Things are poppin’ off. What will the aliens do?
Probably not anything smart, not gonna lie.
The beginning of the conversation had been difficult. The captain had been so excited when he answered the call. But it had taken about a handful of seconds for him to realize something was off.
“Everything alright, crew?” His jaw had clicked a few times. Lydra was fairly adept at decoding Boorlan mannerisms, and jaw-clicking was absolutely an indication that whatever excuse they made he wouldn’t believe them. It was also terrifying. So she spoke up.
“Hello, sir. That human they found on Trexin? We have it.”
Behind her Krel drew his wing a little closer around the human.
The Boorlan man blinked a few times. His spines raised. Torve’s did too.
“Sorry, you have it?”
“It snuck onto our ship before we left the planet.” Torve looked away.
“That was days ago!”
“Yes. We, uh. We weren’t sure what to do about it?”
“You . . .”
“It’s a baby,” Lydra added. “And it’s not really dangerous. It can sort of communicate with us. I mean it did attack Krel, but–”
“It attacked Krel!?”
“They were just scared!” Krel protested. “Didn’t mean it!”
The tiny thing opened its mouth, taking in a big breath, and smushing itself harder into Krel’s side. The big eyes opened.
Torve hissed softly and turned back to the datapad. “Look, I, I’m sorry. I should have told you right when we found out it was here. I–”
“Torve? Lydra?” the human said loudly. “Krel?”
The captain froze.
“See? It knows our names,” Lydra said, pointing with one limb as Krel hid the human with his wing. It squawked and pushed at the wing.
The man’s pupils grew a bit wider. “ . . . Can I see it?”
Lydra nodded, carefully pulling Krel’s wing away. He glared at her. Torve tentatively moved the datapad closer, pointing the camera at the human.
There was a moment of quiet. The human made a noise, eyes darting around between all of them.
Then the captain made a noise back. It was nothing Lydra had ever heard before, but it was absolutely in the same language the human spoke.
“What?!” Torve squawked. “Since when can you speak human?!” The human itself leaned forward, face lighting up as it started babbling rapidly.
“I know a little bit,” he answered quietly, eyes trained on the small creature. “Some of the more common languages, anyway. This one’s called English.” He made a few more of the noises, much slower than the human did.
The human bared its teeth, but the sound that came out didn’t seem threatening. It was . . . it was its name! It was saying its name, Lydra recognized that sound. Benji.
For a while, the captain just talked to the human. Torve moved to be almost behind Lydra, watching with slitted eyes as his tail whipped. Krel tucked his wings back in as the human completely left his side, leaned in close to the tablet and gesturing wildly as its face contorted into various unreadable expressions.
Eventually it sat back down, breathing hard.
“So,” the captain said slowly. “That was a little hard to understand. But. It appears his name is Benji, and he was stolen from Earth some time ago. He was kept on a ship and apparently whoever took him was cruel and . . . did not take care of him, and that’s why his leg is hurt. He managed to escape but in the process crashed the ship. He thinks the impact killed everyone on board.”
“Oh,” Torve said softly. His spines slowly flattened.
“Did he say anything else?” Krel asked, pushing to his feet.
“Yes, but not much more I could understand. Look . . . how long until you make it to port?”
“Three days, two if we push it,” Lydra said.
“Don’t push it, I can be there in four. Keep him hidden, don’t let anyone know you have him. Okay? Anyone.”
“Okay.” Torve shook his head. “Okay. We can do that. And . . . and you’ll help us . . . figure this out?”
Torve and Krel both visibly relaxed at the confidence in the captain’s voice. The human had snuggled back into Krel’s side, watching the screen with wide, alert eyes that clocked every little movement of the captain’s face. Lydra couldn’t help staring at him. Benji.
Something in her core shifted into place, and she let out a purr. Weird and scary and incomprehensible as he was, it would be hard not to think of him as crew already. It would be hard to let him go.
Instincts are weird, okay?
Benji shoveled food into his mouth, bouncing his knee under the table. It was a tall table, very smooth and round. The stool he sat on was pretty big too, they had needed to help him into it. That had been awkward. They all seemed afraid that they’d break him or something. Or maybe they still thought he was going to eat them. Probably not that, though, he’d made sure to tell the big one on the call that he didn’t want to hurt any of them. He’d said it, like, four times.
That had been so weird. Benji couldn’t help but replay the conversation over and over again as he ate. It had been difficult, because the alien had a weird accent and some of the words he had used were probably not the ones he thought they were, but it had been so good to be able to understand someone. Even if he could unhinge his jaw.
Benji glanced up at Torve. Apparently the big one they were calling was his dad? The alien had used the word ‘pater’ which Benji was pretty sure was like Latin or something but he got the gist of it. Made sense, though, they looked the same except for Torve being smaller and shinier and less spiky. Torve’s dad had explained that they were all a crew, and they were going to be nice to him, and that he wasn’t supposed to be in space at all and so he was going to meet them at a planet to figure out how to get Benji home.
But that would take a few days so for now, Benji had learned a couple words in the weird alien language. Food and water were first, so now he could ask for them whenever he wanted. Sleep, or maybe tired, was another one, so was something like bathroom. After that he’d been just pointing things out and repeating the words Krel used for them.
Krel hadn’t left his side. They wouldn’t let him walk, not after they’d shown the dad his leg. Honestly Benji was okay with that, it hurt so much to put weight on his leg, and it was nice being warmed by feathers. Being able to mostly think straight was also nice, now he wasn’t hungry and exhausted and horribly cold. He tapped on the table with his free hand, absently humming a song he’d heard once a long time ago. Krel’s claw-fingers ran through his hair again, and he was so distracted by how nice it was that he didn’t notice the other two making rumble/purr noises in his direction.