They met one day through the high chain-link fence of the space port gate. The landing pad area was an old NASA concrete expanse. Behind her was the dusty desert of West Texas. The high-speed rail car that had brought her to the backside of the most active freighter port in the solar system had already left. The man had seen many visitors come and go over the twelve years he’d operated his tramp freighter, in the almost forgotten dark corner of the remote space port. “Seen three aliens,” he told the young woman, swatting at a swarm of gnats bothering his face. The annoying persistence of the creatures wasn’t much different than his visitor. He was only fifty, but his leathered skin made him seem older. His thinning hair reinforced that perception to most. The woman was attractive, shapely, in her mid-thirties. As a reporter, she had tried to visit him often in the last two months. He finally gave in when she changed networks.
“I’m Rick,” the man said. “Captain, if you prefer.”
“Captain, really three aliens?” the woman asked him, shifting her eyes away. “That’s more than most have seen.”
Rick laughed and looked at her through the fence. His balding head gleamed of sweat in the hot environment. He suspected his half -bitten ear had soured her stomach. “I had that loading machine accident when I saw my first female alien,” Rick thought, as she looked back at him.
A blue blazer covered her sheer blouse. Her breasts were clearly visible when the gusting wind opened her jacket. Rick noticed her eyes danced when he was caught peeking at her hard nips. He was glad he had agreed to meet her in person. Rick decided, she looked even better than on her new network show. Her attire was so much more alluring than when she worked on Space Station Cooking with Celebrities, with a trendy but conservative audience. However, it was her family link to the last director of NASA that influenced his judgment, at least that is what he claimed. He had a soft spot for families of the recently defunct organization that had lasted two hundred years; also, he enjoyed watching her investigative reports on the naked news channel.
Curious about what he’d read on one of those paparazzi, image-covered, magazines, he asked, “How are you and your husband liking West Texas?” But he already knew that the man had run off with a young model. In the past few weeks, he had read a couple of articles about the drama. He considered her a minor celebrity, because of the switch over from the cooking show to a mainstream news organization. Her natural looks and non-augmented body was the new fashion and the source of rating increases. Middle America was tired of all the fake body types.
“Vince and I are divorced,” the reporter said, crossing her arms and adding scornful eyes. He was sure the sagebrush against the fence would burst into flames if she were any closer to it.
“No offense intended. I remember him from one of your cooking shows. You know, ‘World’s Worst Husband Grillers?’”
She laughed. “That was my highest rated episode.”
“Maybe he’ll audition for ‘World’s Worst Husband?’” He offered to mollify her, placing his hand over his heart, and flaring his fingers out like an explosion.
“Perhaps. You’ve sidetracked me,” the reporter announced. “I’m here about your life, not mine.”
“I know,” Rick said with resignation, rolling his eyes. He knew not to make a big deal about his faux apology. Women didn’t like that. “But I’m not talking about my divorce either.”
He must have said the right thing because she gave him a warm smile.
“Sure thing, we’ll not mention your old marital status in the background material,” she offered.
Her sincerity was real, but Rick felt behind her beautiful smile that something crude lurked. In the silence of the moment, Rick saw the woman’s gaze take in his complete body. His fat belly and aged imperfections weren’t the body of her former ex. He knew she was assessing his physical condition as much as he had reviewed her. He coughed and cleared his throat, as if trying to take control of the situation again.
“We’ve both had our hearts broken,” he announced, his Midwestern accent coming through strong. His posture slumping. “And, we’ve both moved on. We should share a drink in my cabin. Our walls will be adjoining, so it will be a short walk.”
“Is the alien aboard?” the woman asked, ignoring his invitation. She looked superior. She looked aloof.
“You’ll see soon enough. I can neither confirm nor deny the presence of a Visitor. It’s a Space Service privacy regulation,” Rick answered. “But I’m sure you know that. The SS considers it a security issue and I could lose my license if they’re monitoring us.” His head lifted to the frosted globe on the gate pole. “As you know, they are pretty tight-lipped about the aliens, even after five years. I’m not senile enough to believe this is your first rodeo. I suspect you have some backchannel source. Your sweet smiles and reporter ways have someone feeding your eagerness and persistence to take a ride to the moon. Why else ride my old tramp freighter? This Saturday night launch is nothing special.” The reporter smirked back at him.
Rick opened the secured gate, using his hand on the bio scanner. Putting out his hand, he said, “Nice to meet you, Carrie.”
She reached out and shook his hand. “There isn’t a special handshake I should know about, if we meet a Visitor?”
He laughed and closed the gate. Carrie had passed the last hurdle to boarding his commercial ship. She had already passed through the three layered rings of high-security and the gates controlled by the military. This landing pad was his, one of the few privately licensed launched pads left in the independent country of Texas. He marked the thrill of finally touching her, the feel of soft skin. He wanted to touch her much more, and he had the only access to what she desperately wanted—a Visitor.
“After you,” he insisted.
Rick watched her small rounded backside as she entered his self-driving service cart. “Nice ass,” he thought to himself. She was looking at his freighter. “Things look much more impressive when you get closer to them,” he commented.
“The skin of that thing, so radiates the sun,” she answered.
“Skin is hot to the touch too,” he answered with a laugh, thinking of her.
She nodded, understanding not to touch the hot spaceship under such a harsh sunlight. She already had a dry mouth from the intense sun that made it uncomfortable to breathe. Over the last century, West Texas had become one of the hottest deserts in the southwest. The lack of rain water and dried up rivers had depopulated the region. The domed city of El Paso contained most of the remaining residents in the area.
The service cart drove up the spaceship’s loading ramp, and once Rick and Carrie exited it zipped away. Two cargo men were operating loader machines, containers labeled “Oxygen” were everywhere in the half-filled cargo bay. The silhouette of another man in an office was the only other person that Carrie could see. Rick hustled her to her simple cabin, which was well away from the busy cargo bay. He locked her in, explaining once the ship lifted off, she would have the freedom to roam. She knew the terms of their agreement and didn’t protest, turning on a music player.
As owner and captain of the tramp freighter he had made sure she was assigned to the room next to his. Through the vent in the wall Rick could hear almost everything that went on in her cabin. He decided to sit on his bunk and listen carefully for a while. It was fortunate the cargo boss handled the loading and Rick had no duties to attend to for an hour. He daydreamed about Carrie, visualizing her stripping for her news segment. Her slim hips and athletic muscles always excited him. Unfortunately, not twenty minutes later the cargo boss informed him the foodstuffs intended for the moon base were stolen in El Paso. The food bandits had blown a hole in the border wall and driven three truckloads of the specialized foods into Mexico. “Thank God the cargo isn’t my responsibility until it’s on my ship,” he thought.
That night, Rick ate dinner in his cabin, listening to the sounds the woman made alone in her cabin. Carrie had already eaten her dinner. Her music station was tuned to old dance music. “A rather nostalgic choice,” he thought, sipping his soup. The fresh vegetables in it were a rare treat, carrots and peas were his favorite. Living on the ship even when grounded, he rarely went to town for fresh food. He would normally enjoy a whiskey with his meal when in the space port; however, when an alien was on board the SS forbid delivery of alcohol. There was always a work around, even on a military base. In this case, he stocked beer for Visitors in their cabins; the SS didn’t need to know he drank it. The authorities regulated his life even more because of his private dealings with the Visitors. He was sure the SS were jealous, regular citizens didn’t see, let alone work with the aliens. In addition, they would interact with only a handful of men in the government.
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