"Stop," Garuch muttered from his desk.
"Oh," I blinked as she reached the stairs and glanced back at me standing there. It seemed like they had something like a smile. She certainly seemed amused. "You're right. It's not professional to be oogling crewmates."
"Please. She'd be insulted if you didn't stare," the Kankoran muttered, picking at a fang with his claw before he sniffed. "Is she the first Hethrinite you've ever met?"
"In person," I admitted, walking over and taking a seat. The smart chair instantly rearranged itself for my physiology. "I've read the Concordiat documentation but they were rather dry."
He leaned back in his own chair. "That's to be expected, given they're compiled by robots. Humanity is rather new to the Concordiat." He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. "How best to explain the Hethrinites? They are friendly, warm, gentle, kind, sensual, sexual, seductive, curious, and quite possibly the most terrifying race in the Concordiat. You'd be wise to remember that when you're in her bed."
"Sir," I swallowed. "I'd never--"
His ears perked in a Kankoran smile. "Relax, human. It's fine so long as you're both off duty. But odd are you're going to be good friends with her. Intimate friends, if she can arrange it. Because she's not going to give you a choice. You noticed that sweet scent? Those pheromones?" He chuckled, tapping his muzzle. "Not surprised if you didn't, but it's hard to slip anything past this. Hethrinites possess a very alluring scent that's effective on most concordat species, like humans."
"And Kankorans?" I asked with a half smile.
"If I were sixty years younger, perhaps. We've developed a different rapport than sexual. Plus, if you can smell it, it's harder to be enticed. But Hethrinites are masters of 'soft power'. Their charm offensives are utterly terrifying. They get in close. Become your friend. Your friend with benefits. They'll happily take the relationship as far as you'll let them. They'll want to be friends with all of your friends. It's how they operate."
I frowned, looking back where she'd disappeared. "So she was... what, lying?"
"Oh, nothing so nefarious, but it is how they operate. Most concordiat species are somewhat sexually compatible, with some size, anatomy, and cultural awkwardness to keep things interesting. Hethrinite secretions, however, stimulate the release of certain neurotransmitters in their partners. You have sex with them, you fall in love." He folded his hands on his chest. "Their military fleet is pitiful. Their armies are all but non-existent. Their economy is one of the lowest in the Concordiat, and yet there isn't a powerful leader, organization head, or economic master that doesn't have a Hethrinite concubine."
"I see," I frowned, but then sighed, thinking of my girlfriend. "So, what should I do?"
"That I leave up to you. Your private affairs are private. Just don't fornicate in the mess room. Smells linger."
"Sir, I would never..." I started to say, the paused. "Wait. Have..."
"Hethrinties. Danti. Luthens. Lapari. All have social sexual traditions. I understand some ancient human cultures had similar attitudes towards sex. If your not on duty and it doesn't interfere with ship's functions then its not my business, but I do ask that you have some discression for some of the more reserved species. Especially Gunnery Cheif T'zar." His ears folded back gravely. "Hethrinites and Hothites share a complicated and advesarial relationship."
"Well, they look similar," I said, lamely trying not to seem like a complete moron. "I mean T'zar is just... bigger." And clawier. And fangier.
"Hethrinites and Hothites are from the same world, Heth. However, sometime in their history, a world spanning conflict tore up much of the world. A group boarded and ark vessel for a nearby star system. Fortunately for them, they encountered the Danti, who transported them to a habitable, but far colder and harsher world. The species split at that point. The bad blood still remains."
I thought of Linzeki. "Hard to think of someone as friendly as that fighting a war."
"Oh, they fight. They fight dirty. Almost every race in the Concordiat has defense treaties, or non-aggression pacts with them. But that war shaped the modern Hethrinite. They disarmed their militaries and formed a cooperative government. When they joined the Concordiat, they hadn't fought a war in two centuries. Needless to say, the inclusion of such a promiscuous and polyamourous race was difficult at first."
"Behavior like that wouldn't be tolerated on a human military ship," I pointed out.
"Nor on a Kankoran vessel, but this is a Concordiat ship and flexibility is mandatory. I've served on other ships were the captain tried to enforce a strick set of moral guidelines. It was miserable. Discipline and morale problems all over the place. Engineer Linzeki might rut half the ship, but she'll also keep the engines in prime condition and fix any problem that surfaces. And the rest of the engineering team are very... supportive... of her." He pointed a clawed finger at me. "So if it happens, it happens. Don't let it interfere with your work, and we won't have a problem."
It was a bit of a relief. "I just didn't imagine serving on a Concordiat ship would involve so much... sexual politics."
"Welcome to a multi-racial vessel. I have to juggle Hethrinite libidos with Danti pranks, Luthen religious obligations, Lapari nationalism, Kankoran dietary requirements, Hothite anger management issues, Culdosi agricultural experiments in the ventilation system, and a dozen other niggling problems. Oh. And a virtually unknown race. Yours." He sniffed. "A third of the crew are going to try and get in your pants before this mission is over, just to find out how compatible human males are with them."
"A third. Hopefully the female third, sir," I said, trying to prevent the flush in my cheeks.
He cocked his head. "Well, considering Luthens are hermaprodites and Danti have three genders, I think that's a vain hope," he said and then chuckled. "Again, don't let it interfere with your work and there'll be no complaints." He said and then chuffed.
"Well, I'll just check for... you know," I said, cupping my hands over my chest.
"Wouldn't help you. Hethrinite males have them too," he answered, chuffing again, like a dog having a dream. "The smell's a dead give away, though."
"Ah..." I blinked, my brain stalled. "Oh. This is going to be an interesting deployment, isn't it?"
"I'd say so. I'd certainly say so."