tagSci-Fi & FantasyRaz the Farmer

Raz the Farmer


The plains of Oklahoma passed by beneath the shuttle as the pilot took it low over the flat terrain, fields dotted with small farmhouses and silos whizzing past as the only points of interest in the sea of green grass and yellow crops. Raz was sat across from me in the troop bay, her giant alien figure secured to an appropriately sized crash couch with a harness as the engines shook the deck beneath our feet. She was looking out of a nearby porthole, her yellow, feline eyes tracking the passing structures and herds of grazing cattle. The round, furry ears that protruded from the mop of orange hair on her head swiveled and twitched, her similarly colored tail trailing from the back of her seat to rest on the floor like a giant snake covered in peach fuzz. She was eight feet of muscle and claws, a killing machine by human standards, a Borealan in the prime of her life.

I was bringing her to meet my parents, we had been granted a month of leave and I had insisted that she observe the human custom. We had been in a relationship for a couple of years now, and I still hadn't told my parents exactly what she was, just that I had met someone and that we were going steady. The distances involved and our workload meant that visits like this one were few and far between. It wasn't through any shame that I had failed to inform my parents, Raz could be crass at times, but I knew that she would do her best to make a good impression. It was just that my parents were somewhat traditional and I didn't know how they might react to finding out that their only son was dating an alien.

I had dropped out of agricultural college to join the UNN against their wishes, to protect the Earth and her colonies from alien threats, and I wasn't certain that my 'salt of the earth' parents would be able to tell the difference between enemies and allies. The Borealans were a member race of the Coalition, a multi-species alliance that had banded together to fight common threats. While integrating their vicious warriors into our units had been somewhat of a challenge, in the end it had been me and Raz who had built that bridge and found common ground between our two cultures, resulting in the two of us becoming instructors on a naval installation known as the Pinwheel. I was an instructor on the firing range, and she trained new Borealan recruits to interact with humans without...eating them.

Borealan culture was extremely hierarchical, more like a pack of wolves than anything humans would consider a society, but their way of looking at the world lent itself well to military life. Together we had trained every Borealan shock trooper who had ever served alongside human troops.

"Is it all grassland?" Raz asked me, her eyes still fixed on the view beyond the window.

"What, the whole planet?" She had never been to Earth before, this was her first time setting foot on a planet that wasn't her own, having served her time so far in the UNN on space stations or naval vessels exclusively. "No, this is a state, kind of like a territory on Borealis. There are different environments and geography than just this. We have mountain ranges, lakes and rivers, cities..."

"I think there's more grass here than in all of Elysia," she mused as she watched the fields fly by us. Her home planet was primarily hot and arid, her people lived in relatively small oases created by great lakes ringed with fertile jungles. They formed a natural barrier against the desert beyond, and trapped a microclimate that made the interior lush and hospitable.

"We can see other places too," I said, "we don't have to stay with my parents for more than an afternoon if you don't want to. I just want you to meet them."

"It's fine, we can always come back another time and see more of the planet. You already talked me into coming, you don't need to sweeten the deal now. I know that this is important to you."

I smiled at her. Despite the predatory instincts roiling beneath her savage exterior, she was uncommonly understanding for a Borealan, and she always did her utmost to see things from a human perspective. Maybe that was why we had been able to find common ground in the first place, but even then, our earlier encounters had very nearly ended in maiming. In the end we had found a balance, a kind of equilibrium between us, it was tentative and unstable at times but that was part of what made being with her so damned exciting. I hadn't quite tamed her, and she had never been able to induct me into her pack and become my 'Alpha', leaving the two of us in a state of perpetual low-level conflict that expressed itself as bawdy romance.

"Coming up on the coordinates," the pilot called back to us from his seat in the cockpit, "where would you like me to put down, Sir?"

"My family is expecting us," I replied, "setting her down in the courtyard shouldn't alarm them."

"Very good Sir."

They had probably heard the vessel approaching by now, they might very well be waiting on the porch to greet us, and my heart quickened as I felt a surge of apprehension in my gut. I felt the shuttle bank, the pilot was shedding speed as he began to circle our farm, preparing to land. The vessel slowed, a mechanical clunk resonating through the deck as the landing gear deployed, the shuttle bouncing as they absorbed the impact of the landing. Raz seemed to pick up on my uneasiness, grinning at me and exposing her sharp teeth.

"Hey, at least you're not meeting 'my' parents, my father is the high Patriarch of Elysia."

There was a pneumatic hiss as the landing ramp lowered, a cool wind blowing into the troop bay as we unfastened our safety harnesses and descended. Raz stretched her arms over her head as her clawed, paw-like feet hit the dirt, relishing the opportunity to stand at full height after so many weeks cooped up on spaceships better suited to humans. I joined her, hearing the ramp close behind us as the shuttle's engines idled. I waved her away, and once we were clear, the vessel's thrusters flared and sent it off into the sky.

As the dust cleared, I shielded my eyes against the bright sunlight to look around, a wave of nostalgia washing over me as I saw the farmhouse I had grown up in and the barn beside it. Behind me was a grain silo, and beyond that, flat fields from horizon to horizon. As expected my parents were waiting on the porch, my father sporting his greying beard and clad in one of his signature flannel shirts, and my bespectacled mother beside him wearing a white apron over her floral dress.

I mustered what courage I could find and strode towards them, trying to appear confident in my dress blues, they expected a soldier and that was what I wanted to give them. Raz loped along beside me, taking long strides on her digitigrade legs. She was similarly clad in a blue UNN uniform more suited to her exaggerated stature, and though most of her body was hairless, the fur on her protruding hands and lower legs gave the impression that a big orange tomcat had been stuffed into a suit.

As we approached the house, it became apparent that my parents were staring, my father especially was craning his neck to get a better look at the imposing alien as we came to a stop. My mother leaned in to hug me, my father hesitating for a moment before shaking my hand, his eyes still fixed on Raz as he squinted against the summer sun.

"It's so good to see you Stanley," my mother crooned, momentarily more interested in me than in the spectacle that was unfolding. She beamed as she looked me up and down, scrutinizing my shining boots and the various commendations and rank insignias on my breast. "Look at you in your uniform, when you told us that you wanted to join the UNN we had our doubts, but here you are!"

"It's good to see you too. Mom, Dad, this is Raz."

She turned her attention to Raz, looking up at the Borealan, then after a brief moment she met her with a hug. Raz bristled, her kind didn't like unsolicited contact, especially from strangers. But she endured it as my mother did her best to wrap her arms around her wide hips, as high as the short woman could reach, then stepped back to examine her.

"I have to say it's quite the surprise, but any friend of Stanley's is welcome in our home."

"Thank you, Matriarch," Raz replied in a formal tone. 'Meeting the parents' wasn't something her people made an occasion of, and so she seemed to be giving them the only honorific she thought appropriate. That got a laugh from my mother.

"You can call me Patricia, dear, now come inside and get out of the sun."

I was shocked at how well my mother was taking it, ushering Raz into the farmhouse excitedly as the giant alien ducked under the human-sized doorframe, but I noticed that my father had not offered her any form of greeting. It might be quite a shock, they had never met an alien before and I had kind of sprung this on them, but if he made a point of being rude I would need to have a word with him in private about it. For now it was best to just enjoy the reunion, I was sure they would have hundreds of questions to ask us about our jobs, our lives on the space station and our unconventional relationship.

"Would you like tea or coffee Raz?" My mother called from the kitchen as we sat around a low table in the living room. We were surrounded by my mother's knick-knacks, everything from porcelain sculptures of babies and cats, to potted plants that looked as if they had seen better days. It seemed that no surface had gone unscathed, even the mantelpiece above the old wood fire was covered in heirlooms and trinkets. Raz looked incredibly out of her element, a large couch sagging under her weight as she sat uncomfortably beside me with her knees almost reaching her head. She leaned over and whispered to me, unsure of how to reply.

"What is customary?"

"She'll just have a glass of water," I called to my mother, patting Raz on her steely thigh to reassure her. "You don't have to be so formal, try to relax."

My parents walked into the room, my father taking a seat in an adjacent armchair as my mother placed a tray of assorted biscuits and drinks on the table. She handed a glass of water to Raz, who took it gingerly in her massive hand, downing it in one gulp.

"Help yourself to snacks, Raz," she said as she sat down. "Now Stanley, tell me everything that's happened. You never email, you never call us on the vidphone, I want to know what's going on in your life! I thought it was odd that you hadn't sent us any pictures of you and Raz, I thought maybe you were gay," she laughed. "But now I see what you've been hiding." She shot Raz a knowing smirk, which seemed to put the Borealan more at ease.

"I just..." I struggled to justify myself as my parents scrutinized me. "I wasn't sure how you'd react to us, I guess I just put it off as long as I could get away with."

"And yet you insisted I meet your parents when you heard leave was coming up," Raz chimed in, growing a little more confident. "You wouldn't take no for an answer, like an angry little kitten denied a seat at the banquet table."

My mother laughed heartily as Raz nudged me with her elbow and I reddened. I was relieved to see that they were getting on so well, perhaps the sheer novelty of the situation was drawing in my mother, but my father still had not made any real attempt to engage Raz. Maybe he just needed time to adjust.

My mother picked up a mug of steaming coffee from the table and took a sip, practically gleeful as she demanded that I tell her the story of how we had met, and so for the next couple of hours we relayed the events of the past two years. I left out some of the more gory details, understanding why Raz had treated me so poorly during our first few days together took an in-depth knowledge of Borealan culture and biology, and so I abbreviated that period of conflict into a series of harmless misunderstandings. Raz seemed relieved by that, she hadn't understood humans any better than I had understood Borealans, and only realized how her behavior had appeared to humans after the fact.

When I was done, Raz was quizzed about her culture and her home planet, really coming out of her shell as she described Elysia in detail while my mother hung on her every word. It was unusual to see Raz so restrained, she was normally so outgoing when we were on the Pinwheel, not thinking twice about starting brawls with the more cocky Borealan recruits and giving unflattering nicknames to the grizzled chief of security. She was fearless and ruthlessly sarcastic in her role as the Pinwheel's unofficial matriarch, but perhaps I had failed to convey what this visit would entail. She had treated it as some formal event initially, perhaps afraid of being judged by my parents, but now her usual brash self-confidence was showing through.

My father listened to the tales with interest, but did not participate in the lively conversation. Before very long the sun was beginning to set, and the supply of biscuits had been exhausted.

"I'm sure you two are tired from all the traveling," my mother announced as she stood to retrieve the now empty tray. "Stanley you can sleep in your old room, but Raz isn't going to fit. We're going to need to find something else for you, dear."

It was the first night we had spent apart in a long time, I slept in my old room, and my parents laid out several mattresses for Raz in the guest bedroom. We were woken up the next day by a call to breakfast, Raz devouring a dozen fried eggs before realizing that it might not be appropriate to exhaust my family's entire food supply in one sitting. My mother was nonplussed, continuing her attempts to feed the giant alien, and the discovery of bacon reignited Raz's hunger and brought her back around.

Borealans ate a lot, they were the scourge of UNN mess halls across the galaxy. Not only were they physically more imposing than humans, which came with an exponentially larger calorie requirement, but they were also more heavily muscled due to the high gravity of their home planet. They had bones like concrete, and with a weight of anywhere up to five hundred pounds or more, the muscle mass required to simply move their enormous bodies around gave them the appearance of weight lifters or athletes. Raz had thighs like tree trunks, and abdominal muscles so prominent that you could have used them to wash clothes, but she was also a developed woman and her figure was soft and feminine despite the underlying brawn.

"Is Dad up already?" I asked as I finished off a plate of bacon and eggs. There were no chairs that Raz would fit on, and so she was sat cross-legged on the tile floor, though that still put her at chest height to the table due to her stature.

"Yes, he's out with the tractors."

"Still? He's had those auto-tractors for years now and he still doesn't trust them to do their job without supervision?"

The farm was mostly automated, with robotic tractors and harvesters that handled near all of the manual labor, allowing my parents to operate a good sized farm without hiring any help. The tank-like robotic tractors tilled the fields and sowed the crops, and then the titanic combines handled the harvesting, with drone trucks to bring the corn to the silos. My father was old-fashioned, he had never trusted the machines to do the job properly and insisted on supervising them. Granted they weren't perfect and sometimes their pathfinding got screwed up, but they didn't require his constant attention. Dealing with the occasional rogue tractor driving around the field in circles was a damn sight better than tilling the fields yourself, or having to pay an army of laborers.

"You know how he is," she replied as she unfastened her apron and hung it on the back of a nearby chair, sitting down with a plate to join us at the table. "He spent a fortune on those things so that he wouldn't have to spend all day in a tractor cab, took me long enough to talk him into it. Here I was hoping he'd spend more time at the house, but he just ended up spending all day watching them go round and round in the fields instead."

"These machines drive on their own?" Raz asked.

"Yeah, like our UNN surveillance drones," I replied, "they're hooked up to a central computer in the barn that controls their routes wirelessly."

"I will tell my father, I'm sure he would like to buy some for the grain farms in Elysia."

"He does like his gadgets," I replied through a mouthful of toast.

"Why don't you two go out and find him when you're done eating?" Mom asked. "You remember how to get to the corn fields, right Stanley? I told him to come back to the house for breakfast but something must be holding him up."

I nodded, finishing the last of my fried eggs and getting up from the table.

"Come on Raz, I'll show you around."

We made our way down one of the dirt paths that led away from the farmhouse, the wind blowing the crops around us as the sun beat down above our heads. It was the summer harvesting season, the crops were tall and ready to be picked, I couldn't see over them but Raz was tall enough that her head peeked over the golden wheat.

"There's so much land," she mused as I walked beside her, "it just keeps going as far as I can see. It's strange not seeing a jungle in the distance, makes me feel exposed, like I'm walking along the hull of a spaceship rather than on the surface of a planet."

"Yeah, the great plains can be a little agoraphobic if you're not used to them."

"Our numbers are kept low by the limited living space, but here you could house our entire population ten times over. It's no wonder there are so many humans." She let the wind blow her orange hair, enjoying the warmth of the sun on her face, it had been a long time since we had set foot on a planet. The Pinwheel had a simulated environment, and while it was rather convincing, it still lacked these little comforts.

We followed the dirt track down a mile or so, before the sound of engines drew us towards one of the corn fields. It was partially harvested, there was an enormous combine with a gleaming white hull making its way down a row of corn on its fat wheels, its wide blades churning to pull up the plants and strip them of their crop. Where a cab would have been, there was an array of cameras and sensors, culminating in a long-range transmitter dish that extended from the top of the machine.

As we watched a similarly sleek tractor drove up beside the combine, pulling a large trailer behind it, the behemoth disgorging a waterfall of grain into the container from its chute. I looked around for my father, shielding my eyes against the midday sun and wishing that I had brought a hat with me, finally spotting him across the field. He was crouched beside his pickup truck, and I led Raz across the field to greet him. He noticed us and looked up, wiping his brow and waving in our direction.

"Hey Dad, what's keeping you? Mom wanted you back for breakfast."

"I'll tell you what's keepin' me," he grumbled. "These damned auto-tractors, that's what. The proximity sensor on the one I have pulling the trailer must have failed, or maybe their programming is screwy or something, I couldn't tell you. In any case the thing nearly ran into my truck when I was pulling out, had to swerve to avoid it and now I'm stuck in this ditch."

I leaned over to get a better look, and saw that the pickup was indeed stuck in the drainage ditch that ran between the two fields, the back wheels suspended in the air as the truck lay across the gap.

"Can't you get one of the tractors to come pull you out?"

"I can't trust these damned robots to drive in a straight line, never mind tow my truck free, they'd probably just tear the front axle right off of it."

"I'll walk back up to the farm and bring Mom's car around, maybe we can tow the-"

Raz dropped down heavily into the ditch with a crunch of dry foliage, and we watched her curiously as she crouched to position herself beneath the truck. She braced her shoulder against its undercarriage, planting her feet firmly on the ground, then heaved. The truck bounced, my father's eyes widening as he watched the alien give it another shove, loosing a snarl as she lifted what must have been at least a two or three ton vehicle briefly into the air before it fell back down. The muscles in her legs bulged beneath her clothing as she strained against its weight, adding some forward momentum to her shove this time, and rolled it back onto our side of the ditch. The back wheels landed on the dirt, bouncing on their suspension as we looked on in disbelief, and she leapt back out of the ditch to stand beside it.

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