This …was not going to plan.
I stared at the body in front of me, dribbling dark red blood onto my cream Antarian leather upholstery. That was going to stain, no doubt about it. I took a deep breath. Stains were really not the most important thing here.
No, the important thing was that I had a human rock-star in my spaceship and I wasn’t sure if he was still alive. I tried to remember that module of xeno-biology I had taken in the first year. It was a struggle, because I’d mostly taken it to ogle the beautiful silicate life-form from Epsilon-Perseii IX. The memory of her sand-coloured body and scent like the cliffs looking over the beach at home filled my mind, driving out any thought of human anatomy.
That was a good sign, right? They didn’t do that if they were dead, right? I forced away the memory of Raffitia, and looked back at Zayne: human, rock-star, drop dead gorgeous. I liked to think of myself as an appreciator of the greatest art-form there is: the living being. I didn’t like saying that out loud though, because it made me sound unbearably pretentious.
Zayne groaned again and I leaned closer. His skin was a shade paler than my expensive leather seats and it probably wasn’t due to being coated in makeup. His glossy, dark hair fell in soft waves over his neck and shoulders, with a few locks straying over his face. I had an irresistible urge to brush them away, so I could see his long, delicate eyelashes and sharp cheekbones.
I was just reaching for him, when Zayne opened his eyes. He blinked twice, made a choking sound and spewed a foul-smelling liquid all over my boots. I was pretty sure that wasn’t a good sign. I leapt back as he sat up, added to the puddle twice more, and then lay back down again, resting a hand over his eyes.
He sat up again and blinked slowly, squinting around him. His eyes, dark as an empty patch of space, seemed blank and unfocused. He groaned and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.
“Where am I?”
His voice sounded different to how I remembered it. It still had that melodic quality that made it ring, but it sounded weaker now, and there was a trace of an accent that hadn’t been there before.
“You’re…” There didn’t seem much point in hiding it now. “You’re aboard my spaceship.”
If he heard me, I don’t think he understood. His eyes settled on me and I felt my hearts quiver slightly. A delicious shiver ran down my left-hand spine.
“Tom. What the hell did you slip me?”
“Slip you?” I wished I’d studied harder before coming here. Then I might be more familiar with the local idioms. Then I might not have a semi-conscious rock-star in my ship and his breakfast all over my shoes.
“Yeah. You drugged me, didn’t you? Someone did.”
I thought he might be annoyed at this, or maybe frightened, but he sounded resigned.
“So, what’s the ransom this time? Let’s get this over with quickly.”
“Ransom?” I repeated, hating myself for sounding so stupid. There was just something about this man that turned my very core to a quivering mess, like fresh slatch-cake.
Zayne sighed, gently probing at the cut on his forehead with an elegant finger. It had mostly stopped leaking now, at least. “You know, Tom, you may be an even worse kidnapper than you were photographer.” He reached into the pocket of his tight leather trousers and tossed something silver at me. “Go on, make the call. I’ve got better things to do than sit here surrounded by my blood and puke.”
I looked down at the little silver rectangle in my hand. “Zayne, I have a confession to make. I’m not a photographer, and I’m not a kidnapper.”
He laughed, though I couldn’t detect any humour in it. “The first one I guessed. The second one is going to require some more explanation.”
“Can you walk?” I asked him, offering my hand. He gripped it and stood up slowly. Zayne took an experimental step forward, but stumbled and ended up clutching my arm tightly. That shiver was racing up and down both my spines now. “Are… are you all right?”
He nodded, though his face was not just pale but vaguely green now. “I’m good. Are you sure you didn’t drug me?”
“No, I hit you with a mic stand.” I hung my head. “Sorry about that.”
“What did you do that for?” Now he sounded annoyed and I couldn’t really blame him. He was still gripping my arm like a tractor beam, though.
“I wasn’t aiming for you! It all got a bit out of hand after I kissed you.”
We had been slowly moving across the deck of the ship towards the main screen. Zayne was concentrating on his feet, every now and then making these odd coughing-hiccup sounds that were both adorable and alarming. Now he looked up and his face went whiter than the sky on Rigel VII.
“Tom…That’s the Earth,” he murmured, pointing at the screen. “Why is the Earth down there? Where are we, Tom? Where the hell are we?” His fingers dug into my arm.
I took a deep breath. No one ever taught me how to deal with situations like this at university. “We’re in orbit around the Earth. On my spaceship. And my name isn’t Tom. It’s Xct.”
“Now I know you drugged me!” Zayne laughed, his eyes wide. “No way am I actually orbiting the Earth on a spaceship with an alien named Zit.”
“Xct. It’s pronounced Xct.”
“I don’t think I can pronounce that.”
“It’s possible. You do lack an Olfman’s organ.”
Zayne stared at me, as if he had forgotten how to blink. Then his eyes rolled up in their sockets and he collapsed in my arms with a soft sigh.
Zayne woke up about five minutes later, and I was careful to keep my boots away this time. Fortunately he didn’t seem too bad and was able to sit up and watch me with a guarded expression almost immediately after coming round.
“So, Tom or Zit or whatever your name is. Perhaps you better start from the beginning.”
I nodded slowly, feeling strangely nervous. I was aboard my ship; I wasn’t injured; in fact everything was in my control. But I felt terrified at revealing my true self to Zayne. What if he didn’t like what he heard?
“My name’s Xct, and I’m a second year student at Betelgeuse University,” I said, not meeting his eye. “I won a sports scholarship, as I’m not exactly what you would call academic. Last year I took a module in pan-galactic music because it sounded easy and the lecturer was hot. I heard your songs and they… they were like nothing I’d ever heard before. They were like… like…a storm in a nebular crossed with your first kiss crossed with the most painful memory imaginable. They spoke to me, and that was really strange because I didn’t understand the words.”
Zayne frowned, but his expression had softened somewhat. “You’re a fan? I have an alien fan?”
“Oh, you’ve got lots of fans, but I’m your biggest.”
“They all say that,” he laughed. “Go on.”
“Well, I really wanted to see you in person, and this year I found a way. There was a journalism module that included a project to make a report on something outside your own culture. I got my father to pull some strings – planets which don’t have official contact are generally off limits – and he set me up as a photographer for this music magazine who was doing an interview with you.”
Zayne was starting to believe me, I could tell. His eyes were still wide, and his cute mouth was hanging open, but somehow I knew he didn’t think I was lying.
“That… that explains why you were in my dressing room, and why you took such lousy photographs. But not why you hit me with a mic stand. That bit’s still a little hazy.”
I looked down at my boots. I’d cleaned the mess off them, but they still reminded me of my shame. “I…er… I didn’t mean to hit you. You have to believe me on that. You’d just started singing a few lines of your newest track, and I lost it. I just had to kiss you. Have you ever felt like that? Like your life will end right there and then if you can’t touch a person?”
“I can’t say that I have,” he admitted, rubbing the back of his neck. There was a blush of red across his narrow cheeks and I hoped that wasn’t another bad sign.
“Well, one day you will. It’s powerful. You need to feel it for yourself.” I cleared my throat. I was getting away from the point. “I had to kiss you and so I did and you looked shocked, but you didn’t pull away. And then suddenly there was this man in the room and he was yelling, and you were yelling, and then you were crying and I just knew I had to stop him. So I grabbed the mic stand and I swung at him. Unfortunately, you tripped and got in my way and I knocked you out. You fell into my arms and I panicked, so I teleported back to my ship.”
Zayne licked his lips. “I do remember that. That was my dad who was yelling. My music is aimed at the teenage girl market, and he doesn’t like anything that jeopardises said teenage girls idolizing me. Kissing another man in front of a reporter was pretty much the ultimate sin. Wonder what he’d say if he knew you were actually an alien.” He looked up at me with those big, deep eyes that just seem to pull me in. “So what happens now?”
“I’ll have to get everything cleaned up. There will need to be memory-wiping, and any camera footage erased. I’ll get into a lot of trouble. They might even kick me out of university.”
“It was worth it,” I replied and I meant every word.
“Will they have to wipe my memory too?” he asked quietly. “I… I don’t think I want that.”
“Sorry, it’s the rules.”
“But I don’t want to forget!” he cried out, clenching his fists. “I never wanted to be a rock-star. I wanted to be an astronomer. Or maybe one of those people that wave ping-pong bats in front of aircraft. I hate crowds and stage lights make my head hurt. My name isn’t even Zayne. It’s Roger. Roger Davis. Not very rock-star, is it?”
He was breathing heavily, his face scrunched up. I hated to seem him hurt, and hated more that I was the cause of it. But what could I do to make things right? Maybe… I reached out and touched his hand, which made him look up sharply.
“Want to run away for a bit? We’ll probably get in even more trouble, but this is a pretty sweet ship and I think I can show you a few things before they catch up with us.” It wouldn’t fix anything. In fact, it would make everything a thousand times worse. Looking in his eyes, though, I could see he was thinking the same thing. And like me, he didn’t give a damn.
“That… that sounds amazing. Can we see Saturn? And the storm on Jupiter? And get up close to a comet?”
“Anything you want.” His enthusiasm was adorable. “Let me show you the galaxy, Roger Davis.”
“You know, I was wrong about you, Zit,” he said, squeezing my hand. I let out an involuntary squeak. “You’re the best kidnapper I’ve ever had.”