I awoke completely aware of my surroundings. My mind's ability to remain calm and alert was exasperating. Sometimes a girl just wants to sink into a state of shock-induced unconsciousness.
I was sitting up in my small bed when Tikk poked his head through the large opening, and said, “You are awake." He smiled a shockingly toothy grin and entered the room.
"What is it with the whole hiding everything in the walls and no closed-off rooms thing you guys have going on?" I swept the room with my arms. “How do I ever find this room again? I'd end up walking into the med bay when I need the toilet if I lived here.” I looked at Tikk and wondered if we had arrived at Kepler yet, but I was more interested in learning about my hosts than getting back to my useless planet.
"The bareness of our ship upsets you. Les and I spoke of your little outburst while you were asleep." I inhaled quickly upon remembering how I had yelled at the purple beast in my bladder bursting rage.
Tikk saw my look of fear and reassured me, "It is expected for cultures to clash when first coming into contact with each other. Misunderstandings are part of the process and easily forgiven. We are a warrior species. Since birth, Kara warriors are trained for combat and taught to always be ready for any situation. We evolved with little need for sitting. The Harllukna are a peaceful, research based culture; you will be introduced to them in due time. They have architecture more conducive to sitting and privacy. Closing off rooms would not suit the sense of camaraderie our culture wishes to uphold, and it would hinder us if the ship were under attack. We respect each other’s privacy and never enter another's personal space without themtheir being aware, but there is not great need for personal space among our kind.” We sit for formal meals and when we wish to have recreational time."
Tikk stretched his hand out to me. "Would you like to join us on the deck? Your planet should be coming into view soon."
I placed my pale hand in his green, callused one. The lines on his palm could have belonged to any human; if that human had three long fingers instead of four and black, unbreakable nails, but we both had thumbs that could clasp the other’s hand. Par skin is similar in form to human skin but feels as if it was covered with a few centimeters of tar, thick and impenetrable.
Tikk pulled me to standing and said, "As for knowing what rooms are where, that just takes time like when you enter any new place. It is simple when you understand the lay out. We are currently in the living- quarters section of the ship, which is the upper portion. Each portal opens to either a sleeping or facility room down this hall, and your room will now recognize you. When you approach, the opening the lights will illuminate. If you enter a facility room and do not need to use any of the devices then nothing will happen and you will know where you are."
“Well, at least I'll be able to find my room again." I smiled at this small comfort as we exited and turned right. "So, are we walking towards the area where the control and medical rooms are?"
”Yes, can you feel the floor slant down?" I could feel a slant in the floor but it seemed too slight to make much of a difference.
"We are descending into the main area of the ship now. The ship is made of a Philect similar to the fibers our clothes are made from, but with a different chemical base. It gives the ship a malleable texture that can be manipulated and made to fit into whatever shape is most needed at any given moment. The ship's usual shape looks a bit like this," He held up his free hand and pointed two fingers while spreading them apart to make a ‘V.’
He continued. “With the control room located at the center and the living and storage sections of the ship breaking off in separate directions. There are times when we need more space in the medical bay and so that space is taken from the storage area because they both run along the same section of the ship, and, if necessary, the medical bay can give up space to the hanger.”
He must have seen the awe on my face because he let out a small gurgling laugh again. "The way I am explaining it must make it sound fantastical, but I promise everything can be easily explained with simple physics, but I fear that it would not be so simple to you." He smiled at me then and I could see a glimpse of sympathy in his eyes.
"Another reason we prefer to keep a common color and design throughout the ship is so that those not familiar with the layout are easily confused. No species has ever been able to take a Par ship while Par still inhabited it. Les, we are here." I hadn't noticed that we were standing at the entrance to the control room until Tikk informed Les of our arrival.
Les was even more intimidating than I remembered. He was not the tallest of his crew. In fact he was about medium height for the Par, but Les demanded attention. His gaze rested on me and I suddenly forgot there was anyone else in the room. For a being I had considered monstrous just a few hours ago Les was very aesthetically appealing to me at the moment. Perhaps it had something to do with my planet, bright blue Kepler, looming at me from the window behind him, or perhaps it was the way his upper nostrils began to pulse as he stared at me.
As I tore my eyes from Les’ amethyst form to scan the room I realized that all their faces were more human that I had first thought. Their eyes: large, black, and upturned were gorgeously alien, but the gill-like nostrils took more time to acquire a taste for.
Les had a wide jaw, which only added to his animalistic appearance. Urral, and the majority of the crew, had longer more human features, but all of their noses were flat against their face, and equipped with a second pair of slits. I found myself staring at them constantly.
The extra slits on Les’ nose were going bat shit when my eyes returned to his face, and I was reminded of Tikk's existence when he spoke into my left ear. "We are ready to land, but Les and I would like to discuss our plans with you before we arrive. We have learned through experience that colonization is eased with communication. We have identified 71 life forms that match your genetic code residing on the planet, but the planet itself is not altogether hospitable." Les had begun to approach us as Tikk spoke.
Les stopped just short of my right shoulder. I could have reached out and stroked his thick skin. "Have you informed her of our plans?" He asked Tikk. Now that he was standing two inches from me I had become invisible.
"I was just starting to. I thought it would be best if we both spoke to her." Tikk was still linked to my left arm and he began to pet my hand as if I needed consoling. Now they both turned to face me and Tikk said, “Elinor, you and your people do not wish to remain on your planet, correct?" This was the negotiation.
"No, of course not." With those four words I had already lost. These guys weren't here to save us. They were here to profit off of us. I continued with caution, "This planet, Kepler, was only meant to be a settler colony while the process of terraformation was carried out. Earth, our planet of origin, had begun the process of colonizing other planets for natural materials with the hope of one day housing humans for the long term, but the colonies were never meant to be replacements for Earth."
Les’ face tilted in confusion and I pushed forward with the gory details. "My species had outgrown and over developed our planet. We needed a place to put all the excess people and also an answer to the food shortage problem. About two hundred years ago our scientists discovered a way to harness the sun's energy in a way that powered our spacecraftsspacecraft beyond anything we had known before."
I met Tikk's shocked gaze. He shook his head in confusion and said, "You used the star that warmed your own planet for energy? Even a massive and young star would be drained in a matter of…"
I nodded in agreement. "And that’s exactly what happened. We had only set up three colonies by the time the sun started to wane. The effects on Earth were of course catastrophic and everyone that could afford it escaped to one of the fledgling colonies, but obviously none of them were ready to maintain life. From and from what we could glean from the small amount of communication we received from the other two we are the only survivors. It wasn't like we didn't have any warning. My father remembered physicists predicting the inevitable and numerous attempts to stop technology from progressing, but who wants to listen to hippies and scientists when there are millions of dollars to be made. The people of Earth knowingly fucked themselves over." I stopped abruptly. Tikk and Les both shifted uneasily at my use of profanity. I again became aware that I was speaking in their language with such ease, and the word for fuck in their language is melodic when compared to its harsh parallel in my first language, English.
"Your species destroyed its own planet." I saw awe in Les’ face as he spoke. I could feel the tensions around us shift as they reconsidered me. Humans had become something dangerous to them. "We assumed we had found fellow colonizers, but this is…" Les fell silent but kept his eyes on me as he thought. Tikk began to tighten his grip on my arm as if preparing to move me quickly.
Then Les broke our staring competition by yelling, "Prepare the cargo ships for departure." Tikk pulled me out of the room.
Les followed us and Tikk took over the conversation. "We are going to take down three cargo ships down to load your people. We will not be staying on the planet for more than two hours.”
We entered the cargo hold and I saw my pod sitting in the corner. It looked jagged and tiny next to the massively cylindrical cargo ships Tikk was pointing toward. The cargo hold itself was cavernous and held more than just the four ships. The first half of the room was obviously for storage and had what appeared to be the only closed off room on the ship.
"You will of course come with us. We will need you to translate until we can get your people on board and injected with LiquiParian. We now know that it takes about ten hours for your body to assimilate the serum. Please, step up here." Tikk had lead me to the side of one of the huge, oblong white ships and was motioning for me to enter a curved opening that revealed a porcelain white interior.
I nodded as I placed my hand on the outer wall of the ship. “Who does your cleaning?” I asked, laughing at the silliness of my question because no one else did.
I stepped into the circular vessel. I felt like I was inside a slightly flattened sphere. Again the area was bare and a large viewing portal showed the cargo bay. I walked further in as Tikk, Les, and Urral entered the ship behind me. "How do you keep everything so white?" I touched one of the malleable walls; the surface was gritty, not smooth, as I had assumed.
"It is the same material the main ship is made from. It absorbs any residue that remains on it for longer than a couple fractions." Urral answered me. He smiled and turned toward the portal where I could see the side wall of the main ship was raising in order to allow for our exit.
The ship was beginning to buzz and click and I could feel a jolt as it powered up. ”Please, everyone take a position," Tikk said as he led me by my shoulder towards the back wall.
He turned me to face him and then pushed my back so that I touched the wall. Upon making contact the wall became soft and dough like. I felt like I was being pushed into a sponge, and when I was one with the wall, Tikk released me. I was about halfway into the wall and could feel it gripping me, but I also felt that I could easily pull away if I desired.
"These ships go very fast and stop even quicker. It is best that we do not have any option for individual movement while they are in flight." Tikk smiled at me and then leaned himself against the part of the wall to my right. I could see Les and Urral doing the same thing on the other side..
"So, can the entire ship do this? Like in my room or the med bay?" The ship began to move once everyone was secure and I was enjoying the view. It was the last time I would ever land on Kepler.
"You mean secure our bodies?" Tikk answered. I could hear Urral and Les discussing something about food rations and my stomach growled.
“This is far superior to anything my people ever designed."
We traveled very fast. The ship was already hovering about three hundred kilometers above what was left of the human settlement, and I had not sensed any shift in speed.
"We use the same material in all our ships, and in most of our homes on Qualitia. The wall becomes malleable as the ship prepares for takeoff. It is not used for that purpose on Qualitia, our planet,” He added to answer my questioning gaze. “The Tryllkit, our ship, manipulates space to travel and there is no need to secure yourself during that process. You can step out now. The ship will lower to the ground slowly.”
Les and Urral had already stepped away from the wall and were walking toward the front of the ship. I pushed myself away from the wall and joined them.
"Your colony is within range and should be aware of our arrival. Do you believe they will attempt to attack us as we descend?" Les turned to face me as he spoke. Tikk had moved to my left, so Les and I stood close to each other with the other two males flanking us.
"I don't believe they would even be able to.” I replied. “We used to have many powerful weapons and ammunition, but all legitimate fire power was used up during the last rebellion."
"You used weapons on your own kind? It is no wonder your population has gotten so dangerously low," Urral snorted in a laugh at the absurdity of my statement. He was right, we were not an intelligent species.
“When we land, you must do as I say and act quickly.” Les said. I nodded and watched my people make their way towards the ship, fully acknowledging that I did not know what to say about any of what had just occurred.
- R. T, Kilgore