“My Lord Patriarch, I will of course compensate you fully for the loss of the ship in any way that I can, I assure you that this was completely unforeseen.”
The Patriarch snarled, raising his hackles and exposing his sharp, carnivore teeth at the merchant, his pearlescent, ornate fur cape flowing behind him. The far shorter and plumper human straightened his tie uncomfortably, avoiding the penetrating gaze of the nine foot Borealan monarch.
Benedict sold used starships by trade, it was not an easy business to break into, even a second hand hull rendered unfit for naval service by battle damage cost a fortune to purchase. Fortunately his family was wealthy, and he had begun by recycling the hulks for scrap money. Recently he had discovered a far more lucrative business opportunity.
Borealis was a newly contacted planet, uncivilized and bordering enemy territory. The Patriarch who ruled Elysia, the most powerful and prosperous of the Borealan nations, was eager to modernize his military and not averse to paying for it. Benedict had been selling him used UNN starships, fixing what damage he could and bringing retired designs up to spec, in exchange for raw materials and precious metals that were abundant on the alien world.
The Patriarch had been delighted to have his own fleet, though Benedict doubted he knew to what extent the vessels were outdated or unfit for service, and had no intention of informing him. The world had no naval obligation to the multi-species Coalition that included humanity, and the ships were mostly decorative, used to intimidate and show off to the other territories of the planet.
The latest deal however, had gone badly. Benedict had purchased the UNN Alexandria at auction, a light cruiser that had suffered severe structural damage from a Betelgeusian smartbomb. The superstructure had been completely crippled, the damned ship barely holding together, and it had been sold for barely the value of its salvage after having been written off. He had gotten greedy, hiring a team of engineers to patch it up and reinforce the hull to the point that it was spaceworthy again, then had sold it to the Patriarch for three times the value of its scrap metal.
Borealis however had no space elevators and no orbital docks, which meant that the Patriarch had a bad habit of making landfall and applying unnecessary strain on his vessels. The Alexandria had broken up on reentry, killing her Borealan crew, and the monarch was furious.
“My people live by a code of honor,” the feline alien growled, glaring at the merchant with his reflective, amber eyes. They were sat at a long table in the Patriarch’s ivory spire, and the enormous creature tapped its curved claws on the marble surface, tipped with ornate thimbles made of gold. The room was decorated with innumerable banners and tapestries, depicting great battles or royal standards. Guards of comparable size and ferocity stood to attention nearby, their gilded, red armor standing out against the white pillars that held up the ceiling. Their long tails flicked back and forth, their round, furry ears protruded from their helmets, swiveling to track the conversation.
“Borealans do not lie, we do not cheat. We have traded much in the past, Benedict, and I am grateful for your contributions to the might and prosperity of Elysia. But if I find that you have misled me, cheated me, I will take that as a personal insult.”
Benedict was sweating, both because of the intense heat and gravity of the alien world, and because of the way the creature’s nostrils flared in anger as it stared him down. He had never seen the alien so angry before, going by the usual temperament of the Borealans it was a miracle that he had not been savaged yet.
“My dear Patriarch, you are my most valued customer! In all of Coalition space there is no alliance, and no business relationship that I would go further to maintain than the one that we share. I can promise you most assuredly that I will track down the original owner of the Alexandria and ensure that justice is served for your crew who so regretfully perished in the crash.” The alien was still angry, but he was listening. Benedict could still salvage this mess. “With your permission, I will return to human space and retrieve compensation for you, a vessel of twice the value of the Alexandria.”
The Patriarch scratched his chin, considering.
“That will be satisfactory, I agree to your terms,” Benedict breathed a sign of relief, but the Patriarch was not finished. “But on one condition.”
“Whatever you wish, Lord Patriarch.”
“I fear that if you return to human space, I may never hear from you again. You humans do not always reveal your intentions, and often talk at crossed purposes.” Benedict began to speak, but the alien cut him off with a gesture of his massive hand. “I will allow you to return and retrieve my compensation, however I will require that you leave your daughter in my custody. When the new ship is in my possession, I shall release her to you.”
“A ... hostage?” Benedict was hesitant to use the term, but the Patriarch seemed deadly serious.
“Think of it as collateral. You have caused me a great deal of trouble, Merchant Benedict, but as this is your first transgression, I will give you an opportunity to redeem yourself. Do not disappoint me.”
Benedict wanted to protest, to negotiate some more favorable deal that did not involve leaving his treasured daughter in the hands of aliens, but the stern expression on the Patriarch’s face told him that this meeting was over. He rose to his feet unsteadily, the crippling 1.3G gravity weighing down the already out of shape man, and he bowed deeply.
“As you wish, Patriarch.”
“Daddy you can’t! You simply can’t!”
Rebecca batted at her father with a silken pillow, her frilly nightgown flaring as she stomped her feet. The portly merchant tried to keep her under control, pulling the pillow from her hands and pleading with her to calm down. The desert planet hovered outside the window, her lavishly furnished quarters on their private yacht was her home during these extended voyages. She was in the prime of her life, and had reached the age when her rapidly developing figure had become a magnet for suitors. Benedict was overprotective, but he didn’t trust her to behave if he left her on Earth alone. She had a driver’s license after all, and was now too old for him to confine her to their villa.
“The decision has been made, Becky, please! I’ll only be gone for a few days, I own a shipyard two jumps from Borealis. All you have to do is stay on the planet. The Patriarch is a king, he has all of the amenities you’re used to, and I’ll be able to send down anything you want before I leave.”
“It’s awful and hot, and the gravity hurts my ankles,” the young woman pouted, giving in and collapsing onto her bed to sit with her arms crossed. “Why do I have to stay Daddy? Why didn’t you just tell him no?”
“Daddy has worked very hard for this alliance, princess. Our family now has exclusive access to the Borealan market, we alone can exploit their materials and provide them with ships. These aliens are a backward race, it all depends on my personal relationship with their damned Patriach. If I upset him and don’t make amends, he’ll cut us off.”
Rebecca sulked, turning her head away from her father conspicuously. She was a spoiled, petulant girl, but how could the daughter of a rich merchant be anything else? She twirled her golden locks in her manicured finger, doing her best impression of a scared, innocent girl.
“I’m afraid, Daddy. You know those beasts are violent, what if they decide to eat me?”
Benedict sighed, he was all too familiar with this routine, she knew just how to push his buttons, and after her mother had passed away, she knew that she was all he had left. Carol had always known how to reign her daughter in, but Benedict was too soft on her, he didn’t have the heart. She was the most precious thing in the world to him, but he knew the word of the Patriarch was good. It wouldn’t work this time, too much was at stake.
“Darling, I have already agreed, now pack your things, I have to leave soon.”
A tear of anger rather than sorrow slipped down her cheek, and she pursed her lips, throwing a stuffed animal at her father.
“Daddy you’re the worst!”
Rebecca removed her heels, walking on her long cotton socks as her father urged her along, the high gravity of the planet already making her joints hurt, and causing her usually bouncy, curled hair to sag. He dragged her massive suitcase behind him, filled with far more clothes than she could possibly expect to need.
“I look like an urchin, Daddy,” she muttered.
“I did tell you to wear something practical.”
“It’s so dusty and dirty, my socks will be ruined.”
“I’ll buy you new socks,” Benedict grunted, heaving the suitcase and passing it to a waiting servant. The eight foot alien, clad in a floaty, revealing gown took it easily, and carried it away into the spire. The building was the seat of Elysian power, towering over the surrounding city, which was made up of short, squat buildings. The gravity discouraged the aliens from building too high, and by human standards the six storey tower was laughable, but in this environment it was imposing. It was made from white stone that reflected the harsh light of the primary star.
“This must be Rebecca,” the Patriarch boomed in his deep, baritone voice. He was stood in the doorway to the spire, tall and wide enough to completely block the entrance. He was wearing his ornate, blue armor, embroidered with numerous scenes of hunting and war in fine, golden thread. His long cape fell behind him, the odd fur gleaming in the sunlight, the colors shifting hues depending on the angle of the observer. He extended his hand to Rebecca, who looked puny and fragile in comparison, the black and orange markings that patterned his skin visible beneath his sleeve. She hesitated for a moment, afraid, then after a quick glance at her father for reassurance, took the beast’s hand.
The Patriarch leaned down and kissed her wrist, his massive head as large as the girl’s torso. His mane of orange hair fell about her.
“It is a pleasure to meet you, daughter of Merchant Benedict,” the alien rumbled. He had been brushing up on his human etiquette. He turned to Benedict, his expression more stern.
“She is safe with me, return as quickly as you can. I am eager to put this affair behind us.”
Benedict nodded, and embraced his daughter, before turning back to the shuttle. Rebecca watched it rise from the stone landing pad, kicking up a cloud of dust, then fly away into the azure sky, the flare of its engines slowly fading.
“Please, this way, Rebecca,” the Patriarch said, gesturing for her to follow him with his long arm. She trailed after him, her shoes dangling in her hand, and did her best to avoid stepping on his cape as it dragged on the ground.
“Your father was very specific about your requirements, and has left us with a stock of food, and instructions on how to prepare it. Your suite has been furnished to your liking, and you will be provided with a guard and servant. Do not hesitate to ask, should you need anything. At your father’s insistence you will be confined to that area of the spire, he believes you will be safer that way, despite my assurances that no harm can befall you here.”
She followed him down a carpeted hall, the walls lined with elaborate tapestries and alien busts carved from wood sitting on marble pillars. Everything looked so large, it made her feel like she had shrunk. After a moment they came to a door to their right, its size just as exaggerated as the other furnishings in the spire. The Patriarch took the knob in his massive hand, turning it and pushing the door ajar. He ushered Rebecca inside with a wave of his claws. She slipped past him, he was almost large enough to block her path entirely even standing aside so that she might pass him.
She emerged into an open plan room, far larger than the cabin on her yacht. There was a gigantic bed that looked large enough to fit ten people, its mattress covered in silken sheets and heaps of satin pillows. The walls were made from large blocks of stone, but they were covered in most places by huge tapestries and carpets, no windows she realized. Some were embroidered with fine, intricate scenes of hunting and battles, others with geometric patterns or floral designs that the girl found quite pleasing to the eye. The same busts on pedestals were present here too, and she noted that the arches that opened up the walls to her left and right were elaborately carved, as if some skilled mason had poured his heart into the stone once he had finished his labor. There were faces, animals, plants, it was quite tasteful. These arches led to what must have been a bathroom and perhaps a storage area. There was A/C of some kind, the temperature of the room was lower than the stifling native atmosphere, and the air was more humid. At least her hair and skin would not be damaged during her stay. What furniture there was, was carved from dark wood that resembled mahogany. As she stepped over the threshold she felt her stomach drop, warning her that she was floating. She looked down in alarm, but her feet were firmly planted on the ground, it was a gravity device of some kind, easing the crushing hold of the planet. Relief washed over her as the pressure was taken off her joints. The patriarch smiled at her obvious approval, bowing and waving his arm jovially.
“An AG field generator, my lady. Small scale, but I obtained one and had it installed in this guest room by my architects some time ago, so that it might serve to alleviate the strain on our human visitors. As you can see, your belongings were brought to your room already.”
“I must say, Lord Patriarch,” Rebecca said, turning to the giant alien as he awaited her response. “I am pleasantly surprised, your choice of décor is tasteful and you have taken many steps to make my stay here more comfortable.” She curtsied as her father had taught her to do when thanking high profile guests or dignitaries who he so often met with, and the Patriarch seemed delighted by this. “Thank you, my Lord.”
“As you can plainly see, your father’s fears were unfounded, my lady. May I introduce you to your guard and servant, he will see to your needs during your stay with us.” He barked an order in his course native tongue, his baritone voice reverberating down the hall. He was kind and well mannered, she liked the great beast well enough, but she couldn’t help but be intimidated by his sheer size and obvious strength.
Another Borelan trotted down the hall, standing to attention beside his Patriarch. This one was a little smaller than him, probably about eight feet tall with shoulders that were none the less far broader than those of a human. He had jet black hair and fur, like a panther she thought, and a skin tone to match. He had green eyes that peeked from below his brow, reflecting the light as her eyes wandered over his attire. He wore ruby red armor, emblazoned with golden figures and trim, it looked very ceremonial, some kind of royal guard perhaps? He was unarmed, not that the aliens seemed to need anything besides their wicked claws to fight, and the seemingly ceramic armor extended to his torso and limbs, ending at the hands and feet. A long, stabilizing tail protruded from behind his body, the same shade of inky black as the rest of him.
“This is Beltza, he will see to your needs. His English is adequate, do not hesitate to make requests of him, as I have ordered him to treat you as his Alpha.”
“Begging your pardon, Patriarch, but what does that mean?”
“Ah, you are unaccustomed to Borealan society? The Alpha is the highest ranked pack member, in this case it is an honorary title that requires him to obey any order given as if it came from my very lips.”
“I see, thank you.”
“He will stand guard by the door, call him should the need arise. I must bid you farewell, daughter of Benedict, I have much business to attend to. I trust you have everything you need?”
“Yes, Lord Patriarch. Thank you for your hospitality.” The great beast bowed, and then proceeded back down the hall the way they had come, his long cloak trailing behind him as it shimmered under the light.
Rebecca eyed her guard cautiously, now that they were alone together she realized how damned big he was. His size had seemed understated as he had stood next to the larger Patriarch. Becky was a fairly small girl, her figure was lithe and she could best be described as slight, though her golden curls and developed figure wooed her male classmates much to the distress of her father. At five feet tall her head barely passed the giant alien’s waist. He was looking straight ahead as if he couldn’t see her at all. She decided to just shut the door on him, this was not some influential ruler like the Patriarch, it was just some manservant, undeserving of her courtesy. Besides, the giant, orange-haired beast had made it sound as if the guard had to obey any order given. He would hardly protest her treatment of him.
Enjoying the lighter gravity and the cool air, she explored her room, there was indeed a bathroom and a storage area where most of her belongings were stacked. If the clumsy beasts had broken anything she would strangle her father, that buffoon. How had he allowed this to happen? He was like a jellyfish, no spine to speak of, a man should have stood up to that great furry creature and refused to have his only daughter serve as ... as collateral to a botched deal.
Oh well, no matter, her room was indeed comfortable and attractively furnished. She sat on the bed, having to jump a little due to its exaggerated height. The mattress was soft and the sheets were fine indeed, perhaps finer than those on her own bed back home. She removed her long socks, feeling the texture of the carpeted floor between her toes, and wandered around the space admiring the artwork. The carvings were everywhere. Not merely confined to the stone arches, but on the legs of tables, chairs, on stones in the wall, chiseled into the pillars that held aloft the domed roof, and seemingly anywhere there was workable material that wasn’t covered by tapestries or obscured by decorations.
She examined the tapestries, they looked heavy and they were held up by golden rods, secured in the stone walls by large hooks. Their designs were woven with colored threads, creating depictions of battles and hunting scenes, numerous embroidered representations of Borealans fighting eachother or chasing down prey animals. One prominently displayed what looked like a giant tarantula, which she hoped to God was fictional.
She became bored of exploring her surroundings, and so decided to unpack her clothes and personal effects. The chests were heavy though, and even in the lower gravity she was unable to move some of them. She considered just opening them and moving her belongings piece by piece, but a sly thought entered her head. She had been assigned a servant, had she not? One who was bound to obey her word as law.
“Beltza,” she called, and heard the wooden door to her room open as the giant alien entered. He found her in the store room and stood to attention. “Please move these chests into the bedroom, and help me unpack.” He obeyed without complaint, hefting the luggage with an ease that surprised her. He was incredibly strong, more heavily muscled than any human she had ever seen. His bicep must have been thicker than her torso. How much did these damned aliens weigh? Three hundred pounds? More in their own gravity. They would need such well developed muscles to even stay upright as large as they were.
It didn’t take him long to accomplish his task, and he stood beside her as stiff as a rod as she opened the clasps and began to unpack. She heaped piles of clothes onto her bed, gowns, skirts, all manner of fineries and dresses that her father had insisted she would not need. She was the daughter of a prominent merchant however, and she believed in looking her best at all times, especially in the company of dignitaries. There was also the factor of her own considerable vanity of course, and she was not afraid to admit to it. She worked hard on maintaining her appearance and expected the people around to appreciate the effort.
The alien eyed her glittering jewelry as she placed it carefully on the bed sheets, a diamond necklace crafted from white gold that had belonged to her mother, along with matching earrings. These aliens certainly seemed to appreciate ornamentation, that was a quality she liked.
“Put these in the drawers over by the dresser, and do keep your claws away from the fabrics,” she chimed, gesturing to the piles of clothes. The alien did as she requested, carrying the garments gingerly on flat palms, placing them gently in the dresser.
“When these are empty, return them to the storage room,” Rebecca ordered, and the alien waited patiently beside the bed as she removed the last of her affairs. She retrieved her tablet computer from the bottom of one of the boxes, she had enough movies and books on here to keep her amused for the duration of her stay thankfully, though she wouldn’t let her father forget the boredom he would surely be exposing her too any time soon. She missed the glitz and glamour of Earth, parties with her friends, the attention of jealous rivals and eager suitors. She hated coming on these long voyages, practically a prisoner in her cabin, but her father did not trust her to behave herself at home and knew that she would heed the words of no sitters or guardians.
He couldn’t keep it up, he would have to cave and let her be her own woman eventually, she would be coming of age soon and would have the legal right, but she had to admit that he was holding out longer than usual on the subject. She doubted she would be able to send messages to her friends, these aliens wouldn’t have wireless extranet in this backwater. She sat on the edge of the bed and attempted to check her messages.
Noticing that she seemed to be finished, Beltza started to move the chests back into the store room.
“When you’re done with that, get me something to eat,” Rebecca demanded, not looking up from her screen as she waved her hand at him. “Something with sour cream, this damned heat has parched my throat. Blinis with salmon maybe, understand?”
Beltza bowed, and spoke in his course voice.
“Yes, my Lady. Will there be anything else?”
“Oh, so you do have a tongue? No, that will be all, you may leave me now.”
“It will be as you say.” He left and closed the door softly behind him, while Rebecca lay on her bed to tap at her tablet computer.
Beltza returned a short while later with a tray of food, as Rebecca had requested, and she sat up eagerly as he approached her bed. He leaned down so that she could reach the tray, it was covered in blinis topped with a sliver of smoked salmon and a dash of sour cream, her favorite snack. She took one between her thumb and forefinger, raising it to her lips and taking a bite.
“Adequate,” she said, wiping a blob of white cream from the corner of her mouth with her finger. “I blame my father for failing to provide sufficient instructions, but these will do. Set the tray down and leave me now.”
She waved Beltza away dismissively, turning back to her tablet computer and finishing the rest of her snack. He seemed a little taken aback by her reaction, had she offended him? It didn’t matter, he was ordered to obey her, his feelings were not her concern. He placed the tray on her bedside table, then seemed to wait for her to speak to him again. Rebecca raised her eyes from her tablet and shooed him again with a wave of her manicured fingers.
“Off with you, do I need to repeat myself? Is your English poor?”
Beltza bowed submissively and slunk away, his tail flicking back and forth as he opened the door and left the room to stand outside. He was obtuse, he reminded her of a Martian nanny she had had when her father had been working in the Martian docks. She had been a tall, lanky woman who had grown up in low gravity and didn’t speak a lick of English, Rebecca couldn’t abide it.
She selected another blini and popped it daintily into her mouth. They were actually quite good considering that the alien chefs had probably never seen a salmon before, never mind learned how to prepare one, but one had to use a firm hand with the help to keep them in line. She lay back on the bed, holding her tablet above her face and starting an episode of her favorite drama show as she picked at the tray of food.
The next morning she awoke to the clanking of dishes, Beltza was setting up breakfast for her on her bedside table. She recognized her father’s own china and silver cutlery, did the Borealans not have their own? They looked savage, perhaps they still ate with their bare hands, how unsavory. She rose to a sitting position groggily, rubbing her eyes and rearranging her silk nightgown as Beltza stood to attention.
“Ugh, what time is it? Who told you to enter my room and disturb me?” Beltza looked conflicted and lowered his eyes to the floor, his furry, black tail flicking back and forth again.
“Apologies, my Lady. I was ordered to bring you ... breakfast.” He had trouble getting his tongue around the unfamiliar word, and seemed to slur a little in general. She appreciated that learning an alien language must be difficult, but it was the responsibility of her hosts to provide her with a servant who was qualified and articulate. She sighed and swung her legs out from beneath her sheets to dangle over the edge of the bed and examined the meal. Two fried eggs, broken of course, toast that seemed to have been unevenly cooked over an open flame judging by the burn marks, and hash browns that surprisingly looked properly prepared. She was irritated at being woken up, and she snapped at the alien who seemed to recoil as she berated him.
“What’s this mess you’ve brought me? Take it back and do it again. These eggs should be intact and the bread should be toasted evenly so that the color is consistent, understand?”
“I ... am sorry my Lady. I did not prepare the food, it was-”
“I don’t want to hear excuses, you are my caretaker, are you not?” The alien seemed hesitant to answer, keeping his eyes fixed firmly on the carpet. “Answer my question.”
“Yes, my Lady.” He struggled to gather up the dishes and return them to the tray, fumbling with the small cutlery in his oversized hands. They were as large as damned dinner plates and tipped with curved claws.
“It is your responsibility, see that it is done properly this time.” He bowed his head, and made to leave. “And in the future, don’t wake me up or bring me food unless I request it of you, is that understood?”
“Yes, my Lady.”
He returned some time later, and Rebecca was happy to see that the aliens could at least get a breakfast right when properly incentivized. She ate while Beltza stood nearby, hovering nervously. She had to admit, if there was one thing she liked about these Borealans it was their strict adherence to the pecking order. This one had been informed that she was an important guest, and he treated her with the fear and respect he might show superiors of his own kind, Rebecca could appreciate that attitude.
Beltza seethed with barely controlled anger, his tail flicked from side to side in an expression of conflict and irritation as he watched the minuscule alien eat. The Lord Patriarch had granted this whelp Alpha status for the duration of her stay in the Elysian spire, Beltza was to obey her as if the orders came from his very mouth, but she had only been on the planet for a matter of hours and she was already testing the limits of his patience. Beltza was not an off-world soldier, he was a royal guard to the Patriarch and his family, and as such he had not undergone integration training on the Pinwheel station in order to learn the skills necessary to interact with humans. He had been briefed on the basics, and had assured the Patriarch that he could tolerate a certain level of impertinence and audacity, self-control and discipline were part of military life after all. But to have this frail creature, that looked as if it might come apart at its frilly seams were he to grip it too tightly, treat him like some kind of idiot slave was driving him to distraction.
He flexed his claws as she ate her meal, she was so small, so fragile. Humans were short to begin with, how they made effective soldiers Beltza couldn’t imagine, but this one was some kind of juvenile which only compounded her lack of stature.
He didn’t understand the Patriarch’s obsession with the humans and their technology, Beltza couldn’t see the purpose of the human spaceships his ruler was expending precious resources to sink his gilded claws into. Let the enemy come to the ground if they wanted to fight, Beltza reasoned, to destroy an enemy from the comfort and safety of an armored ship in orbit was an act of cowardice. An unearned victory would sour the taste of ‘raises the hair’.
The idea that females would be smaller and weaker than males was an odd enough concept, and he hadn’t believed it until he had seen the two genders side by side, what evolutionary path could have resulted in that being a survival strategy? To be both female and juvenile resulted in a creature so small that it would hardly make more than a mouthful were he to eat it. He had caught fish far larger than this human girl in the lake. As tiny as she was, she was oddly ... developed. Her figure was uncomfortably familiar, both their species shared similar sexual features.
She seemed to be clueless on the subject of Borealan social norms and etiquette, every word out of her mouth, every gesture was as a grave insult to him. Were she a fellow Borealan he would have given her some good scars to teach her a lesson in manners, and as she shoveled food into her pink-lipped mouth with the strange silver eating implement, those primal instincts gnawed at the back of his mind.
The desire to discipline was overpowering, but the Lord Patriarch forbade it. He had explained that humans were so fragile that even a scar given in punishment might be a mortal wound to them. He was not to lay so much as a claw on her or he would face the Patriarch’s wrath in person. It was that threat that kept him in line, as satisfying as it might be to carve her pale flesh, the Patriarch’s fury would stay his hand.
It was not his place to question, only to carry out the will of his Alpha, and for the next few days this human girl would bear that title.
Rebecca snapped her fingers, waiting impatiently for Beltza to enter the room. She called his name when he didn’t hurry.
“Come along Beltza, I’ve finished my supper, take away the dishes.”
“Yes, my Lady.” He walked across the room to where the girl was perched on the edge of her bed, curling her golden hair with an iron. As he was collecting the dishes, she reached out a hand to grip his silky forearm. He froze, ears flattening against his head as she ran her slim fingers through the downy fur.
“You’re just like a big cat, aren’t you?” Beltza tried to compose himself, it had taken all of his willpower to save from swiping her head clean off her narrow shoulders for the unsolicited contact, in Borealan culture she might as well have called his manhood into question and challenged him to a bout.
“What is a ... cat?” Beltza asked, struggling to control the anger in his voice, but she seemed unaware of the threat signals he was giving off.
“A furry little pet humans keep, they’re adorable, I have one myself. The resemblance is uncanny you know, of course they’re far smaller than you are.” She seemed fearless, even in the face of an apex predator as large and as visibly armed as he was. Her bravery bordered on stupidity, had she never known fear or pain? Was it possible to live a life while encountering no danger or hardship of any kind? The idea bemused him, but he couldn’t think of any other explanations for her inexplicable behavior. After the initial shock of her unintentional challenge, he calmed and allowed her to ‘pet’ his fur, as she put it. She seemed fascinated by his physiology, and he couldn’t deny that her strange features had him curious too.
Her body was smooth and hairless, besides on the top of her head, her skin was the same color and looked to be a similar texture to that of a pale Equatorial. Beltza had black fur on his forearms and lower legs, which seemed to interest her. His torso, upper arms and thighs were as smooth as her skin was, of course, but it was concealed beneath his red armor.
“Is your whole body furry,” Rebecca asked, “or just the parts that aren’t covered?”
“The parts that aren’t covered,” Beltza replied, hovering over her bedside table with a pile of dishes in his clawed hand. “If you please, My Lady, I must take away your dining implements.”
She released her hold on his arm and shot him a strange look.
“Very well, as you were.”
Rebecca was bored, she had exhausted her supply of media already, and her father was taking his damned time returning with the replacement ship. It had been days, and she was becoming sick of the food they were bringing her. The wealthy merchant had left crates of fine food that he knew would be to her liking, however the aliens were poor at preparing it, the spire chefs being unaccustomed to feeding picky humans. She frequently had to chastise Beltza and order him to take the food back to the kitchen along with instructions on how to accomplish the task properly. How to boil an egg, how to spread caviar without just spooning lumps of it onto a slice of baguette, they couldn’t even prepare a caesar salad which basically just consisted of slicing vegetables. She regretted not demanding that her father’s cook leave the yacht to stay with her, though how might the fussy Italian react to being locked in a kitchen with the giant aliens? She chuckled as she imagined him in his tall, white hat, red-faced and screaming at Borealans who couldn’t so much as butter bread properly.
She passed some of the time by trying on clothes, she had brought these from Earth and hadn’t worn many of them yet, she was a staunch believer in novelty and refused to be seen in the same outfit twice. The aliens had provided her with a full-length mirror and so she put on her own fashion shows, having Beltza stand nearby and hold piles of garments for her as she paraded in her glamorous and often revealing gowns and dresses. Her father didn’t much care for the way she dressed, but while many of her outfits left little to the imagination, she assured him that whatever she wore was tasteful and above all at the height of Earth fashion. She missed attending glitzy parties with her friends, the way the boys in the clubs and social venues tracked her with their eyes, the way they would shower her with praise and gifts just to get a few moments alone with her. Without male attention she felt like a flower wilting in darkness.
Beltza seemed curious enough, she was not afraid to change in front of him, he was an alien after all and should have no interest in her. However she had noticed his eyes playing over her exposed skin whenever she stripped down to her underwear and pulled a fresh outfit from the pile, it was hard to tell why he was looking, but where was obvious. Was she an alien freak to him, or an object of desire? Let him look, she thought, he can look but he can’t touch. Teasing the alien might be a good way to pass the time, he was bound by strict orders to obey her and seemed as obedient as a dog.
Serving as caretaker to this human was torture, every day she became more brazen and more belligerent, like some feral kitten who had never tasted the claws of its parent. Society on their mother world must be strange indeed if this frail, impotent creature considered herself to be as a Matriarch, behaving as if her place as his Alpha was earned or deserved. Borealans ruled by strength and ferocity, though only a wise and beloved Alpha would see his reign last for more than a few winters, those who led their pack poorly would fight so many challengers that even the strongest Alpha would be whittled down eventually. The Lord Patriarch was one such leader, he had brought prosperity and strength to Elysia, and thus no Borealan would seek to challenge his leadership. Beltza respected him as a rightful and noble ruler, and would follow his orders to certain death if it would serve the pack, but giving the honorary title of Alpha to this human girl was a miscalculation.
Their kind seemed to live as beasts without structure or hierarchy, they insulted and challenged without even being aware of their actions. Despite the rigid pyramid that was the Borealan social system, a superior could order an underling to obey the orders of another as if they came from his own mouth, thus the instinct to dominate the weak and the outrage of insubordination were bypassed. It created a parallel, temporary hierarchy in order to accomplish some task or complete a project that required someone who was not the most physically imposing, or the best fighter to instruct others.
A meek engineer ordering far more imposing laborers to build a bridge or a dam was one thing, but he would understand that his position was tenuous, temporary, and not to be abused. This human girl had no such apprehensions, knew no boundaries, and her ceaseless provocations were wearing him down.
Beltza’s frustration and growing anger were compounded by her teasing. Borealans were not a particularly modest people, revealing clothing was common and there were sexual undertones to basically every interaction. Battles for dominance often ended in copulation, the desire to procreate with a defeated challenger was overpowering and doing so ensured that only the strongest and most dominant genes were passed on to the next generation. Weakness, vulnerability, these were as aphrodisiacs to the strong, and in Borealan society the weak were smitten with their superiors, desiring to serve them in any way that was required of them.