THE SELECTION

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He was powerful, charismatic and, most would say, a very handsome humanoid male. Rauley, leader of the Simtag people, had been with many women in his lifetime but now he felt it was time to pick a permanent mate. He wanted a woman to have heirs with, a female of exceptional beauty and intelligence who could compliment him, a gorgeous companion he could show off to his people. She would be their sovereign, just under him, and needed to be respected … and defer to him in turn.

A woman with all these abilities would be difficult to find. Yet, he suspected there was at least one worthy jewel amongst all the women on Moonbase Alpha who could fulfill the demands on his wish list.

From afar, they had been monitoring them for weeks; observing the Commander and his people for signs of psychosis or infirmity, and they found them delightfully normal.

"Excellency," Milo, his second in command, asked a question which had troubled the scientist for some time, "Why not select one of our own women? You have many admirers, Simtag women, who will do whatever you desire. The women of our planet would die for you if necessary." He then added, "Frida, the Chancellor's daughter, is much loved by your people and is devoted to you."

"She's a child." Rauley commented, unimpressed. "Not nearly the challenge I crave, my friend. These Alphan women are independent and priceless. All that I admire."

The computer on his great ship flashed faces before he and Milo. Rauley was enchanted even further. "And they are all quite fine-looking." he said, folding his arms across his chest.

Milo paused on Maya's image, "She's Psychon." he said, "The last of her kind. A true prize. A metamorph." The men watched a brief clip of her various changes.

Rauley considered her, his robes shimmering as he paced. "Lovely, yes. And intelligent, I am sure. But her abilities, whilst amusing, would eventually tire me. Besides, Psychons were enormously proud people and I would rather not risk the aggravation. I want a challenge, Milo. Not an ordeal."

A few more photographs popped up on the screen and Rauley paused on Melita Kelly, "Very pretty." he said.

"And smart." Milo confirmed, "According to her file her husband died on Alpha during an altercation with an entity they called a 'space brain'. She has remained unattached since his demise."

"A lonely widow." he mused. "Hold onto her and let us see who else is available."

Other photographs flashed on the screen but Rauley by-passed them with cursory comments. Too young, too old, no presence, unable to have children, too naïve. And simply not beautiful enough …

Milo looked up at his leader. "I hesitate to show you more, Excellency."

"Why, they do not fit my criteria?"

"It's not that. These others are firmly attached to their own mates. They are already taken."

Rauley considered it for a moment, "I want to see them anyway."

At the push of a button more photographs burst onto the screen.

He leaned back on his heels and watched them, fingers laced together, discerning. Then Rauley started when he saw her. "Wait." She was dazzling. "More information."

"Name: Dr. Helena Russell. She is Alpha's Chief Medical Officer. She is quite brilliant, a leader …"

"Show me even more."

Milo looked from her photograph to his leader and back to the computer. He tapped a few more buttons and they watched in real time as Helena walked from Command Center to her medical unit. She smiled at a passerby who waved at her."

"More." Rauley said, fascinated. "Show her history."

Various clips and images of Helena came into view. He watched her on Piri lifting a weapon to protect herself and the Commander. Her lovely legs did not escape Rauley's attention. He then viewed her bravery during the "space brain" incident, attempting all in vain to save Kelly's life despite the danger to her own. More recently he observed her sculpt an image of herself from clay. Maya, the Psychon, was with her and they laughed at something that was verbally exchanged. The last image was of her wearing a lovely dark pink gown. A smooth bare shoulder, arm and leg were exposed. She was attending a party of some kind with her friends. Helena Russell was smiling, attracting some attention from the men around her, and Rauley was entranced.

"I want her."

"A problem, sir."

"Yes you already said she has a mate. I am sure when Dr. Russell sees and hears what I have to offer she will …"

"Her companion is the Commander of the moonbase, Excellency." Milo studied her file, "Evidently they are very fond of one another, have discussed marriage and children …" Milo pushed a few more buttons, "I get the impression from their history together that it is a very deep relationship. He will not let her go without a fight."

Rauley acknowledged his findings but the Russell-Koenig bond only furthered her appeal, "The Commander's woman. No wonder I immediately felt we are well matched." He looked from her to Milo, "Let us present ourselves to these Alphans."

"Sir?"

"We will be honest with them up to a point. Then we will have to be shrewd."

Milo nodded, unsure.

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They called to Moonbase Alpha and introductions were hastily made. Rauley told Commander Koenig, and all in Command Center, who he was and that he and his people meant them no harm. They were returning to their home planet, Simtag, and saw their wandering moon. He sympathized with their struggles and hoped to help them with whatever knowledge and necessities he and his people could provide. Rauley said he would be gratified and honored if Koenig would accept their gifts in the munificent manner intended.

As always, Koenig was leery but the man's openness was engaging. He and his people appeared harmless and could help Alpha if what he said was true.

Sandra Benes looked from the screen to Maya then the Commander. She had a bad feeling despite the unthreatening nature of these aliens.

"One other item of interest, Commander." he said, "I'm telling you this so we can be absolutely honest with one another. You see, I am in the market for female companionship, a wife, and I would sincerely like to talk with one of your ladies, a beautiful gem I am quite taken with."

A few of the women in Command Center smiled and glimpsed at one another, obviously interested in the handsome alien.

Verdeschi looked at the Commander and his eyes rolled.

"We won't just give you one of our women." Koenig advised, wary.

"Of course not, Commander! I did not mean to give you that impression. I merely wish to see her, speak with her, and possibly even woo her. If there is no connection between us, if she does not share my attraction, then we will leave. No harm done." Then he chuckled, "Except possibly to my own broken heart." Rauley asked Commander Koenig if he would be willing to have him come to Alpha, just he and two companions. They would carry no weapons. "We are a peaceful people, Commander. Truly, we want to help you. And," he added, "I hope the splendor of my dreams feels I am worthy of her attention."

"May I ask who the woman is you are interested in?"

"Yes, of course." Rauley smiled, "Her name is Melita Kelly."

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The Simtags awaited Alpha's answer while Koenig spoke with his people.

"I don't like that they spied on us." Alan Carter said, looking up at the Big Screen, at the spaceship. "He had to have gone through Computer to find Melita."

Sandra nodded.

Koenig said, "Maya, has Computer reported any distraction of information?"

Maya punched a few buttons on her console. "Nothing taken away. There was a viewing of female personnel files. I can see that. They also strolled through our supply list."

"Why would he do that?" Sandra asked from her console, worried.

Maya said, "Perhaps they are checking to see what they can offer us."

"Or what they want to take from us." Verdeschi said, unconvinced.

"I think they can give us far more than what we can give them." Koenig commented, thinking aloud.

"They seem to just want to be friends." Maya looked at her Commander, "Do we allow Rauley and his people access?"

"Yes," Koenig decided, "But he and his companions will have guards on them at all times.

"Yes sir."

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"He shopped for me like you would from a store catalogue?" Melita Kelly asked Dr. Russell when she came to her and told the woman what she had been informed.

Helena nodded but couldn't help a smile, "I suppose you could say that but, from what the Commander tells me, Rauley is very good looking and charming. He's coming here to meet with you and help us, Melita."

"Do I have to meet him, Doctor?"

"Not at all. Rauley made it quite clear he was interested but he would not force himself on you."

"Let me think about it."

Helena nodded and left the woman to greet their visitors.

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Rauley, Milo and a large man from his security division came to Alpha on a beam of blue light. They appeared in Command Center, carrying large boxes, the moment Koenig gave him the affirmative.

All in Command center were stunned by how quickly he and his men assembled.

The aliens were tall and attractive, their shimmering robes were striking, but Rauley himself was truly special. His smile was bright, sandy hair long but well groomed, and his manner was eloquent but masculine. In Earth terms his age appeared anywhere from his early to mid thirties. Perhaps older but it was difficult to tell.

Helena came in and caught their appearance just as the light faded. She stood quietly, slightly behind Koenig, and eyed the men, fascinated. She looked quickly around the center and tried to hide amusement. Even Maya seemed a bit taken aback by the new-comers magnetism and Helena wondered if Melita Kelly would be just as enthralled when or if she met Rauley.

"Commander," Rauley approached boldly and lifted a hand to shake Koenig's, "I am so pleased to meet you and your people." He saw Helena behind him and, pausing at the sight of her, quickly averted his eyes. He continued, "We have brought you gifts." He indicated his men, "Minerals that may help you with food production. An amber fluid which, when added to water, will give each Alphan his or her full daily requirement of vitamins. And a fuel source that can add thousands of miles to your Eagle travel time."

"Thank you." Koenig said. He looked at the Psychon, "Maya, will you take these items to our lab so we can better analyze them?"

"Yes, sir." She left with two male operatives who seized and carried the boxes from Command Center.

Rauley looked about the area and his smile widened, "This is wonderful, Commander!" he enthused, "You and your people are remarkable. You have been in deep space for how many months?" Before Koenig could answer he continued, "And you've managed to survive all its dangers! You deserve to be rewarded and I and my people want to help you any way we can."

"You are most generous." Koenig said, diplomatically. He knew what was utmost on his people's minds and asked, "Your planet, Simtag, is habitable?"

Milo immediately understood and played his part as instructed, "Yes, it is. And if your people and ours are companionable we may, with his Excellency's permission, welcome you to live there with us."

Rauley nodded his assent and a please gasp radiated through the facility.

"How far away is it?" Carter asked, now very interested.

"Far for you and your people." Milo admitted, "The moon is going nowhere near our world but there is always our spacecraft." He looked up at the Big Screen. "We may need to take many trips but it could be done in perhaps a weeks time if we agree."

"We need more information." Helena approached from behind Koenig. She spoke directly to Rauley. "Not just our personal compatibility but also facts about your planet to see if it can truly sustain us."

Rauley gazed at her, privately admiring Helena's directness. The woman's voice was throaty, softly inquisitive. Her eyes, a lovely shade of green, held his and he thought, for just an instant, he could easily get lost in them. Right now he wanted nothing more than to reach out and touch her soft silvery hair, take her in his arms and possess her. But that would come in time. "We completely understand your position, Dr. Russell." he said, neutrally. He then bowed politely.

Sandra, who had been watching the exchange closely from her console, frowned. It was subtle but the data analyst saw something there, a desire in the man, that went above a normal, casual interest. Sandra glanced at the others who did not seem to pick up on the obvious attraction as she had.

"We brought our man, Laster, here for you to examine." Rauley said and nodded to the third alien in their group. "And Dr. Milo, our craft's scientist, can give you whatever information you may need regarding Simtag."

The aliens observed as the Alphans, including Koenig, nodded with approval.

Rauley also watched as Helena Russell moved from him to Koenig's side, smiling brilliantly, and - pleased - the Commander put his arms around her and hugged his woman gently.

Sandra, once again, saw something in Rauley's expression. Disapproval, she thought. No … jealousy.

Rauley, after a brief hesitation, smiled broadly. "Now Commander, I do not mean to be discourteous, but is it possible for me to meet Melita Kelly? The sooner the better. I am most anxious."

He's lying. Sandra did not know how she knew it. There was no proof, these people seemed kind, but she felt there was something very wrong with the Simtags, particularly Rauley. She would discuss it with the Commander or Dr. Russell when she got off duty.

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END OF PART ONE.

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