"…I got the feeling I just took everything that little boy had right out from under him…"

The name's Jorga. Jorga Strate. I've got blue skin, four arms, and a bit of blubber. Plus I'm not the tallest Joe on the block…not at all, actually. I'm not much different from most space scum. Relying on thievery, murder, and bounty hunting for an employer to survive. I'll never forget this one time that changed my life. It made me a father (no, not in that way), it made me quit what I was calling a job (more like thejob), and it made me see just how much damage I had done in my lifetime. Let me tell you about it…


Forty years old was I when I made the mistake of working for a man (actually, I'm not sure what he was. In the heart or in the flesh) named Toxin. I was supposed to work with these bunch of troopers and other scum like me to hit the galactic military of Beta and hit 'em hard. We did what we were told. I shot a bunch of hard workin' soldiers with families that were gonna cry for months—years probably.

But when I came to this one ground station on the planetoid Ulaan, I felt like I had just received a knife to the heart.

I was pretty okay walking around outside the front of the station. Dead bodies of men didn't really bother me at this point.

I stepped inside and the first two people I saw at my first were both women. One was old, a receptionist or secretary probably. The other was a soldier. No older than twenty five. An engagement ring on her finger. They had been shot execution style along with everyone else on that bottom floor. I managed to keep a straight face but that hurt a little. I don't know why but I just had to kneel beside the engaged woman. Sticking out of her pocket was a rough looking piece of a photograph. I pulled it out by the corner out of curiosity and saw what I assumed was her fiancé. Another military guy. Blonde. Silver eyes. Tan. Not bad. But that meant he was probably dead too now. Was that a good thing or a bad thing? If he'd still been alive he would have to deal with the fact that she was dead now. May be it was good. But the overall situation was still bad.

Realizin' what I was doin', I stood up quick throwing the picture on the ground beside her. My jeans were bloody now but I really didn't give a rip. I moved on, surveying the damage. The next thing I did was make the mistake of going out onto the landing pad outside.

Beside me was Velder, a butthead that really needed to get a live (yea, I'm not one to talk). He actually seemed to enjoy what he did—killing people. And he'd point and laugh at some of the people he killed. I had never wanted to smack him more than when I got out onto that landing pad.

I didn't have to walk far to see a heart breaking sight. A tiny little fella that looked about five or six sprawled beside a boy that looked like he just entered his teenage years. The teenager had been shot in the chest. And then I saw the guy from the photo sprawled near them also shot in the chest. So the fiancé was dead. And I could tell by their faces that these three were all related. There was no way these were his kids. Probably his little brothers…

I swore under my breath.

"Awwww look at dat," Velder mocked.

"Shut up, V," I snapped.

"What? Jus' sayin' man—that's pitiful."

I glared at him. He still had that mocking tone in his voice. I couldn't look at him anymore and looked back to the kids. This hurt—more than the graze of a bullet I had on my shoulder. More than my bad hip. More than the women shot execution style.

"I can't do this," I sighed, closing my eyes.

I felt a slap on my bad shoulder from Velder's gloved hand. "What's wrong, Jorga? This gettin' too hard for ya? Gonna cry?"

I almost growled, "I didn't know I'd signed up to kill kids, V."

A shrill, scratchy laugh rang out. "Kids are gonna die, Jorga, Toxin's out to destroy an entire race along with this dang gov'ment—there're kids in that race, bub."

I repeated myself with more feeling this time, "I can't do this! I quit, V. I quit."

"If you quit, man, I'm gonna have to kill ya—"

I had turned around and punched him in the nose before he could say another word. He was on the ground and I jabbed my boot into his back pinning him.

"You gon' kill me from down there, V?"

I felt metal against the back of my head that didn't take me too long to identify. A barrel.

"He's not," I deep, emotionless voice grumbled, "But I will."

That was Xerc. He was literally black—it was the alien he was. His skin was black and you couldn't see that he had a mouth. But his eyes—his eyes were silver. Held no emotion just like his voice. He was the kind of brute you didn't want to mess with.

"Back off him, Strate."

I took my boot off his back (more like out of his spine) and took a step back when Xerc holstered his blaster.

"That's better. Turn around."

The shadow of a man stood behind me ready to snap any part of me if I tried anything. I turned around calmly and looked him in the silver sockets he called eyes.

"You don't quit. Not when you work for Toxin. The only way you're off this job is if you die. One way. Or another." And with that he was gone. Not no mystical voodoo or whatever—he just walked away.

Velder stood and glared at me. I didn't care. I wasn't sure who I wanted to shoot more: Toxin, Velder, or me.

That's when I heard it. Crying. Not the mourning of an adult, but the sad hopeless crying of a little kid. I turned around to see the littlest of the boys that I had thought was dead had sat up and was crying over the two others. My eyes softened a little and I clenched my teeth.

I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. Velder was had drawn his blaster and was about to aim it. I put my two left arms up giving him my hardest death glare.

Velder shrugged, "What? I'm just gonna put him out of his misery."

I hardened my glare not that I thought it was possible. Velder put up his gun and just turned around.

"Okay then, Jorg', but that kid is gonna suffer. This place was looted—no food, no one to take care of him, no nothin'. Not that I care or nothin'."

Velder swaggered away and the signal was given for us all to band together. If I didn't report there would be heck to pay. I looked back at the little mourning boy.

He was crying hard. His odd copper eyes were as red as his bright red hair. He was pale. Almost looked like he was or was recovering from being sick. To sum it up, he was miserable. When he looked up, looked at me, I locked eyes with him, and it tore my stone of a heart apart. His big, sad eyes told me something. When I looked into them, I got the feeling I just took everything that little boy had right out from under him. Sure, it hadn't been me directly, but I had had a part in it. What kind of sick person was I?

I sighed, turned away from him unable to deal with the sight of the poor pitiful boy any longer, and reported back.


That night, I returned to Ulaan. To search for the little boy. Whether Xerc liked it or not, whether Toxin liked it or not, I was quitting. I just had to see if that boy was still there. The first place I was gonna check was the landing pad.

When I got there my already torn and twisted heart was shattered further. He had fallen asleep, or passed out, cradling one of his brothers' heads and holding the arm of another. He was frail and shivering in the freezing night air. Wheezing instead of breathing smoothly in his sleep. He was pitiful. Deathly pale.

I placed a hand on him. He was abnormally warm—definitely a fever there. A high one. Despite that, I picked him up in my arms. I hated to tear him away from his brothers but staying around their dead bodies was only gonna get him sicker.

I carried the surprisingly light boy to my space shuttle, the lovely piece of scrap, Ol' Uranus. Yea, I'd got a lot of ribbing about my heap of junk. Maybe it was true—my anus probably did look better than she did. But she did her job well. She flew, she fired, and she landed. I brought the boy into Uranus and laid him down in the bunk in the back. Then I flew Uranus far out of there.

When I was far enough into outer space having set the ship on autopilot as she traveled at the speed of light, I decided to go see if the little boy was awake. I brought some bread and water (basically all I had. I usually survived off of cardboard flavored ration sticks on ol' Uranus) since he definitely looked like he needed them.

The little guy was awake. But he wasn't moving much. Just laid there. Cried. Didn't look at me. I didn't blame him. I felt horrible for even being a part of that operation out there. As if it wasn't bad enough we were killing hard working men with families dependent upon them, we just had to be killing children too. I wished he could understand the regret I had on this situation. I left the bread and water on the fold out table beside the bunk and backed away to the farthest corner of the room.

As I watched him continue to lay there, his tears having dried out, I tried to put myself in his shoes. I didn't know anything about his parents so I just figured worst case scenario—they were military too. How would I feel if all my family had been shot (hopefully not in front of me, er, him I mean)? I never knew my family. I'd been put in an orphanage the first chance my parents got. Of course no one adopted me—who wants a chubby blue baby with four hands to pick his nose with? I found it absolutely impossible to understand how this little guy felt. But however he felt, he looked like he'd given up. Like he had no purpose, positively miserable. Someway, I had to make sure he didn't give up on me.

After what felt like the longest of time, he sat up. Very slowly. Very weakly. I was afraid to step forward and help him. A big, blubbery, blue, four-armed alien would probably scare the scrap metal out of a little sport like him. I watched him close though.

He took the water and drank eagerly and then started to pick at the bread. When he set the bread down he looked at me then looked away real quick like.

I decided to speak up, "What's your name, kid?"

When he looked back at me, I noticed there was fear in those big eyes. He was probably scared to death. And I wasn't makin' it any better.

"You got one? 'Cause I've got one. It's Jorgra," I said, trying to make him less scared, "Jorga Strate."

With every word I seemed to just scare him more. He was leaning further and further back as I took step after slow step toward him.

"I ain't gon' hurt you. I just wanna know who ya are. Tryin' to help you."

"R…" Well. I got a growling sound out of him. It was somethin', I guess. Then he continued, "Richar'."

"Richard?" I asked.

He nodded voicelessly his mouth open a bit.

"Well then, Richard—ya feelin' any better?" I asked.

He nodded again.

I spent a while searching my mind for something else to say. There were a lot of things I could've said or asked. It was just how to ask them and when.

Surprisingly enough though, he asked the next question. "Where…Where's Trent'n?"

Nirvein accent, I noticed.

"Who's Trenton?" I asked.

"My big brudder. Him and Kyle."

The two others. He must've known they were dead. But if he was as young as he looked he might not be able to really understand what it meant when somebody died.

"They're…back on Ulaan."

"Why?" he gave me those innocent eyes. Those innocent eyes held a bunch of grief and sadness. Also, they held knowing. He knew they were dead. He knew they were back on Ulaan because that's where all the other dead people were. He just wanted someone to tell him it wasn't real. Someone that would tell him it was one big nightmare. I hated that I couldn't be the one to tell him that.

"They…passed on, Richard."

"Oh…"

I asked, "Where're your parents? I could take you to 'em."

Richard looked away. "They're…"

Ah, dang. His parents were dead. Military probably. So I had taken everything from this kid. How the heck was I ever gonna make it up to him? That was just it—I wasn't ever going to be able to.

I tried to change the subject before he started crying again. "How old are ya?"

"Nine."

Wow, I was way off. Four years. But he did look a lot younger than he was. What was I gonna do with him? I could drop him off at an orphanage…but that just wouldn't do right with me. The orphanages nowadays couldn't be trusted. They'd do just about anything for a Xenon buck. Including sink as far as selling kids into slavery. I was not sendin' this kid there. 'Specially not after what I'd help put him through.

My only other option it seemed was to parent him myself. Could I do that? I'd never been a dad before. Never watched a kid before. I'd managed to take care of myself though. Couldn't I take care of him? I guess we'd just have to see. Of course, if he didn't warm up to me soon, it'd never work. But maybe he would. Eventually…

Then, I realized that there was still one other option. "Uhh, Richard—you got any other family you can…"

He took a minute, "I…dunno any of 'em. They stay away from me."

Must've been a sensitive subject because he looked away. I'd ask him about it later. But I did know one thing—I was going to have to play babysitter for a while. Maybe I could find a good family for him later on...

"Well…Uh, until I can find you a nice home…You'll probably have to stay with me," I said.

Richard looked up. When his eyes met mine, he blinked. "O..ok."

"Now, I don't know what you've been living in but I live in the bad side of the galaxy. You're gonna have to be careful—avoid most people you meet and listen to me when I tell you somethin', got it?"

The little guy took a minute. Slowly, he nodded.

"And I ain't got all that much dinero so if you lived in a rich family…well, sorry kid. I ain't no millionaire."

I turned around and started to head back to the cockpit. I hadn't noticed the kid recover from his zoned-out daze and slide off the bed, unbalanced. So I was totally surprised when something latched onto my waist. I looked down to see the little guy hugging me with his eyes shut tight. I dunno what he was huggin' scum like me for… And, uh, I'm not the most…I'm not one for that…huggin' stuff.

After a while, I said, "Uh, kid…You can…You can let go now."

He didn't budge.

"Kid—Richard—I need ta—" I finally shut myself up. The kid had been through a lot of trauma, lost everything, been hurt in more ways than one—the least I could do was suck up my pride and hug him. Or let him hug me, I mean. Slowly, I patted him on the back. It was awkward for me. Real awkward. I wasn't a daddy. And I didn't know mine. So I had no idea how one was supposed to act. Technically, I wasn't going to be a daddy. I was just gonna let him live with me until I found some nice people to take him. 'Course I'd have to be careful…It was hard to tell with people these days. They could be totally angelic. But as soon as I leave the kid with them, they could turn around and sell him. Beat him too. I didn't trust folks. I'd always had a problem with it. Oh well, I—

Great—the little guy was cryin' again. I didn't know how to comfort anyone—in fact, I was usually the one delivering the pain… I sighed and stopped patting him. Instead, I wrapped my two lower arms around him.


Okay—Mizz B has somethin' to say about adopted kids.

Adopted kids are amazing to me. I love them. When my parents had me, they didn't get to chose me. Trust me—my mom wouldn't have chosen 12 hours of exhausting labor. Anyways, my parents love me—I'm not dissing them or anything. It's just, your biological parents didn't chose you. They had you. But adopted kids are chosen. Imagine that—chosen. It's just…WOW to me.

So anyone that's been adopted out there—

Mizz B loves you! :)