Justin Nesbit, soldier turned prospector, crash lands on a planet in a star system that doesn't exist on any map. He's taken prisoner by the natives, and finds himself thrust into a strange new culture, a strange new language ... and strange new feelings. From the start, Sajah, the alien leading the natives, is intensely interested in him.
Sajah is a big and strange alien, unlike anyone Justin has ever encountered in his life. Fumbling through cultural and language barriers, they become friends. But one crucial moment of misunderstanding changes Justin's entire situation and leads him down a path to a choice he never imagined in his wildest dreams.
A groan escaped Justin as he stood up. Damn it, he was tired. Better to get his rations out of the ship now though, as opposed to trying tomorrow when he would be too sore to navigate the wreck safely. Still needed to find a secure place to bed down, in case there were predator animals on the planet. Then sleep. Justin could sleep for ages at this point.
He hobbled his way back and strained getting up into his ship. The ramp was jammed in its slot, so Justin forced himself to jump and scramble in. Galley was a wreck, but the emergency rations were still intact. Justin snatched up the whole box, just in case. Same shit getting the box out and Justin swore he was going to refit his ship with a manual ramp control for next time.
As he was straightening up with, thankfully, his last load, he stopped abruptly, face to face with a ruby-eyed creature whose skin was the color of steel and a riot of dusky brown fur. He dropped the box, surprised, when the being spoke.
“Sah,” and a tumble of sounds spilled out of the faintly pronounced mouth. When it brandished a spear in his face, Justin careful raised his hands before dropping to his knees, his eyes automatically lowering to the grass. Best to seem as harmless as possible.
The alien in front of him moved away, but stayed well within spear reach. From his peripheral vision, it came off as the posture Justin himself would take for questioning an unknown, but apparently non-hostile, person. Without the being blocking his line of sight, Justin chanced it and glanced up, got a good look at how truly, probably, fucked he was. A semi-circle of a dozen spear-wielding aliens had trapped him. Massive beings, the shortest two standing as tall as Justin and the tallest one well over seven feet, the rest falling somewhere in between.
All were solidly built, arms and legs corded and long. Their short, sleek pelts ranged in a wild variety of colors, covering their bodies everywhere except the thick chests and hard bellies where the skin colors contrasted severely. All wore some sort of wrap around the hips, the boldly colored fabrics secured with clasp at the side and the cloth came all the way down to the strangely backward-bending knees. The aliens stood on the balls of their lightly furred feet, toes splayed wide for balance.
A quieter voice spoke more unintelligible words, and Justin looked up towards the speaker. Silver eyes caught him fast. This one, not as big as some, but carrying an authoritative air, started gesturing at him in a universal order to stand. Justin did so, and the rest of the being’s facial details started filtering into his awareness. The long and glossy mane of black hair tumbling around the alien’s face, parting high on either side of the large skull to make way for the tall and velvety pointed ears. High-slanting cheekbones and strangely triangular nose gave the creature an almost canine appearance, but the lush mouth and square jaw looked damned human. The black fur was absent from the alien face, revealing skin as pale as true ivory. Silver Eyes, as he privately named the being, issued what seemed to be an abrupt command, flashing very sharp teeth in the process.
Steel Skin grabbed him before Silver Eyes finished talking, wrenched Justin’s arms behind his back, and bound them together with a coarse rope. That was as rough as any of them got with him. A gentle nudge to the shoulder had Justin moving quietly along, the aliens coming around to encircle him with Steel Skin bringing up the rear. Resigned to it for the moment, Justin instead focused on the predatory grace with which Silver Eyes, walking in front of him, moved. The soldier in him appreciated the quick lightness of Silver Eyes’ walk, alert but steady. The human in him was a little unnerved by the long, black, sleek tail.