Celebrate #NationalTellAStoryDay with a FREE Bonus Scene from Alien Savior
To celebrate National Tell a Story Day, here’s a bonus scene I wrote for my very first novel, Alien Savior!
Captain Kor’ijak of the Arathian science ship Adastra, lumbered off of the lift and into the ship’s Command Center. His crew’s eyes lingered on him for longer than usual while they took in his appearance. Kor knew what they saw: his eyes were bloodshot, his hair disheveled, and he had a look of pure exhaustion written all over his body. No one voiced a comment to him or each other. They were—unfortunately—becoming used to his current state.
He wasn’t alone in his appearance. Since his and Ty’s mate Lacy had given birth to their daughter, Lilly, a few weeks ago, this was what all three of the new parents looked like.
Throughout Lacy’s pregnancy Kor and Ty had been worried for their mate’s safety. Since the baby was the first Earther-Arathian hybrid, the entire pregnancy had been uncharted territory. Ty, who was the leading doctor onboard, monitored their health closely, insisting that Lacy undergo daily medical scans to track her and the baby’s progress. The arrival of Doctor Maggie Walsh and her knowledge of Earther births had helped ease the expecting parents’ minds, but there were still far too many uncertainties.
While Ty had lost sleep looking over their medical scans and learning as much as he could about Earther pregnancies, Lacy had prepared the mates’ quarters in an Earther ritual she called nesting. Their suite of rooms were taken over by the color pink, and piles of “equipment” that Lacy had insisted the baby needed: swings, bouncers, strollers, beds, special pads for her to lay upon… babies required a lot of paraphernalia.
Throughout the final weeks of her pregnancy, Kor had watched his mates prepare for Lilly’s arrival, but his thoughts were consumed with worry for his family’s safety.
Using his training and years of experience as an officer in the Arathian Defense, he had the entire Earth system locked down with sensors that would alert him to anything entering or exiting the space. He had calculated the trajectory of every rock bigger than an inch in diameter, and redirected anything that posed even a scant threat to the Adastra.
Ensuring his family’s safety was his way of preparing for the birth; but now that Lilly was a couple of weeks old, he knew that he had been completely unprepared for the arrival of their daughter.
The Arathians had been sterile since Kor was thirty-two years old. He remembered babies and children… but that had been many years ago. The day Maggie had placed the squirming infant into this arms, Kor had stared into her face and realized how ill-equipped he was to be a father.
Motherhood came naturally to Lacy, so Kor and Ty had watched her avidly. They’d learned how to hold their tiny daughter, change her diapers, and give her bottles of breastmilk. But Lacy couldn’t be around all the time, and should never be expected to solely care for their infant. She was exhausted from feeding Lilly every couple of hours, and her body was still healing from the birth. Kor did everything he could to help her and ease her discomfort, but it was Ty that took care of Lilly when she was out of her mother’s arms.
Ty was the one who carried her around the ship at night to let Lacy and him sleep, and had even begun to take Lilly to the lab with him during his shifts. He had a rapport with their tiny daughter. On several occasions Kor had seen Ty bending close to Lilly and talking to her.
Kor watched their exchanges with envy. His mate had a connection with her that he didn’t. Ty did so much for their baby, but Kor felt… frightened of his daughter. He was embarrassed to admit that fact, even to himself, but there was no other way to explain how he felt. He was scared to hold her, to feed or dress her, of saying or doing the wrong thing. Above all, he was terrified that he would never get past these fears. He couldn’t talk to his mates about any of this. They were as exhausted as he was and he didn’t want to burden them unnecessarily.
Lately, he felt very alone.
Pushing those thoughts aside, Kor initiated his console and checked messages from Arath. At the top of the list were several requests for updates on Lilly. Kor sighed. Arathians throughout the galaxy had celebrated the day she’d been born, and since had craved daily news of the baby. Any bit of information they could acquire was nearly as precious as gold, but so far Kor had been able to shield his family. It helped that they were halfway across the galaxy from Arath, and it also helped that everyone on the Adastra’s crew respected their privacy.
It would be easy for a crewmember to sell tidbits of information, but so far none had. They were enamored with the infant, and were protecting Lilly as if she were their own. Ty and Lacy were constantly stopped throughout the ship’s halls so that the crew could see, touch, and talk to Lilly. Kor knew that as she grew there would be a ship full of people to help watch over her. It made Kor feel equally grateful for their support, and guilty that he was uncomfortable around his own daughter.
Kor jumped in his seat and realized that Lieutenant Krell, his second in command, stood to his left.
“Sir, I’m happy to report that last night we were able to successfully bring Ann Olson onboard. Doctor Adlon has developed a treatment for her pulmonary fibrosis, and Doctor Thorell is explaining things to her now.”
“Has Ann decided if she’ll stay onboard yet?”
“No sir, but I’ll alert you immediately once she reaches a decision.”
“Thank you, Krell.”
Ann Olson’s arrival was good news for the crew. Since the Adastra had returned to Earth’s space after relocating one-hundred and eighty-eight people to the planet of Aeonas, the Adastra had been continuing its mission of finding terminally ill Earthers and giving them the option of staying on the ship and being cured. Ultimately, the hope was that they’d find Arathian mates, but it was not a requirement.
Lacy worked closely with Doctor Thorell, the Arathian counselor onboard, and together they helped the Earthers understand their new reality and help them adjust. Most were doing well, and had been integrated into the ship’s crew.
There were currently five Earthers living onboard, and only one that had chosen to return to the planet to live out his final days. It had been hard for Kor to allow the male to leave the ship, knowing that he wouldn’t survive without the Arathian’s medicine; but in the end, it had been his decision to make.
Kor turned back to his console and began to look over reports from the previous night, to make sure that the Adastra was operating at peak efficiency. There wasn’t much else to command his attention; everything had been pretty quiet lately in this part of the ship.
He was reading about replicator outputs when the comm unit on his belt began to beep.
“Kor here,” he answered.
“It’s Ty. I’m on my way to the Command Center. I have to leave Lilly with you for a while.”
Kor’s stomach dropped. “What? You can’t bring her here,” he argued.
“It’ll be fine. I’ve taken her to the lab with me a few times and she does great.”
Kor was not reassured. He could hear Ty’s quick steps and knew that with each one he was coming closer to arriving at the Command Center. “Why can’t you watch her today?”
“Ann hasn’t taken the news of being on an alien spaceship very well. She’s beginning to show signs of panic and Adlon is afraid that she’ll aggravate herself to the point where she can no longer breathe.”
The lift’s doors opened and Kor turned to see Ty pushing Lilly’s wheeled bassinet, a pink polka-dot bag thrown over his shoulder. He wheeled Lilly to the side of Kor’s console and locked the bassinet’s wheels. Kor looked into his mate’s face but barely heard Ty’s explanation.
“Lacy is already on her way to the Medical Center to try and calm the woman, and I’m going to help the staff in case we need to intervene medically. It shouldn’t take us more than a couple of hours, and then I’ll come get Lilly from you. In the bag are her things, and two bottles of breastmilk. You’ll be fine.”
Ty dropped the pink bag next to Kor’s chair, then spun and walked quickly back onto the lift. Kor watched, frozen, as the doors closed. He turned towards the bassinet and saw Lilly happily squirming amidst her fluffy blanket. He closed the distance and peered at the bundle.
When he came into view, Lilly’s eyes—one blue, one green—locked onto his face, and Kor could swear she recognized him. He smiled at her and she began kicking happily.
Maybe she’s easier to take care of than I thought?
No sooner had the thought crossed his mind than her smiling face twisted into a grimace, and she let out an ear-piercing scream. Kor flinched back as her face turned red, and her bellows rang throughout the Command Center.
All of the crewmen on duty jumped up and ran over, encircling him and the bassinet.
“Is something hurting her?” an officer asked, concerned.
Kor ran his hands inside the bassinet to make sure nothing was causing her pain, but he didn’t find anything poking or biting her; nothing to explain why she was screaming.
“What’s wrong?” Krell asked.
“I don’t know,” Kor answered. He thought about how he’d watched Lacy comfort their daughter. She always checked her diaper, fed, burped, and then rocked her to sleep.
The first was easy; he bent down and sniffed. She smelled clean, with a hint of the talcum powder Lacy used on her bum. Her diaper was fine.
“I think she might be hungry,” Kor guessed.
“What do you need us to do?” someone asked.
Kor looked up and saw crewmen standing around him waiting for instructions. It felt good to know that he wasn’t alone. These were males that he worked with daily. Together they functioned efficiently and effectively; being in charge of them was a familiar place for him to be and it gave Kor confidence.
“Hand me the bottle,” Kor instructed, holding out his hand.
He heard someone rustle inside the bag and felt it hit his palm. Kor gently brought the soft rubber to Lilly’s mouth but she was crying so hard that she didn’t even realize that something was being offered to her. Kor frowned, wondering what he was doing wrong before he realized that he’d never seen his mates feed Lilly while she was lying in her bassinet; they always cradled her in their arms while they fed her.
Kor looked down at his hands which seemed impossibly huge compared to the tiny infant in front of him. He was afraid she’d either get crushed or dropped, but there was no one else who knew how to do it. He looked at the other males in the room but knew there was no other option… he’d have to pick her up. At least Lacy had taught him the proper method, and he’d seen her and Ty pick Lilly up countless times.
Kor handed off the bottle, then flexed his fingers before reaching towards his daughter. He felt everyone’s eyes on his movements as he slid his fingers and palms under Lilly, then slowly lifted her, carefully supporting her neck and head. She fit his hands better than he’d feared.
Someone moved a chair closer and Kor sat. It took a minute of rotating and fumbling, but he finally got Lilly positioned with her head in the crook of his right arm. Her bottle was replaced in his free hand and Kor brought the end to her mouth, but again she was too upset to take it.
“Come on, Lilly, take the bottle,” Kor thought out-loud.
Her eyes landed on his face but her screams continued to pierce his ears.
“Try talking to her more,” Krell suggested. “I think it was starting to help.”
Kor agreed, but had no idea what to talk about. How did one converse with an infant? “What do I say?” he asked the group of males.
Most shrugged their shoulders or shook their heads, but from the back of the group he heard a familiar voice.
“She just wants to hear you. Doesn’t matter what you say.” The males parted and Kor saw Jahivir standing a few feet back from the group. “Years ago I remember my sister doing that with my nephews.”
It’s worth a try.
Kor cleared his throat. “Ah… hi, Lilly. I’m Kor, your daddy. Well, one of them…” He’d never felt like such an idiot in his entire life, but with every word Lilly seemed to calm. His crew encouraged him on.
“If you’re interested there’s a bottle of milk here that Lacy… that’s your mommy… she pumped for you earlier today. Or maybe it was last night? I can’t remember because you’ve been up a lot over the past couple of days, and I feel like I just played back-to-back runkall games and got my ass kicked.”
Kor heard a couple snickers. “I guess I shouldn’t swear in front of you, huh? Why don’t we keep that just between us?”
As silly as Kor felt, his rambling had the desired effect. Lilly had calmed and was lying still, staring into his face. He once again brought the bottle to her mouth and a drop of milk landed on her lips. She immediately opened and latched onto the soft rubber nipple.
Kor watched her suckle and was amazed at how accomplished he felt with such a simple thing. At that moment he was providing for his daughter, and the feeling more than made up for the exhaustion in his body.
He watched her little fists flail before hitting his hand and gripping his fingers. Kor looked into his daughter’s remarkable eyes and felt his heart tighten. This was the feeling he’d been waiting for: the connection between him and Lilly that told him that they’d be alright.
For the first time since she’d been born, Kor felt like he might be able to handle the challenge of fatherhood.
Lacy stepped into the lift and couldn’t help but feel nervous about what she was going to find in the Command Center. When she and Ty had been called to help Miss Olson she had been apprehensive about leaving Lilly alone with Kor. Not because she didn’t have faith in him, but because she knew that it was taking him longer to become comfortable with being around Lilly. Kor was a model mate and captain, but being a father was completely foreign to him.
She was trying to be patient and not push him too quickly, but the situation with Ann had been life and death. The poor woman had panicked after learning that she was in space and surrounded by a ship of “aliens.” She had begun to hyperventilate, and since she had advanced fibrosis in her lungs, they had feared that she was going to hyperventilate to the point of death. Luckily, Lacy had been able to calm the woman, who was now resting and being given time to process all that she’d just learned.
Lacy usually accompanied Doctor Thorell when he first woke a new arrival from Earth, but since she had given birth to Lilly, Lacy had taken a break to focus on her infant. It was clear that hadn’t been the best choice. Lacy felt guilty that she hadn’t been there for Ann from the beginning. Maybe she wouldn’t have put herself in danger?
The lift opened and Lacy pushed aside the regret she felt. She stepped forward and immediately noticed how quiet the Command Center was. Crewmembers were working at their consoles, but the room lacked its usual bustle of activity. She walked through the room and found Kor at his console, but was shocked to see him slouched in his chair with Lilly lying chest-to-chest with him; both were fast asleep.
She felt tears sting her eyes at the sight and stepped back in case she began to sob. Krell came up to her side and smiled at her.
“They’ve been like that for about an hour,” he whispered. “We thought we’d let them sleep.”
“Thank you,” Lacy whispered past her tears. “When he wakes up will you let him know that I was here?”
Lacy smiled at Krell and made her way back to the lift. She leaned back against the wall and felt happiness wash over her.
A few weeks later…
Kor stood in the middle of the Command Center rocking on his feet and inputting commands into his console with one hand. The other was patting the back of his baby daughter who had accompanied him on his shift.
She was currently ensconced in the wrap that Kor had designed for her. Made of black material that would perfectly regulate her temperature, the wrap allowed Kor to hold her against his chest in a myriad of different positions, while still allowing him to work.
He had also designed a backpack that gave him quick access to all of Lilly’s essential items. It was efficient, looked like it was part of his uniform, and his favorite feature was that it wasn’t pink or polka-dotted.
“Captain, the shuttle reports that they successfully acquired Andre Perez from the hospital, and are on the return flight.”
“How is his condition?” Kor asked. Lilly began to wiggle in earnest and root for a food source. Knowing what his daughter wanted, Kor reached to his back and grabbed a bottle. A swift reposition and Lilly was enjoying her second mid-morning breakfast.
“Adlon reports that he’s currently stable.”
“That’s great news,” Kor said with relief. Each trip to the planet’s surface was a risk, but it was also essential to the survival of his species.
He looked down at his precious daughter. She gave his entire race hope. The least he could do was give her the best future he could. Redesigning his schedule, adding to his “uniform,” and even changing his work-flow—it was all just the beginning.
He would do everything in his power to ensure her well-being.
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Copyright © 2016, 2018 Nicole Krizek