Campaign has ended. This book was not selected for publication.
Back to top

First pages

CHAPTER ONE

 Growing up on Orcus, Soren Renacxan had learned very early on that others found him peculiar, disturbing or even downright disgusting.

Not that the adults of this planet believed he could be offended or upset when they expressed those opinions in his presence. There was a unanimous belief that with his warped genes, he didn’t have the mental faculties to be either. It didn’t matter that his performance at the Samsara Institute For Learning said his intelligence was actually way above average. They probably thought he was getting special grading. Because of who he was. And more importantly, what he was.

It was those his age who were intentionally malicious. Especially those who’d known him since they’d started school together at three Standard years. Those knew for certain that he wasn’t mentally deficient. Yet for fourteen years, they daily demonstrated how they looked down on him and abhorred having him among them.

It started by mocking all the things that made him different, along with a shove here, a hair tug there. Then the shoves turned into pushing him down steep flights of stairs or locking him in tiny closets. That progressed to dropping corrosive chemicals on his hair or trying to snip off what they didn’t approve of in his features. The physical abuse had come to an end in recent years when he’d grown far bigger and stronger than any Orcan male. That had only caused the psychological variety to escalate.

It had taken him years to realize that putting up with their mistreatment wouldn’t court their favor. Then he’d started reporting them. But he’d been disregarded then even reprimanded for his 'irrational emotional response.' If there was anything the elite of Samsara frowned upon, it was any kind of emotional response. That had only given the students license to make tormenting him their favorite pastime.

But it had been years since he’d reacted to their insults or their—successful—efforts to isolate him. It now slid off him when they called his hair tentacles, his earlobes a deformity and him a monstrosity. It no longer mattered that they made sure that no one in the Institute talked to him. It made school life barren and lonely, but he handled it. He was used to being alone.

After all, he was one of a kind.

But today was different. Today Barnac Sordosien went too far.

During their Interspecies Studies class, Instructor Elka made them watch another Terran documentary. His classmates were vocal about how Humans and Primates looked and behaved alike until she’d reprimanded them, on account of his presence.

But Barnac, the leader of his tormentors since childhood, raised a plump hand in protest and bleated, “We don’t deserve the lecture, Instructor. Humans and primates do share an ancestor. Why should we moderate our views of proven facts to accommodate the half-breed offspring of Lord Renacxan’s apish concubine?”

It felt as if something snapped inside him. Soren found himself throwing his desk aside and launching himself at Barnac. With the ease of years of practicing Ergerian martial arts with Titus, he picked Barnac's lumpy, heavy body up. Then he slammed him down on the ground, hard, unleashing a pent-up rage he hadn’t realized he harbored.

The soft bully who’d always counted on Soren’s inaction to abuse him remained crumpled at his feet. He was debating whether to repeat the throw when Instructor Elka caught a tight handful of his hair. As she dragged him out of the classroom, his classmates huddled away from him, as if he’d transformed into the monster they’d always claimed he was.

Barnac struggled to sit up, sobbing, his lips trembling, his voice shrill. “I’ve been telling you all these years! Crossbreeds like him shouldn’t be allowed to exist, not outside of labs. He’s defective!”

Though he made a show of hugging his arm as if it was broken, Soren knew he hadn’t injured him. That throw was designed to incapacitate, to humiliate.

But he had made Barnac cry in front of all his friends like all the times he’d made him cry in front of them in their childhood.

His lips twisted in grim satisfaction. That alone would be worth whatever was going to happen to him now.

* * *

Headmistress Crova inflicted a very painful punishment on Soren.

A seemingly endless lecture.

To withstand it, he tapped his hand on his thigh to the rhythm of the clock on her desk. It was shaped like a culca, a serpentine, flightless bird with four wings that lived in the Greater Desert. The woman reminded him of the creature, with her tough skin pocked and scaly and her murky eyes reminiscent of rancid oil.

The woman ranted on for thirty minutes straight. About how shameful and irresponsible his action was. How she would have expelled him if he weren’t the venerated Captain Renacxan’s great grandson. How she had to find another way to appease Barnac’s parents, what might include giving him full marks in compensation. How he'd end up forcing her to save Barnac from his mediocre grades this semester. She concluded by stating that the Institute's very system would suffer a disruption because he couldn’t control his impulses as any regular seven-year-old Orcan could.

“He insulted my mother,” Soren finally retorted, barely suppressing “And I’m not regular or a real Orcan. Not by your standards.”

“It was not your business to discipline him for it. That honor belongs to his parents. If you had reported the insult, they would have taught him better in their own way.”

“Barnac’s parents would not care if they knew what he’s been doing to me for years.”

“And why do you assume that?” Crova's nonexistent eyebrow rose a fraction.

“Because I bet they agree with his behavior toward me. And so do you.”

The tight twist of her lips was the only thing that clued him in that she was disapproving or offended. It was hard to guess reactions when people had unmoving features, thick skin and mostly no eyebrows. To him, everyone generally looked distracted, bored or annoyed.

“And why should I have reported the insult?” he pressed on. “Like many previous incidents, an instructor witnessed it. But as usual, I’m the only one being reprimanded now. You all think I’m a defective crossbreed you have to put up with, but owe none of the rights you reserve for true Orcans.”

Crova leaned across the desk, attempting to appear imposing. It was almost funny when she was tiny compared to him. She should stick to being intimidating in other ways. Which she was in general, and especially now with her in full-blown culca mode.

She even hissed like one. “No one would think so if you didn’t behave like you did today.”

He gritted his teeth as his fury rose again, all the emotions he’d suppressed for years resurfacing. “I’d understand today, but what about when I did nothing? What was your excuse for not intervening during the past fourteen years?”

“What’s yours for always being the center of unrest?” snapped Crova. “You might be partially descended from animals, but that doesn’t mean you have to act like one.”

He held her glare and considered doing something irretrievable. Like telling her what he thought of Orcan ancestry. Or flipping over her desk, too.

The second option was looking more appealing by the second when his mother entered the office.

Looking flushed and unwell, she rushed toward him. “What happened?”

As one of three humans on Orcus, with the second her assistant and the third the Vestan ambassador's wife, Melanie Deschanel took to living among Orcans even worse than he did. But as Earth’s first ambassador to Orcus, she made a seamless effort to hide it as her position demanded. But though adults knew better than to harass their link to their biggest ally like their children did him, their stifling traditions and humorless elitism were constant frustrations. So instead she drowned those in alcohol or smothered them with antidepressants. He could smell today’s preemptive choice to deal with the unexpected emergency on her breath.

“Your son attacked another student today.” Crova glowered at him. “He would have beaten him to a pulp if he hadn’t been stopped.”

“You think Instructor Elka could have stopped me if I wanted to injure him?” As the two women stared at him in dismay, he waved his hand. “I could have crippled him if I’d so wished. I didn’t.”

After a stunned moment of silence, his mother clenched the back of his chair as she looked back at Crova. “Are you going to exact any punishments?”

“As he is your son, and the Captain’s great grandson, it would be disrespectful to expel him. A week-long suspension and a heartfelt apology to Barnac Sardosien are all we can impose.”

“I’m not apologizing to him,” Soren growled.

“Yes, you are,” Crova stated with finality. “Your suspension starts immediately. Go.”

Relieved to finally end this torture session, he jumped to his feet, picked up his bag and followed his mother out.

As he shuffled behind her stiff steps, he felt a wave of protectiveness wash over him. He always towered over her petite figure, but with her slumped shoulders, he did so more than ever. With his father an average Orcan and not much taller than her, his own burgeoning height was yet another unpleasant surprise. Already over six feet, by the time he fully matured, he’d be over a foot taller than either. Yet another horrific deviation from Orcan standard aesthetics.

But being short like Orcans was where any similarity his mother had with them ended. Her delicate skin turned bright red in the white sun's heat and peeled later. She had to cover up for even the briefest of times she was outside, had to cut her curly nut-brown hair short to keep cool. And though fit, she was slight of body, and the planet’s stronger gravity made her every move harder, even with advanced anti-gravity devices.

While most Orcans—especially here in the Far Eastern Maissarni continent—had stocky bodies and pasty, resistant skin that didn’t change color on sun exposure. Their ears had no earlobes, starting from the hinges of their jaws to taper up into points. Their hair was thick, straight and black, with hues of blue, green and red that only revealed themselves under direct light.

He’d inherited her hair, earlobes, and tendency to change color in the sun, though he only darkened. But as few as these things were, they stuck out in Orcus like his pointed ears. The combination of those with his Human attributes was both strange and startling. Like her presence on Orcus always seemed to him.

When he was younger and infinitely more naive, she used to tell him—wistfully he’d since realized—how she and his father had ended up together. It always felt almost unfair that her situation and his very existence were consequences of an event that had taken place almost a century and a half in the past. The historical First Contact.

They’d just had its hundredth and fortieth anniversary a month ago. And like every year, in every subject in school, the story was recycled from the same clinical text in the same indifferent manner. In history, the events leading to the current state of the planet and the universe were retold, and in math and the sciences, the reason why their measurement systems had been standardized with the rest of the Federation was rehashed.

But he’d heard that story earlier than any child on Orcus. The first time had been on his first day of school when he’d been only three. It had been then he’d been made aware he wasn’t like everyone, and he’d asked, “Why am I different?”

It all went back to the day a hundred and forty years ago when Orcans arrived on Earth. They were following an interstellar signal transmitted by NASA targeting the star Polaris, but that had reached Epsilon Eridani instead. They picked it up on Orcus, the fourth and only inhabited planet orbiting the star. With the Orcans searching for intelligent life and habitable planets beyond the ones they had colonized centuries before, they’d sent a fleet to follow the signal back to its source.

But five giant disks descending from the sky for the first time in Earth’s history only sparked a planet-wide panic. An alien invasion and the end of the world were the Humans’ predominant theories. And it could have ended in either.

Wherever the starships appeared, armies launched an all-out hostile defense. Even in Melanie’s homeland, Switzerland, a place known for its pacifism, they opened fire. That was where his great grandfather, Captain Soren Renacxan I, landed his starship.

Deciding not to retaliate like the rest of his fleet, he took a chance on disembarking from his starship, alone and unarmed.

Luckily for both species, the one in charge of the not-so-welcoming committee was Premier Estelle Deschanel, his great-great grandmother, and she ordered her people to stand down. Against her guards’ frantic warnings, she walked away from their protection as Captain Renacxan approached, and met him halfway. And he did the last thing anyone could have expected. He played her a song.

It had been the first Terran song Soren had memorized. The Beatles’ Across the Universe. The signal that had reached Orcus. 

Recognizing the song and that it signified the Orcans came invited, the leader and her guards relaxed. Then she held out her hand to him.

After some confusion about the significance of the gesture, Captain Renacxan and Premier Estelle Deschanel managed the first interspecies introductions, and averted the first interplanetary war, starting the relationship between Orcus and Earth.

In the decades that followed, Orcans helped Terrans establish their own interstellar fleet. Their combined exploration efforts eventually discovered three more populated parts of the galaxy and established the unfortunately named FIST. Fédération Interplanétaire sur Terre, an interplanetary federation based on Earth.

Then the Terrans founded the Interstellar Academy of Versciel in Zurich to be the most prestigious hub of space sciences in the Federation. It remained where students from every species trained to become their worlds’ leaders in space travel and exploration.

But though it was the Orcans who started it all, the general population proved resistant to the idea of getting involved in the Federation and letting other species’ influences onto the planet beyond the most necessary business and trade. Diplomatic tensions rose when the Orcans wouldn’t establish a Terran embassy on Orcus Prime. That was until twenty years ago, when the Renacxans and the Deschanels intervened again. The two houses brokered another peace treaty between the two species with another major occurrence, if on a minor scale. The first interspecies marriage. Between Premier Deschanel’s great granddaughter and Captain Renacxan’s grandson.

The end result of their union was him.

Instead of just building that embassy on Orcan soil and erecting symbolic monuments like normal alliances, they created a person to be the literal embodiment of interplanetary unity. To a few, Soren was just that.

To most, he was an abomination.

From the time he realized who and what he was, no matter how significant he was told he was to history, science or the Federation, he had known one thing.

He was truly alone in the universe.

His mother landed the hover-car in a charging station, cutting his musings short.

It was only then he realized they were outside their house in the Greater Desert Compound. And that she hadn’t said a word all through the trip.

She now suddenly talked, her voice subdued as she stared ahead. “When you stopped complaining about your classmates, I thought you became on better terms with them.”

He looked away from her tense profile. He'd only stopped because it had distressed her. And because every time she'd filed a complaint on his behalf, his situation had only gotten worse. She’d stopped asking, too.

Her breath left her in a ragged exhalation. “If the situation never improved, I’m impressed that you managed to control your temper that long. And worried that you reached the breaking point now.”

“I’m not malfunctioning, Mother.”

She finally looked at him, hazel eyes soft and tired. “I didn’t mean that.”

“Everyone else thinks so.”

“Is that what made you hit him? Because he said so?”

“No. I’m used to that.”

“Then what’s new?”

“He called you an ape and a concubine.”

She gripped the steering wheel, white-knuckled. “I see.”

“Are you disappointed in me?”

She shook her head. “You had a right to be angry, but you shouldn’t give in to it. It’s giving them what they want.”

“I know that. But he crossed the line, and I’m glad I finally gave Barnac the response he’s been baiting me for for years...painfully.”

The corners of her lips curled up a little in a bitter smile, as if satisfaction laced her dismay. Then she sighed. “Go inside. Get the study schedule for next week so you don’t fall behind when you get back.”

“What will you tell Father?”

“I’ll figure something out.”

He got out but didn’t step away from the hover-car. “Mother, do I have any human relatives my age?” It was strange that they never discussed that. But then they’d never discussed much of her life on Earth.

She gazed down, searching her thoughts. “None, I’m afraid. Why?”

“Because I want to talk to someone.” He heard his voice vibrating with quiet intensity. “I have given up hope that anyone here will accept me enough to talk to me.”

Her shoulders dropped, her grip on the wheel sagging with her arms. “Oh, honey, I thought you had friends here. What about Lyrian and Ruslan?”

They were outcasts themselves, with inferior social status and personal attributes. It had been why they’d been the only two at school who’d ever accepted his overtures. They’d been occasional companions. For a time.

It was his turn to twist his lips in bitterness. “The others terrorized them into stopping talking to me six years ago.” That was how long ago he’d stopped talking to her, too.

That seemed to shock her. After a moment, she whispered, “What about Titus?”

“Mother, he’s an Ergerian with Orcan vocabulary only for his job here and basic communication. We’re not friends. We’re just each other’s only hope for practicing without risking damaging our opponent. Because he's twice the size of the largest Orcan, with four arms, and I'm the only one around as strong and sturdy as he is.”

That seemed to disconcert her even more. It seemed his mother had been oblivious of his situation. He’d hidden it too well.

She swallowed, eyes clouding with emotions he didn’t remember ever seeing before. “Soren, honey, I didn’t know. You should have told me.” After another moment, her eyes brightened a little. “But if you want to talk to someone on Earth, you don’t need to be related to them. You can find a pen pal.”

“Pen pal?”

She let go of the wheel, extended one hand to him. “Here, give me your tablet. Let me show you this website.”

Soren handed her the silver slab though he knew she’d find the Net slow and limited. The public didn't have much access to the Net and the simplest search required lots of data credits. He blew most of his on his research in aerospace physics and engineering.

But in seconds she was opening website after another. She'd accessed her ambassadorial privileges, what he'd never thought to ask her for.

“Use my password when you want to use that website, or any other for that matter.” She presented him with the front page of a website called Interplanetary Pen Pals.

The home page was filled with their promotional pitch.

Seeking a friend at the other end of the world, or on any other world?

Then join Versciel Academy’s Interplanetary Pen Pal program! Pick any country or planet and get in contact with someone looking for the same thing you are today!

In a trance, Soren walked inside the house with his eyes glued to the screen, anxiously scrolling through the website. He sifted through its mission, groaned at its awful puns, like “Space is the distance between us all” before he found its available options. All forty-two planets in the Federation from five main civilizations were present. Earth, Orcus, Vesta, Ergeria and Volturn. They even had the most recent addition, the Sarceni Empire, whose planet of origin was Soranus.

This last option was the only one he wouldn’t even consider. He found the Sarceni the most suspicious and unsettling species. With the number of planets they had and how fast they’d acquired them, they were beyond that in his opinion. But he didn't give the other options any consideration either before he settled on Earth.

The listing gave him a drop-down menu to narrow down his choice.

1. Are you seeking:

A) A person of your ethnicity/race residing on Earth

B) A native Terran

C) Other

2. Are you seeking:

A) A research correspondent

B) A friend

C) Other

3. Is there a continent/country you would prefer? Choose any from the menu.

4. What age-range are you most comfortable with?

5. What common language do you want to correspond with?

6. What is your race/ethnicity and planet?

7. What gender would you like your correspondent to be?

He chose B in answer to questions one and two. He asked for someone from North America, between the ages of 16 and 22 who spoke Standard English. After adding his name, age, ethnicity, planet and interests, he eagerly hit ENTER.

A pop-up asked him to download the Carrier Pigeon application and to "Initiate your own First Contact! Write to your new pen pal now!"

Within a minute of logging in, his screen lit up with his match.

A C. P. Summerfield.

His mind went completely blank.

He hadn’t expected the program to match him that quickly. He wasn’t ready.

What was he supposed to say? Hello, I am an oddity on my planet and most probably on yours or anywhere, and I want to talk to someone who doesn’t know who I am so he wouldn’t judge me based on that.

After long, sweaty moments, he typed what he hoped was a more appropriate first message.

 

Hello, C.P. Summerfield,

 

We appear to have been matched by the system. I don’t know whether it means we are well matched or if the pick was random. Whatever it was, I am very pleased to make your acquaintance. If you choose to respond, I hope that our pairing will prove mutually beneficial to the both of us.

 

I look forward to hearing from you,

Soren

* * *

Hours dragged past after he’d hit send.

Each minute was full of expectant glances at his tablet and breath-bating anxiousness that slowly turned into resignation.

Just as he started chiding himself for giving this a try, the loud buzz of a response made him almost fall off his chair.

With trembling hands, he snatched the tablet up.

He read the message so fast he didn’t make sense of it on the first go. He forced himself to calm down, steady his hands and his reading speed and tried again.

 

Hey!

 

When I picked Orcus on the IPP page I didn’t think somebody from that uptight planet would answer me.

Not that I’m not glad you did, but, dude, why are you so formal? You kinda sound like an AI. It’s okay, I’m not an English teacher so you can drop all the vocab words.

Unless that’s how you actually talk, then never mind!

Anyway... Hi, I’m Chris. I’m from Kansas. It’s this cold, cold farming state a bit above Texas. We have a lot of fields. Sunflower fields, corn fields, wheat fields...FIELDS EVERYWHERE! Hell, even my name has a field in it.

I actually grew up on a farm! (I still live there. It’s my great-aunt Tina’s.)

Do you have farms on Orcus? What’s the Orcan version of a chicken or a cow?

 

Talk to you later,

Chris

 

After reading the brief, blithe response for what had to be the hundredth time, Soren put down the tablet.

His heart pounded between his ears and his hand shook as it never had.

Someone had really answered him.

He had made contact.

CHAPTER TWO

Soren still couldn’t believe it.

He had expected the worst. A flat out rejection without explanation.

But this human boy was so...nice. Was it that easy to make friends on Earth? If so, why hadn’t his mother given him this option all these years?

But what was he thinking? That boy had actually answered him. This was a matter to consider later. The only important thing now was to respond.

His fingers shook over the keyboard as he started to type.

 

Hello Chris,

 

When the IPP sent me your name, I didn’t know how best to initiate a conversation. I, as well, didn’t expect you would respond to me, and I shall try to ‘drop all the vocab words’ as you say.

Thanks for providing the information about yourself.

Now, for some more about me beyond what I provided in my IPP profile.

I am from the megacity of Samsara. It is more industrial than the rest of Orcus and has all the major governmental agencies as well as alien outposts and embassies. I attend the Samsara Institute for Learning. My mother is Earth’s ambassador to Orcus. It’s why I chose your planet.

We do have farms, but only agricultural ones, as we do not eat animals. We are strictly vegetarian in our diet and I don’t believe there is an Orcan version of a cow. But we do have a few flightless birds in the Greater Desert. The one that most resembles a Terran chicken is called a dazhac. It has small wings, a large beak and blue and purple feathers and spits hot acid on its prey. I hope this answers your questions, and I am looking forward to your next communication.

 

Best regards,

Soren

 

Almost an hour later, a response arrived with a loud beep, spiking his excitement.

 

Soren,

Buddy,

Pal,

 

You’re still super-formal. I can’t tell if that’s how you really talk. But I’m not going to grade you on this so—take a nice big breath and remember to let it out.

Hey, you don’t happen to be related to Captain Renacxan, do you? If you are, I’m going to need details! He’s still alive, right? You Orcans seem to live forever or something, since he must be over two hundred years old by now. So what’s he like? I got the impression from the history books that he’s a pretty odd dude. Is he odd or are you all like that?

And let me get this straight. If your mom is an ambassador on Orcus, does this mean you’ve always lived there? Or just since she became ambassador?

Wait...you said ‘Earth’s ambassador to Orcus’? Does this mean she’s human? That makes you half-human, right?

And you’re all vegetarian? Damn, that sucks, I mean if some people want to be vegetarian or vegan or whatever, that’s fine, but everyone? Tell you what, if you ever visit I’m taking you out for a burger, deal? ‘Best regards’, huh? So formal. But I guess I could be down with that, so...

 

Respectfully yours?

Chris

 

Soren felt the desperate urge to smack himself.

If there was one thing he’d wanted to avoid, it was having who he was defining him to any potential alien friend. It had been his opportunity to have an unprejudiced evaluation. And he’d stupidly outed himself from the beginning. His name alone was a red flag, he knew, especially since Chris seemed to have a keen eye for detail. But many families across the universe had taken the Renacxan name to honor his great grandfather. Chris could have thought he belonged to any of them. Such families must have also named some of their children Soren, after such a galactic pioneer.

But he had to go provide enough details for Chris to figure out that he must be part human. A half-breed.

It was too late to take it back now.

*  *  *

To Soren’s delight, it didn’t seem it mattered to Chris who or what he was.

His messages kept coming hard and fast for the next three days.

His mother was, as usual, at the embassy by day then mostly with Tatiana Vrosh, the Vestan ambassador’s human wife. While his father stayed at the Samsara Space Academy campus on weekdays, coming home only on the weekend. This pattern had previously intensified Soren’s loneliness. But with Chris’s messages keeping him engrossed and entertained, he didn’t mind their absence at all.

Of course, there was the school’s schedule to fulfill. He’d expected to be at a loss during his suspension, since his life revolved around school. Apart from assignments, the education system on Orcus dictated everything else in his life. How many hours he should sleep, how long his hair should be, when he should have his meals, what they’d consist of and what was best to do with his free time. They even dictated what kind of exercise he did.

That had been the one thing he’d disregarded. He needed a more strenuous outlet for his energies. His father, though he’d objected, hadn’t stopped him, and his mother had found him an online martial arts instructor and Titus to practice with.

But no matter how hard he tried he couldn’t stick to that schedule. He couldn’t function on less than six hours of sleep. His curling locks were impossible to have at the required length without becoming a tangled riot. Many of the spices and leaves in the Maissarni cuisine upset his stomach or had him break out in hives. And he saw no point in reading obscure non-fiction books outside of homework, let alone for fun.

But even with its pitfalls, it turned out he was too used to that system. It made dealing with being at home all day much easier, for suspension meant not even leaving the house. But what made his enforced homestay enjoyable, even exciting, was Chris.

That was until two days ago. That was how long ago his last message had been.

Dushan, his strelca, was the only one delighted to have him home all day. The magnificent cross between a Terran saber-tooth and a lynx lay beside him, pointed brown ears flicking, orange-striped red coat rippling. His legs, brown up to the knees and elbows, as if he was wearing matching gloves and boots, stretched as he sprawled longer across the couch. He was so relaxed with him around all the time. Though he still tore across the house at random times.

With a contented rumble, Dushan adjusted his fangs so he could set his chin on Soren’s knee. He scratched his head absently as he watched one of five films Chris had recommended in his last letter. As presumably the first Terran animated movie, it was a milestone in Human history. Over three hundred years old, it was well preserved or restored. From the brightness of colors, it was possibly enhanced. The yellow of Snow White’s skirt distracted him even more than her illogical behavior did. He’d never seen anything that yellow. The word translated to gold in the Maissarni dialect, correlating to its rarity in Orcus’s nature. None of the flora here bore that color, and the deserts were red.

Throughout the movie, he kept glancing at his tablet and the Carrier Pigeon icon. But there was still no new notification. He didn’t want to send another message asking where Chris was. He’d already sent three and that was presumably too much. He had read articles on Human websites on how to make friends and how not to lose them. The most important aspect was to ‘not be pushy or clingy’ because that might scare them off.

If he’d thought it would scare off everyone at school so they’d stop harassing him, he would have used this method. But he didn’t think it would work on Orcans.

On the other hand, he didn’t want to scare Chris off. But what if he'd already done that?

With that new worry in mind, he revised their communications, but nothing popped out at him. Their back and forth messages were just accounts of their day and questions and answers about anything that occurred to them. As he reread their exchanges, his lips twitched at one of Chris’s recurring concerns. His non-existent relationship with meat. At Chris's insistence to introduce him to hamburgers one day, he'd finally explained that he couldn’t eat them. As an herbivore, he couldn’t digest meat. Not to be thwarted, Chris had suggested something called a veggie burger. Yet he’d still tried to convince him that “Bacon is so cured it doesn’t count as meat anymore!”

But as he read again, he noticed something even more than he had before. For all of Chris’s humor and spontaneity, he always evaded talking about his home life. This had inflamed his curiosity to the point he'd made many comments that demanded Chris answered them by talking about his parents, the once-mentioned stepmother and half-sister. When that had gotten him nowhere, he’d asked direct questions. Afterward, Chris had dropped off the grid.

Was this considered the pushy behavior the articles warned against? Was that why Chris no longer wanted to talk to him? The more he thought about it, the more dismayed he became.

On the screen, the film went on unconcerned with his condition. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves ended and Independence Day started. He paid it little attention as his mind kept wandering back to their entire correspondence, examining his every word.

How would he come off to a human in general, and what did Chris in specific see him? Did his oft-mentioned formality feel cold or unenthusiastic? Boring? Insufferable? Had his nosiness been an abrupt last straw?

If so, then Chris was truly an illogical human. He should have been upfront about which subjects he considered off-limits. He should have given him a clear warning first instead of just cutting him off. If his silence meant he had cut him off. Had he cut him off?

Halfway into the film, his patience had worn thin and he switched to the third one, War of the Worlds. He turned it off ten minutes in. He had enough willpower to sit through Alien for half an hour. Then he grabbed his tablet and typed a single question, fear of being annoying forgotten.

Is there a point you’re trying to make with all these alien-themed films?


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Preferring the worlds of magic and stars over the real one, Lucy has been writing since the age of seven. She plans to keep one foot in fantasy and another in reality, by merging them both in her stories. Lucy lives in California with her family, two cats and a boatload of characters waiting to have their stories told.

Q. What is the inspiration for the story?
A.
While chatting with my best friend, who I haven't seen in years, despite us living in the same country, I wondered if friendships like ours were this hard, how much harder would it be if we were living on different planets? And the idea of the ultimate long-distance relationship was born.
Q. This book is part of a series, tell us about your series.
A.
The trilogy follows Soren and Christine, whose relationship is both figuratively and literally star-crossed. Spanning ten years, the story arc deals with loss, trauma, and a love that defies distance, time and fate itself among the backdrop of a darkening universe.
Q. Where can readers find out more about you?
A.
You can find me on: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LucyLeClairAuthor / Twitter: @Lucy_LeClair / Website: http://www.lucyleclair.com

Next in:
Romance
"Sit Down My Love"
"Where would I, ever be without you?"
Tikopia
Cyberstalking is a Dangerous Game
Perfect Chloe
Ted is about to create the girl of his dreams