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.
.... There is more of this story ...