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Pigs In Space

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Starsky and Hutch holding space guns and standing posed in front of a souped up Torino with rocket boosters.

You know, you never can guess when the universe is about to throw you a doozy of a curve-ball pie-in-the-face. But usually it's when you've looked away for a second and are just turning back. Then it's whammo! And there you are with a schnoz full of coconut cream.

If I sound like a guy who speaks from experience, it's because I'm still trying to get all the gunk out of my nose.

I guess I should start a little further back, so you can get an idea of who I am and why the projectile came as such a damned surprise. My name is Dave Starsky, and I'm a detective. So you'd think I might've seen it coming. But I didn't.

I'm a Detective Sergeant, First Class, with the FPC, the Floating Police Corps. Actually, these days I've taken to calling myself a 'cop.' What the heck is a 'cop'? I hear you wondering, and maybe scratching your head a little (you really should look into a dandruff treatment.)

Well, nowadays no one uses the term, but back in the Twentieth Century, police officers were called 'cops,' or sometimes 'pigs.' I think a pig is a creature that got hunted to extinction before the Global Life Preservation Act came into effect.

I guess maybe I should include a glossary with this memoir.

Anyway, I don't know why the police were called that. Or even 'cops.' But I've been watching a lot of these old detective vids that got excavated from the ruins of Southern California after the Big One, and the slang they used really appealed to me, so I started using it.

Hutch hates it, of course. He's always been one of those guys who talks all smooth and polite. That is, until a perp[i] gets in his face. Then all of that dead cool melts like the Earth's last ice cap did about fifty years ago, and next thing you know he's mouthing off like you wouldn't believe.

That isn't the only thing that melts his cool, either. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I guess I should tell you about Hutch, too, since I've mentioned him, and since he's the main reason I'm writing this thing. Hutch is my partner on the Force and my best pal. We've been buddies since we first met at the Academy back in 2168. I'd never met anyone like him before. Smart; I mean, whip smart. And kind of naïve sometimes, but really biting and sarcastic at others. An idealist with a big gun. He came to the Academy from some backwater farming commune called New Duluth in one of the outlying moon bubbles that no one ever visits unless they are into agriculture. That, or they are really, really tired of having any excitement in their lives.

Hutch is tall—taller than me, even—good-looking, blond, and he can be a total klutz in a 1G environment, except when he's running. Then he looks like one of those four-legged spotted creatures from the old Wild Kingdom vids, long legs all blurry as they eat up the ground. But I remember when we were first training at the Academy he kept tripping over himself and falling, and he always looked surprised, like he didn't expect the deck to be so close. Or so hard.[ii]

We work together at Parker Space Station, a floating pile of crap that supposedly was built to be mobilized in the event of planetary attack, but really sort of lurks most of the time in geostationary orbit just over the island of California. The space and all the stations over Southern California is our beat, New Bay City.

'Beat' is another of those old detective vid words. It means the area we are responsible for patrolling for bad guys. That's what we do. And we're really good at what we do. Not because we have a faster ship or better weapons or tracking tech. It's because Hutch and me, we're the perfect team. Feels like we've been partners forever. There ain't nothing I wouldn't do for him, short of hurting some innocent, and I know he feels the same about me.

I guess it's because of that, because we're so damned close, that if you'd asked me a week ago if there were anything about Hutch I didn't know, I would have laughed in your face.

I would've been wrong, though.

See, it all started with this shark[iii] named Ray Hizzgoah. He was setting up these nice, juicy patsies[iv] and then snuffing 'em once he had their loot.[v] It was an ugly business. On one hand, I really don't like messing with the real flakes[vi], the dingoes[vii] who kill because they have a loose wire upstairs. They can do things that will turn even a cast-iron constitution like mine. But at least with them you know it's 'cause they're sick in the head.

But punks[viii] like Ray, they're just in it for the green.[ix] And that's no excuse at all. Guys like that make you wish you had license to terminate with prejudice. Only, we're supposed to be the good guys.

Anyway, back to Ray. He'd been setting up these rope-a-dope[x] deals and the word came down to our friend Huggy Bear. He's a good friend of ours, owns an infusion bar over on Venezia, the station where Hutch and I live. So Huggy got word about Ray and gave me a call to come on over . . . .


Two Days Earlier . . .

"Hutch," I said, "Huggy's got a tip on some shark named Ray."lt;/p>

Hutch gave me this look like, 'Why do you insist on using that stupid detective-speak.' But since he's pretty much started using it himself now, I just ignored him.

"Let's jet," he said, and we used the grav-chute to get to my wheels,[xi] a rocket-red Ford Turbino speeder with a white stripe. Man, she is so pretty. I keep telling Hutch I want to have her engine converted to a plasma drive, but he says it will be a subzero day in Hell before he rides around with antimatter tucked under his 'nads.

Wuss.

In three shakes we docked at Venezia and went over to the Pits, Huggy's i-bar. Huggy always makes us come to him because he's afraid of being tapped on the comm, and he also makes us come in through the servobot entrance because he says having the fuzz[xii] around makes him look bad. As if everyone in this sector doesn't know that he's a buddy of ours.

"What it ain't, dudes," said Huggy.

"That's what we're hoping you'll tell us, Hug," Hutch said, almost patiently, for him, and Huggy grimaced and gave us the low down.

He said rumor had it this guy Ray had a special jump-ship outfitted with all the luxury trimmings—holo, Jacuzzi, giant anti-grav bed. He would pick some juicy patsy and get them to run away with him, using some story or other to get them to front a bunch of credits. And when they came onboard with the green for the cruise, Ray would burn him or her, jettison the corpse, and fly on back home, easy-peasy, to start all over again. The only reason Huggy had heard about it was Ray got tanked one night and let slip one hint too many to a guy who was looking for a new scam to try. Braggart.

"Damn, that's sick," I said, when Huggy finished laying it all out. Hutch looked a little ill, himself. That's subzero, to do someone like that and not even let the family have the body afterward.

Huggy told us Ray had been seen back at Venezia a couple of times, spending like a thief (which he was) and was probably ready to go on the prowl again. Only Huggy didn't know where Ray was docked the rest of the time, or where Ray was staying, or who the new patsy would be. Just someone here, at Venezia. If we were gonna collar[xiii] Hizzgoah, we had to catch him in the act. And to do that, we had to find the future pigeon.[xiv]

Huggy only had the name of one of the previous victims, and he didn't know where Ray liked to hang out, so we went back to Parker, and Hutch started researching that end. See, that's something Hutch is terrific at: he can gather and go over data like with a fine comb until some new lead wriggles out. In this case, he managed to gather a whole bunch of intel about the victim, Kurt Cordwainer.

And that's where I come in. See, I know from people. I know how they think. Sometimes it seems like people's motivations are a bit of a mystery to Hutch, like he doesn't quite think like the rest of us humans. But that's okay, because I pick up where he leaves off.

I took the info and started to get a real good profile on the poor guy. And one thing I noticed was he seemed a bit of a loner, the type of fella to frequent pleasure bars and the like. Like that was the focus of his life outside of work. And since he didn't have family, I guessed Ray figured there was no one who'd kick up a fuss if he disappeared. Except us, of course. We cared a whole lot, and not just because it was our job.

So we started hitting the pleasure bars. Now, don't get me wrong—I like a bit of naked flesh as much as the next guy, but some of these places . . . man, you wouldn't believe it. Femz with three breasts, or two rows of nipples, or guys with tails grafted on. Prehensile tails. Hutch turned bright red when he saw that one. I don't think I'd ever seen that color on him before, except for the time I dropped some illegally imported jalapeño peppers into his soy-shake.

That was fun.

Anyway, we made the rounds, talking to folks, trying to find someone who knew Kurt based on the holopix we had on him. And finally we struck gold[xv] at Trixie's, a pleasure bar—the kind of place where you could pay ten units for two minutes to stare at a guy doing the most amazing things with a canary. I could tell Hutch was really uncomfortable, yet fascinated, which kinda fascinated me a little, to tell you the truth, but I didn't really have time to think about it just then because we were on the case.

Trixie came up to us, a chick[xvi] covered head to foot in synthleather. I swear she couldn't have hidden a pubic hair under that thing. In fact, I'm pretty sure she wasn't trying to.

"Hi there, boys. What can I do for you?" She sorta shimmied a little even just talking, a pretty nifty trick. Hutch looked momentarily incapable of speech, and I was tempted to blow in his ear to get his attention, but instead I just whipped out my badge.

"FPC, Ma'am," I said, respectfully, and went into it, asking her if she'd seen our victim. She took about two seconds to identify him, saying he came in there a lot. We didn't tell her she'd just lost a good regular.

She told us a little about his tastes, which were kinda surprising—very straight. He liked to see men with men, kissing. That was it. Just kissing and touching.

Weird kink.

Anyway, I asked Trixie if there were any of her regulars she hadn't seen around in a while, and she named a couple. And then Hutch asked, with this funny note to his voice, if there were any other p-bars that specialized in this particular kink. Men kissing. Trixie named a few off the top of her head.

So that's where we went next. And we found out two of the people Trixie mentioned had also been regulars, and also hadn't been around, lately. We were sure we had found Ray's hunting ground.

I made a semi-serious suggestion that Hutch and I could go undercover on-stage and just wait for Ray to show up, watch who he talked to, but Hutch shot me a look of such horror I shut my mouth, fast. That Hutch should be horrified at the thought of kissing me was just . . . silly. But Hutch clammed up and wouldn't even talk about it.

So, instead we started staking out the p-bar rooms as clientele. We went from bar to bar before settling on Trixie's, since all three victims had been known to frequent that one. Then we sat and waited.

Tell you the truth it was kinda nice, just watching guys kissing. They were good kissers, and they went on a long time. Of course, I wasn't really watching them; I had one eye peeled for our shark, and the other eye was crossed trying to keep it on Hutch, who really couldn't seem to stop ogling the stage show. Also, he had a huge boner.

Now, there are a lot of things I know about my partner; like, he brushes his teeth not once, but twice every night, and uses a flosspik, before going to bed; he wears his weapon all the time, even when he's off-duty; he has an awful sense of humor, and we're talking just terrible. The guy couldn't make a good joke if his life depended on it, and sometimes it has. But there was one thing I never suspected of him, and that was that he, you know, could like guys. Like that.

Like I do.

I had never once considered it because the guy gets more female action than a gigolo on a retirement planet. Not that I'm a slouch in that department, either, but to think that Hutch might also be a switch hitter[xvii] gave me some serious chill bumps.

Oh, I'm not saying I wanted to hop in the sack with him, necessarily. I haven't been so lucky in the love department, you know? They always seem to die on me. Or leave. And Hutch, he's the best friend I got in the whole solar system. I'd hate to fuck that up just for what would be, admittedly, some pretty hot sex, if the stories the shuttle stewardesses tell me are anything to go by. I mean, I've heard he can go for hours. And hours.

But hot sex can be had even with your own hand if you're watching the right vids. What you can't find in this universe is someone who loves you as much as he does me.

See, that's another thing I know about him. The guy loves me. Really loves me, would do anything for me, just like I would for him. So, that's a pretty good thing right there, not something to monkey[xviii] with unless you have a damned good reason.

Only problem is, I got one. A damned good reason. Which is, I'm really hot for the guy. Have been since forever. Just a chronic condition, nothing serious, unless you consider a heart attack serious.

Watching Hutch watching those guys kiss, and seeing him catch titanium in his pants, that was a pretty big moment for me. Huge.

Of course, that was the moment that Ray the Shark decided to make an appearance.

Ray was big—real big—and I found myself thinking I was glad I brought my phase-gun and my regular taze-pistol with me. I dropped Hutch a look and he snapped out of his fog immediately, giving me a flick of the eye that he was on it. We both watched peripherally as Ray moved in to start a convo with this pale-looking young man who looked pretty well-heeled. The conversation went on for a while, and we could see the young guy was getting really into it. Hutch casually moved passed them and I saw him take a quick holopic with his watchcam. He did it so subtly that if I hadn't been watching him closely, even I wouldn't have noticed.

Then Hutch walked out. I knew he was already hurrying to the Turbino to send the data to Parker to try to get an ident on the kid. I stuck around to see if Ray was satisfied with his new pigeon or if maybe he'd move on. But the two of them talked for a long time, and then snuck into a dark corner for some kissy-face, and I knew this was a good possible. I moved closer to the pair and then waited until their attention was fully engaged before shooting a blow-bug, watching with satisfaction as it planted itself on the back of Ray's jacket. We'd be able to track him to his ship now.

Unfortunately, making the collar itself was going to be awkward. The very location of the supposed murders would make it damned difficult to be there to protect the guy. It would've been better if one of us had gone under, but I knew what Hutch would've said about that.

He would never let us split up to do a job, is the thing.

I sauntered out and hooked up with Hutch at the Turbino. He was still onscreen with Parker, and I could see Collins from R&I was getting pretty steamed as Hutch rattled off some more demands for data. Finally, Hutch logged off and turned to look at me.

"We've got a problem, buddy. This new patsy is pretty wealthy. I have a feeling Ray is going for the big score. This might be our last chance to get him. Not to mention we have to save the kid's life."

"We'll figure out a way. We'll be on that ship when it undocks.quot; I said, trying to sound confident. Hutch gave a little smile, the kind he always gives me when I've said something that moves him. Only I couldn't think what I'd said that was so special. But I was glad. Seeing Hutch smile, even a little, is on my top-ten list of Best Things in the Solar System. Along with spicy-hot meat wraps and flying real, real fast. Which is what I did next, taking us back to Parker, Hutch bitching the whole way about me pulling too many Gs and making his stomach queasy.

Wuss.

We filled in our captain, Harold Dobey, with everything we had accomplished so far. Dobey was proud of us, I could tell, because he was grumbling a lot and had at least two wrinkles going across his forehead. He told us to knock off (well, he said, 'log out') and get ready to do some hard thinking tomorrow. We needed a way to stow aboard that ship. Dobey promised he would get the paperwork started so we'd have a legal entry.

On the trip back to Venezia, I suddenly remembered what I had purposely shoved into a freezebox in my head, which was Hutch throwing a fusion rod watching those guys kiss. The whole way back I kept trying to think of a way to broach the subject, because the truth was, even though I was a little worried about it, I had wanted him for too long to consider not doing anything about the possibility. I just wanted one chance, one night with him. I made a deal with myself that that would be that; you really can't screw with the best thing in your life. Not even if the guy has legs that are so long and strong and just covered with a dusting of fine, golden hair . . . .

Hutch must've noticed how preoccupied I was, because he made some soothing noises about the case, which I had already forgotten about. I mumbled something and then screwed up my courage and asked him to come over for dinner.

"'Course I will," he said, sounding surprised. "Who else knows how to torture my intestines just right?" Hutch grinned, thinking he was being funny or something. I told you the guy has a rotten sense of humor. I didn't care, though. Just seeing that grin of his made me want to kiss him dead on those smiling lips. His top lip is like a perfect bow, you know? And the little divot that runs up from his lip—I've always wanted to see how it would feel against my tongue.

Oh shit. Now I'd thrown a rod of my own. Fortunately, we were close to docking. I pulled the Turbino into a quick glide-turn and then anti-boosted so we just barely kissed the dock when coming to a stop. I know Hutch just hates when I do that, always thinking I'm going to side-slam us into the station. That's probably why I can never resist doing it. By the time we were locked in, my rod had subsided to a pleasant ache.

I live up on 18 A Col 21, which is a good twenty-minute walk from Hutch's place, or five minutes if you use the slidewalks. We went to his place first because he said he wanted to pick something up. He wouldn't let me in, just ducked inside and then popped out a few minutes later holding a white bag wrapped around something. I tried not to be too curious, even though Hutch hardly ever surprises me with presents.

Back at my place, we took our weapons off and relaxed with some alcs. They were Huggy's latest infusion invention; he called them 'beer' when he gifted us with some containers of the stuff. Unlike most of the weird drinks Huggy puts out, these were pretty okay, Hutch and I agreed, and we unsealed two more while we waited for dinner to arrive.

Hutch gave me a look when he sat across from me, and I knew he was ready to say or do something important. He always gets this serious crinkle between his eyebrows when he's about to drop something heavy on me. So I stopped plotting about getting into his pants and gave him my attention.

"I found this when I was moving into my new unit. Haven't seen it in years." His voice wobbled funny and he cleared his throat. I thought, crap, he's gonna go all soapy on me.

Sure enough, his voice was all husky—well, huskier than normal—when he continued, "You know, we've been f-friends a l-long time, Starsk . . . ."

He stopped short, looking embarrassed at his stutter. Hutch gets like that when he's nervous, like he's forgotten how to speak Pan-English. I gave him a smile to encourage him, and he grimaced at me.

"Anyway," his lips puckered as he blew out a sigh, "I know you'll probably think this is pretty sappy, but I saved this. From the Academy." He opened the bag and pulled out a placard. I recognized it right away. It was the sign from our old dorm room door. 'Starsky & Hutchinson' it said, with the Academy logo in the corner.

Weird. Okay, nice, but weird. He leaned over and handed it to me, and I held it, looking down at it, not sure what to say. "That's real nice, Hutch," I said. "Weird, but nice."

He gave this little embarrassed laugh, and suddenly I just wanted to hug the stuffing out of him. He's just so damned . . . Hutch. I got up, and he stood, too, as if he wanted the same thing. So I gave him a big hug, the crushing kind where your bones kinda creak a little. I just squeezed him tight and he hugged me back, and then, Jesus, I felt him go hard on me. Hallelujah! I thought, but Hutch freaked and pulled out of my arms real fast, his face all red. I could tell he was really hoping I hadn't noticed, but how could I not notice a thruster like that? I mean, the guy is hung. Seriously. I've seen it. It's a fucking monster.

Hutch backed away and mumbled something about checking on our food order, but I followed him and trapped him by the comm unit. He gave me this really sad look. I just stared at him, willing him to say something. 'Cause with Hutch, you can't just force him to talk. He zips[xix] up faster than a snitch[xx] with a hip tip.

Hutch sighed and jerked his chin toward the couch, so I backed off and sat down. Then he started pacing in front of me, running his hand through his hair until it started sticking up funny. I dropped my eyes down to his crotch and enjoyed the tumescent view. He was still sporting serious chub. I looked back up in a hurry. Cripes, his face looked like one giant wrinkle of concern.

"Starsk . . . there's something I have to t-tell you."

No shit, Sherlock.[xxi] "You can tell me anything, you know that, Hutch." I tried not to sound too eager. Tell me, tell me. And then, oh brother, have I got something to tell you . . . .

"But this is . . . well, this is big, Starsky. It will change the way you look at me. Forever. It could d-destroy our friendship." Hutch looked anguished.

"Nothing can do that," I told him confidently. "Nothing."

He shook his head and looked at me doubtfully. "Even if I t-told you . . . I'm not what you think I am?"

I didn't know what the Blintz[xxii] was so freaked about. Maybe guys-with-guys was a big no-no in his little farming commune. I'd heard that was a problem in outlying communities where keeping the population growing is such a priority. So maybe that was it. But for whatever reason, he was obviously hung up. I gave him an encouraging nod.

"Starsk. I—" He moaned a little and scrubbed his face with his hands.

"Hey, hey. It's okay, Blondie. Just spit it out," I told him.

He came up and knelt down in front of me. I saw him start to put his hands on my knees, but then he rested them on his own thighs, as if afraid to touch.

"Just remember," he said, and there was this catch in his voice, "you mean everything to me. Our friendship, it's the best thing in my life. I never wanted to keep this from you, but I didn't have any choice."

"Okay." I just waited. Get on with it, Blondie.

"Okay. Here's the thing." Hutch paused again for a long minute, his face crinkling as he screwed up his courage, and for a second I considered grabbing my phase-gun and holding it to his head as incentive. Just for a second.

"The thing. Is. I'm . . . I'm . . . I'm . . . ." He said, and stopped.

Dammit. "You're . . . ?"

Hutch said it really fast. "I'm an alien."

Buh?

"Buh?" I said.

Hutch was staring at me, the blue-blue of his eyes deep with fear. "I'm an alien, Starsk. I'm
. . . not a human being."

"Blldff wuh?" I said. Hutch looked confused, and then I realized I'd forgotten not to speak Martian.

"You're WHAT?" I guess I shouted a little.

Hutch winced. "I'm not human. I'm from a different race." He seemed to pick up speed, as if he wanted to get all the words out while I was still reeling. "My people sent me here to observe, to learn, you know, get the lay of the land—"

"Shut UP," I yelled. "This isn't funny, Hutch. I mean, I know you have a terrible sense of humor, but this. Isn't. Funny."

Hutch just looked at me, all sad-faced and serious, and suddenly, deep in my gut, I knew he wasn't kidding. He was either completely demented, which wouldn't be a stretch, truthfully, or he was an alien. A not-human.

I found myself suddenly ten feet away, back to the wall at the other end of the living unit, the stupid placard still in my hands. I started to drop it, and then decided to keep it as a possible weapon. Just in case.

Hutch had stood, but didn't come any nearer. His hands were sort of out to his sides, palms up. We come in peace, I thought, and this hysterical bubble of laughter started up my throat, but I cut it off fast, knowing if I started I might never stop.

"You're an alien." My voice was shaky, but there. Hutch nodded. "You've been . . . like, undercover," I said, and he nodded again, his throat jerking as if he wanted to say something.

"For ten years?" I asked, incredulous. Then, as if someone had lit a nuke under my ass, I started to get really, really mad.

"You've been lying to me for TEN FUCKING YEARS?"

Hutch looked miserable. Even his hair seemed to droop.

"No. No." I could feel myself pushing it away, not wanting to believe it. Not Hutch. Not my best buddy. No way could he be a fake. We had been through too much together. I couldn't accept it.

But Hutch just nodded again then said, cautiously, "We're not that different from you—"

"Shut up. Shut up." I put my hands over my ears, like when I was little and my brother was teasing me. I can't hear you I can't hear you. But that only works when the bad stuff is coming from the outside, and this was all inside, this awful sick feeling of betrayal. I took my hands down and stared at him, trying to see it. Hutch—an alien.

"Prove it." My voice sounded funny, all hollow. "Prove it to me. Right now." Suddenly it seemed like the most important thing in the universe.

Hutch paled, his face going completely white.

"I mean it, Hutch. Right now."

Hutch shook his head, "You'll hate me. You'll be . . . repulsed."

I almost, almost said, 'I already hate you,' but it wouldn't be true, and would only hurt him, and even though I wanted to hurt him real bad in that second, I still couldn't say those words. So I just waited.

Hutch looked at me for a long moment, considering, and then he sighed and reached for his shirt, pulling it out of his slacks and untabbing it. His chest looked the same as it always did. Perfectly human. The scar from the wound when that kid had tazed him was still there, shiny white against the cream of his skin.

But Hutch wasn't finished. He dropped his shirt, and then undid his pants, letting them slide off his hips. He hesitated with his hands at the band of his underwear, and then he squinched his eyes real tight and pushed them down.

His dick was soft, the heavy bulk hanging down. I realized I could finally look at it all I wanted, only all I felt right now was afraid of what I would see. But it was beautiful, long and thick and nicely shaped, his big, perfect balls resting behind.

And then it began to grow. No, it moved, and my heart started thunking hard and fast when I saw it lift strangely like some pale, pink snake. My vision went dark for a second, and I realized I was close to fainting. I closed my eyes and took a few deep breaths, then opened them again.

The damned thing had extended further, rising, the head bending a little. And then it sort of . . . waved at me.

I felt like throwing up.

I looked up into Hutch's face and saw him staring at me. He looked deeply ashamed. I swallowed, my stomach flipping in warning, and I saw Hutch cringe. He hastily bent and pulled his shorts and pants back up. I went to the sink to get a glass of cold, cold water. I held it up to my forehead, and then to my eyelids, which felt like they were burning.

A loud beep sounded twice. Our food was ready. Out of habit, I went over to the servo and opened the cabinet to pull the tray out. The smell of cheese and soybeef and bread hit my nostrils, and suddenly I had to run for the bathroom. I barely made it before hurling everything I had in my guts straight into the sanitary. And then I just kept heaving, my whole body trying to wring itself inside out and exit through my mouth.

There was a sound from outside the door, and I knew it was Hutch, wanting to help, hating to see me hurting, but I knew if he came near me it would just keep on going. Apparently, he had figured out the same thing, because he didn't try to come in.

But it reminded me that it was Hutch out there. Still Hutch. No way could all that caring have been some kind of cover for all these years. And I realized that the reason I needed to throw up was not because what Hutch had showed me was so disgusting—although it really was freaky and more than a little gross—but it was proof that Hutch wasn't who I thought he was.

Just like he had warned me. And I had told him there was nothing he could tell me that would destroy our friendship.

I could practically hear his frittering concern just outside. If it were audible it would be like the chattering of ice against the side of a glass.

Suddenly an infusion sounded like a really good idea. And not one of those beer things, but the real, hard-core deal. I rinsed out my mouth good and then opened the door. There was a rush of movement as Hutch backed off again so that he was standing those same ten feet away by the time I got through the doorway. He'd put his shirt back on.

I ignored him and went over to the dispenser for a glass of the hard stuff. I could feel his dismay and the weight of his concern pressing on me, and I snapped, "Stop lookin' at me." There was an immediate ease of pressure.

See, that's how in tune we are. Scary. Even more so, now that I knew I'd been in tune, all that time, with a fucking undercover alien. I knocked back the shot and dialed another. Finally, I started to feel a little more human.

Unlike my partner.

I turned and looked at Hutch, who was still standing in exactly the same spot as if afraid to move. I took a step forward and his eyes widened and he took a step back. I took two more steps, turning to sit in the little chair by my comm desk. I straddled it backwards and rested my drink along the back and looked at him.

Of course, he didn't look any different than he had an hour ago; except, where there had been this soft fondness on his face, now there was just fear and despair. I wondered why he had even told me, since he himself had predicted the outcome wouldn't be very good. I realized, of all the questions I wanted to ask him, that one was the most important.

"Why did you finally decide to tell me?" I asked roughly.

Hutch made this funny surprised sound with his mouth. Weird, I'd never really noticed before, but Hutch had a lot of odd little mannerisms that I'd had to get used to over time. Like that clicking sound. I suddenly felt cold again, and took a sip of my drink.

He didn't answer right away, so I knew it wasn't a simple thing. I said, "You know, when you first told me you wanted to tell me something important, I thought you were going to let on you were hot for my body."

Hutch winced, and I knew I'd hit the mark somehow. He started to speak, and then cleared his throat and started again. "I was. I mean I couldn't . . . " His chest lifted as he took a long, deep breath. "Starsk. I had to tell you before . . . something happened." He exhaled harshly. "I l-love you. I'm in love with you."

Rage swelled my chest. I swear I could almost feel my hands circling that long neck of his. "You don't get to say that," I growled at him instead. "You been lying to me for ten years, Hutch. You can't say that, not now, not when it's impossible—" I shut my mouth fast before I could say something stupid, but it was already too late.

"Then, you . . . you, too? You mean you would have . . . ?"

"Stupid fucking blond," I answered him, and he got it, sure enough. A pained expression passed over his face when he realized I meant it. Then his head dropped in defeat, and I couldn't read his face any longer.

"I need to know what you want, Starsk," he said quietly. "Do you w-want me to d-disappear?"

My heart lurched—I mean it just completely jumped in my chest. So I guess the answer to that was a big fat 'No.'

"No!" I yelled it, just so there could be no mistake. Hutch looked a little startled at how loudly I said it. Then he just looked plain relieved. His face kind of sagged, and that muscle in his jaw stopped twitching.

"Tell me what you need, then," Hutch said. "Just tell me, and whatever it is, I'll do it."

"I need you to go home." And it was the god-awful truth. I needed him out of there so I could lie down and have some hysterics. But he looked like I had just tazed him in the heart, and that little jaw muscle started going again, tic-tic.

Tic.

"Just for now, Hutch." I was starting to get really close to losing it again, and I said, in a hurry, "I need a little time." Please just go.

Hutch nodded, his eyelids dropping down, along with his shoulders, and then he walked meekly to the door. Usually I would follow him to hit the palm lock, but I was afraid to budge from my chair.

He gave one last look back, and then he was gone.

So, yeah, I'd call that a pie in the face, wouldn't you? I wake up this morning thinking, Christ, did anyone get the ident on the jump-truck that hit me? I reach for my chrono and then leap out of bed, regretting it an instant later when all hell breaks loose inside my skull. Then I groan and stagger over to the bathroom for some anti-alcs. Usually I try to take them before going to bed, but last night I'd been drinking pretty much constantly since after Hutch left, and by the time I fell asleep I was too drunk even to remember to do that.

Thinking about last night makes me think about why I had been drinking, which sends me leaning over the sanitary. Fortunately, the anti-alcs have already started working, and all I do is burp a little.

It's late, but somehow I don't give a fuck at this moment, so I take my time getting showered and dressed. Still, I do manage to get out the door; a phenomenal feat by my estimation, considering how much I want to just crawl back into bed and forget the universe exists.

But getting drunk has helped a bit. The reality of Hutch's revelation feels a little muted, a little easier to handle. So Hutch is an alien. So what? After all, there are a lot worse things he could be.

Like what?

I consider that as I fly to Parker. Hutch could be a criminal, on the cuff[xxiii], or a murderer or something. That would suck. Or he could be secretly female. I shudder.

But he's a fucking ALIEN.

Suddenly I wish I hadn't kicked him out so soon last night before asking some hard questions. Like: why the hell didn't he tell me sooner? Is he the only one? Do they mean us harm? Who does he work for?

Is he still my partner, number one?

See, now that's the kicker, as far as I am concerned. Hutch could be—oh, I dunno—a secret follower of Cthulhu if he wanted, as long as I came first, in all things. And I can't be certain of that anymore.

Is it still 'me and thee'? Or is it 'me and thee and Them'?

Unfortunately, I'm not going to get any real answers for a while. Because we still have a case to solve.

At Parker, I find him at his comm desk, blond head bent over as he works on something. His back is to me, and as I come around I get a chance to observe him for just a second or two before our connection kicks in and he looks up, straight at me.

He looks like shit. There are big dark circles under his bloodshot eyes. Idiot hasn't slept at all, obviously, and probably hasn't tried any of a hundred remedies, either. Hutch has a thing about medication.

Now I understand why.

"G'morning[xxiv]," I mumble, keeping it neutral. Hutch smiles hesitantly and nods as I approach.

"I told Dobey the Turbino needed a quick repair," he says under his breath. A little louder, "The captain wants to talk to us soon about the set-up for nailing Hizzgoah. I think I have some ideas, if you want to take a look." Hutch pushes his chair back—way back—to give me room to bend over his screen. Normally he would just let me tuck right in beside him.

For some reason the move irritates me. "What'm I looking at?" I almost-growl.

"We got a location on the trace. This is a pre-construction diagram of the Spaceboy, the cruiser Hizzgoah owns under a false name," Hutch says patiently. "I-I think I know how we can stowaway aboard her. He has an inspection coming up, and they won't let him jump without passing it."

That's good news, and a good break for us, but talking to Hutch about the case is hard when at least 9/10ths of my brain is busy chanting 'Alien! Alien! Alien!', you know? Anyway, we work out the details and run it by Dobey, and he's game, although he says it makes him uncomfortable that any backup will be close to impossible. They'll have to follow behind and out of scan range.

But Hutch and me, we've never had any problem going it alone.

By the end of the shift we've jumped through a bunch of hoops. The rich kid is so important that we have no problem obtaining the warrant, even without any real hard evidence beyond the fact Hizzgoah is using a false name on his registry. The Spaceport Authority has been contacted by the higher ups and we have the go-ahead to join their inspection team in three days aboard the Spaceboy.

And by now my brain has stopped sending panic signals to my 'nads every time I look at Hutch. And he's stopped twitching each time he feels me looking. So that's good, or at least as good as it can get, for now.

But Hutch and I still need to have a good, long chat.

I catch Alien Boy trying to sneak out to the parking port without me after work. I grab his elbow and he practically leaps out of his skin (I wonder if he can do that? I'll have to ask.) It's weird, him reacting like that, because usually we are both aware of each other on some level. But he must be really preoccupied.

I drag him down the chute and we end up at the hatch next to the heap of space junk he calls his jet, and I tell him, "Follow me. We're going to dinner."

He looks like he wants to argue the point, so I say, real stern, "I mean it. You better follow me."

Because it's my show, I lead him to the Barrio, a little station just a couple of kilometers from Parker. I check my rear monitor almost constantly on the way there to make sure he doesn't try to ditch me.

We find a couple of docks right next to each other, and I walk us to my favorite restaurant, a hole-in-the-wall called Pepito's, where they serve actual, real dead meat. Of course, there's no telling exactly what species of meat it is. But I'm not finicky.

Speaking of which, Hutch's nose crinkles up the second we walk into the place. I am tempted to ask him if all aliens are such fussy eaters.

Which leads me to remember that Hutch, my partner, my best friend, is a fucking ALIEN. I mean. It's like I have to keep reminding myself; my brain just doesn't want to hold onto the idea.

I find us a quiet booth in the corner where no one will have a chance of overhearing us. He makes a face when he tries to slide into his seat. It's true—the seats are a little sticky.

The waitron comes over immediately and takes our alc and food orders. I am all about the tequila tonight. Hutch asks for water and I give him a look after she leaves.

"You're not drinking?"

He shakes his head. He hasn't said much—except about work—all day, and I can't get a read on him. He looks nervous, but his teeth keep clenching. I guess he’s still waiting for the worst.

What would be the worst? Me telling him to kiss off? Or does he think I would turn him in?

I have to admit it did cross my mind—for all of about a second. See, no matter what goes down between us, it's always been us against the universe.

Anyway, he's sitting there, his hands below the table, his shoulders hunched forward, looking like maybe he doesn't think that's still true.

"I've been thinking about what you told me last night," I say (blinding understatement) and his eyes lock on mine like a vise grip.

"Yeah, huh?" he says, his voice all thin. When I don't go on right away his lips lift in a sad little smile.

"Gonna torture me for a while, or let me have it already?" he asks.

"Let you have what?" I say, partly stalling for time before I have to dig in. But also, I'm wondering what he's been thinking. He has that haggard look he gets sometimes when something is hounding him. But I don't know if he's been beating himself up for telling me, or for waiting so long before he finally did.

"It's over, right?" he says, and at the horrible, hoarse sound of his voice my eyes snap back into focus from whatever they've been doing, and I suddenly see how pale and stiff he is.

Of course, right at that moment the waitron arrives with our alcs.

Hutch waits, not so patiently, and I pay her (at this joint it's definitely 'pay as you go') and while she processes my chip I can see he's about two seconds from a complete meltdown.

So as she leaves, I hand him my drink and say roughly, "Have some. I think you need it more than I do."

He accepts it and takes a healthy swallow before handing it back, and I look at the glass in my hand and suddenly I am wondering how many alien germs I have been exposed to over the past ten years. The thought gives me the heebie-jeebies, and I shiver. When I look up, I know Hutch has seen it—knows exactly what has just gone through my head—because his face just sorta . . . crumples, like a weak hull under vacuum.

And I feel . . . bad. Like I've just betrayed him somehow. So even though I am still smarting that he lied to me for all these years, and even though I still have goose bumps[xxv] thinking about alien viruses, I lift the glass and take a sip of my drink, putting my mouth where his has just been.

His eyes look so grateful I die just a little, realizing how truly fucked up this is. He cares about me. Really does. And he's a bona fide, 100% certified alien.

And he lied to me.

"You lied to me." I hadn't meant to say it, but as soon as I do I realize that's all I really care about. Hutch could be an alien, or a secret lover of endangered animal flesh, or could be moonlighting as a sex worker, and it would all have the same sting.

He lied to me. And we don't do that.

Hutch's face crumples even further, if that's possible. "It wasn't by choice," he says. "Most of the time, I didn't even feel like I was. I've been here so long . . . " He sort of drifts off and I cross my arms and nod at him, telling him silently that he'd better go on. This is not time for the patented Hutch Mime Routine.[xxvi]

"I've been undercover so long," he says, "I don't even remember what it was like really, on my own world. I've been under since I was a kid, by our standards."

"You mean you've . . . gone native?" The term has a whole new meaning to me, I'll tell you that.

Hutch starts to nod and then shakes his head, looking frustrated.

"It's like this," he says. "I'm called a 'bridge.' They planted me at the orphanage on Luna when I was just a kid. They wanted me to grow up human, with humans . . . be human. I haven't seen one of my people—that I'm aware of—since I was young."

"How young?" I ask him, thinking of some of the stories he'd let slip of when he was growing up on Luna. Were those real stories, or part of his cover?

"I guess about ten years old, or so. Ten human years, I mean."

"Jesus." I sit for a second, absorbing that. Going deep under as a ten year-old? How could he keep his origin secret? What ten year-old can hold that kind of focus, day in and day out?

"They just dumped you on the moon and left you there? Bastards." I don't know why, but I'm suddenly angry on his behalf.

His eyes get that fond look in them for a second before he remembers how in Dutch[xxvii] he is with me.

"You have to understand, Starsk. They're not like us," he says, then stutters, "I-I mean like humans. They're—we're not a sentimental people." He shrugs at his own confusion, but I'll tell you—that little slip suddenly makes me feel a whole lot better.

But then he says, "So, anyway, I don't have much contact with them, except once a year when I file my report."

And that last part just stops me dead.

"You tell them about me? About us?" And just like that I'm pissed again.

"No! I mean they know you're my partner, and I send them sort of abbreviated case reports. But I don't tell them about us. About what we are." His blue eyes hold mine intently, and I know he's willing me to believe him. And I almost do. In fact, I'm pretty sure I do. I relax a little.

"Okay. So, then what's the point? What's a 'bridge'? Why did they send you here?" I'm thinking all kinds of crazy things at this second, like there are thousands of aliens like Hutch living among us, and on some secret signal they will all rise up and . . . cook us for dinner or something.

I can tell Hutch sees what I'm thinking, because he makes a face at me, the same one he always uses when I'm reading to him out of my Amazing Trivia of the Solar System book. His brows go down and his mouth goes straight.

"They really do come in peace, you know," he says. "Truth is, when they do make our race known, they just want there to be some people around who can act as . . . cultural interpreters. That's a 'bridge.'" He sighs and rubs his face a little, moving his hand over his mouth. "That's why they sent me in so young. I don't even really remember what my real parents look like."

That seems awfully sad to me.

"You know, my mom sent me away when I was pretty young, too," I say to him, and he looks really grateful that I'm offering the connection.

"I know, buddy." He continues eagerly, "It's kind of like that. You're from Earth, which makes you a little different, too. But do you think about it all the time? You have to understand—most of the time I feel like I'm anyone else. I don't even think about it. I'm just . . . a little more careful in the shower."

He's pleading with me now for understanding, and I do get it. He's been assimilated into our society. Probably even better than I have. Hell, there've been lots of times when being from Earth has made people look at me funny or treat me different. Or call me names, like 'meat eater' and 'stinky Earther.' Of course, Hutch never did.

Except, he's an alien. And yet, I remember how lost and alone I was when they sent me to New Bay City after my pop died. How much harder would it have been for Hutch, having this big secret that made him feel even more different and alone?

It explains a lot about him, actually.

Just then, the waitron comes and brings us our food. I look at Hutch's plate, and he's ordered a soy and vegetables dish. I snort with disgust and dig into my mystery enchilada.

Mmmm. Meat.

I can see he's hardly eating, just waiting and watching me. I'm thinking as I chew. So, he's a plant. But not a bad one; I guess they just want someone to explain—really explain—humans to them. I don't envy Hutch the job.

"What're they like?" I ask him with a mouthful of enchilada.

"They're . . . very good people, Starsky. I don't want you to get the idea they forced this on me. I was just a kid, but when they approached my parents about the assignment, I was excited. I wanted to come here, see these new people. It was hard at first, and I could've asked to go home, but I felt like I'd be letting them down if I did." Hutch sighs. "After a while, I sort of forgot what it was even like—being in my old home, and with my old people. I guess the biggest difference I can remember is they're a little . . . formal. Everything has its time and place, you know? They're not big with the emotion."

I have to suppress a smile. Hutch has pretty much described himself as he was when I first met him.

"I think I've been a big influence on you," is what I say, and he flips me a look that says he's read between the lines.

"So, what now?" he finally asks, and I choke a little on my drink.

"You're asking me? How the hell do I know? You're the one with the walkie-talkie to your alien masters."

I can tell he doesn't like my joke, because his face twists in exasperation. "No, with us you big idiot," he says tersely, and then looks immediately apologetic, but I'm glad. It's the first time he's shown a little spunk since this whole thing started. Suddenly he seems Hutch-like again.

I smile at him, and he looks completely perplexed.

"We're fine," I tell him, "So long as you don't have any other secrets you're keeping from me. Like you were the one responsible for that jewel heist on Bolivia Station last week."

He gives a surprised laugh.

And then he reaches across the table and steals my drink.

Over the next couple of days, in between planning the Spaceboy assignment or working on our other cases, Hutch slowly, whenever we're alone, drops a little more information about his people, the Blinns. ("So you really are a Blintz," I laugh when he tells me, and he gives me this look that could vaporize carbonite.)

Every time he brings it up, it jolts me just a little bit less. It starts to feel more like he came from the Mars colony or something (God, Martians are wacky. I mean, what is with them and those flowy robes?) and less like he's from a completely different species. Actually, if you think about it, it's kind of cool, really. I start imagining how after the Blinns come out of the closet about their existence, I can take this memoir and publish it or something. My Partner Is an Alien, I could call it, and it would be a best seller or something. And what if they make it into a vid? I start thinking about which actor I'd want to have play me.

Only, even though I'm getting more used to the idea, I still remember how totally freaky that thing with his dick was. What is that? What is the evolutionary imperative of having a squiggly dick like that? For easier impregnation or something? The whole thing squicks me something fierce.

Because I've started to think about him again. And every time I look at that lanky body of his, or into that pale, perfect face, I feel a little sad. There's just no way I can have sex with him now. Even if I could get up the gumption to touch that thing of his, there's no future in it. I'm pretty sure my ma wouldn't approve.

I mean it's bad enough that he's a goy.

Finally it's the big day. Hutch and I dress up in inspector duds and get briefed on the usual procedure by some hack down at the SPA. We file in with the other guys and then duck deep into the storage area by the front hatch. It's a long, narrow corridor piled high with plastene crates. Tons of places to hide. We wend our way to the far end and check our gear. The plan is to monitor Hizzgoah through the blow-cam that one of the other inspectors will plant, and then wait until Ray starts to make his fatal move before popping out of our hiding spot. The only sticky bit is the interior pressure doors have a seal that should open with our warrant card, but who knows if Hizzgoah has taken precautions to macgyver it?[xxviii] We're hoping not. We'd really like to save the patsy's life. Hutch sets up the viewcam and everything looks copacetic.[xxix] We smile at each other in the dim light and sit back to wait.

The inspection is brief, and we hear the crew kidding with each other as they file on out again. Hutch pulls up the tiny monitor, and there is Hizzgoah at the controls. The pale-looking skinny guy is sitting beside him. I can't hear what they're saying because Hutch is wearing the 'phones, but I see Hizzgoah slapping the controls, and then the ship shudders and we're off.

Things start to go wrong almost immediately, of course. The ship no sooner jumps into Q-space (and boy, I hate that feeling when someone has paid for cheap-ass anti-grav, so all of a sudden your stomach makes a flip and then a flop on acceleration) than we hear a warning claxon and a recorded voice.

"Attention, attention. The cargo bay will shortly be undergoing depressurization for routine vermin extermination. Please proceed to the interior. Depressurization will occur in t-minus ten minutes."

Make that nine minutes, fifty-five seconds, as the message sinks in and Hutch looks at me with dismay. There's no way we will be able to enter the interior hatch undetected. The bust is a total loss. What's more, now Hizzgoah will know we are onto him.

"Dammit," Hutch hisses, and we wend our way past the crates and stuff to go through to the cargo bay.

That's when we get our second, even less-good surprise: there's a door in our way. A big, shiny door, with bars from chest-high on up, and solid with round holes chest down.

And it's locked tight.

I look at Hutch and I feel the edges of panic. The door is solid permasteel, two centimeters thick. Nothing short of a phase-cannon will get through it. And we conveniently forgot to bring one.

"This . . . isn't good," Hutch says, his voice low.

"Attention, attention. Cargo hold will undergo decompression in t-minus nine minutes," says the nice recording.

I think Hutch may be right.

Hutch tries to slip his hand through the bars, but it ain't gonna happen. He can barely get his big wrist through. Then I try, and get a little further, but I'm still at least a half-meter away from the touch pad, which I can just see jutting out from the wall on the left. And I realize with a disheartening thud that we can't use anything long to try to hook it, either—it's the type that will only respond to human flesh.

Or.

A crazy idea comes to me in a flash. I mean it's totally loony.[xxx] But what the fuck. I eye Hutch, and he knows immediately I have a possible, because his brows lift with a 'spill it' look.

I drop my eyes significantly to his crotch, and then back up again. His forehead crinkles for moment, and then his baby blues widen appreciably. In fact, they look as if they will drop out of his head (I wonder if he can do that, too?)

Hutch opens his mouth, and then shuts it and squeezes his eyes shut for a second. Then he reaches down and untabs his pants.

I have no idea if it's even possible or not. It's a good thirty centimeters from the nearest round hole to the touch pad. But Hutch seems to think he can do it, because he turns his back to me and his hands get busy on his fly.

I have to see this. I know, you think I'm truly weird. But this is my life at stake; and, more importantly, Hutch's. I have to see.

Tell the truth: wouldn't you?

So I press up to the bars on Hutch's right and watch him intently feeding his dick through the hole. The circumference is small; smaller than Hutch's cock anyway, and he's already stretching it thinner to get it through. That is one strange sight, I'll tell you that much. Then he moves his hips all the way forward and presses up against the door, still peering to his left where the touch pad is.

"It is now t-minus six minutes, thirty seconds to cargo hold decompression. Please consider making your way swiftly to the interior of the ship."

That voice is really starting to tick me off. I mash my cheek against the bars, trying to track Hutch's progress. I can't see much from this angle, except some pale movement next to the metal of the door. It seems to be taking forever, and I can smell my own sweaty fear. I really, really don't want to experience explosive decompression first-hand. I've seen holopix. Not pretty ones, either. I squeeze in closer to Hutch to try to get a better look and he growls, almost panicked, "Stop watching me."

"How come?" I say, not that I'm really interested in why he's so freaked about me watching, because at that moment there's this beautiful sound, a melodious click, and Hutch pushes the door open, shuffling forward a step.

"You did it!" I'm so relieved for a second that the blood rushes to my head. So I don't notice right away, as I'm moving around Hutch, that he hasn't yet disengaged himself from the door.

"C'mon, Hutch, pull out. We've got—"

"Six minutes to cargo decompression . . . I know." Hutch says, and he rests his forehead against the bars.

"What's the matter, you stuck or somethin'?" I say it jokingly, I'm so damned jazzed that we're not about to become imploded meat.

But Hutch nods.

"Yeah," he says, his voice all funny. "I'm . . . stuck. You go on ahead. This is going to take me a second." He pushes forward another step to let me slide past him.

So I do, and I swing around the door to take a look.

"Don't!" he yells, and then he groans, and I see the problem.

The hot red flesh of Hutch's cock is distending from the hole; it's no longer stretched and pale but hugely thick, looking like a normal erection. Apparently the hole in the door has slowly been acting as a de facto cock ring, and now he can't pull loose.

"Shit." I bend down to look closer, and he moans again.

"Starsky, just go," he pleads with me, sounding desperate. "I'll be right behind you."

"We go together, partner," I say angrily. "You know as well as I do that as soon as I use the warrant on the seal he's gonna blow the bay doors." It's a common practice for smugglers and other low-lifes to blow out the cargo bay (and hopefully any FPC units) whenever they get caught. And this guy Hizzgoah has already proven himself to be a subzero killer.

"How come you can't just stretch it out again?" I ask him, panicking again.

"Because," he says impatiently, "when it gets really . . . when I'm . . . it's just not as flexible, okay?" He grabs the bars next to his face and bumps his head against them in frustration.

"Attention, attention: cargo hold decompression shall proceed in t-minus five minutes. It is in your best interests to be absent from the bay at that time."

"Fucking fuck." Hutch says, and there's dread in his voice. He stares at me through the bars. "Look, I'm telling you, if you just get away I promise I'll have an easier goddamned time with this, Starsky."

And I know what he means to say, but at this point I hardly think I'm the problem. Once you reach a certain level of excitement, if your dick is . . . constricted like that, there's only one way out.

"There's only one way out of this mess, Hutch, and that's through it," I say decisively, and before he can ask me what I mean, or I can even think about it and get all grossed out, I just do it.

I take hold of his cock.

"No," Hutch moans, but his dick is already thickening further in my hand.

"Yes, Hutch. Come on and go with it. We only have—"

"Attention, attention. The cargo hold will shortly be experiencing an abrupt change in atmospheric pressure to the negative degree. Please vacate the bay before this occurs in t-minus four minutes, thirty seconds."

"I swear to God," Hutch groans, and then I start pumping his cock. I feel it moving in my hand, shifting as if it's pumping itself as well, and it's so fucking strange that I drop it reflexively. Hutch hisses and I watch, totally freaked, as it moves again, almost like it's seeking me out.

So. Weird.

Hutch bangs his head against the bars again, softly.

"Okay, okay, hang on," I say, and force myself to reach for it and start stroking it again. It's warm in my hand and I remind myself it's not a snake or some other strange creature—it's part of Hutch. When he starts moaning quietly, this time in pleasure, I start to really believe it. And the shifting thing starts happening again, a lump of movement up and down under the skin, but at this point I'm jerking him fast, in a hurry to get him to come, so I just ignore it.

"Attention, attention. If you aren't at all dim, you might have noticed that a depressurizing event will be occurring in t-minus four minutes. Have you ever seen what happens to the human body when exposed to pure vacuum?"

Hutch groans, this time in frustration. "This isn't going to happen, Starsk. It feels . . . good, really good," he says apologetically, and it sounds like he's trying to reassure me, "but the hole is too tight."

I ignore him and keep pumping his cock, trying to think. And I realize we are going about this all wrong. I know Hutch, at least, I've seen him with the femz he goes out with, and about the last thing he is ever after is a quickie. He likes . . . mush. He gets all gushy with them. It's kinda sickening, actually.

Okay, maybe I wasn't so much sickened as jealous.

"Hutch," I say, "have I ever told you how beautiful you are?"

It gets his attention, fast. He looks into my eyes through the bars, and I see him swallow.

"First thing, every morning when I see you, I'm surprised all over again at how perfect you are. I guess you had to be an alien, to be so beautiful. All that gold and blue, and the way your lips curve." I'm getting into it now, and I lean forward and whisper, "I always wonder what it would feel like, to suck on those lips of yours, run my tongue over them."

Hutch starts panting, and his eyes begin to glow strangely. I wonder if it's an alien thing, or something else.

But I already know the answer to that.

"You know," I continue, still stroking his cock fast, squeezing it so the skin travels with my hand, "when the enviro controls went out in the squad room that time, and you were all hot and sweaty and kept rubbing your wet skin, all I could think of was I wish it were my hands running all over you."

Hutch moans low and licks his lips, his eyes on my mouth.

"Or maybe I would use my tongue, just my tongue, all over your chest, down that hot skin, down over your belly . . . "

He's breathing harshly now, and his cock is harder than ever, but it's still not enough.

"Attention, attention: have you seen our lovely anti-grav Jacuzzi? It is located just past the interior hatch, on the right. The only reason we mention it is the cargo bay will be undergoing decompression in t-minus three minutes."

"My tongue, Hutch, on your belly. I want to see what it tastes like. And then—"

Fuck it. We're running out of time, and I really, really don't want to die in the vacuum of space with my hand on Hutch's cock. So I drop to my knees, still holding him, and I suck the huge head straight into my mouth.

"OH GOD," Hutch shouts, his voice deep. I feel the shaft moving under my tongue, and I put my squick dampener on overload and start sucking and moving my mouth over it, tonguing him just below the head. His cock moves itself deeper into my mouth, and I swallow fast, fighting a gag reflex.

But at the same time, God, I love the taste of him. It's just what I thought it would be like, except for the alien part, and Hutch is obviously loving it too, groaning loudly and pleading with me not to stop, and making these helpless sounds that are talking right to my nuts. I raise my eyes, still moving my mouth, and I see his hands are clutched so tightly on the bars that his knuckles are pure white. I wish I could reach his balls, but I can't, so I concentrate on moving fast and then I graze him lightly with my teeth.

"Starsky! Ahhhh!" Hutch moans, and then his cock expands even more and it shifts, and I pull my mouth away as he comes, spurting frantically all over my hand and the floor. I squeeze tighter and strip his cock and he groans again and then slumps against the bars.

His dick is soon slick and small enough for him to work it free, and he pulls himself together and does it quickly, tucking himself in. I wipe his come off on my pants and try not to think about alien sperm. This just ain't the time.

"Attention, attention. You have just one minute remaining to vacate the cargo bay before you turn into a pumpkin. A pumpkin is an orange vegetable of the squash variety. Decompression cycle in t-minus sixty seconds and counting."

At t-minus fifty, I'm swiping our warrant along the door seal.

Hizzgoah dropped faster than a pumpkin down a broken grav-chute (have you ever tried that? It's fun.) By our own pure, dumb luck, he had already confined his victim and was in the process of filling the Jacuzzi so he could drown the poor guy, when Hutch and I came busting in. So we caught him in the act.

Not only that, we found a treasure trove of belongings from his past victims, as well as tissue and blood samples, all of which will serve to put that asshole on the Rock for the rest of his unnatural life span (he's from Mars. Go figure.) As far as prison planets go, the Rock is not the prettiest.

I don't think it's even in the top ten.

Hutch and I haven't talked at all about what happened. For a long time, he was so obviously completely humiliated about the whole thing that I didn't even have the heart to tease him about it. And that's pretty unusual for me.

Only, I guess I'm having a little trouble with what happened, myself.

See, ever since then, I can't stop thinking about it. And I wish, really wish, that I'd had a chance to kiss him or hold him or something, just so that the only thing I touched wasn't the most alien part of him.

Because I've started having bad dreams.

Like, I'll dream that we're flying in the Turbino together and he'll turn toward me and all of a sudden his hands will sprout these long scary claws like I've seen in those old horror vids, and his face will change and turn all green and wrinkly with big teeth. And I'll wake up in a cold, cold sweat.

Thing is, I only started having these dreams after the incident on the Spaceboy. I didn't have 'em when he first told me. Sure, I was a little thrown at first, and pretty steamed that he'd lied to me, but then eventually we were us again, you know? I don't understand the setback.

Hutch doesn't seem to be doing much better. I catch him eyeing me all the time, and for first time in a long time I can't figure what the hell he's thinking. But he always kind of winces and looks away, so I know it can't be good, whatever it is.

Dobey's noticed. Just yesterday he pulled us into his office, and apparently the golden glow from our latest bust had faded, because he proceeded to chew us out for not messaging him our reports fast enough. Telling him our terminal had been busted didn't fly so well, and he kept looking between us like he was expecting something. But Hutch just slouched down in his seat, and so did I, and finally the captain dismissed us.

So here we are in the squad room, working late, and the place is empty and silent except for the tap-tap of Hutch's stylus on the screen. And my stomach is growling and I'm pissed off, but I'm not even sure why. I just kind of ache inside. I get sort of lost in my thoughts, and it's a while before I realize the tapping has stopped.

"We ever gonna talk about it?" Hutch says quietly.

That's such not a good idea, at this point. Not here, even though the place is deserted. But I know he's right—it's time we dealt with it.

"Tonight," I say. "Come over afters."

He holds my eye for a second before nodding, and then he starts tapping again.

I get to my digs before Hutch does, and I spend time cleaning up for some reason. I guess to keep my mind off of what's going to happen. I have to tell him that I'm . . . what? I almost feel afraid, but of what? This is Hutch fercrissake. He's not going to hurt me—alien penis or no.

For a second it's almost like I can see the shape of what's bugging me, but just then the door gives out a warning bong.

"Come in," I say, and the door picks up my command and slides open.

Hutch is wearing green. I don't know whether he does that on purpose or not; you'd think blue would look better on him, but green is just his color. Unfortunately, it's also the color of the skin of the alien Hutch of my dreams.

This is Hutch, I remind myself, but it's strange—my hands are sweaty and my stomach feels cold.

"Hey," he says, and his eyes tell me he's picked up how nervous I am, because they are that soft-soft blue, like they get when I've been hurt. And I remember the time I was poisoned with that unknown radioactive isotope and how Hutch held me when it hurt so bad, and how that was the beginning of me knowing that I wanted him.

I'm so scared right now, I can't even say anything in response, and Hutch sighs and sits down in my chair (he always takes my chair) and leans on his elbow and rubs the crease between his eyes with his thumb, as if he's trying to get rid of it.

"It's okay, Starsk," Hutch says heavily. "We don't have to keep doing this . . . " he lets it hang, and it gives my mouth a chance to make a move without my brain knowing.

"Doing what?" I ask. "Being partners? Being friends? Being—" and here my brain finally catches on and grabs control of my tongue, and I make a weird sound.

Hutch doesn't seem to notice. He says, "I'm sorry." And he really does look sorry, and ashamed. "I couldn't . . . control it. Usually I have no problem, but when you touched me I just . . . I couldn't stop it, make it—" he chokes a little, "normal for you."

"What the bleep are you talking about?" I say. I don't usually use bad words like that, but I'm suddenly mad. "You think I can't handle your . . . your alienness, is that it?"

Hutch just looks at me helplessly and doesn't say a word, and now I know what he's been thinking this whole time, and it isn't good.

"There's nothing wrong with it. There's nothing wrong with you, Hutch. That's not what's going on." And it isn't, that's the funny thing. I suddenly know that. This isn't about his funny dick.

But Hutch looks like he doesn't believe me, so I start getting even madder. "Don't you get it?" I say, and I might be shouting a little. "I liked it. I liked putting my mouth on you."

Hutch blushes as red as the Turbino, but I keep going. "Sure, it was a little weird at first. But it always is the first time you touch anyone like that." I remember Rosey and Terry, and the first times with them, how awkward and almost painful it was. And my heart gives a little thunk.

"You're okay with it." He says it flat.

"Yes! Shit, Hutch, don't you see? It was you. I was touching you."

He's looking at me as if I'm the alien. And I feel like I am, and like this is some strange new world I've stepped into, the one where I'm with Hutch. Where I could be with Hutch, if I let myself be.

Hutch isn't going to hurt me. Not on purpose. He's not going to turn into an alien, because he already is one. But he might die. He might even leave me. And I don't know if I could stand that.

He's still looking like he doesn't believe me, and he says, "You think I can't tell when you're afraid, Starsk? You think I don't know what that looks like, after all these years?" His voice drops to a hoarse whisper and I find myself leaning forward to make him out. "You think I want to see that on your face, when you're looking at me?"

So, yeah, he's picked up on it, how afraid I am. How could he not? That's what partners are for. And I have to swallow the lump of gunk in my throat.

"I'm not afraid of you, Hutch. I'm—" It's hard to admit it, but I push it through. "I'm afraid of us. Of what we could be."

It takes a while (blonds are not known for their hyper-intelligence) but eventually he catches on, and I see his face grow brighter somehow, as he realizes I mean it's something I do want, even if I'm afraid.

And then he asks me, sorta shaky, "So, what's to be scared of?" But I know he's not thinking straight, because if he were, he'd be as terrified as I am. So I give him a look to let him know he's a complete idiot.

"Really, Starsk. Tell me." He stands up, but doesn't come any closer.

"You're a big dope, you know that?" I say before answering, just to make it perfectly clear. "What if we . . . if we—you know—and then something happens? I mean what if you up and die on me? Huh? What then?"

He blinks at me and the slot between his eyebrows gets deeper. "I can't promise you not to die, buddy. I never could." His mouth looks sad. "Just like you can't promise me. I think about it all the time, you know. It wouldn't be any different if we...."

And it's so simple, really, that I know that I'm the big dope not to have seen it myself. Could I stand to lose him, even now? What's the difference, if it should happen while we're lovers, versus just being the closest damned friends and partners in the solar system?

Ever since Rosey—actually, ever since Terry—I've been trying not to love anyone as much. It came close to killing me when she died. And all this time I've been mowing through the ladies like a ramscoop in a hydrogen field, thinking I was safe—that my heart was safe.

But Hutch had already snuck in under my scanner years ago, and I had no idea. I already love the son of a bitch more than I've ever loved anyone.

So what's the difference?

None at all.

"There's no difference," I say, and my voice is all husky, and it's like I've let go of something heavy I've been dragging around with me forever . . . my heart is suddenly in zero-G. And Hutch is looking at me cautiously, as if my words still hold a possible loophole, but I move forward and then . . . well, I sort of launch myself at him.

Fortunately, he catches me. His arms open up and he gives off this whumph! of surprise and then I'm holding his face right at the jaw-line so I can pull him toward me.

And then I lick his upper lip.

His head pulls back and his eyes open wide. "Starsk?" he whispers, and starts to say something else but the rest is kind of buried because my tongue is in his mouth and I'm kissing him—kissing Hutch. And, oh, he might be an alien, but God, is he a good kisser. Just the right amount of licking, sucking, damp, nibbling goodness, and I decide right then and there that kissing Hutch is my new top number one activity in the universe, even above surfing the inet for Turbino accessories.

Hutch pulls back out of the kiss though, just as I was exploring that soft part under his tongue. I growl in disappointment.

"What're we doing?" he asks me, and his eyes are wild. The blue is like phase emissions—almost too bright.

"If I have to explain it, Blintz, then we're doing it all wrong," I say, and I lean forward again but he puts his hands on my chest.

"But a second ago you were afraid of me. And all of a sudden you're trying to suck my tonsils out?"

And now he's the one who looks a little scared. I guess he's just a step behind me on this crazy slidewalk I've been on. So I put my hand on his cheek.

"I told you, it wasn't you I was scared of, babe. About the only thing I'm scared of right now is you won't let me taste you again."

He looks down, and there's that shy smile of his and, boy, it sends a message right to my 'nads. I tell them to shut the hell up, go slow or we'll spook him, but I can't stop myself from bending and capturing his lips from below, those perfect lips that have been figuring in my dreams for as long as I can remember. And he gives them to me with this muffled little moan that makes my dick leap straight up in my pants.

That's all it takes. I start pulling him frantically toward my sleeping quarters and he tries to follow while simultaneously trying to pull the tab on my pants and get at me. I'm not sure how we manage to get undressed but it must involve that new teleportation technology they've been working on, because before I know it we are naked on the bed and rubbing against each other as if we can make fire the really old-fashioned way. And it's hot enough that we might, even, but as I push him over and start grinding onto him I realize part of me is hanging back a little, waiting, braced for the weirdness.

Only it doesn't happen. His cock feels like any other half-hard monster dick rubbing against mine.

So I lift my head away from our kiss with a sucking sound (he doesn't seem to want to let go of my lips), and I look down into his face.

I can read the tension there, and it's not a good tense. He's holding back. He looks up at me, his face all pink and his eyes tight. I think: all those years of making love with humans and he's never been able to really let go, lose himself, because he had a secret to keep. Cripes, that's sad.

"What?" he says, and now he looks worried, so I lean down and pass my lips over his eyebrow, stroking it softly.

And then I lift my head and whisper, "Go ahead." I don't know how to word it exactly, so I rub my dick against his again, to make my point.

But he doesn't get me. He just lies there, panting a little, looking confused. So I get impatient and I say, "Show me what you can do with that thing." And I'm a little embarrassed, because what if he thinks I'm . . . ? I dunno. It's just embarrassing, okay?

Maybe I won't be publishing this memoir after all.

Anyway, when I say that, he looks really surprised and doubtful, and he shakes his head. But I know him way too well, and I can see he really, really wants to. Also, his dick kind of throbs against mine, just for a second.

That's the real tip off.

So I lean back down and start whispering really dirty stuff in his ear, all about his cock and how good it feels against mine, and how hot he makes me, and what I want to do to him, and he moans and starts kissing me again, his mouth frantic against mine, eating me alive.

And then I feel it—this sinuous slide as something squeezes my cock. And since Hutch's hands are busy holding my head in place, I have a pretty good guess as to what it is. I get my head free and push up to look down at us.

The deep pink of his shaft is wrapped once around the darker red of my cock. As I watch, the head of his rubs itself against mine, just beneath the crown, like an affectionate cat.

My whole body shudders. But it's good. I mean it feels . . . Jesus it's hot. I wasn't expecting that, I guess—that I could like it for me, and not just as a favor to Hutch. It's a little disturbing.

I look back up and he's staring at me, his eyes worried again. "Is this . . . okay?"

"'S more than okay," I whisper back, and I don't recognize my own voice.

Hutch smiles and pulls me back down, and his cock tightens around mine, and it's so fucking good I have to start moving, so I do. I pump my hips and both of us are moaning as I slide against him, and he's moving his own hips up to meet mine. I'm losing it.

"Hutch . . . Hutch . . . " I'm saying in his ear, and his hands are hard on my ass, clutching me, his cock squeezing mine, and it's driving me crazy and I start to hump faster and faster until finally I yell and I come. My dick is spurting and his cock is stroking me. I've never felt anything like it.

Not surprising.

When I start breathing again, his hands are in my hair and he's kissing the side of my face. I know he hasn't come yet, so I'm wondering how he can be so patient with me, but I don't give it a lot of thought; I just enjoy the attention, and the totally new feeling of having Hutch touch me this way.

Hutch whispers something and he rolls me onto my side, and then he starts kissing his way down my chest. I flop over onto my back so he can reach more of me, and he rumbles in appreciation as his tongue licks its way down my stomach, where he spends a good long time cleaning me up.

I'm a goner now. I can see that Hutch is just as lethal with his tongue as he is with his Python phase-pistol. His mouth is at my soft cock, licking me, sucking me clean, and he's being so gentle it's gonna kill me.

I pet the fine, short hair of his head over and over, trying to express my appreciation since my mouth doesn't seem to be working. Then I tug him up to join me, and he kisses me, his tongue slipping into my mouth to give me a taste of myself. I feel a quick stab of shame, remembering my fear of alien sperm cooties.[xxxi] After all, my sperm is alien, too—to him.

He kisses me for a while but I can feel his excitement, so carefully under control, and I start to reach down to touch him but he grabs my hand.

"Not yet," he whispers, and I wonder what he's up to.

He rolls on top of me and puts his legs between mine and then he starts kissing me again, one hand running over my arm and my side and then slipping under my ass to squeeze me. Oh, I love that, although he's nuts if he thinks I'm gonna get it up again so soon. I mean, I'm fast in recovery, but not that fast.

But he goes real slow, moving against me, and he seems obsessed with my nipples; I've never thought they were anything special, but the way he keeps sucking and licking at them, you'd think they were raspberry-flavored jujubes.

Meanwhile, I'm running my hands all over the skin of his back and shoulders. I've always been fascinated by how smooth his skin is. Smooth and hairless except for this fine golden fuzz. After a while, the sensation of his mouth on me starts to feel so good I begin shifting around, wanting more contact.

He slides his mouth up my neck, sucking at it as he goes, and then he hits my ear and he whispers, "Want to make this good for you," he says.

Make what good? I wonder, and then I feel his cock nudging against my balls, curling around them, and I groan a little. Then it slides under them and kisses along that smooth skin under my nuts, and I spread my legs some, and Hutch makes an approving noise and starts kissing me again, hot little kisses nibbling at my lips, and I drop my hands down to his ass and feel him up, and that earns me more hot kisses and teeth nipping at my neck, and then the slick heat of the crown of his cock moves lower and begins to circle my asshole over and over like a satellite in orbit, and I suddenly realize what he meant by 'this.'

Hutch wants to fuck me. With his alien monster of a cock. I shiver, and I'm totally surprised when my legs spread themselves even further without thought.

Brain to legs: I have a message from the asshole—cut it out! WTF! You really want this space monster to come calling? But apparently my legs are ignoring me, and so is my back, which arches when that hardness presses slyly to get in, and suddenly my traitor asshole is cooperating, too, and I groan as I feel Hutch's cockhead push itself inside.

Because it feels good, damned good. Hutch has made it smaller, like a thick, questing finger, only more flexible, and now I know why he didn't want me to touch him, yet—he didn't want to get too hard and big to do this. And he's saying something in my ear about how hot and tight I am, but so smooth inside, and I bend my knees even more in response and he tucks his arms under them quick as you please, and I realize that I've given him full permission to do this thing.

I must really fucking love him or something. Or it might have to do with how it feels to have him moving inside me, his own pre-come easing the way as that little finger/cock finds my sweet spot and starts stroking me there, round and round.

I think I cry out, and he claims my mouth again so that I'm breathing his breath along with his moans. He sets his hips deep between mine so my cock is trapped between us; incredibly, it's taking a direct interest in the proceedings.

And then it begins to happen again, that shifting thing, like a swelling ring moving up and down, up and down, only this time it's happening inside of me and, Jesus, it's so powerfully good, like an internal massage, and I scream like a schoolgirl when I feel it. There's no friction—Hutch isn't even moving his hips—and every time that bump travels past my prostate I jump a little and clench on him, and Hutch moans in appreciation, and his cock starts to swell thicker and harder inside me.

Oh. God.

"Hutch, Hutch," I'm saying, and I slide my hand between us to grab my cock and start squeezing it. I'm already getting hard again, and every time his cock shifts up inside me, my own grows another centimeter.

"Go with it, baby," Hutch begs me, but he doesn't need to, I'm so in the game now, and Hutch rears up off his forearms onto his palms and I can see his face again.

His eyes are glittering down at me, and his neck is flushed red. I let go of my cock so I can start to play with those cute nipples of his. The first time I touch them he hisses and arches his back, which drives him deeper into me, making me moan.

"S-s-sensitive," he apologizes, but that only encourages me to play with them more, rubbing my thumbs against them before twisting them a little, and he groans and his hips jerk again like he can't control it. I tuck that particular piece of data away for later retrieval, and the cop part of me wonders idly if there's any connection between erectile tissues, but then the ass part of me says, 'Holy Toledo,'[xxxii] as Hutch's cock swells even bigger, and finally, finally he starts moving his hips.

"Ohh. Ohh," he says with each thrust, and there's very little lubrication, but it's not going to be a problem, I think, because he rears up to his knees and takes my cock in his hand and starts pumping it, and I feel like I'm flying, right now—I'm in the Turbino at the edge of light-speed, and my hips start jerking to meet him, and he's yelling out loud, his voice hoarse, begging me for something, and I reach up again and pinch his nipples between my fingers and he shouts again and trembles and then he's coming inside me, that monster is pulsing over and over while Hutch groans long, his voice a deep rumble.

He slumps down and slips out of me, and I don't really regret it, because it kind of blows my mind a little how much I liked it, being fucked by his alien cock. I want to put that away for a while and think about it later.

I'm still hard as a rock, of course, and Hutch doesn't give himself long to forget it, because he raises himself up and kisses me again, and then he's traveling down my chest and before you can say 'Jack Robinson'[xxxiii] he's between my thighs and swallowing my cock deep into his mouth.

"Hutch! Oh, God," I say and I can't stop myself from bucking in deeper, but he has no problem handling it. In fact, he grabs my hand and puts it on top of his head, and I start fucking his mouth, pushing his head up and down on my cock, and his blue eyes stare up at me as he sucks me and sucks me, his tongue enthusiastic against the shaft. In no time at all I reach the edge and fall, like into a black hole, and I say his name as I shoot down his throat and he swallows it all, his hand hard on me, pulling out every drop.

"God," I repeat, and Hutch gently cleans off my limp dick again and then elbow walks up the bed beside me to collapse by my shoulder. So, I roll to meet him and then I lick some of my come off the corner of his lips. He uses it as an excuse to suck my tongue in for another kiss, but I don't complain.

"Starsk," he murmurs, and I think I'm in deep trouble, because it's what he always calls me, but the way he says my name is totally new, and it pretty much burns my heart like a supernova to hear him say it like that. I grab him and squeeze him in response, and I think he knows what I'm trying to say, because he says my name again, "Starsk." And then he whispers some mushy stuff in my ear that I refuse to repeat on account of it might ruin his rep as a hard-nosed space cop. But it's all fine by me.

I think we'll be logging in late tomorrow.

...

Almost a year after Hutch and I finally got together, the Blinns made their presence known to humans. They did it in a really classy way: first they had some of their Bridges in the newsfeed services post little 'Wouldn't it be cool if there was alien life?' pieces, and then after a while they sent ambassadors to visit all the top dogs on all the stations and the big cities still on Earth.

It really blew people's minds, but I think in a good way.

Nothing much changes for me and Hutch, except he starts having to spend an hour a day yammering on the comm in that crazy language of theirs. Hutch has always been good at languages, so I guess it shouldn't surprise me that, except for the stutter sometimes, his Pan-English is perfect.

One good thing that happens as a result of the Blinns coming out is I can finally call my mom with the news about us. I just didn't feel comfortable telling her when I had such a huge secret to hide. But now that it's been a couple of weeks since the big news hit the wires, I dial her up on the comm and go straight into it.

"Ma, I have good news."

There's a satellite link delay, and then her face is smiling up at me from the screen.

"What is it, my bubbeleh?"

"Well, I'm in love. The big-L love," I say, and I can feel Hutch's hand squeeze my knee, though he's sitting out of camera range because he doesn't want to give anything away.

"That's wonderful, sweetheart. Tell Mamma all the details."

"Well, I will; but first, Ma, there's something I should tell you that maybe you won't be so happy about." And I suck in a deep breath and say it fast. "It's Hutch, Ma. I love him, and he's an alien."

Well, the blubbering starts pretty fierce, and the 'how could you do this to your mother who suffered the pain of childbirth' rap, although I'm pretty sure they had her tranked for my delivery. And when I can finally get a word in edgewise, I tell her the one thing that I know will make it all better.

"It's okay, Ma. He says he'll convert."

So then she's all smiles, and Hutch finally leans over to be seen and receive his congratulations, and it's all copacetic. But after we cut the connection I look over at him and he's got this slightly worried look, and I know just what he's thinking.

I mean the bris is going to be out of this world.[xxxiv]

Finis[xxxv]

August 7, 2005
San Francisco, CA

[i] Perp —Short for 'perpetrator of the crime.' The bad guy.

[ii] Hitting the deck[Hutch here. Jesus, Starsk, you try growing up in a low-gravity environment and then go run the Academy obstacle course.] [Starsky here. What a wuss.]

[iii] Shark —A ruthless, greedy person. I think sharks were animals with big teeth that went extinct before the Global Life Preservation Act.

[iv] Patsy —A sucker, a victim. Also: dupe.

[v] Loot —Creds, usually stolen.

[vi] Flakes —Weirdoes. From 'flaky' because they had dandruff? [Hutch: no comment.]

[vii] DingoA dog that eats people. [Hutch: a type of dog that lived in Australia on Earth.]

[viii] PunkSmall-time bad guy.

[ix] GreenCreds. I guess they used to come on green cards, instead of silver chips.

[x] Rope-a-dope —When you sucker someone in for a punch.

[xi] Wheels —Land jets used to have wheels on them, like robocarts. I don't think they could go very fast that way, but what do I know?

[xii] Fuzz —Another word for cops. I think because they used to cut their hair short. [Hutch note: Starsk, cops used to have walkie-talkies that made a lot of static in transmission. That's why the 'fuzz.'] [Starsky note: I know about walkie-talkies. Whose memoir is this, anyway?]

[xiii] CollarAn arrest. I think because they used to grab guys by the collar instead of just tazing them unconscious.

[xiv] Pigeon —A type of Earth bird that you eat.

[xv] Gold —it used to be valuable, like uranium is now.

[xvi] Chick —A small fluffy yellow bird. How guys used to refer to cute women before the Equal Rights Amendment passed and all of a sudden we had to call them femz.

[xvii] Switch-hitter —Someone who hits people with both hands? I'm not sure. [Hutch note: this is from the Earth sport baseball.]

[xviii] Monkey —Another extinct animal, they were small and looked like hairy humans. Sometimes they appeared in vids. They were funny.

[xix] Zip —People used to fasten their clothing with metal fasteners called 'zippers.'

[xx] Snitch —An informant.

[xxi] Sherlock —Mr. Sherlock was a famous detective.

[xxii] Blintz —A tasty delicacy my mom used to make for me before she sent me off of Earth to live with my aunt and uncle. Blintzes are golden brown on the outside with a creamy inside. Hutch really hates when I call him that. [Hutch note: No shit, Sherlock.]

[xxiii] On the cuff —Cops on the take used to keep their chips in their cuffs?

[xxiv] Good morning —An Earth phrase. On the Earth, when you first wake up it's all light outside, because the Sun is out. Then it gets dark at night. I really miss that, sometimes.

[xxv] Goose bumps —Only an Earther would know this one. When you pluck the feathers from a goose (bird) for eating, it leaves all these bumps behind. And don't give me that look: goose is very tasty.

[xxvi] Mime —An entertainer who tried to be funny without talking. I don't get it.

[xxvii] In Dutch —Owing somebody big. Kind of like being Juped, today. And before you say it, Hutch, I know, I know, the whole "Jupiterians own everything" is a myth of the newsfeeds.

[xxviii] Macgyver —To jimmy with something to make it work the way you want it to. MacGyver was a famous early space engineer who saved an entire Lunar city from explosive decompression using nothing but a piece of chewing gum and some foil.

[xxix] Copacetic —Acceptable; A-okay.

[xxx] Loony —Crazy. The assumption is that people from Luna are all a little nuts. [Hutch note: thanks heaps.]

[xxxi] Alien sperm cooties —[Hutch note: Good lord. Starsky, the Blinn are almost exactly like Humans, to the .0005 percent of DNA. If you were a chick, I could get you pregnant. And considering how much of my alien sperm you've had inside you, you probably would be having triplets by now.] [Starsky note: This is weird enough without you knocking me up, Blintz.]

[xxxii] Toledo —A city on Earth. Somewhere in the middle of what used to be North America, before Global Unification.

[xxxiii] Jack Robinson —Jackie Robinson was a really fast runner from the Earthian game baseball. I'll bet it's from that.

[xxxiv] Bris —[Hutch note: Oy. You ain't kiddin', buddy.]

[xxxv] Finis. —The end. Kaput. Buh-bye.