Tadik Versont's problems started just after his sixteenth birthday. Many years ago, parents often kicked their kids out of their home just when they felt like it, unless the authorities got wind of it when the child was picked up off the streets. Then global laws were brought into force and made the governments of the day forbid the throwing away of young lives. But if parents had good reason to, they could lawfully apply to the courts to have a troublesome child removed; and that reason had to be a sound one with solid evidence to back it up.
Tad's parents had no reason to send him away; he had good school grades, kept his nose clean, never got into trouble with the police, and helped his mother keep the house clean and tidy, earning praise from his father. Tad loved him totally, and considered him his closest friend, and the family was a closely knit and loving unit for Tadik and his sister. But when Tad was fourteen, Tadik Senior, a captain in the Terran Space Fleet ran afoul of a fleet of pirate ships somewhere in an isolated galaxy where he had been pioneering on behalf of NASA, a branch of the World Space Exploration Consortium. Broken, his mother couldn't cope on her own and Franklin Jute took advantage of her emotional state and swept her off her feet. Tad could always sense a bad person, and boy did he get bad vibes from that guy. His mother couldn't see anything bad in him, she was so glad to let someone else hold the reins. His promise to love and cherish her included her kids; well, all except Tad, whose mother accused him of being difficult and not making an effort to make friends with Franklin; but she couldn't read Franklin's mind like he could.
Tadik Versont was a budding telepath, thanks to one of his old tutors at school recognizing his latent talents and encouraging him to cultivate them. Another of Tad's slowly building talents was the ability to go into the mind of someone from another planet and interpret what that person was saying, without having to learn the language first. Despite new Galactic laws, this was discouraged on Earth as it was considered an invasion of privacy, and only used by certain authorities as a form of interrogation. Tutor Shait advised Tad to keep his talents under wraps, as people who were discovered to have talents like Tad's often disappeared in the name of science. Some of them were never seen again, some of them came home drugged up to the eyeballs with their minds running on half power. They couldn't remember anything. Not that they came to harm, but the whisper was that world governments were ultra keen on studying the paranormal mind. Frank hated Tad; he was a thorn in what Franklin considered to be marital bliss, which to him stood for the domination of Tad's mother. Tad could see that Franklin only used her as a breeding machine, giving her four children in quick succession; leaving her a tired shell of her former vibrant self. For this, Tad hated Franklin even more. Tad knew the tyrant would eventually find some excuse to get rid of him, legally or otherwise. Tad had read it in his mind often enough when he glared at Tad behind his mother's back; after that, Tad was always on his guard. When it happened, the way he did it was almost unbelievable.
Tad had a girlfriend at the time. He had only known her for a few weeks when she said she wanted to have sex with him. Tad was amazed that she picked him out of all the studs in school; Tadik Versont, a five-foot-four cutie with blond hair, baby blue eyes, and only just into jerking off, never mind having sex with anyone; so why pick him for a bed partner? They were both sixteen so, whatever they did would be legal, and she invited Tad to her apartment after school. Her parents were out somewhere and she lost no time in indicating what she wanted, virtually dragging him by his school tie up the stairs to her room. She thrust a fruit drink into his hand and started to rip off his shirt. He took a drink of the smoothie and didn't remember much after that. One minute he was thrusting into her for all he was worth, his brain spinning; the next minute he was staring down at her bloodied body as someone wrenched his arms behind his back and snapped a pair of handcuffs on him.
D'vork stretched, and then groaned as his muscles protested. Much as he enjoyed his visits to earth, he found sleeping in a Terran bed both too cramped and badly made for his seven-foot frame. One last nine-month round trip to Gpuchk, the planet of his birth, and back to Earth, he would be free to choose his own type of employment; his required ten year stint as a chief warrior in the Gpuchk Space Regiment would come to an end. Employment on Earth suggested a good choice, although they had no use for warriors of his standing on the blue planet. Wars here were a thing of the past since all countries had sworn to come together to battle the problems brought to them from far beyond their own galaxy.
D'vork gave a grunt of frustration as he got out of bed to have a shower. Earth had brought its problems upon itself with its blinkered determination to seek out other inhabited galaxies. Thinking they were the only ones with the knowledge of space flight, they had been rudely wakened from their blasé thoughts of safety, quickly finding that not all species were ready to shake hands. Quastor pioneers had picked up Earth's signals of peace and had attacked without warning; and it had taken this shock to rally all the countries of Earth into one strong fighting force to fend off the attacks. The Gpuchkians had been monitoring the Quastorians and had come to Earth's aid; a planet, not unlike their own. The ensuing agreement between Earth and Gpuchk had resulted in many years of amicable trades in commodities and scientific pursuits. As he showered, D'vork thought back to when the first signs of a crack in the status quo began. Once the people of Earth began to travel through space as more than just a rich man's pleasure trip, they learned that not all species held the same views on morality and culture.
On Gpuchk, with the ratio of one female to every fifty males, and the males having an abnormally high sex drive, what Earth people called homosexuality was the norm, and the females treated like royalty to be fought over and won by the best of the best. D'vork was not of that persuasion and was happy enough to have a mate chosen for him, even though the law provided that he could also take three male consorts of his choice. Other men, who were not as fortunate as D'vork, had to make do with a male companion, but had to adhere to strict codes of conduct within their habitat. There were rare occasions when a mate or a consort would be chosen from another planet, and that is what had happened with D'vork's parents.
His mother had been among the crew of one of the first space ships from Earth to land on Gpuchk as part of a Terran peace delegation. The Great D'bactu and Anna Marshal had soon fallen in love but members of the delegation had warned her that such a match would be physically impossible, considering that Gpuchk males were never less than six foot six in height, and D'bactu stood well over seven feet and had swarthy skin and a fierce countenance. One of Anna's more tactless friends laughed and said they reminded him of oversized Australian Aborigines, to which she had slapped his face hard. Not only were the Gpuchkians a fierce warrior nation, they were also gifted diplomats, but only the expertise of the Gpuchkean Chiefs of government had prevented a galactic incident before Earth had even begun their dream of space exploration. And so, D'bactu, the happy Gpuchkean monarch, had travelled back to Earth in the ambassadorial suite, to meet his in-laws, while the hapless loud-mouth spent the journey doing janitorial duties and looked forward to at best, a severe reprimand from his Base Commander, or at worst, a dishonourable discharge from the space force. D'vork had been the first of four children from that union.
D'vork smiled as he dried himself. Unbeknown to other species, the male Gpuchk had two ways of using the sex organ; the one that put dread into the best of their enemies, and would have torn a female to pieces, seconds after penetration, and no babies would ever have been born; the second way was one the Gpuchk wished to keep to themselves and their partners. D'vork glanced down at his equipment and wondered what Earth males would think of it. He supposed they would compare it to certain earthen animals whose penile tool was a sheath within a sheath, both retractable and fully extendible to amazing lengths. As far as D'vork knew, the Quastorians were the nearest species encountered who were equipped with a similar penis, but they fought with theirs extended in an effort to pose a threat to their opponents; a stance that the Gpuchkians regarded as bringing contempt upon the male body, and a ridiculous position to be in if confronted with a sword bearing enemy. The Quastorians were like Humans; they bled easily.
D'vork almost fell over, laughing, as he compared the reproductive organs of the three species. The Gpuchkeans won, of course, but the humans were a puny, pale skinned lot. "Sorry, mother. I suppose not all males can look like that wrestler, Hulk Hogan of many years ago," He remembered seeing pictures of the man mountain in an on-line Terran history library, and shook his head at the torturous efforts humans had to go through to achieve the physique the Gpuchkians gained quite naturally and kept till the day they died. D'vork turned to where his last, but still serviceable uniform hung against the door of his room. Made mostly of Rogoch leather, it no longer showed the high sheen of when the leather was new, and the steel plates needed a good clean, but why bother? This was his last nine months in military escort service, why bother with a new one? There were no official visits scheduled to other planets on this run, so it looked like a leisurely home run; boring as ever.
Once dressed to his satisfaction, he left his suite and took an air-born taxi to Space international and boarded a waiting shuttle. On arrival at the Galactic Space Dock, he stepped out onto the massive landing bay and looked, with quiet pride at the ongoing extension, being built with the might of Gpuchkian labour and technical expertise. Four times the size of Terra Main, it allowed for the many ships of outer galaxies to land. So far, only ten Galactic travellers had found an interest in Earth, but all the science of space flight had been learned from the instructional facilities of Gpuchk. D'vork chuckled to himself as he made his way cross the dock to his own ship. Earthlings were mere babies in the field of Galactic travel; maybe he could come back to earth and teach them a thing or two, and visit his grandparents and let them see that they were wrong to dismiss their daughter and her choice of spouse. For now, he still had a job to do. The Drock was an ageing hulk of a ship, ready to be scrapped on reaching Gpuchk. Oh well, it had served him well for ten years. Maybe it was time for them both to take a rest. He reached the main ramp and gazed up at the ugly beast. Not so pretty and sleek as the Earthling's ships with their love of spit and polish. The Drock was blackened with grime and pitted from space debris. The Earthlings refused to take the advice, as they quested further into the thousands of galaxies waiting to be explored, that Space was a dirty place, and not the place for shiny silver paint and colourful insignia, especially when they had to defend themselves against the hoards of pirates and unfriendly travellers.
U'lac, his commander, stood to attention at the top of the ramp, and saluted his smartly. "Welcome aboard, Captain. All is ready for take- off." He handed D'vork an inventory of the goods to be delivered to Gpuchk, mostly delicacies of Terran cuisine as a gift to the Gpuchkian Royal Family. The rest of the inventory caused D'vork to choke back a growl of anger.
"What is this? Quastorians on my ship? I don't think so. There must be some mistake. And this livestock; what do they think this is, a cattle pen? Surely High Command doesn't expect us to babysit this lot."
"That's not the only problem, Captain. With the new intake of ship's personnel, and our favourite visitors, we're full to the beams. Also, the new crew are mostly humans."
"Humans?" D'vork had a feeling that he would not enjoy this last trip.
"Yes, sir, it's part of the exchange program agreed between our government and theirs."
D'vork handed the folder back to U'lac. "Okay, Commander, let's get the inspection over with; I'm more than ready for a good sleep in my size of bed, and woe betide anyone who disturbs me once I lock my cabin door. Let's go."
"Will you be requiring a bed mate this time, Captain?"
"WHAT?" D'vork stumbled to a halt and stared at U'lac, in angry disbelief.
U'lac took a faltering step backward, his eyes full of fear. "Sorry, Captain. I know you're stressed, and the crew often use the favours of a bed-mate to relieve the stress. It does work, Captain: I've proved it mys......" U'lac's voice faded to a frightened whisper.
At last D'vork cottoned onto what his commander was trying to do. "Bed-mate; you mean a possible consort, don't you, Commander?" D'vork turned to continue down the corridor leading to the lifts. "I appreciate you and the crew thinking about my welfare, and I thank you for your consideration, but my sexual needs are my concern and no-one else's. Time and again you have sneaked a boy into my cabin, and I have sent him packing. I hope there is no one skulking in my cabin at this moment?"
"Then let it remain so, or your neck will feel my wrath. Is that understood, Commander?"
"Yes, sir" U'lac's voice had a lot of disappointment in it.
D'vork turned to face him and sighed. "Am I such a disappointment to you, my friend? You and the crew have earned my total respect over the years, but what you take as a tradition regarding your sexual persuasions, I cannot entertain. I am a happily married man, and so far have found no one I wish to have as a consort." He turned to continue to the lift area and waited for the one to the lower decks to arrive. The door slid open and he was suddenly in the midst of a noisy group of Quastorians. Not recognising him, they shouldered their way past him, muttering snide remarks and laughing. U'lac moved to bring them to order but D'vork grabbed him by the shoulder and held him still. When the lift was empty, he pushed him into it. "Be still, U'lac; we will have our moment later. Where have they been allocated?"
"C deck Captain, in the presidential suite. It's the only place we could put them at short notice."
"Well, at least they're far enough away from the armoury and the livestock."
G deck housed the maintenance and ancillary quarters, and also the small brig, which at the moment was an area of bedlam when D'vork and U'lac arrived. There was a fight going on in the main pen among the livestock while most of the guards on duty stood around and watched with great amusement. Then a scream of terror rang in D'vork's ear, but U'lac didn't seem to have heard it. Then a young voice in D'vork's head begged for help. He thrust his way through the guards till he stood in front of the cage bars. What he saw sickened him. These were the lowest of humankind, and considered nothing more than animals, hence the term livestock. According to the inventory, they were the scum of the Terran prisons, rapists, murderers and child molesters, all bound for the punishment moons of Gpuchk. Some of them were standing round spurring the others on as they fought over something on the floor. Torn remnants of an orange jumpsuit, the normal garb of a Terran prisoner, lay on the floor round their feet. Then D'vork spotted the pale skin of a struggling youth being held while another prisoner prepared to rape him.
"STOP THIS, AT ONCE." Everyone froze as the famous bellow of an angry Gpuchk blasted eardrums within thirty feet of the pen. D'vork signalled for the pen to be opened. He strode into the pen and the prisoners backed away from him, his towering size being enough to put the thought of attacking him out of their minds. He signalled for the guards to follow him in. He eyed the rapists with angry eyes. "You want to play, do you? Then I shall grant you your wish." Turning, he spoke to A'bant, the guard captain but not for long. "Take these gentlemen to C deck. I'm sure our guests there will be more than willing to keep them company." He gazed upon the rest of the prisoners and pointed to the smallest of them. "You, yes you. Take off your clothes and put them on the boy. There is a primary rule of this ship, which must be observed by everyone; crew, guests and prisoners alike. Any sexual activity must be at the consent of both parties. I will not tolerate anyone forcing themselves upon another, if they do not wish to participate. Let this be a warning; Quastorians are not very nice people to be with. You will behave yourselves or you will join your friends in the Quastorian quarters." He watched as the sobbing boy was helped into the jumpsuit, and then had a guard support him as he was helped out of the pen.
"Where do you want him to be placed?" A'bant asked. "The ship is overcrowded as it is."
"I don't care where you put him, as long as he's secure," D'vork replied, as he and U'lac walked away. "I'm sure you'll find somewhere."
"But, Captain," U'lac protested as they gained the lifts once more, "The Quastorians will rip these men to pieces long before we reach Gpuchk."
"You think I care? They're less than animals. They obviously did some terrible things, or they wouldn't be en route to the prison moons. Now they'll feel some of the pain they inflicted on their victims; it might give them something to reflect on and help them repent of their ways." They were silent until they walked onto the bridge to begin the journey home.
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