This week's flash was inspired by the prompt: Include an alien in your story. (Okay, so it's kind of cheating since it's a scifi story already, but I mention 2 new aliens this week!)
“You can’t stay here forever.” Lakshou stood outside my door.
“I’m fine.” I retreated and let Lakshou come in. The door slid shut behind him.
“No, you’re not. You need someone to speak to. You need to be out among people.”
“Why?” I wrapped my arms around my chest. “That’s when I’m dangerous.”
“We don’t believe you’re in danger. Captain says there’s no way for someone to get a signal through the ship’s shielding while we’re traveling anyway. We’re not due to stop for a full standard month. The station where we found you was the outer edge of our orbit around this galaxy.” Lakshou shook his head. “We still don’t know what they were doing out so far. There’s no inhabited space sectors anywhere near here.”
“Can’t we just practice here? Aparoe will visit me later; they come every day. I’m talking to people.” I sat on the edge of the bed.
“Two people aren’t enough. I want to take you to the leisure ring. You have been cooped up for most of your life. I know you’re probably more comfortable with staying in your quarters, but it’s not healthy.”
I sighed. Everything Captain had told me only made me more convinced that I needed to stay in my quarters. But they were all pushing me to leave. Aparoe kept mentioning other people they’d rescued and the results of tests they were running. I was the only human that had been there, but apparently not the only rare alien found this far out. Apparently there was one alien whose body gave off a soporific mist if the temp rose above sub-zero temperatures. “What if I panic again?”
“As long as I’m with you, I can help with that. We’re not asking you to leave with a regular crew member; we just want you to stop punishing yourself.”
“It’s not punishment!” I snapped as I jerked to my feet. “I’m trying to protect you.” There was a feeling inside me, a growing surety that my rescue wasn’t an escape but a test. This was real. I knew it was real. I also knew I was going to hurt someone.
It was all I knew how to do.
“We’re not afraid of you, Kohen. We’re afraid for you. Come out, just for a little while. I wanted to take you to the stores ring. You need a few more things.”
“I don’t have any money to pay for it.”
Lakshou waved that concern away. “There’s a fund set up for rescues from the Brox Consortium. They fund these rescue missions, help reacclimate anyone we find and rescue, provide travel home, or education and a job if going home isn’t an option anymore.”
Home. I had a brief glimpse of a room, tiny and cramped, and bunks lining the wall. It was more like my cell than I wanted to admit, but I knew it’d been what we called home before my parents sold me. Barren land, subsistence rations, and a whole hell of a lot nothing.
“Home definitely isn’t an option anymore,” I said bitterly. Now that I’d stirred up a memory, more would come. The vid screen couldn’t stop them, and I wasn’t tired enough to sleep—and I’d only have nightmares if I tried. “Okay, let’s go out.”
Lakshou smiled, his bifurcated lips parting and curling up on the edges. “Great. You’ll need foot coverings.”
I sat down in one of the two chairs in the room and grabbed the soft booties with the semi-rigid soles. Captain had assured me they’d keep me adhered to the deck if we lost gravity. They were mostly comfortable, if I had to wear something.
“Yes.” Not really.
Slowly, my anxiety ebbed. We got nods, some quiet greetings Lakshou returned, but most of the time I wasn’t given a second glance. There were several aliens, some I tried not to stare out, they were so different, but at least half the crew we passed were humans. I didn’t stand out at all. We traveled down to different rings, taking a meandering path.
When we finally arrived at stores, I was tired and more than happy to sit down. The crew member staffing the area handed Lakshou a tablet that he handed to me. I looked down at it, then back up at Lakshou. “If all I have to do is make selections on this tablet, how come we had to come all the way down here? Why couldn’t we do it in my room?”
He looked away, but I saw his little smirk. “Then someone would have had to bring them to you. We can pick them up here. And it got you out. You said hi to two different people. That’s progress.”
I wasn’t really irritated with him. Now that I was out, I did feel a little less worried about leaving my room. It didn’t really make sense, but my stomach’s uneasy churning had settled. “Right.”
We stopped at a mess on the next level up while we waited for my order to be put together. We were sitting down when a group came into the room, and Lakshou stiffened. I hunched over, eyeing them warily as they came closer. Were they like that other guy?
“Lakshou.” The being in the lead of the group had leathery gray skin with striking red patterned spots in different sizes. Even more oddly, they had a single eye with a yellow slit pupil.
“A new disciple?” That single-eyed gaze was chilling as it roved over me.
“No. This is Kohen. We was one of our other recent rescues.”
“Ahh, the one the captain brought in. I was wondering why he wasn’t included in my orientation sessions.” Ss’merit’s already thin lips nearly disappeared as they… smiled? “Welcome to the ship, Kohen. I hope Lakshou can help you acclimate to your new freedom. If not—”
“He’s fine.” Lakshou looked at the small crowd behind Ss’merit. “Looks like you have your hands full anyway.”
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