Why did Commander Jvuznart always make him do the worst jobs, like replacing xenobiological specimens? It wasn’t his fault that Doctor Gralpuxt’s specimens expired. They should have had a failsafe on the specimen holding environmental controls. It wasn’t like he killed them on purpose when he shut off the lights along with the atmosphere generator and temperature controls, was it? These new specimens from the 3rd planet were so soft and needed just the right temperature and gas mix to live. Sheesh, how did they survive to make it this far? They were even fouling their own nest; give them another few hundred cycles, if that long, and they wouldn’t even be around, he was sure.

As he was getting ready to board the scout ship, the doctor took him aside and was telling him what to collect and that he had put a medbed in the holding area in case something happened. It was like they didn’t trust him or something!

After departing the main ship in orbit around the system’s star and hidden in the asteroid belt just outside the 4th planet, the small stealthed ship made orbit around the 3rd planet. ‘Earth,’ Scout Dolnagk mused, ‘strange name but to each species their own. Not as nice as Nalk, that was for sure.’

As the ship descended through the 3rd planet’s atmosphere, he made sure he was near the proper specimen retrieval area. He needed to be sure this was done properly so he didn’t get in trouble. Again. It was never really his fault and the problems never happened until they entered this solar system. ‘What was the phrase the natives used? That’s right, the solar system was cursed!’ he thought to himself. If nothing else, he was at least learning new things.

Setting his ship’s scanners to look for 2 lifesigns of approximately, what did the doctor say? Aha, 18 – 24 solar years old. No other lifesigns within 1 kilometer, check! Now to disable their transportation and collect them. Was that all the specifications? ‘Must be,’ he thought.
Brent Campbell and Jeff Simmons had just finished their last 2nd shift scheduled for the week and were looking forward to enjoying some time fishing at Brent’s Family’s cabin on the lake. The unlikely pair were best friends, having grown up in the same neighborhood, with Brent having saved the scrawny runt of a kid from a beating when his family moved in across the street. Through grade school, junior high, and high school, they were a pair of jokers against the world! This summer would be their last together, as Brent had gotten a football scholarship, while Jeff… Well, Jeff didn’t fare so well. He was the youngest of 3 kids, an older brother and a middle sister who had made the best grades and were now in college with their own sports scholarships, while Jeff’s applications were lost or delayed in the mail until they were ineligible. Add to that Jeff’s size. He was all of 5’ 4” and 114 pounds soaking wet. Yeah, sports were not his forte, and neither was his luck.

They had just made the turnoff to the lake road from the highway when the truck cut out. No lights, no engine, nothing. “What the hell?!?” Brent said. It was an almost new truck, not the fanciest but it was less than 2 years old and given to him that summer by his dad. “Hey, Jeff! Grab the flashlight from the console,” Brent said.

“Okay. Give me a sec, trying to get my phone to wake up.” Giving up on that, Jeff looked for the flashlight in the console and found it by feel, but it too was dead. “Hey, Brent, when’s the last time you replaced the batteries in this thing? It’s dead too.”

About this time, the two young men started to hear a strange noise while the wind started picking up. Suddenly, there was a bright light pinning them down and their stomachs lurched before they lost consciousness.

Now, one of the problems Jeff had was health issues. Chief among them diabetes that necessitated a pump. And when things shut down and the system was down, it somehow dumped his insulin, causing all the reservoir to dump into his system. Combine this with his para-adrenal issues that caused a “panic attack”-like result, his heart started racing into supraventricular tachycardia while he started shaking and sweating.
This by no means started happening immediately, but by the time Dolnagk noticed it was almost too late, and while he dithered and transferred the specimen to the medbed, his heart had finally stopped. “Oh, this is not good,” he thought. He was not really versed in the operation of the medbed, so he hit the emergency resuscitation and watched as it started cycling through diagnostic screens while the specimen was slowly dying in front of his receptors. He was sunk and would soon be sent home in disgrace. When the diagnostics had finished, the system asked if he wanted a full emergency recovery performed. He frantically hit “Confirm” and kept hitting it in panic, not noticing an option go by for full DNA repair. Jeff’s fate was sealed.
Scout Dolnagk sat there, afraid to go back to the main ship until the medbed was finished. In the meantime, the scout ship had been seen by some kids at the lake and reported and there were aircraft heading his way, so he did the only thing he could think of, he had to hide the ship! But where?!? He looked for a small cove on the lake that would be deep enough to hide the ship with no humans around. He finally located one that, unbeknownst to him, was the same one that the Campbell family cabin was located on.
The medbed in the meantime was struggling to save this alien lifeform. Keeping the heart going at the proper speed based on a limited knowledge base was easy, but there was no information to base these other issues on as all the other specimens had been healthy. Coming to a state that its programming required authorized decision making, it alarmed, startling Dolnagk who had just landed and submerged the ship but had not shut down the engines. He hurried back to the medbed and saw its query on the screen: “Institute full DNA crossmatch query, investigation, and recovery? This will take approximately 7 diurnal earth cycles, during which time the ship should remain stationary and not in motion while full ship resources are redirected to this procedure. Confirm?” Looking at the flashing confirmation button, all could do is stare. If the specimen died, would they charge him with the loss of life? This would make the third one. Two he could live with, but a third? Would his life be forfeit then? The first two had been determined to be a faulty system and not really his fault but they had been due to his actions. He couldn’t make this decision. He just couldn’t.

Meanwhile, Brent was just waking up since Dolnagk had forgotten to re-tranquilize him during the emergency situations. As he slowly came to, he saw he was in a white room with a door that had no handles. Knowing this was not a good situation, he started hollering and pounding on the door, trying to get someone’s attention. He finally got Dolnagk’s attention, but unsure how to proceed, Dolnagk spoke to him through the translator. “Greetings. You will not be harmed; we merely wish to run some tests. There has been a situation arise and your fellow human is in medical crisis. Do you understand?”

‘Jeff? Medical crisis? What the hell?!?’ Brent looked around at the ceiling and around the door but couldn’t see a speaker, let alone a microphone. “Um, hello? Fellow human? Do you mean Jeff? What have you done to him? If you’ve hurt him, I’ll” was as far as he got before a loud high pitched squeal came from all around him.

“Please calm down, the system is asking for a decision I cannot… I do not wish to make. I… I require another’s approval, someone who knows this human, Jeff? Is this his designation? Can you make these decisions?”

“His name is Jeff Simmons. And yeah, he is a friend. What kind of decisions are we talking about here?”

Dolnagk considered this, and made a tiny command decision that might cost him his career. “My name? is Scout Dolnagk of the planet you designate Kepler-186F. Your friend is currently expiring in a medbed, and it requires confirmation of some procedures to save his life. I ask again, can you make these decisions?”

“What decisions?!? Why won’t you tell me? What do I need to say or do to save his life? Just tell me!” Brent yelled.

Dolnagk sighed, knowing he had to do this to save the human, this Jeff’s, life. “May I enquire as to your name? I wish to know with whom I will be making this decision.”

Brent was beginning to think he was trapped by a crazy person. He really needed to get out and find Jeff and see if he was okay. He slowly responded to the voice, saying, “My name is Brent Campbell. Now what is this “decision” and what is it going to do to Jeff?”

“This medbed will attempt to scan and diagnose his DNA and make repairs to save his life. There were anomalies detected and some are life threatening. If I release you I will need you to put a device on your wrist so I can prevent any violence towards myself or my ship. Will you do this?”

“Yes, whatever, can I see Jeff then?”

“He is in the room next to yours, please put the device on your wrist that is located in the swivel panel next to the door.”

Brent heard a buzz and a click next to the door and after investigating, he located the panel and opened it. Looking at the band, it was all one dull silver color and he worriedly put it on. “It’s on,” Brent said.

“I will be opening the door shortly, but please don’t be alarmed by my appearance.” So saying, he prepared the remote in Deadman Switch mode, then opened the door.

Brent watched as the door opened and he got his first look at Dolnagk. “Holy shit! You’re an alien!”

“Indeed I am Brent Campbell, I offer you greetings and wish to ask for your assistance in helping your friend. Would you precede me to the next room this way?” The tall golden carapaced insectoid creature pointed his left middle limb to Brent’s right.

Upon entering the room, Brent saw his friend in a tube with a ring around it, where it occasionally slid up and down the tube. “What are you doing to him!” Brent yelled. “Get him out of there! Do something!”

“I cannot. If he were to be removed, he would die. The medbed is currently keeping Jeff alive, but sedated, unconscious, and pain-free.”

Looking at what appeared to be a monitor of some kind, he saw some kind of weird script, along with a highlighted yellow box and a blue box, along with a bunch of graphs. He also noticed two small bars running down the side, with one of them slowly shrinking in length. ”What’re these bars for?” Brent asked.

Glancing at them, Dolnagk roughly pushed Brent aside while loudly chittering, then his voice said I am sorry, Brent Campbell, there is a problem. The body is failing faster than the medbed can compensate for.” After working at it for several minutes, Dolnagk said, I have reduced the speed of failure, but we must hurry to save your friend. Do you trust me?”

Staring at Jeff, and how ashen he looked, he asked “Does this trust work both ways?”

“What do you mean Brent Campbell?”

“Can I stay in here with Jeff? You know, while this medbed thing works on him.”

“This can be arranged Brent Campbell, but it will not be as comfortable as a cell? room? Unsure what to call the berth you would inhabit. Plus, there is no food dispenser here.”

“Please, stop with full name, just call mew Brent. As to where to sleep, is the berth in this section? This band I am wearing, would it open this door and my berth door?”

“Yes, as well as allow you to access a human food printer menu.”

“Human food printer? Oookay. First though, what do I need to do for Jeff? This won’t hurt him, will it?”

“Let me mirror it in your language if possible, or I can just read it to you? It might take a while to mirror and I am unsure if the translation tables are built into the medbed.”

“Just read it to me, and maybe explain it if you can? Please Dolnagk?”

“I will try, Brent.”

The next several minutes were spent explaining things to Brent and what would happen to Jeff, mainly that all of his health problems would be fixed, but that Dolnagk was not sure what all that entailed. Finally, Brent looked at Jeff and said, “See you soon, dude.” And with that, he pressed the yellow “Confirm” button.

It was a long week, but he managed to stay sane while sharing stories with Dolnagk and Dolnagk shared some with Brent. During this time, the medbed tube remained cloudy; neither Brent nor Dolnagk could see what was happening. Then about a week after starting the process, the medbed started making some notification noises. “It appears the procedure was successful, and Jeff is in perfect health. With all the air traffic and other investigators gone and Jeff healthy, I must now take you both to the main ship unfortunately.”

“So, we’re to be zoo specimens now? Or does specimen mean something worse? Is this what trust means to you?”

"No Brent, as I have come to know you, I have learned to understand what this friendship you speak of means. I have decided to sacrifice my career and introduce you to the other species aboard the ship. After what I have done to this point, I am sure there will be no future for me in the Star Services, but I hope someday to talk to you again after this all over. I am not sure what the future holds for us or our races, but all friendships must start somewhere. Is this correct?”

Brent had just finished agreeing with Dolnagk when the medbed tube opened, and a very petite and very… healthy female Jeff appeared.
“Oh, fuck…” Brent whispered to himself.

“What was that, Brent?” Dolnagk asked, barely hearing Brent speak. “I did not hear what you said.”
Brent, meanwhile, could only stare at his friend, and see how beautiful she… ‘No, that’s still Jeff, and she’s gonna need me again. He! He’s going to need someone to help him! Shit, shit, shit!’ thought Brent, still gazing at him, her. ‘This is really confusing, that is my best friend, what am I going to do?’

“Brent? Jeff will be regaining consciousness soon; do you wish to help me prepare him?”

“Uh, Dolnagk? There’s a problem. A big problem,” Brent said, still staring at his best friend.

“What is the problem? He is as healthy as a human specimen could be. Plus, he is alive now and the scans show an optimal physiology as a result. I repeat, what is the problem, Brent?”

With that question, Brent realized he had grown used to the alien’s company and had really forgotten how alien his thoughts might be. He decided to ask Dolnagk a personal question. “Um, Dolnagk? Does your race have sex? I mean, do they have sexes, you know, male and female?”

“We have queens for reproduction, along with workers and drones, but to mate we must die. Is that what you are asking? About our mating habits?”

“Yes… No? I don’t know, I’m not saying this right. Do you see anything wrong with Jeff?”

No, as I said earlier, he is as perfect a human specimen I have come across now. When I reviewed his earlier scans, I was amazed he had lived as long as he had with his unresolved medical issues.”

Brent thought about how best to tell Dolnagk and decided to just come out and say it. “Dolnagk, humans have two sexes.”

“Do you mean genders, Brent? Please bear with me, as I am still learning about your species and some things remain unclear. I do wish to learn though.”

“Yeah, genders, that’s the term I was looking for. Anyway, Jeff is a guy! Was a guy. A, a male. And now he’s a she, a girl! Female,” Brent said, rubbing his forehead with his fingertips.

At that statement, Dolnagk could only stare at Jeff’s still form. “Oh *scree-k-k-k*” the translator let out, a weird screech and stutter as the end.

Hearing that, Brent quickly swiveled his head towards Dolnagk. “Finally figured it out, huh?” Brent asked with a short laugh. “He, aw, to hell with it, Jeff is a she, I’m going to go with she from now on. She will not be happy with this. She’s been doing everything she can not to be seen as girly, as a female, because of her height and build. Her hair was really short, almost a crewcut! Baggy clothes, that lame attempt at a beard, all of it to look like a guy. And now this? She’s gonna kill us.”

“Why would she do that, she is finally healthy? Should we keep her sedated and immobilized until her outcome is resolved?”

“” Outcome is resolved ”? What are you saying Dolnagk? Are we stuck here like lab rats?” Startled, Brent started acting agitated and was getting ready to aggressively turn upon Dolnagk, when he suddenly found himself unable to move.

Dolnagk stepped back from Brent a few paces and looked at him carefully. “Interesting, the studies showed that humans acted protective of others, especially their mates. Brent, I guarantee you that you will face no harm. However, it is Jeff I am worried about. The repairs I instituted to save her life may have violated some… directives we have in place. Directives that may put her existence at risk if not handled properly.”

“” Existence at risk ”?!? Dolnagk, are you saying she could die?”

“Yes, Brent, she would be destroyed as a contaminated specimen,” Dolnagk said worriedly.


“Yes, Brent?”

You mentioned trust earlier this week; can I ask for that trust to be reciprocated?”

“Reciprocated? Ah, are you asking me to trust you?”

“Yes, I want to rest a bit, but I don’t want to leave Jeff alone.”

“I can release you if you can attest that you will not try to harm me or the ship again.”

“I promise, but I need to think a while. There must be some way to avoid anything happening to Jeff.”

After releasing Brent, Dolnagk said “I will think on this further as well. The thought of failure… displeases me. I am only a drone, a scout. This is a new situation I was never prepared for. Failure in this position will not reflect well on my hive… family? Yes, family, that is the word that you would best understand. Do you require nourishment or elimination before I leave you in here?”

“Something to sit on?”

“There is a fold down seat in the wall next to the medtube. We will talk shortly. In the meantime, I will keep her sedated until we reach a consensus.”

“Do we have to? Shouldn’t she know what is going to happen?”

“Would it be a kindness for her to know her fate?”

“You act like her fate is already decided Dolnagk. It’s not over yet!”

“I do not wish to give false hope, Brent Campbell. I must go now; I must check in with my Commander. I shall return shortly. I am sorry.”

With that, Dolnagk turned and left, Leaving Brent to find the seat and sit next to Jeff. “What am I gonna do with you, Jeff? You know, I am so gonna blame you and never let you live this down if we get through this.” Reaching over, he slowly grabbed Jeff’s hand and gave it a squeeze. He then started to think of anything that he could possibly do or say to save his friend. “Dammit, this is your job! You and all that sci-fi and fantasy crap you read and watch! You’d probably just say something off the top of your head and solve this pretty quick.” And with that, Brent sat there trying to think of something, anything, that might get them out of this situation, never noticing he still had Jeff’s hand in his own.

Dolnagk reached his small cockpit area and sat, just staring at the communications panel. He was contemplating what to do when an incoming transmission came in from the Kersakt, his main ship. He slowly reached over to accept the transmission, and immediately, Commander Jvuznart laid into him. “Where have you been?!?” he bellowed. “You dropped out of sight seven local diurnal cycles ago and haven’t sent a report since. And on top of that, your ship’s AI wouldn’t answer either. You better have the specimens and get back here ASAP! And you better have a good reason in your report, or you will be on the next transport back to the central hive and they can deal with you! Jvuznart out!”
Dolnagk sat there in shock. This was by far the worst thing he could envision happening. He never got a chance to say anything, not a word. If he were not honorable, he could try running but he knew they would find him, and that would mean the destruction of the specimens, the humans, his friend? Brent, out of hand. And he had earned that trust of one of them, Brent, and he, in turn, now trusted Brent. This went against everything he was taught in the teachings back at the hive; other species could know nothing of honor and would betray any trust placed in them. How could he have less honor than a human? As he sat there, he started going over every regulation he could find, trying to save this human’s friend.
Several hours later, Brent asked the ship if Dolnagk was available, but did not hear any acknowledgement. A few minutes later, he entered the room and stared at Jeff in thought while Brent looked on. After Dolnagk gave a soft chuff, Brent asked, “Figure anything out yet?”

“No, I have found nothing. I am sorry Brent, I have failed you and Jeff.”

“I understand. Maybe if Jeff were awake, she could figure something out.”

“Tell me more of this Jeff so that I may know her. Please.”

Brent sat there marshalling his memories in preparation for relating Jeff and his friendship and life story. He proceeded to tell Dolnagk of their childhood friendship and how it started with Brent saving him from the bullies and progressing on through High School and their graduation the month before, with Jeff being a nerd and graduating 2 years early, only to lose out on the scholarships.

“I see. It sounds as though the two of you were pod mates, destined to take on the stars together.”

“Yeah, this was to be our last summer together, our last huzzah! Then this happened. It probably wouldn’t have if Jeff hadn’t been called in for that last shift he pulled. I volunteered for it, too, because he had to go. If not for that, we would have been at the cabin 12 hours sooner and missed this ride,” Brent grinned wanly.

“Brent, I have been honest with you this entire time and I feel have returned that honesty with your trust. I heard from my Commander earlier. He wants me to bring you and Jeff back as soon as possible. I am afraid that after reviewing all the pertinent regulations, I can find no way out. As such, I have decided to grant your request to restore Jeff to consciousness. It is all I can do at this time. Again, I am sorry. Can you control Jeff when she awakens?”

“I will try, Dolnagk. No guarantees though, she’s a tough little scrapper,” Brent replied with a fond smile, recalling some of the times he had to save Jeff.

“I feel I can accept your “word” Brent Campbell. Reaching over, Dolnagk placed another of those silverish bands on Jeff’s tiny wrist. “This should allow Jeff access to the food and garment printer. I must go and prepare the ship for departure and ensure the area is clear of any surveillance. As it is early in your solar period, I will have to wait until the local human activity is curtailed before we can depart. Please convey my apologies to Jeff.”

“I will. See you soon.”

Darkness. Fighting his way up through that darkness, he felt… off? A wrongness? But he was breathing the air, and he felt whatever it was he laying on, cushiony but in the wrong areas; it, too, felt off. As he started to wake up, he let out a small moan. That was when it hit him and he froze; that wasn’t his voice! He heard a sound to his right and saw Brent staring wide-eyed at him! But the way he was looking at him frightened him, like he was staring at some nightmare, something he was afraid of. Jeff gave a small whimper and shrank back in fear. ‘What was going on? Why did everything feel so wrong?'

Brent broke out of his trance and reached out for Jeff, afraid of hurting him, yet afraid of letting her hurt herself. Lightly grabbing her shoulders, he said, “Jeff, calm down! Something happened but I need you calm, I promised Dolnagk I would try to keep you calm while I explained things. Can you do that for me? Just nod and don’t say anything. Please?”

Jeff slowly gave a tentative nod, feeling that same wrongness again. And then noticed that Brent seemed bigger somehow, even bigger than before. And all she could do was return his stare into his eyes.

“I’m going to let you go now, but I want you to stay laying there until I am finished if you can, Do this for me? Please?”

She just nodded again but was starting to worry now.

Brent slowly recounted what he knew of what happened and when he got to Jeff’s changes, he took her hand and started apologizing, even as he tried to explain what happened.

Jeff started hyperventilating and his heart rate started climbing, causing the medbed to react and start a suppression field while an alarm started beeping which only increased Jeff’s panic.

Brent meanwhile was trying to calm her down and talk to her, telling her it would be alright, but he needed her brains, now more than ever.

“C’mon Jeff, I need you here, not spazzing like you do when a girl speaks to you!” He was hoping the joke would get through like it usually did to help ground his friend.

As Jeff slowly started calming down the medbed’s alarms retreated but the suppression field still held Jeff down. “Brent! Do something! This thing is holding me down! Get it off!” Jeff couldn’t believe it, he was crying like a girl and started thrashing and sobbing.

Jeff was doing all he could to calm her, but the thrashing set the alarms off again at an even louder level. He didn’t hear the door whoosh open or Dolnagk come in and up to the monitor over the din Jeff and the medbed was making and was surprised when Jeff collapsed and the alarms cut off.

“What did you do to her?!?! Wake her up! Get her back now! Please?!?” Brent pleaded, holding her up to him and hugging her and started crying himself.
“Brent, I am sorry, she was starting to hurt herself, it was for her own safety. She will recover in a few moments, perhaps a quarter of one of your hours? Would it better if she were to awaken in your berth? Keep in mind there are no real medical safety mechanisms in place in there and she may succeed in hurting herself.”

Brent could only stare at her flawless face, soaking up her beauty, until he realized he had fallen in love with her, his best friend, and he was at a loss what to do. Without a further thought, he grabbed her and lifted her in his arms, noticing how light she was now, and how easily she fit in his arms. He looked to Dolnagk and said, “I’ve got her, and I won’t let her go again. She’ll be safe no matter what.”

With that, he carried her next door to his room and laid her down, making sure she was covered. The first thing on the list was to find her some clothes, even if it was a ship’s jumpsuit. With the short time before she was supposed to wake up, Brent was afraid to leave in case she woke up and he was not there. He just sat there on the side of the bed, waiting for her to wake up. Staring at her while she slept, he decided that he would destroy anyone or anything that tried to hurt her.

After Dolnagk watched them leave, he revised his guess of their being podmates and decided that they must be lifemates after what he saw Brent do for her. After a few moments, he started thinking of podmates, lifemates, and regulations, and hurried to research something.

After waking up again, Brent had better luck explaining things to Jeff, and being better prepared, he managed to stay strong and calm while explaining what happened. Jeff, this time around, seemed to take it better as well, and with Brent’s help, stood up, wrapping the bed sheet around herself. “Where’s my pump?!?” she asked, starting to panic again.

“You don’t need it anymore, remember? Perfect body? Perfect health?”

She turned to look at him and noticed he was taller! Then it struck her! ‘No, I’m shorter,’ she thought. “Brent? How tall are you?”

“About 6’ 2”. Why?”
“What happened to my height? I was 9 inches shorter than you, but now I’m really short! I’m a midget!”

"Calm down, breathe. Just breathe. Slowly.”

After she calmed down again, he continued. “You’re maybe 5 foot tall, about 1.5m, if that much. You know, about Brenda’s height. Oh, and you hardly weigh anything now. You’re going to need an anchor in a strong breeze,” he said as he chuckled at his own joke.

“Not funny, Brent, and not helping. What am I going to do?” she asked, tearing up.

"First, you are going to calm down and help us figure out a way out of this. There’s something else you need to know.” And with that, Brent started to explain the depths of the situation they were in.

After he finished explaining things, they discussed things and decided that if nothing could be done, they would ask to go out together, as the lifelong friends they were.

As they were sitting there thinking about the future, a voice came across from the translator. “Brent, can we talk privately in the med room?”

“Who’s that?” Jeff asked.

“Hm, oh, that’s Dolnagk, the Scout that collected us as specimens.”

“”Collected us as specimens”?!?” she shrieked. “How can you be so calm about this? We have to get out of here!”

“I can’t, I promised not to hurt him or the ship. It was the price to save you. One sec.”

“Dolnagk? Are you still there?”

“I am. What do you require?”

“Could you show yourself to Jeff now?”

“Is she under control? I can come to the door and let her see me from there, it might be better for her, less threatening?”

“Her? Under control?!? Listen here you little grey pipsqueak, I AM under control, tell me that too my face!”

“Brent, is she always this hostile?”

Yeah, she is a little defensive of her size and temper,” he said with a laugh. “You’ll be safe, I can grab her if need be.” He said, still laughing.

“You too?!? Some friend you are, hmmph!”

“One moment, friend Brent, Jeff.”

A few moments later, there was a signal from their door. “Enter,” Brent said. “I always wanted to say that,” Brent whispered to Jeff, grinning.

As the door opened, Jeff got her first look at an alien. One named Dolnagk, standing there in all his 1.9 meter golden chitinous height, only an inch taller than Brent.

“Greetings Jeff Simmons!”

“Holy fuuuck! It’s a Thri-kreen! They’re real!” And with that statement, she sat down abruptly on the bed, still staring at Dolnagk.

“As informative as this exchange has been, I must ask you Brent, is she aware of your circumstances?”

“Yes, mostly, but I am not sure she accepts it all as real yet.”

“Most distressing! I may have found a way, but I am unsure if she will be accepting of it.”

“Accepting of what? What is it talking about, Brent?”

“He, Dolnagk is a he, Jeff, much like we have accepted you as a she. And I am not sure what he is talking about. I am sure he was going to explain before you interrupted him.”

“I am not a she, bro! We grew up together, you know I am a guy. Why are you saying that?” she asked as started crying.

Brent could only reach out and hug her, comfort her in her confusion. “I explained it earlier.”

“Why did you let that, that, bug thing change me into this?!?”

“Because I authorized it, Jeff, not Dolnagk. He saved you and he has a name! Use it! And I did it to save your life! Things went wrong and you were dying! I couldn’t let you die. I was selfish, okay? I didn’t want to be alone! Are you happy? It’s because I needed you here, with me! Us against the world? Remember? Now it’s us against the universe. Side by side and standing tall! Well, one of us anyway,” Brent finished with a snicker.

Dolnagk stood there passively, waiting for their conversation to conclude. When she turned back to him, she said, “I’m sorry, I’m a little freaked out right now. What were you looking for my acceptance for? What did you need?”

“Information first. I must ask, are you of the age of consent? Legally of age of contract?”

Are you asking if I am an adult, no not for another year and a half. Why? What does it matter?”

“Please bear with my questions Jeff. In your new body, do you now have legal guardians by your planet’s laws?”

“Oh God! Oh God, Brent! I don’t exist anymore, I don’t have any ID, what am I going to do?” she asked as she started crying into Brent’s chest.

“I guess that answers your question Dolnagk. Now what?”

“Jeff Simmons, may I adopt you into my pod as one of my brood? This would also make any lifemates eligible for inclusion into my brood as well. Please think on this very carefully, as this may take you away from Earth.”

Jeff just stared at Dolnagk for a few minutes, going over everything and its repercussions. “Would this negate our destruction. Dolnagk?”

“I am not positive on the outcome of this gambit? Yes, gambit, but it is the only solution I have found. I am sorry, but this is the only one. The only drawback is finding a way to have you become lifemates, as I do not believe my commander would allow it to be performed on his ship.”

Jeff looked at Dolnagk again and thought for a moment before asking “Dolnagk, are planetary customs binding in your system of governance?”

“Generally speaking, yes they are, but usually only when they are coincident with our own.”

Looking from Dolnagk, she turned to Brent. “Brent, would you be my lifemate?”

Brent could only stare at her, taken aback by her question. “Uh, uh,” he could only stutter in reply, in shock.

“He’ll come around, Dolnagk. On Earth, the captain of a ship can marry a couple legally. But I’m not sure where the ship is required to be to make it legal. It could be here in the US on the water, or it might be 200 miles offshore.”

As they were talking, they heard a small “Yes” come from Brent. Stronger this time, Brent followed up with “Yes, I will become your lifemate.”

Thus, it was decided that was what they would do, set the ship on a course back to the ship, and after filing the proper paperwork (Yes, bureaucracy is universal), they were on their way!


“You know Jessica, I can’t believe I had to ask your father’s permission to marry you on the ship.”

“I can. I think he learned a few things from you during the week I was getting “fixed”.”

“Oh? What might that have been?” Brent asked, perplexed.

“A sense of humor. I think that was his first joke.”

Bent could only stare in mock horror. “Oh my God, we make first contact, and I went and corrupted their whole race.”

“Not to worry, hon, I think he has a bigger joke waiting after he finishes training for his new role.”

“And what might that be, sweetheart?” he asked, kissing her gently.

“He said he is taking his broodpod with him to open diplomatic ties with Earth and open their first Embassy!”

“That’s all fine and dandy, Jess, but what are our parents gonna say when they find we’re married and you’re pregnant?”

“Oh God, we’re doomed!”


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