Author : Clint Wilson, Staff Writer

Shore leave at last! Ensign Pull Crimson was wide-eyed as he made his way through the dirty bustling streets of Port Tidaria. Thousands of aliens, both humanoid and otherwise shaped, filed past the endless teahouses, massage parlors and juke joints.

A human hand reached for him out of the throng and a familiar voice cut through the alien dissonance. “Come on Crimson. You better keep up!” The seasoned spacer, Lt. Jaxon was right. The young ensign followed through the masses, feeling some jelly-like substance smear his pant leg. He knew his inexperience with the port and its inhabitants could land him in serious trouble if he didn’t watch himself.

But he continued to revel in the blessed freedom that three days off of that depressing gray tub brought to his worn out brain. All he wanted to do was find a safe environment, and party the night away, maybe strike up some friendly relations with a female spacer or two if he was lucky.

They broke out of the main throng and found themselves on a slightly less populated street. Jaxon pointed ahead. “Up there, about a kilometer, is a senior officer’s club.” He grinned. “I can sign you in as long as you promise to behave.”

“Sounds good Lieutenant, as long as they’ve got booze and broads I’m a happy guy.”

“No problem there kid.”

Suddenly Jaxon’s face went serious and he patted his belt buckle. “That son of a bitch!”

“Who?” asked the young ensign.

“That fat hunk of crap Tidarian customs officer back at the elevator. He never gave me back my ID chip!”

Crimson knew how serious this was. Without it Jaxon was flat broke, and neither of them would get into the officer’s club. “Oh man, we have no choice. But it’s such a long way back. And we’ll have to fight that crowd.”

Jaxon thought of the prospect of dragging the young ensign back through the sea of aliens again and then thought better. “Never mind. It’ll be quicker if I go alone. You go on ahead to the club. Get in line. Tell the doorman what happened and that I’m on my way.”

Pull Crimson looked up the long street, suddenly unsure.

Jaxon saw his expression and reassured him. Pointing he said, “See the gold skyscraper on the right? It’s on the first floor. You can’t miss it. Just go straight there and don’t talk to anyone along the way!” With that he turned and was quickly swallowed up in the crowd.

Crimson carried on warily. This seemed like the longest kilometer ever. Suddenly the crowd thinned considerably as the road dipped momentarily into a dark hollow of older looking ramshackle shops. And as he made his way past the open mouth of a steamy alleyway he heard a small voice.

“Please mister. Please help me, I’m so scared and lost.”

Crimson stopped and turned to see a little human girl, perhaps four or five, standing there crying in the shadows. Tears streaked her dirty cheeks. He looked up the street toward the gleaming gold building, then back the way he had come. No sign of Jaxon yet.

“Please mister,” she pleaded again, her lip quivering.

The Ensign’s heart melted and he stepped into the shadows. Bending down he rested his palms on his knees and raised his eyebrows. “Who are your parents sweetie?”

It took the shape shifter less than a second to open a huge mouth lined with rapier teeth. And there was hardly a muffled yelp as a sudden fountain of warm blood sprayed out into the street.


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