We saw a few other Four Arms on our way to the hold. Garjah exchanged greetings with them, but none of them spoke to me. They stared at me intently, but I studied them just as closely. They all wore close-fitting suits like Garjah did, and they had boots on. The skin I could see varied in shades of green, and unlike Garjah who wore stripes across his skin, their markings varied.
Some had spots, some swirls, a few looked almost geometric. Chevrons, squares, even waves. One smaller being had no marks I could see at all.
Female? None of the Four Arms had hair, but a few had smooth skulls covered in the same markings on their faces and bodies—the parts I could see—while others had dark, almost black ridges with recessed holes or pits in regular intervals along the curving spines going from the middle of their forehead area before flaring wide and over their head.
Maybe those were the females. They all seemed to be smaller than Garjah, who was taller and wider than each we met. Maybe it was his size, or the way he carried me, but they all moved to the side to allow us to pass as well.
The ship had shining walls and lights shone in different colored strips. “What are the colors for?” I asked.
“Guide strips, for those new to the ship. We mirror the night and day cycle on our home planet, and the light cycle is short. Color zones, patterns, and spacing indicate the correct path.”
“So you turn off the lights in the hallway?” That was good to know. If I was going to try to escape, stumbling around in the dark could give me away, but if I could get my suit back, I could use the helmet to help me see.
“It is more comfortable.” Garjah waved his hand to activate a door.
“Is this the—” My question cut off as I gasped, frantically grabbing on to any part of Garjah’s body I could reach. He’d stepped through the door and into an open shaft, and we immediately began to fall.
His grip tightened on me, and I couldn’t even protest. Maybe if he held me close enough, his bulk would protect me when we came to a splat at the bottom of the shaft we were currently plummeting through. I couldn’t even enjoy the feeling of the weight crushing my body easing.
“What is wrong?” Garjah asked.
My heart pounding, the food I’d just eaten rising in my throat, I managed a strangled, “Falling. Gonna die!”
He snorted. “No we’re not. This is a gravity well. There is a cushion at the bottom.”
The light around us flashed, and he bent his knees. A second later we bounced. My teeth clacked together painfully. I panted, my eyes screwed up tight.
“Human? Are you well?”
No. Not even a little. “My name is Essell Deray.” Had I told them my name before? I should have. Probably one of the first things. “What?”
“Are you well, Essell Deray?” Garjah repeated. “Your hold is very tight.”
My face heated, but I hadn’t thrown up and my heart was slowly easing back from its racing pound. Even for the short time we’d been falling, I’d grabbed on so tight my fingers ached when I let him go. “Sorry. And it’s just Essell. That’s my first name.”
“First name,” Garjah said slowly. “And Deray is your second name? Did you get them at different times?”
I huffed. “No. Essell is the given name my parents—the beings who gave birth to me—gave for just me to use, but the Deray is my family name. We share it.”
“But you just said I could use it.” We were moving again.
Spirits save me from literal translations. “A first name is something a family gives to their children when they are born so everyone knows who they are and what to call them as an individual. The last name tells what family they belong to. You have a name, right? Garjah.”
“Garjah is my function, not a name.” No wonder they needed the lights; this ship was huge. We still hadn’t reached the hold.
What if I wanted to talk to him? “How do you know who is who if you just go by your job title? How many Garjah’s are on this ship? What is a Garjah?”
His chin gutted out. “There are no other Garjah. Just me.”
Okay, he was proud of that, clearly. “And that means…?”
Despite offering to answer questions, Garjah spoke few words about himself. It was akin gathering tiny nuggets of information from a vast database I couldn’t navigate. Frustration didn’t begin to cover it, but I was too exhausted to dig further.
Besides, the next door he opened was to the hold. The cavernous space was filled with crates, bags, binsin sections. Vegetation lay in piles.
And animals. Unmoving, caged, and as much as I hated stressed animals, I hated the look of deathly stasis state more. It also gave me the creeps thinking they’d put me in stasis too.
“Your cerops is over here.”
Bouncer was in a separate area. Garjah leaned down and placed me on the floor. The vibration hummed even stronger here than my quarters. His dark eyes were closed, all four paws pulled in close to his belly. Plastic encased each foot.
I reached in between the bars of his cage to touch one.
“Mind the claws!” Garjah snapped.
“They’re covered. Besides, if you gave me my suit, I wouldn’t have to worry.” I reached up and rubbed Bouncer’s shoulder instead. It disturbed me to see his youthful enthusiasm so stilled. “He doesn’t need to eat or drink?” Bouncer was always hungry.
“In stasis, his body functions are suspended. He is fine.”
At least Garjah called him a he, not it. I'd changed his mind on something.
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