Authors: Erin Tate
Find the Author
Not Quite Terran is in the short story serial format. Each part can be purchased, and/or borrowed with the Kindle Unlimited/Kindle Select programs individually as they each become available for sale. If you’d like to wait until the serial is finished, it will be available as a boxed set to purchase when the serial has run its course. The boxed set willnotbe included in the Kindle Select/Kindle Unlimited programs to borrow.
Not Quite Terran Part OneNot Quite Terran Part TwoPart Three
It was amazing how much pacing could occur in an eight by eight hospital room when half the space was taken by a massive bed. Rebecca should know, since that’s exactly what she’d been doing since code enforcement hauled her in. Though “haul” was a bit of an exaggeration. The truth was she’d been prodded and nudged toward medical, none of the officers willing to lay a finger on her for fear of contracting whatever skin disease she’d picked up.
If she hadn’t been locked up for going on ten wentics, she would have laughed at the absurdity of those events. She’d been dressed, half-dressed since her zip seal was being an asshole, and lurching down the pathway, the occasional poke making her trip. And she’d still had a limp at that point. So, there she was, limping, stumbling, tripping… and all the while attempting to keep herself from flashing her tits to everyone. Nice.
One good thing was the presence of the code enforcers kept the shouts and insinuations from the crowd to a minimum. It didn’t stop the stares and leers though. Whatever. She could handle a guy looking at her like a piece of meat better than she could accept that same male asking her what she charged for a blowjob.
It hadn’t taken too long to reach medical and then everyone was rushing around. The officers were shoved into decon tanks while heavily suited doctors and nurses shoved her toward a sealed room. Now her only interaction was restricted to those same doctors and nurses coming in to inspect her and draw blood. She would almost consider it over the top, but after the incident last year… Stationmaster Poxu never underestimated a health threat.
Rebecca looked at the markings on her hand. The ones that originally started on her palm and had slowly wrapped around her fingers and now coated the back of her hand as well. A few tendrils even went so far as to decorate her wrist. Decorate. Yes, that’s kind of what she thought of them. The twining marks didn’t itch or flake nor were they dry or painful. They were just pretty. No one else saw them as pretty. Their loss. And hey, if having this weird rash-type thing kept her from having to answer questions about the Duggises, all the better. She wasn’t sure what they had on her—if anything, but she wasn’t anxious to discuss the original reason code enforcement appeared on her doorstep.
She had eavesdropped often enough to discover the Duggises’ ship still remained in its berth at the station waiting for an Olsara ambassador to arrive and make a judgment regarding the situation. By all accounts, they should appear any time.
The soft beep and subsequent whoosh filling the air announced a visitor. With a sigh, she padded to the bed and took up her normal position. The first time someone entered, she’d made the mistake of rushing toward them to shout her questions. That had been a one-way ticket to Tranquilizer City. Now, she somewhat patiently waited, legs hanging over the edge of the mattress and heels lightly thumping against the bed frame.
She immediately recognized one of the usual medical techs. A lowly gopher for the docs and nurses; they’d established a sort of friendship after she’d decked him for asking what she charged for a blowjob. But that was just a tiny hiccup in their relationship. It also resulted in her eating really,reallyshitty reprations for two wentics. As punishments went, it was effective.
“Hey, how goes it out in the real world?” Same question, different wentic. She really didn’t expect much of an answer. In medical, her status wavered between prisoner and patient so not everyone knew how to react to her.
“Oh, shit.” His eyes grew wide, exposing bright blue and midnight as his irises grew larger. Even his skin blushed a darker blue with excitement. “You haven’t heard, have you?”
“Of course I have. I’m so in touch with universal news here,” she drawled.
That had him narrowing those dark eyes. “Sarcasm does not become you.”
Rebecca huffed. “Okay, no, I haven’t heard. What’s going on?”
He grinned and rushed forward. He immediately placed his tray on the mattress, relieving himself of the small burden. She recognized the tools laid there. They were going to take more samples from her, the doctors and scientists still attempting to identify what was wrong, apparently.Nothing. Nothing is wrong with me.
“Out of nowhere a male alien showed up. But he doesn’t look like any species we know. His kind isn’t even in the database of known species.” His excitement was unmistakable. “And we checked. He gave us a sample of his genetic code to validate his claims, and he’sdefinitelyan unknown.”
Her first thought was for Karru. A male alien. Unknown. Untrusted? Absolutely.
“Andthey’ve called in thefederationbecause this male wants to negotiate with them.”
Karru. Had to be. And the unease she’d held about his intentions slowly drifted away. Yes, he told her he wasn’t going to kidnap women, but now he’d proved himself.
“Do you know how exciting this is? A new species hasn’t join the federation in my lifetime.”
Considering the tech was a Bantonian and had at least four hundred Terran years on him… that was a long time. “So, when is this happening?”
“When he comes back. He had to take the proposed plans for negotiation back to his people.” The tech waved his hand. “You know how these types of negotiations are handled. They send a representative to get the ball rolling—did you hear that? I have been exploring old Terran language and idioms.”
She leveled him a flat glare and he swallowed hard then cleared his throat. “Sorry. He came, established his race and made a request through official channels and now he’s gone back to his home planet.” He leaned close and lowered his voice. “I heard some of the scavengers tried to follow and lost him at the edge of yelian space. No one has ever seen a ship so big or so fast. You just know the federation will want those specifications as part of the deal.”
If it truly was Karru, she imagined he would have a few of his own demands of thefemalepersuasion. It depended on who wanted what more.
“I’m sure.” She added a couple of words for her part. “When did all this happen?”
When did Karru come to the station and not look for her? Not that he should. They hadn’t made promises to each other or anything. Other than that massively explosive orgasm… She shouldn’t feel hurt or have any expectations when it came to him, should she? It didn’t matter if it was a dumb idea, she had them nonetheless.
“He left a zentic ago, but he was here for four. But I heard he’s supposed to be back soon so they can coordinate how to have their leader present for negotiations and still keep him safe.”
She didn’t give a damn about Karru’s leader. She only cared about Karru.
“You didn’t tell me the name of the species.”
“Oooh… That’s what makes it even better. He’s fromPalia. Can you believe it?”
Yes, she could, but she wouldn’t have ten wentics ago. One wentic ago. “No, that’s amazing. I always heard the planet and its people were myth.”
“Right? Their technology… Their power… The things they can do…” He leaned closer to her and dropped his voice. “And just wait until you hear one of them speak. Rawr.”
She knew what they sounded like when they spoke—when Karru spoke. Smoky sex and delicious growls.
“I can imagine.”
“I’ll—” His data pad let out a low chirp and the tech rolled his eyes. “Give me one tic.” He focused on the tray he’d brought into the room, and lifted the device. As he tapped the screen and read the words, a frown marred his face. But that frown quickly transformed into shock with all the blood draining from his face. He flicked his attention to her and then back to the pad. “I…” He swallowed hard. “I’ll be right back.” He took a step away from her, his attention split between the message he’d received and her. “They’re going to… They ordered you to be released, but first they want to…”
Sweat dotted his brow and panic was plain on his features. He glanced around the room; his attention darting to the camera perched in the corner and then back to the device in hand. A few key punches and then the red light indicating the camera was recording blinked out.
“I have less than three tics. Poxu ordered your release, but the medical director doesn’t want to lose out on studying your hand. He’s an opportunistic bastard. And the orders aren’t very specific.” True fear and regret filled his gaze. “You’ll walk out of here, Rebecca, but it might not be all of you.” He glanced at her hand. “You understand what I’m saying?”
Her initial excitement and anticipation at hearing she’d be released was immediately banished by a gut clenching fear. She’d heard of males like the medical director, those in power who, when it suited them, adhered to the literal word of an order rather than interpreting the spirit. Hell, most males in charge were the same way when it came to accomplishing their own goals.
A ship carrying six million Terran tons of jittanian ore needs to be returned to its home world and the federation is tasked with completing the job. Well, that world would receive the ship. Not necessarily the tons of ore.
“No, I’m not.”
“Fuck.” She glanced at her hand. She was pretty damned attached to that part of her and not just in a literal sense. The twining vines—that’s what they were, vines—meant something to her even if she didn’t quite understand why. She just knew shecouldn’tlose them. “When am I slotted for release?”
He licked his lips, panic filling his expression. “This afternoon. Two zentics.”
“So they’ll take it soon?”
He nodded, regret now banishing the panic. “Just as soon as I go to the wall and request a hypo of sedative to make you compliant.”
“I don’t suppose I can convince you not to sedate me?” He remained silent and skeptical. “Come on, give me a fighting chance here. If I can make it out the structure, he’ll be stuck. I’ll be out of his reach.” Two tics slipped past and he remained silent. “Please.”
He sighed, shoulders slumped, and the flicker of the red light on the camera caught her attention.
That was immediately followed by a crackling voice filling the air. “Technician Atan, is all well?”
She recognized that voice, the director himself.
“Yes, Director. I shall complete my task shortly.”
“As you should.” The man sounded like an asshole.
No other words filled the room and the technician rose from the bed, still shooting her a look of regret. Hope withered in her chest and she stared at the vines that even now gradually slithered up her forearm. It was as if recent thoughts of Karru and his nearness encouraged the change to spread. She ignored the sounds the tech made as he prepared the hypo. She didn’t meet his gaze when he turned toward her, device in hand, and she focused on the far wall when he pressed it to her neck to deliver the sedative.
She suppressed the need to fight her way out, to kick and punch and… Do all the things she’d done for the past wentics which had ended in beatings and unconsciousness.
His voice was hardly a whisper. “Good luck and may the God of All bless you.”
No burn from a sedative filled her veins, and she realized he was giving her a chance. Her shock fell away, and she had the presence of mind to pretend to succumb to the drug. She lowered her eyelids and let her body flop onto the bed.
The technician leaned over her, fingers going to her wrist and then her neck before he finally retreated. “All is as it should be, Director.”
“Very good, attendants will be there shortly.”
He gave her one last, long look, a silent “good luck” and then he disappeared through the door. It slid closed behind him and she strained to hear other sounds in the space. She sought any hint or warning that others approached her room. She itched to roll to her feet and wait beside the door, but knew she was still being observed by someone through the camera. Instead, she remained in place, loose and body relaxed.
Was that the squeak of the shoe? The hum of a hover bed? The annoying laugh from one of her most hated nurses?
The answer to all three was yes.
The familiar whoosh announced the entry of two medical staff, and still she remained immobile. She had to wait, bide her time until they were close and reaching for her before she could burst into action. She had to remember she was larger than most, stronger than most, and could put them down before they could strap her in. She let their chatter roll over her, ignoring their words and instead focusing on counting the feet between them. Four… Three… Two…
At the first delicate brush of fingertips on her skin, she exploded into motion. She immediately wrenched away from the surface of the bed, while also shoving at the two nurses.
They should’ve sent men.
Two echoing screams followed her actions, and the moment her feet touched the ground, she was gone. She turned right outside her room, bare soles pounding on the polished flooring. She spared a glance for the directional signs, hunting for a way out of the maze of rooms and hallways. She turned left and then right again, darting around other medical staff, and she ignored the heavy and rapid thud of her pursuers. She skirted a cluster of doctors and snared one of the trolleys a technician carefully rolled down the hallway. She wrenched it from the woman’s grasp and then tipped it onto the floor, its contents scattering and hopefully slowing the security that chased her.
The emergency exit loomed ahead—later she would chuckle about the fact she truly was experiencing an emergency—but for now she merely thought of it as her savior. She crashed into the bar and threw the panel wide. She heard it slam against the wall behind her, but she was too focused on making it to the bottom of these endless steps. The rough uneven surface of each stair grated the soles of her feet, but she could worry about the pain later. Right now she had to concern herself with escaping this hellhole.
Shouts followed, pursuers racing after her as she descended past each level. Holy fuck, they had taken her high. Couldn’t they have stored her on the third floor or something?
She kept track of the numbered levels, her lungs burning, and she kept making new promises to herself with each one she passed. If she made it out, she would splurge on real chocolate. If she made it out, she’d buy a whole damned cow next time her biannual need came upon her. If she made it out, she would get pedicures once a week and be really nice to her feet for a long time. If she made it out…
I’m gonna make it out.
Two more levels, she only had to make it down two more and then the stairwell would dump her onto one of the medical structure side paths. She knew where she was now, knew the tiny alley was off the beaten path and not often used or even passed by visitors.
“If I make it to the main thruway I swear I will spend all my credits on those gorgeous shoes I saw—”
She grunted when she struck the final door, the lock fighting her before it finally gave away. She burst into the light and scrabbled to remain upright as her bleeding feet slipped over the smooth ground. She was free, yet not.
The shouts still followed her, those chasing her not giving up, and she pushed aside the pain once again. People were in view, those scrambling to and fro as they strode past the alleyway without a second glance. All her running left her with no breath, and she couldn’t even call out to them for assistance. She could only run.
She dug deeper and beckoned even more strength forward. She growled and grunted with each step, throwing snarls at her pursuers as she raced toward the crowd. Close. So very close. It was only a matter of time. She could almost feel the two men breathing down her neck with anticipation, their excitement flying from their pores and it merely spurred her on.
She finally skidded across the sidewalk, interrupting the constant and steady stream of people. But she didn’t stop there. She kept sliding and tumbling until the heated warmth of the pathway sank into her skin. Actually, her skin sank into it. As she tumbled and rolled, the rough surface scraped and cut at her flesh until it wasn’t only her feet that bled.
The high-pitched whine of electric brakes and screams of metal and motors reached her, invading her mind and overwhelming all her other senses. Admittedly, she found the situation a little ironic. She hadn’t wanted to live without her hand, but now it seemed she’d keep it and not live anyway. She tensed and squeezed her eyes shut, waiting for the impact that never came.
What did reach her was a very familiar and obviously furious set of growls and snarls. Then warm hands she’d been missing for uncountable wentics stroked her, carefully rolling her to her back and she finally forced her eyes open.
She met Karru’s enraged stare and fought to give him a small smile. “Hey.”
She didn’t address the fact her voice was thin and reedy or that she was slowly losing the battle for consciousness to the pain.
“Sweet one,” he murmured. “What have you done to yourself?”
Had she been in her right mind, she probably would have used a little more tact and blunted the truth a tiny bit. But she wasn’t. Not when her feet were burning and her skin throbbed in time with her heart.
She carefully relaxed her muscles and gently lifted her arm to bring it into his line of vision. “They were going to cut it off.” There should have been much more explanation in there, but she broke it down to its core. “And I didn’t want them to.”
She’d seen Karru angry and pissed off and annoyed, but this new emotion had nothing on any she’d seen in the past. It wasn’t the roaring fury that overcame him when he fought the Duggis males or the flat frustration he expressed when he tossed the Luvendari over the railing. This said everyone who even looked at her funny would die. That’s it. Just dead.
But he didn’t say a word or even take an aggressive stance. He simply looked her up and down and then gently reached for her. She hissed when he slid an arm beneath her neck and he immediately purred a soft apology. It was a pattern he repeated as he eased her into his arms fully and slowly stood with her in his embrace.
Heavily panting men raced forward, the first making a very deadly and very stupid mistake by speaking. “Jhoari C’Hali, please distance yourself…” He gasped and fought for air. “She is diseased and—”
Karru moved like lightning, but didn’t jostle her in any way. He managed to kick the speaker in the chest and send him flying through the air, crashing into a nearby structure as if he were nothing more than a bug. A small crowd gathered, several surrounding the downed man while others closed in on them. It was then she noticed the people who made up the group.
Several wore different uniforms and some even wore ceremonial robes. Including Karru. The normally thick and warm functional fabric that covered him was now the silk of brightly colored robes that probably announced his status.
He was important. He wouldn’t have been sent to infiltrate Rilli unless he was. That realization smacked her in the face.
Now that she understood his position, she nudged him and got his attention. “You should put me down. I’m getting you all bloody.”
His burning gaze met hers. “No.”
That was it. Nothing more thanno. She frowned at him, he glared at her, and nothing was accomplished.
Someone nearby gasped and a flurry of words flew over her head. She recognized a few of the growls and was able to translate them, but the true message didn’t come across. She turned her attention to the other speaker, immediately recognizing him as another from Palia. But he wasn’t the only one. Several others peppered the crowd. Protecting him?
Probably. He had a title and all that. And he’d scouted the station before making himself known. He had to besomebody.
She looked up to his face. “Jhoari C’Hali?” More gasps and she wondered what mistakes she’d made now.
His voice was low and quiet, and he spoke to her as if she was a child. Not in condescension, but merely delivering a lesson. “I am always Karru to you.”
“C’Hali if you must, but I shall always be Karru to you, sweet one. Never Jhoari.” More gasps and she wondered if someone had a breathing problem.
“Okay.” She twitched and then winced, pain reminding her she was hurt.
“What is the meaning of this?” She recognized that voice. The medical director.
She whimpered and cuddled closer to him, instinctually knowing he wouldn’t allow anything to happen to her.
“He… He is the one who wanted to…” She didn’t care if she sounded like a whiny girl. A woman could only take so much in so short a period of time.
Karru shouted a few words, his attention bouncing from one Palia male to the other and as a coordinated group they culled the medical director from the crowd and pushed him into the impromptu circle. The director glared at the men who’d manhandled him. That disgruntled expression remained in place until his attention turned to the man holding her close. Then an entirely fake and solicitous smile graced his features. It dipped for the barest of tics when his attention flicked to her, but he quickly recovered.
“Jhoari C’Hali your associate seems injured. Our facility would be honored—”
“Silence him.” The director opened his mouth, only to have it shut by one of Karru’s men backhanding him. Secretly she was pretty damned pleased with the action. Outwardly she… was pretty damn pleased with the action. “You will listen. You attempted to maim the body of Jhoari G’Zeri and shall be punished.”
Rebecca had no idea what he was talking about—she assumed the “maim” referred to her but who knew about the G’Zeri part. No matter. He seemed angry enough to do bodily harm to the director and she was onboard with that.
“I heard the words from her lips. You were going to remove her,” he seemed to stutter for a moment, as if searching for the word.
“Hand,” she supplied quietly.
“You were going to remove her hand. The Palia will not stand for it.”
“That’s-that’s—” he sputtered. “That’s a blatant lie!”
Now it was her turn to be angry. “I’mthe liar? Me?” She curled her lip and words so like Karru’s escaped her as she roared at him. “I’ve been subject to your tests, been poked and prodded for nearly twelve wentics, and now that I was released, you didn’t want to lose my hand.” She raised said hand and pointed at the vine decorated appendage. “You were ordered to let me go, but the communication didn’t say what state I had to be in, so you were going to interpret it as you saw fit.”
“Liar.” He hissed at her and obviously didn’t understand the danger he was in. Did he not notice the unconscious man leaning against the wall? “What proof do you have?”
Karru stepped closer to the medical director and somehow the man was still able to instill fear despite the fact he was holding a six-foot woman securely in his arms. “You dare imply—”
“She has no proof! I demand justice for this insult!”
That’s when Poxu showed up in all his overblown regalia. Medals and badges glittered and shined on his uniform and he strode into the small circle with an overabundant air of importance. “What’s going on here?” He zeroed in on Rebecca and Karru. “Officer Varda? What the hell happened to you?” Then Poxu glared at the medical director. “The last report was that she was healthy despite the unidentified markings. What the hell happened to her?”
The medical director backed away, fear now evident on his features.
Too little, too late.
“Jhoari inquired about her whereabouts. Then I demanded her release. Again, what happened to her?”
So, Rebecca explained it again. Briefly going over the details of her stay and what had occurred in the last half zentic. Poxu's eyes opened wider and wider with every word, his face paling and then flushing red as he turned a new glare on the medical director. “You stupid,stupid,poor excuse for an agrawe.Do you know what you’ve done!”
If she hadn’t been in ever-increasing agony, she would have smiled at the fact someone else was feeling the sharp side of Poxu's tongue.
“She has no proof!”
A flash of blue grasped her attention and she immediately sought out the technician. She’d know that hue anywhere. “Karru,” she whispered and he immediately focused on her. “I have someone… The technician who helped me… But I don’t know if he’ll come forward. He’ll lose his position and get kicked off Rilli if he does.”
“He assisted Jhoari G’Zeri and has shown himself as a true friend to Palia. His livelihood will be secured either here or on Palia. He will not suffer for helping you.” No hesitation, no doubt. Just a strong statement as if he could back up the words.
“Thank you.” She reached out, her hand trembling as she stroked the strong line of his jaw. “Thank you so much.”
This time she ignored the gasps and just enjoyed the feel of his skin beneath her fingertips. He breathed deeply, his nostrils flaring, and then he froze in place. It seemed the scent of her blood reminded him of her injuries, and his fury flared to life once again.
“Rasu!” Karru managed to shout and growl at the same time and one of the men from the crowd darted forward. “Secure the male…” He looked to her and she finished the sentence.
“Technician Atan. He’s, er, blue and at the back of the crowd.”
“Secure Technician Atan with our thanks and provide whatever he needs to be comfortable. He is a friend of Palia and Jhoari G’Zeri.” Rasu bowed slightly and then spun away to delve into the crowd. Seeing that his orders were being followed, Karru focused on her. “We shall have you attended.” He jerked his head in a decisive nod.
Then Poxu had to be dumb. “We can step into the medical facility and—”
“Jhoari G’Zeri will never suffer Rilli treatment again. Palia can care for its own and none other than the Jhoari healers will ever touch her skin.” With that, Karru spun, his hold still careful and tender as he strode toward a waiting vehicle.
Within moments they were inside the transport with her nestled on his lap, his hands holding her close, and she sighed in contentment. She never imagined she’d experience his touch again. Now that he’d been returned to her, she’d savor every moment. “Rest, sweet one, we shall have you tended soon.”
She stiffened. “Not another doctor. Do we have to see a doctor?” Unease and a hint of fear slithered through her. “I don’t want to see another—”
He placed his hand over hers and she suddenly realized she’d been fisting the fabric. “You need to be looked over for injury.”
“It’s mostly scrapes and bruises. Can’t you check me out and… I felt a lot better after the pool.” In more ways than one. “I missed it. I missed you.”