Thursday, December 2, 2010

No Rest

Alex had been taught a few words in Tsla, enough to get by until someone could find a translator. The usual stuff: yes, no, help, please, food, water. It was all in the primer, which was really just a guide on how not to piss off the aliens when you have to deal with them.

The primer didn’t mention sort-of-drunken fooling around, or any other type of fooling around for that matter. He assumed he had been doing pretty well so far, despite his slow pace Carbon seemed to be enjoying it. Alex was reasonably sure he was too, though he felt pressured by the fact he had no idea what she would like or expect in this situation, not being human and all.

There would be certain similarities, of course. Body structures were basically the same and that seemed to be working well for him so far. He assumed there were specific things Carbon liked that she wasn’t telling him about... She was talking a little bit, but it wasn’t in English.

She’d been giving him nothing but positive feedback, mostly via tone and action. Then Carbon clutched the front of his jumpsuit, fists balled up over his collarbone and thumped her forehead against his chest with an odd, unwell noise. Without further warning she threw up on him. It was as unbecoming as it was sudden.

Some day, Alex would look back on this and laugh.

Carbon gave him an apologetic and very drunk look as she pushed him away and mumbled something. He understood ‘go’ and ‘bathroom’ and could figure the rest out from there. The room had already started to stink like alcohol and stomach acid as she departed.

Alex sighed, unzipped his jumpsuit and peeled himself out of it, balling it up and using it to soak up the few droplets that hadn’t stuck to him immediately. Fortunately, there were no chunks. He tossed it into her cleaner - his was currently unpowered and not actually cleaning - and departed her cabin in his briefs.

Carbon had left the door to the bathroom open and was cleaning her face with one of the antibacterial wipes, which seemed like a pretty good idea right now. He leaned in and snagged the package, pulling a few free before setting it back next to her. She looked him over with doleful eyes, “sorry. Not you.”

“I figured.” He smiled and continued on, noting for the first time just how cold it was on the ship. He wiped residue off his chest and went digging through his dresser, unfolding the second pair of shorts included in his clothing package and shaking them out and grabbing a t-shirt emblazoned with the CPP logo to go with it. If he was in for a penny...

Once again clean, dry and clothed, he found Carbon sitting at the table in the mess looking miserable. He skirted past her and dialed in four 500ml bottles of water from the dispenser. Production on something as simple as that was quick, the machine dinging off one every 30 seconds or so. His eyes flickered over to the tablet clipped to the wall between the two dispensers, a red exclamation point flashing in one corner.

Alex pulled it from its cradle and tucked it under his arm, collected the bottles from the dispenser and went to take his usual seat across from Carbon. She still looked forlorn. He set the bottles on the table and slid them over to her. “Water. Drink up.”

She looked surprised and overwhelmed. “I cannot, it is so much.”

“Oh, fine.” He grinned and took half of them back, “Still, it’s good for you. Dehydration and all.”

“Thank you.” She smiled faintly and started drinking but still looked forlorn.

“You shouldn’t worry about it. Happens to everybody.” Alex got out the tablet and thumbed the exclamation point. He’d left the sensor’s computer with two instructions. If something very important happened, like another ship coming within a hundred thousand kilometers of the Kshalvo, turn the shipboard alarm on and let him know immediately. If it noticed something natural close or a ship significantly further away, it would just send an emergency notice, wait six hours and then turn the alarm on.

Passive sensors had detected something depart from the cluster of Ehom ships and set a course that would take it near them in about a week. The resolution from the passives were terrible at nearly half a billion kilometers, but it was an object roughly the size of their ship. Might have superluminal engines. Might not. You never could tell with the Ehom.

“I did not expect something like that to happen...” She sounded better, though still just as sad as she looked, twisting the bottle in her hand and gently scoring the plastic. She mumbled something that sounded like it was in English.

He eyed her over the top of the tablet, “I didn’t catch that last bit.”

She sighed quietly and closed her eyes, “the first time.”

“The f- Oh.” Alex glanced down and scrambled to come up with something to say to that. “You mean with a human?”

Carbon glared at him so hard it should have been fatal. Apparently not. She grumbled and as she crossed her arms on the table and set her head down on them, eyes closed. Alex tapped the command console for the sensors and had it track the object, ship alarm if it does anything different. A week away, no need to tell her about it yet.

He slipped out of his seat and took her hand with a grin, “come on, we should get to bed. It’ll be morning before we know it.”

1 comment:

  1. Oh boy, Alex is going to win 'best drinking story' contests for a while after this one.

    Alex was reasonably sure he was too, though he felt pressured by the fact he had no idea what she would like or expect in this situation, not being human and all. Ha. Love that he just feels vaguely pressured.

    Body structures were basically the same and that seemed to be working well for him so far. This is vague. It's hard to know if they're making out or rounding third (if she's talking, they aren't kissing... so what is he doing?). I don't think it needs to get too graphic, but when he talks about similarities you could add a little detail (do they have the same kind of lips as humans, is the fur thing disconcerting?).

    It was as unbecoming as it was sudden. What an understatement! It made me laugh but you could probably cut it. The sentences before and after say everything we need to know. (poor Carbon!)

    Ha! The shorts are back.

    She still looked forlorn. repetition, she still looks forlorn a few paragraphs down.

    Carbon glared at him so hard it should have been fatal. Poor Alex, laid back but occasionally clueless.

    This was a gross/adorable end to the whole incident. I'm not sure she'll react well to be kept out of the loop on ship matters even if she was drunk. Should be interesting when she finds out.