GALAXY: NOT YOURS
A Troezan S-900 ship flew on autopilot across a galaxy on the other side of the universe. The rectangular cylinder of a ship, orange and rust colored, was propelled by six blue rocket thrusters. It’s name was the Winnipeg, lovingly named by Isaac Sterling, proud owner and misplaced human lost in space.
Elida Al-Feyr would argue she is the rightful owner of the ship. Queen by birth, scavenger by nature, Elida was currently sitting in the captains chair, one leg flung over the arm. She was lazily looking out the window into infinite space, twirling a curl of hair that hung on the right side of her light brown face. “I’m bored,” she sighed.
“Me too!” Amae Rali piped up, more enthusiastic than someone who is bored should. She was one of the few horned-humanoid survivors of the now-destroyed planet of Lorkis. “I’ve already reorganized the cargo bay, labeled all the converters, tweaked the S900 regulator so it will make it at least to the next stop, logged the engine maintenance dates, resorted all the cables, cleaned my room, and finally updated all of Winnibot’s firmware.” She walked the length of the Winnipeg towards what you would call the bridge if you were feeling generous.
“Why does traveling in space have to take so long?” Isaac groaned from the couch. His typically perfectly spiked orange hair was instead pointing in every direction. He was bouncing a tennis ball off the far wall and catching it, rarely giving a thought as to the action, cleanly catching it after every bounce.
Suddenly, he jumped to his feet. “I’ve got an idea!” and ran back to his room, pulling a cargo bin out from under his bed. “Where is it... aha!” He turned back to the ladies in the bridge. “Badminton!”
Amae and Elida exchanged quizzical looks. “Badminton?” They said together.
Isaac excitedly brought a canvas bag sporting a claim of ‘6 games in one bag!’ to where the two were. “Badminton! So you’ve never played?” He looked from one then to the other, a smile covering his face.
“I’m afraid not. What is it? Is it like that tennis game you tried to teach me before?” Elida asked. “Because as fun as you thought that was, it was not. And i still think you made up the scoring system.”
Isaac dropped his shoulders, exasperated. “I have tried to tell you 40-love is a legitimate score- never mind. And no, Badminton is nothing like tennis. First there is a net-“
“Like in tennis,” Elida interrupted.
Isaac quickly shook his head. “No, silly. This net is in the air about this high,” he held his hand above his head. “and you have racquets-“
“Like in tennis?” Elida again interrupted.
“No! El, these racquets are delicate weapons of grace, not weapons of force like the tennis racquets… don’t belittle this time-tested lawn game! Are you interested in learning how to play or not?” Isaac stood like an eager child looking between the two women.
Elida rolled her eyes and scoffed. “no thanks. Hitting a ball over a net - which sounds like tennis to me, does not sound like fun.”
Isaac threw back his shoulders and sauntered towards the Queen, rocking his head back and forth. “well, my friend, you are missing out! Because you don’t hit a ball over the net, you hit a shuttlecock over the net!”
Elida sat up in her chair and raised her eyebrows to a comical height. “A shuttle cock? Really? Hard pass on any game that involves dicks in any form.” She shook her head, an imaginary shiver running up her spine.
“Ooh! A cock that looks like a shuttle? What kind? A loyalist transport ship? An F-302? MAV? A Venture Jet? A land speeder?” Amae inhaled quickly then in an almost reverent voice, “A Winnebagago?”
“Winnebago, and no,” Isaac shook his head and decided to open the bag and show them. He pulled out a black and white net, four thin racquets, and a delicate white cone-shaped item with a red tip. He held up the last by the tail end and exclaimed, “Shuttlecock!”
Amae and Elida looked at each other quizzically. Amae reached for the projectile in Isaac’s hand. “Kinda looks like feathers. Looks nothing like a shuttle. Or a cock,” then under her breath, “not that I’ve seen many to speak of.”
Elida averted her eyes quickly, pretending not to hear Amae’s last statement. Despite herself, she felt her heart rate increase at Amae’s words.
Isaac took the shuttlecock back. “Well, you could shorten the name to shuttle. It’s also called a bird, or birdie. Maybe you’d like to call it that instead?” He grabbed the bag from the floor and headed back into the main living quarters. Pulling the net back out of the bag, he called over his shoulder, “Amae, grab the other end of the net and help me hang it!”
His enthusiasm was contagious, and Amae made her way towards the taller man. Elida rose from her seat and followed the other two, interested in the distraction. She opted to sit on the vacated couch. “I believe I will spectate this from here. You guys pound the cock by yourselves,” she chuckled proudly at her phrasing. She reclined and kicked her red boots up in front of her.
Isaac ignored her words, and headed to one wall to attach the net to it. Not seeing any way to tie it, he looked around for some adhesive. “Duct tape! Perfect!” and proceeded to tape the ties to the wall.
Amae was busy tying her side of the net to the opposite wall, where some shelving existed. Satisfied with her work, she turned back to her friends.
Isaac had removed his blue sweater, leaving him in his boots, gray pants and a light blue tee. “Gotta be limber. Stay mobile.” He began doing some stretches to his arms, swinging them in clockwise and counterclockwise circles, then bending his torso left to right. “It’s a quick hand-eye game, so I’ll start slow for you, Amae,”
At this Amae removed her green jacket, leaving her in a similarly colored green tank top. It did not appear there was a bra of any sort under the tank. “I will have you know I was the quickest hands at grab the Griebec when we played on the streets of home. My brother Chaz would always get caught, but I never did!”
Elida took in the game with renewed interest. You know, for science. She studied Amae’s skin. Her cream colored face faded to lilac at the hairline and down her neck. Her chest continued in a creamy white, and faded to lilac at the sides. Her shoulders, delicate and lithe, were lilac with lavender spots increasing in size the closer her skin was to the spine. The backs of her forearms and arms were lilac, muscles well-defined, while the palmar side mirrored her front. She followed the spots up her shoulders, then neck, to Amae’s ears, then made eye contact. Amae was smiling, waiting for a reply of some kind from her. Belatedly, Elida realized she had been asked a question. She quickly sat up, focusing on the brown-haired beauty. “Sorry, what?” Real smooth, Elida, she said to herself.
“Hold my jacket?” Amae repeated, a sly knowing grin on her face.
“Uh, sure. Yeah. Sorry, I was just thinking of… if I plugged in all the comms bands. Wouldn’t want to not be charged on our next outing.” Elida stumbled as she reached out for the jacket.
Amae continued smiling and turned to head toward her spot on her side of the net. All the while she maintained eye contact with the Vagrant Queen. “Thanks,” she added politely.
“Ok, let’s get started!” Isaac said giddily. He grabbed two racquets and handed one to Amae. “Now,” he continued, “you stay on this side of the net, I’m on the other. To warm up we’ll just volley the shuttlecock,” a snicker came from Elida, to which Isaac flashed her a ‘grow up’ look. “You hit the shuttlec... shuttle like this,” and dropped the projectile towards his racquet, hitting it gently and cleanly over the net. “Then we just hit it back and forth and so on and so forth.”
“That sounds a trifle pointless,” Amae stated. Another snicker arose from the direction of Elida. Amae smiled at the shorter woman, earning a blush as payment.
“Let’s give it a go, eh? You’ll see. There’s strategy, outsmarting your opponent to get points, technique, finesse.” Isaac moved to the other side of the net. “Ready?”
Amae nodded her head, and Isaac dropped the birdie and hit it over the net towards her.
Whoosh. Amae swung her racquet, missing the target. “Crackers! I missed!” She exclaimed dejectedly.
“But it was a good swing! Try this. Pick up the sh-“ he looked to Elida, who had an expectant grin on her face, then continued, “the birdie, and get the feel of hitting it by dropping it to the racquet.”
Amae complied. She dropped the shuttle, at the same time swung the racquet upwards, launching the shuttle straight to the ceiling. The object landed on her head, directly over one of her two small horns.
“Ha!” Isaac laughed. “It looks like the birdie found a perfect perch!” His smile quickly disappeared with the look of dismay Amae wore, and the look Elida gave as she reached for the phaser on the nearby table. Isaac quickly apologized. “That was rude. I am sorry, Amae. Try once again, but this time aim the racquet toward the net.”
Amae picked the shuttle from off the horn, rolled her shoulders back, and with determined focus, launched the shuttle over the net, a successful hit. “Yay me! Now what?” She inquired.
“Good!” Isaac complimented, perhaps more enthusiastic than necessary to compensate for his error earlier. “Now we volley back and forth!”
Elida smiled at her cohorts. She had a feeling this could take a while. Not that she minded the view. Watching Amae was definitely something Elida approved of. She realized she still held Amae’s jacket, and resisted the temptation to hold it to her nose and take in her scent. She swore passing Amae was like walking past a field of wildflowers. Instead, she laid it next to her, then reclined on the couch.
Isaac and Amae practiced volleying. The alien missed frequently at first claiming she never understood cocks to begin with. “Shuttlecock!” the bearded human corrected. Elida couldn’t hold back a full blown laugh at his frustration.
Eventually Amae got the hang of it. Isaac felt she was ready. “What do you say we play the game now? First to 21 points wins.”
Amae smiled eagerly. “I’m ready! Hit me with your best cock!”
Isaac threw his hands up and his shoulders slumped. “It’s not a cock.” He shook his head, “you can’t say that. It’s...” then he sighed, “how about we call it a birdie, or bird?”
“Ok,” Amae agreed. “I’m just trying to learn your Earth game!”
“A little history on the game!” Isaac said as he spun the racquet in his right hand. “This is an olympic sport, played by cunning athletes vying for the coveted gold medal. Before it was dubbed Badminton by the Duke of Beaufort, it was called by the Indian name poona-“
At this Elida laughed so hard she rolled off the couch. “This just keeps getting better and better!” She managed to say between laughs.
Isaac looked to Amae, confused. Amae, however, had taken on a deep red blush, her lilac features deepening to purple. “Um, Isaac, you definitely can’t say that. In Tuk you just said leaky, foul smelling um, lady bits.”
Elida began laughing even harder at this. “Lady bits! C’mon, Amae. Use the proper anatomical word!”
“Fine. Vagina. Poona means leaky, foul smelling vagina.” Amae began to chuckle as well, because Isaac now stood with his mouth open, his own face reddened in embarrassment.
“Badminton! Let’s stick with that.” He began to rock back and forth on his feet. “Shall we play? You know, Badminton? With a birdie?”
Elida began to calm, catching her breath. She stood from the floor and repositioned herself on the couch. “Ok, ladies and gentlemen, let the game commence!” She smiled at Amae, earning a smile in return.
Isaac grabbed the shuttle from the floor and walked back away from the net. “Ready, Amae? I’m serving, score 0-0!” He tosses it lightly into the air in front of him, then swings the racquet with such velocity the birdie sang as it passed Amae, giving her little time to process what just happened. “Yes! Ace! 1-0!”
“Hey!” Amae was stunned. They had been volleying the shuttle in a friendly back-and-forth. Speed, however, had not been part of the training. “What was that? That was a shlocky move. I hardly saw the birdie fly by!”
Isaac shrugged his shoulders. “What can I say? That is how you play the game! I mentioned it when I was telling you how to play. My serve again! Ready?”
Isaac repeated the previous serve with a cocky smile, but this time Amae was ready. She returned the serve, barely dropping the birdie over the net, which Isaac was not prepared for. He lunged forward, but was unable to reach it before it hit the ground. “Aah! Ace!” Amae squealed.
“Yeah, yeah. Not an ace, but good return. Beginners luck,” Isaac relented. “Your serve,” and he tossed the shuttle to his friend.
Amae grabbed the shuttle, jogged backwards a few feet, smiling at Elida as she went. She moved confidently, and raised her brows a couple of times, suggesting she was about to put on a show.
Amae tossed the shuttle same as her opposition did for his serve. She let the racquet go, sending the shuttle over the net cleanly, surprising Isaac with an olympic-worthy serve. It was not returned over the net, but hit into it, lodging in one of the holes. “Ace! Right Isaac?”
“Well, I did lay a racquet on it, so technically not an ace,” he retorted.
“Looked pretty ace-worthy to me,” Elida said, impressed.
Isaac strode quickly to the net to retrieve the shuttle and tossed it to Amae. “How about we get to playing and less chatting.”
🏸 🏸 🏸
“How are you doing that? I’ve heard of beginners luck, but I feel I’ve been rooked. Have you played this before?” Isaac had worked up a sweat, and was astonished at the skills demonstrated by the horned beauty.
“No I’ve never played!” Amae replied. “But it’s a fairly easy game to play. Once you figure the mass of the projectile, take into account the artificial gravity acting upon its forward motion, calculating the force needed to propel it over the net is pretty simple. Let’s go. 20-14, my serve!”
Elida felt her stomach flutter at the explanation. Brains and beauty. Lethal combination. I am in so much trouble, she mused.
Isaac bounced on the balls of his feet, knees bent, eyes focused, racquet at the ready. He began shifting his weight from left to right in preparation of Amae’s serve.
“Ok, human. I believe you explained this serve is for the win?” Amae gave Isaac a grin.
“Game’s not over until it’s over,” Isaac retorted, his confidence wavering. “I am not out of it yet! Serve already!”
“Ok, you are a star player of the olympic-quality team, playing for all the gold,” Amae said to herself and swiped her forehead with the back of her hand, removing the sweat from her brow. “You got this. Focus,” Amae wrapped up her self-pep talk. Then she served the shuttle to Isaac.
The point went for several volleys. Both players were in their rhythm, moving quickly to their left and right. Each trying their best to outsmart their opponent.
Elida was entranced. She had sat up at some point, planting her feet on the floor and leaning forward, resting her elbows on her knees, as if the motion would bring her closer to the woman of her desire. Amae was covered in a thin film of sweat, which only accentuated the muscle definition of her forearms and shoulders.
Isaac moved and reached to his left, backhanding the birdie over the net. Amae pulled her racquet behind her right shoulder and delivered an overhead shot cross court, back to Isaac’s right. Try as he might, he could not recover in time. The birdie landed on the ground, and he lost the point.
“I win!” Amae lifted both arms into the air in victory.
Elida had jumped into the air, yelling her support, and found herself moving towards the winner with the intention of giving “high fives” as Isaac called it. Instead, she found herself in a hug, Amae’s arms around her waist, hers embracing the winner’s shoulders.
Elida allowed herself a moment to take it all in. The feel of soft purple and cream skin pressed against her warm brown skin. The definite scent of wildflowers. The quick intake of breath from the other woman. A happy giggle escaped Elida’s lips.
Just as quickly the moment was over. Realizing their position, Elida hurriedly moved away, and gave an awkward pat to Amae’s shoulders. “Great job, Amae.”
Isaac, slightly winded and just as sweaty as his fellow contestant, complimented the winner. “That was a decent win. I think your technique could use a little improvement, but overall not bad. I mean, I let you have some points to build your confidence,” he said.
“Really? Thanks!” Amae proudly took in the praise, oblivious to his backhanded compliment. She again wiped some sweat off her brow then stated, “That was more of a workout than I thought it would be. I’m going to get cleaned up. You should too, Isaac, before you stink up the place.”
“That wasn’t as terrible as I thought it was going to be,” Elida commented. She looked to Isaac, and said, “You’re still useful and entertaining. I guess you can stay.”
“Well, thank you. Glad to hear I am still ‘useful’,” Isaac used air quotes with the word. “Perhaps we will be attacked by a shuttlecock. I can use my recently honed racquet skills to fend it off,” he added sarcastically. “Amae, I will need a rematch. After you’ve rested and all.”
Amae looked to Elida. “Sure, but I might need to defend my title against El,” and gave her a wink.
Elida rolled her eyes and her feet started taking her to the bridge. In the hallway, she turned to look at her two friends. Friends. I wasn’t expecting that. Again, she met Amae’s eyes. Her heart rate sped up again without her permission. Friends, right. “Get cleaned up, you two. We’re almost there.”
“Aye, aye, Captain!” Isaac threw her a sharp salute. The two competitors walked shoulder to shoulder to their respective rooms, at ease in their developing friendship.
Mom said I didn’t need - no - shouldn’t have friends. Trust no one but yourself. Elida thought to herself. But she was wrong. Friends made life worth the journey.Then she thought affectionately of Amae. And if it becomes something more than friends? That would be ok too.