Love & Rockets
"I assume you had a good reason for calling me here, Sir?" Captain Lennox inquired of the civilian leader, her green eyes dense with boredom.
The fat man nodded. "I have something to give you, Captain," he said, then flung his flabby arms around her relaxed shoulders and thrust his cold, meaty tongue into her mouth.
Captain Lennox gasped, wrenched free of his clammy embrace and slapped him. In a rage of humiliation she realized the alien, Gondee, had observed the entire episode. Face flaming, she presented her back to him and turned on her porcine attacker, keeping her voice low. "Since I've been here, I've come to respect and to love Rosebud. For her sake, I'll say nothing about this." Her voice shook. "But if you ever invade me again, Orson, I'll disembowel you with a fork and fry you up for the aliens..."
The merchant dropped back to sprawl heavily in his self-styled throne, grinning at her. "I like women with spirit, Captain. I don't like the quiet ones, like Rosebud, who simply lie there and endure."
"I mean it, Orson..."
His puffy red eyes regarded her closely and the smile faded from his fleshy lips as he understood that her rejection was final. Hurling his water pipe to the view port wall with a crash, he pulled unsteadily to his feet and swayed over to her. "Is it that simpering pansy, Admiral Delaney? Did he get to you before I did?" He reached for her, his fat fingers bruising into her smooth shoulder.
"I think you're disgusting!" Her lips pulled back from her teeth. "Incompetent and disgusting!"
He released her so violently she almost fell. "Who are you to judge me?" he shrieked. Flecks of foam dotted his lips as he tottered to his full height. "I am the Commonwealth Freemerchant for this sector, and you are my guest!"
"I am not your guest! I represent the military interests on this base and have as much power as you yourself... if not more!"
Magically, Admiral Delaney appeared at her side, his gloved hand on her elbow. "Is there a problem here?" he asked quietly.
"Captain Lennox has forgotten her obligations to her host," Orson snapped. He lashed out at Gondee, sending the frail, wizened alien hurrying into the hallway for another pipe and more of the intoxicating weed.
The Captain's mouth dropped, then clamped shut in a hard line. Trying to reason with a tokehead was like arguing with a meteor swarm. Without a word, she dusted off her uniform and jerked free of the Admiral's grasp, storming out into the hallway to march along the well-lit corridors, her head down and her teeth grinding. Other than Rosebud, she had yet to meet a single rational being on Star Base Omega... and Rosebud was a walking vacuum.
She wandered aimlessly, her thoughts on vivisection and pork rinds, and soon found herself at the point where the corridor opened into the parklike atmosphere of the botany section. There she paused and drew a long steadying breath, inhaling the sweet perfume of Commonwealth regulated weed. Then she stepped into the halogen half-light permeating the gardens.
The Captain smelled the scent of Delaney's strange pheromone cologne even before she saw the overpowering glitter of his many medals of valor sparkling like stars in the dim light. He waited for her with polished boots set slightly apart in her path, his arms held smartly behind him.
The Captain almost laughed. The only thing needed to make the scene perfect was to know that the Princess Samara was watching in her crystal view screen. Reminded of the Princess’ challenge, she didn't stiffly salute Delaney as she might have done yesterday.
Instead, she halted before him, glancing at the brilliance of his medals defined by the light and wishing he hadn't worn his jacket. She also wished she possessed more good sense and far less pride. In the back of her mind she admitted the foolishness of playing games with the witch-woman Samara. On the other hand, the Admiral would be leaving soon... what harm would there be in enticing him just enough to prove a small point?
And if he should emerge with his reputation somewhat tarnished, so much the better. Imagining a humbled Admiral Delaney prompted a secret smile and firmed her resolve to play the game. Perhaps it was time he discovered a challenge he could not be sure of.
"What happened back there?" he asked, looking down at her.
"A misunderstanding, it was nothing." She smiled, tilting her head to catch the glare from his medals in her close cropped hair. "Which reminds me, I don't believe I thanked you for having me appointed here as watchdog. I've been so busy that, unforgivably, it slipped my mind. But I do want you to know how I appreciate your thoughtfulness." Her long lashes feathered against her cheeks, then swept upward to accent a dazzling smile.
Delaney assessed her for a moment, then threw back his head and laughed. "My dear Captain Lennox... this unsolicited sweetness prompts an unwelcome reassessment of my lunch." A gloved hand covered his mouth in mock sickness. "Forgive my suspicious nature, Captain, but when a harpy becomes a chirping sparrow, one should definitely ponder the reasons."
Grimly, the Captain reminded herself that she hadn't expected beating Samara would be easy. And she had, after all, constantly shown Delaney only the customary courtesies. Restraining the powerful impulse to blast the man into so many dust motes, she formed her mouth into a charming pout, and bent to pluck a sprig of Venus weed. She slipped it conspicuously into a button hole over her ample breasts, her movements slow and seductively deliberate. The heady fragrance sent spasms of hot desire coursing through her body.
"I deserve that remark," she lied. "And I apologize for not always respecting our obvious differences..." the words gagged her, but she wasn't one to renege on a decision. The game was on. "I've been so busy learning about the base... everything is so new and different..."
She let each sentence trail, a calculated invitation to respond, and she hated herself for sounding like a simpering, brainless woman; the type who played to a man's inflated opinion of himself; the type she'd always despised.
The Admiral grinned, the dim light carving shadowed hollows beneath his cheeks. "I'm growing more and more alarmed by the minute. Is this Captain Lennox? The Captain Lennox? Ice-bitch of the Earth Sector Constabulary? He glanced at himself in a shiny bulkhead and reached up to lovingly pat back into place a stray hair at his temple. "I'll grant that you've been busy, but learning about base operations? You knew more about this base the day it was reported you had been nominated to your new position than most personnel knew after working here for years."
The compliment raised a flush of pleasure to her cheeks. "Infojections aren't the same as actually being here," she murmured, seating herself on a nearby bench and arranging the Venus weed prettily between her breasts. She glanced up at him and then quickly away, moistening her lips. Why did he have to be so damned handsome? She didn't recall thinking him so handsome when first they'd met. Perhaps, she thought, because she'd been blinded by those damn medals. Yet, now it was impossible to look at him without feeling her thighs tighten and her breath quicken. Or were the hard lines of his face and crinkles about his eyes merely a trick of the Venus weed mixed with his pheromone cologne?
All of her habitual defenses leapt into play, banding her chest in a vise-like grip. How easy it would be to forget this was merely a game.
"Have you thought about what we discussed yesterday, Captain?" His loving interest in something behind her lay at variance with the subject, and the Captain wondered uneasily if he was seeing through her. She would have to remember that this was an experienced man. Unless she was careful, he would guess her insincerity.
Thinking of the unspoken contest between herself and Princess Samara reminded her of leather underwear. Had Delaney actually taken the witch-woman to the upper floors of his cabin-suite? The Captain wished to the homeworld that she knew for certain. She doubted the most flattering conversation could adequately compete with studs, straps and clamps. And conversation was all she was prepared to offer.
She started when he seated himself beside her, unbuttoning the collar of his spotless uniform, and repeating the question.
"What is there to think about?" she replied. She looked at him through the filtered false light, steadfastly resisting the temptation to chew on the dark hair springing from his collar. This was not at all easy, attempting to entice him yet keep him at bay. "I'm in danger if the aliens continue to believe I'm a goddess, and I'm in danger if they decide I'm human. What can I do?"
"You can deny the promotion," he said quietly. "I'm almost sorry I pulled for you now, in light of the circumstances."
She felt the warmth of him along the side of her body and trembled when she turned to gaze at him and her knee lightly pressed his thigh.
"I can't do that Admiral." She frowned at her hands, watching them edge toward his leg. "I won't be chased away. I've worked too hard to reach this position."
His hand opened and closed in his lap as if he wanted to smack her. When she pulled her eyes away from the enormous pillow his hands rested upon, and dared to look into his eyes, the loving absence had been replaced with an intensity that stopped her breath. "I can't seem to make you understand the enormity of the situation here. You could be in real danger, Captain."
"What do you want me to do?" She pulled away from his gaze and lifted her hands just moments before they slid over and onto his bulging lap. "Return to Earth? Return to desk work for the Commonwealth Port Authority?" She could never go back to that half-life again. "It offers me security, but I don't want that kind of security. I want a future that means something. I can have it here."
"Your delusions of grandeur will kill you here."
Jumping from the bench, she paced in front of him. False-light shimmered across her tight uniform, and raised gold flecks in her eyes. "I know you mean well... but I have studied this base and its functions as well as the mythos of the natives in order to create a balance of respect. It's never been done before, can't you understand that?" A dusting of freckles stood out along the bridge of her nose. Her brows knit in an effort to make him grasp how important this was.
He smoothed out his uniform, his eyes sober.
"This base is now mine, Admiral. I can count on it working for me, I can insure my future by showing it can be done. I know it will work." She wet her lips, already regretting the outburst and how much she had revealed of herself. The heavy scent of Venus weed rose up from her bosom and invaded her senses. She wished she could discard her clothing without feeling foolish.
"This isn't the only base in the galaxy, Captain. Use your new techniques on New Mars, or Antigone if you must try them. I can get you re-stationed. But leave Starbase Omega."
His hard tone drew her eyes back to his rugged features and suddenly she thought how wonderful it would be to have someone with which to share the burdens. How wonderful to simply surrender to the Venus weed's mounting passions and to this man's arms. To feel his strength as he forced himself upon her. To feel his large hands prying her apart and invading her soft squishy places. To feel his hot, throbbing, enormous... Oh, God! She didn't want to think these thoughts!
"There are no natives on either New Mars or Antigone. I'm not that easily tricked. I'm not leaving." Against her will, her eyes traveled to his lips, hard firm lips that commanded soldiers and women. Where were these thoughts coming from, she wondered helplessly. Why couldn't she have a simple conversation with this man without the thought of ripping his clothes off with her teeth?
"I didn't think you would." Sighing, he stood and looked down at her. And for a moment she thought he would have her. Knew he would at least kiss her. That's all it would take. Instantly, she returned to the game, and prayed that Samara watched with her witchly talents as she closed her eyes and offered up her mouth.
"It's late, don't you think? The others will be concerned by your absence. May I offer you my arm?"
The Captain's eyes flew open and she hastily lowered her head, staring at him as her cheeks flushed as delicately pink as the nipples straining against her uniform. He had known she expected to be kissed and had chosen to humiliate her instead. The amusement in his level gaze confirmed it.
Mustering her dignity, Captain Lennox smoothed her uniform, spun around and, gritting her teeth, exercised military control to force her pace to a walk; judging the distance to her quarters and her laser blaster within as an endless span she would somehow endure. Furious with embarrassment, she concentrated on willing him to silence. She couldn't bear it if he spoke another word. As far as she was concerned, Admiral or not, this man was dead meat.
Foolish pride had made her believe he would rush to kiss her if she provided the least hint of invitation. Well, he would never have another chance, by God! Her mouth pinched. Samara could have him when she finished with him. In a bag!
At the door to her quarters, she quickened her step, hurrying forward in anticipation, but his hand shot out and he spun her to face him. Shadows darted along the chisled planes of his face, and his eyes were not velvety soft but hard and piercing as he stared into her flashing glare.
"I don't know what all that was about, Captain," he growled low and hard. "But a gift should be honest, and what you offered was not. A gift is an expression, it says something and should mean something." Before she could voice the furious protests scalding her throat, he pulled her roughly into his powerful arms, molding her hard against his body, showering her bosom with delicious points of pain as it pressed into the hundreds of glittering medals decorating his broad chest. "Like this."
His mouth covered hers, firm and bruising in an expression of a savage desire which swept her breath away and left her sticky with passion. Her breasts crushed against the medals, and the double scents of mangled Venus weed and pheromone cologne mingled to envelope them in a sensual burst. The Captain's fists rose and she struggled violently in his embrace, but his lips held hers and the strength rushed from her limbs as his tongue invaded her mouth, ravaging the sweetness within. A terrifying weakness robbed her of her senses as his strong arms bent her body into his, and she gasped at the powerful leap of passion she felt pressing against her thigh, prompted by the urgency of his need and desire.
A deep, swelling panic hammered against her ribs like a dulcimer jackhammer as she battled surrender and the blaze of heat between them. A deluge of memory and sensation transformed her limbs to water. When his lips released her she stared at him through a veil of confusion, not wanting to leave the hardness along his inner thigh. She lay in his arms, helpless, struggling to grasp what was happening to her rebellious flesh. His lips gently brushed her cheeks, her eyelids.
"That is as honest a gift as you'll ever receive, Captain," he whispered against her bristly scalp, his voice hoarse. She stared up at him, trembling in his arms. Warm strong hands slid up to cup her breasts. "I'll have you Captain Lennox. To the finish." His dark eyes locked with hers and now they were velvety and deep. "But I want it honest, do you understand? The stakes are too high for foolish games."
A shaky laugh passed her bruised lips, scorning his hypocrisy. "What do you know about honest when you ship in here with your mistress' arms around your waist, then rush from the banquet table directly to her bed!" She wrenched free of his hands and stepped backward, her green eyes blazing.
"What in the name of the seven suns are you talking about?" Delaney stared at her, a mixture of anger and bewilderment intensifying his steady gaze.
"Princess Samara, of course," the Captain snapped. "I know you've been..." A fiery blush deepened her embarrassment. "...performing unnatural, acrobatic acts with her." This time her tongue had truly run away with her. She'd be lucky now if he didn't see her court-martialed or at least sent to a remote outpost somewhere to live out her life in loneliness.
To her astonishment, Delaney threw back his dark head and laughed. He passed a hand across his eyes and smiled at her through his gloved fingers, his black eyes twinkling. "Is that what this is all about? Samara?"
The Captain's teeth clenched. She had blurted it out to him, she would see it through to the end. "How many women does it take to satisfy you?" she inquired acidly. "Samara and me and who else?"
"Just you, Captain. I think. You won't give me the opportunity to find out." He caught her shoulders, holding her despite her struggles to twist free. Face sobering, he captured her chin in his hand and forced her to look at him. "Listen to me, Captain, because I'm only going to explain this one time." She lowered her head, images of his beautiful body being blasted into molecular refuse dancing across her mind, and he shook her slightly, his grip tightening until her flashing eyes lifted to his. "What happened between Samara and me before you came here is none of your business. All you need to know is that nothing exists between us now."
"But you took her upstairs that first night..." The Captain insisted hotly. She wanted to believe him, but...
"To tell her that she was old news."
"But today in the rec room..."
He sighed as if explaining basics to a child. "She is insistent, she had a good thing and she's lost it. If you had stayed around a while longer you would have seen that her attempts at seduction were not reciprocated."
"You mean you...?"
"Cast her aside like yesterday's underwear? Yes, I did. Busted her lip nicely, too. I Actually think she liked it."
The Captain stared into his eyes trying to read beyond the velvety warmth. She bit her lip uncertainly. If he was telling the truth then Samara's jealousy was explained. No wonder the witch-woman hated her. But if she trusted him and found that she was just another bead on a long string of women... could she bear the heartbreak? And what of her plans and her future? A headache began at the base of her neck as her emotions spun in the winds of turmoil.
"She left on the last transport out. I just saw her off before I came looking for you."
"Then she isn't watching us on her crystal?"
"No, Captain. Nobody is watching us. We're all alone. For all anybody knows we could easily have ceased to exist for a time. Rank does have its privileges."
Delaney drew her against his body, cradling her loosely in his arms. "Would you like to begin the evening again, Captain?" he asked softly. "This time seeing me as the heroic figure that I am, instead of some tarnished black knight? I guarantee that you won't regret it."
Her thoughts resolved themselves and she drew away from him with a sheepish grin. "Of course I would Admiral, let me just step inside to see that everything is in order." Reluctantly he let her slip from his grasp and through the cabin door, then grinned devilishly and began smoothing out his soon-to-be-discarded uniform. He ran his finger along the notches in his regulation conquest belt. He'd soon have to get another one at the rate he was going. His reflection smiled rakishly from a nearby bulkhead as he readjusted the padding in his uniformed crotch.
"Don't bother on my account," Captain Lennox's husky voice implored, pulling the Admiral away from his preening.
Admiral Delaney never saw the clean burst of blue fire that leaped from Captain Lennox's laser pistol, nor felt a thing after his molecules were sprayed halfway across the galaxy.
"Not tonight, Admiral. I've got a headache." Lowering the gun, Captain Lennox smiled prettily and sighed, running a hand across her close-cropped hair. With any luck somebody had been witness to his unseemly altercation with Samara in the rec room earlier today. Revenge and long-distance witchcraft would go a long way toward explaining the Admiral's mysterious disappearance. "Rank has its privileges, indeed..." she murmered. "You men are all alike."
Plucking the Venus weed from between her breasts, she popped it into her mouth to be ground up and swallowed.
"Ah well," she sighed, "tomorrow is another day... And there's still Orson to deal with." Her green eyes dewy with tears of satisfaction, she re-entered her cabin, closing the door on an all too quiet hallway.
© David Salcido, 1983. Registered with the Library of Congress and the Writers Guild of America. All rights reserved.