I woke up to Les’ formidable presence. As soon as he saw my eyes open he started talking in his strange language again, but this time there was a completely different outcome. His foreign words fluttered through my ears, hit my frontal lobe, and were somehow matched up with their literal and figurative equivalent in my brain. I understood him.
"Wait, what?" Was all I could manage to get out as I lifted myself onto my elbows, maintaining a grip on the pink blanket. The creature's body became rigid. I responded in English but we both knew I had comprehended him and he remained silent as I tried to work out the translation process in my head. Ok brain, we need to ask him what the fuck is going on so just let me say the globidie goop that will equal that. The words were miraculously easy for my mouth to form.
"What the fuck is going on?" The language still sounded like random noises to my ears, but the big guy's eyes widened and he stepped forward.
"It’s amazing that both our languages have a vulgar word for such a pleasurable act, and that such a visually appealing creature, a female, would feel comfortable using language only appropriate for males." He seemed to grow in size as he approached me and a creepy smile stretched across his face. He showed off his wide, blunt teeth as he added, “I’m glad your system has assimilated the serum. There is much we should talk about.” I was still contemplating his previous sentence when he spoke the second. I needed to focus. My brain needed time to translate but as the words became clear I was finding myself offended. Who was this guy, and why did he feel like he could get so close to me?
“Yes," I spoke this slowly in the new language I would soon know as Parian. "Why did you do this? Why am I here?"
As they came out I realized these were not the questions that really mattered. I needed to stop focusing on me and start focusing on the fact that I had just found what I had been searching for since I was sixteen.
I added quickly, "We are… we are extremely similar. Is your home world near and able to inhabit creatures of my specification?" Yes, that was a much better question. We stared at each other for a couple seconds. I didn't like the way he looked at me, but that was a problem to be addressed at a different time.
"My species and yours are, as you have stated, very similar. You are of the same class as I. The Par have been searching for life forms since we first entered the environment outside of our own planet, and you are the fourth we have found, the third intelligent, and the second in classification vertebrate. We have both made a grand discovery here. In response to your third question, my home planet is about two leaps from here and it would be able to sustain a life form such as yours. Are you the last of your kind?"
By this time he was right on top of me. I tightened my grip on the pink material wrapped around my torso and gave him a look intended to convey that I did not like him so close to me.
He backed up but only slightly.
"I'm not the last of my species but I was scanning for planets that can sustain my kind of life form." I took a deep breath in an attempt to organize my thoughts.
"How is it I can understand you?"
His big lips spread into a smile. I must have asked the right question. "We have injected you with LiqParian. We are the Par. The serum has assimilated with the section of your brain that creates language. I believe this is located in the front part of your brain." He paused and glanced around the room like there would be someone there to correct his explanation. “We are en route to the coordinates logged into your ship. We detect 71 life forms but the planet is not fully capable of sustaining your kind of species. I do not understand why you chose to inhabit that planet." He stared at me in an inquisitive way. I think he was finally waiting for me to respond instead of just staring at me.
"It wasn't our original home planet. It was more of a business venture that didn't really work out. That’s why I was out scanning." I took some deep breaths. I was getting ahead of myself. "So how far out are we? We have to be a couple weeks from there. Are we all going into stasis?" I started searching the small room for signs of a pod, which was more of an excuse to break eye contact with the big creep than in real hopes of finding what I was looking for.
"Our technology far surpasses that on your ship. We will use the Zorb to power our leap, and will be entering your planet's orbit within 12 hours." He was very proud of this fact. "Zorb?" I arched my eyebrow knowing he was just waiting for an opportunity to continue my education.
"Follow me. I will show you our main bay, and the rest of the ship. I can tell from your ship that you will need to be taught how to survive and function in our society." He began moving to the exit and I started to go after him until I was reminded of my lack of clothing. "Wait, do you have something I can put on? I'd even take the short shorts you're wearing." I pointed at his tiny black shorts, and then was struck with how easy my new language had become. I wasn't even thinking about translating anymore, and I'm pretty sure my taunting tone was getting across. The lack of language barrier made our encounter nearly common place. I kept forgetting I was talking to an alien in a strange language.
"These are our basic uniform. Designed for comfort, durability, and freedom of movement." He glanced down to where I was pointing and actually looked self- conscious for a moment, but just a moment. "There is no need for you to cover yourself more than you are now. I do not understand why you feel the need to cover any part of your body. Your formation is pleasingly similar to my own." He took a step towards me and I shot my right hand out with my palm facing him. I knew I didn't look intimidating but he stopped so I kept it up.
“Well, I want to cover up and I'm not going anywhere until you give me something to cover up with other then this thing." My arm then swung around to bring his attention to the bright pink blanket, and gave him the bitchiest look I could muster. "If you want me to walk around comfortably I'm going to need real clothes."
His hand went up to stroke the spikes that lined his chin and when he turned to face the wall I noticed the thick spikes made a line from the top of his scull all the way down his spine. I wondered how similar he and I would look if our skin was removed. As I studied him, he was messing around with what I was beginning to realize was storage. He waved his hand along the right side of the wall and a drawer slid open. I could see stacks of black fabric I assumed were shorts like those that currently clung to the large form I was examining.
He pulled out a pair and brought them to me. "They should fit. Philex is made to take the form of whatever body it is worn by."
The big guy made no move to turn around and continued to keep his eyes fixed on my body. I was about to give him a lecture about manors and respect when I realized, "I don't know your name." I laid the shorts on the table beside me and tightened my grip on the blanket. "I’m Elinor Lee Stergeon." I could tell I threw him off with that. He stepped back and looked around the room again as if he would receive a clue about his own name from the white walls.
"I am Lesshoosha 7866 V. You may address me as Les." He puffed himself out and I assumed I was supposed to be impressed. "It is very rude for a woman to ask the name of a man. In the future you will await permission to become formal with a male, but it is likely our species will have many conflicting customs. Please dress yourself so that we may begin the tour." He turned and began to leave but there was no way I was going to let that go without saying anything.
I slid the shorts on before he turned around, and he was right, they fit snuggly around my hips as if they had been made for me. I was now standing and I crossed the blanket over my breasts. "That is a ridiculous custom. Especially since it appears that Par men are not aware that an introduction should be done at the beginning of a conversation and not in the middle of it."
He was unaffected by my irritated behavior but he did stop to turn and acknowledge my words. "It is a custom of my people. I understand you do not know our ways and so will allow your rudeness to go unpunished. Soon you will learn how to behave properly." He took a couple steps toward me and once again I was engulfed in his mass. "Please follow me."
I was about to do as I was told, but then remembered something Les had said early. "Wait, you said you detected seventy life forms on Kepler?" He was mostly out of the room when I said, "My planet."
"We detected seventy-one healthy life forms on the planet. We also found it to be a disturbingly low number." I thought I heard pity in his voice. I had mixed feelings about this. "Please, allow me to show you my ship and introduce you to my crew. You will feel better once you know more about your surroundings, and then we can discuss our plans for you species.” He reached out as if he was about to touch my shoulder and I moved to put more space between us.
I made my way back to the wall and pulled out another pair of shorts. I turned my back to Les and tried to rip the seam so I could wear the bottom as a top. Nothing happened. They barley even stretched out. I could feel Les behind me, “Do you have any tops, or could you rip the crotch of these for me?" I held the black cloth out to him and he stared at me completely confused.
"Why are you so intent on covering yourself? Have I not made it clear that I wish you to remain as you are?" He took them from me and made a move to toss them back in the drawer. I placed my hand on his forearm and said, "This is one of my customs and I will be much more comfortable meeting your crew if I am covered with something more legitimate than a pink blanket." My hand was still on his arm, and as I met his eyes for a moment he begrudgingly turned toward the wall and waved his hand again. A shelf slid out and another drawer opened but this one held what appeared to be an assortment of metal tools. Les grabbed a silver rod about the length of my finger, pressed one end, which caused the other to glow bright blue, and then dragged the lighted end across the crotch of the shorts. “This tool cuts Philex and only Philex." He looked up from his work, smiled at me, and ran the light across my hand. I jumped back with a yelp, but looked down to find my skin intact.
"Don't! What the hell?" I snatched the newly split shorts from his hands and backed away from him, but I could not stop the smile from spreading across my face.
"I knew you would be safe." He returned my smile as he put the cutting device away and pushed in the drawers and shelf. While his back was to me I pulled the recently altered shorts over my shoulders. The material clung to my body and made a strange shape because the cut out crotch left extra material hanging along my back, but it was actually comfortable and form fitting. I decided to push forward with the I’m-not-terrified-out-of-my-fucking-mind act and said, ”Ok, show me this ship and crew of yours."