New Free Short Story: The Scent of Sondja, Part 1 (of 4)
As part of my ongoing series of short stories in five minutes, I’m bringing you a rather longer story, told in four parts (to keep it down to five minutes each). It tells the story of Captain Jack Hamilton, and the exotic otherworldly Hefalia Sondja, from the planet Krate. This is a pure romance story with a sci-fi twist. There will be a poll after this segment, because I’m curious about your reaction to this type of story. So, here is “The Scent of Sondja, Part 1.”
The Scent of Sondja
by Patricia Green
Copyright ©2015 Patricia Green
All Rights Reserved
“That’s right, Hefalia, but after this week I’ll be the former Captain of the Dreadnaught. Yes, this is my last week. What am I moving on to? Why, I don’t really know what the Commonwealth Spacefleet has in store for me. They appear to be keeping it for a surprise.”
Jack toweled off his face after lotioning off the whiskers around his goatee and moustache. As he did, he talked to the face in the mirror, trying to practice a calm and controlled response to the questions he’d inevitably face during the upcoming VIP visit from the Hefalia of Krate. He didn’t know too much about her beyond her position and the fact that she’d be on the Dreadnaught in order to cut a deal with a neighboring world for a habitable moon nearby. It was likely that her advance team had alerted her to the fact that Jack was a short-timer. Undoubtedly, it would undermine his authority as her host while on his ship. That could be an issue as the deal that was to be brokered was between hostile states. Security had been stepped up in order to protect the principals.
Sighing, Jack took one more look in the mirror and stepped away. He put on his uniform and slid his hand up the jacket placket, locking the fabric in place in a neat seam. He wondered what it would feel like to wear a Rear Admiral’s pips on his collar, one more than he had at present. All he knew was that he was being promoted. He didn’t know to what command, where, or for what purpose. His impression was that the service was making room for some up-and-coming Commander who had enough connections to take over command of a ship, and the Dreadnaught was the most prestigious ship in the fleet. Jack had captained her for nearly five years, and had expected to do so for at least another five years. The changes were all rather disturbing, but when one took on military life, one had to plan to do what the higher-ups required, without argument.
He made his way out of his cabin and through the hallway, heading toward the elevator that would take him to the visitors’ reception area, and his meeting with the Hefalia.
Once in the large embarkation lobby, he met with his security chief, Ralph Tatum. Tatum gave Jack a nod and stood quietly with his security team, waiting. As they waited, Jack accessed his electronic communications implant and read the streaming news behind his eyeballs. He particularly was interested in the current state of Krate affairs, and he found out that the hostilities between the Krate and their rivals the Seeters, were heating up and becoming dangerously close to war. It was even more important that these negotiations go well.
The Hefalia’s ship was delayed for a while, but eventually it docked and her entourage came aboard the Dreadnaught.
The Kratians were a handsome people, the males smaller than the females, though powerfully built. They’d come through several civil wars through their history, and the males had been the ones to fight, while the women were the negotiators and propagandists. Krate’s history was much different from Earth’s, but they did have civil wars in common. A few of the Kratian women were in the Hefalia’s party, but not very many. They wore full anti-contamination suits, completely swaddling them from the top of their helmeted heads to the tips of their shod toes.
Jack had expected that. The females had a pheromone that reacted badly to male Earthers’ hormone profiles, setting off a chain reaction that ended up with both parties becoming emotionally attached, whether that was practical or not. It would be a terrible dynamic for his personnel, so it was just as well that the females were wrapped up. They managed it on Krate with genetic modifications, but Earthers weren’t prepared.
A male Kratian approached Jack and made a small, respectful hand gesture. He was about 165 centimeters tall, so Jack had to look down to meet his deep red eyes. His skin was swarthy, and his bone structure was humanoid. He had short, white hair with a horizontal blue stripe ringing the crown of his head. He did not smile, but he did ooze competence and precision. The lack of a smile, Jack thought, was purposeful rather than unfriendly.
“I am Modham,” the small male said, his voice gravelly and his Interstellar perfect. “I am the honorable Hefalia’s assistant.”
“Welcome aboard,” Jack said, bowing his head. “I am Captain Jackson Hamilton. It’s my pleasure to have you as my guests. Where is the Hefalia?”
Modham looked over his shoulder as a tall, lanky female debarked the Kratian ship. Her dark blue airtight body suit was tightly fitted, outlining some very humanlike curves. Like the other females in her party, she wore a helmet with a breather unit, which would let air in, but nothing but cleansed air out.
“Here is our leader, Hefalia Sondja,” Modham said, adding a flourish to his reverential hand gesture.
Jack smiled and bowed as she approached. “Hefalia, it’s a great pleasure to meet you. I’m Captain Hamilton. Welcome to the Dreadnaught.”
Her smile was bright through the tall, clear helmet. Up close, Jack noted that she was as lovely of face as form, her face heart-shaped, leading to a small, chin with a gentle cleft at its center. Her eyes were red, as all of the Kratians, but they were gently turned up at the outer corners, giving her a slightly Asian appearance. He could see part of her hair; it was black, and appeared to have the customary horizontal stripe, but hers was red. According to Jack’s briefing notes, she was the only one allowed to have the red stripe.
“Thank you for accommodating us, Captain. Although I am the Hefilia of my people, for you, I am only Sondja.”
“As you like, Sondja. Please call me Jack. I hope the talks will be fruitful. The Seeters have already arrived and are ready for your meeting tomorrow morning.”
“That is well,” she said. Her voice was soft, gentle, low-throated and slightly gravelly, like Modham’s.
“Please follow me,” Jack told her, leading her and her entourage out of the lobby and deeper into the ship. He gave her a brief tour of the facilities, including an introduction to his staff on the command deck. Used to greeting dignitaries, they were all quite respectful and made him proud. He’d miss his crew; he’d made some good friends among them.
During their tour, he appreciated her intelligent conversation and her bright sense of humor. She was witty, wry, sometimes a little teasing, almost flirtatious. He returned her good-natured comments with jokes and conversation. Jack very much enjoyed her company, which was a bit of a surprise. Generally, heads of state were reserved and aloof. This one was down to earth and a pleasure to be around. He thought that if they only had more time to get to know each other, they might have some fun interactions, trading stories and learning about each other’s cultures. But the negotiations were set to happen over just two or three days, and then Jack would be who knew where shortly after.
Their last attraction before taking her to her cabin, was the recreation deck, where there was a large mall with a variety of shops and eating establishments. It was a facility that catered to the myriad types of aliens and humans aboard the Dreadnaught, offering home-style foods and trinkets from all over the galaxy. Sondja politely acknowledged all the features of the ship and made inquiries that showed that she was paying attention. Their last stop on the rec deck was at the Venarian shop, a place that, according to the briefing materials, would be of personal interest to Sondja. Indeed it was. She was delighted to be introduced to the shop owner and to peruse the various Venarian items on display. She seemed reluctant to exit the shop, but there were preparations Jack knew she’d have to make before the meeting in the morning, so he found an opportunity to ease her out of the shop.
They started down the aisle way, through a row of potted trees, when all of a sudden there was a small blast from nearby. Immediately, Jack yanked Sondja to one side, pushing her to the deck behind a planter, and covering her with his body. His security team raced around, and another explosion crashed through the aisle. Smoke and flame shot from panels along the walls, and people in the rec area screamed and scattered. The security detail had all it could handle keeping the Kration party from harm, but more security personnel ran in from the rec deck and elsewhere, fighting the fires with chemical wands, and gathering up people to lead them to safety. It was general mayhem for a few minutes, but soon things calmed enough for Jack to take stock.
He moved off Sondja and helped her to sit upright. “Are you all right?”
She nodded, her silky black hair flowing smoothly over Jack’s hands on her shoulders. After a moment, her eyes widened and she started casting about, searching for something. “My helmet!”
Jack spotted it a meter away and handed it to her. It looked unharmed. It was then that Jack noted a sweet, floral fragrance. It was rich perfume, teasing his nostrils and making him breathe deeply.
Sondja’s expression went grim. “Oh, no.”