My stomach suddenly plopped back into it's assigned cavity, and the tingling on my skin disappeared as well. Its abrupt absence gave me the goosebumps.
It had a similar affect on Miss Slavovich as well, as was made evident by the thin material of her dress.
I made a conscious effort not to gulp, and ended up coughing instead.
Cameraman two snickered again... One of these days I was gonna belt that guy.
Miss Slavovich placed her hand on my knee. My safety belt suddenly grew even more uncomfortable.
"So Morgan, tell our viewers a little bit about yourself." She said.
"Well ma'am, I reckon there ain't much to tell really. My pa and me work a mutanana farm outside of Gratsky, at least I did until pa won this here contest." I managed to get all that out without a stutter or stammer.
Miss Slavovich gazed into my eyes and gave my knee a little squeeze.
"Fascinating Morgan. And you've never been to space or flown a spaceship before?
Was it my imagination, or had her hand suddenly materialized a few inches higher on my thigh.
"I... Umm... I.. That is to say... Umm... No ,ma'am."
Miss Slavovich leaned forward.
I could see...
She really did have glitter everywhere!
"Don't worry Morgan, Mutogen Food Corporation is going to give you all the training you need to fly that big new ship of yours."
Oh ya... Her hand was higher now, a lot higher. As a matter of fact...
"Attention passengers. If you direct your attention out the port windows, you will see the Lave Galcop space station coming into view." Announced the voice from the speakers.
With an almost painful wrench, I turned my head to look out of the window.
My safety belt suddenly loosened.
Swinging into view was a structure so enormous my brain just couldn't grasp it. The surface was composed of giant squares and triangles arranged into a rough sphere, and the whole of it covered with twinkling little lights. A gaping rectangular hole intruded into one of the faces, which I correctly assumed to be docking bay, and around it swarmed at least a dozen spaceships of various sizes and shapes.
"So what do you think Morgan?" Asked Miss Slavovich.
"Oh ma'am, it's magnificent" I breathed.
"Better than me?" She asked in a breathy whisper.
"Oh ma'am... I... Umm... No ma'am... You're... Umm... And your umm... It's just..."
With a satisfied smile, Miss Slavovich gave my "thigh" one last firm squeeze, sat back in her chair and adjusted her top.
Cameraman number two choked on his snicker when I sent him a murderous glare and clenched my work hardened fist, causing all five knuckles to pop. He even managed to raise his camera up to Miss Slavovichs' face for once.
"Attention passengers, we have been granted expedited docking clearance, and should be docked in the station in just a few minutes."
Once we entered the docking bay, everything became a rather anti-climactic blur. There were dozens of photographers, picorecorders, camera drones, etc. Questions were thrown at me right and left, and my responses were little more than barely intelligible stutters and blurts.
Finally, I was herded along to a room on the outer hull, with it's own window looking out onto the planet far below.
Miss Slavovich and her ever present cameramen had disappeared a while ago. So I suddenly found myself all alone in my room. I sat down on the bed and watched the planet revolving slowly below. My head was spinning a bit after all the chaos, but now the relative silence was almost oppressive, I wondered what pa was doin' right now, and felt a little lonely.
There was a beep from my door.
I waved my hand in front of the sensor plate to open it.
"Compliments of the station manager Mr. Black." Said a spiffy young man, holding a bottle of champagne and a basket of muta-fruit.
"Oh... Umm... Thanks." I said with my usual eloquence.
The spiffy young man gave a nod of his head, and disappeared as the door swooshed shut.
I put the fruit and champagne on the little table beside the bed, and sat down again with a sigh.
There was a beep from my door.
I got up and opened it again.
Another spiffy young man was standing there, this time with a bundle of papers.
"Hello Mr. Black sir." He said. "I need you to sign for this packet sir."
"What is it?" I asked.
"Just the usual station information sir. Escape routes in case of evacuation, evacuation routes in case of a Thargoid attack, what to do in case of a hull breach or fire. The usual sort of thing sir." He said.
I was a long way from home.
After I signed and he left, I put the unopened packet next to the fruit, and once again sat on the bed.
There was another beep from my door.
"Yes, what is it?" I asked a bit impatiently as I motioned the door to open.
She didn't sparkle anymore... She glowed.
Her golden blond hair had been up in a tight glittery glamorous style throughout the day, but now it fell free down her back, tumbling nearly to her waist. Her sparkly gown had been replaced with a semi-sheer red strip of cloth. It fell to the floor both front and back, and yet was completely open on the sides. It appeared to be held in place by nothing more than a tiny silk ribbon, tied high up around her waist. This time, the front slit extended an almost scandalous distance below her adorable belly button ring. Her little feet were bare.
How my eyes managed to make it down as far as her feet, I will never understand.
"Morgan! I said, may I come in?" She evidently repeated.
I have no clue how long I had stood there, staring like the village idiot, but the self satisfied smile on her face, indicated she wasn't all that displeased with my reaction.
"I uh... I uh... I umm..." Yep, still Mr. Smooth.
"Say "yes" Morgan." She said.
"Yes." I said. Then quickly added "Ma'am..."
She stepped into the room, turned, and pushed a button next to the door sensor marked DND.
"There's no one here but you and I now Morgan, lets stop the "ma'am" stuff. My name is Terra."
"Yes Miss Slavovich." I managed to say.
She looked at me.
"Err... sorry. Yes Mis.. Err... Terra." I stuttered.
"You know Morgan, I came from the "boonies" too. My father was a slug hunter in the rain forests when I was young. I remember when I left home, I was pretty nervous and scared." She glided over to the window and looked out at the slowly spinning planet.
"I remember feeling pretty homesick that first night too." She turned and looked up into my eyes.
"Yes ma... Err... Ya, I guess I was feeling a little like that." I was also feeling a little embarrassed about admitting it.
Terra placed a warm hand on my chest. I felt like someone switched in the anti-grav plates again. Then, she walked over to the table and picked up the bottle of champagne.
"Do you mind if I open this?"She asked.
"Err... No ma... Err no. You go right ahead, and help yourself to some of that there fruit too if you've a mind to!" I said magnanimously.
Terra smiled as she set out two glasses that had been nestled in among the fruit, and after filling both glasses, brought them over and handed one to me. Then she curled one shapely calf and foot under her and sat on the foot of the bed.
I stood there awkwardly for a moment, then she patted the bed beside her and said. "Sit down Morgan, I won't bite."
I sat on the bed next to her and took a sip of the champagne.
"Well, what do you think? Do you like it?" She asked, as she sipped at her own glass.
"Well m... Terra, I reckon I do. It doesn't have the kick of pa's moonshine, but it doesn't suck the air out of your lungs like pa's spirits either." I drained the last of the bubbly liquid in my glass.
Terra laughed as she reached out and refilled my glass.
"Well, what do you know, you are speaking in complete sentences now too!" She giggled as she refilled her own glass.
I grinned and said. "Ya, I can manage one or two when I concentrate."
We both laughed, and afterwards, we talked for a while about life on Lave and growing up wild in the rain forest.
"Morgan, tomorrow after the ceremony, I will be heading back down to my job on the planet. While you, will begin your pilot training, and getting ready to fly your new ship.
I nodded slowly as I looked into her sky blue eyes.
"I can't help with your pilot training Morgan..." She said, as she set her empty glass on the floor and stood up in front of me.
"But I did promise to help you when we were on the shuttle didn't I?" She continued, as she took my empty glass from my hand and set it on the table beside the bed.
"Yes Terra, I reckon you did." I replied, as I watched her intently.
She grasped one end of the tiny silk ribbon that held the wispy red material around her waist.
"But I think I can help you feel a little less lonely on your first night away from home, don't you think Morgan?" She pulled on the ribbon.
"Yes Terra, I reckon you can." I replied a bit huskily.
The ribbon spooled onto the floor.
"Promise me something Morgan." She said as began to slip the wispy red material over head.
"Most anything you want Terra." I whispered.
"Be careful out there Morgan. I don't just mean the Thargoids and pirates. I mean always be careful. Be careful of who you trust and who you talk to. Whether it's on some other space station, or planet, or space-bar, everywhere. Promise me you will be careful."
Her voice was almost pleading.
"I promise Terra." I said solemnly.
The wispy red cloth followed the ribbon to the floor.