Friday, April 08, 2011
“Why did you pick that body?” asked Klitik.
“It’s the only one I could find that fit,” Ekleat replied, still shuffling the limbs clumsily.
Klitik handed her a red sash with some letters printed on it. “I don't think this is gender appropriate.” she said, adjusting the sash in the mirror.
Klitik cringed. He was good at human gesture even if certain social customs evaded him. “I hadn’t thought of that. It was just the closest thing I could find to indicate your office.”
“Very well. Take me to the meeting.”
They exited the restroom, two men in business suits, one with the clumsy gait of a newborn fawn. A smartly dressed woman on her way in did a double take at the “Princess” sash on the limping man. They simply nodded politely per local custom. The princess wobbled across the hotel lobby, oblivious of the stares of the other hotel guests, and occasionally kicking her aide in the ankles. Three hours local time was not enough to acclimate to these legs.
A big hand drawn sign next to the door proclaimed the meeting of the Europa Exploration Society was open to members only. They walked into the banquet room to find a few dozen people gathered in small groups. At her entrance, they schooled together to greet her, then fell over each other to introduce themselves. She dismissed them and they scattered to the edges of the room. “My body needs food.” She snapped at Klitik.
“Right this way,” It took no time for Ekleat to recognize the improvised badges for the various offices they indicated. The goggles worn by some clearly indicated science officers, and the bigger the goggles, the higher the rank. She had to assume that the man with the telescope slung over his shoulder was the chief officer. The flowered garlands and floral printed shirts identified the anthropological officers. Masked people were obviously diplomats, and the conical, multicoloured hats made the military advisers stand out.
They approached the buffet, and Ekleat noticed the name tag of a young female standing behind the table. She tried to discern what office that indicated, then realized she was simply a member of the hotel staff. A human. Ekleat turned and hissed under her breath, “Is it wise to have our meeting in the open like this?”
“Oh yes,” Klitik replied. “They think we’re having something called a ‘Science Fiction Convention.’ It’s like...” he struggled for the words. “It’s like a speculation play, but they have many of them. And they gather in groups to... celebrate them. We won’t be noticed.”
She curled her tail uncomfortably and stretched inside her body. Klitik put a hand on her shoulder to soothe the spasms of her body and said “Ah... they might notice that.” The young attendant was clearly trying not to notice.
“Very well,” the princess snapped. “Just bring my food to the table. Proteins and electrolytes.”
She shambled across the room toward the head table, scattering lesser officers in her wake. “Section chiefs report to me now,” she spoke so the whole room could hear her. Even in their human bodies, their submissive curl was detectable, as the chiefs approached the seat she took.
“I feel compelled to remind you all the purpose of your mission here: Determining the nature and scope of the human threat. The reports you’ve sent back are very conflicting.”
Klitik sat down next to her, offering a plate of food. The princess barely glanced at it, picking up some orange cubes of food to consume while the officers gave their reports.
One of the birthday-hatted military men, who also wore an animal character bib indicating his rank spoke first. “The situation is dire your highness. The humans are already speculating about the possibilities of life on our planet, and they have plans to drill through the ice in order to reach our seas and discover our colonies.”
“Yeah, but they come in peace, man,” a be-flowered officer put in. His eyes were redder than most humans and his multicolored shirt smelled even funnier than most.
“I think his sample is tainted,” the military officer said under his breath.
“To be truthful your highness,” offered a diplomat, “Their intentions toward other intelligent species are hard to determine. Some of them willingly sacrifice their own safety and well being to protect unintelligent animals, while others are clearly bent on killing anything with a modicum of intelligence that doesn’t belong to their own particular group.”
Ekleat gobbled a round slice of animal flesh from her plate, then washed it down with liquid. “How long will it be before they attempt any landing on... what do they call our world?”
“Europa, your highness.”
“Silly name,” she spat. “Anyway, how long?”
“Probably 50 years or more,” someone offered. “No, they could do it in far less time...” someone objected. “Bah! They won’t get around to it for a hundred years!”
“Can’t you people make up your minds?” The princess demanded. They all hunched up again and twitched this time, clearly curling their tails inside their human hosts.
She picked up another piece of food but stopped in recognition. The pink curl in the pinch of her fingers was hauntingly familiar. “What abomination is this!?” she cried.
“Oh, it’s a shrimp,” Tiklit said, picking one up for himself. He bit the muscle off, leaving just the sad little tail.
“Ack! Tiklit, you’ve got to be kidding me!”
“Wha?” he smacked his lips. “It’s not like they’re intelligent. They don’ even registher o’ the scale.”
“That’s not the point,” Ekleat repressed another cringe and made her decision. “I know exactly what these humans will do if they ever do get to our planet. General, speed up the global warming process and flood this damned planet.”