The Degan Incident Ch. 01byrobcub32©
I stepped off the magtrain and made my way up the concourse, pushing my way through the crowds of people. I looked up at one of the wall displays and noted the time. I was cutting it close, but I still had a few minutes before my shift.
While weaving between a trio of blue-skinned aliens speaking in a foreign tongue, I reached into the pocket of my uniform and pulled my headset out. I looped it over my ear and pressed the silicone nub into my ear canal. I pulled my comPad from the side leg pocket, then slid my finger across the razor-thin flexi-glass screen. The screen came to life with colorful graphics, waiting to scan my thumbprint to log me in. Pressing my thumb against the indicated area flashing on the screen, it dinged with a chime that indicated success, and automatically linked up my headset and signed into the Spaceport network. After the chime, the pleasant female computer voice announced into my ear, *Devin McSmith; login successful*.
With another swipe of my finger, I flipped through my day's manifest and headed to the first gate on my list to start work.
It was the start of my last shift of the week at Spaceport Prime. I loved working at the spaceport. In operation for nearly thirty years, Spaceport Prime was the largest spaceport on Earth's North American continent. The Spaceport serviced regular shuttles to Spacedock Luna in orbit around the moon, various Union Navy cruisers and shuttles, as well as ships from other star systems.
Since Earth joined the Galactic Planetary Union which ended the bloody war with the Mirans, the space trade industry here has grown by leaps and bounds. I feel like I am part of it, right in the middle of everything. Since I was a little boy, I wanted to join the Union Navy. More than anything, I dreamed of flying through space as part of a crew of interstellar explorers.
Unfortunately my scores weren't high enough to qualify entrance and the Union Navy recruiter denied my application.
So, I dusted my shoulders and I applied for a job at the Spaceport. I was nervous during my interview, but I showed excitement and that was what my supervisor was looking for. I was hired on as a gate tech. Sure, it's not as glamorous as serving on a space cruiser, but it was the next best thing given my lack of qualifications. Lucky for me the Spaceport wasn't completely automated like some other facilities I've read about. They still needed people to run things here.
I slowed and turned around as Peri slid up next to me. He was out of breath and his cheeks were pink. I slowly shook my head. Some things will never change.
"Hi, Peri. You're late again," I said with a smile.
"Hi," he panted.
I've known Perin McSmith — no relation, of course — since we were babies. We were both orphans, left at the McSmith Home for Boys, hence the same last name.
Peri, as he liked to be called, is a year younger than me. I've always tried to be protective of him, which was difficult since both of us were small guys. "Runts" the other boys called us. We stuck together and kept out of everyone's way, but if they wanted to push us around, there wasn't much we could do about it.
Every time Peri was passed over for adoption, he would cry so hard. I did too the first few times, but I quickly decided that I wouldn't waste tears on something that I knew would never happen. Too many kids and not enough homes. Peri couldn't do that and each and every time, it would just devastate him. And I would be there to hold him tight until he calmed down. As we've grown older, we've grown apart a little, but he is, and always will be, my best friend and my brother.
I glanced down at my screen to check the time. "Roble is going to chew you out when he sees the logs."
Peri sighed in resignation. "I know. But it wasn't my fault. Honest."
"Sure, sure. Are you able to meet for lunch?"
Peri looked at his manifest and nodded, then tossed his hand back to me in a wave as he took off running down the concourse. "Excuse me, excuse me," he called out as he wormed his way through the crowds.
Standing at the airlock gate, I waited for the incoming shuttle to dock. I looked down and ran my hands down the front of my uniform. The charcoal gray jumpsuit was loose-fitting on my lean body. It was a size too large for me, but being small in stature, it was the only size they had available that came close to fitting me. I sometimes felt like a kid playing dress up. My sleeves were rolled up and I had to cuff the pant legs as well, but the heavy black boots gave me a little extra height so that the pants didn't drag on the floor. One of these days when I had some extra credits, I would go get my uniforms altered to fit better.
While waiting, I looked up and down the busy concourse, watching the crowds as they flowed through the walkway. I was fascinated with every alien species I saw.
A pair of aliens caught my eye. I had never seen their species before. They were built tall and very thin with long necks. Their skin was lavender-colored, speckled with small white spots and they had large, rounded eyes. The tall antennae on their heads moved about as the walked, as if they were scenting the air around them. Amazing!
A pair of human construction workers walked past, busy talking about the new high-tech concourse expansion they were building. One of them accidentally bumped me with the equipment he was carrying. I jumped out of the way and apologized, but neither one noticed. They continued on as if I wasn't there.
I stood there wondering what the new technology would mean to my job, when my over-ear headset beeped and the pleasant female computer voice announced into my ear, *Shuttle Phastia docking at Gate 12-Alpha*.
I walked up to the gate's airlock doors and tapped the computer screen on the wall next to the door. The screen made a buzzing sound and turned red, showing an outline of a hand, awaiting my authorization. I pressed my right hand against the glass so that the computer could scan it. As the screen turned green, the computer beeped and announced, *Devin McSmith; Access granted*.
I tapped the screen controls and switched to docking mode. The video feed of the sleek Union Navy shuttlecraft was overlaid with informational graphics and sensor data. I watched the pilot navigate the shuttle's airlock into the docking clamps. Once the shuttle docking was complete, I pressurized the causeway, disengaged the airlock and opened the gate doors.
Within a few minutes, I heard the approaching sound of the shuttle passengers. I stood by, discreetly out of the way, as the passengers disembarked. "Welcome to Spaceport Prime," I said with a friendly smile. The humans and aliens walked past without even a glance at me.
They were followed by a unit of Union Marines. The enormous human men had to be genetically enhanced. Humans just didn't get that big naturally. The Genetically Enhanced Military Units — GEMs — were developed during the war to give our troops an advantage. Once Earth joined the Union, the program had been scrapped, as far as I knew. Union laws didn't allow for genetic engineering.
As they walked past, I shrunk back and dropped my eyes, feeling totally intimidated by their size and their icy demeanors. They had a reputation for being quick to anger.
Once all passengers had come through, I walked down the spaceway to the shuttle.
The shuttle security officer was standing outside of the shuttle's airlock door. He wore a standard-issue Union Navy uniform, similar in style to a jumpsuit, dark navy blue in color. The sexy uniform showed off the muscles in his broad back quite nicely, where it tapered to a belted waist, which only accentuated his muscular bubble-butt.
He turned when he heard me approach. My good mood deflated in an instant.
It would have to be Ander Britski. I stumbled over my feet and tried to recover quickly without looking like a complete idiot.
Lieutenant Ander Britski was an ex-boyfriend. Well, my first and only boyfriend to be more precise. I thought the Union Navy security officer was so sophisticated and other-worldly. The man was undeniably sexy in his snug-fitting uniform and his charm was simply irresistible. Unfortunately, he spread said irresistible charm to every space port he visited. When I found out about the others, I immediately broke things off with him. I don't like to share. And I don't like liars.
A smirk spread across Britski's face. "Well, well. Hi, Dev."
I gave him a false smile. "Lieutenant Britski."
Britski made a pouting face, trying to be cute. It didn't work. "Why so formal, Dev?"
I sighed and pulled my comPad from the side leg pocket of my uniform. I slid my finger across the razor-thin screen and it came to life. "Is that everyone?" I asked, all business.
"Any other requirements?"
I tapped on the comPad screen and connected to Spaceport Ops and waited for confirmation. "You're clear to remain docked until 0800 hours. Fuel tech has been dispatched."
I turned on my heels and walked back down the spaceway.
"Dev." Britski jogged up next to me. "Devin, wait. How have you been?" he asked as he walked with me.
"I'm fine," I said as I sped up my pace.
"Can we grab dinner? I'd like to catch up while I'm in port."
I looked at him like he had grown a second head. "No, thank you."
"Aw, come on, Dev." Britski put his hand on my back and lowered his voice. "We could have a little fun."
I pushed his hand away. "No, thank you."
Britski scoffed and leaned in close enough that his warm breath tickled my ear. "You never turned it down before. You used to beg for it."
"Yeah, well, I thought I was the only one getting it."
"I liked you better when you were the shy virgin."
Britski turned around and walked back to the shuttle.
When I got to the port's airlock doors, I slapped the control panel with my fist and shut the door. I was shaking as I leaned back against the doors behind me. I let out a ragged breath and swiped my hand down my face. I wasn't nearly as confident as I let Britski see. I was still shy and uncertain and my experience with Britski only made me more self-conscious.
I took another deep breath and looked at the manifest on my comPad. I began the walk down to Gate 12-Delta, trying to forget I ever met Lieutenant Ander Britski.
* * *
Today was busier than normal and my last shuttle of the day came quickly. I was happy for that since my mood had turned foul. At lunch, Per told me that Britski hit on him. He had the nerve to ask if he could stop by Peri's apartment when his shift ended at midnight.
"For a 'nightcap'," Peri said, making quotes with his fingers.
My jaw dropped. "A 'nightcap'? Seriously? You told him off, I hope."
Peri blushed and he reached up and slid his blond bangs off his forehead. "Well... I said I'd think about it."
I stopped my fork just shy of my mouth and looked up at Peri in shock. "You what? You know what he's like, Per. He'll hurt you."
"Yeah, I know what he's like. But... he's such a hunk. Guys like that never want me."
I lowered my voice and leaned in closer. "He only wants you for sex, Per."
He shrugged and looked down at his plate and picked at his sandwich.
"You're better than that. You have a lot more to offer than your body."
Peri sighed and looked up at me. "I'm tired of being alone, Dev. I want a big strong man to come and take me away from this. I want to feel safe... Loved." The last word came out in a whisper.
I reached over and patted Per's hand and gave him a sympathetic smile. "I know, Per. Me too. You know I understand better than anyone."
Peri sniffled and nodded his head. "You're right. I'll tell him no, Dev."
I shrugged off the unpleasant memory and walked down the spaceway to the docked starship, wondering why no passengers had disembarked. I approached the airlock and waited and read through my manifest. It was a non-Union cargo ship, but even cargo ships carried passengers more often than not. Several minutes later the doors hissed open. Several aliens walked through the doors and headed down the spaceway towards the spaceport.
"Welcome to Earth," I said with a friendly smile. None of them even looked my way. I might as well have been invisible. It didn't really bother me. I was used to it.
I waited several more minutes, wondering why no one from the crew had come to check in with me. I was about to contact Ops when a large humanoid exited and nearly collided into me.
"Excuse me," he said with a growling, graveled voice.
He was wearing a full-length hooded robe. The material was a rich brown color and was heavy and thick. The hood covered his head and dipped down over his brow, so I didn't get a good look at his face. I wondered what species he was. All I knew was that he was a full foot taller than me and was built wide and stocky. He paused for a second as if he was going to turn and speak to me, but then hurried past me and continued down the spaceway.
I watched his retreating back, curiousity getting the better of me. A sound behind me had me turning on my heels. A tall, red-skinned alien exited the ship. I had seen a Regulan before. They reminded me of mythological demons of old Earth stories with their red skin and the long horns coming out of the tops of their heads. They even had a pointed arrow-tipped tail. As a species in general, they weren't the friendliest of aliens, but I smiled at him nonetheless. "Welcome to Spaceport Prime."
He nodded his chin to me. "All passengers have disembarked," he spoke in sibilant, heavily-accented English. "We are ready for cargo extraction. We request a 72-hour dock."
"Yes, sir." I tapped his requests into my comPad screen and waited for confirmation. "The cargo handlers and fuel tech have been dispatched. Your 72-hour dock has been granted. Good day."
He nodded, then turned back to his ship. I watched his long, prehensile tail swing up and lift just before the door closed on it. I smiled to myself as I turned and walked back down the spaceway. Once I stepped into the port, I closed and secured the airlock doors. I used my comPad to go off duty and I tucked it into my leg pocket along with my over-ear commlink.
I stopped in my tracks when I heard the deep, rough, growling voice. I craned my head up at the large passenger in the hooded robe as he moved in front of me. *Oh jeez!* So, he was well over a foot taller than me, close to seven feet and wide as a tank. He reached up with furred hands and pulled the hood back to uncover his head.
"I am in need of lodging for several days," he said with an accent that told me that English was not his first language.
As he revealed himself to me, my eyes widened and I stared opened-mouth at him. He was a large, exotic, beast of an alien — a species I had never seen before. Besides for his enormous size, the first thing I noticed about him were the tips of his bottom two canine teeth. They protruded from his mouth and pressed into the thick mustache that covered his upper lip underneath a wide nose. His honey-gold hair and beard reminded me of a lion's mane, though he was clearly a primate species and not feline. His hair hung down to his shoulders, and I wondered whether it was soft or coarse to the touch.
Unlike the back of his hands, his face wasn't covered with fur, but he did have a mustache and beard, the same color as his hair. His beard was thick, like the hair on his head, but trimmed short to a half-inch or so, except for his chin. The hairs on his chin hung down about six inches into a point like a billy goat. He had two pointy horns on top of his head, about three inches tall and ivory white in color, just above the rounded ears that peeked out from his mane of hair, and situated higher above his head than a human's ears would be.
He was a beast and he should have been frightening to my human eyes. But there was an attractive, masculine, and rugged, almost handsome quality to him.
And then there were his eyes... Something about his eyes captivated me. They were the brightest emerald green I had ever seen and around the rim of the iris were flecks of gold. I found myself getting lost as I stared at him.
Realizing what I was doing, I shook my head to break my trance. "I apologize," I muttered, hoping that I wasn't blushing like a drooling idiot. "There are several hotels in the area. Take the magtrain to the main terminal and you can catch a shuttle from there."
He nodded and glanced around, then turned his eyes back on me.
I pointed down towards the opposite end of the concourse. "I'm on my way to the magtrain now, if you'd like to follow me."
"Yes. Thank you."
He held out his hand to me. The motion was awkward and stiff as if he never shook hands before. "My name is Bastian." His lips curved upwards and he opened his mouth slightly to bare his teeth in an imitation of a smile. His upper canines were sharp and pointy, but they didn't extend out like the lower pair. Something about his attempts at mimicking human behavior amused me and I wanted to giggle.
"I'm Devin. Pleased to meet you," I said with a grin as I took his hand and gave it a good shake. The back of his hand was covered in a soft downy fur, while his fingers and palm were free of hair, but rough and calloused. His hand felt very warm and I wondered if his species had a higher internal temperature than humans, then I wondered why I felt compelled to not let his hand go.
Hell, I knew darn well why I didn't let go. I felt an attraction to the beastly man and I wondered if he felt it too.
My eyes glanced downwards towards his waist, which was unfortunately hidden by his robe, and I couldn't help but wonder if our species were... compatible... in that way.
My face flushed with warmth and I drew in a breath and darted my eyes back up to his, to find him staring intently at me. I continued to hold his hand until he finally pulled it free from me.
I finally looked away from him, scared he might read my thoughts. Did thinking about him like that make me a freak, or some kind of a pervert? I cleared my throat nervously and began walking.
Bastian pulled his hood back over his head and moved close to my side as we walked down the concourse. He glanced around casually as we walked among the other passengers.
I cleared my throat again and gave him a shy sideways glance. This was going to be my only chance to talk with someone like him and I forced myself to take it. "If you don't mind my asking... what species are you?"
"I am Degan."
"I've never met a Degan before. The best part of my job is seeing all the wondrous new species come through the port."
He looked down at me and furrowed his thick brows. "Your species is very young. I suppose I would appear... new... to you."
I winced and ducked my head. "I didn't mean to offend you."
I kept my head down, but looked back up at him through my bangs. His facial expression softened and he blinked, then nodded once. "It is... o-kay." He pronounced the word as two distinct syllables.
His use of Earth lingo made me smile. "How did you learn English?" I wondered aloud.
"I speak several languages. In my business, it is helpful to speak the common Union dialects."
"Oh. So... How long are you on Earth for?"
He thought for a couple of seconds before answering. "It is undecided. I am here for business purposes."
We stepped onto the crowded train and I grabbed onto the last empty pole to keep my balance before the train started to move. Bastian moved behind me and grabbed the pole above my hand. As the train started, our bodies bumped into each other. He leaned forward into me, I assume to keep me from losing balance. He was indeed warm and he smelled so freaking good. A shudder ran through my body and I discreetly pressed back against him a little more firmly to see his reaction. His free hand moved to my hip and he held me steady while the train moved along the track.