’ to love it.”
“Okay,” she conceded, though clearly still dubious, “but you did not have to go to any trouble…”
He winked and kissed the top of her head. “For you, nothing is ever any trouble.”
“Would you like help finding your room, sir?” the pink girl asked.
“Thank you, but no.” He picked up the key cards and handed one to Citlally.
“We don’t mind exploring a bit on the way to our room. The important question is, where are our bags?”
She typed into her terminal and read the screens that came up. “They have just cleared security and are being brought up to your room now.”
“Ah I see,” Endan replied with a nod. He took Citlally’s hand and thanked the agent as they walked away together.
It was not terribly hard to find the station’s vertical transports, which they took from the lower hub, past the first two rings to reach the third hub of the space station. It was a busy area, the wide hallways lined with shops and restaurants. Throbbing, fast-paced music and a rainbow of lights flowed out from an arched doorway at the far end of the hall, and they chuckled to one another that it must be quite the party down there.
When Citlally insisted that she was hungry, they stopped at one of the eateries; it was past lunchtime anyhow, according to their galactic travel watches. When Endan showed the blue-haired waiter his key-card, the waiter smiled and immediately brought out fine drinks for the couple.
“Endan…” Citlally whispered, eyeing him from across the table. “What are you up to? I am not dressed nearly well enough for something this fancy.”
“Ye don’ need to be,” he grinned in return.
“Really, what is going on? He did not even take our room card to scan off any meal credits.”
“They come with the room,” he explained, then sipped the green Centaurian wine that they were sharing a bottle of.
“Meal credits come with most station rooms,” Citlally countered, clearly becoming frustrated with the way he was acting so coy. “What makes ours so special?”
“Ye’ll see,” he replied, winking and grinning even wider.
The waiter returned with a special menu for the two of them, which displayed no prices, though the names of the entrées had Citlally convinced that she would have gasped had she seen the numbers. When the waiter noticed her gaping, he assured her that all meals were included with their room, and encouraged her to order freely.
She eventually settled on a form of pasta with seafood from a nearby planet and a creamy sauce, while Endan ignored the menu and asked that some kind of steak be prepared that would go well with the Centaurian wine. The waiter smiled and agreed, seeming impressed with how bold the traveler was being. He walked off towards the kitchen, leaving Endan to defend himself against his lady’s barrage of questions.
It turned out to be a full-course meal, with salads and some form of bread, and a full complement of side dishes. Citlally was impressed, though at one point she was bold enough to ask him how he’d funded such a thing.
“Is that what ye’re worried about?” Endan asked. “My love, trust me that I wouldn’t jeopardize our travel budget for a room that comes with amenities the likes of which you are just beginning to see. I have been saving for this leg of our journey for…” He paused, looking off into the distance, and then went on to say, “a very long time, is all I’ll say. Just believe in me, my love.”
He reached a hand across the table to squeeze hers, gazing into her chocolaty eyes. He really didn’t want to tell her everything right away, but meant to enthrall her with the beauty of their room.
“Of course I believe in you,” she told him, sighing as she accepted the fact that she would have to do things his way for a while. Really, she didn’t mind; they were together, after all. “I would go anywhere with you, do anything that you want– as long as we knew that it was safe.”
They went on talking for a long while, until the courses kept coming and they found that they could eat no more. The rest of their food was packed up and would be delivered to their room later, once they’d settled in. They left the restaurant to browse the shops, Endan wanting to take his time getting to their room so that they could digest. Citlally found a skirt that she liked, made from a smooth, velvety fabric that seemed to sparkle like starlight in a never-ending sky. The shopkeeper explained that it was the wool of a creature from the region of a world that was encased in night for much of the year, an agrarian region with vast amounts of starlight.
However it had come to have such a mystical effect on the wool, Citlally was instantly in love with it. Endan purchased it for her, along with a matching scarf that was several yards long. She wrapped it around her neck and shoulders and clung to him and the stepped back into the main causeway, making him grin with pride the rest of the way to the lifts that would carry them up to their room’s level.
The third ring was considered by most to be the most desirable level, not unlike the upper levels of Terran hotels of ages past. It was far from the lower hub, where travelers came and went, the transient hub so to speak. The more central parts of the ring were all well and good, and just being on that level was a luxury, but it was the outer rooms, with windows that looked out onto the galactic skies, that were considered to be the real extravagance. Citlally’s heart fluttered the entire lift ride up to the third ring as she wondered where their room would be.
Endan grinned and he led her out of the lift and into the carpeted hallway. Of course it was the best-decorated, she thought to herself. It still felt unreal to be there, and she started to tell herself that he was just teasing her, that it was all just a facade, with the station staff playing along with him. They were just wandering around the third ring for their own amusement, weren’t they? Yet he seemed to be walking with a sense of purpose…
When they reached a circular hallway, the walls curving out distinctively on either side, Citlally gasped. She’d been on enough space stations, studied enough diagrams, to know that this was what the outer edge of the ring looked like– and he’d led her straight there. They turned right, and he held her hand tightly as they walked up to a door and stopped. She stared at the plaque on the side of the door, the numerals written in a variety of systems from different worlds.
“3R-422,” she read, her voice hardly more than a whisper. She gulped hard and looked up at him. “Endan, this joke…”
“Is not a joke,” he assured her in a soft tone, and laid his hand on the blank panel below the room number.
The doors slid open with a soft whoosh, revealing a wide chamber just inside. Citlally gasped, staring at it all, the plush chairs, the glass tables edged in platinum, the bouquet of chalice vine flowers and yellow roses in a vase of pale amber, the wide panels of windows that looked out onto the infinite æther. She couldn’t move, could barely hear Endan speaking to her as her heart pounded with astonishment. In fact, her knees were beginning to feel weak, and she found herself clinging to his shirt.
“If ye’ll not walk in, ye leave me no choice but to do this,” he informed her. Then he bent down, hooked one arm under her legs, and lifted her body into his arms. Her arms went around his neck, and she held him close as he stepped over the threshold with her.
“Just like they did in the older times,” he noted with a wide grin, and the door whooshed shut.
Citlally still said nothing, but stared at the room, then back at him.
“You are breathing hard,” he whispered.
“Oh, Endan,” she breathed, “how did you…”
“Don’t worry about any of it, love,” he whispered back, carrying her over to the smaller of the two couches. He sank down, keeping her close, curled up in his lap, and leaned in to meet her lips. “For you, I would go to any star.”
Citlally gave a soft, moaning sigh as she met his kiss, and gave into him with as much passion as she could pull through the sheer astonishment of what he’d done. Her fingers pulled his hair free of its leather cord so that she could play in his locks of golden hair. She loved that he kept his hair long, like the warriors of ancient times. For all the love she had of astronomy and galactic travel, there was a certain romance to the distant centuries that she simply could not deny. As they kissed, his hands soon found their way to her chest, and she gave in to a longing sigh as her desires awakened.
It was not long before they were both in the shower, their hands on one another’s bare skin as the water poured down over them and steam filled the room. It was as good an excuse as any for them to get their clothes off, even if they were so engrossed in kissing that they found I difficult to break away from one another long enough to remove layer after layer of clothing. It tended to be cold on he galactic ships and their shuttles, so they knew to dress warmly as they traveled. They didn’t mind; the layers were part of the exhilaration.
Endan loved to caress his lover’s body with the bar of creamy soap, admiring the way it contrasted with the rich cinnamon brown of her skin. Her body was amazing; had she lived in the ancient times of her ancestral tribe, she would have been admired as an equal to the gods. Her curves were supple and smooth, just the feel that he wanted under his hands. His touch made her want him even more, and it was not long before she allowed him to join with her as one, loving every second of the way he made her cry out. She did not care how loud she was, nor whether the walls were thick or thin; all she wanted for him to know how incredibly happy she was, right down to the core of her being.
After their shower, Citlally continued to show him exactly how happy she was with the room he’d reserved for them. The bedroom was sectioned off from the front room, but it, too, was windowed, and the beauty of it inspired her into more passion. She tossed aside his towel and laid Endan on the wide bed so that he could see out the windows that curved from the wall to the ceiling, revealing the star-lit ætherial expanse outside.
She straddled him, her tan skin contrasted with his pale flesh, grinning at the sight of his muscles, then gazed out at the starry skies outside. It was infinite, she reminded herself, beautiful and mysterious and powerful, and it was everything that she’d ever wanted. His hands caressed her again. He admired the way she stared outside in sheer awe, her raven locks falling around her, so long that she had often been asked whether she had ever once cut her hair, and also.
He moaned loudly as Citlally leaned down to kiss him, feeling her softness slide down over him. He could tell by the way she made love to him, slowly, her hips drawing every possible pleasure out of him, that she was perfectly in love with him, that she loved what he’d done, that this would be the best part of their journey across the galactic arm. As she rocked over him, draining him of every ounce of fluid and every moan that he had to give, Endan knew down to the depths of his being that there could be no better love-making than that of a woman inspired by the stars.
* ** *** ** *
The meeting was already well under way by the time the security captain arrived. The old man hated sitting through the hospitality and finance reports, and there was nothing that the station commander could do to force him to show up for them. He believed that the most important report was that in the security of the station; everyone needed to know who was coming and going, and whether any of the life-forms from the myriad of planets posed a threat to the safety of their fellow travelers. It was, after all, a big galaxy, filled with all sorts of dangerous things, both alive and not. Before there was to be any eating or dancing or sleeping, there absolutely had to be safety.
“Captain T’krost, how good of you to come.”
The station commander always said the same thing, the security leader thought to himself. “You make it easy, the way you always wait for me.”
Security Captain T’krost met the station commander’s gaze evenly with his steel-gray eyes, which were several shades darker than the bluish-gray hue of his skin, and which also had a distinctly metallic sheen to them. Black lines traced the backs of his hands and arms, even his long, knobby fingers, as though painted there by an ancient ink brush. His mercurial hair, cut short, was also accentuated by the same type of black lines.
He wore a close-fitting gray shirt, the collar of which appeared smaller due to his long neck, and a long black jacket, which reached down past his knees, over it. It had had to be specially made for him, due to his body proportions being longer than those of many species. Fortunately for him, his height made him appear quite formidable, and he commanded the respect of everyone who met him.
“Are you ready to give your security report for the day, then?” the station commander asked as his head of security set his stack of files down hard and took a seat. “I ‘m curious about the incident that happened with the shuttle from the Hoshi-Narada.”
“Of course, commander,” T’krost replied as he opened the first file. “To begin with, you will be glad to know that Regulus Station II is completely safe, and that no… undesirable elements were able to board the station. My security team identified a single scout flier attempting to sneak in with the shuttle earlier today. Once the pilot knew that we had discovered it, he left immediately and shuttle 2361-QXZRW was able to come aboard without any mishap. My pilots tracked down the scout and warned him not to come anywhere near the station again. All subsequent shuttles came to the station with full security escorts, and no further incidents have occurred.”
“And do we know whose service that scout was in?”
“Pirates of some sort,” the head of security replied. “They were probably out to either steal goods from our merchants or sell stolen goods on the station. They will not be back, though, sir.”
“I commend you for your excellent service, as usual,” the station commander told him. “Who do we have as guests, then?”
“A typical assortment of folks, really.” Security Captain T’krost went over the names of the passengers and their home-worlds quickly, until he came to the last three files. “These passengers have been placed on temporary watch until their backgrounds and travel documentations can be completely traced.”
A few of the attendants of the meeting gasped, but the station commander did not seem troubled.
“Is that so? What have they done?”
“It is not what they have done, sir, but what they are.”
The commander nodded with a certain understanding. “Terrans again?”
“Yes, sir. It is their human DNA that gives us the most trouble, really. With the way it mutates, and all the errors that it’s full of, it’s too easy for the vile forces we have in our galaxy to take advantage of that weakness. They would be glad that we were looking after them if they were not so prideful of their independence.”
With a sigh, the commander asked his security captain, “Who are they, then? And should we be worrying about them directly? I have heard of humans being easy to bribe.”
“The first two are of good character,” T’krost told the commander. Citlally Winterhawk, descendant of an ancient tribe called the Aztec. Once her people regained their land at the end of their twenty-first century, they became one of the most honorable and powerful people that Earth knows. The other is Endan Clarendon, of Irish descent. Like her, he honors his warrior ancestors, but we have nothing to fear from him. The two of them met at a multi-cultural school set on the ideals of peace, and although they’ve been to a few demonstrations, they were all based on non-violence.”
“They exchanged vows of love before leaving Earth to travel the stars,” the cultural advisor noted as she leaned close to T’krost so review their files. “To them, this would be considered a very romantic notion.”
T’krost cleared his throat as a clear show of annoyance and closed the files. “Yes, as I was saying, we have nothing to fear from them, save that someone else might attempt to take advantage of their DNA. Their blood samples have been eradicated, and the electronic files of them are now encrypted. I have already put into place the forces needed to keep them safe.”
“A private security team just for the newlyweds?” the cultural advisor asked. Then she giggled and added, “Do you know what human couples do on their honeymoon? I’m certain that they’ve already exchanged plenty of DNA.”
“Dhanae, let’s keep this civil and decent,” the station commander warned her with a weary sigh. “I have little enough patience for humans as it is.”
“Yes, sir, commander,” she agreed, though with a few more giggles before a glare from some of the men settled her down.
“Who is the third human?” the commander asked.
“Well, sir,” Security Captain T’krost replied with a smirk, “that is where things get interesting.”
* ** *** ** *
Citlally’s body, glistening with sweat and the starlight that poured into their otherwise darkened room, lay curled against Endan’s, sharing in the mutual warmth leftover from their love-making. To her, there was no feeling better then the hard curves of his muscles as he held her tenderly. She felt both safe and helpless in his arms, weak from the sheer exertion of what they’d done, but secure in the knowledge that he still had enough strength to protect her from anything that should come their way. It wasn’t that she expected anything to wish to harm them; it was enough to know that this warrior spirit was strong.
With her head on his chest, she could hear the way his heart raced, and she smiled with the knowledge that he loved what she’d done to him. The beat was just starting to calm down when she let out a long, contented sigh and decided to ask him what was on her mind.
“Endan, what happens if I become pregnant while we’re out here?”
“Mmm…?” He turned slightly and peered down at her. Ever so tenderly, he pushed a lock of hair off her cheek and gave her a tired smile. “My love, ye must be weary from travel. Why else would ye have forgotten how this works? Ye’re supposed to ask that before I–”
“Oh, hush!” she said with a giggle. “You know very well that it’s not having a baby that worries me. All these years together, and you think that? What I meant was, what if it happens way out here, so far from home?”
“A true child of the stars,” he grinned.
Citlally eyed him in a way that meant she was warning him to behave. “Would we have to go back home? Cut our journey short?”
“Would ye want to?” Endan countered, this time more serious. “We’ve been planning this journey for years. Why should our child stop that? He– or she– would want to have traveled the stars just as much as we do. But if ye don’t agree, we can go down to the pharmacy and ask whether they keep any human contraceptives in stock.”
“Do you really mean that?”
“Well, yes, I mean, if ye felt this way, ye should’ve brought some with ye– I suppose I should have even thought to ask you– when we left Earth, but–”
“No, not that,” she told him, shaking her head. “I mean, the part about wanting to travel with a child.”
“Citlally,” he began, pulling her closer and kissing her forehead, “as long as we’re together, it doesn’t matter where we are. Ye can have my baby, ten of them even–”
“Calm yourself, warrior,” she teased.
“–on any planet, ship or station where ye feel comfortable. We took those vows together for a reason, and havin’ a family in our future was part of that. Travelin’ across the galaxy was the other thing that ye’ve always had yer heart set on. As long as I have ye by my side, I’m happy with anythin’ else that happens.”
“Endan, how did I get lucky enough to have met you?”
He chuckled a little and rubbed her shoulder affectionately. “Well, the first thing I remember is you signin’ up for most of the same classes I did.”
“Purely by chance,” she reminded him.
“Ye still insist on that after all these years? Well, either way, there was also the fact that ye refused to go to the parade with that arrogant guy—what was his name?”
“What does it matter anymore?” Citlally asked. “That year’s peace parade was a success because we worked together.”
“Oh aye, we did!” he added wryly, his tone clearly referring to certain extracurricular activities they’d participated in.
“I didn’t mean that… but it was wonderful.”
“And you still are,” he whispered, pulling her close for a kiss, which left her smiling and wishing that she had at least some energy left.
“Promise me one thing,” Endan said after a long time spent just staring out at the stars and enjoying the quiet of nothing more than one another’s breathing and the faint hum of the station’s electricity. “Even with all the vows we took together, this’ll be the one promise that really matters to me.”
“What is it?” she whispered as she gazed up at him, curious about the more serious tone that he was now using.
“If anything happens… I know we’re safe out here, that we’re travelin’ along a peaceful route, but if the worst should happen, anythin’ unexpected…” He faltered, worried that he was frightening her.
“Go on,” Citlally urged him.
“Just… promise me that if we’re ever separated… if we’re ever not together, promise me that ye’ll never stop trying to come back to me. I need to know that ye’ll always be looking fer me, because I swear to ye, I love ye too much to ever—ever— give up on gettin’ ye back in my arms again.”
Citlally sat up and looked down into his eyes. They shone as though they were welling up from the feelings deep inside him, and she knew that he was completely serious. He feared being separated from her, and she had no doubts that he meant every word he said. Of course, she felt the same way about him.
“Endan, you have my word. If the worst happens, then I will fight with every ounce of my being to get back to you. I couldn’t go on without you in my life, and I would never give up on finding you. Even if they tell me that you’ve– that you–” She choked back her own tears, and Endan reached up to wipe her cheeks dry.
“I didnae say this to upset ye, love. I feel the same way. I wouldnae believe anyone who tries to tell me about yer demise… not ‘till I see it for myself and I’m able to carry ye home and lay ye to rest in yer homeland. I’d never give up on you, lass; ye’re my cinnamon girl.”
“Nor I you,” Citlally whimpered in reply, suddenly overwhelmed by the thought of them being parted in a such a way. “I promise. But… let’s not do anything dangerous, okay? Nothing that could separate us out here.”
“Agreed,” he told her, pulling her closer. “I just wanted ye to know how much ye mean to me.”
For the rest of that evening, they laid together watching the stars, talking about all the worlds that were out there and all the adventures and romances that were being had both far and near. They talked until Citlally have a long, sighing yawn and nuzzled closer to Endan, and he felt her breathing falling into the slow, deep pattern of sleep. Then he pulled the blanket over their still-naked bodies and let his eyes close as well. There was no greater bliss than his, be thought as he drifted off into a dream. He never wanted to leave Regulus Station II.