Rig Runner


Cover illustration by Sarichow: https://www.patreon.com/sarichow

© 2019 Snekguy. All rights reserved.

This work was made possible by the generous support of my Patrons:

https://www.patreon.com/Snekguy

Disclaimer: This work of erotic fiction is intended for adults only. The story contains the following themes: femdom, reluctant, dubcon, biting, scratching, size difference, muscle, sweat, long tongues, light bondage, rough sex.

CHAPTER 1: SILENT RUNNING

Eriksen was jolted back to consciousness by blaring alarms. The console in front of his seat blinked with red warning lights that burned into his retinas as he struggled to get his bearings, leaving ghostly trails in his eyes as he tried in vain to blink them away. Where was he? He felt almost drunk, like his brain couldn't process his surroundings properly. Every nerve in his damned body stung as if he had been tagged by a riot grenade.

There was something in his mouth...hard plastic, and he spat it out onto the deck at his feet as he struggled to unfasten the harness that had him strapped tightly to the chair. Wait...it was a bit, to stop him from biting his tongue off during superlight travel. Yes, he remembered now. He was the pilot of this ship, no, a freighter. He must have just landed on the outskirts of his destination system. That or a problem had interrupted his jump, what the hell was going on?

He unfastened the clasp on the harness and rose to his feet unsteadily, stretching his limbs as his mind unfogged and everything came into focus again. He was no stranger to the wracking energies of superlight travel, but although frequent exposure to the higher dimensions of spacetime made such jumps easier, it never made them...easy.

Now what the fuck is the problem?" Eriksen muttered to himself as he examined the pilot's console. Proximity warning, that couldn't be right. He should have come out well on the near side of the star's Oort cloud, there shouldn't be anything out this far. He turned his attention to a nearby monitor and tapped at it incredulously, his eyes narrowing as he examined the readout. The scanner did indeed appear to show a small object directly in the freighter's path, the behemoth's onboard computer had already initiated an evasive burn in an attempt to avoid it.

Couldn't be an asteroid, too small, so what...

His blood ran cold, his heart stopping in his chest as he came to the only logical conclusion. Pirates.

He scrambled to zip up his pressure suit, securing the flexible hood that would serve as an impromptu helmet in the case of a sudden decompression, checking the computer display on his wrist to make sure there were no leaks. He typed furiously at his console, trying to activate the ship's distress beacon, but his comms were being jammed. Damned pirates must have an EWAR package, that didn't bode well. They must be professionals.

He had a small caliber pistol stowed where regulations stated that the cockpit's fire extinguisher was supposed to be, a nine-millimeter Walther. It wasn't exactly military grade, but you couldn't go around firing railguns inside a civilian ship. You might be able to blow a fist-sized hole in an intruder, but you'd also be blowing a fist-sized hole in anything that was directly behind him, in this case a damned spaceship hull. It was better than nothing, however. He popped open the glass case to retrieve the handgun, checking the magazine and then pocketing it. He dashed out of the cockpit section of the freighter and into the hab module, trying to come up with a plan, his heart racing as he considered his options.

There had been reports of pirates near the outer colonies, but not this far into UNN controlled space. Whoever would take a risk like this was going to be a real hardcase. That or they were completely fucking unhinged, which with pirates was just as likely a prospect.

This vessel was big and slow, fast in the long term, but it took time to build up speed in realspace. It was completely incapable of outrunning or outmaneuvering a smaller and more agile vessel in the short term. He couldn't evade them, and as a civilian freighter owned by a shipping company, he had no shipboard weapons. The freighter was a long, thin scaffold upon which dozens of massive shipping containers were secured, skeletal and fragile. There was a cockpit and a habitation module on the front of the structure, while the engines along with their generators were down at the bottom end, giving the vessel the appearance of a giant cotton swab from a distance.

If they wanted control of the ship in order to secure the cargo, then they would have to board it, and they could attempt that in one of two places. They could either storm the hab module in order to access the cockpit and wrest control of the ship from him, or they could try to take the engines down, leaving him dead in the water. They wouldn't use ship-to-ship weapons, assuming that they had any. The reactors that powered the superlight drive were nuclear, and there was no black market for irradiated slag.

The easiest way to board the ship was through the small hangar just behind the hab module, it was large enough to house two shuttles if they were docked close together and it was open to space save for a forcefield that kept the air inside. From there they could either make their way to the cockpit or go aft down the maintenance tunnel that ran along the spine of the vessel, towards the engines.

He could seal himself inside the cockpit, and they would have a hard time getting to him. Perhaps it would stall them for long enough that another ship might happen upon him and raise the alarm. This was a commercial shipping route after all. The problem with that plan was that they'd still have free reign of the engines. There was a radiation-proof bulkhead that could be sealed in the event of a core breach, they'd never cut through that, but that would also activate the emergency mode and shut down the generators. Without power, he'd lose life support, and they'd only have to wait him out until he opened the doors of his own volition.

No, he was going to have to be smart about this, what he needed was a plan.

***

"Civilian freighter, this is the captain of the Black Claw. Surrender and prepare to be boarded. Relinquish control of your vessel, and you will not be harmed..."

Eriksen didn't recognize the accent, they must be from some remote backwater colony. As he watched their ship close on him through the viewport, it became clear that something didn't add up. This wasn't some hand-me-down skiff launched from a nearby asteroid base, it looked almost like a retired UNN Warden. They were Navy patrol vessels, commonly deployed on long realspace patrols to monitor activity in UNN controlled systems. They could house a small crew over long periods of time, and they could even make short-range superlight jumps. They were far from small, about the size of the average yacht, and they could carry boarding craft to be used during impromptu customs inspections.

How the hell would pirates have gotten their hands on a Warden? It made perfect sense, they were designed for long deployments in deep space, and they had capabilities that were perfectly suited to piracy. But any such vessels should have been sold off for scrap metal once retired from service. Perhaps some unscrupulous scrap dealer had been selling them on? Still, it would have taken a pretty penny to buy even a completely totaled Warden and just as much to make it spaceworthy again.

As it drew closer and its black-painted hull was illuminated by his freighter's floodlights, he noticed that it was covered in frankly shoddy repairs, as if someone had welded scrap metal to its airframe with no real idea of what it was originally supposed to look like. Some kind of mentally unstable mechanic had welded armor all over its hull that ruined its usually sleek profile, and it had spikes jutting out in front of it at odd angles as if they were expecting to do some ramming. Normally Wardens could make planetfall, but this thing looked as if it would break apart like it was made of plywood if exposed to the stress of reentry. Just who the hell was he dealing with here? Mad pirates with a lot of money and no sense?

He watched as a smaller shuttle broke away from the misshapen Warden, its thrusters flaring as it maneuvered towards the freighter's hangar bay. Ensuring that the comforting weight of the handgun was still present in his pocket, he steeled himself and left the hab module, walking down the narrow corridor towards the bay.

***

The shuttle settled on the deck, its landing gear bouncing as it absorbed the impact, the engines glowing orange with excess heat that he could feel from across the room as they cooled. The shuttle was odd too, far older than the Warden, he wasn't even sure that it was of UNN origin.

He bristled as the access ramp to the rear of the lander began to lower with a hydraulic hiss, what sounded like heavy boots scraping against metal echoing in the hangar as the crew descended. Something about them seemed off, were they wearing some kind of powered exosuits? Their gait was strange, they were too tall, and...

Eriksen had to fight the overpowering urge to flee, to turn on his heels and sprint back to the cockpit, locking every door between him and these pirates and damn the consequences. He felt a deep, primal dread that transcended simple fear, as if some ancient predator was staring him down and licking its chops hungrily in anticipation of making a meal of him. Those weren't boots scraping against the deck, they were hooked claws. These were Borealans.

Known colloquially as Mad Cats, they were the prized alien shock troopers of the UNN, eight feet of muscle and death all wrapped up in the savage appearance of a bipedal tiger. They walked on two digitigrade legs, basically humanoid if not for the claws and tail, their faces strangely uncanny with the flat brow of a cat and a pink feline nose. Their bodies were mostly clean of fur much like a human, besides for their arms below the elbow and their legs below the knee, along with the round ears that protruded from their hair and their long tails that trailed behind them.

These were not UNN personnel, however, not even close. Whenever Eriksen had seen pictures of them, they had been wearing either standard-issue Navy blue jumpsuits or the black combat armor that was favored by the Marines, humanity's crack commandos. The dress sense of these pirates might have been funny under circumstances where his life wasn't in immediate danger. It was all leather, they looked like a damned biker gang. Upon closer inspection, it was actually quite elaborate. It didn't look like anything that he had ever seen before, it almost looked as if they had tanned the hide and tailored the clothing themselves. By that he meant that it looked handcrafted, it wasn't a complaint about the quality by any means, everything had little personal touches and quirks that one just didn't see in mass-produced gear. There were designs pressed into the jackets that almost looked like hunting scenes, elaborately decorated buttons and clasps, no two items of clothing were the same. It was odd the things you noticed when you were on the verge of pissing your overalls in terror.

What was obviously the ringleader elbowed past its fellows and Eriksen was surprised to see that it was a woman, a very developed and intimidating woman at that. The high gravity of their home planet gave even the most lethargic of these aliens bodies that professional athletes would die for, her muscles bulging from beneath clothing that was tight enough to creak as she stepped forward. Her skin was so dark that it almost matched the color of her Warden's hull and her blonde hair was bleached nearly white in the harsh glare of the hangar's lights. She looked him up and down with her yellow, feline eyes, and he couldn't help but glance at the massive hand cannon that was holstered on her hip.

He tried to collect himself, his survival depended on him appearing calm and collected, even if he wasn't. His plan would only work if he could lull them into a false sense of security, make them feel like he wasn't a threat. He wasn't sure if that would be easier or harder with Borealans.

"The captain of the Black Claw, I presume?" Eriksen managed to keep his voice level, his hands clasped behind his back so that the aliens wouldn't see them shaking.

"Are you the pilot of this freighter?" the massive female asked in that strange, rolling accent as she eyed him suspiciously. "Show me your hands, don't make any sudden moves."

At least she spoke good English. He raised his hands to show her that they were empty, the Walther was stashed in his pocket safely out of view. They wouldn't expect him to be armed and if he could make himself appear harmless enough, they might not even frisk him. It was a risk, but one that he had to take.

"As you requested, I'm surrendering," he said. "This doesn't need to be a problem. They don't pay me enough to die for a shipment of fucking farming equipment."

"And that's what you're hauling?" the pirate captain asked incredulously, "farming equipment?"

"That's...what's on the manifest," he replied, with a little less conviction than he had intended. Her eyes narrowed, and she cocked her head at him, Eriksen slowly lowering his hands to let them rest at his sides.

"Perhaps you will bring this manifest to us so that we can verify what your...farming equipment is worth..."

He was lying of course, both about the cargo and about them not paying him enough to risk his life for the company. If he handed over his freight to the pirates, he might well escape with his life, but he'd be brought before a tribunal. He'd be fired for sure, and his license would almost certainly be revoked. He'd spend the rest of his life either queuing for bread or toiling in some godforsaken mining colony. Not that he could trust the word of pirates, his organs were as valuable as a whole shipping container worth of goods and a damn sight easier to smuggle.

No, he couldn't just hand his livelihood over to them, and it was immediately apparent that he couldn't overpower them either. He would have to get inside their heads, play on their biases, see if he could get a bead on how they interacted and find a chink in the armor. It was already apparent that they were extremely hierarchical, that could be a potential weakness. They were constantly glancing at their captain as if they were afraid of her. If they were scared of being reprimanded then they might not be able to take initiative and react quickly in a crisis, he could perhaps use that to his advantage. His plan relied on getting them all in one place, relaxed and unsuspecting, and then he would sow chaos and take them completely by surprise.

It would work. It had to work, or he'd be dead.

***

He led the towering aliens into the hab module. They had to duck under the human-sized door frame as they entered the padded corridor, automatic doors to their left and right leading to crew quarters and bathrooms. This was where the small, usually one-man crew lived when they weren't piloting the ship. It was cramped, but it wasn't much worse than life on any space station or Navy vessel. The majority of the food and supplies were stored in crates in the hangar, dehydrated rations and canned food mostly, the water was all recycled so at least he could use as much of that as he wanted.

The crew trailed behind their captain, four of them, all males. Were they a matriarchal society perhaps? That wasn't something that he had heard, but he didn't know much about their culture. Perhaps she was just the biggest and baddest of the bunch, judging by the way the others seemed almost to recoil when she looked in their direction. Like beaten dogs, he thought, arriving at the door to the cockpit.

He stood in front of it, staring at the closed door, and the captain gave him a hard shove from behind that almost knocked him off balance.

"What's the holdup? Open the door."

"It's sealed," he stammered, trying to sound surprised. "The security lockdown must have been engaged when an unauthorized shuttle entered the hangar. God damn it." He pounded his fist on the door in frustration, hoping that she would buy his act. He had done this himself, of course, there was no automated security system.

"Security lockdown," the captain snarled, "what is this security lockdown?"

"It's automatic. If the ship's sensors detect a vessel entering the bay that doesn't have a valid callsign, it locks down the cockpit to protect the pilot. Problem is I wasn't in the cockpit at the time, I was heading down to the hangar to meet you. What's worse, the button to disengage it is inside."

"I have not heard of this lockdown before," she hissed, leaning closer to him and sniffing him. What the hell was she doing, trying to smell fear on him or something? Did she have a way to tell if he was lying? In one smooth and rehearsed motion she unholstered her handgun and spun it on her finger, bringing the cold metal to bear against his temple. He winced and closed his eyes, feeling the gun pressing against his head, the caliber so large that he could have poked his finger down the barrel without touching the sides. He heard the hammer click, a revolver then? Odd choice.

"If you're lying, I'll paint your brains all over the wall," she murmured. She was uncomfortably close to him now, her lips an inch from his ear, her warm breath blowing on his skin.

"Hang on, hang on, I swear it's just a security feature! I have no control over this! I do know how to disable it though, I can show you."

He felt her pull the barrel of the gun away from his temple, the pirate holstering it in a similarly flashy manner, crossing her arms and staring down at him with those feline pupils.

"How?"

"The...the engine room," Eriksen replied as he wiped his brow with the sleeve of his pressure suit. "I can cut the power to the door from there and it will slide right open. It's just a short walk down the access tunnel."

"If you're lying to me, I can do worse things than just shoot you," the captain said. He didn't doubt it, but what he did doubt was that these pirates had any idea how a freighter worked. He was pulling this out of his ass, and it was actually working, they were just taking his word for it because they didn't know any better. It was hard to blame them for their ignorance, he didn't know anything about making leather jackets or being a thieving asshole. Everyone had their own area of expertise.

He turned and inched past her, pressing himself flat up against the wall to get by her in the narrow corridor, her narrowed eyes tracking him as he averted his gaze and started off back towards the hangar. Her subordinates waited to follow behind her, they really were acting like trained animals more than anything resembling a crew. As intimidating as they were it was becoming a little hard to take them seriously. Their captain was an ice queen, however. She wouldn't hesitate to pluck his heart from his chest and show it to him if he crossed her. He could feel an evil aura coming off her like she was wearing eau de psychopath. Things had gone his way so far, but he had to be careful not to get cocky and underestimate them, especially her.

They returned to the hangar bay and crossed over to the far side, ducking under the stubby wings of the shuttle in the confined space and heading to the door that led to the access tunnel. It was a narrow maintenance tube that ran down the skeletal spine of the freighter upon which the cargo containers were anchored, connecting the forward section of the vessel to the aft. It was designed to let the crew access the engines and reactors in an emergency. It wasn't exactly a leisurely stroll. The aliens would certainly hit their heads on protruding pipes and get tangled in loose cables, and the more annoyed they got, the less attention they'd be paying to him.

"It's about a thousand feet. Watch your heads, seriously. It's going to be cramped in there, and there won't be much room to maneuver."

The captain muttered curses under her breath and followed him into the access tunnel, bent almost double due to her exaggerated stature. They shuffled through the dingy tube, lit only by strips of yellow warning lights, dodging the pipes and machinery that seemed to have been strategically placed for the express purpose of giving people concussions. Eventually, the silence started to get to Eriksen, and he couldn't help but speak up.

"So, how's the piracy business these days? Good steady work I assume?"

"Do you always crack jokes when you're afraid?" the captain sneered.

"How do you know I'm afraid?"

"Because you stink of fear, it's coming out of your pores like sweat."

"Maybe I've just not showered for a while, I wasn't expecting visitors you know. I might have cleaned up if I had known you'd be dropping by."

He heard one of her lackeys hit his head on a pipe with an audible crack and the captain turned to berate him in their native tongue, all hisses and snarls like a cat fight played back in slow motion.

"You might want to watch the pipes," Eriksen muttered sarcastically, and he was rewarded with another shove from behind.

"Keep moving, and hold your tongue unless you want to lose it."

"Aye aye Cap'n," he replied.

CHAPTER 2: SPRINGING THE TRAP

The trek took far longer than it should have, partly because of the difficulty that the giant aliens had traversing a space that was cramped and uncomfortable even by human standards, but also because Eriksen was intentionally slowing them down as he made exaggerated and unnecessary attempts to avoid obstacles. She might be able to smell his fear, but he could feel the annoyance radiating off her in much the same manner, the bulky alien finally clearing the access tunnel and stretching up to full height. Her crew emerged one by one behind her, fanning out to examine their new surroundings. They were in the engineering section of the ship now. The upper section housed the reactors and the energy-hungry superlight drive while the lower one was the engine module which contained the conventional realspace engines. The jump drive was a self-contained unit that looked like a large oil drum, painted white and lying on its side on a pedestal in the middle of the room, fat power cables trailing to it from the six nuclear reactors that surrounded it. This section of the ship was far more spacious, it had to be. The massive reactors were stacked floor to ceiling, and there was barely enough space for them even then. He could feel the heat coming off them. Most of it was vented into space, but it still made the engine room feel like a sauna, he was already starting to sweat as they bathed the room in their blue Cherenkov glow.

They all gave the jump drive a wide berth, nobody but the most qualified theoretical physicist would dare to crack that casing open. Doing it wrong might catapult you a hundred light years away and deposit you inside of a sun, or swallow you up in a singularity, or fry your brain and turn you into a gibbering basket case. Who knew how the damned things worked. If you don't know how something works, don't fuck with it, they should print that in all the manuals.

This place was a maze of massive electrical cables and coolant pipes, it looked like some kind of industrial factory that a giant had crushed like a soda can, as if everything had been condensed into far too small a space. That was partially true, because the number of nuclear reactors that you could fit on a spaceship determined how far it could jump, and they had crammed as many of them into the space as humanly possible. Freighters and carriers housed six to eight, and the smallest classes of jump-capable vessels housed just one. Beyond that point trying to miniaturize the technology or use lower output reactors resulted in diminishing returns. The ships just couldn't get far enough in one jump to make it worth the effort.

The relatively tiny jump drive would completely drain the reactors of power, using the energy to create a breach in space not unlike a black hole, sucking the vessel and everything in its immediate vicinity into a higher dimension of space and time where the laws of the universe operated differently. A massless object could travel faster than the speed of light, time ran faster or in strange ways, and who knew what other odd quirks that could be leveraged to exceed the limitations of our paltry three-dimensional universe.

The laws of nature, or maybe it was fucking God himself, eventually rejected the foreign object and deposited it a varying number of light years away depending on how much energy had been expended. The reactors then had to charge back up and prepare for the next jump, where the same maneuver would be repeated over and over until the vessel reached its intended destination. Long journeys still took weeks or months, but it was a damn sight better than taking tens of thousands of years slowboating in realspace.

The Borealans looked out of their element, unsure and wary of the technology that they didn't understand. Eriksen felt mostly the same way, he didn't know any more about how a nuclear reactor or a superlight drive worked than they did, but that meant he could bluff his way through this.

"Okay," he announced, clapping his gloved hands together and startling one of the underlings. "Now we just need to find the power conduit for the cockpit module and interrupt the flow of electricity. That should disable the motors on the door and then you should be able to just pull it open."

"Should?" she shot back angrily. "What do you mean should? Haven't you done this before?"

"When would I ever have?"

"If you made me crawl all the way down that tunnel only to tell me that you don't know what you're doing I'll have you begging for death before the hour is through."

"Calm down, I've got this. We just have to find the cable, and you'll be home free."

She snatched him off the ground, wrapping her furry fingers around his head and lifting him clear off the deck, his boots dangling a foot off the floor as her black claws pressed against his cheeks. Damn she was strong, he felt like a doll in her grasp, she could have crushed his head like a tangerine in her fist if she had wanted to.

"Do not tell me to calm down," she snarled.

"Okay," he wheezed, feeling one of her pointed talons break the skin. "Feel free to uh...remain agitated?"

She dropped him unceremoniously, and he fell to his knees, wiping the trickle of blood from his cheek with his sleeve. What a hardass. Her patience seemed to be running thin, better spring the trap before she got so pissed off that she swiped his head from his shoulders with those dinner plate sized hands. Swallowing a snide remark about steroid abuse, he rose to his feet and set off into the maze of pipes, ducking and weaving between them as the aliens watched. The captain barked something at her men, and one of them scrambled to follow him, Eriksen attempting to look like he wasn't choosing the longest and most awkward route possible. The male Borealan struggled to keep up, too large to fit through the same gaps as the smaller human, Eriksen gaining ground on him without looking too much like he was escaping.

"Stay where we can see you, rat!"

Eriksen ignored her as he ventured deeper, taking in his surroundings and trying to identify as much of the equipment as he could. While he wasn't a nuclear physicist and nor was he much of an engineer, he had undergone basic maintenance training as the sole pilot aboard the ship. He could fix most simple problems on his own in a pinch, at least those that didn't concern the vessel's more arcane technologies. There were so many accidents that could happen in this industrial setting, and he was about to orchestrate one.

Coolant pipes, spent fuel rods, electrical cables, heavy machinery, boiling steam in the turbines, and highly combustible liquid fuel. There were a dozen ways for someone to be grievously injured or killed in here. The problem was finding a way to involve all of the aliens at once, and to do it quickly enough that they couldn't react in time to prevent it. A good old-fashioned explosive decompression should do the trick, none of these jokers were wearing pressure suits. He could zip up his hood and blow the idiots out into space and then just walk out of here. Shouldn't do any damage to the equipment, it was all self-contained.

How to cause a decompression though? He could break a coolant line on one of the fuel tanks, the unstable propellant would rapidly overheat, and the explosion should be mostly contained to the aft engine compartment. He might lose a couple of engines, but it shouldn't stop him from slowboating to his destination. There was a security door that would automatically lock down the hab module to prevent it from losing atmosphere, but as the only one with a pressure suit, he could wait until the pirates died of hypoxia and then walk back up the access tunnel at his leisure to disengage it.

That was it then, as good a plan as any. No explosion could be considered controlled under these circumstances, and so he would have to ensure that he was out of the line of fire lest any debris hit him. He'd also need to be anchored to something sturdy so that he didn't get spaced. Fortunately, emergency pressure suits had a tether for that very purpose.

"Hurry it up," the captain called to him, "you'd better not be stalling for time. We're blocking your distress calls, nobody can hear you as long as the Black Claw is in range of your freighter."

"Yeah, I couldn't help but notice it," he replied as he scanned the room for the fat coolant pipes. "It's a Warden, right? Where the hell did you get it from?"

"I bought it," she replied tersely, "from a human ship dealer."

"You know it's illegal to sell on retired Navy vessels, right? He probably bought it for scrap at an auction and was supposed to recycle it, but decided to sell it to you guys instead. I bet you paid too much for it as well, the thing looks barely spaceworthy."

"My ship does what I require of it, now stop talking and accomplish your task before I decide to take you back with me and give you a personal tour of her brig."

"You got like a pirate torture dungeon set up in there or something?"

"Yes."

That shut him up and he directed his full attention to finding the coolant pipes. They should be trailing along the floor somewhere, carrying liquid nitrogen to the fuel tanks in order to keep the propellant stable. If he severed one of the lines, the unstable chemicals in the tank would turn from a liquid state into a highly combustible gas within about thirty seconds as they heated, then the pressure would cause them to violently explode. The coolant lines were thick and padded with insulation though, perhaps he could trick one of the captain's lackeys into doing it for him.

He finally found one, a white cable about as thick as his wrist, cold to the touch even through his gloves.

"We need to cut this electrical line," he called back to the captain, now out of view. "It's too thick for me to do it alone."

As he had hoped, she barked an order at the male who had been tailing him, the Borealan squeezing through the jungle of pipes and cables to join him. He crouched to examine the cable, looking to Eriksen for instructions. The captain must have told him to do whatever Eriksen asked of him. Perfect.

"We need to sever this cable," he said, lifting the heavy tube off the deck with some difficulty. "Don't do it with your claws, you might get electrocuted. Do you have a knife or some kind of blade?" The alien seemed to understand him well enough and drew a wicked Bowie knife from his boot. "Okay great. The handle is rubber, right? That should be fine, cut right here," he said as he pointed to a random spot on the cable. "Really jam it in there, don't be scared. I'll...uh, get out of your way."

He started to inch backwards slowly as the clueless Borealan raised the Bowie knife over his head, preparing to stab the coolant line.

"What's going on back there?" the captain called, "did you idiots cut the power yet? If I have to come back there and get you I'll-"

There was a sound like a gunshot that rang out in the compartment, followed by a blood-curdling screech of surprise and pain as the Borealan brought his blade down on the cable, piercing the insulation and releasing the liquid nitrogen coolant. It boiled instantly on contact with the air, turning into a rapidly expanding gas as it sprayed him in the face like a jet of steam. At somewhere below minus two hundred degrees Celsius, it seared his exposed flesh like fire, the alien rising to his feet and stumbling backwards looking as if he had been covered in third-degree burns. He clutched his blistered face and wailed, Eriksen pulling his emergency hood over his head and fumbling for the cable on his belt. He wrapped it around a nearby pipe and then anchored his arm around it too for good measure, he couldn't have more than twenty seconds before the tank blew.

"You'll die slow, human!" he heard the captain shout. "I'm coming in there to find you, and then I'm going to flay you alive, you little bastard. There are five of us and one of you, what the fuck are you going to do now?"

He could hear their claws scraping on the deck as they rushed forward, but the machinery slowed them, they were too large to get through the cramped space in time. His heart hammered in his chest, and he closed his eyes, preparing for the blast as one of the pirates reached a clawed hand through the piping. It stopped an inch short of his plastic faceplate, grasping at him, the alien snarling and straining to get closer as the utility cables tangled its limbs.

There was a flash of light and heat as the fuel tank exploded, rocking the ship and hitting him with a blast of hot air, then just as abruptly everything went silent. Wind rushed past him, buffeting him like a hurricane had formed inside the engine room, tearing his arm from the pipe and slamming him against another as all of the atmosphere in the aft section rushed to the newly formed breach in the hull. His tether caught him, jolting him as it pulled taut and strained to prevent his body from being sucked out into space.

He caught a glimpse of one of the pirates as it shot past him, flailing as it tried to get a grip on the deck, and in a second it was gone. It didn't take long for the compartment to vent its atmosphere into space and Eriksen soon found himself in a cold, silent void. The gravity was still on, the AG field generator was located towards the middle of the ship, and it wouldn't be affected by a decompression. He stood patiently, waiting a couple of minutes to give the Borealans time to suffocate and freeze. When he was sure that enough time had passed, he unhooked his tether from the pipe, nursing his bruised ribs where he had been battered around by the rushing air and making his way slowly back towards the access tunnel. He couldn't see any movement, and as he cleared the industrial machinery and looked over his shoulder at the breach, he saw a starfield beyond the jagged hole that the explosion had torn in the hull. He had lost two engines for sure, maybe three, but the damage seemed to be remarkably localized considering the violence of the blast. There was shrapnel damage all over the place but nothing stood out to him as requiring his immediate attention.

He could feel the harsh cold of open space pricking at his skin through the emergency pressure suit, a thin layer of fabric and plastic the only thing protecting his fragile body from the freezing temperature and the low pressure. He didn't envy the pirates. Hopefully, they had either been killed by shrapnel, or they had quickly lost consciousness due to the drop in air pressure, sucked out into the void to freeze in their sleep. It had been necessary, they had brought this upon themselves. It was only due to his quick thinking that he wasn't broken up into his component organs and stored in a beer cooler right now.

It was odd walking around with no atmosphere. Crisis scenarios usually assumed a total loss of power, the artificial gravity field along with it. The gravity was normal, but everything around him was as silent as the grave and far colder. The only thing that he could hear was the rustling of his suit and his breath as it washed against his plastic faceplate. He could only see one body, a male, he had been dashed against some machinery on his way towards the breach. If he hadn't been killed outright by the impact, the hypoxia would have gotten him by now. The rest must have been flushed. He didn't care how tough people said these aliens were, they couldn't survive in open space.

He crossed the room and reached the access tunnel, making his way back up the skeletal midsection of the ship and towards the hangar bay where the pirate shuttle was still docked. If the worst happened and the remaining engines were somehow damaged or inoperable, he could take that back to their Warden and fly it beyond the range of the pirate vessel's signal jammer. He didn't think that there were any other crew members on their ship, five was about as many as a Warden could house, but he'd deal with those problems when he came to them. One step at a time. The first thing he had to do was get into the hab module, his suit didn't have more than a couple of hours of oxygen.

He was actually quite pleased with himself now that the fear and adrenaline were wearing off. Those aliens weren't so scary. Granted, he couldn't have hoped to take one in a fight, but they were as dumb as a box of rocks. As he made his way up the tunnel, ducking under hanging utility cables and hopping over protruding pipes, he felt something grip his ankle. His blood ran cold as he turned around to see the pirate captain snarling at him silently through a transparent emergency respirator mask that covered her face, a flexible pipe trailing from the mouthpiece down into her jacket where an oxygen tank must have been concealed. Her face was lit by the emergency strips embedded in the floor, a dull yellow glow rising from beneath her to cast her face in deep shadows, like someone telling a ghost story by a roaring campfire in the dead of night. She bared her sharp, carnivore teeth, her brow furrowed in anger and her yellow eyes wide.

He panicked, kicking at her face, hoping to crack or dislodge the mask. She blocked him easily, she was faster than he was, and he started to twist and struggle in an attempt to break free of her grip. He felt her sharp claws pricking his suit. If he didn't break free of her soon, then she would breach the seal, and he'd be no better off than her dead companions. He had to do something fast. Through his terror he remembered the Walther, reaching into his pocket and feeling the cold metal through his insulated gloves. He closed his fingers around the grip and pulled it on the furious Borealan. Her eyes widened when she saw the barrel aimed in her direction, but she didn't let go, and Eriksen squeezed the trigger.

There were only nine rounds in the magazine, and he emptied them into her chest, crimson blood splattering his yellow suit as the muzzle flash lit up the narrow tunnel. She jerked backwards, releasing his leg and falling on her back, Eriksen rising to his feet and running down the access tunnel as fast as he could manage without daring to look behind him. Damn it, he had underestimated her. She'd had that emergency mask on her the whole time and why wouldn't she? He should have seen something like that coming, should have known that in a hierarchical system like theirs, the highest ranked member of their pack would have the best equipment. She was fucking dead now though. He laughed nervously, a fresh adrenaline spurt driving him on down the tunnel as if the devil himself was hot on his heels. He had fired nine shots, and most of them had connected, point blank. No way she could survive that.

His panicked sprint finally took him back to the hangar, and he shot out of the access tunnel like a frightened rabbit from its warren, only now having the courage to turn and look behind him to ensure that there was no injured Borealan scrambling after him. He couldn't see any furious aliens, but it was dark in there, the only illumination coming from the emergency lighting strips in the deck. Better to get inside the hab module and then wait for a few hours. If the bullet wounds didn't kill her, then her oxygen supply depleting would. The sharp pain in his ribs came back with a vengeance, and he clutched at his side, grimacing under his plastic hood.

You're a pussy Eriksen, he thought to himself as he ducked under the stubby wing of the shuttle and headed towards the hab module door. You could just go check, there's no way she isn't dead. Meeting her in the tunnel had spooked him though, he would feel a lot better with a couple of inches of steel door between him and her, if she was dead or otherwise.

He fumbled with the keypad on the door through his gloves, his fingers slipping on the buttons, typing in the override code for the pressure seal. He waited a moment for the pressure to equalize, the automatic door sliding to the left with a hiss of escaping air, then he stepped into the familiar safety of the habitation module. He hit the door control panel behind him, and it began to close, Eriksen breathing a sigh of relief in anticipation of removing the stifling suit that he was wearing. Ironically space suits always made him feel like he was suffocating, despite keeping him breathing being their primary function.

He felt a rush of cool air as the cabin began to pressurize, sound returning to his ears now that the vibrations had a medium through which to travel again, and he heard the blare of an alarm. He turned, seeing that the hab module door was still open a crack, the atmosphere rushing through the gap as the system tried to restore life support to the room. There was a giant hand lodged in there, covered in straw-colored fur, its meat hook claws preventing the mechanism from sealing. As he watched, the pirate captain strained against the automatic door, her biceps bulging through her leather jacket and her limbs trembling as she came into view through the widening gap. Her chest was soaked with blood, but her mask was still on, and she was still conscious. Her expression was twisted with rage behind the clear plastic rebreather, her sharp teeth bared in a snarl. She was as strong as ten men, and even she was struggling to keep the door open, fighting against the machinery that was doing its utmost to close the breach.

Eriksen watched in a mixture of awe and horror as she heaved, getting her second hand between the door and its frame, forcing herself inside the hab module as she strained to stop it from closing on her like a guillotine. By the time she broke through and fell to her knees on the carpeted floor, the door sealing behind her with a hermetic hiss, Eriksen was already running for the cockpit. He slammed his palms against the door, remembering that he had locked it down as part of his ruse, his trembling fingers failing him as he tried in vain to tap in another override code.

The pirate captain removed her mask, dropping it on the deck and sucking in a heaving breath of fresh air, then rose to her feet unsteadily. Her gaze locked onto Eriksen as he hammered frantically at the keypad, the alien lumbering inexorably towards him, slowly gaining as she recovered from her ordeal.

"You," she spat, her voice dripping with malice. Her low growl shook Eriksen's bones as he failed again to enter the correct key code. His body just wouldn't respond properly, his shaking hand couldn't do what he required of it. He could feel her eyes burning into his back like laser beams from across the corridor, her bulk almost large enough to fill it, her heavy footfalls making the deck beneath his feet vibrate.

"You killed my crew," she snarled, "you tried to space me."

He turned to face her, pressing flat against the cockpit door as if he might somehow melt into it and escape, his rapid breathing misting his plastic visor. She tore it from his head as if it were made of paper, discarding the tattered, yellow hood on the floor and closing her hand around his neck. He clawed at her thick fingers with his nails as she lifted him off the deck, but his struggling was to no avail. He started to choke as she glared at him, her pupils dilated like those of a cat. He kicked her in the chest, and she barely flinched, the only show of pain a momentary twitch of her eye. Just how the hell had she survived his mag dump anyway, did she have a ceramic plate under that jacket too? It seemed unlikely, she had bled a lot, her leather jacket was stained red with it.

"I should commend you," she said, her voice strained as if she was expending all of her willpower to save from simply biting his face off. "Nobody has ever come so close to killing me before today." His feet kicked at the air as she tightened her grip around his throat, cutting off his air supply as he fought impotently. "You spaced my entire pack, would have gotten me too if it wasn't for the mask I had in my pocket. If I had been one of you fleshy little humans, that pea shooter would have finished the job."

She reached into his pocket with her free hand and retrieved the Walther, crushing the polymer handgun in her palm as if it was made of cardboard, letting the pieces fall unceremoniously to the floor.

"Now we're all alone together, you and I. Nobody knows you're here, and nobody is coming to save you. I can get back on my shuttle whenever I like and return to the Black Claw, but first I want to reward you for your courage and your ingenuity."

Somehow he doubted that. Perhaps it was her sarcastic tone. As darkness started to obscure his peripheral vision, she released him. He fell on his ass, rubbing the fresh bruise that she had left on his neck as he caught his breath, the alien pirate towering over him as she watched. Her expression had changed, she was still furious, but there was something else there too. Hunger, desire, did these aliens eat humans?

"First I'm going to need the keycode to the cockpit door," she said, "are you going to save yourself a lot of pain and just give it to me or am I going to have to beat it out of you?"

Eriksen didn't have anything to lose now, there was no way out of this situation. He was as good as dead and regardless of what he did he wouldn't be completing his cargo run. He was exhausted by exertion and fear, but an odd sense of defiance came over him. He was going to die regardless of what he did, and so he might as well make this Borealan's life as hard as possible. She seemed to sense it in him before he had spoken a word and her lips curled into a cruel smile.

"You know, I've never had a human defy me before. They either comply out of fear, or they die resisting. This is the first time I've taken a human alive who's still trying to fight me." She leaned closer to him, smelling him, her breath blowing his hair. "I'm going to enjoy breaking you. I'll induct you into my pack and become your Alpha, then you'll tell me what I need to know."

"I'm not going to join your pirate crew if that's what you're asking."

"No, that's not it. You really know nothing of my people, do you? You'll find out soon enough."

She was right, although he was starting to get a fairly good idea. They seemed to operate like wolves, with a leader who the others followed unquestioningly, that was why her crew had been so meek and submissive around her. Did she think that human society operated the same way and that she could somehow dominate him, or intimidate him into doing her bidding? He'd die first. She wasn't getting through that door, that would be his final fuck you.

She didn't seem angry or frustrated, however. She only smiled wider, exposing more of her sharp teeth as she tugged him to his feet by the torn collar of his emergency pressure suit. She took him by the upper arm and steered him back towards one of the cabins in the hab module, opening a door to an unused bedroom and hurling him inside.

CHAPTER 3: GENTLE PERSUASION

The pirate ducked under the low doorway, the exit sealing behind her with a pneumatic hiss, Eriksen picking himself up and brushing himself off defiantly.

"Take your suit off," she commanded.

"Make me," he replied.

She seemed to shiver, not out of anger, but something else.

"I'd be delighted to..."

She strode across the room, covering it quickly on her long legs, her claws tearing at the padded carpeting on the floor. The whole room was beige, and everything was padded like it was a cell in a nuthouse. In the case of a sudden deceleration or a loss of gravity, the occupant's injuries would be lessened if they were to slam against a surface. There was a similarly padded bed, a bedside table that protruded from the wall and could be stowed in a recess during superlight, and a locker for clothes and personal belongings. The space was so small that there was nowhere for him to flee, and so he planted himself on the spot, glaring at the alien as she approached him. She sank her hooked claws into the collar of his suit, tearing the yellow plastic apart like it was tissue paper, splitting the torso down the middle. She gripped him by the face and lifted him off the carpet, dragging the tattered garment down past his flailing legs and off, dropping him back to the floor when she was done. He felt exposed without the protection of the suit, clad in only a tank top and a pair of longjohns. He wasn't accustomed to dressing for company when he lived alone on a freighter for months at a time.

"Eriksen," she muttered, examining the name tag on the breast of the shredded pressure suit. "So that's your name. Mine is Nazka, but you can call me Captain, or Alpha."

"It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance," Eriksen shot back sarcastically, and she grinned at him.

"You know, I'm almost glad that you killed my crew and ruined my heist. I'm going to have so much fun breaking you in. It's almost going to be worth the hit to my pocketbook."

"You talk like it's a done deal," he replied, "but you're not getting that door code. This is my freighter, and I'm going to take it to the fucking grave with me."

"That's not what I'm talking about," she sighed, hooking the zipper of her leather jacket in her curved claw and dragging it down to let her considerable bust spread the garment open. "I'm about to give you a lesson in respect. Borealans know when to submit, and they understand the chain of command, the value of strength. You humans need...encouragement in order to see things clearly, but I believe that you can be taught proper behavior by someone with a firm hand. Just be glad that I'm an experienced captain, a younger Borealan would have had you bleeding and writhing on the deck at the first snide remark."

Now Eriksen was getting worried, he didn't know what she was babbling about. Just what was she going to do with him? She advanced towards him again, and he stepped backwards, feeling his calf hit the edge of the bed. Her long tail, covered in the same blonde fur that was on her hands and feet, coiled around his leg like a tentacle and pulled it out from under him. He fell on his back, and Nazka stepped over him, turning and taking a seat on the bed. It sagged under her weight, scarcely bigger than a chair by her standards, and she reached down to grip his hair in her thick fingers. He winced as she turned him to face her, Eriksen scrambling to his knees as she tugged at his scalp. She released him, and he started to rise to his feet, but a firm hand on his head kept him down.

"No, on your knees, cur. I'm going to teach you how to behave like a Borealan."

She used her sharp claws to cut the straps on his tank top, and it fell away to leave his chest bare, her yellow eyes playing over his body. He was in shape by human standards, he had to be. If he didn't keep up his exercise routine while in deep space the sedentary lifestyle would cut thirty years off his lifespan. She seemed to like what she saw, wetting her lips as she parted her massive thighs. Realizing what was happening, Eriksen prepared for a fight, struggling against the hand that still gripped a fistful of his unkempt hair. She tied her flexible tail around his wrists and bound them behind his back, the damned thing was like an appendage in its own right.

"If you think I'm gonna-"

She pulled her massive handgun from its holster and spun it on her finger, releasing his hair from her grasp and pressing the cold barrel against the top of his head, Eriksen freezing in place.

"Oh, you are, believe me. Because if you don't, my revolver is going to turn your head into a cloud of red mist."

"You threaten me with torture, and you think killing me outright is going to scare me into submission?"

He heard the click of the hammer, glancing up to see her peering down at him with a smirk on her face.

"I suppose not, but it really gets me going, so hurry up before I have to find more creative ways to motivate you."

He leaned a little closer, his heart starting to race as the reality of his situation set in. She smelled of leather, she was clad from head to toe in it, and there was a new scent that he didn't recognize. It was feminine, musky, the scent of her body no doubt. It was oddly alluring. Life on a freighter didn't exactly afford him many opportunities for romance. He hadn't been with a woman in...damn, how long had it been now?

"The sooner you submit to me, the sooner you can start enjoying this," she said. "Who knows, if you're a good lay maybe I'll take you back to the Black Claw with me. How do you feel about becoming a cabin boy?"

"I'd rather eat a bullet," he spat.

"I think you'll change your mind when you've gotten to know me better," she chuckled. "I've heard rumors that humans give great head, so don't disappoint me."

She unfastened a large belt that was tight around her wide hips, pulling down another zipper on her crotch, then she rose from the bed for a moment to pull her brown leather pants down around her ankles. She fell back down heavily, the bed frame creaking its displeasure, the alien exposing her white panties to him. They were already sodden. She really wasn't lying, this did turn her on. Just what kind of psychopath was she? Were these aliens all like this?

Eriksen felt an involuntary twinge beneath his longjohns as he traced the contours of her body with his eyes. He had heard that the Borealans were tough, but he had expected some kind of natural defenses like those of the reptilian Krell. That wasn't the case, however. Nazka looked remarkably human beneath her clothing, she had no armored exoskeleton or defensive scales, she was just incredibly...developed. Her wide hips tapered into an hourglass waist, her leather clothing so tight that it creaked when she moved, leaving nothing to the imagination. Her thighs were as thick and as round as tree trunks, such that he doubted his fingers would meet on the other side was he to wrap his arms around one. Muscles like suspension cables bulged from beneath her burnished skin, so dark that it was almost black, shining with a layer of sweat that only served to further accentuate her anatomy in the cabin's dim light. She caught his expression, lifting the bloodstained shirt that she wore beneath her leather jacket to expose her belly to him, tight and firm with twin rows of abdominal muscles that were as chiseled as those of a Greek statue. It was a body that would put Olympians to shame.

She was covered in pink scars too. They contrasted against her dusky skin, they seemed to be all over her. There was one that crossed her belly as if something had once tried to gut her, there was one on her hip, and a long one that ran across her six-pack to name but a few. He watched a bead of sweat follow the deep channel that her abs cut in her skin as it trickled towards her navel, swallowing hard, trying not to show her how impressed he was.

"See somethin' you like?" Nazka teased, her tail tightening around his wrists like a rope. "Don't worry, you're going to be intimately familiar with every inch of me before I'm done with you. Now get to it."

She hooked her fingers around the back of his head, pulling him between her legs, his cheek brushing against her inner thigh. She was as smooth as glass, her skin damp with sweat that made it slippery to the touch. She was surprisingly soft despite how muscular she was. He felt his heart skip in his chest, his face reddening as she pulled her panties aside to expose her loins, glistening and pink. She spread her thick lips with her fingers, and a strand of her excitement dripped free.

His heart hammered in his chest, and it wasn't because of the gun barrel that was pressing against his head. He felt almost drunk as he watched her rosy flesh leak in anticipation. Get it together Eriksen, he thought to himself, don't give this bitch the satisfaction.

She forced his face deeper, and his lips met hers, already slick with her juices and fever-hot. She knocked him gently on the top of his head with the handgun's barrel, her way of encouraging him.

"Come on Eriksen, don't hold out on me."

Reluctantly, he dragged his tongue across her vulva, feeling the massive alien's powerful thighs close around his head and an appreciative shiver roll up her spine. She froze for a moment, a gasp escaping her throat, then he felt her muscles relax again.

"Oh yeah...this is gonna work out just fine," she mumbled. "Keep it up."

He ran the tip of his tongue over her subtle creases and folds, tracing the contours of her sex as her viscous excitement coated his lips and ran down his chin to hang in strands. Everything about her was larger and more exaggerated than anything that he was used to. He tasted the sweat on her dark skin, her sour juices, her feminine scents scratching at the back of his brain like a dog shut out in the rain. He wasn't going to let her in, his will was stronger than this. He had half a mind to bite her sensitive anatomy, but that would surely result in her hand cannon going off prematurely.

She seemed unusually taken with his efforts. He knew his way around a woman, but she was reacting like he was far better at this than he knew himself to be. Tremors of pleasure made her steely thighs tremble around his cheeks as he sucked and licked. She had mentioned something about humans giving good head, perhaps there was some anatomical difference between them that he didn't know about. In any case, he was driving her to distraction, her heavy bust rising and falling with her labored breathing under the bloody shirt that she wore.

She put her gun down beside her on the bed and started to remove her jacket, leaving Eriksen to his own devices as she shrugged the garment off. He looked up over her mound, a tuft of blonde pubic hair that was as soft and as silky as cat fur tickling his nose. His heart lurched in his chest as he got a front-row view of her bulging stomach muscles as they twisted and flexed, the veneer of sudor that coated her polished skin catching the light to accentuate them. Nazka pulled her shirt over her head, and let two breasts the size of watermelons fall heavily as their support was removed. How could she carry those damned things around with her? Each one was larger than his head and must have weighed as much as a fully loaded UNN rucksack. Eriksen watched from below as they settled, bouncing enticingly, drawing his gaze as he continued his mouthing.

She reached up with the black claws on her index finger and thumb, and he noticed that there was blood on her chest, darker than that of a human and hard to see on her ebony skin. Nazka winced, baring her carnivore teeth as she dug into her own flesh, spilling fresh blood as she appeared to dig for something with her talons. He stopped in shock, pulling back from her loins, linked to his lips by a rope of stringy nectar.

She pulled her hand away from her chest, her straw-colored fur now stained crimson, and she flicked something across the room. It hit the door with a metallic clang, Eriksen turning his head in an attempt to see what it was. He felt her claws on his scalp as she forced him back down, his face buried between her legs once more.

"Gotta dig out the bullets you put in me before I heal over them, and any fabric they took along for the ride, or I might get an infection. What are these, nine-millimeter? These were never gonna kill me, didn't even penetrate my muscle layer. Your grouping is a joke by the way."

Impossible, he had unloaded his gun into her at point blank range and yet she was treating them like little more than bee stings. Just how tough were these aliens? What did it take to put one down? He continued his work, lapping at her hot flesh as she dug out another bullet, dropping it to the floor and mopping at the blood with her now ruined shirt.

"Why are you doing that now?" Eriksen asked, his question muffled by her loins. "Doesn't it hurt?"

"Yeah, it hurts, but a little pain with your sex is like seasoning on your meat. Maybe you like it plain and tasteless, but I like it hot. I want it to burn all the way down. Reminds me that I'm alive."

She flicked another bullet at the door, and it made a sound like spit landing in a spittoon from an old cowboy movie.

"You're insane," Eriksen replied, "is your whole race this crazy or is it just you?"

She forced his face back down again, taking pleasure in watching him struggle, her thick juices wetting his burning cheeks as he reluctantly resumed his work. Despite the circumstances, his body was betraying him to her, an erection that he could have used to hammer steel straining at his underwear. Don't stick your dick in crazy, that was a wise old adage, but it was starting to look like he wouldn't have a choice. What scared him more was that he was starting to think that he might enjoy it.

"Let me tell you something about Borealans, boy, we rule through strength." She shivered happily as he circled her twitching opening with his tongue, then carried on. "Like oil in water, the fittest and most aggressive rise to the top. They feel an urge to climb just as a bubble of air at the bottom of a drink does. They can't help their nature, and so they fight, and every fight that they win elevates their position in the pack."

Eriksen had been right about their hierarchy then, that was why her pack had been so afraid of her. She had probably kicked each of their asses in turn to get to the top rung of the ladder.

"But that's also how we breed. You see, when someone challenges us or steps out of line, it gets our blood flowing. When there's a fight, it gets us going somethin' fierce, hot and ready like you wouldn't believe. The adrenaline, the emotion, the pain and excitement. When all's done there's a winner and a loser, and they're both raring to go, so the victor fucks their new subordinate into the ground and ensures that only the best genes are passed on."

"Jesus, don't you get hurt?"

"Yeah but that's all part of the fun, and we don't go down easy like you humans. These bullet wounds will be healed by tomorrow, and I've had far worse than that. You can see the scars on my body, each one is either a lesson learned, or a battle won. See the one across my belly?"

She let him come up to get a look at it, then pushed his head back down with her giant hand, smirking at him.

"That was my old Alpha, he used to cut me up pretty good when I stepped out of line. Sometimes I'd shirk my duties just to get a rise out of him. I miss the way he'd slam me up against the bulkhead and fuck me until I was sore. He became a real whelp when I finally took him down, but you humans, you're different. By this point, a Borealan would be doing anything I asked of him. It's fun for a while to make a defeated foe your personal plaything, but it gets boring fast. You though, you're still fighting me, still talking shit."

She gripped a handful of his hair and tugged him up, his face wet with her emission, and grinned down at him as he caught his breath.

"I hope you can hold out as long as you claim, I hope you fight me tooth and nail the whole way. If you were a Borealan, I'd use my claws to teach you some manners, but a human wouldn't survive that. It keeps the tension going, keeps me angry. I should have done this a long time ago."

"You really are fucking crazy," he spat, and she laughed at him as she pressed her thighs around his head.

"That's the spirit, now get back to work. I can still cut this little experiment short if you displease me."

Damn, it felt like she could have crushed a cantaloupe with her thighs, and he kept up his licking. He closed his eyes and really went to town on her, trying to distract himself from the urgent ache in his loins. The quicker he got her off, the quicker he could get back to planning some kind of escape. Some part of him wanted her though, some carnal and self-destructive facet of his psyche wanted to see just what she could do to him. She was a couple of beers short of a six-pack and the most impressive woman he had ever laid eyes on. In his morbid curiosity, he wondered just how far she could take him, what sex with her might feel like...

Cool it, Eriksen, you can get Stockholm syndrome later. Right now you need a way off this freighter that doesn't involve becoming some kind of pet for this alien. The shuttle, it was still in the hangar bay, that was his only bet right now. Perhaps he could wait until she fell asleep before sneaking away to steal it? He could fly it for sure, but would she be negligent enough to leave him unsupervised? Somehow he doubted that.

She dragged her sharp claws from the small of his back up to his shoulder blades, leaving burning trails in his skin, not enough to draw blood but enough that it roused him from his daydreams of escape. He gasped as if someone had just dumped a bucket of ice water over his head.

"You're slacking," she chuckled, her tone oddly seductive. She discarded another bullet, rolling her shoulders as she endured the pain, her claws drumming on his head as she seemed to compose herself. "Kiss my thigh," she said, picking up her heavy handgun and pressing it against his scalp. "Tease me a little, I want to enjoy your tongue a while longer before I come all over your face."

His cheeks reddened at her vulgarity, and he glared up at her from between her legs, his brow furrowed.

"Yeah, that look, I like that. You fucking hate me, don't you?" She jabbed him with the gun's barrel. "Get to it."

"What's so great about my tongue anyway?" Eriksen asked. "You act like nobody has ever eaten you out before, is that not something you guys do? For someone who claims to be a badass pirate, you're trembling like a leaf. It might be cute if you weren't such a cunt."

She laughed heartily at that, rolling her head back, her ample breasts shaking as they hung from her chest.

"Come here, and I'll show you."

She dropped the gun on the bed and released his arms from her tail, reaching down to lift him under the arms as if he were a child, closing her legs and sitting him on her lap. He began to protest, but she cut him off before he could get a word in, sinking her fingers into his hair and taking a harsh grip. She snaked her other hand under his body to support him, leaning him almost prone in her arms, bringing her face down to meet his as his eyes widened in surprise.

Full and soft, her lips locked with his own, the familiar metallic taste of someone else's saliva setting his neurons alight like a spark in dry grass. She didn't seem to care that her own juices were on his breath. It wasn't fair, the sensation of her kiss was too familiar, so tender that it brought back memories of his past lovers and the emotions that he had associated with them. His body flooded with warmth as he melted into her embrace, a new calm overcoming his embarrassment. He had always been a sucker for a good kiss, and now his Achilles heel was coming back to bite him in the ass.

He felt her tongue probe his mouth, her kiss becoming more aggressive and invasive, pushing past his lips to explore him. It was big, tapered, seemingly unending as it piled into his head and bulged his cheeks. He understood what she had meant now, the underside was as smooth as his own when he ran his far smaller organ over it, but the top was rough and covered in dull barbs. It was like a cat's tongue, like sandpaper, not enough to be unpleasant but he could imagine how careful one would have to be with such a tongue if they were performing oral sex on a partner of either gender.

Eriksen battled against it as it pushed deeper, strong and thick, the roving muscle pushing his own aside with little effort as it glanced his throat. She felt him flinch and tightened her grip on him, his eyes watering as she pushed into his gullet and he struggled to suppress a gag. She could have choked him out with it if she had been so inclined, perhaps she wanted him to know it. Instead, she withdrew and limited herself to a passionate, greedy kiss that sapped the strength from his body.

She was wanton, shameless, her saliva leaking from their joined lips as her long organ coiled and twisted inside his mouth as if it had a life of its own. She left no part of him untouched, practically fucking him with her tongue, a lurid sex act more than anything resembling a kiss. He started to see darkness creeping at the corners of his vision. She wasn't giving him room to breathe, she probably hadn't taken his smaller lung capacity into account.

Just as he felt as if he might pass out, she broke off with a wet smack, a strand of her drool breaking to fall to his chin as she hovered over him. He was red-faced, panting, his whole body tingling as if she had hooked him up to an electrical current. He realized how he must look and tried his best not to appear like she had just subjected him to the most intense kiss of his life, struggling to sit upright as she cradled him in her arms.

"Did you like that, boy? Now who's trembling like a leaf?"

"Y-You...get the fuck off me, idiot."

She opened her legs wide, and Eriksen fell between them, landing on the carpet at the foot of the bed as she laughed at him. She quickly trapped him between her silky thighs again, the cold gun barrel pressing against the top of his head.

"As you wish. Now pick up where you left off, maybe I'll give you another kiss if you do a good job."

"I'd rather-"

She cut him off, waving a clawed finger at him as if she was telling off a naughty child. He scowled at her and complied, pressing his lips against her inner thigh and kissing it softly, tasting her sweat and feeling the warmth of her skin on his tongue. He shouldn't be this excited, he needed to control himself, but he couldn't refrain from running his fingertips along the glass-smooth surface as he mouthed and crawled down towards her knee. It was like there was a fog hanging over his brain, seeping into the cracks and crevices, muddling his thoughts with a lust that seemed to surge through his veins like blood.

She kept the gun trained on him, more for her own amusement than anything else, biting her lip as he played his soft tongue over her sensitive flesh. She waved the gun, gesturing to her other thigh, and he moved over to oblige her. This time he sucked at her skin, leaving red welts, biting gently as she gasped and her eyelids fluttered.

"Yeah, yeah like that..." Her chest rose and fell rhythmically, her breathing heavy and regular, her yellow eyes tracking him as he moved. "Now my abs. I saw the way you looked at them, you've never seen anything like that on one of your scrawny human girls, right?"

She lifted his chin with the barrel of her revolver, turning his face up so that she could see his expression, a mixture of indignation and seething arousal that he would never have admitted to her even under pain of death. She wet her lips with her pink tongue, her free hand rising to cup one of her breasts, the supple fat spilling between her fingers as she kneaded and squeezed.

"Don't make me ask again," she whispered, her soft voice as suggestive as it was threatening.

He crawled his lips up her hip, kissing and nibbling as he went, feeling her massive body jerk and twitch at the lightest touch. Her armor wasn't impenetrable then, he had some leverage over her. Perhaps he could find some way to turn her overactive sex drive to his advantage. He slipped his tongue into her navel as he passed it, moving up past her belly and feeling the hardness of her abdominal muscles greet him, tensing as he traced their contours with the tip of his tongue. He kissed their firm surface, feeling her twitch beneath his lips, her skin so damp that she might have just left a shower. That was the problem with wearing all leather clothing, almost being spaced, and then being shot probably contributed too.

He followed one of the pink scars with the tip of his tongue, feeling her shiver as if it was more sensitive than the surrounding skin. Fortunately, her grip on the gun was firm and steady, or he would have worried that she might blow his head off by accident.

Her body really was amazing, not that he'd ever let her know that. The environment of their native planet must have been harsh indeed to produce this kind of figure. Her muscles were like rock, but her skin was as smooth and soft as satin, so inviting that he had to make a conscious effort to refrain from stroking her too conspicuously. He wasn't going to let her get to him, his primary concern was escaping, not indulging her.

"Okay, finish me off," she muttered. She urged him down with the barrel of her revolver, Eriksen continuing his licking as he went, her breathing growing labored as he neared her loins. She was absolutely dripping, a fat, clear rope hanging from her rosy flesh. She parted her labia with her fingers in invitation to him. As much as Eriksen was an unwilling participant, he was also a man, and he couldn't stave off the fresh surge of desire as her sex dripped an inch from his face. He hesitated for a moment, Nazka shivering as he breathed warm air on her swollen nethers, then she took him by the hair again and slammed him down. She closed her cushiony thighs around his head to trap him there, pliant despite the powerful muscles that lurked beneath the fat, and he felt her juices spill around his mouth.

She rolled her hips as he mouthed and lapped at her vulva, grinding against his face as if seeking out more stimulation, those mesmerizing abs twisting and flexing above him. Her flesh was almost hot enough to burn, her movements incessant, she was really enjoying herself. She dropped the gun, and her free hand found one of her breasts again, adding to the sensations as her human partner worked.

He found what felt like a clitoris with his questing tongue, larger than that of a human due to her exaggerated size, but anatomically similar. She shuddered violently as he explored it with his tongue, a sharp gasp escaping her lips, her grip on his hair tightening and sending a confused pulse of pleasure down his spine.

"T-There, if you so much as slow down I'll...I'll..."

She trailed off, a suitable threat escaping her as he pressed his lips around the firm nub of flesh, sucking it into his mouth and trapping it. He circled it with his damp muscle, painting it with his saliva, lashing its smooth surface as Nazka growled her appreciation. It shook his bones, her thighs trembling as they pressed against his cheeks, he could feel that she was getting close. He couldn't help but feel a little pride for having reduced this hulking beast to a whimpering bowl of jello, she wasn't so tough. Perhaps it wasn't exactly due to his sexual prowess, but it was still nice to get back at her in some way.

He reached up a finger, slipping it into her opening. She was so wet that it went in with almost no friction. He had to fight the urge to withdraw his finger as her walls closed around it like a vice, as if a fist gloved in damp silk was squeezing his digit, the strength of her muscles enough to hurt. She was so much larger than him, how could she be this tight? Was it just because she was so developed? It felt like she could have crushed his bones if she had applied too much pressure.

He felt his heart skip a beat as he imagined what it would feel like to push his cock in there. Her passage was massaging him as if the fingers of a masseuse were pressing down on his digit from all sides, hot and slippery, her undulating muscles trying to draw him deeper with their rolling motions.

He trapped her engorged clitoris between his lips and battered it with glances of his tongue, probing his finger deeper inside her as her pointed claws pricked at his scalp, her excitement dampening her thighs and running down the edge of the bed. Her long, fuzzy tail coiled around one of his legs reflexively, her hips swaying as she tried to fuck his face in her fugue. Both of her hands were on his head now, trying to force him deeper, her syrupy juices sticking his face to her thighs.

Nazka tensed, her whole body going as stiff as a board and her loins closing around Eriksen's finger with a force that could have turned coal to diamonds. Powerful contractions rocked her body, beads of fresh sweat decorating her dark skin, catching the light and making her shuddering form seem to shine as her orgasm tore through her. Her emission gushed forth, splashing his face with her thick fluids, strands of it hanging from his chin in ropes as she let slip an unbecoming cry. She lay back on the bed, her spine arching off the sheets as Eriksen kept up his licking, her steely thighs threatening to pop his head like a ripe cherry as she held him there. He sank his fingers into the meat of her ass for purchase, springy muscle beneath the ample fat rising up to meet them as she tensed and twitched, lost in the throes of her climax.

She eventually fell back to the bed, flinching as stray pulses of lingering pleasure wracked her body, her afterglow drowning her in euphoria. She lay there for a minute or two with a peaceful smile on her face, her grip on Eriksen's hair still firm as she encouraged him to keep up his slow licking. She rose on her elbows to look down at him as he kneeled between her legs, the human's red face coated in her juices, linked to her loins and her thighs with clear strands that broke to fall heavily to the carpet.

"Don't look so indignant," she said with a cruel grin, "that's a good look for you."

"You done now?" Eriksen shot back, scraping away some of the mess from his face and wiping it on his pants.

"Oh yeah, you know I'm done. They were right about humans giving great head, I might keep you around just for that."

"Will you stop saying that?" Eriksen complained, his cheeks burning as she leered at him.

"Why, does it bother you?" She sat back up on the bed, then leaned down towards him, taking a handful of his hair in her fist and pulling him closer so that she could whisper in his ear. Eriksen did his best to avert his eyes from her pendulant breasts, the heavy globes hanging enticingly and swaying with every movement, all that remained of her bullet wounds now a scattering of red marks.

"Does it embarrass you when I say that your kind is only good for a quick lay? Does it offend your delicate sensibilities when I tell you that your rightful place is on your knees?"

"Is that why you're flying a human ship in human space and stealing human freight? Your kind sure as hell didn't invent your own superlight drives, last I heard you were a bunch of backward savages who hadn't even achieved space flight when the Coalition made contact with you. Your people are a charity case who trade soldiers for technology. We're speaking English, I don't even know the name of your language, so tell me again what humans are good for."

She pressed her black claws against his throat, but Eriksen stared her down, unflinching as she bared her sharp teeth. After a moment her expression softened and she released her grip on his hair, pushing him down to the deck and laughing heartily.

"You know, I'm starting to believe that you're not full of shit, Eriksen. I'm going to have fun breaking your spirit."

"You can try," he spat, "I'll die before I give you the satisfaction."

"You just might," she murmured, biting her lip as she watched him pick himself up. "You'd better get a shower and a change of clothes, I want you fresh for the next time I humiliate you."

Eriksen scowled at her and left the room.

CHAPTER 4: ONCE BITTEN

After raiding the food stores, the giant alien had fallen asleep on one of the bunks. She hadn't even tried to get the cockpit keycode out of him again. Eriksen couldn't believe how incompetent she was, she had given him the run of the ship with apparently no qualms about him attempting to escape. Maybe she was used to her victims becoming so pliant and passive that the thought of it hadn't even crossed her mind.

The aft of the ship was probably still depressurized, the hangar bay along with it, but her shuttle was just sitting there with nobody supervising it. He could steal it, then fly it outside of the Warden's jamming range. The alien couldn't get access to the cockpit, and she would have no way off the freighter if he took the only shuttle. He would only have to wait for help to arrive, and then he'd be home free, she might have survived a nine-millimeter handgun but she sure as hell couldn't weather a UNN Marine boarding party armed with railguns.

He would have to repressurize the bay, however. The rush of air as it escaped the hab module would rouse her, and she still had that emergency oxygen kit on her. She had also torn up his pressure suit, best to find one of the backups just in case. The freighter had taken enough damage that it would be foolish to assume that he could rely on the life support systems.

He made his way to one of the unused crew cabins, finding another yellow pressure suit and pulling it on over his clothes, securing the hood over his head. These damned things felt so fucking flimsy, it was like wearing a plastic raincoat. If only the shipping company gave enough of a shit about its pilots to provide them with sturdier gear. Some ship-to-ship weapons and maybe a CIWS system would be nice too, but that would probably violate a hundred UN security regulations. Fucking paper-pushers.

He crept out of the room and headed towards the door to the hangar, hoping that Nazka hadn't damaged the motors when she had forced it open. He tapped at the touch panel that was built into the frame. It showed zero pressure on the other side and no atmo, he would need to close one of the bulkheads in the access tunnel that linked the fore of the freighter to the aft, could that be done from here? He didn't dare to open the cockpit door, even temporarily. He couldn't send a distress signal as long as the Warden was in range, and if Nazka happened to wake up at an inopportune moment, he'd be royally screwed.

He tinkered with the panel for a few minutes before discovering the command that he was searching for, and a two-dimensional map of the freighter appeared with the locations of all the bulkheads and doors. He selected the one furthest down the access tunnel, but it flashed a red warning symbol, indicating that it wasn't functioning properly. Must have taken some damage during the explosion, no matter, he'd activate the one that was right in the middle of the tunnel. This one closed, showing a good seal, and he instructed the system to begin pressurizing the hangar.

It was a good job they hadn't lost power, or the force field that stopped the air in the bay from escaping into space wouldn't be active. Those things always made him nervous. There was nothing but a sheet of energized particles a nanometer thick separating him from the void. The barrier would allow solid objects to pass, however, meaning that it was quite possible to fall through if you were careless.

The hangar took an excruciating amount of time to pressurize, being the largest space on the freighter, Eriksen dancing nervously at the control panel as he waited impatiently. Nazka could awaken at any moment and deliver some horrific punishment if she caught him trying to escape, and he felt an unwelcome pulse in his loins at the thought of it. He almost regretted leaving without going all the way with her first, he wouldn't get another chance, but it was more than his life was worth.

Come on Eriksen, stop thinking with your dick and get the hell out of here, he thought to himself as he watched the blue bar that indicated hangar pressure slowly fill. You can buy all the women you want with your company hazard pay when you've got solid ground under your feet.

The door finally slid open, Eriksen wincing under his plastic hood, afraid that the sound would wake Nazka. He hurried into the bay, his eyes fixed on the old shuttle. The landing ramp was still down, and the alien hadn't even thought to secure it. This was almost too easy. He mounted the ramp, making his way through the troop bay and into the cockpit. This model really was archaic, and he was amazed that it was still spaceworthy. The pilot's chair had been modified for use by Borealans, he felt like a child as he hopped up into the oversized bucket seat. The rest of the shuttle was all built with human measurements in mind, and a Borealan pilot would have to lean down regardless to avoid hitting their head. He removed his hood and took a breath of fresh air. Okay, time to fly this crate out of here.

He flipped the switches to spool the main engines and hit the button to raise the ramp, performing a hasty pre-flight check as he prepared to leave the hangar. His heart pounded in his chest, he was almost free, just a few minutes more then he'd be in open space. Nazka would have no possible way to reach him.

Nothing was happening. He stared at the console, confused, and flipped the switches again. Still nothing. He started to panic, tapping at the touch panel to check the status of the systems, but it was as if everything was dead. Was there some kind of security lock on the ship? Could he break into it or find some way to hack it? He was running out of time, his window was closing. Nazka wouldn't stay asleep forever. He started to hit more buttons and flip more switches in a panic, but nothing worked, nothing responded.

He froze as he heard heavy footsteps behind him, claws clicking on the landing ramp as a shadow was cast over him. Nazka blocked the door to the cockpit as she loomed over him, then he felt her claws sink into the padding on his seat, the alien slowly rotating the chair to face her.

"You can't fly it," she said, lifting her hand and wiggling her fingers. "It's locked to my pad-print."

Eriksen sank into the chair, crossing his arms and scowling up at her, her smirk boiling his blood.

"You must really think I'm stupid," she said. "I wouldn't let you run around on your own if I thought that there was any chance of you escaping, and I know that you're too weak to do any real damage to me if you tried to brain me with a fire extinguisher in my sleep or something. You can't lock me in a room and vent it either, because I have my oxygen mask, and I can force those flimsy cabin doors open."

She lurched towards him suddenly, closing her large, furry hand around his throat. She choked him, Eriksen gripping her furry forearm, gagging as she crushed his windpipe with her powerful fingers.

"Now what should your punishment be for trying to escape? I could choke you out, but I don't know how long humans can go without oxygen. You'll be no fun to play with if I turn you into a vegetable."

His eyes widened as he battered her arm with blows, his lips starting to turn blue.

"Oh, I know!" She released him, and he fell back into the chair, gasping for breath and rubbing the spreading bruise on his neck. "You know what Borealans do when they want to let other people know that someone belongs to them?"

He didn't answer, glaring at her.

"We leave a nice, visible bite mark on their neck. Shows other Borealans that they're not up for grabs and to stay away unless they want to deal with whoever planted that mark. Might be a little more painful for a human but it'll look real cute on you, and it'll last a lot longer too!"

Eriksen hesitated for a moment, then scrambled out of the chair, darting between her legs in an attempt to escape into the troop bay. She grabbed him by the collar and threw him back into the seat, stepping into the cockpit and pinning his wrists to the armrests with her furry hands, her breath tickling his skin as she leaned closer and pushed her face into the nape of his neck.

"You should be flattered Eriksen," she whispered, "I'd only do this to someone I really liked. I want you all to myself, I won't let anyone else lay a claw on you. Don't you want to be my mate?" Her tone was mocking, but he couldn't stop himself from blushing. He shivered as he felt her warm lips press against his shoulder.

"You humans heal slowly, right? If I bite deep enough, it will brand you forever. Do you want a nice, visible scar to commemorate our time together?"

"There isn't even anyone else here," he spat. "And for your information, we have the medical technology to clear up a scar in the time it takes to get a haircut. Unlike you, we don't have to look like we've been through a meat grinder."

"Erasing your scars? How shameful. Scars are trophies to be proudly displayed, no wonder you humans look so soft and tender. That's good news though, you won't mind if I plant it deep. It's going to hurt for days and every time you feel the pain you'll think of me, isn't that romantic?"

He struggled to escape her, but her grip was too tight, the plastic frame of the chair creaking as she squeezed his arms. A bite was nothing, she was just trying to intimidate him, toying with him in her own sick way. It was working, however. He felt so vulnerable, pinned to the chair with her lips crawling their way up his neck. She nibbled his skin gently, and he shivered, arching his spine reflexively. He felt her textured tongue as it dragged across his throat, fear and arousal mingling into a confusing haze.

"Relax, this is supposed to be sensual. Would you like another kiss to loosen you up? You have to ask for it nicely though..."

"Just get on with it," Eriksen snarled, "as if you'd even know the meaning of the word sensual."

"Oh Eriksen, I'm offended. Oh well, if you insist, but I'll have to teach you to appreciate foreplay some time."

She sank her sharp teeth into the nape of his neck, biting down on him like a damned vampire, breaking the skin as she kept a firm hold on him to keep him still. Eriksen gritted his teeth against the sharp pain, but the burning became too much for him to tolerate as her fangs pushed deeper, a strained cry escaping his lips as she drew blood.

She pulled back, licking her lips as she watched his reaction, releasing his arms. His hand shot to his neck, feeling wet blood that was now staining his clothes, and he applied pressure to the bite as she smirked at him. She reached down and pulled his hand away for a moment to get a look at her handiwork, chewing on the tip of one of her claws excitedly as she watched.

"You taste so sweet, Eriksen, it's getting me all riled up. You'd better go put a bandage on that before I decide I want the main course."

She let him out of the seat, and he elbowed past her, one hand keeping pressure on the wound as he made his way down the landing ramp. He glanced momentarily at the freedom of open space beyond the force field as he set off towards the med bay.

***

Eriksen sat in front of a mirror in the freighter's small medical bay, applying a gauze pad to the bite on his shoulder with tape. It had looked a lot worse than it really was, but now that he had cleaned it, it was just a few puncture wounds that didn't really go deep enough to require any further attention. She could have taken a clean chunk out of him like a fucking shark if she had actually been trying to hurt him, but this was just another one of her games. He grimaced as he gave himself a precautionary tetanus shot. Hopefully, her insanity wasn't contagious, he wouldn't be surprised in the least to find out that she was rabid.

She seemed to have claimed one of the unused crew cabins and was making herself at home. She was depleting his food supplies extremely quickly too, the giant alien consumed an absurd amount of calories. She must have believed him when he told her that he was going to fight her to the bitter end, she was settling in for a long stay. If she was going to break him as she put it, then she obviously thought it might take a while, or perhaps she just wanted to savor the process.

So plan B had failed, no matter, it was time to start work on plan C. If he stalled her for long enough then eventually his shipping company would get word that his delivery hadn't arrived on time and they would send someone to look for their valuable property. That could take days though, he couldn't rely on them. He wouldn't last that long with Nazka doing her best to crush his spirit. He had a couple of days at best, maybe a week. He suspected that her methods would get more and more physical as her frustration mounted.

He couldn't overpower her or outrun her, so he would have to outsmart her. He had to make a mental list of what resources he had available to him on the ship. It would be trivial to poison her food, but as an alien, he had no real idea of how she would react or what dosages would put her down. He was no chemist. If he was going to try something, then it had to kill her outright, half measures would only result in more of her punishments. He couldn't space her, suffocate her or otherwise use the atmospheric controls to take her out as long as she had that emergency oxygen kit. But perhaps he could steal it from her...

It was risky, but she had to take that stupid leather jacket off some time, when she showered or when she slept perhaps. It might be worth trying to separate her from it and then vent whatever room she was in. She said that she could break through the cabin doors and he had seen her do it, they weren't reinforced like the cockpit door, but could she get out in the minute or two that it would take her to lose consciousness? It was a big gamble, maybe that would be his plan D.

Perhaps there was a way to get that giant gun off her. It looked like a weapon of Borealan design, a human would scarcely have been able to hold it. Maybe it had the caliber and power to bring her down, he doubted that she would have carried a gun that was as effective against her fellow Borealans as his Walther had been. It would be just as difficult and risky as stealing the emergency oxygen tank from her jacket, but this plan had the added benefit of not needing to wait for hypoxia to kill her. One trigger pull would probably do the job assuming that he could fire the massive hand cannon.

It was decided then, plan C. Find a way to get the gun and use it on her.

CHAPTER 5: CLAWLESS

"Get me more food," Nazka demanded, lounging on a couch in the small common room as the furniture sagged under her weight. The cabins in the hab module were all the same size, there wasn't much space. Each one was a rough cube that was lined with the same beige padding to protect against sudden acceleration and low-G. Nazka hadn't tried anything funny today, but she was acting like she owned the place and it was starting to get under Eriksen's skin.

"You already ate all of the canned meat. It would have lasted me a month, and you ate it in two sittings."

"It wasn't very good," she complained, scratching absent-mindedly at the pleather lining of the couch with the claws on her paw-like feet and tearing the fabric as he watched her with a scowl. "You humans don't know how to cook. It's embarrassing really, it's so dry and tasteless."

"Feel free to cook it yourself then," Eriksen replied, indignant. "Or better yet, fuck off back to your own ship and eat whatever it is that your kind likes to eat."

"There's no need to be rude. Besides, I can't cook the way that I'd like to. You humans don't have any condiments or oils that are used to enhance the flavors. Even then it's not even fresh meat, it's processed stuff, tastes like crap."

"We have condiments, ketchup and mayonnaise, hot sauce."

"No, I mean oils, don't you monkeys have oils?"

"I don't know what you're talking about," Eriksen said, crossing his arms at her as she stared up at him with her yellow eyes. "We have cooking oil, olive oil, sunflower oil to name a few. Not on this ship obviously, this is a civilian freighter, not a cruise liner. They give me the bare minimum that I need to stay healthy, and that's about it."

"What a sorry existence. You spend your whole life working, and you don't even get to enjoy any good food."

"I could buy good food if I wanted to, I just have...priorities."

"Like what?" Nazka turned towards him, resting her cheek on the armrest of the couch as she waited for his reply.

"Well, I have to pay off my heavy freight license, going to school to get the certs to fly this thing wasn't cheap. Then there's the cost of the insurance and permits so that I can actually get it out of the docks. Conventional fuel comes out of my pay depending on how much of it I use and how conservative my burns are, same goes for avoidable damage and general upkeep. Docking fees apply if I overstay. I got fucked in taxes last year because the UN has been trying to replace us with drone ships, the crew is already down from three to one because none of the shipping companies can afford to pay us these days. On top of that, we don't get hazard pay anymore if we have to travel to the outer colonies near Bug space, we have to prove that we were actually in some kind of danger which is basically impossible unless we have sensor data showing a fucking Bug cruiser on a pursuit vector. Then there's all the loans that I need to pay back, rent for the apartment that I live in for the few months of the year that I don't work, income tax. You know, the usual stuff."

"So you live on this tin can for months at a time, and you have to cover most of the costs yourself? When do you actually get to spend any of the money that you earn?"

"The point is, buying gourmet food is low on my list of priorities because I'm a productive UN citizen and not a freeloading space pirate like you. I work for a living."

"Sounds like you're a slave to me. I own my ship, and I make enough to buy anything that I want. I probably only work for a few weeks out of the year. The rest of the time I'm living the high life back on the homeworld."

"Yeah well for you, having running water and electricity is considered the high life."

"You sound bitter, Eriksen."

"I have good cause to be bitter, because you're here, fucking with my livelihood. I'm going to be paying off this fiasco for the rest of my life." He sat down heavily on a nearby chair, resting his arms on his knees as he stared forlornly at the padded carpet.

"All the more reason to come be my cabin boy," she said with a grin, "I think you'd like the Borealan lifestyle a lot better than your human one. All you do is work all the time and you never even get to enjoy the rewards. If you're part of a pack, then your Alpha is responsible for feeding and housing you. It goes both ways, there are benefits to being an Alpha, but there are responsibilities too. Keep your pack well nourished and strong, and they'll serve you all the better. You wouldn't have to worry about any of that anymore."

"Why are you so bent on me joining your pack anyway?" Eriksen asked.

"Because that makes you my subordinate, you'd have to do whatever I said, including giving me the key code to the cockpit so that I could make off with this entire haul and live like a Matriarch for the rest of my life. Also, you give great head," she added with a smirk.

Eriksen's face reddened. He should have held his tongue rather than tell her how much it annoyed him when she said that kind of thing, now she took every opportunity to tease him about it.

"Why would I do whatever you said? What would compel me to do that? If it's the threat of violence, then how would it be any different from our current relationship?"

"Because I'd be your Alpha, you'd have to do what I said," Nazka replied. She seemed confused by the question, as if the answer should be self-evident.

"But why?"

"Don't play dumb, your people have Alphas too, you just call them Presidents and Officers. How is your boss not your Alpha? Do you not obey him?"

"It's not the same as what you're describing. I could quit my job if I wanted to, I can choose not to obey, and there would be no violent consequences."

"Maybe not violent ones, but there would be consequences. This house of cards of work and debt that you've built around yourself would collapse, and you'd be left destitute. You understand that it is in your own best interests to obey the orders of your employer, a Borealan recognizes that it is in their own best interests to be part of a strong pack with a powerful Alpha, same difference."

"It's not the same," Eriksen insisted, glancing up to frown at her. "And fuck you for trying to make it seem reasonable when the whole goal of this pantomime is to terrorize me."

"I gave you an out," she sighed, turning her gaze to the ceiling. "All you had to do was cooperate, and no harm would have come to you, but you had to play the hero. This is the result."

Eriksen stood, his knuckles white as he balled his fists, his cheeks flushed red with anger.

"So you attacking my ship and trying to steal from me is somehow my fault!? You're a fucking pirate, I can't trust you as far as I can throw you. For all I know, you're still planning to harvest my organs for sale and eat the rest of me!"

"The thought had crossed my mind," she said with a chuckle. "You're kind of hot when you're angry, wish you little guys had claws. I miss the way the wounds ache after a good tussle."

"How about you pass me a knife and I'll make do?"

"That's the spirit," she said, biting her lip at him.

"There's something wrong about you," Eriksen said, "and I don't mean the whole sadomasochism thing. You're an alien, why do you know English so well? Besides for the accent, you speak it like a native, and how do you know so much about human society? Just who the hell are you?"

"Very perceptive," she replied, narrowing her feline eyes at him. "I trained to fight with humans on the Pinwheel, it's a huge UNN Naval base. They snap up all of the Borealans that they can get their hands on and train them as auxiliaries to serve alongside Marines and Krell Linebreakers. They taught me English, and they tried to teach me how to interact with humans, but eventually I dropped out of the program and decided to make my own way in the Galaxy."

"Why?" Eriksen asked. This wasn't what he had been expecting.

"Because I'm not clawless."

"Clawless? What is that? Should that mean something to me?"

"Back in Borealis' ancient history, the lake dwellers would take slaves from the nomadic tribes that wandered the deserts. They used them as cheap labor to build their cities and to harvest their crops. To stop them from fighting back, their captors would pull out their claws, not only mutilating them but ensuring that they could never assert their status over others again. It was barbaric, it was un-Borealan. If a slave is strong enough to challenge you, then he shouldn't be a slave to begin with. The practice was outlawed, but the term remains, a clawless person is one who is prevented from asserting himself due to outside factors. In the UNN you cannot challenge your superiors. Even though a Borealan could kill a human with a swipe of their claws, it is forbidden. Hence, Borealans who fight for humans are clawless, because your system prevents them from taking their rightful place at the top of the pack."

"Sounds like you didn't learn as much about humans as you think you did," Eriksen replied. "Human soldiers earn their rank through merit and service. You have to prove that you're fit to lead, you can't just beat up the highest ranked guy in the room and then proclaim yourself Admiral."

"Whatever, those auxiliaries are no different than the clawless. They have to give up everything that makes them Borealans if they want to serve alongside humans. I couldn't do that, and so I took what I had learned and applied it to piracy, becoming the captain of my own ship and crew."

"More like you got kicked out for being an antisocial sadist, there's no way they'd tolerate you in the military. I'm surprised you're not still rotting in a brig somewhere."

"Hey, didn't I tell you to go get me some more food?" Nazka shot back.

Eriksen shook his head dismissively, walking out of the room to search the kitchen for something that she hadn't already demolished.

***

Eriksen sifted through the MREs and canned goods on the shelves in the kitchen, looking for something for Nazka to eat. She would consume about ten thousand calories in one sitting. It wasn't hard to see where those nutrients were going, however. Nazka was enormous and maintaining her muscle mass alone probably required enough protein to choke a bear. There was more food stored in crates in the hangar bay, but he wasn't about to break those open just to humor her.

It bothered him how normal this was starting to feel. People could adapt to almost any situation imaginable, having her live on his freighter and torment him was already beginning to seem routine. He couldn't let that happen, he couldn't become complacent, he had to get her off his ship one way or another. Plan C was still his best bet, he just had to find the right time to act, seize the opportunity to get that oversized gun and use it on her.

He felt a heavy hand on his shoulder, and he jumped out of his skin, dropping the can that he had been holding to clatter to the deck. Nazka leaned closer, pinching his ear in her pointed teeth and chewing it softly, Eriksen letting a gasp escape his lips as her weighty breasts pressed up against the back of his head. She could be so...seductive when she wanted to be, not knowing when that switch would flip and she'd become a raging lunatic frayed his nerves.

"I'm hungry," she whispered in his ear, "and not just for food. You were quiet for a while after I bit you, you were a good boy, and you did as you were told. But you talked back to me back in the common room, and I can't let that go unpunished."

He pushed back against her, but she pressed him up against the shelves, trapping him between the rows of cans and her massive body. She closed her arms around him in a bear hug, her chin resting in his hair, squeezing him tightly so that he couldn't escape her grasp. Her muscles were like iron, he could feel them even beneath her leather jacket, and that was to say nothing of her copious bust. Even through the thick material, he could feel the way that her flesh deformed, spilling around his head and shoulders like melting wax.

"What are you gonna do?" Eriksen mumbled.

She slid her head down to brush her cheek against his, hovering over the gauze pad that he had used to cover the bite wound, and her serpentine tongue snaked out of her mouth. With all the dexterity of a finger, the long organ pushed under the gauze and lifted it, sliding beneath it and dragging its rough surface over the bite. Eriksen shivered, gritting his teeth against the pain. Nazka withdrew to wet her lips, keeping him pinned.

"Tastes like pain," she whispered, "but you can't take too much of that. You're only human after all."

He tried to elbow her where he assumed a kidney would be, but she didn't flinch. Instead, she gripped his wrists in her furry hands and forced them behind his back. She used her tail as a rope again, wrapping it around his limbs so that he couldn't move them, leaving her hands free to roam across his squirming body unhindered.

They delved beneath his clothes, her sharp claws drawing red trails on his chest and belly, at once stinging and tickling as she made him dance and buck. Her fur was so incredibly soft, fine and silky, like someone was rubbing him all over with a pair of mink gloves. The contrasting sensations set his nerves alight, his senses amplified a hundredfold by fear and uncertainty, a creeping pleasure swelling his member against his will as her fingers roamed down towards his belt-line.

"Maybe a little humiliation will teach you your place. You hate that you're attracted to me, don't you? I confuse you, but you want me, I've seen the way you look at my body. I can smell the pheromones on your skin, I can hear the blood pumping through your veins, I can see the bulge in your pants. I got you so riled up when I put you on your knees and made you eat me out, but I didn't let you come. Tell me the truth, did you get yourself off once you were alone? Did you touch yourself while thinking about how I treated you?"

"I-I wouldn't ever, will you get the hell off me?"

"Are you sure?" Nazka leaned closer, her soft lips brushing against his ear as she whispered her obscenities, her husky voice making his head spin. "Did you stroke your cock while thinking about me? Did you hide in a cabin not a dozen paces from my bed and get yourself off rather than let me know that you're attracted to me? Did you think about my taste and my smell? Is it my abs that you like, maybe my rack? Tell me, and maybe I'll let you touch them, give you some fuel for your fire so to speak."

She could have boiled an egg on Eriksen's face, it didn't matter if what she said was true or not, that she was saying it was enough to get a reaction from him. His heart was racing, his knees going weak as she bombarded him with her profanity, her velvet hands sliding across his skin as she whispered to him.

She slipped her fingers below his waistband, the sensation of her fluffy fur as it enclosed his member making him jump, but she wrapped her other arm around his chest to keep him still. She squeezed gently, feeling him throb in her palm, his erection leaking precome as she nibbled softly at his neck just above where she had bitten him.

"Wow, you're about ready to pop. I can feel your heartbeat in my hand. Would you hate me if I made you come? I kind of want to see what happens when you get off, I bet you make all kinds of cute noises. Your face gets so red when I mess with you."

"I already hate you," he breathed, doing his best to control himself. God, she was just so...overwhelming. Everything about her was larger than life, from her physiology to her attitude. He didn't want to give her the satisfaction, but he knew that if she started to pump her fist, he wouldn't be able to hold out for long, which was exactly what she wanted. As transparent as her attempt to humiliate him was, it was going to work. He was like putty in her hands, and she knew precisely how much that pissed him off.

"Tell me how much you hate me," she whispered sweetly, giving him another squeeze of encouragement that made stars dance before his eyes. He didn't reply, and she pinched his earlobe between her teeth, feeling him thrust into her hand as his body began to betray him to her. He fought to get himself back under control. It was perhaps futile to try to hold out, but he wasn't about to give up the fight so soon.

"I want to see the hate in your eyes when you fill my hand with your come, don't be shy, let it all out."

Her squeezing became a rhythmic stroking, her downy fingers running up and down the length of his shaft, Nazka pausing at the tip to wet the fleshy pad of her index finger with his leaking excitement. She drew slow circles on his tender glans, his spine arching in response as she hugged him against her body, peppering his neck and shoulder with licks and kisses.

"Stop it," he stammered, bolts of pleasure running up his spine like pulses of light in an optical cable.

"Give me the code to the cockpit door and I'll stop," she said, her tone suddenly dry and serious. So that was her plan, to drive him half mad and then offer him relief in exchange for the code? He wouldn't let her play him like that, no matter what she did to him.

"Fuck you..."

"A fitting choice of words," she murmured, her voice now honeyed and seductive again. She increased her pace, her fingers massaging his erection beneath his pants, milking him like he was a damned cow as he struggled against his bonds.

"You know what I think?" Nazka asked, closing her free hand gently around his throat. It wasn't enough to choke him, but just feeling her fingers around his neck made an odd tingling sensation wash over his body, Eriksen closing his eyes as he tried to endure. "I think you're starting to like this. You've got some Borealan in you after all, you humans might have suppressed it, but the instinct is there."

"Y-You're wrong," he gasped, and she tightened her grip a little to cut him off.

"If I kissed you right now you'd come instantly, wouldn't you?" He tried to shake his head, but she moved her hand to grip his chin, keeping him still as she increased the pace of her stroking. She slipped a finger into his mouth, careful to avoid cutting him with her claw. Her fur felt odd on his tongue as he struggled against her. "I've never seen anyone melt like that before. When I kissed you, for a moment you seemed to forget where you were and what was happening to you."

She withdrew her finger and tilted his head up, looking down at him from above, her claws pricking his cheeks. He redoubled his efforts to escape her, twisting and fighting lest she follow through on her threat. He was already on the edge, and if her kiss made him lose control, he'd never live it down. Her expression turned sly as she felt him struggle, his member jumping in her grasp as she leaned closer, her pink lips parting to press against his. She embraced him upside-down, gripping his face in her hand so that he couldn't escape her, piling her long tongue into his mouth. Again she subjected him to a greedy and passionate kiss, deft and attentive as if she could read the muddled thoughts that ran through his head in order to satisfy desires that he dared not speak aloud.

She bulged his cheeks with her roving organ, hot and slippery, its rough texture tickling the roof of his mouth and the back of his throat as she explored him. It intertwined with his own, wrestling as the wet muscles slid against each other, her copper-flavored saliva pricking his taste buds. He leaned back against her, his struggling temporarily forgotten, as if she had hit a reset switch in his brain. She teased him with gentle strokes and tentative licks, then surprised him with deeper and more sexual probing, in tune with the twitching of his body and the hammering of his heart as she ravished him. He felt as if he would melt into her, her shameless kiss sapping the strength from his legs until he was certain that he would have fallen over had she not been holding him up.

He realized that he was trembling in her grasp, but he couldn't do anything about it. Like jamming a blade into a joint in a suit of armor, she had found his weakness, and she was exploiting it to full effect. She could be so tender and gentle when she wanted to be, but coming from her it reminded him of a venus fly trap, luring an insect in with a sweet nectar before closing its wicked jaws shut on it.

As her deep, passionate kiss dragged on, she continued her relentless pumping as her hand moved beneath his clothing. She timed the firm strokes to match the slow rhythm of her kiss, each glance of her fingers making him thrust desperately into her palm, her soft lips unlocking from his own every so often to allow him a labored gasp of air before resuming her assault.

It was like there was a fireworks show going off in his skull, points of light flashing before his eyes as she drew out the lurid embrace, Eriksen scarcely able to formulate a coherent thought as the Borealan curled her dexterous organ around his tongue like a snake capturing a hapless mouse. Like a voice calling to him from a great distance, he heard his logical mind warning him that he was about to lose this encounter, but his arousal was so powerful and palpable that he scarcely noticed it. The pressure rising inside him became too much to stand, and he felt his orgasm welling, Nazka increasing her pace as his body tensed in her arms. Somehow he had expected her to slow, to release him when he came. But instead, she gripped him all the tighter.

She pulled back from her sordid kiss, what must have been a foot of tongue sliding out of his mouth, digging her claws into his skin as she held his face so that she could see the results of her handiwork. A shiver rolled down his spine as her amber eyes stared into his, Nazka drinking in his red face and his fluttering eyelids as if feeding on his emotions as she watched him climax.

A thick wad of his ejaculate hit her palm, matting her fur, followed by more as his primal instincts took control and he tried to fuck her hand. Each pulse of wracking pleasure was more intense than the last, his mouth open in a silent cry as he rolled his hips, Nazka ceasing her stroking and cupping her hand to catch his ropy emission as it came. Eriksen might have died from the shame had he not been lost in his pleasure, a scant few moments of bliss where nothing else mattered, as if the world had fallen away and he was all that existed.

Like climbing out of molasses, he slowly regained his senses, awareness of his surroundings returning to him as he panted in Nazka's arms. A few stray aftershocks tickled his nerves as she rubbed the last of his emission from his still rigid member. He heard her chuckle in his ear, her closed fist emerging from beneath his pants, his heart racing and his face burning even hotter as she opened her fingers to show him the contents.

He watched as strings of his pearly semen clung to her fur, a surprising amount of it pooling in her palm, viscous and with the consistency of honey as she turned her hand to let the strands dangle obscenely.

"Finally, some honesty from you," she whispered as her other arm trapped him against her lest he try to escape. "There's enough there to put one of our own males to shame. I guess you haven't been sneaking off to take care of yourself after all. How proper of you."

He wanted to be angry with her, he wanted to fight, but the lingering euphoria dulled his edge and relaxed him to the point that he couldn't muster much more than a low sigh.

"You made such an adorable face when you came, you spent all that time struggling, and then you caved as soon as I kissed you. Is there a reason you like it so much? Is there a girl waiting for you back home who kisses you like I do? What do you think she would say if she could see you now?"

"I'm...single," Eriksen gasped.

"Really?" Nazka sighed. "Shame, I was going to have a lot of fun with that. You're not single though," she added, pressing her finger down on the gauze pad that covered the bite mark and making him wince. "You belong to me now."

She released his hands from her tail and let go of him, giving him a gentle push so that he fell forward and had to catch himself on the shelves. He turned to glare at her, still recovering from his orgasm and unsteady on his feet. She smirked, raising her hand to her face, the strings of his come still hanging from her palm. He watched with a mixture of arousal and disgust as she dragged her tongue through the mess, cleaning her hand as he looked on, like a cat with butter on its paw. She kept her eyes locked to his until she was done, then without another word she walked out of the room, closing the automatic door behind her.

Eriksen breathed a sigh of relief and sank into a nearby chair, letting the embers of his climax smolder as he stared at the padded ceiling. This woman was going to be the death of him.

CHAPTER 6: BEST LAID PLANS

"So what's your plan?" Eriksen asked as he sat across from Nazka at the table in the common room, the giant alien sitting cross-legged on the floor so that the surface was at an appropriate height for her. She chewed thoughtfully at the meal that he had concocted for them, using her claws in lieu of cutlery, picking out the diced sausage from some canned meals that he had found in the kitchen.

"You're gonna give me the code to the cockpit, and then I'm gonna jump this rig all the way home. I'll tow the Black Claw in the superlight wake."

"And if you don't get the code? Don't you have any kind of backup plan?"

She stopped eating for a moment and set her large hands down on the table, peering at Eriksen with her yellow eyes.

"I'm gonna get the code...one way or another. Right now this is a fun diversion. I like you, Eriksen, you make for good sport. But if push comes to shove, I'm going to have you begging for mercy, and that's not a euphemism. I can do things to you that'll have you wishing that your parents had never met."

He tried not to look afraid, but the way that she switched her attitude from playful to menacing at the drop of a hat bothered him. He knew that she wasn't insane, but she was a rare breed of career criminal. Torturing or killing him was just business to people like her, and she wouldn't have lost a wink of sleep over it. If he was going to go through with plan C, then he had to do it soon. He didn't know how long she would keep their little game going before she got tired of him.

Nazka raised her bowl off the table, licking up what remained of her meal, then set it down with a satisfied sigh as she wiped her mouth on her sleeve.

"You're not half bad at cooking, Eriksen. I'm serious when I say that you can have a position on the Black Claw you know, I need to replace the crew that you spaced. You wouldn't get paid of course, but you wouldn't have to worry about rent or food ever again, and as a perk of the job I'd fuck you into a stupor whenever the mood took me."

His face burned again as she smirked at him. She was so vulgar, every time that she opened her mouth, it was to spew some obscenity or to make an inappropriate remark.

"I don't think I'd survive on a spaceship with more than one Borealan, I'm barely pulling through with just one of you."

"Suit yourself," she shrugged, rising from her seat on the floor. "The offer will remain open until I have to start hurting you. It's really your best option right now, I can't see how else you'll be able to weasel your way out of your debts."

"Let me worry about that, what are you, my accountant?"

She chuckled and shook her head, her cropped, blonde hair bouncing.

"I'm going to get a shower," she stated, making her way to the door. "You should come scrub my back." She looked over her shoulder, watching him freeze with a spoonful of beans and rice suspended an inch from his mouth, giggling like an oversized schoolgirl at his conflicted expression. "I won't bite...too hard. I don't get why you're such a prude, Eriksen, is it a human thing maybe? We could have a lot of fun together if you just let your guard down a little and stopped being such a pussy."

"Sorry, I'm not in the habit of relaxing around murdering pirates who've expressed a desire to torture me. I think you'll understand if I don't leap into your arms..."

"You should be careful who you call a murderer," she said with a cruel grin. "You flushed four of my crewmates into space without a second thought, after all. You might not see it yet, but you have what it takes to be a murderous pirate yourself."

She left the room to leave him fuming at the table. That was different, his hand had been forced, and he had been given no choice but to kill his captors. A thought occurred to him suddenly. She was going to shower, that would mean that she would have to remove her belt with the gun holster on it. She had even given him an excuse to be in the bathroom at the same time as her, it was the perfect opportunity to put plan C in motion. He would have to swallow his pride and show up at the door as if he had changed his mind and wanted to join her. The thought of her satisfied smirk made him sick, but this might be his chance to end this nightmare and put her down for good. If he could bring himself pull the trigger, that is.

He had gotten to know her better over the last couple of days, and while she was no doubt a despicable criminal, there was no such thing as pure evil. When he had spaced her crew he had seen them as little more than hostile animals, the same was true when he had emptied his Walther into Nazka's chest in the access tunnel. He was guilty of homocentrism, they were sapient beings as much as he was and despite their animalistic appearance, they were deserving of the same respect. He would not have killed her crew if he had been given another option and he didn't want to kill Nazka either, despite what she had done to him. She should be turned over to the authorities, not summarily executed for crimes that amounted to little more than piracy and assault, at least so far. Eriksen wasn't a vigilante, but he saw no other way out. Eventually, it was going to come down to his life or hers, and he knew which one he would choose.

***

Eriksen lingered outside the door to the hab module's bathroom. He could hear the spray of the shower from out in the corridor, Nazka was already in there. He wasn't sure whether he should try to sneak in and grab the gun before she noticed him, or announce himself and then go for it when she turned her back. He wasn't fond of capitulating to her demands and showing up at all, but maybe he'd feel better about it when she found herself on the wrong end of the handgun.

He took a deep breath and steeled himself, opening the automatic door. It would usually be locked from the inside, but she had obviously expected him to change his mind and join her. It pissed him off to no end to let her think that she had won, even temporarily. As he stepped into the room and the steam cleared, he couldn't help but run his eyes over her naked body.

She was crouched in the shower as she was about two feet too tall to stand fully erect in the glass cubicle, hot water cascading over her dark skin as she ran her furry hands across it like a loofah. The glass was misted, and that only added to the scene, glimpses of her muscular figure visible for brief moments where the cubicle was clear as if the elements themselves were conspiring to entice him. As honed as her senses were, she might not hear him over the sound of the rushing water, and she might not smell him over the steam that filled the space. He began to creep closer as his eyes scanned the room for her belt.

One of the round ears that protruded from the top of her head swiveled in his direction, and he stood as straight as a board, trying his best to look as if he wasn't plotting to kill her. She turned her head to look over her shoulder, keeping her back to him and covering her massive breasts with her furred hands, that smirk that he so hated curling her lips.

"Well, what do we have here? Looks like you changed your mind after all, was the thought of sharing a shower with me too appealing to refuse?"

She stepped out from behind the glass, standing straighter as her head brushed the padded ceiling, giving him a better look at her. She planted her hands on her wide hips and let her breasts fall heavily to bounce as they fought against gravity, her long tail waving behind her as Eriksen's eyes wandered.

The blonde fur was confined to her arms below the elbow, her legs below the knee, and to her sinuous tail. Besides the hair on her head and the small tuft of fur on her mound, the rest of her impressive physique was as smooth as burnished metal, toned muscles protruding from beneath her dusky skin to catch the light as the water made them glisten. The steam billowed around her, a vision of beauty as droplets of water traced the curves and contours of her figure, wide hips with a pinched waist and generous breasts lighting a fire in him that he would rather stayed quenched. The subtle gap between her powerful thighs made his heart race, and he had to avert his eyes so as not to make his arousal too conspicuous. This was not the time to get distracted by her. He had to be sharp, he had to find the gun and...those abs though, good lord. He could have washed his clothes on them.

"Good timing," she said, shifting her weight from one leg to another so that her hips rolled enticingly. "I need your little human hands to get into those places that I can't reach. Help me out, and maybe there will be something in it for you." She beckoned to him with a clawed finger, and he took a faltering step towards her, as if mesmerized by the gleam of her yellow eyes.

He spotted the gun, the holster was dangling from her belt which was hanging from a towel rack along with the rest of her leather garments. It was between him and the shower cubicle, he could reach it on the way towards her, if only she would turn her back again and give him the opportunity to grab it.

"I...I'll do it...just look away while I undress."

"Are you shy? You smell afraid, Eriksen, don't be. I can behave myself when the situation calls for it. You scratch my back, I fuck you into a whimpering mess. Sounds like a fair exchange to me."

She was really laying it on thick, but she humored him as she turned away and stepped gracefully back into the shower as Eriksen snuck a glance at her perfect ass, the glass made opaque by the steam. He had to stay focused on the plan, but the feeling of her fever-hot, silken flesh gripping his finger like a vice bubbled up from his memory. God, what would that feel like wrapped around his cock? He shook his head as if to dispel the intrusive thoughts, removing his shirt as he inched closer to her, trying to gauge if he could free the weapon from its holster before she realized what was happening. Would he even be able to fire the damned thing? It was enormous, the kick might break his wrist. Oh well, there was nothing for it but to try, he was already committed.

He removed his pants as he got closer, then his underwear, making sure that his belt clattered on the tiles so as not to arouse her suspicion. If she turned around now, he was fucking mincemeat. Fortunately, the glass was steamy enough that they could scarcely see each other.

He reached out a hand and un-popped the button that held the gun in place, lifting the strip of leather gingerly, electing to do it as slowly as possible rather than rushing. He felt the cold metal of the revolver on his fingertips and reached inside the holster to take the gun in his hand. It must have weighed twenty pounds, it felt like it was made of fucking granite, and he struggled to pull it loose. He finally succeeded, hefting the giant weapon and needing both hands to aim it, his finger on the oversized trigger as he pointed it at Nazka.

She was standing beside the shower again, her arms resting at her sides as she eyed the gun, she was remarkably calm.

"I'm surprised that you can keep that thing steady," she said. "It's made for my kind, after all. It's a powder weapon, archaic by your standards perhaps, but it gets the job done. As you've seen, you need a large caliber to bring down Borealans. If you're wondering if it will kill me, then the answer is yes."

He pointed the barrel at her head, not wanting to take any chances. If he merely wounded her, then he wasn't likely to get a second shot in. She was fast, and on her long legs, she could close the distance between them in the blink of an eye. She would remove his head from his shoulders before he even realized that he was dead.

"I'll give you one chance to put that gun back in its holster and join me in the shower," she said, "or you're going to make me very angry with you."

"I didn't want to do this," Eriksen said, his hands trembling as he tried to keep the gun level. "I didn't want to hurt you or your crew, but you created this situation, not me."

"So noble in the face of adversity," she crooned, her tone mocking. "You're so naive, so innocent, but that's one of the things that makes breaking you so much of a turn on for me. I'm going to ruin you, Eriksen, and you're going to enjoy every moment of it."

The next few seconds were like a blur. Time seemed to slow down, as if in his moment of need his body had heightened his perception. Nazka ducked, her fingers making contact with the tiled floor like an Olympic sprinter preparing for a race, and he watched the steely muscles in her thighs bulge as she powered forward. That something so large could move so fast shocked him, but by the time that the message to pull the trigger had traveled down his arm to reach his finger, she was halfway across the room. He fired, but her head was no longer in the bullet's path, and the tile where her face had been not a moment earlier exploded into a fountain of white dust. The kick on the revolver was absurd, and it rocked back, pointing at the ceiling as he tried in vain to get it under control for a followup shot. She was on him before the fragments of tile had even hit the floor, her strong fingers closing around his wrist as she wrested the gun from his hands, a well-placed kick knocking his feet out from under him.

When time returned to normal, he was on his back, the tiles cold against his bare skin as Nazka crouched over him with the gun in her hand. She had closed the gap and disarmed him in the time that it had taken him to fire off one solitary shot. He knew that she was fast but this was absurd, he had scarcely seen her move.

"I'm fucked," he muttered, resigning himself to his fate.

"Oh, not just yet," Nazka whispered. She was shaking, with rage or arousal it was impossible to tell. Her eyes were dilated into massive, black circles as she glared down at him, her sharp teeth bared like an angry lion. "That's twice now you've almost killed me," she hissed, droplets of water from her wet body raining down on him as he lay beneath her. "If you were a Borealan I'd carve my fucking name into your chest with my claws, I'd flay your flesh from your bones, I'd fuck you in a pool of your own blood."

She was crazed, she looked like a demon, but Eriksen felt oddly unafraid. If she was going to kill him then so be it, he couldn't do anything about it now. At least she would remember the time that he had almost blown her head off with her own sidearm.

"You're too fragile for that kind of treatment, your flesh is as soft as butter, you take weeks to heal from minor injuries. If I treated you the way you deserve, you wouldn't last an hour. Oh, how I want to hook my claws into the skin of your back and fuck your face for the rest of the night, but..." She lifted her head towards the ceiling and closed her eyes, as if imagining some unspeakable torture that she couldn't subject him to, her claws scraping at the tiles an inch from his ear.

"No Borealan would ever dare to take things this far, you're driving me crazy, and I can't even punish you for it. You can't imagine how frustrating that is."

He felt a warm strand of liquid fall from between her thighs, landing heavily on his belly. Frustration must have had a double meaning here. She was so wet that she was dripping, and he felt the beginnings of an erection in his own loins. What the hell was wrong with him? How could he be aroused at a time like this?

She bit her lower lip, and cradled his face in her enormous palms, her claws drawing blood from his cheeks as her hands trembled.

"Whatever am I going to do with you, Eriksen? You need to be taught that rebelling against your Alpha is wrong, but how can I teach you if I can't paint the lessons in your skin?"

He felt her fingers wrap around his wrists, her tail coiling around his ankles and tying them together, Eriksen's expression remaining neutral and resigned as she positioned herself on top of him. Whatever torture she had planned, he could take it, she would kill him before he spoke a single number of that door code to her.

"I think some tough love is in order, try not to pass out," she said as she clamped her thighs around his hips. He had been sure that she would kill him for this second attempt on her life, but as her dripping, swollen sex brushed the tip of his erection, he realized that their game wasn't over yet. There was a fire in her golden eyes, a burning heat that threatened to consume the both of them, and his apprehension was replaced by a flood of guilty anticipation as her glistening body moved atop him.

"No foreplay today," she whispered, leaning down close to his ear. "I'm going to fuck you until you beg for it to stop, and then I'll do it some more. You wouldn't survive my claws, but you'll probably live through this. Albeit, with some nice new bruises to remember me by."

She dropped down on him, letting her immense weight drive his erection deep into her tunnel, Eriksen's eyes almost popping out of his head as he felt her luxurious insides slide against his shaft. She was already so wet. Not just wet, her viscous juices leaked around his member as it lay buried in her twitching hole and ran down her polished thighs. If she hadn't been so excited she might take taken his skin off, such was her tunnel's grip on his throbbing erection. She had knocked the wind out of him and cracked the tile beneath his butt, Eriksen catching his breath again as she sat on him, shuddering gently as his cock jumped and flexed inside her. She wasn't putting all of her weight on him of course, that would probably have crushed his pelvis, but she let enough of it rest on him that he could appreciate the control that she exerted.

He couldn't choke back the gasp that escaped his lips, the walls of her passage were like velvet, impossibly soft and slick with a layer of syrupy fluid that made him glide as she lifted herself off him again. She poised above him with only his tender glans still lodged inside her, her muscles sucking at him like an eager mouth as she prepared to drop again. She slammed back down, Eriksen closing his eyes and arching his spine off the wet floor. He wanted to cover his face with his hands, but they were pinned above his head.

He could feel every contraction and tremor that passed through her body as she gripped him like a cruel fist, her passage moving around him as if a hundred tongues were pressing against his cock, each one licking and thrashing as they explored his anatomy and painted it with their honeyed saliva. Every nerve in his body was on fire, she was exquisite, almost painfully tight as her powerful pelvic floor muscles milked him in rolling waves that traveled from the base of his member to the sensitive tip. The heat, the delicate flesh that cocooned him, the slippery juices that glazed him...it was enough to make his head spin.

"Driven half-mad by a few thrusts," Nazka said as she looked down on him, "such a sensitive creature. You might as well be untouched. How I wish that you were, but your first time with a Borealan won't even compare. Have you ever been fucked so thoroughly that you could no longer tell where the pleasure ended, and the dull ache of your pain began? If it starts to hurt, beg for it to stop, plead and grovel. It won't move me, but it might get me off a little faster."

She circled her hips, grinding his shaft against her walls, feeling him squirm beneath her as she drove bolts of harsh pleasure up his spine. He was already breathing hard, his eyelids drooping, unable to conceal his arousal as she stared down at his red face. She was furious, but also hungry, her yellow eyes betraying her desire as they played over his naked body and drank in his pained expressions.

"You're beating inside me like a heart, I can feel every twitch. You can't hide anything from me. I wonder what will break first, your resolve or your bones?"

She slid up his shaft again, then impaled herself, coming down on him hard enough to bruise. She kept it up, finding a slow, heavy pace as she fucked him into the floor. Her abdominal muscles bulged and flexed as she moved, her massive breasts bouncing in rhythm with her thrusts, her flesh clapping against his as droplets of moisture that might have been sweat or shower water rained down on him from her dark skin.

The bathroom was steamy from the hot water that still cascaded from the shower head, it sounded a million miles away to Eriksen as he watched the giant alien bounce on top of him. She almost looked like she was dancing, her wet body shining beneath the bathroom's lights, breasts swaying and hips rolling as she moved. He didn't know how his human member compared to those of her own kind, but she seemed to be enjoying herself, her cruel expression softening a little as their coupling grew more frantic. He felt the ache that she had described, a soreness in his battered loins that seemed to reach to the core of his being, but it was a satisfying ache that amplified his senses and made the wracking pleasure all the sweeter in comparison.

His thoughts were muddled, he didn't know what to feel. All he could do was reel as her ceaseless motions knocked his thoughts around in his head like pinballs. The pleasure was overwhelming, harsh and pitiless, but it drowned him in a sea of euphoria that set every inch of skin aflame with sensation. He wanted desperately to break free of his bonds and reach up, not to strike her or push her away, but to run his hands over her satin skin and to trace the contours of her figure with his fingers. Love and hate, pleasure and pain, it was all becoming a confused tangle.

Was this what she meant when she said that she was going to break him? Was this what it felt like? He had to keep it together, he had to resist her. She was a tyrant, and he couldn't afford to be at her mercy. But like a tiny raft floating on a stormy ocean, he could do nothing but ride the waves.

Nazka started to thrust even harder, her pace remaining constant but the force of her blows increasing, his member scouring her narrow passage as she squeezed her muscles around it with all the fine control of a hand. There was so much suction, as if she was trying to draw out his emission through that alone. Eriksen was unable to suppress his gasps and groans as her slippery flesh caressed the exposed head of his cock. He was going so deep, and she was scraping his rigid erection against her walls as if trying to satisfy some terrible itch.

"What do you think of me?" Nazka panted, not missing a stride as she ground her hips against him. "Do your own women pale in comparison? Is there a taboo associated with interspecies sex in your culture, does it humiliate you? That would be delicious..."

She was like a machine, tireless and vigorous even as she mocked him.

"You want to taste my skin, you want to bury your face in my cleavage and breathe in my scent. I can see it in your eyes. But I won't let you, I'm going to fuck you right here on the floor, because your place is beneath me." She grinned as she felt him flex inside her, her muscular tunnel wringing him as she chuckled.

"Oh, I felt you swell inside me, was there something about that sentence that you liked?" She leaned down closer so that she could whisper in his ear, her hot breath washing over him as she gyrated on his member.

"I love the face you make when you're trying to hide how hot you are for me...yeah, that's the one. I saw it when I made you fill my hand with your seed back in the kitchen, and when my juices were dripping from your face after I forced you to get me off. You look at me like you hate me, yet you're as hard as a fucking rock. I can feel the hot blood flowing through your cock. I can smell the pheromones in your sweat. I can see where you're looking, your body is already giving itself to me so why don't you stop resisting and do the same?"

"You don't know humans very well," he replied, trying to keep his voice from wavering as she subjected him to her barbarous attentions. "The fact that you want it so badly, that it would make you happy, means that I'll die long before I give you the satisfaction. I'd cut my own throat if I thought that it would spite you."

She cut off his bitter laugh with an especially hard thrust, his eyes rolling back into his head as his spine rose from the tiles in response, and she cocked her head at him curiously.

"When a Borealan loses a fight they stop resisting, the arousal lasts a while longer but once the confrontation is over it starts to fade. We get maybe ten, fifteen minutes of sex that would probably split a human in two, but the bloodlust only lasts so long." She closed her eyes as if recalling some old memory, Eriksen struggling to keep his attention on what she was saying as she crushed him against the floor, pleasant shivers crawling up his spine with every stroke.

"There's nothing quite like being torn up by a male who weighs twice what you do. You know what my first sexual experience was? I had my eye on this one guy who used to load cargo at the docks near where I grew up, he had arms as large as you are, and scars all over his chest from dominance fights." She bit her lip as she remembered him, Eriksen confused and wondering where she was going with her story. She took a minute to catch her breath as she bobbed on his shaft, her steely thighs pressing around him, the hard muscle beneath her delicate fat digging into his hips. "When I came of age I walked right up to him and cut him straight across the belly, dug my claws in deep just to get his attention. He lifted me clear off the ground, threw me over a nearby crate and fucked me so hard that I could scarcely stumble home when he was done. I must have come a dozen times in the space of the ten minutes it took him to lose interest."

She rose on his shaft and then lowered herself more slowly this time, savoring the sensation of his member dragging against her tunnel, sparks of pleasure dancing in Eriksen's brain as she continued to speak.

"That's about how long it lasts for us. Even when you make a point of pissing someone off, the lust and the anger fade. But you, Eriksen, you just keep pushing. You reach the point where even the most ambitious Borealan would realize that they've lost, and you keep going. You've been dragging out that lust and anger for two fuckin' days and you show no sign of stopping."

She slowed and brought her face down close so that her pink nose was almost touching his.

"I've never been so turned on in my life, certainly not for this long. It's like a sickness or a fever, and it almost scares me."

Eriksen wanted to protest, to tell her how fucking crazy she sounded, how twisted her view of sexuality was. But he couldn't muster the strength. It was as if her insides were wringing him of his willpower, sapping his strength as her damp flesh scraped against his skin. If she were to release his arms now and free him from her iron grip, would he try to fight her off, or would his primal urges betray him and cause him to sink his hands into those otherworldly breasts? Was there even any point in fighting this war that he couldn't hope to ever win? Maybe he should just enjoy it and resume his fight when it was over...

No, he wasn't going to give her an inch, not on his life.

She saw the flash of determination in his eyes, and he felt her shudder, a powerful tremor rolling through her body and translating into his member to make him wince. She began to move again, rocking her wide hips back and forth, her thighs gripping him ever tighter as if she was trying to crush the life out of him. She was like a force of nature, vigorous and immovable, there was nothing that he could do besides lie beneath her with his throbbing erection lodged deep inside her as her relentless pace drove them both towards an inevitable climax.

His staggered breaths seem to sync with her thrusts, as if he could only take a lungful of air when she fell back down to drive him into her warm depths, their bodies moving as one in their throes of passion despite the animosity of their conscious minds.

"Damn it Nazka," Eriksen muttered, his face contorted as he tried to resist the welling pleasure that coursed through his beleaguered body. "Slow down, you're...it's too much."

She gazed down at him with her damp hair falling across one eye, her dark body shining with moisture and sweat, and she released his wrists from her hands in order to plant them to either side of his head as she fucked him. She wasn't faring much better than him, overcome with arousal, her gaze unfocused and her eyelids fluttering.

"No way," she panted, "endure it. If you come before I do I'll...I'll..."

Her voice seemed to fail her, cracking as she drove him against her slick walls, Eriksen sinking his fingers into the fur on her forearms for purchase. She grinned, seeing that once released, he made no attempt to escape her.

Everything was so wet. Their sweat, saliva, her juices. The moisture in the air and the water on the tiles beneath him. Hot and slippery, so many sensations mingling and blending until they were hard for his mind to distinguish. His hips were bruised where she drove him into the deck with the force of her pounding, the bite on his neck still hurt, miscellaneous cuts and scrapes stung his skin. But the pleasure drowned it all out, his body pushing off the tile to meet her downward thrusts, slamming together with an audible clap that made his cheeks flush with embarrassment. He was sore, but he wanted more, the ache wasn't enough. He could sense a monumental orgasm creeping up on him, and he needed it desperately.

She was doing it again, forcing him to come for her own amusement, delighting in his indignation as she left him trembling on the floor. He didn't want to give her the satisfaction but his body craved release, and he couldn't deny her vigor and skill. He had never felt anything like this before, the fine control that she had over her muscles and the cruel pace of their coupling, the body that would have been the envy of any human woman. It was like standing on a beach and trying to stop the tide.

He was starting to crack. She could see and feel it, the way that his body moved beneath her as he matched her pace and the way that he tried to cover his red face with his arms in an attempt to conceal his pleasure.

She leaned down and took a handful of his hair, tugging at it to hold him still, Eriksen flinching as she pressed her lips against his neck. He didn't know whether she would kiss or bite, the prospect sending his senses into a kind of nervous overdrive, the gentle crawl of her lips on his skin as loud as an orchestra in his head. He struggled and writhed beneath her, but she only closed her thighs around him harder, her tail still coiled around his legs to keep him still. She pulled his hair with a harsh tug that made him let slip a low cry of muddled pleasure and discomfort as he squirmed in her grasp. She mouthed and licked at his throat, nipping him with her teeth to keep him on his toes.

Eriksen was melting into a puddle, Nazka whittling away at his resolve, tingling pleasure coursing through his body as if his spine had been hooked up to a battery. She slid her tongue from his shoulder to his ear, leaving a trail of warm drool, then pinched it in her sharp teeth. She whispered softly, her breath coming in sharp gasps and her hanging breasts bouncing as her chest rose and fell, the ruthless sex dragging on.

What if I just said fuck the cargo and decided to take you as my plunder?” She pushed the tip of her tongue into his ear, feeling him buck beneath her. “There are other freighters to hit, more cargo to steal, but you're one of a kind. You'd be like my pet, I'd love to pass you around when I find a new crew and watch what they'd do to you. Would you like that? You'd be at the bottom of the pack, a toy for anyone to play with...”

She bit his neck, not hard enough to scar this time but enough to get his attention.

You need psychological help,” he spat, and she rewarded him with a hard squeeze of her pelvic floor muscles that sent him reeling.

You keep calling me crazy, but you're as hot as I am. You swell and throb when I whisper these things in your ear. Your body already belongs to me, your mind just needs to get with the program.”

She resumed her mouthing and licking, pressing her lips against his jugular, dragging her rough tongue across his flesh to make him shiver. He didn't even know what was happening to him, there was a pressure inside him that made him feel as if he might explode. He was an unbreakable object, and she was an immovable obstacle. The two of them were smashing together, the forces at play threatening to tear his sanity asunder and make him as crazy as she was.

She took his wrists in her hands again and pinned him to the damp floor, slamming into him harder and faster than ever, reaching a crescendo as her powerful contractions and tremors betrayed her mounting pleasure. She came down on him like a jackhammer, Eriksen unable to stifle his unbecoming moans as her narrow passage wrung him, flesh like wet satin caressing his tender cock as her brutal muscles quivered and milked it in rolling waves. She liked it harsh and deep, burying him to the hilt, the obscene sounds of it audible even over her rumbling growl.

He loosed a pained groan as she drew his orgasm from him, his resistance futile as his erection spasmed and lurched inside her. Nazka tensed as she felt a wad of his hot come splash against her most intimate reaches. She was like an animal consumed by a primal desire to mate, her passage squeezing and sucking as if to force more of it from him, grinding her hips as she tried to fuck his ejaculate deeper inside her. Again and again, his body gave in to her as thick ropes of his semen were wrung from his body, Eriksen unsure of whether his own burning muscles or Nazka's unforgiving loins were doing the work.

The pleasure was intolerable, raw and intense, and she stopped her thrusting to settle on top of him as she pressed his pulsing erection as deep as it would go and her long tongue lolled from her mouth.

Give me everything,” she hissed, “pump your surrender into me. I want to feel it in my guts.”

He was unable to refuse, lost in his euphoria. It just kept coming, and every fresh ejaculation made his muscles ache as if he had been running a marathon.

She came too, her insides undulating as she let slip a guttural snarl, her sharp teeth bared as Eriksen watched her abs flex as her sweat dripped down them. Before he knew what was happening she had lifted him off the floor and had buried his face between her breasts, the yielding globes pressing around his face as she hugged him against her quaking body.

She squeezed the air out of his lungs with her strong arms, even her orgasm seemingly evolved to torment her mate, aftershocks tearing through Eriksen's body like electric shocks as his aching balls gave her all that they could. He went limp, breathing in the scent of her wet skin, tasting her sweat on his tongue as her breasts enveloped his head and his exhausted body hung in her arms. He felt her claws dig into his back, rousing him from his stupor, and he let her cushiony bust muffle his exclamation of discomfort.

He realized that his arms were attempting to wrap around her, her body too large for them to meet around her ribs, his fingers gliding over her damp body as she shivered and crooned. Her breathing eventually became more regular, and the violent contractions inside her tight tunnel abated, the two of them clinging to each other for a brief moment. For a second they seemed to forget where they were, a warmth spreading through his body, their hold on one another gentle and tender as the pair recovered from their shared climax.

Nazka seemed to come to her senses, releasing him to fall to the floor unceremoniously, his member still lodged inside her as she straddled him. She caught her breath, composing herself, Eriksen glaring up at her through his afterglow.

"I guess you toughed it out, impressive for a little human. I've beaten down males far larger and stronger than you who came faster. You're-"

"Don't say it," Eriksen grumbled, knowing what was coming next. She smirked and lowered her face so that it was an inch from his.

"You're a good lay," she said, carefully enunciating every word.

She lifted off him, and Eriksen felt one last twinge of pleasure as he slid out of her slick tunnel, the mess that they had made together sloughing down his shaft as it leaked from between her sodden thighs. She stood over him, her hands on her hips, and then gestured towards the shower cubicle with her head.

"Pick yourself up. Now I have to start my shower over, you made this mess so you can clean it up."

He crossed his arms defiantly as he lay on the wet tiles, but she coiled her long tail around him, lifting him with ease and depositing him on his feet. He wobbled as he got his balance and Nazka walked back to the cubicle, disappearing behind the misted glass. She waited for a moment then her arm emerged, her furry finger beckoning to him.

"Don't make me ask you a second time."

Resigned, Eriksen made his way across the room, realizing how sore he was from their brutal coupling. He felt like he had been in a damned street fight. He stepped into the shower, squeezing past Nazka's bulk, the cascading water spraying him as it bounced off her. There wasn't a lot of room despite it being a large cubicle by human standards, and he found himself sandwiched between the glass and Nazka's enormous body.

"I don't read human very well, you like to use such decorative and stylized fonts. What does this bottle say?"

She thrust a bottle of shampoo into his hands, the label stipulated that it was anti-dandruff with an apple scent. He had grabbed it from the general store at the last station he had docked at with little thought.

"It's called English," he grumbled, "and it says shampoo. It's a product for washing hair."

"It'll do," she said, sitting heavily on the floor and crossing her legs. She almost knocked Eriksen over, taking up nearly all of the space and leaving him clutching the bottle, her head now at about chest height to him. He stared at her as the water poured down her muscular back and one of her ears flicked with irritation.

"Well, what are you waiting for? Wash my hair."

"I'm not your goddamned barber," he exclaimed, "do it yourself!"

"That's not how this works. I'm your Alpha, as my subordinate you're expected to help groom me. I don't look this good without a lot of maintenance, you know."

"I'm not your fucking servant."

"How is this any more demeaning than eating me out? Besides, you'll get to lay hands on me. Hasn't that been what you've wanted since the day I arrived? I've seen the way you look at me when you think I'm not paying attention, so go ahead, think of it as a reward for showing me a good time."

Better to just do it rather than trying to argue with her, it wasn't the most degrading thing that she had made him do so far. With any luck, he could be back in his bed in a half hour, nursing his new bruises in a locked cabin that gave him some semblance of privacy.

He upended the bottle and poured a copious amount of the gelatinous contents onto her large head, then set it down on the tiles, delving his fingers into her blonde mop and starting to work it deeper. He had never bathed with any of his previous partners, but he knew what to do well enough, he had visited barbers in the past. The shampoo began to turn into a white foam, and he ran his fingers over her scalp as he spread it around. Her hair was silky and voluminous in a way that made it feel closer to fur than human hair. She seemed pleased, her posture becoming more relaxed, and she leaned back a little to make it easier for him.

"That feels nice...use your fingers like that...yeah that's good..." She sighed contentedly as he kept up his massage, some of the foam escaping from her head and slipping down her back as it followed the indent of her spine. His eyes tracked it as it passed the two dimples in her lower back, some of it catching in the straw-colored fur of her tail, the rest slipping over the ample cheeks of her rump. He returned his attention to her head, trying to suppress the twinge of excitement that he felt in his loins. His cock seemed to want him dead almost as much as she did.

"What do I do about your ears?" Eriksen asked, avoiding the two furry protrusions that jutted from the top of her skull as he washed her hair.

"You can wash them, but do it carefully. Don't get any soap inside."

He enclosed one in his hand gingerly, it almost looked like the ear of a teddy bear, and he felt her shiver as he started to work in the shampoo. Her ears must be sensitive. It might have been cute were they not attached to a homicidal alien that seemed bent on his torture and enslavement. He took both ears in his hands, and she writhed as he rubbed them. The fur here was shorter and more akin to that which covered her limbs and tail than the longer hair on her head.

"Your fingers are so soft," she giggled, she sounded almost gleeful. "No claws, you can just...rub me all over without me having to worry about you getting clumsy and cutting me. I hate getting soap in a cut, it fucking stings."

His fingers were starting to cramp, she was so damned large, and there was so much hair. He couldn't imagine how long it might have taken to wash had it not been cut as short as it was. Finally, he had covered her entire head in a soapy lather. He reached up to remove the shower head from its mount, setting it to a more gentle spray and playing it over her head. She shuddered again and crooned happily, her long spine arching as the jets hit her scalp.

"Oh, it has settings! You're such a pampered race, to have enough free time and energy to concern yourselves with such trivial matters...it does feel nice though..."

"And what do Borealans concern themselves with?" Eriksen asked, running his fingers through her hair to dislodge the more stubborn suds.

"Borealis is a hostile planet, you kill to eat, and you fight to live. We have no time for comforts and pleasantries. That there is a shower and that it works, that is all we need."

"Well, I'm sorry to burst your bubble, but we've had shower heads with multiple settings for going on six hundred years now. I don't think not having time is a valid excuse."

"This is the problem with humans," she said, Eriksen rolling his eyes as he carefully rinsed her ears. "Technology is supposed to make you stronger, more efficient at what you do, but humans are so advanced that they have become dependent on their tools. It makes you weaker, less capable."

"I'm going to assume that you've never seen what a battleship with a nuclear payload can do to a planet," Eriksen scoffed.

"A rifle can help you to hunt, but you should be able to hunt without a rifle, you understand? You might be able to destroy a planet from orbit with your spaceships, but where would you be without them? One of ours can take ten of yours in a fight, that's why you need us so badly, that's why you want Borealans for your armies."

"So you're saying that we can't survive without our technology? That's probably true, but it's redundant because there's no way to take it from us. We're a multi-planet species, we inhabit dozens of worlds, and we have a fleet made up of thousands of ships. Maybe back when we were confined to Earth, a collapse might have been a possibility, but now we're essentially immortal."

"Yet you fear the Betelgeusians, and you rally the Borealans and the Krell to fight them."

"The Bugs are everyone's problem, you should be thanking us for protecting Borealis. You guys are right next to contested territory, and you didn't even have space travel when we made contact with you. How do you think Borealis would fare if a Bug fleet decided that it looked like prime real estate? They wouldn't even need to land, they could exterminate your entire species from orbit, and you wouldn't have been able to touch them." She tensed as if she was about to go on a tirade, but he continued hastily. "My point is, you need our ships and our technology, and nobody would put up with you furry psychopaths if you weren't the most dangerous things on two legs. I don't know what's happening on the front, I'm just a glorified delivery man, but the Coalition is all about banding together against common threats. You don't need ships if we can provide them, we don't need to be warriors if we have you. There's such a thing as a mutually beneficial relationship you know. For fuck's sake, why am I bothering? You see every relationship as a goddamned fight for dominance, don't you? Even the UNN couldn't drill it out of you. That's the reason you're here robbing me instead of hitting on terrified recruits in a bar somewhere."

"I told you, the UNN would have me clawless. It was my choice to leave the integration program."

"Yeah yeah, I remember. But the Galaxy is changing, and your people are adapting. Within a single generation, you've discovered that you're not alone in the universe and you've been thrust into a Galactic war. I get how jarring that must be, but that's the reality, and if you can't adapt then you'll be left behind."

"Enough of that," she announced, "you're spoiling my good mood."

Eriksen suppressed a sigh and finished washing her hair, replacing the shower head when he was done. She seemed pleased as she ran her claws through it, preening as he watched her.

"Every day I discover things about you that just make me want to keep you for myself more than I already do," she said with a smirk, turning her head to look back at his reddening face. "Don't take this as an admission of failure, there's no doubt in my mind that I can break you and induct you into my pack. I can feel that natural subservience radiating from you whenever I have you at a disadvantage. Some part of you knows how to behave, I just have to draw it out of you. Humans love their ranks and their formalities, but on some level, you crave dominance."

She rose to her feet, her wide butt pressing Eriksen up against the wall of the shower, and she turned around to plant her hands to either side of his head as she leaned down towards him. She boxed him in, the still flowing water splashing off her tanned skin. He felt as if he might melt into a puddle and disappear under the intense gaze of her golden eyes, but he stood his ground.

"There's something I don't understand about you, though. In my experience, humans always act with their own best interests in mind, they're calculating and scheming. What I've offered you should be a utopia for a human in your position, you wouldn't have to worry about money or rent ever again. I'd be freeing you from your debts and obligations." She took his face in her hand, her fur damp, and angled his head up so that she could scrutinize him. "You're captivated by my body, don't try to deny it. You could lie with me to your heart's content, and you'd never have to worry about going hungry again. All I ask in return is the satisfaction of your obedience, and yet you deny me that. You fight me every step of the way, even though you can't possibly hope to win."

"We see things differently," he replied, her massive body casting a shadow over him. "You see subservience as freedom from responsibility while most humans see it as oppression. We've fought wars over the concept. It's unacceptable to me, to be at your mercy and beholden to your whims, it's a matter of principle."

"I could kiss you," she whispered, Eriksen suddenly painfully aware of her full lips as she spoke softly to him. "We could do it the way humans do, make love in a bed, slow and careful. I can be gentle and considerate when I have cause to be. Just become my little cabin boy, join my crew and hand over the code. I can do terrible things to you, or I can do wonderful things..."

"You can't intimidate me and you can't bribe me," he replied adamantly. "You're not getting into the cockpit."

She ran her fingers through his hair, still holding his face in her hand, her claws tickling his scalp as the water cascaded over the pair.

"You're making things so difficult for yourself...but as you wish. We'll do things the hard way."

Suddenly she pressed him up against the wall aggressively, leaning closer, Eriksen trying in vain to turn away as she held his chin between her thumb and index finger. She parted her pink lips slightly, poised to kiss him, making him wait for it as her warm breath tickled his skin. She made as if she was going to follow through, then backed off a little, repeating the motion a second time as she teased him. His heart hammered in his chest, he felt dizzy, the steam from the shower only adding to the feverish heat that gripped him.

She released him and took a step back, Eriksen placing a hand on the glass to steady himself, his knees weak as she glanced at his renewed erection with a knowing smile.

"If you won't play ball, then we'll just have to resume our shower. Find something that I can use on my skin."

Damn it, damn it, she had left him wanting and embarrassed with nothing more than the promise of a kiss. She was learning how to push his buttons, and that was a problem. He had to get himself under control, or maybe she really could break him with her seduction and teasing. He knelt and searched for another bottle, finding one that contained shower gel, hesitating as he held it in his unsteady hand.

"Well? Do my back first. I'll sit down so that you can reach."

She sat cross-legged again, and Eriksen poured a handful of the blue gel into his palm, spreading it across her shoulders. Even her back was muscular, he could feel it beneath her smooth skin, bunches of firm tissue that ran down her spine. Wherever he put his hands was soft, however, with a subtle layer of cushy fat that made her body feminine and inviting. She wriggled happily as his hands glided across her slippery skin.

"Deeper," she murmured, "really dig your fingers in."

Realizing that she wanted a massage as much as a bath, he pushed his fingers into her flesh with more force, kneading and rubbing the muscle beneath. He had to suppress a laugh when he realized that she was actually purring, a low rumbling that shook his bones, like the growl of a panther but obviously contented rather than aggressive. She leaned forward, resting her arms on her knees, trance-like as he pressed his thumbs into her neck and rolled them in slow circles.

He was beginning to understand her infatuation with him. Her kind had claws like curved meat hooks that would have torn through flesh as if it was butter were they careless with them. One would have to be attentive and skilled indeed to pull off a similar kind of massage without causing injury. In comparison, even his clumsy fingers must have been a rare delight.

He crouched to reach her lower back, stopping just above her tail, the appendage flicking and twitching as he approached its base. Once the considerable surface area of her back was covered in the slimy gel, he pulled back, her ears flicking in irritation as she turned her head.

"I didn't say stop."

"Well you're too...big, and the cubicle is too small. I can't reach you properly."

"How about if I lie down?"

Eriksen shuffled backwards as she stretched out like a cat, lying on her front, supporting herself on her elbows presumably so that she didn't squash her breasts against the tiles. Even so, it looked like she was resting on a pair of space hoppers, the top half of her body lying outside of the shower due to her stature. He retrieved the shower head from its mount on the wall and ran the jets across her body, turning up the pressure setting a little so that she could feel it. He knelt beside her prone form, unsure of what she wanted from him now.

"So, uh...what am I doing? Am I washing you or giving you a massage?"

"Both," she muttered, "just spread the gel around and use your fingers. Do you need to be instructed every step of the way? Use your initiative for once, make an effort to please me."

"Please you?" he muttered sarcastically as he squeezed the bottle of shower gel, depositing a fat blob of the liquid into the small of her back and beginning to spread it with his hand. "You can't hold a gun to my head one moment and then expect to be treated like a queen the next, humans don't think that way."

"Just shut up and do as you're told," she chuckled, her tone commanding but playful.

Eriksen took a few more minutes to rub her back, the gel making her soft skin wonderfully slippery, bringing out every fine detail of her developed musculature as he leaned his weight on her. He roamed down towards her rump, playing the soothing jets of water over her glistening body to keep her moist and warm, daring to take some liberties as he sank his fingers into the pliant meat of her ass. Her flesh sprang back like rubber, perfectly shaped, firm and round. He could almost see his reflection in her dark skin as he lathered her with foam and the water slid off her in sheets.

He reached her thighs, his fingertips glancing their sensitive inner surface, Nazka twitching in response as he moved down to where the blonde fur on her lower legs began. It was oddly abrupt, it looked almost like she was wearing furry socks, and he touched it tentatively. It felt like cat fur, soft and silky, damp from the shower water.

"What are you doing?" Nazka laughed, "I guess you've never explored a Borealan body before?"

"When would I have?"

"How does it compare?" She turned her head to look back over her shoulder at him, glancing conspicuously at his erection. There was no way for him to conceal it and so he just scowled at her, the bottle of gel in one hand and the shower head in the other. She smirked and rolled over onto her back, posing like a model at a photo shoot, presenting her naked body to him in all its glory.

"Do my front. All of it. Don't get shy on me now."

Trying to avoid staring at her heavy breasts as gravity attempted to take hold of them, Eriksen squeezed a blob of gel onto her belly, watching her chiseled abdominal muscles tense as the cold liquid met her skin. He spread it gently, feeling the contours of her six-pack beneath his palm, mounds of firm flesh that flexed at his touch. He spread the slimy gel all over her midriff, coating her hips and belly in the lather, stopping just short of the tuft of silky pubic fur between her legs. She shifted and writhed all the while, partially a genuine reaction to his questing fingers and partially an attempt to seduce him. Every subtle movement or shift in her posture accentuate her figure, muscles rising from beneath her wet skin, catching the light in ways that drew his attention.

Eventually, all that was left were her boobs. He could finally lay hands on those maddening breasts, she had been parading the damned things around since she had arrived. He felt a pang of guilt at his own excitement. He was supposed to be doing this under duress, but her relentless teasing was getting the better of him.

Fuck it.

He lifted his soapy hands towards her bust, the inviting mounds wobbling softly as her chest rose and fell, pink nipples contrasting with her dusky skin. Her yellow eyes followed him as he lathered her chest, weighing the fat globes in his palms, the flesh so soft and yielding that it spilled through his fingers under its own heft. They were larger than his head, calling them watermelons would have been descriptive of their size, but their mass was so much greater. They were of ridiculous proportions by human standards, but on Nazka's huge body they were more appropriate, albeit no less impressive.

She sighed as he dug his fingers into the meat, feeling firm breast tissue beneath the copious fat, kneading and squeezing as his lust started to get the better of him and the pretense of massage or bathing was forgotten. Nazka seemed to enjoy it, crooning as his digits sank deeper into her generous bust, the gel making them slippery and evasive in his grasp as he attempted to handle the oversized mammaries.

He caught one of her swollen nipples between his fingers, pinching it gently as he worked the pliant flesh beneath, a gasp escaping her lips and her thick thighs rubbing together.

"Careful, little human. I may be relaxed right now, but if you rouse me, then I'll have my fill of you again. Maybe that's what you want?"

He retreated a little. As aroused as he was, he didn't think that his body could take another ravishing on the cold tiles. Frustrated, he backed off, finishing up his massage and rinsing her body clean with the water jets to leave it glistening under the artificial lights. The mist still pervaded the room, Eriksen was drenched even though he had spent little time under the shower head itself. He was hot and sore, his body protesting its prior treatment at Nazka's hands more loudly as time went on, and he was beginning to crave the comfort of his bed. Nazka seemed to notice his exhaustion, and he glimpsed a rare glint of sympathy in her golden eyes.

"Very well, you can go now. I am satisfied. I'll want to do this more often, however. It's like you were made to serve me. I've paid good money to visit hot springs on the homeworld that I'd rate lower than sharing a bath with you. Though the company of a pair of eager concubines is a tough act to follow, maybe I'll put that tongue of yours to good use next time."

He blushed at that. It was hard to tell when Nazka was genuinely complimenting him or just being crass. She might not know the difference herself, she behaved like she had been raised in a barn. She seemed to take great pleasure in offending him and making him uncomfortable. He rose to his feet and made for the door, pulling a towel from a nearby rack and wrapping it around his waist, the still prone alien watching him as she relaxed on the floor.

"I'll see you tomorrow," she said, in a tone that could be described either as suggestive or ominous.

CHAPTER 7: MELTDOWN

Eriksen was awoken by blaring alarms. He rose out of his bed groggily, rubbing his eyes and wincing as his soreness from the previous day's activities made his muscles ache. What the hell was going on now?

He pulled on his clothes and left his room, yawning sleepily as he tapped at a nearby terminal. Nazka emerged from the cabin adjacent to his, already in a bad mood, her ears flat against her head as she sidled up next to him.

"What's with all the fuckin' noise?"

"That's what I'm trying to find out," he replied irately, scrutinizing the touch panel as she flicked her tail impatiently. "Oh fuck, that's not good."

"What's not good?"

"Reactor three is nearing its thermal limit, it must have been damaged in the explosion. The early warning system has been triggered."

"Early warning?"

"Yeah, that reactor is nuclear, it uses plutonium fuel rods to heat water which turns into steam and is forced through a pipe. The steam then spins a turbine to generate electricity, which is fed into the superlight drive and stored in the battery banks to power the ship. You can get smaller ones, like the ones on Yachts or Coursers. Those are much more compact, but they generate a lot less power. On a ship this size, we use large-scale models, advanced boiling reactors. Problem is if they overheat then they tend to uh...catastrophically melt down and turn the entire aft section of the ship into radioactive slag while dosing the crew with enough rads that your cancers will get cancer."

"You idiot!" Nazka exclaimed. He recoiled, afraid that she might claw him. "This is your own damned fault. If you hadn't blown a big ass hole in the engine room, then this wouldn't be happening. We're lucky those reactors didn't go off like a fucking tac nuke!"

"Nuclear reactors can't explode," he snapped, "nuclear bombs work completely differently. Not that I'd expect someone who is awed by shower heads to understand nuclear physics."

"You're a fucking freight jockey, don't talk down to me when the only reason you know any more than I do is because you had to pass an employee safety exam."

"Oh very funny," he shot back. "Unless you'd like to trade insults until the radiation scrambles our genes like a DNA omelet, we need to do something about this and fast."

"Well, what are you supposed to do in this situation? What's the standard procedure?"

"I don't know, I missed the employee safety exam. I was jacking off that day." She clocked him with a backhand, gentle by her standards, but it sent him reeling. He steadied himself and glared at her as she planted her hands on her wide hips. "Fine fine, there are two solutions to this problem. Either we cool the rods in the reactor, or we eject the core into space. Since I don't actually know how to even diagnose a problem with a nuclear reactor, let alone fix one, our best bet is to ditch the thing."

"And how do we do that?"

Eriksen lifted two of his fingers up to her.

"Two ways. The cores can be ejected by entering an emergency override code into the main console in the cockpit, or via a manual release in the engineering section."

"Time's up," Nazka spat, "open the damned cockpit door. You don't have a choice now."

"Oh, I'm not opening that fucking door," Eriksen replied with a wide grin. "That door stays closed as long as you're on this ship. I'll let the freighter melt into a puddle of molten slag before I let you win."

"Fine. Then I'm going to get on my shuttle, return to the Black Claw, and leave you to cook along with this forsaken heap of scrap." She kicked the wall in frustration and spat something in her native language, insults and curses no doubt.

"No you're not, because if you do that, then you get nothing. No loot, no freighter, and no Eriksen. I know that you pirates operate on a thin profit margin, how much did it cost you to buy that ship and outfit your crew, how much have you spent so far in this venture? My bet is that if you leave empty-handed, you're ruined, you can't afford to let this vessel be destroyed any more than I can."

She reached down and gripped him by the collar of his shirt, lifting him off the deck and bringing him up to her face, her hackles raised as she snarled at him. Eriksen wasn't fazed, it was all for show. He was holding the reigns now, and she knew it as well as he did. She dropped him back down, loosing a long sigh and running her claws through her hair in exasperation.

"Alright, what do we do?"

"Well, I don't know about you, but I don't fancy crawling into an enclosed space with a reactor that could go critical at any moment. Might as well stick my head in a fucking microwave. The aft section has no atmosphere anyway, it's open to space, so I say we EVA along the outside of the hull and trigger the release from there."

"You can do that? There's a release on the outside of the ship?"

"Yeah, for use if the aft section is somehow inaccessible from the inside. These freighters are expensive, and they're built to last. The redundant systems have redundant systems." She looked conflicted, worried, and Eriksen's smile only grew as he watched her fret. "What's the matter, have you never spacewalked before?"

"Not...as such, no," Nazka replied hesitantly.

"You have a pressure suit, right? You won't last with just your oxygen mask. In fact, I can't believe that you survived as long as you did when I vented the engine room, a human would have been killed regardless."

"Yeah, there's one in the shuttle, but..." She trailed off, crossing her arms over her chest defensively, her hardcase demeanor somewhat lessened by her flat ears and her drooping tail.

"I can't believe it," Eriksen laughed, "you're fucking scared!"

"I am not!" Nazka shot back.

"Yes you are! For God's sake Nazka, there are janitors who get paid peanuts to clean the hulls of ships, and you can't do one spacewalk? What happened to your superior warrior primitivist bullshit?"

"I am not scared," she insisted, "I've just never done it before."

"Well, there's a first time for everything," Eriksen said as he gestured towards the hangar door. "Go suit up, and I'll meet you in the bay in ten."

***

Eriksen stood at the bottom of the shuttle's ramp, clad in one of the remaining emergency pressure suits, the yellow plastic rustling as he sealed the hood. It wasn't ideal, these weren't intended for use in deep space. If anything larger than a dust particle hit him, it would tear through the suit like it was made of wet toilet paper. The suit's lining was about as thin as their chances of actually pulling this off before the reactor melted like an ice cream dropped on a hot sidewalk. He waited impatiently for Nazka to emerge, every second that she wasted brought them one second closer to nuclear doom.

She finally descended the ramp, clad from head to toe in a red space suit. He had never even seen her wear shoes and so he was unused to seeing her completely covered. Even her long tail was encased in a flexible tube, and her boots looked more like reproductions of her paw-like feet, with magnets visible where her fleshy pads would have been. It was lightly armored, and the joints were reinforced to give it the look of an old-timey deep-sea diving suit, albeit much lighter and far more flexible. She seemed out of practice as she came to a stop beside him. She glanced down at him past her narrow visor, and he gestured to her with his fingers, indicating what channel to tune her short-range radio to. There was a hiss of static and then her shallow breathing came through on the other end, she sounded nervous.

"So let me get this straight," Eriksen said derisively, looking her up and down. "You've never done an EVA before, yet you thought it best to buy a light combat suit? You've never taken the time to train in the thing, that's obvious from the way you're walking, yet you had the time to paint that ridiculous black claw logo on the chest piece? Is that a registered trademark? Are you running a pirate crew or a fucking LLC?"

"Let's just get this over with," she grumbled, her apprehension now greater than her anger.

"Very well, follow me."

Eriksen made his way forward towards the shimmering force field that shielded the hangar bay from open space. It would keep the atmosphere in, but it would allow solid objects to pass uninhibited. Towards the far left was a ramp that fell out of view at an unnatural angle, connecting the deck to the hull outside in a way that would allow someone in a suit to easily walk along it. He stopped beside a control panel a short distance from the field, tapping at the screen with his gloved hands.

"I'm gonna turn off the AG field," he explained, gesturing Nazka forward to stand beside the glowing wall of energy. "We don't need the artificial gravity making this any screwier or more disorienting than it needs to be. Make sure your mag boots are turned on, the lights on the heels should be red. On my mark, walk down the ramp."

"Okay," she replied, "I'll make sure to...hey wait! The magnetic boots are turned on when the light is green, asshole. I know that. Were you going to make me walk right off the ship and into space? You miserable little," she trailed off into a string of alien curse words as Eriksen gave her an exaggerated shrug.

"It was worth a shot. Now get ready, I'm about to shut off the gravity."

He heard her gasp in alarm as the artificial gravity field powered down, and he felt his body attempting to float off the deck, secured by his magnetic boots.

"You're not really falling," he said, attempting to reassure the obviously frightened alien as she was no use to him hysterical. "That's just the liquid in your inner ear floating around. Your body can't get its balance without gravity and so it sends signals telling you that you're in free fall. Use the boots, one foot on the ground at all times, be conscious of how and where you're walking. One mistake and you might float off into space. You only need to be out of range of my arm to be lost forever, I'm not trying to scare you I just want you to stay alert. This is potentially dangerous, but it will be perfectly safe as long as you remain in control, understand?"

She nodded, steeling herself. Making sure that his boots were secure and working correctly, Eriksen took a few faltering steps down the ramp and passed through the shimmering barrier, his head spinning as his brain tried to make sense of the angled surface. The hull stretched out before him, the only horizon in sight, the endless expanse of space making for a surreal and terrifying sky. Nazka kept pace behind him, wobbling in her mag boots, still trying to find the right gait in this new environment.

"Look at the hull," Eriksen panted. Moving around in low-G was surprisingly hard work. "Pretend it's the ground, then slowly raise your eyes. Try to trick your brain into thinking that it can see a horizon. Don't look up, you'll just get disoriented. If you start to panic, then you might make a mistake and fall away."

"You're not helping," she grumbled over the radio. She sounded overstimulated.

"We're heading aft," he added, ignoring her comment. "We need to walk over the support beams that make up the midsection of the freighter, where the cargo containers are hitched. It's going to feel like you're walking a tightrope a million miles in the air, just try not to look down, and remember that your boots will secure you to the metal. As long as there's one magnet touching the hull you won't fall, it's impossible."

It was hard to grasp the sheer size of the vessel from the inside, but once you were looking at the hull as it extended off into the distance, the thousand-foot behemoth really came into perspective. Without the haze of an atmosphere, you could see crisp and clear almost infinitely, it screwed with your sense of scale. They had emerged from the hangar, which put them close to where the skeletal scaffold connected to the front section of the ship, their view of the distant aft section blocked by some of the cargo containers that were secured to the frame. Eriksen made his way forward carefully, his eyes fixed to the deck so as to avoid a potentially fatal trip on any protruding pipes or panels that decorated the ship's surface. These vessels were not designed for atmospheric flight, and so there was no effort wasted on making their hulls flush and clean. If it was cheaper or more expedient to leave something jutting out of the hull then there it would stay. He couldn't easily turn his head to keep an eye on Nazka, but he could hear her breathing into her suit radio, she seemed to be doing okay.

It was a short walk to the scaffold, and the pair stopped just short of it, examining the long stretch of metal tubes that lay before them. The tubes were thick and large, they had to take the stresses of acceleration as the engines pushed the great ship from the rear, and they were about as thick around as an oil drum as a result. Quite comfortable to walk on for a human, less so for the larger Borealan. They were scarcely thicker than her own thighs.

"One foot in front of the other," Eriksen advised, "take it one step at a time and keep your eyes forward."

There was no real sense of motion in space, you could be moving at thousands of meters per second, and you'd never know it without another object for reference. The vessel might as well have been standing still as the immovable stars dotted the velvet blackness of space all around them. When a ship entered superlight, it conserved any momentum that it had built up prior to the jump, maintaining its speed once deposited back into realspace. The freighter was still cruising at full speed, and despite the damage to the engines it would continue to do so until something caused it to decelerate. There was no friction or drag in space that would slow an object over time. Gravity would be a factor, but not this far from any planetary bodies. There were various gravity assist maneuvers that could be attempted in order to gain or shed velocity in the case of a main engine failure. There was something incredibly primal and gratifying about harnessing the very forces of nature itself to propel a vessel, like playing with some cosmic executive toy, but Eriksen had only attempted it in the simulator. He didn't fancy trying it out under real conditions. Hopefully, it wouldn't come to that.

He took a step out onto the nearest metal tube, feeling the magnets in his boot secure him to it, and he began his perilous journey. He had to resist the urge to extend his arms in order to balance himself like a child walking along a felled log, there was no up or down here, and the only balance that mattered was making sure that his left boot had a solid hold before he put the right one forward.

"Follow behind me," he said to Nazka, "but not too close. I don't want you knocking into me and sending me flying away."

"I can't believe I'm doing this," she muttered, "just my luck to raid the only freighter in the system that's piloted by a lunatic."

"Some might say that leaving the safety of a planet is lunacy, yet here we both are," Eriksen said as he made his way along the support. "No atmosphere for us to breathe and no magnetosphere to protect us from radiation, no sun to keep us from freezing in an instant, only what food and water we can carry with us. We accepted the risks along with the rewards. Space is a hostile place and accidents were bound to happen, you knew that. Every time we leave the dock it could be our last voyage, doesn't matter how prepared you are. You might get pasted by a rogue meteorite or barbecued by a solar flare or a gamma-ray burst."

"Is that supposed to make me feel better?"

"Not really, I'm just saying, worrying about your mortality is kind of pointless in this line of work. I once heard a story about a guy who was killed by a grain of sand, can you believe that? Dude was performing maintenance on a radio antenna on the hull of a station, and a micro-meteor smaller than a grain of rice hit him. It was going so fast that it punched a hole the size of a fist straight through his suit and blew him open like he'd been hit by a railgun. In all the infinite reaches of the universe, there was one speck of sand and one random nobody. Their paths happened to coincide through some bizarre fluke of fate, and he could never have seen it coming."

"What about my crew?" she asked. "Did they see it coming when you blasted them into space?"

"Your line of work, if you can call it that, is very high reward but also very high risk. Those guys knew that any one mission could have been their last. If I had armed security guards or ship-to-ship defenses, then they would have been equally dead. Castle doctrine, you force your way onto my ship, I get to use whatever force I deem necessary to remove you under UN law. You know how you avoid getting spaced? Don't be a fucking pirate."

"So I shouldn't be scared of spacewalks because I could die at any moment, which makes worrying about it pointless? For someone so concerned with self-preservation that's a pretty nihilistic worldview, Eriksen."

They arrived at one of the giant cargo containers that were hitched to the scaffold with a series of clamps, a large, blocky rectangle painted bright orange for visibility in space. There were maybe three dozen of them hitched at random intervals along the frame, some painted in blue or white, and others with company logos emblazoned on the side. They contained all manner of goods, from enough frozen produce to feed a station for a month, to replacement parts on their way to burgeoning colonies on the outskirts of UNN space.

Eriksen walked around the metal tube until he was at a ninety-degree angle relative to Nazka, defying the instincts that insisted that he would fall off into space. Up and down only existed relative to where he was standing. He simply walked past the crate, stepping over the clamps that secured it to the scaffold, and he heard Nazka's breathing grow shallow and strained as she attempted to mimic the maneuver.

"Don't let your brain fool you, you're not walking off the edge. You have to reorient yourself and find that horizon again. Just stay focused Nazka, breathe."

"Why are you trying to help me?" Nazka panted over her labored breaths. "I thought you hated me? If you knew what was good for you, you'd push me right off the hull. I'm not even sure if your attempt to have me deactivate my boots in the hangar bay was a joke or not. I don't understand you."

"That's what I've been trying to tell you since you boarded my ship. You don't understand me, you don't understand humans. You keep trying to force a square block into a round hole. You think that if you smash hard enough, I'll behave the way you expect me to, but you're looking at it from a...Borealo-centric perspective. You can't break me so that I'll join your pack and accept your absolute authority, we aren't wired that way, and no amount of pressure that you apply is going to make me think the way you do."

Nazka advanced behind him, but she was distracted by their conversation, one of her boots catching on a clamp. She tripped, what would have been an easily corrected stumble under gravity instead sending her toppling forward, both of her boots flailing in the air as they broke contact with the metal. Eriksen heard her cry out in shock and terror, turning to see her floating away from the scaffold, tumbling gently. Now upside-down relative to him, she clawed desperately at the pipe in an attempt to grab it and save herself, but being a few inches out of reach might as well have put her a thousand miles away. There was no medium in space through which to move, no air or water to give a person leverage. You could float an arm's length from safety and run down your oxygen supply with no way to get yourself closer.

As she passed over his head, Eriksen bided his time, waiting for the right moment. When it came into range, he reached up and grabbed the tip of her tail. His fingers closed around her rubbery suit as he secured both feet firmly to the scaffold, hoping that her momentum wouldn't be enough to tear his boots from the metal pipe and drag him along with her.

"Stop panicking," he said over the radio, trying to keep his voice calm and level. "I've got you, stay still for fuck's sake. If you break my grip, then you're done for."

She relaxed, and he felt a jolt in his arm as she came to a stop, Eriksen reeling her back in gently until she came into range of the scaffold and her boots magnetized to it. She caught her breath for a moment, trying to compose herself, and he refrained from making fun of her for once. That kind of brush with certain death at the hands of a lengthy and painful suffocation would have been enough to make him fill his suit's waste collection compartment. After a moment he reached out to pat the back of her suit in an attempt to reassure her.

"You good? We need to get going again, nuclear fission waits for no one."

"Yeah...yeah, I'm good."

She set off again, now in front of him, marching unsteadily along the scaffold. They continued in silence for a while, nothing but the sound of their breathing audible, giving the boundless reaches of deep space an oddly claustrophobic feel. They passed the halfway point, skirting around a couple more cargo containers as they went, the aft section now in full view. It was vaguely cylindrical, bulbous and somewhat larger than the hab module, the silhouettes of the engines jutting from their recesses visible behind it.

"Thanks...for catching me back there. I thought I was done for." Nazka sounded hesitant, as if thanking him for saving her life was some admission of failure on her part.

"I've seen enough people spaced recently, we can get back to fighting when we've resolved the reactor situation. Right now we need to work together, or we're both fucked."

"Pragmatic, but perhaps ill-advised."

They marched onwards, Nazka paying careful attention to where she was putting her boots, and they eventually reached the far side of the scaffold. It felt good to have a hull under their feet again, even if the difference was largely superficial. Their brains informed them that their footing was more secure and they welcomed the relief.

The reactors were immediately visible, their rounded domes protruding from the hull at regular intervals, five massive radiators that glowed molten red extending from them to vent the waste heat safely into space. The sixth had melted into slag, unable to cope with the energy that its reactor was putting out, further adding to the cascading series of failures that were contributing to its imminent meltdown.

They made their way towards the rear of the aft section, Eriksen instructing Nazka to stay put while he walked around the side of the vessel to check on the damage from the blast that had torn a hole in the hull. There was a jagged tear in the metal, two engines missing and one irreparably damaged at least, five still functional. Ice crystals trailed behind the ship as what little remained of the atmosphere in the engine compartment continued to vent, leaving a glistening trail behind the vessel, the first indication of motion that he had seen so far.

"Engines are looking pretty good all things considered," he reported. "The freighter should be able to change course or decelerate reliably, that is if we can eject the reactor core before it goes critical and melts through the engine compartment like it's made of wax."

"Well we're here," Nazka replied, "so where do we start?"

"See these domes? Those are the tops of the six nuclear reactors. The domes open up on mechanical arms to allow maintenance access to the cores, which are clusters of plutonium rods suspended in fluid. What we want to do is initiate an emergency core ejection which is going to blow the lid and dump the contents of the reactor into space, assuming it hasn't fused to the surrounding metal by now. It requires several steps. We have to disengage the mechanical arm, enter in an override code, and then blow the access hatch. The core is going to come out like a bullet along with all the water inside the reactor and most of the internal components, so make damn sure that you're clear before the ejection happens."

"Very well," Nazka replied, "just tell me what you need me to do."

Her whole demeanor was different out here, she was usually so dominant and commanding, but now she was ready to take orders and seemed to have temporarily abandoned her illusions of Alpha-hood. Maybe it was fear, or maybe it was common sense. He knew what to do, and she didn't, so it was logical for her to accept his instruction.

"Well, I wasn't expecting you to have to do much of anything. This operation can be performed by one crew member, but two heads are better than one if shit goes south in a hurry. Looking at the state of that radiator, however, the reactor may be in worse shape than I thought. For that to have melted, the core must be putting out an enormous quantity of heat. If it's slagged any of the internal components and fused them to the inside of the reactor, then this ejection could get pretty destructive. I'm not entirely sure what will happen."

"Then let's just get it over with," Nazka said, making her way slowly towards the dome with the ruined radiator. "The longer we wait, the worse it's going to get."

Eriksen walked around the circumference of the dome, moving towards the mechanical arm on the far side. The massive piece of industrial machinery looked like something one might find in a manufacturing plant or on the back of an earth-mover. The jointed arm was bolted to the hull at one end, and the dome on the other. There was a small control panel embedded in the side of its housing that would give the operator control over it. Rather than using it to raise the hatch and expose the inner workings of the reactor, Eriksen needed to detach it, and so he keyed in a code and started moving sliders on the touchscreen.

The arm shuddered, the motors encountering resistance, and a warning flashed on the screen.

"Fuck," he muttered.

"What's wrong?" Nazka asked, sidling up beside him and peering over his shoulder.

"I don't know, something is blocking the arm. I keyed in the command to separate it from the dome, but it just shook like something was stopping it."

"That might have something to do with it," she said, gesturing towards the dome. Eriksen followed her finger and saw what the problem was. The connector on the far end of the arm had melted to the dome. It couldn't disconnect, it had been welded to the metal.

"Well shit," he exclaimed, "what the fuck do we do now?"

Nazka edged closer to the dome and Eriksen waved for her to stop.

"Hold up Nazka, the surface must be hot enough to melt anything that comes into contact with it. The radiator is shot, so all of that ambient heat is going straight into the dome. If you touch it, the heat could transfer into your suit and cook you alive."

She paused, turning to examine the arm, the pistons and blocky housing painted in yellow warning colors.

"What if we disconnected the arm from the hull, instead of from the dome?"

"I don't have the tools required to remove the bolts and disconnect it from the ship's power grid," Eriksen replied. "Besides, it isn't designed to disconnect that way. If we blow the hatch with the arm still attached to it who knows what direction it will fly off in."

"That's a risk we'll have to take," Nazka stated, moving closer to the arm. "We don't have time to go back and fetch the tools, and we can't just do nothing."

"What are you planning to do? Nazka?"

She ducked under the mechanical arm, bracing it against her shoulders like a power-lifter about to squat an enormous barbell. She took a moment to position herself, her back straight, knees bent as he heard her take a few deep breaths through her suit radio.

She heaved upwards, digging her feet into the hull of the ship and using her entire body to strain against the arm, her limbs shaking as she fought to tear it from its root. He heard her snarl as she exerted herself and he imagined the sounds of creaking metal that were inaudible in the vacuum of space, watching in awe as one of the bolts that anchored the arm to the hull popped free. It floated off lazily, its neighbor following suit, two of the eight visible bolts now dislodged. He stepped back, afraid of being clocked by flying debris. Nazka grunted like a beast as she gripped one of the pistons for leverage, one of the metal panels that made up the hull buckling under her boot.

Two more of the bolts popped loose. Holy shit, she was actually doing it. He had heard stories about Borealans being able to flip cars and tear through armor like it was cardboard, but this was the first time that he had seen one in action. The arm finally gave, the remaining bolts tearing out of the hull as the industrial device floated free, rotating limply at the elbow joint. It didn't get far, as it was still attached to the dome at one end. There was a bundle of fiber-optic cables and wires still tethering it to the hole where it had been attached to the ship.

Nazka took a few steps back, breathing hard into her microphone.

"God damn Nazka, nice work. Take a break and catch your breath, okay? You don't want to overexert yourself out here."

She nodded, there was no way to really sit in zero-G, and so she just let herself float as her magnetic boots kept her secured to the freighter. Eriksen hurried around to the other side of the dome where there was another touch panel recessed in the hull, which should allow him to initiate the core ejection process. Technically the arm was still attached to the ship, but those cables should tear away with the force of the ejection. There was no time to find a more elegant solution, and so they would have to just accept the risks. He tapped in his override code furiously, unbeknownst to Nazka it was the very same code that he had used to seal the cockpit door, and a warning popped up asking him for confirmation.

He hesitated, his gloved finger hovering over the button. Once he pressed it, the short countdown would initiate, but he had no clue as to what would happen when it timed out. There were so many variables. The arm was welded to the dome, and all of the reactor's components might have melted together, what damage the device had taken to result in its current emergency state and what effect that might have on the ejection was also unknown.

Fuck it, they just didn't have time for doubts. He pressed the button and hoped for the best.

"Retreat to a safe distance," he ordered, and Nazka's floating figure seemed to come back to life as she turned and followed him back to the scaffold. "I actually have no idea what the safe distance is," he admitted, stepping onto one of the narrow bars that made up the freighter's midsection. "Just keep going and don't stop."

That seemed to light a fire under her, and she hurried along behind him, growing more accustomed to the strange gait that she had to adopt in order to keep one boot securely on the hull at all times. He couldn't fault her for her mistakes, she had never done a spacewalk before and most rookies practiced under controlled conditions. He had fallen off the hull many a time before getting the hang of EVA, but instructors wearing jetpacks had been there to catch him and return him to safety.

The countdown had given them one minute, and as they hurried away from the aft section, they felt a tremor rock the freighter beneath their feet. Had there been a medium for it to travel through, the sound would have been deafening, and they turned to watch the spectacle.

The dome, along with the arm that had been welded to it, was gone. It was just gone. It had shot off with such speed that it wasn't even visible anymore, in a direction that fortunately had not resulted in further damage to the ship. There was a cloud of water and coolant, now transformed into a spreading field of glistening ice particles, accelerating rapidly upwards in relation to the pair as they craned their necks to get a better look. There were glowing orange blobs amongst the twinkling crystals, slagged metal that cooled rapidly, droplets like molten rain and larger clumps of it climbing towards the stars as their momentum carried them. The core was leading the pack, a cluster of what had been rods of uranium fuel, now little more than a smoldering mass of radioactive lava as it tumbled into space.

"Well that's the end of that," Eriksen announced, "hopefully it won't make like that grain of sand and hit some poor fucker in the face."

"I can't believe that worked," Nazka sighed, sounding relieved. "I thought we were screwed for certain."

"We did it," he added, with an emphasis on the we. "You see what happens when we stop trying to one-up each other and just work together? Mutual benefit, Nazka, cooperation."

"Yeah yeah, don't spoil the moment by turning it into a damned lecture. Let's get our asses back to the hangar so that I can get out of this suit."

CHAPTER 8: TRUCE

Nazka emerged from her shuttle, trotting down the landing ramp with her leather clothes draped over her arm, clad only in her panties and a tank top. Her dark skin was shining with sweat. Moving around in those suits wasn't as easy as it looked, and in space, it was surprisingly easy to overexert yourself without really being aware of it. Eriksen waited for her at the bottom of the ramp, wearing his yellow pressure suit, the hood removed and hanging down his back.

"Think I pulled some muscles," she said, rolling her arm and wincing.

"Well, you did tear a piece of industrial machinery apart with your bare hands."

"You know, another shower would be nice. Will you join me if I declare a temporary truce and promise not to overstep your human boundaries?"

Eriksen considered for a moment, eyeing her suspiciously.

"Yeah, alright. I figure you've earned a favor. You did help to save the ship," after first endangering it, he thought to himself. "You did pretty well on your first EVA, all things considered. I'll put my human fingers to work and see if I can't ease some of that muscle pain."

She had deferred to him while they were out on the hull, and now she was asking permission rather than simply twisting his arm until he did what she wanted. Had she come to some realization out there? Borealan social dynamics were strange, at once highly evolved yet primitive, efficient but stifling. She exerted complete control over her pack members, but they couldn't take initiative. Had she finally seen the practical benefits of working together as equals?

He followed her through the hangar and into the hab module. They entered the bathroom, Nazka discarding her clothes on a nearby rack. She slipped out of her underwear, Eriksen trying to keep his eyes off her enticing body as he unzipped his suit, stripping down to his shorts before joining her. She turned on the shower and fiddled with the temperature dial, steam beginning to fill the room as Eriksen stepped into the cubicle with her. She really liked the water scalding hot.

"What's with the shorts?" she asked, closing her eyes as she let the water run over her face. "I've seen you nude before, you have nothing to hide."

"Humans don't generally get naked around their acquaintances, even two friends of the same gender aren't commonly comfortable with that."

"I've already seen your junk, what does it matter?"

"It matters because I feel more comfortable this way. Now do you want a massage or not?"

She relented and sat heavily on the tiles, Eriksen upending a bottle of shower gel onto her shoulders, feeling her shiver appreciatively as he spread the liquid across her smooth skin.

"My left shoulder...down a little...yeah right there. That feels good..."

He sank his fingers into her soft flesh, feeling the muscle below the surface, firm and rubbery. Nazka slowly became more relaxed as he kneaded, her taut body deflating like a balloon. Perhaps when he got back to civilization, he'd learn how to give a real massage. If his future partners responded half as well as this alien did, then he'd be in business.

He moved down her arm, feeling the bulge of her bicep, stopping short of her furry forearm and then moving back up to her shoulder. He ran his fingers down her spine and dug deep wherever he thought she might have strained herself lifting the mechanical arm, easing the ache in her muscles, Nazka swaying drunkenly and crooning as he went. He almost seemed to be putting her in a trance, like rubbing a crocodile's belly to placate it.

Things felt somehow different now, more calm, as if all of the tension had been drained from the atmosphere. Could he dare to hope that Nazka might have changed her attitude towards him after their EVA on the hull? He had saved her life after all. Although considering how many times he had tried to kill her up to now, his balance was still in the red.

"So...what happens now?" Eriksen asked, slipping his hands beneath Nazka's damp hair to rub her neck.

"It's as you said, I can't go home empty-handed."

"I thought maybe you'd have come around after what happened out on the hull."

"I guess I understand you a little better maybe, but that doesn't change the facts. You saved me, I saved the ship. We're even as far as I'm concerned, and I still need to get paid."

"Nazka...you know how this is going to end as well as I do. One of us is going to be forced to kill the other, but that's not the way that things have to go. You can still stop this, it doesn't have to come to that if you'd just be reasonable. You can write this one off as a loss and just leave, I'll even resupply you with food and oxygen if you need it. We'll go our separate ways, and nobody else will have to get hurt."

"You have your ways, I have mine. I can't can't return home without enough loot to cover the costs of the venture, and you can't dock at your destination with no cargo. Only one of us is going to come out of this situation on top, and I intend for that person to be me." He felt her tail coil around his waist, her damp fur tickling his skin. "You can stop this too. Join my crew and come live with me, before your stubbornness gets you killed."

"I can't do that," he sighed, pulling her sinuous tail away. "I guess we'll have to let fate decide which of us lives and which of us dies, then. You're a grade-A bitch, but I don't want to kill you Nazka, I never wanted to kill anybody. I'm a fucking freighter pilot, I'm not some gung-ho Marine dropping in behind enemy lines. I don't know how I'm going to feel when I have time to think it all through. I can't afford to see a shrink on my salary."

"Well, you were defending yourself," she said. "We put ourselves in danger when we attack freighters, the risk comes with the job, though you took me by surprise. I've gotten into a few firefights and chases before, I've lost a few crew members, but I've never had my whole crew spaced at once. You've got a warrior's heart, Eriksen."

"Why do you do this? Piracy, I mean. Why take such extreme risks when there are a hundred other jobs that you could be doing that won't get you, or anyone else killed?"

"Because I'm a Borealan," she replied firmly, as if that should answer his question.

"So? There are Borealans all over the place. They're not all pirates, and they can't possibly all be soldiers, you must have farmers and engineers. You could be a doctor or a pilot, you could open a store and sell your ridiculous jackets, you could go back to the UNN and finish your integration training."

"No, you don't understand," she said with a hint of frustration in her tone. "I'm a Borealan. I have this fire in my belly, I need to fight like I need to eat and sleep. So many of us deny our true nature, they let themselves be seduced by promises of prosperity and cooperation, they become clawless. Aliens come to our homeland and tell us that if we just stop doing all of the things that make us who we are, if we stop being Borealans, then we'll go far. We'll have technology and riches, a respected position in the Galactic community, but they strip us of our identity."

It was an oddly heartfelt outburst, and Eriksen stopped his massage, keeping quiet for fear of interrupting her as she continued.

"When I was training with the UNN in their integration program, they tried to reprogram me. They wanted to break down my personality and my behavior in order to rebuild it in a way that suited their needs, as if my whole being was just some condemned building that needed to be demolished so that they could build a safer property on the foundations. Humans want to wield our strength like a weapon, but they don't understand that the strength they see is a product of our culture and our society. If they make us live and behave as they do, adopt their values and culture, then in a few generations we'll lose what makes us Borealans and that strength along with it."

Her tail began to flick back and forth, knocking against Eriksen's knees as he knelt behind her, but it seemed to be some reflex that she wasn't consciously aware of. Some sign of frustration or anger perhaps, an involuntary emotional display akin to blushing or weeping.

"It's the same on the homeworld. Elysia is scrambling to modernize," she said disdainfully. "They send all of their soldiers off to the UNN for training and their Patriarch is obsessed with ships and machines. It's like he can't wait to sell his people out for power, yet any fool can see that his power is a farce. The humans wouldn't make him so strong that he could challenge them, they see us as primitives, kittens distracted by shiny objects while the adults tend to business. He's a big fish in a small pond, but the Coalition is an ocean full of sharks. He'll never be independent, and they'll never let him out from under their thumb."

"I...don't know much about Borealis," Eriksen admitted, "is the Patriarch your leader?"

"No," she snapped, then her tone softened as she elaborated. "He's the ruler of Elysia, one of the great territories of Borealis, the Alpha of all Alphas in the lands he rules. The planet is split into what you would call countries, much of the surface is desert and so civilization springs up around the scattered lakes. Over the eons, the tribes and clans competed for control over them. In recent history the territories became less concerned with fighting impractical wars and more so with development, Elysia emerging as the largest economic and military power. When the Coalition made contact, the Elysians rapidly gained favor with the UNN. They trade their soldiers and resources for ships and weapons. Now they have access to technology that's hundreds of years more advanced than anything that their neighbors have, and they rule the planet in all but name."

"Sounds like you don't think much of Elysians."

"I don't. I'm from a territory called Rask, there's not much to say about it besides that our people have a history of banditry. We used to raid trading convoys that crossed the deserts, we harnessed the winds to carry us over the sands on great vessels, sailing the dunes like they were the waves of an ocean."

She sounded proud and melancholic, that era of their history must be over.

"Now our Matriarch scrambles to provide troops to the UNN in exchange for technology. The Elysians have started a landslide, all of the territories must follow suit or risk being conquered and oppressed by those who carry more favor with the aliens."

Eriksen was starting to get the picture now, beginning to understand Nazka's strange motivations as she told him her story. She wasn't insane, from her point of view she was resisting the changing times, preserving the free spirit and the ancient customs of her people. Like the stubborn Samurai of the Satsuma rebellion, she was ready to put her life on the line if it meant staving off the advance of time, feeling that there was no place for her in the new order.

"That's why I choose to be a pirate," she concluded, "that's why I choose the thrill and danger of a life of banditry and fighting. Borealans aren't supposed to live comfortable, safe lives, we're supposed to struggle and bleed. I live life on my own terms. I won't curb my instincts, I won't trade away my dignity for trinkets or meaningless status."

Eriksen wasn't sure what to make of it. He wanted to resist seeing her in a sympathetic light after everything that she had put him through, but it was hard not to empathize with her. While her actions were entirely her own, and it made her no less of a criminal, the UNN had played a part in creating her.

"Well," he said, returning his hands to her back and resuming his rubbing. "As far as excuses for being a murderous pirate go, that was one of the better ones that I've heard." She relaxed as he kneaded the knots in her firm muscles, and he reached up to retrieve the shower head, playing the soothing jets of water over her skin. "But if you impose your culture on me, how is that any better than what the UNN tried to do to you? Don't you see a parallel there?"

She didn't answer for a moment, then she blurted a reply that sounded more like a dismissal than a refutation.

"Like I said, we both have our own way of doing things. There's no point arguing about it anymore."

Eriksen wasn't ready to press the issue just yet, but it sounded like the seed of doubt had been sown. With a little more time he might be able to whittle her down. He kept up his massage, easing the tension that she had built up during their conversation, warm mist filling the room as the water splashed on the tiles. She stretched her arms above her head and yawned widely, Eriksen taking it as a sign that she was done.

"I'm beat up and tired, but damn if a near-death experience doesn't get my blood flowing. What say you and me go to bed together?"

"Are you...making a pass at me?" Eriksen stammered. He was used to her taking what she wanted. Giving him any kind of choice was new, and he didn't really know how to respond.

"Yeah, I'm making a pass at you, you want to come to bed with me or not? I'm too tired to fuck you ragged, but maybe you could show me how humans do it. Sex in a bed sounds pretty comfy right now."

"You've never had sex in a bed before?"

"Well yeah, but only because it was the nearest available surface, not by intention."

"I...why the sudden change of heart? I thought you said that what happened outside hadn't changed anything between us?"

She seemed almost embarrassed, her ears flicking perhaps with irritation or indecision, and she scratched her head with her claws as she mumbled.

"Listen, as much as it fucking kills me to say it, you've earned my respect. I would never have imagined that a human could be so stubborn and tenacious. You've resisted all of my attempts to break you so far, and you've come close to killing me more times than I care to admit. You could have just let me float away when I tripped on the hull, but your honor didn't allow it. Those are admirable traits. I guess what I'm saying is...you're growing on me. If you somehow escape or find a way to best me and I can't make you a member of my crew, I'll consider it a terrible loss."

Eriksen wasn't sure what to say, but the prospect of sleeping with her in a manner that didn't end in him nursing new wounds was an attractive one. Like one of his old drinking buddies used to say, God had given man a cock and a brain, but only enough blood to power one at once.

"You promise you won't carve me up again?" he asked skeptically.

"I'll try not to be too rough with you this time, I think I got a gauge of what you can take."

"Yeah alright, why not. I'm not going to be bunking with another Borealan any time soon, might as well make the most of it."

"You don't hate me then?" Nazka asked with a grin.

"Hate is a strong word," Eriksen replied, "you're not all bad. I guess even the Devil takes a weekend off every now and then."

She stood and stretched, letting the water run over her for a few more moments, then she walked out of the cubicle and retrieved a towel that she had hung beside her clothes. It was human-sized, wholly inadequate for her exaggerated stature, and she ran the fluffy fabric over her skin with one hand as she dried herself off.

"No need to get dressed," she said with a smirk as Eriksen stepped out of the shower, "I'll be waiting for you in the bedroom across the hall. Don't be too long."

She sauntered out of the room, the mist parting as she went, Eriksen mesmerized by her rolling hips before the automatic door closed behind her. He already knew her body intimately, but there was something about doing things the normal way that made this feel new, like they had only just met and this would be their first time crossing this boundary. His prior sexual encounters with her had been so confusing, intense and pleasurable beyond anything that he had ever experienced, yet muddled by his indignation and their antagonistic relationship. It was a strange feeling to be made to come against your will, enjoying every pulse of wracking pleasure, but hating where that pleasure was coming from. Now they were going to do it on his terms, more or less. He doubted that she would be able to curb her innate aggression and her desire to dominate, but she wasn't pinning him down as he tried to fight her off, so it was a good start.

He dried himself off and then slipped out of his damp shorts, hanging them up to dry on the rack beside Nazka's leather getup. He felt oddly self-conscious without his clothes on, but there was no point returning to his room to find something to wear only to remove it moments later. He left the bathroom and crossed the hall, standing in front of Nazka's door hesitantly, his heart throbbing in his chest as his finger hovered over the panel.

Why did he feel so nervous? He wasn't afraid of her, even after all that she had done, but he suddenly cared about what she thought of him. He steeled himself and hit the panel, the door sliding open with a whoosh of air, and it closed behind him as he stepped over the threshold.

CHAPTER 9: CHEMISTRY

The lights in the room had been dimmed, and Nazka was sitting on the edge of the bed, her long legs crossed as she watched Eriksen with her reflective eyes. They shone like those of a cat, like two gold coins embedded in her dark face, even the dull glow from the solitary table lamp enough to give her skin a reflective sheen. Light and shadow danced across her body, their waltz accentuating the feminine curves of her figure and highlighting her bulging muscles with all of the care and artistry of a painter's brush.

After a few more moments of him standing in the doorway, Nazka patted the bed beside her with a furred hand, inviting Eriksen to sit. He walked over to her stiffly, planting himself on the sheets next to her, not sure what was going to happen next.

"So...what do we do now?" Eriksen asked, keeping his eyes fixed on the wall opposite them.

"I don't know, we're going to do it like humans, right? So you tell me, what would two humans do in this situation?"

"I've never really had to think about it before now. Usually when I get...friendly with someone, we've had a few drinks, and we're raring to go by the time we get to the bedroom."

"Do you only court drunk?" Nazka asked.

"No, at least, that's not what you're supposed to do. It's hard for people like me to find a long-term partner. People who live and work in space are always moving around, pilots and spaceship crews have to make the best of it whenever they dock at a port or get some shore leave. Most encounters are brief, two people getting together because they're both available rather than because of any real romantic connection."

"So how is it supposed to work?"

"You're supposed to meet someone somewhere, it should be organic and spontaneous, maybe through a friend or because you share a common interest. You hang out for a while, get to know one another, build a relationship. Then one of you, usually the male, confesses how they feel and takes it to the next level. You go on some dates, try to show each other a good time, and then when the moment is right you sleep together."

"All that trouble just to reproduce?" Nazka scoffed.

"Not even, that's just to get someone into bed. If you want to reproduce, then you're supposed to date for months or even years. Then you get married, move in together, start a family..."

"How have you spread across the Galaxy with such a slow and inefficient method of reproduction? Don't humans number in the billions?"

"What society tells us we're supposed to do and what we actually do are usually two different things. Humans have a habit of saying one thing and doing another."

"I've noticed," she added, "most of the time I'm not sure if you even know what you want."

"Take me for instance. I never even knew my father, my mother had unprotected sex with a UNN pilot when she was working as a waitress on an orbital station. She was young and impressionable, he was making the most of his shore leave while their carrier resupplied, then just like that she was landed with a kid and he was never to be seen again. I don't hate him for it, he probably had no way to know about me, but it's a good example of how we propagate as fast as we do."

"Is that why you became a pilot? To honor your father?"

Eriksen laughed at that, and she cocked her head at him curiously.

"I wouldn't say that, but he probably has something to do with it. Like father like son as they say. I guess you and I are alike in that sense, we both appreciate the freedom that comes with space travel. The void calls to us, and we answer."

"Sounds lonely to me," Nazka replied. "You spend months completely alone, and your encounters with other humans are brief and unfulfilling. You talk about the things that you want but you never make any effort to achieve them, you just keep moving."

Eriksen scowled at her, not appreciating her commentary. She was pretty much on the money, but he wasn't about to admit that.

"What are you, my shrink? You're a pirate, you have no right to lecture me. Most of your sexual partners had to be beaten into submission beforehand."

"You've seen the way we do things firsthand," she said, her tone salacious. She dragged one of her pointed claws up his thigh, light enough that it merely tickled, and he shivered in response. She smirked, seeing that he was starting to blush, and leaned down to whisper in his ear. "Isn't there something to be said for it? Being taken by someone, completely overwhelmed, the raw violence and passion of it?"

He crossed his arms over his bare chest and looked away from her pointedly, both to express his disapproval and to hide his reddening face. She was right of course, some part of him had relished what she had done to him, a self-destructive lust that still longed for the sting of her teeth on his neck. No human ever came on that strong. In a way it was addictive, and he worried that he might try to seek out that thrill once she was gone, as if a seed had been planted in his subconscious. Would he find himself pulling the tails of UNN auxiliaries in an attempt to get his fix? He thought not, but he had been criticized for having too high an opinion of himself in the past.

"I said we'd do this your way," she conceded, "so give me the ideal human experience."

His expression softened at the prospect, the fruity scent of her shower gel rising to his nose as he turned to face her, the giant woman peering down at him expectantly as he cleared his throat.

"We go slow, okay? Let me set the pace. If you want romance, then it has to be a slow boil, savor all of the little moments and don't make a dash for the finish line. It's all about the journey, not the destination."

"I didn't say I wanted romance," she chuckled, "but you clearly do. Go ahead, I won't stop you, it's cute."

His face burned, and he waved for her to keep quiet, the unruly alien covering her mouth with her hand in mocking compliance as he went on.

"Be conscious of what your partner is doing, be considerate, communicate. I can't know what you want unless you tell me, understand? Above all this is a mutual thing, that means two people working in tandem. The best way to achieve that is to do your best to make your partner happy and then assume that they will do the same for you. Think you can handle that?"

"I can give it a go."

"It usually starts with a kiss."

"How convenient for you," she said as a toothy grin spread across her face, "but I'll take your word for it."

Suddenly he felt her silky fur on his cheek, Nazka cradling his face in her hand as he looked up at her in surprise, then she leaned down to press her puffy lips against his. She kissed him softly, waiting a moment before slipping her tongue into his mouth, gentle and considerate of his human limitations as the slippery organ glanced his own. Wet muscle intertwined, her copper taste filling his head, the alien teasing him with slow licks that tickled the roof of his mouth and drew shapes on his inner cheeks. Her deft strokes sapped his strength, his body going limp in her arms as she leaned him over, her other hand supporting his back as she drew out their embrace.

She broke off for a moment, letting him catch his breath, Eriksen gasping as her tongue slid back between her lips like a pink snake. His heart was thudding in his chest, and his legs had turned to jello, the way that she gazed down at him made him feel like he was going to melt into a puddle.

"How am I doing?"

Before he could stammer his answer, she drew him in again, her fingers delving into his hair as she resumed her embrace. She was a little more aggressive this time, piling more of her inhumanly long tongue into his mouth, coiling and writhing like a creature in its own right. Eriksen's brain fizzed and popped, he felt as if someone had replaced his brain fluid with soda, bright points of light dancing before his eyes as she lowered him down onto the bed.

She loomed over him, smacking wetly, his spine arching off the sheets as she ran her claws down his back. He couldn't think straight, she was invading his mind as much as his mouth. It was as though she was digging her claws into his very nervous system in order to wrest control of his senses from him. The tip of her tapered tongue tasted the back of his throat, his eyes watering, that rough organ exploring every inch of him with wanton abandon as his head lay in her massive palm as if it were a fluffy pillow.

He found himself sinking his right hand into her furry forearm, his left seeking out the smoothness of her face, caressing her warm cheek as the waves of tingling pleasure washed over him. That raw passion was there, that bestial vigor that made her so overpowering, yet she reigned it in enough to spare him her more violent impulses. He knew that she must be riding the edge of her self-control, that every cell in her body must have been screaming for her to sink her hooked claws into his flesh and force his submission, but that just made her gentleness all the more endearing.

She pulled back, her lips linked to his by a strand of saliva, and he opened his eyes to find himself lying on his back as she hovered over him. They were both breathing hard now, every subtle movement of her body begged for his gaze yet his eyes remained locked to hers. She peered back at him with her yellow orbs, feline pupils dilated into black circles, Eriksen unsure of whether it was because of the gloom or her excitement.

"I don't want to fall for you," he stammered, surprising himself with the sudden outburst and immediately regretting it. Why had he said that? The last thing he needed was Nazka knowing how much she had gotten under his skin, the kind of power that she might have over him. Showing weakness to her was like exposing his belly to a rabid dog. He expected cruel laughter or a crude remark, but none came.

"We're terrible for each other," Nazka chuckled bitterly, "but I've never wanted somebody so badly. Maybe because you fight me so hard, I don't know..."

"What...do we do?" Eriksen asked, his fingers leaving her face to comb through his still damp hair in a gesture of exasperation.

"Let's pretend this is gonna work," she murmured, leaning closer to kiss his neck. He bucked, her merest touch dizzying him, her warm breath tickling his skin as she crawled her lips towards his ear. "Just for tonight, let's pretend that we're different people under different circumstances."

She was right of course, they were terrible for each other. They mixed about as well as oil and water. All of the animosity and antagonism, Nazka being a fucking alien, all of the times that they had tried to kill one another. They had nothing in common besides the fact that they had nothing in common.

So why did he want her so badly? Where were these feelings coming from? It was like some cosmic contradiction designed to torment him.

His thoughts were popped like a bubble as Nazka roamed downwards, planting sucking kisses on his chest and belly, moving lower to pause with her hot breath blowing on the tip of his erection.

"I do my best to please you," she muttered, "then you do the same for me?"

"Y-Yeah, that's the idea."

He lurched as he felt her long, sinuous tongue curl out of her mouth and slide down his shaft, wrapping it in wet muscle like a boa constrictor capturing its prey. Her saliva was warm and slippery, easing the passage of her monstrous organ as it enclosed him almost entirely, his member pulsing and throbbing in a tunnel of slippery flesh. She squeezed, surprising him with her tongue's strength, then began to slide it up and down his length with all of the skill and dexterity of her fingers. The underside was smooth and soft, the upper covered in her feline barbs, but they were dull enough that once coated with her thick saliva the sensation was intensely pleasurable.

She dragged the textured surface across his skin, sending harsh jolts of pleasure rolling up his spine, her viscous drool sliding down his shaft in blobs to pool on his belly and wet his thighs. She trapped his glans between her lips, lashing it with her tongue, the stimulation enough to force a low moan from his mouth as he tried to stifle it with his hands.

He couldn't believe that she was doing this to him...no, for him. It was a subservient act from her perspective, submissive, and yet she was giving him the most intense head of his life. Perhaps she hoped that he would reciprocate, that he would reward her ardent service with equal or greater pleasures. Ever since the spacewalk, it felt as if she was taking everything that he told her to heart. He knew about space suits and nuclear reactors so he must know about this, her logic was easy to follow.

He reached his hands down and delved them into her silky hair, gripping her as if afraid that he might float away, her tongue roiling around the tender head of his cock as if she were trying to paint it with her saliva. If she was anything like the big cats of Earth, that barbed tongue must have been designed for cleaning her fur and even skinning her prey, but she was so gentle and careful that the rough texture merely added another layer to the already unbearable sensation. She was practiced, she knew just how much pressure to apply. He must not be so anatomically different from males of her own species. He felt ready to pop, she was about to force an orgasm from him, and they hadn't been at it for more than a couple of minutes. He had to get her to slow down.

"Nazka," he gasped, "go a little slower. I'm...already close."

She released the tip of his member from her smooth lips and uncoiled what must have been a foot of tongue so that she might speak, her yellow eyes peering up at him in the gloom.

"Did it hurt? I don't know how sensitive humans are compared to my kind."

"No, quite the opposite, I just don't want it to be over too quickly. Like I said, we have to savor it, take things slow."

She nodded and took his shaft in her downy hand, wrapping her fingers around it and beginning to stroke slowly. Eriksen lay back on the bed as another spark of pleasure dizzied him, her tentative movements keeping him on the edge. Silky fur that was matted with her warm saliva engulfed his manhood like a fluffy bath towel, it was a such a strange and alien sensation. She watched him closely with those golden eyes, measuring his reaction to ensure that she kept him on edge, leaning in to plant soft kisses on the sensitive underside of his glans. He felt like his nervous system had been hooked up to a generator, distracting jolts of tingling pleasure spreading through his body like pins and needles with every light touch, the slow pumping of her fist making his hips roll reflexively as his body sought our more stimulation. She rested her face in her palm and watched him, a smirk spreading across her face as he bucked rhythmically.

"You're fucking my hand," she whispered, "does it really feel that good?"

He didn't reply, his face burning, and she gave his member a firmer squeeze that made him groan and thrust as he rose off the sheets. She drank in every grimace and shiver like it was all just entertainment to her, perhaps enjoying wielding a power over him that was derived from pleasure rather than coercion. She peppered his length with wet kisses and gentle glances of her rough tongue, Eriksen never knowing where the next one would land. His toes curled, and his fingers dug into the bed sheets as she sustained his arousal at almost unbearable levels. She teased his thighs and belly, nibbling his hip with her pointed teeth and poking her tongue into his navel, the beleaguered human unable to suppress the telltale tremors that rolled through his body and betrayed his turmoil to her leering gaze.

After a few minutes, the torture became too much for him to bear and he begged for relief, his voice cracking as she explored his balls with her slimy tongue.

"Shit Nazka, I can't...you're driving me crazy."

She snickered, dragging her tongue from the base to the tip, pausing at the head to circle it with her slippery organ. She pressed it against her cheek, cool in comparison to her hot mouth, whispering lasciviously as she stared up at him with her reflective pupils.

"Come in my throat, then it's my turn."

Before he could protest her lurid invitation, she slammed her face down on him, swallowing his member to the base with an obscene slurp that made him blush. The smooth muscles of her gullet enclosed him, hot and slimy, not so different from the sensation of being buried inside her vagina were it not for the tongue that wriggled and twisted around him. He felt his consciousness ebb, darkness scratching at the corners of his vision, too much sensation for the pleasure center of his brain to process.

She jolted him back to his senses as she drew back, sliding her lips up his shaft as she kept them pursed and tight, climbing his length with her tongue to tease his sensitive flesh before pushing back down to repeat the process. She swallowed around his glans, her body rejecting the foreign object as it pushed deep into her esophagus, her spasming muscles milking him in waves and massaging the head as it pressed against the back of her throat. Her lips kissed the base of his cock, her tongue snaking out of her mouth to lick his balls, her lung capacity far exceeding that of any human as she held him there for what felt like minutes.

She gradually increased her pace, bobbing on his shaft as she gripped his hips with her fluffy hands to stop him from bucking, a salacious smile in her eyes whenever he dared to look down. Her saliva flowed freely around his organ, making their coupling wet and sticky. He felt as if his whole lower body was coated in the viscous liquid.

He was getting closer and closer, his body jerking impotently with every contraction of her muscles and every flurry of licks from her thick tongue, a pressure welling inside him of such intensity that almost made him afraid to let it loose. He took handfuls of the sheets as his back arched off the bed, kept in place only by Nazka's firm grip on him, her large hands encircling his waist as her pointed claws pressed into the meat of his butt. Eriksen bit down on his fist, not wanting to let slip any embarrassing vocalizations that she might find amusing, but her eager stare seemed to pierce straight through him as if she could read his thoughts.

"Gum im my mouf," she mumbled around his erection, her voice stifled by it as the vibrations and movements of her tongue added to the building tension. The lewd request was too much for him to refuse and he felt the floodgates open, the first of a series of powerful ejaculations tearing through him.

She stopped her movements, holding him still in her grip as his climax wracked his body, his erection jumping and throbbing as it shot a thick wad of come into the depths of her throat. He felt her swallow, her muscles wringing more of it from him, Nazka drinking from the source as he pumped another load of his milky emission into her waiting mouth. Again and again, he emptied into her. Each wave of harsh pleasure was more acute than the last, until he couldn't believe that his burning muscles could still force more of it from him. It felt like someone was pulling a knotted rope out of his body, an endless series of maddening tremors that cut him to the core, a deeply satisfying ache overwhelming him in their wake.

When it was over, he collapsed onto the bed, breathing like he had run a marathon. Fresh sweat coated his skin as he lay with an arm across his face in a futile attempt to conceal his expression from Nazka's prying eyes. She lapped at his member, eliciting a few stray aftershocks of pleasure, then let it drop from her mouth along with a concoction of her bubbly saliva and his pearly semen. He felt depressions in the mattress where she had planted her hands to either side of his head, and he opened his unfocused eyes to see her peering down at him from above, her pink tongue wetting her lips eagerly.

"You liked that!" Nazka announced, as if she hadn't been expecting the reaction that she had gotten from him. "Did it feel good? Tell me!"

Did she think that he would carefully measure her performance and then only give as good as he got? It amused him, she didn't understand the concept of giving for the simple pleasure of it, she still saw this as an exchange more than as something greater. Even if that had been the case, she had pretty much fried his circuits, it would have been hard to match her fervor.

"And you say I was built for pleasing Borealans," he laughed weakly, "feels more like we were made for each other."

She flopped down beside him, bouncing him into the air with her weight and disrupting his seething afterglow, one of her heavy arms draped across his chest as she waited impatiently for him to recover. She watched him, her glowing eyes tracking the rise and fall of his chest, and after a minute or two it started to bother him.

"What are you looking at?"

"I guess I've never been this close to an alien before, at least not in the sense that I can just lie here and examine you. We're so alike, and yet not alike at all. It's sort of uncanny."

Sometimes Eriksen forgot that while these Borealans were alien to him, he was as much of an alien in their eyes. He must look as odd to her as she did to him.

"Well, what stands out?" Eriksen asked, turning on his side to face her. "What about humans is odd?"

"The weird pointed nose that you have, fleshy ears that stick out of the side of your head, legs with only one joint and foot-hands."

"Foot hands," he laughed, "is that what they look like? I guess it makes sense, we evolved from apes, and they essentially have a second pair of hands where their feet would be. They live in trees for the most part and use them for climbing. Millions of years ago our ancestors descended to the ground and started walking around, and those hand-like hindlimbs became feet."

"They're freakish. No offense, the rest of you isn't half bad. How about me? What about me looks strange?"

"You look like someone gene-spliced a lion and a human," he replied. "You have all the features of one of Earth's big cats, and yet the whole package somehow evolved into a humanoid shape. You're bipedal, you walk upright, you have hands with fingers, and your torso especially is almost identical to a human's."

"Maybe this is just the best nature can do," she mused.

"Yeah, convergent evolution, different species often evolve similar adaptations to deal with the same problems. We both evolved from predatory species, hence the two forward-facing eyes, those are for tracking prey and judging distance. We're both tool users, hence the upright posture and the manipulating hands. Come to think of it, every alien species that we've encountered so far has been the same. Bipedal, tool-using predators."

"You're barely a predator," she said with a smirk, taking his hand in her oversized mitten and making a show of examining him. She used her claw to pull back his lip, exposing his teeth, and he batted her away. "No claws, dull teeth, not strong and not fast. How did you even survive your prehistory?"

"Cunning," he replied with a sly grin, "we were always good at making tools. I guess we still are, not much has changed. Ten thousand years out of the stone age and we're right back to fending off big cats."

"You're not doing a very good job of fending me off," she said, pouncing on top of him and pinning him to the bed with her weight. She growled, the low rumbling shaking his bones, and then made as if to strike his jugular. She bit him gently, playful, laughing at his reaction as he shrank away reflexively. "Still got those primal instincts I see, that's kind of a turn on..."

She nibbled his ear as she whispered to him, Eriksen sinking into the mattress as he squirmed impotently. It would have taken ten men to lift her.

"Might be fun to take you back to the homeworld and set you loose in the jungle. I'd hunt you down and when I caught you...I'd eat my fill, so to speak."

She was getting pushy again, it didn't take much to set her off. He needed to reign her back in before this encounter ended up the way all of the others had.

"Remember, you said we'd do this my way," he chided. "It's your turn."

Her face lit up at that, and she shuffled off him, taking up a seat with her back leaning against the padded wall and her long legs spread across the entire length of the bed. She was ready for him before he had even had a chance to sit upright, waiting eagerly as her round ears tracked him like furry little radar dishes.

"Pretend that I'm your human mate," she said, "and that you must please me so that I'll agree to bear your children."

"That's...not quite how human courtship works, but what the heck."

He crawled over to her and took up position between her thighs, running his fingertips over their polished surface and feeling her shiver with anticipation, her loins splayed and already leaking their invitation. He realized that he wanted her to enjoy this, he wanted to show her that intimacy was more rewarding than coercion. He would do more to satisfy her of his own volition if it was his desire to do so, rather than if she held a gun to his head. Love was a better motivator than fear.

He started just above the fur of her left leg, pressing his lips against her thigh, feeling the muscles that lurked beneath her smooth skin flex in response. She smelled of the shower gel, fruity and pleasant, with that underlying feminine musk that brought back sordid memories of their prior encounters. He roamed higher, kissing and planting gentle bites as he went, Nazka's lurid gaze tracking him as he neared her hip. He skirted the patch of silky, blonde pubic hair that was more like fur than the wiry hairs common among humans, keeping her guessing as to where his next kiss or lick would land as he roamed higher.

He felt her heavy hand on his head, her clawed fingers sinking into his hair as she eased him higher, his lips finding the firmness of her abdominal muscles. Whether it was more for her benefit or his, he wasn't quite sure, but he didn't resist her as she drew him closer to press his red cheek against them. Her skin was still a little damp from the shower, making it slick to the touch, and he felt her flex as he dragged his tongue across her dark skin. She looked down at him between her heavy breasts, her eyelids drooping as she watched him trace the contours and channels that her muscles cut into her skin, pausing to mouthe and kiss.

Her muscles were like granite, as if someone had slipped six round, smooth stones beneath her skin. They twitched and tensed as he passed over them, Nazka surprisingly ticklish despite her massive size and brutish demeanor, so immaculately formed that they cut deep valleys into her torso that Eriksen followed with his fingers and tongue. He didn't dare to leave her wanting for too long, she was liable to simply pounce him and abandon their little interspecies experiment, and so as he roved across her belly, he slipped a hand between her parted thighs.

A shiver rolled up through her enormous body as his fingers found her sodden, swollen flesh, splaying her labia and probing for her opening. Strands of her preparatory juices slid down his hand, she was so wet that it was falling from her in heavy ropes that dropped to the mattress when they broke, and he was greeted by her moist tunnel closing around his digit like a trap. Her walls undulated, tight around his finger, trying to drag it deeper with their rolling contractions. She was hot enough to burn him, feverish, so awash with her slippery fluids that his entry was almost frictionless in spite of the toned muscles that enclosed him.

Despite her obvious and visible strength, there was an alluring softness to her, all the more apparent to him as he wrapped his free arm around her waist and sank his hand into the yielding meat of her haunches. Her flesh was as pliant as fresh dough, he had to dig with his fingers to feel the harder tissue beneath, her fat clinging to her feminine figure as if it had been placed there by the skilled hand of a sculptor. Her skin was like satin, it begged to be touched. He felt the dimples in her lower back and the indent of her spine as he stroked her, her breathing growing ragged.

Nazka seemed to enjoy his attentions, her back arching in response, her claws pricking his scalp as her hand rested on his head. He felt her insides clench and ripple around his finger as he kept up his licking, playing his tongue across her abs, tasting the salt on her body and feeling her squirm. He moved his digit inside her, pressing it against her damp flesh and curling it in an attempt to identify weak spots, the giant alien rolling her hips almost imperceptibly as her body reacted to his intrusion. She was so huge, so powerful, but not beyond his ability to woo. He didn't exactly know how sexual encounters usually played out between Borealans, but he had reason enough to doubt that she was accustomed to such care and intimacy. Despite the prolific history that she had hinted at, she was trembling as if she had never been touched before.

Eriksen moved lower, slipping his tongue into her navel as he passed it, her grip on his hair becoming tighter as he neared her loins. He could feel the heat coming off her on his lips, she was on fire down there, hot and ready hardly did it justice. He could sense the tension in her body, the way that the muscles in her legs and belly tensed as he planted a sucking kiss on her inner thigh, the way that her breath came in sharp bursts as he blew warm air on her pink vulva. She was about ready to pop and drawing out his teasing any longer wouldn't accomplish much more than frustrating her, so he planted a hand on her thigh and leaned lower to place a tentative kiss on the rosy flesh that contrasted against her ebony skin.

He was already familiar with her anatomy, so this time his services were less exploratory, and he was able to concentrate on what he was doing without the pressure of a gun barrel pressing against his temple. He could feel her heartbeat as it pulsed through her delicate flesh, quick and heavy, she was beyond excited at the prospect of having his face between her legs again. Based on the love that she had expressed for his human tongue, Eriksen considered it a miracle that she hadn't spent the last three days sitting on his head as he would not have been able to prevent it.

He began to trace the folds and details of her vulva with the tip of his tongue, moving his finger inside her, burying it up to the knuckle as he pushed it deeper into her welcoming passage. She was sucking on him like a mouth, the pressure was incredible, her muscle contractions moving from the base of his finger to the tip as her body tried to pull him in. Nazka reacted strongly, pulling at his hair but resisting the urge to take control and force him down as she had done the first time. Just like on the hull, she was giving up control, letting someone else take the lead in a way that must have been jarring considering her dominant nature.

He lapped at her sensitive flesh, dragging his tongue across its surface, her sour taste on his lips as her juices ran around his mouth. Her thighs closed around his head, cool skin as smooth as polished metal pressing against his burning cheeks. Her legs must have been strong enough to bend steel and yet she restrained herself enough that her hold on him was little more than a light pressure. She thrust gently against his face, more of a reflex than a conscious act, the pleasure drawing out her mating instincts.

"Like that," she muttered, her voice breathy and subdued. "Harder, I want to feel everything, harder..."

He tried to comply with her request, driving his tongue harder against her tender sex, digging deep between her puffy lips. He increased the pace of his lapping, her viscous emissions mingling with his saliva to make their contact wet and slimy, Eriksen too lost in his arousal to care. He was making good on his promise and doing his best to please her. Judging by the way that her thighs quivered around his head and the way that her tunnel squeezed him in rhythmic bursts, he was achieving his goal.

She was so animate, her whole body moving in tandem with his licking and the probing of his finger. For all of her tough talk and posturing, he was playing her like a violin. Her furry tail snaked around his arm, gripping him with surprising strength, holding onto him desperately like a human hand would as he drove her inexorably towards her peak.

Sensing that her powerful contractions and her labored breaths were coming stronger and faster, he crawled his lips higher, mouthing and lapping at her pink flesh as her lubricating fluids dripped around his finger. She was crushing his digit as it lay lodged inside her, the velvet walls of her passage squeezing it like a thumbscrew. It was almost painful. He reached the hood of skin that concealed her clitoris, circling it with his tongue and feeling her twitch in surprise. He glanced up over the bumps of her six-pack and between her hanging breasts, her covetous, yellow eyes glowing between the two fat orbs as she looked down at him. They wobbled softly as her chest rose and fell, her expression lurid, her anticipation almost palpable. Arousal hung in the air like a cloud, filling the room, he felt as if Nazka could have cut the tension with her claws.

He braced for her reaction then pressed his lips around her clitoris, sucking to draw it out from beneath its protective covering. He trapped it between his tongue and his teeth, Nazka loosing a low rumble that might have been a growl or a purr, the tone so deep that he felt it in his guts more than he heard it. She tugged at a fistful of his hair, her spine arching, her head rolling back as she bared her teeth and began to shiver as if the temperature in the room had just plummeted.

Eriksen pushed on, lapping at the firm bud, the smoothness of his tongue making his contact more delicate than anything her species could have mustered. She was somewhat larger than a human and her size was reflected in her loins, her fleshy protrusion was about the size of a marble in his mouth. He drew shapes on it, coating its shiny surface in his saliva. Now it was Nazka's turn to let slip unbecoming moans and gasps.

He slipped a second finger inside her with some difficulty, she was gripping him like a Chinese finger trap, and it was only due to her excessive wetness that he was able to fit. She pressed his digits together uncomfortably, as strong as a clenched fist. She had remarkable control over her pelvic floor, and he could feel every muscle spasm that massaged his fingers.

Courtship was a brutal affair for Borealans, and it was as if nature had designed her to ensnare her mates, milking them of their seed as much through sheer force as by way of her undeniable sexual prowess. The prospect of those muscles sheathing his member again made his heart skip, but there would be ample time for that later. Right now he had to focus on getting her off as hard as he could manage.

She rolled her wide hips against his face robotically, lost in her fugue, chewing on one of her black claws as she closed her eyes to enjoy the sensations that washed over her. Her other hand left his head to seek out one of her hanging breasts, kneading the pliant globe and pinching her pink nipple between her fingers. Eriksen would have liked to help her out, but there was no way that he could reach. Her bountiful bust was about three feet above his head.

He redoubled his efforts, moving his fingers in and out of her passage as it clung to him, battering her engorged protrusion with strokes of his tongue. Her movements were growing less and less refined, clumsy and distracted as she thrust against his fingers, her breathing ragged and irregular. It was like she was in a trance. He heard her utter a low, pained wail as her already tight passage began to narrow violently around his digits.

"Coming..!"

He wrapped his free arm around her waist as best he could, like a sailor on a stormy ocean clutching the rigging as a giant wave loomed on the horizon, bringing his licking and fingering to a fever pitch as she gritted her sharp teeth and her spine curved towards him. Her butt rose from the bed, Eriksen struggling to keep his arm steady as she fucked his fingers, his lips locked to her loins as she rocked and bucked. He felt a sharp tug in his hair, painful, but he weathered it as a torrent of her thick juices were forced from her hole to leak down her thighs and hang from his chin in strands. Her shoulders rested against the padded wall behind her, her hips nearly level with them as her body contorted, thighs shaking as electrical pleasure ignited her nervous system like a lightning strike. Her dark skin was dripping with beads of fresh sweat, glinting as they caught what little light there was in the room, a field of tiny stars that twinkled on her toned body as it tensed and writhed.

She was so hot that he was surprised that it wasn't immediately evaporating into a cloud of steam, her skin was warm to the touch and the pink flesh that stood out against her dusky skin seared his lips with its heat. She was on fire, both in body and spirit, ignited like dry kindling by the embers of his careful lovemaking.

She mewled, an oddly vulnerable sound coming from Nazka, Eriksen could feel every powerful tremor as it spread up through her body and drove the desperate sounds from her throat. Her orgasm tore into her, the pressure on his fingers incredible as her passage clenched around him in a cruel rhythm, the strength of her insides almost alarming. Her hand pushed his face against her vulva, her restraint forgotten as her conscious mind took a back seat to primal lust, coating him in her syrupy fluids. She held him there as she rode out the climax, the muscles in her belly and thighs bulging and flexing, her claws pressing against his skull as if warning him to keep up his work.

She slowly lowered herself back onto the bed little by little as her muscles relaxed and her breathing grew more regular, her posture a direct measure of the wracking pleasure that still harried her senses. Eriksen slid his fingers out of her, followed by a torrent of her emissions that clung to him like honey, his licking taking on a more gentle and placating pace.

She sank back into the sheets, trembling as a few stray pulses of pleasure shot through her, Eriksen's lips leaving her sodden loins as she collapsed onto her side and one of her furry hands shot between her thighs to ease out the last of her aftershocks. He lay beside her, watching her as he tried to wipe away the mess that she had made, using the sheets to clean his face as she lay with her eyes closed and let the euphoria drown her.

After a minute or two she opened them again, peering at him with her golden pupils, a giddy laugh escaping her lips as she stretched out on the bed and reclined. He watched her body twist and flex, the juxtaposition of light and shadow giving her developed figure the quality of an oil painting in the gloom, every detail and depression accentuated as his eyes played over her.

"What?" Nazka asked, still swooning from her orgasm. "Now you're the one staring at me."

"I just...I've never seen you like this before, it suits you."

"What does that mean?" she chuckled. She rolled onto her back and stretched her arms above her head, her spine arching off the bed as she limbered up.

"You have a glow about you, you look relaxed, happy. I guess whenever we've...been together before now, your attitude was a lot different. You couldn't let your guard down and enjoy it in the way that you're doing right now."

"Maybe," she conceded, "I will admit that there might be something to your way of doing things." She leaned over to run her claws across his belly, leaving red trails in his skin, Eriksen shivering as she neared his groin and then broke off. "I think I'd miss the violence after a while. Pain is the spice that gives sex that kick, but this feeling is...different. In a good way. I almost feel drunk."

She rolled towards him again and propped herself up on her elbow to scrutinize him, that familiar, sadistic smirk curling her lips. Her heavy breasts crashed together, deforming and spreading under their own weight, Eriksen averting his eyes so as not to make his admiration of her body too obvious.

"So now that we're being all friendly, what did you really think of what I did to you? If I can swallow my pride and admit to liking this, then perhaps you can admit to liking at least some of what we did, right?"

He was loathe to reveal anything to her for fear that it might give her more ammunition to abuse him with in the future, but in this compromising position, he couldn't hide his feelings from her. She was good at reading his facial expressions, perhaps a skill that she had picked up during her time with the UNN, and an erection would be impossible to conceal.

"Obviously some of it felt good," he muttered, "you saw the...results. But that doesn't mean I liked it, liking something and having your body respond to it are different things for humans, we don't just change gears like your people seem to do. Having someone...take charge like you do...yeah, that can be exhilarating, but you'd have to tone it down a lot and be more considerate of my boundaries for me to say that I enjoyed it. Rough sex can be fun, but we have very different definitions of rough. When it comes to sex humans tend to be either dominant or submissive, it's a personality trait, while Borealans seem to switch on the fly based on their social standing. Most humans can't do that. It's ingrained into their sexuality, and if you push the wrong buttons, you can really upset them."

"Well how are you supposed to know which variation they are?" Nazka asked, puzzled by the concept.

"You get to know them first, or you ask before you pounce on them. Luckily for you, I kind of like it both ways, or I might have taken it a lot worse than I did."

"What I did was too rough then? Too intense for you?" She grinned mischievously. "I like that though, you react so strongly, you're so much more sensitive than a Borealan. We earn so much scar tissue by the time we're adults, we're so used to treatment that a human wouldn't even survive, but you twitch and jump at the slightest touch."

She wet her lips as she watched him, a fresh hunger in her eyes, like a fox stalking a rabbit.

"I'm not saying it was all bad," Eriksen replied hastily, "but your methods are a little...extreme for my tastes."

"So there are humans who would enjoy it?"

"Oh yeah, you'd be the fucking star of the show at an S&M club, but that's a whole can of worms of weird human sexuality and psychology that I won't even attempt to open. If Jung and Freud couldn't get to the bottom of it, then I doubt a freighter pilot can."

"You make sex so complicated," Nazka sighed, "doesn't it drain all of the spontaneity and passion out of your encounters?"

"Yeah, I suppose it does sometimes. People usually want you to know what they're thinking without having to communicate it, but that rarely works out. That's one point that I'll concede, Borealans will drag you off whenever the mood takes them. It's kind of exciting to be on edge all the time, never knowing when they'll just pull you aside and fuck your brains out."

"I kind of get that impression from you," she said, smiling at him as his face started to redden.

"What do you mean?"

"You want things, but you won't ask for them. You melt when I kiss you, your whole demeanor changes as if your brain has been fried by superlight, and yet the idea of asking for what you crave is out of the question. You drool over my body, I've seen you," she added as he began to protest. "I've seen human females up close and personal in the barracks back on the Pinwheel. There's nothing like me among them, they pale in comparison. You're a lot of fun, and I'm not exactly busy, you could have me whenever you wanted. Yet you wait for me to force myself on you as if the idea of asking me for sex was abhorrent to you."

"You made it a matter of contention," he replied, "I felt like I would be giving in if I did that. Losing."

"Do you feel differently now?"

"Yeah, I suppose I do. We've made a lot of progress today. I guess I don't see you as an alien monster anymore, you just have a fucked up way of doing things."

He felt her fluffy palm on his cheek suddenly, and she loomed over him, casting his face into shadow as she hovered with her pink nose an inch from his.

"Why is it that you like kissing so much?" Nazka asked, putting him on the spot and keeping him from turning away from her as her claws pricked his face.

"Come on, don't ask me that," he complained as he shrunk away from her. Encouraged by his reaction, she pressed the issue, rolling on top of him to straddle him as he sank into the mattress. She placed her other hand on his face, cradling his head as she peered down at him eagerly, watching for tells like she was playing poker.

"Humans don't usually kiss like that unless they're...y'know," he stammered. "Unless they like each other."

"I don't know," she laughed, "but I like you. Does that qualify?"

"No, I mean, you know..."

"I don't, that's why I'm asking you, so tell me."

"In love," he muttered. "The only other person who ever kissed me like that was a girl who I used to date when I was a teenager. I guess maybe that stuck with me, reminds me of how that used to feel."

"Was she your mate?"

"No, dating is like...a mate in training. You spend a lot of time together in order to decide if you're right for each other. We were just kids, it was dumb."

"But you liked the way that she made you feel?" Nazka asked, her yellow eyes locked with his.

"Y-Yeah, those were good times."

She pressed down on him, her soft lips meeting his, a surge of tingling sensation crawling down his spine as she embraced him. Her fur was like silk on his skin, as luxurious as a mink coat, and he closed his eyes as he tasted the familiar copper of her tongue as it wormed its way into his mouth. He felt as if a mist had descended over his brain, his thoughts muddled and intangible, evading his grasp like butterflies avoiding a net. His heart skipped, his body leaning into hers of its own accord, his hands seeking out the soft and inviting meat of her thighs and midriff as if compelled by some external force.

Her kiss was measured and gentle, their tongues intertwining like two snakes as Nazka fed him only as much of her oversized organ as was necessary, her slow and rhythmic licking sending points of light dancing before his retinas. He rubbed his thighs together, and she pressed her groin down on him, Eriksen lurching in surprise as she squashed his growing erection against his belly with her dripping vulva.

She pulled back for a moment, pinching his lower lip between her pointed teeth and pulling it gently, releasing it to bounce back as he panted beneath her.

"You should be honest," she whispered, "how will I know what you want if you can't ask for it?"

Eriksen swooned for a moment, dazed by the kiss. But as she looked down at him, a new fire rose in his belly. He dug his fingers into the meat of her thigh for leverage and reached down between her legs, gripping his rigid member and angling it towards her opening. It was already slippery with her juices, and as he rubbed the tender glans up and down her vulva, she shivered appreciatively, a sly laugh leaving her lips.

"Now who's being aggressive?"

He found her entrance, her slick walls greeting the tip of his erection with their soft, firm embrace. More of her flowing juices glazed him, running down his shaft in blobs and ensuring that the contact between his skin and her rosy flesh was smooth and frictionless. He pushed deeper, her narrow passage spreading to accommodate him, like wet satin scraping against his organ. Judging by her size he felt as if he should have been able to get his whole damned arm inside her no problem, but that just wasn't the case, her muscle tone made her tight enough that it was an effort just to get his fingers in there. He bucked into her, frustrated by the cautious approach, burying his cock up to the hilt. Nazka grunted, surprised by his newfound vigor, letting more of her weight fall on him to drive him deeper. He began to move, slowly at first, then mounting in speed and force as he clung to her waist for purchase.

Her heavy breasts were hanging over his head enticingly, at eye level as she planted her hands on the mattress above him to support herself, bouncing with every thrust like ripples on the surface of a lake. He reached up to grab one, feeling her loins clench around him in response, his digits sinking deep into her sensitive fat to twist and knead. He was rough with them, callous, but he knew her well enough to know that it wasn't hurting her. She was used to hard bites that scarred, bruises and cuts from sex that would have turned this fragile bed to splinters, he didn't need to hold back.

He gripped handfuls of her pliant flesh, as malleable as putty, feeling the weighty globes deform and the fat spread between his fingers as he applied more pressure. Her body twisted, her chiseled abdominal muscles flexing as she moved, her hips rolling as the stimulation made her wriggle and quiver. He could hear her breath coming harder and faster, low growls through gritted teeth, her tunnel wringing his throbbing erection like a dishcloth.

Her bust was impressive, the massive, hanging globes were each larger than his head and as heavy as the bags of fertilizer that he sometimes had to lug from the station docks to the hydroponic gardens where they grew their vegetables. He would have had trouble lifting one of them under his own power, and two of these monsters would have destroyed the spine of any human woman, but the far larger and more powerful Borealan carried them well. They were absurd by human standards, but appropriate on her larger frame. He marveled at the realization that these were unlikely to be the largest set that her species had produced. He was more of a waist to hip ratio guy, but the damned things were like a pair of space hoppers, it was impossible not to get lost in them.

She lowered herself towards him, resting on her elbows, clearly enjoying the attention and wanting more. He brought one of them close to his face, clawing at the meat with his fingers and sucking the pink nipple into his mouth, the colors reminding him of a cherry on a slice of chocolate cake. He sucked the hard nub of flesh between his lips, playing his tongue over it and chewing it gently with his teeth. She shivered, another low rumble emanating from deep in her throat like a lioness staking her claim on a kill.

Nazka liked it rough, and while he couldn't throw her around and tear her up like a half-ton example of her own species could, he could certainly do more to cater to her tastes. She seemed to be appreciating his efforts, she was bent almost double, her warm breath blowing his hair as he caught her nipple between his lip and his teeth and tugged at it. She ground her hips against him in earnest, pressing his pelvis deep into the mattress, the springs creaking their protest beneath him as she bounced. She was impaling herself on him, dragging her velvet flesh from the base of his shaft to the tip as it clung to him like a latex glove, then letting herself fall back down on him with enough force to hurt.

The sounds were obscene, wet and lurid, audible even over her panting breath and the blood that rushed through his ears. She was absolutely sodden, the syrupy, sticky gunk stuck to her thighs and linked her mound to his belly in glistening ropes. Globs of it rolled down his shaft, her insides flooded with it, presumably to allow the safe passage of organs of far larger scale than his own.

"You...got some fight in you," she grumbled, "don't hold anything back."

Invigorated by her request, he switched breasts, keeping up his kneading and clawing on the first and bringing the second towards his lips. He drew it into his mouth, sucking and scouring its sensitive protrusion with his tongue, biting softly as she growled and shuddered. He could feel her contractions coming faster and stronger, her loins practically pulsing around his cock, a ceaseless massage that sent tingling pleasure washing through his body. Her muscular walls rolled across his skin as they kept up their mechanical attempts to draw him further inside, presumably to ensure that he was as close to her womb as possible when he was milked of his emission, her body bent on breeding regardless of her conscious intentions. She was right to wonder how humans were able to spread through the galaxy so quickly. In comparison her people were reproductive machines, if he hadn't come once already, he wouldn't have lasted even this long.

It was time to switch things up, and he eased off, patting her thigh in an attempt to get her to change positions as she was too large and heavy for him to simply flip over. She reacted like a dog that had just had its favorite toy snatched from under its nose.

"Hey, what gives? I was enjoying that!"

"Let's switch positions," he said, taking a moment to catch his breath. "Surely you don't stay on top the entire time?"

"I like it on top," she complained, but he gave her another tap and insisted.

"Lean back against the wall and let me lead for a while. Trust me, you'll enjoy it."

"If you say so," she grumbled, rising off him and wincing as his member slid out of her along with a mess of her thick fluids. She shuffled backwards, leaning against the soft padding on the wall and spreading her legs in invitation. Eriksen rose to his hands and knees and crawled over to her, positioning himself with one hand on his erection and the other on her hip. He pressed his glans against her swollen lips, and after a moment of resistance, he pushed into her passage. They sighed in unison, Eriksen leaning into her, starting to move again as she reclined.

"Comfortable?" he asked. She nodded, wrapping one of her large hands around his hip, setting the pace as her curved claws pressed into his skin. Sex was usually such a strenuous and violent ordeal for her, she might never have been able to relax in this way before, sitting back and letting somebody else do the hard work without fear of losing her status. Their coupling was slow and heavy, Eriksen wanted to drag it out a little, prolong their pleasure beyond the quick and brutal encounters that she was accustomed to.

She pulled him into her, applying more force than he could have mustered on his own, her bicep bulging as she slammed his hips against hers with a loud clap. She drove him into her depths, his member plunging her most intimate reaches, digging into her silky flesh and sending jolts of sensation up through her taut body that made her tense and tremble. Her thighs enclosed him, muscles as hard as steel ensnaring him so that he wouldn't have been able to escape if he had wanted to, her furry tail wrapping around his leg absent-mindedly as if it had a will all its own.

She clung to him, one step away from wrapping both arms around him in a bear hug and plunging his face into her cleavage, her free hand delving into his hair as she cradled the back of his head. Her eyes were closed, her body writhing slowly, keeping pace with his thrusts as he watched the fresh beads of sweat follow the contours of her figure as they trailed across her skin.

She seemed taken with this new position, perhaps it was hitting some sweet spot that Eriksen wasn't aware of, both her loins and her limbs were gripping him tighter and tighter as the pair moved together. He could feel an orgasm welling, and he tried to fight it back, straining to maintain his composure for Nazka's sake. He couldn't take much more of this, she was just too tight, her body too inviting. It had been a long time since he had needed to fight so hard to stay in control.

His one night stands with escorts and fellow travelers on the space stations where he refueled and resupplied were quick and clumsy, usually fueled by cheap alcohol, the desire more of a physical need than an emotional one. He wasn't looking for a partner and neither were they, but after months in space with nobody around for light years, the need for sex could grow as urgent and as overriding as hunger or thirst.

This felt different, they had gotten to know each other intimately over the last few days, their bodies were working as one and feeding into each other in an ever-mounting passion that made him question if this was indeed the same Borealan that had threatened to torture him. Sex with her just felt right, natural, their prior animosity forgotten as their doubts and fears took a back seat to their carnality.

He flinched as she buried her face in the nape of his neck and bit into his shoulder, not as hard as when she had sought to mark him, but enough to be uncomfortable. It was a show of affection, he realized that now, and he weathered the dull pain as her sharp incisors drew a little blood and she licked at it with her rough tongue.

"You taste so sweet," she mumbled, the pace of her thrusting increasing as she mouthed and kissed at his neck.

"Hope you're not planning to eat me when we're through," he panted, welcoming the distraction from the mounting pressure in his aching loins. She giggled, biting her lower lip and whispering in his ear, her tone low and lurid.

"Depends how hard I get off, but I think you're probably in the clear."

He sank his fingers into the soft paunch of her hips, redoubling his efforts as he slammed into her, Nazka's amused chuckle trailing off into a more lurid moan. She pulled him towards her, burying his face between her bouncing breasts, their soft meat cushioning his face as they enveloped him. She smelled so good, the scent of the shower gel and the natural smell of her body mingling, her sweat making her smooth skin slippery against his red cheeks. Her furry hands roamed across his back, the sharpness of her claws contrasting with the silky fur, the gasping Borealan retaining just enough self-control to save from ripping him apart like pulled pork.

She gyrated, her legs locking around his waist, leveraging her whole body to hasten their coupling. They clung to each other, all pretense of restraint forgotten as they rutted like beasts, pushing each other higher and higher as the pleasure mounted like a bomb counting down to an explosion. The heat that burned them like a furnace, the friction of their struggling bodies, the wetness of the fluids that drenched them both inside and out. It was enough to make them delirious, lost in a fervor that made the room around them seem to fall away as if they were the only two people who existed in the universe. Her labored breathing in his ear, the sound of her heart hammering in her chest as he pressed his face into her cleavage, the scent of her body and the maddening heat that muddled his thoughts made him feel like he was going crazy. It was like all of his senses had been dialed up to eleven, his sense of touch and taste amplified tenfold, every harsh squeeze of her insides piercing his mind like a hot knife. He was simply unable to think of anything else, all of his focus was on her, unable to quiet the overwhelming sensations that wracked his body as the pleasure consumed him.

Nazka loosed a sound that was half the mewl of a kitten and half the cry of a woman possessed by her lust, her limbs and tail enclosing him like an iron maiden as she hugged him against her writhing body. She was fucking him like a toy at this point, and he was just along for the ride, her thighs pressing around him as she forced him as deep as he could reach. One of her hands enclosed his head as she pressed it into her bust, the other on his lower back, her legs crossed over his butt as her thighs squeezed him like a juice press and her serpentine tail coiled around his arm for good measure. It was enough to force the air from his lungs, and he felt her warm breath blow in his hair as she shivered, the violent contractions of her silken passage coming stronger and faster as they reached their zenith.

Eriksen felt his orgasm rise inexorably, his moan muffled by her ample bust as a flood of his ejaculate was forced from him, feeling less like a release and more as if it had been drawn from his body through the sheer strength of Nazka's undulating muscles. He released deep inside her, and almost the moment that she felt his hot emission in her depths, her own climax exploded forth. Every muscle in her body stiffened, the slippery walls of her tunnel rolling up the length of his throbbing shaft, milking him of his seed as she clutched his shivering form in her arms. Her instinct to mate was powerful, overriding, her hips grinding against his even as the pulses of orgasmic pleasure seared her nerves.

They remained locked together for what felt like hours, but could not have been more than a minute or two, their bodies seeming to meld together into a formless mass of grasping limbs and questing lips. They embraced desperately, tongues wrestling, hands roaming across damp skin and fingers searching for purchase in yielding flesh. Eriksen couldn't even remember where he was, aware only of the lingering ache of satisfaction that smoldered in his still throbbing loins and the warmth of Nazka's body as she rode out the last tremors of her fading climax. He realized that he was lying on top of her, her arms still crushing him against the hard abdominal muscles of her belly, his head lost in her cleavage. He drew back, and this time she allowed it, releasing her hold on him as he looked up at her face.

She met his gaze with her golden eyes, lids drooping, her puffy lips parted as she caught her breath. He expected some snide remark or an attempt at a joke, but none came. Instead, she smiled warmly, an expression that he had never seen brighten her face before. He couldn’t help but return it.

He rose off her, his hands slipping on her smooth skin, dark and wet with fresh perspiration. He realized that he was soaked too, his or hers it was impossible to tell, and as he pulled out of her his still rigid member was chased by a torrent of their combined fluids. The lurid concoction fell heavily to the sheets, dripping down her thighs in globs and linking him to her in a drooping web. She reached down to run a furry finger through the pearly gunk, holding it up to examine it, biting her lip as a hanging string broke to drop to her belly. At least he hadn't fried her brains, she was still as sordid as ever, delighting in the mess that they had made together.

"So...what's the verdict?" Eriksen asked.

"I think we need to do a little more cultural exchange before I can be certain," she replied, her smile turning wry. Eriksen flopped onto his back, stretching his arms above his head, sore and tired but happier than he had felt in a long while. The afterglow gave everything a fuzzy, warm feel, like he was coming down from some kind of high. Nazka crawled over and lay down beside him, watching the rise and fall of his chest.

"I just had a shower, now I need another one," she said with mock exasperation.

"I think I'll just flush these sheets out of the hangar, they're beyond salvaging," Eriksen laughed.

"Is...it always that way for humans?" Nazka asked, her tone suddenly more serious.

"Are you worried that you've been missing out? No, it isn't always like this for humans. I guess we're just good together. We have chemistry."

"What does that mean?"

"Chemistry? It means we have a connection. It's kind of vague and hard to put into words, like an unspoken thing where you both just click, and you know that you do well together."

She rolled onto her back and stared at the ceiling, considering.

"When I marked you...when I bit your shoulder, I did it mostly in jest. I thought that it would embarrass you and weaken your resolve. Now I feel like you've earned it. If our species were compatible, having you sire a litter of kittens would not be a detriment to my lineage."

"You know," Eriksen replied, turning his head to look at her. "That's the nicest thing a girl has ever said to me."

"Does it...hurt?" Nazka asked. He was shocked, it was the first time that she had ever shown any empathy towards him, the first time that she had really expressed any regret or consideration for how her actions might have affected him.

"Yes, but it reminds me of you, so I don't mind. People sometimes get a tattoo when they meet a girl they like, at least you've saved me a couple of hundred credits getting ink done, and I don't have to choose the font."

She rolled over and kissed him again, slow and placating, then pulled back to grin down at him.

"I'll give you a minute to rest, then I want to go again. Let's see if we can't teach you some appreciation for the Borealan ways."

"Very well, but I'll need to introduce you to the concept of safe words. How do you feel about cranberry?"

"I don't know what any of that means," she chuckled, raking her claws across his chest to leave red welts. He winced, but he trusted her now. The night was young, and they had a lot to discover about each other. Hell, maybe they could invent some new positions while they were at it. He could publish an interspecies Kama Sutra and live off the royalties rather than having to fly freighters for a living.

He still worried about how this would all end. Despite their newfound understanding, their goals were still diametrically opposed. She was still a pirate, and he was still the pilot of a freighter that she was trying to rob, but they would cross that bridge when they came to it. For now, he would banish such doubts from his mind and enjoy this night to the fullest.

CHAPTER 10: LONG ARM OF THE LAW

Eriksen was awoken by movement, opening his eyes to see Nazka sitting up in the bed beside him, the sullied sheets and clawed mattress serving as evidence of their activities the night prior. She was alert, her round ears twitching and tracking, her eyes scanning the room.

"What is it," he asked sleepily, "everything okay?"

"I hear an alarm," she replied, rolling out of bed and beginning to pull on her clothes. Eriksen strained his ears, and then he heard it too, faint and coming from outside the door. He hopped to his feet, foregoing clothing, and hit the touchscreen to open the cabin door. He walked into the corridor, stifling a yawn, and tapped at a nearby control panel. It showed several missed hails and now an intercept warning. That jolted him awake, and he hurried back into the bedroom, hopping into a leg of his pants as Nazka watched him.

"What is it?"

"I don't know exactly," he replied, "but someone has found us."

"Fuck," she snarled, zipping up her leather jacket. "I took too long, someone from the inner system must have come looking for you. I need to move quickly."

Suddenly the confrontation that he had spent so much time avoiding had been dropped into his lap, and he wasn't sure what to do about it. Was he in danger? Should he try to escape, or try to make contact with the incoming ship? What did Nazka want? What did he want?

"What...do we do about this?" Eriksen asked hesitantly.

"I'll tell you what we're going to do," Nazka replied, staring him down with her yellow eyes. "You're going to open that damned door, and then I'm going to jump us both back to Borealis, where I'm going to scrap this junker and live off the spoils for the rest of my days. You can join me, or you can take the Black Claw. I don't have time to bring her close enough that she can ride the wake."

"Or how about you take your shuttle back to the Black Claw and leave me to finish my cargo run?"

She growled like an angry lion and punched the padded wall. It was alarming, but Eriksen stood defiantly and didn't flinch.

"Don't do this now," she said, her tone low and threatening. "I know exactly what's coming, standard procedure. You missed your delivery and didn't call in, so they did a long-range scan and detected your freighter. There's a Warden on an intercept course, full of Marines or maybe PDF weekend warriors if we're in the sticks. When you don't respond to their hails they'll board us, and they're not going to let me off with a slap on the wrist." She leaned closer, baring her teeth an inch from his nose. "We have minutes before they're swarming this ship. I don't have time to fuck around anymore, give me the code that unlocks the cockpit door or I'll start breaking your fingers."

"No," Eriksen stated simply, crossing his arms over his chest. She bellowed and brought her massive fist down on the bed, the frame collapsing, the sound of buckling plastic echoing in the room. Seeing that he was unimpressed, she turned, flaying the soft padding on the wall with swipes of her curved claws and sending clumps of foam flying through the air. She was throwing a tantrum like a little girl. The display was intended to intimidate him, but he no longer saw her as a dangerous alien monster. There was method to her madness, and he knew that she would never lay a finger on him, not now. She reduced the nightstand to debris with a powerful kick, the bedside lamp falling to the floor and breaking, then spun back to face him.

"Give me the code, or I swear I'll-!"

"You won't hurt me, Nazka," he reached up and gripped her furry forearm tentatively. She bristled as if she was about to swipe his head from his shoulders, then relaxed, her fury waning as she looked down at her tiny companion. She ran her claws through her hair, rolling her head back and muttering some curse in a language that he didn't recognize.

"Of all the fucking stupid decisions, the first was choosing this freighter as my mark, the second was letting you live long enough to get on my good side. Alright you little bastard, alright. I can't bring myself to dice someone who gives such good head."

"Ever the romantic," he complained, "now let's get you off this ship."

"You're not going to turn me in?"

"Let's just say that I can't bring myself to get someone I have chemistry with arrested for piracy."

"Well shit, you're just full of surprises, aren't you? Now what the hell are we-"

There was a clunk that reverberated through the deck. Eriksen felt it in his feet, the vibration of something impacting the hull. The pair exchanged alarmed glances, Nazka making for the door as Eriksen followed, struggling to pull a shirt over his head.

"That was fast," she muttered, "they must have seen the Black Claw. She's stealthed, so she won't show up on long-range scans, but they'd see her if they got close enough. Now they know that I'm here, no choice but to fight my way out."

Her hand shot to the massive revolver on her hip, but Eriksen gripped her wrist, the alien peering down at him quizzically.

"You can't kill them, they didn't do anything wrong."

"They're going to try to take me alive. If I resist, which I will, they'll switch to lethal methods. An XMR railgun slug is going to do a lot more damage to me than a nine-millimeter."

"You can't kill them Nazka, they're just doing their jobs. Please."

"What the hell do you want me to do then, ask them politely if I can return to my fucking pirate ship?"

"It's not as if they can fire a railgun in here anyway. This is a civilian ship, it would pop a hole in the hull the size of a basketball, and we'd lose pressure."

He stopped dead in the hallway, and Nazka turned to look at him, waving her furry tail impatiently.

"What the hell are you doing?"

"Hang on, hang on, a plan is forming."

"What kind of plan? Hurry it up, we don't have time to fuck around."

"What if they couldn't use their guns?" Eriksen mused, scratching his chin pensively. "What if you had a hostage who happened to be outside of his pressure suit and in the line of fire?"

Nazka grinned, releasing her hold on her gun and letting it slide back into its leather holster.

"Now you're thinking like a pirate." She seemed to hesitate for a moment, her claws drumming on the revolver's metal cylinder. "So...how long do you want to be my hostage?"

"You're asking if I'm coming with you, but you know that I can't do that Nazka. I have obligations to my shipping company, to my clients, there are people depending on me to get my job done. I have a life here, I don't get to just walk away from that."

"I guess that's one of the things that I like about you, Eriksen, you stick to your guns no matter what. Fine, tell me exactly what you have in mind..."

***

The Planetary Defense Force squad marched along the hull, the magnetic boots of their armored pressure suits securing them to the metal. The UNN-black paint was chipped here and there by years of wear and tear to reveal the silver metal and ceramics beneath. Their gear was all surplus, but it was better than anything that civilians could get a hold of, military-grade armor and earlier generation modular rifles. Probably wouldn't count for much in a Bug invasion, and while that was the PDF's primary concern and the reason for the creation of the militia organization, they mostly found themselves doing police work and more mundane security operations.

The squad leader raised his fist in the air as they neared the freighter's hangar bay as a signal to halt, his four squad members stopping behind him, clutching their XMRs nervously as they waited for further instructions. His voice fizzed through on their suit radios, crackling to life as they watched the starfield turn around them, one of them glancing back apprehensively at their shuttle which was clamped to the vessel a short distance behind them.

"Form up, weapons at the ready. We don't know how many of them are in there."

This freighter had failed to make its delivery on time, so flight control back on the colony had done a long-range scan of the system and they had detected it cruising near where it must have jumped in. The squad had been dispatched via Warden to check it out, and once they were in short-band range, it had failed to respond to their hails. It was only after they had closed into visual range that they had seen the damage to the aft section, and shortly after, the cruel parody of a Warden that had matched velocity with it. That ship had also failed to respond to hails, and it had made no attempt to evade them, which indicated that the crew were likely responsible for the damage and were presently aboard the drifting freighter. It was a pirate ship, no doubt about it. The Warden's serial number had been erased and replaced with what looked like a crudely painted, black bear paw. The repairs to the hull were so spotty that it looked more like a scrapheap explosion than anything resembling its original streamlined silhouette.

"Hold your fire," the squad leader said, "don't shoot anything until I give the order. I'm looking at you, Murray, finger off that trigger. One more misfire from you and you're back on kitchen duty."

"Collective punishment's against UN conventions, Pete," another man added. "Murray makes soup about as well as he shoots."

There was a chorus of stifled laughter over the radio, and the squad leader waved for them to keep quiet.

"Damn it, Harry. You're supposed to use ranks when we're on duty, maintain radio silence unless absolutely necessary."

"Sorry, Sarge."

"Alright, we're going in."

He waved them forward, and they moved towards the curved ramp that led from the hull to the hangar bay, rifles raised as they navigated the odd geometry. Pete went first, the barrel of his rifle passing through the force field that held the atmosphere inside the bay, followed by his armored suit as he set foot on level ground. His stomach lurched as he entered the freighter's AG field, good, that meant that there was still power to the ship despite the damage to the aft section. His suit HUD blinked a green light to indicate that the atmosphere was breathable and that the pressure was Earth norm, so he flipped up his faceplate as the rest of the squad formed up around him.

"Ain't that against regulations?" Murray asked.

"I can't see shit in these helmets," Pete complained, "no reason to keep the visor down if the ship's atmosphere is green. These tin can pieces of shit won't stop a slug anyway."

"Would be nice if we could get the good stuff," Harry confirmed, sweeping his rifle around the hangar.

"Yeah and maybe Murray will be promoted to Admiral," one of the other PDF added.

"Alright wise up people, get your heads in the game. We got potential hostiles in the AO."

Nobody had been there to receive them in the bay, but there was a shuttle docked inside that looked so old that it might have been drawn by horses. Somebody was here who wasn't supposed to be. Might have been scavengers thinking they were salvaging a derelict, or it might be a whole crew of heavily armed pirates.

"Murray, Harry, check out that shuttle. I want the rest of you on the aft and fore doors to make sure that nobody surprises us."

The squad fanned out, two of them taking up positions by the two doors that led to the hangar, and the rest moved towards the shuttle. Just as Harry reached the landing ramp, he cried out in alarm, lurching backwards and shouldering his gun.

"Sarge! Pete!"

"What have you got Harry?"

Before he could answer, a massive, red figure descended the ramp. It was huge, taller than a man and twice as broad with limbs as thick as tree trunks, its heavy boots crashing to the deck. The squad scurried back, weapons pointed at the enormous thing as it peered at them through a narrow visor.

"Is that..?"

It was a Borealan, a fucking alien, near eight feet tall and clad in an apple-red pressure suit. It was heavily armored and around its waist was fastened a leather belt from which was hanging the largest handgun that Pete had ever seen in his life. His hands trembled as he kept his rifle trained on it. What the hell was a Borealan doing all the way out here? He had never even seen one before, at least not in the flesh, and yet here one was. It stood before them, towering so high that its round ears would have skimmed the shuttle's wings, standing as still as a statue as if waiting for them to make the first move.

Pete tried to compose himself, he was the squad leader damn it, he needed to take charge of the situation before somebody startled it and it tore through them like a bull in a china shop.

"T-This system is under UNN jurisdiction," he announced, watching the alien turn its armored head to look at him. "You got no business bein' here. Under section fifty-six of the UN charter, as a colonial security officer of the PDF, I got the right to subdue you by...by any means I deem necessary and bring you in for questioning. What are you doing on this ship?" It didn't answer, it just watched him through that narrow visor, its red armor reflecting the harsh lighting in the hangar. "Speak up," he shouted, "you a pirate? Piracy is illegal."

Its voice came through on speakers mounted in its helmet, it was female, its husky voice given a robotic timbre by the electronics.

"Looks like I've been caught in the act, I don't suppose you'll let me be on my way?"

"Are you alone?" Pete asked, then he gestured frantically to his squad. "Stay on the fuckin' doors, I don't want to be surprised by any of her friends." He turned his attention back to the giant alien, swallowing hard as the creature scrutinized him. Goddamn, it was huge, it looked as if it could snap a man in two like a twig.

"Hey, alien! You got an illegal ship out there with no serial number, and if you're a pirate, then I gotta take you back to the inner system. We can do this easy, or we can do it hard, there's five of us and one of you. You reach for that gun on your hip there, or take any actions that might be construed as aggressive, and we're authorized to light you up like a fuckin' Christmas tree."

As they watched, her long tail emerged from behind her, clad in a flexible tube that was painted the same red as her armor. To their surprise she deposited a human on the deck in front of her, she had been holding him with her tail as if it were a limb and he had been obscured from view behind the far larger alien. He was dressed in a sleeveless shirt and a pair of jeans, and he looked like he had run through a damned bramble thicket. There were cuts and scrapes visible all over him.

"Oh, I'm not sure that firing guns in here is a good idea," she said ominously. "One railgun round goes through the hull and mister freighter pilot over here has his lungs explode."

"Hostage!" Pete called out, "she has a hostage! Hold your fire!"

"She's crazy!" the man cried out, struggling in the hold of her serpentine tail. "She'll kill us all, just let her go!"

"Don't worry sir," Pete shouted, "the PDF is here. We're gonna get you out of this situation."

"Pete, you ain't no hostage negotiator," he heard Harry mutter over the radio. Pete shot him a murderous look as if to say I got this and turned his attention back to the Borealan.

"Now this doesn't need to get messy," he said, "you didn't hurt nobody yet as far as I know. This can go a couple of ways. If you let the pilot go and come peaceful, I promise that no harm will come to you and that you'll be treated fairly. We got juries and courts and the like, if you didn't do any real harm, they'll probably just send you back home. All the time you spend waitin' is time I'll spend thinkin' up a safer way to kill you."

"I have another proposition," the alien said, squeezing the human in her tail. "You let me board my shuttle and head back to my ship, and I let this tasty little morsel go. I'll be out of your hair, and nobody even has to know that I was ever here."

"I got a job to do, Miss, that ain't an option for me."

"Just do what she says," the struggling pilot demanded, a touch of hysteria in his voice. "She's a Borealan warrior, you can't fight her!"

"Let us handle this sir, we're trained professionals," Pete said as he slammed his visor shut. Now he could communicate with his squad without her hearing them, try to come up with a plan to get this guy loose.

"Harry," he said over the radio, "you got any idea what to do about this?"

"I got a couple, Sarge. If we let her board the shuttle, she's gonna be in her Warden and gone before we make it back to ours. It's a five-minute walk across the hull. We could try taking a pot shot at her head, she's got like two feet on that pilot, shouldn't be much danger of collateral damage. Problem is we don't know what kind of armor she has on. If it doesn't penetrate or glances off and makes a hole in the ship, we're fucked."

"It's a railgun, Harry," one of the other PDF soldiers muttered. "Of course it will penetrate, that's the problem. It'll go straight through her head and then straight through the hull behind her regardless of what grade of armor she's wearing."

"Okay, so we can't shoot her," Pete hissed. "Come up with something else!"

"We have the non-lethal gear, right?" Murray asked.

"Stun attachments won't go through her suit," Pete replied tersely.

"Well then what the fuck are we supposed to do?" Murray exclaimed.

"I'd start with not making plans over an open channel," a female voice said. Pete cursed under his breath and tapped the side of his helmet, a gesture to switch to a secure channel.

"God damn it why did nobody tell me that the channel was open you bunch of muddy-"

The alien moved fast, hurling her human hostage backwards into the shuttle like a doll, her fist hitting the ramp control before he had even landed. There was a pneumatic whir as it began to close, and Pete heard the pilot shout something as it sealed with a hiss.

"Don't kill them Nazka!"

Pete cursed and aimed his weapon, but in the time it took to zero in on his target, she was already gone. She ducked under his gun, impossibly fast for her size and weight, her fist hitting his torso like a ton of bricks. The armor might as well have been made of paper, the shock that the blow transferred to his body comparable to that of a kevlar vest stopping a bullet, lifting him clear off the deck and depositing him a few feet away. He skidded on his back, his armor sparking against the deck, his XMR now in the Borealan's hands. She hesitated for a moment then broke it over her knee, snapping it like a bundle of twigs. He rolled onto his side, clutching at what must be bruised ribs, his chest piece dented and cracked.

"Don't shoot," he wheezed into his radio, "my suit's seal is broken!"

The four remaining PDF soldiers pointed their weapons at her, unsure of what to do, their instinct to unload their magazines into her barely kept at bay by the Sergeant's order to hold fire. If they blew a hole in the hull then he would die of hypoxia within a minute or two, his suit was no longer airtight.

Someone fired but there was no electromagnetic crack of a railgun accelerating a slug, instead two prongs impacted the alien's red armor. They sparked with electricity, arcing between the two points and dissipating, her pressure suit conducting the stun gun's paralyzing charge harmlessly. She turned towards Harry, who was hurriedly trying to slot another stun round into his weapon's underslung launcher, accelerating towards him like a freight train. She barreled into him, knocking him over with her shoulder like a linebacker, flipping him head over heels to land heavily on his belly. She stamped on his XMR with her heavy boot, bending the metal, and then gave the prone figure a swift punch to the back of the helmet. There was the sound of cracking glass as the helmet bounced against the floor, another broken visor, and Harry lay still.

The soldier who had been guarding the hab module door discarded his XMR, drawing a baton from a holster on his belt, brandishing the club as she advanced towards him. He took up a low stance, twirling the weapon like a tonfa, Nazka cocking her head at the display. The weapon flashed out, and she made no attempt to dodge it, the material rebounding off her armor like it was made of rubber. She let him hit her a couple more times, the human battering her thigh and her midsection to no avail, eventually slowing as he realized that it was having no effect.

"Oh, come the fuck on," he muttered.

She delivered a swift jab to his face that dented his helmet and popped the visor right out of its frame, the man falling on his ass as he clutched at his head, the metal ringing like a bell. A crack like thunder rang out in the hangar, echoing as the Borealan flinched in alarm and dropped to the deck like a cat, trying to lower her profile as her gaze fixed on Murray. He was holding his rifle in shaking hands, the electromagnets that lined the barrel in copper rings glowing orange as they dissipated heat.

"God damn it, Murray," someone called out, breaking the shocked silence.

She was on him before he could so much as blink, his weapon torn from his hands and sent clattering across the deck, the alien gripping his head in her massive fingers like a cantaloupe. Rather than crushing his skull, she twisted his helmet and tore it from his shoulders, leaving the shocked militiaman standing with his pale face exposed. She dropped the busted helmet to the floor and turned to look behind her, searching for where the slug had impacted. She spotted a hole in the shuttle's main engine the size of a fist, but there was no hiss of escaping air, no decompression. Fortunately, the shot had gone wide, and it had hit something hard enough to stop it before it passed straight through the obstruction and out the other side.

She glanced at the final soldier who was still standing beside the access tunnel door, and he threw his weapon to the ground, raising his hands in surrender and shaking his head vigorously. She turned her attention back to Murray, who shook like a leaf as she reached out and placed an armored finger on his forehead, pushing him gently so that he fell over to sit on the floor.

"You're in time-out," she grumbled.

***

Nazka marched back over to the shuttle, hitting the door release and stepping clear as the ramp lowered, Eriksen hurrying out to scan the room with wide eyes.

"I didn't kill any of them," she said, standing with her hands on her wide hips. "And none will die later from their injuries. It was a loophole, but I thought you'd be upset." He played his eyes over the writhing or unconscious PDF. One of them was sitting on his ass, apparently in a state of shock. Another seemed unharmed and was standing rigidly, his hands raised above his head. "I broke open their suits so that they wouldn't risk firing, at least most of them had enough sense not to. I think that one is better suited to farming than soldiery," she said, gesturing towards the helmetless soldier who was sitting on the deck and rocking gently.

"Something hit the shuttle," Eriksen said, his tone alarmed.

"Someone fired, but the slug hit the engine compartment. Good news for us but bad news for the shuttle. Do me a favor and go run the system diagnostic, will you? That damned cockpit is too cramped for my liking."

He nodded and disappeared into the troop bay, Nazka remaining outside to keep an eye on the hapless PDF soldiers. He slid into the oversized bucket seat and tapped in the diagnostic command. The flight control systems were locked to Nazka's pad-print, but he could still access the subsystems, watching the console light up and display the current status of the vessel. The main engines were shot, red across the board. The fuel line pressure was at zero, and the damage from the railgun round had erased half of the sensors. This vessel wasn't going anywhere, it was kneecapped.

He emerged from the shuttle, Nazka turning to look at him as he shook his head.

"It's a bust, she won't fly. The main engines are destroyed."

She cursed in her native language and turned to the PDF soldier who was standing with his hands up.

"You, where is your shuttle?"

"O-On the hull," he stammered, "anchored to the underside of the freighter."

"Is it ready to fly?"

"Yeah, yeah it'll fly, but what about-"

"You're taking the long way home," Nazka said, then she swiveled around to shove Eriksen into the shuttle's troop bay. She pushed him roughly up against the wall, out of view of the soldiers, and hit the release on her helmet. She dropped it to the floor, lifting him off the deck and pressing her lips against his, locking him in a desperate kiss that sent him reeling. Everything else seemed to melt away, like an oil painting left out in the rain, sounds becoming distant and faint as her tongue pushed into his mouth and her fluffy palm found his cheek. They were in their own little universe, alone together even in the crowded hangar, Nazka's taste and touch all that Eriksen cared to focus on.

Her movements were soothing and gentle, but there was an underlying passion and urgency as she clung to him, fierce and greedy as if she was trying to cram a drawn-out and sensuous session into what precious few moments remained to them. He cupped her face in his hands, feeling her smooth skin beneath his fingers, meeting her invasive embrace as best he could as her long tongue roved in his head.

She broke off, leaving him gasping and dizzy, her golden eyes locked to his.

"What will you do?" Eriksen asked.

"I'll take their shuttle, fly it back to the Black Claw, and then I'll be light years from here before anybody even notices that these guys are missing. Luckily for me, a friend of mine recently taught me how to spacewalk. You can take the freighter to port, but it looks like you'll have a few extra passengers along for the ride. Sorry about that."

"There's a heart of gold under all that brawn and leather," Eriksen murmured, "but don't worry. If anyone asks me what happened, I'll omit the last day or two. Don't want to ruin your reputation with the other pirates."

She snickered and leaned in to kiss his neck, Eriksen's spine arching against the bulkhead as her warm lips pressed against his skin, her sharp teeth pinching him.

"You're a stubborn bastard, Eriksen, you earned this. I just wish I had more time, to convince you to come work for me, and to do other things..."

"Will I see you again?" Eriksen asked, a little more concern creeping into his voice than he had intended.

"You kidding?" Nazka chuckled, "after I put in all this groundwork? You might have waited me out this time, but I have your freighter's serial number logged. Where you dock is a matter of public record. Keep an eye on your proximity radar, because I'm gonna come back to finish the job one day, cabin boy."

"You can try."

"That's the spirit," she laughed, lowering him to the deck and ruffling his hair with her giant hand. "Now I'd better go before one of these guys comes to and decides they want a second crack at me. I'll see you around." She pressed her finger into the bite wound on his shoulder, and he winced, batting her hand away. She grinned down at him, and he couldn't help but return her smile. Yeah, he understood what she was implying. She turned and descended the ramp, stooping for a moment to pick up her helmet and securing it to her suit with a hiss as she crossed the bay towards the force field.

"Hey Nazka," he called after her, and she stopped to look back at him. "I'd be your hostage any time."

He couldn't see her expression beneath her helmet, but he liked to think that she was smiling. With that, she marched through the force field and vanished under the hull.

After a couple of minutes, he felt the rumble of the PDF shuttle uncoupling from the freighter, and he stepped out of the troop bay, rushing over to the nearest militiaman and taking a knee beside him.

"Hey, hey buddy, you okay?"

The man was clutching his chest, his pressure suit dented inward and cracked open like an eggshell, but he was conscious and responsive.

"Well I ain't dead yet if that's what you mean, but I sure as hell ain't okay."

The man who had been standing with his hands up in surrender came jogging over, standing nervously beside the downed PDF soldier, who shot him a furious look.

"What the fuck Steve, you didn't even try. That's desertion or dereliction of fuckin' duty, or-" He coughed into his hand, then waved away the nervous soldier. "Fuck it, go see to Harry, and I think Murray needs a change of fuckin' briefs." The prone man, who must have been the squad leader, turned his attention back to Eriksen.

"Was that thing waiting for you when you landed? Have you been stuck on this ship, alone with that alien since you arrived in the system?" Eriksen nodded, and the soldier reached up to pat him on the arm with his gloved hand as if to reassure him. "You must have gone through some shit. I'd heard stories, but I couldn't have imagined that Borealans could move like that. You got cuts and bruises all over you, yet the freighter is still here, and all of your cargo is still hitched. You must have put up one hell of a fight."

"Yeah, I'm sure I'll have time to tell you all about it, she took your shuttle."

"Fuckin' criminals getting away clean, that's just salt in the wound."

"Hey, we're all alive...more or less. That's a pretty favorable outcome. She's like six hundred pounds, and she set this whole thing up so that you couldn't use your rifles. There's not much you could have done."

"At least we chased her off," the PDF soldier wheezed. "Who knows what might've happened to you or your ship if we had taken a day longer to respond."

"Yeah, you really saved my skin," Eriksen said with a smile that wasn't wholly sincere. He felt sorry for the poor guys, maybe playing up the liberated hostage would make them feel a little better about getting their asses so thoroughly kicked. "Can you walk?"

The squad leader nodded, and Eriksen took his hand, helping him to his feet. The others were picking themselves up too, none of them seemed to have been seriously injured in the altercation. They clustered around their squad leader as he slung an arm over Eriksen's shoulders for support.

"Guess we get a few days off," he said, "it'll take us a while to slowboat to the inner system."

"I got plenty of food," Eriksen volunteered, "let me cook you guys up something to eat. A hot meal is the least I can do to thank you, and there are free cabins with beds. You may have to rotate though."

"Better than a hard rack and an MRE," one of them added, leading the pack as they stumbled towards the hab module. Eriksen helped the squad leader to a bed and then made his way towards the cockpit, keying in the code to unlock the door. It opened with a whoosh of air, and he stepped inside. There was something almost melancholic about finally setting foot in the locked room again. This had been the only thing standing between him and certain death at first, but it had also been what had kept her here for so long, what had given them the time to make their connection and discover their chemistry.

He sat down at the main console and keyed in a burn that would take the vessel towards the inner system, the flight computer automatically compensating for the missing engines, displaying a curved line on a two-dimensional representation of the system and its planetary bodies that led to the colony. He was distracted by a blinking light to his right, indicating that he had an unread hail. Odd, the PDF Warden had hailed him, but those messages should have been marked as read when he had accessed them on the touch panel in the hallway. He navigated to his inbox and saw a new message, his heart skipping as he opened it.

A pixellated image of Nazka appeared on the screen, and he glanced behind him hurriedly to make sure that none of the PDF were hovering over his shoulder. He hit play and watched the short video message spring to life.

"Hey, Eriksen. I'm about to jump out of the system, thought I'd leave you one last calling card before I have to split. You fucked up my whole operation, spaced my crew and cost me more money than you'll probably make in your lifetime, but that was the most fun I've had in a long while. Remember kid, you can run, but you can't hide. I got your serial number, and you got mine." She gestured to her neck with her clawed finger, and Eriksen rubbed his healing scar, feeling the depressions where her teeth had marked him and smiling to himself. "Enjoy your freedom while you can, because I'll be back. Next time you won't get off so easy. Black Claw out."

The message ended, and he filed it away for later viewing, watching the stars twinkle out of the forward viewport. The biggest downside of this job was that he was always moving around, he never stayed in one place long enough to make any real connections with anyone. He had been lonely for longer than he cared to admit. But he had made that connection with Nazka, and now she would be tracking him down wherever he went, chasing him across the cosmos whenever the mood took her. Maybe she'd board him again the next time they met, or maybe she'd find out where he was docked and pull him aside in a bar. He had no way of knowing, and that was exactly the way that he wanted it.

-THE END-

 
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