I will likely re-read this and edit it a million times in the coming days, but this is the free-flow from my mind to the paper. Or, I suppose, in today's world, my mind to the pixels.
Anywho, without further ado, this is what I whipped out!
My palms were sweaty. I’d never been the head of an introduction before and felt incredibly nervous. I tried hard not to show it, but I was afraid it was written all over me. Besides, who knew was senses these beings had? They could be able to detect every emotion in me as if reading a large print book and there would be nothing I could do about it. What then? No sense in worrying, I thought, best not to think about it.
I tapped at the large white oval table before me lighting up the screen within it. A few flicks and some deft well practiced keystrokes pulled up the holographic image of their ship. It flickered slightly and shimmered as it slowly rotated before me. I studied it. It was large, smooth, and had rounded edges. It almost seemed to be in the general shape of an egg with the smaller end tapering off into arced points. I checked out the stats. This was definitely a powerful ship. From my studies I could discern formidable weaponry as well as unique exploration and study capabilities. It seemed it could be a living ship, with large colonies of inhabitants taking their homes on the ship itself.
I looked up at the statue on the table before me. It was an odd thing, all brown and deep reddish pink, with irregular shapes and circles. It looked almost like melted clay formed into an odd puzzle made of dripping circles and swirls. I suppose it was attractive, in a unique if-you-like-that-sort-of-thing way. Still, I was surprised to have received the transmission from the Paridians that they wanted it. I didn’t even know how the Evenheart Base of Section 84 even came to have it, but the Paridians made it clear that they wanted it. I had checked with command and they practically laughed at the inconsequential absurdity of the request and told me to handle it, even though I was quite a low ranking officer.
A notification beeped and blinked on the table console in front of me informing me my guests had arrived. My heart-rate doubled, if that were possible, and I swallowed the dryness back in my throat.
I was about to get up when another transmission flashed in. It was blinking red, and bright capital letters spelling URGENT were flashing insistently. I would have ignored it, but I couldn’t ignore an urgent. Great, I sighed to myself, my first introduction and I’m going to have to make them wait.
Quickly I tapped away at the console to pull up the transmission. Concern wrinkled my features as I tried to pull it up, struggling to find a clean image in the weak signal. I couldn’t get visual, aside from a flickering holographic image of a ship that looked very similar to the Paridians, only it was smaller and seemed a little more ornate to me. Pressed for time I didn’t bother to decode the garbled visuals and instead tried to pull up at least a viable sound file. I tapped at my ear piece and the light-set flickered on. Through snapping and popping and some generalized static I could barely hear a human male's voice.
“... do not… take.. I repeat.. do not give up... the statue is of utmost importance..”
The statue? Could they be talking about this monstrosity the Paridians want?
I tried to get more clarity on the message and pull up origin and logs but nothing was coming through. It seemed as if someone were attempting to send this message from a jump.
“This is an urgent…” the message continued “... I repeat.. do not let the…. keep the statue safe.”
I frowned as the message ended. What in the stars was going on here? I looked back up at the statue before me and my nose contorted in confusion. No way it was over this.
The tabletop console started blinking bright blue and beeping again, informing me that the Paridians were in the passageway ahead and would arrive within seconds. With an instinctive reaction I tapped a few commands into the system and the table opened up, lowered the statue into a compartment beneath, and then closed up again, swallowing the strange piece like a hungry white whale.
Just at that moment the door at the far end of the large meeting room slid open and a small group of three Paridians walked purposefully through. I tried to stop my jaw from clanking open. They also looked somewhat like melted clay. Their entire form resembled that of a humanoid that had a vat of brownish-red clay poured on them, covering their every extremity. They even seemed to have a few extra appendages, though it was strangely difficult to discern any specific feature. Something about them made the eyes slip off them and never quite focus properly.
I stood up and brushed my silver and white uniform down to release the wrinkles. Very odd noises briefly echoed through the large greeting chamber before the universal translators picked up the unique language and words flowed out of my earpiece.
“Where is it?”
I thought that rather rude, but customs varied widely between species and I wasn’t about to screw up my first introduction.
I opened up my mouth to reply, but instead a massive booming sound shook the station. I blinked, the words I’d intended to speak caught in my throat despite my wide open mouth. The Paridians suddenly started moving, so fast my eyes couldn’t focus on their movements. They seemed only like brownish blurs to me. The door opened again and in rushed some officers. The Paridians shrieked in a bone shivering high pitched warble and with a movement faster than I could register they flung something at the officers and each one fell stiffly to the floor, their bodies seized as if every muscle had tightened at once. My brain couldn’t quite keep up with what was happening. Another blast hit and I fell to the floor. Then the gunfire started, but who was shooting, I couldn’t say. I rolled towards the table and huddled in the depression underneath it. All I could see was a blur of shapes whipping past the table.
“What in the stars?” I whispered aloud.
In front of me the heavy shape of a Paridian thumped to the floor, felled from a shot fired somewhere within the room. With disgusted fascination I watched as the clay-like substance it seemed to be covered in first started to clarify, the eye-slipping effect apparently wearing off after death, and then began to melt off the body. The gooey mass spread from the dead Paridian like sluggish red-brown molasses and crept across the floor towards me. Repulsed, I edged further back trying to avoid the revolting puddle of dead alien. The main body itself began to appear beneath the dripping mess and looked glossy, onyx black, and hard.
Before I could study the dead alien any further I heard more screaming. This time it was human.
“Where is she!? WHERE IS SHE!?” a man was yelling. Then more strange warbling shrieks sounded before another cacophonous bout of gunfire and frantic movement took over the room. Two more bodies hit the floor and a sound like muted thunking feet trailed out of the room. Someone must have fled.
For a brief moment the room went silent and I could hear more sounds of battle outside the room and beyond. It sounded as if the entire station was submerged in fighting.
“Guard the door,” the man’s voice said.
“Yes, Nexan,” a voice sounded through the universal translator.
Was that a Paridian voice? I thought in a panic. Oh stars.. that was definitely a Paridian voice. Oh stars…
“Hey, there. You, under the table,” the man said.
I froze stiff, my muscles resolutely refusing to move.
“Hey, c’mon… get out from under there. We don’t have time for this. It was you, wasn’t it? You received my message.”
I might as well have been a bonafide possum for all the movement my body was willing to make. Or maybe one of those fainting goat things I’d heard about. I’d been shocked stiff.
I heard a sigh and then a thick arm reached under the table, a strong hand deftly latched onto my arm, and roughly yanked me out and onto my feet.
“Oh,” I said lamely.
The man laughed and I looked up at him. He had a crooked smile that looked perfectly natural on his masculine face. I wouldn’t say he was terrifically handsome, but he was no slouch either. Something about his unshaven face and slightly crooked nose and crinkly eyes as he smiled didn’t look altogether bad.
What, are you going to ask him out on a date? I chided myself. You were just in the middle of a bloody gunfight with an alien species for stars sake. Oh, god.. and look.. some of that disgusting clay is on your shoe now. I lifted my foot and not really knowing where to put it down - since I was still locked rather firmly in scruffy-guys grip and couldn’t move anywhere - I just stood there like a patient flamingo.
“You were the one who recieved my message, yes?” he asked again. “This is the communications room at this station?” He looked about briefly and nodded as if confirming his assumption by what he could see in the room. Although what he could see was beyond me. Most everything was light based and for the most part everything just looked like smooth white furniture.
“Uh…” I started. “Well, yes.”
The man then made a strange noise, it sounded something like "Maruuka" with a sort of rolled ‘h’ sound in the middle.
“Yes, Nexan?” My eyes trailed slowly to the left where they landed on the clay-dripped shape of a Paridian. Well, sort of landed. My eyes again couldn’t quite find purchase and look directly at it. It was as if my sight was mimicking hands playing a game of slippery soap in the shower. Panic fluttered in my chest and involuntarily I tried to take a step back, which only resulted in my foot landing in the muck of dead alien at my feet and my body making an attempt to do some wild gymnastics to the floor. Fortunately scruffy-guy, Nexan, I suppose, still had a firm grip on me and jerked me back upright.
“Oh,” was all I said again. Oh, stars, I chided myself. And you call yourself a communications officer. Real eloquent.
Ignoring me, Nexan turned to Maruuka, “Guard the door,” he said. “We may have found it.”
Quietly the Paridian moved to the door, moving so fluidly he seemed to almost disappear from my sight.
“Wild,” I commented under my breath.
Nexan looked at me with an amused expression. “Never seen a Paridian before, ah? Fun things, them. Craziest camouflage ability I’ve seen yet. Now, where's the statue?”
I looked up into his brown eyes and tried to get my brain to function again. I was an officer of the 84th sation for stars sake. I needed to act like one.
“I’m not permitted to say,” I said, proud of how confident I sounded.
The steel grip on my arm tightened slightly, and I had to admit, it hurt. “Look,” Nexan began in a cold voice, “I know you’re confused, you have no idea what’s going on, and you want to follow your rulebook. You’re what, a year out of training?”
I swallowed. It’d been 6 months, but I wasn’t about to say.
Nexan grunted, “Yeah, your face says it all. Too green, you are. But here are the facts as you need to know them. We’re in danger. Very, serious, danger.” he stressed each word and punctuated them with a slight shake of his grip on my arm. My head sort of wobbled back and forth in time with the movement.
“We need that statue, and we need it now. The Ruughan Sect can’t be allowed to get it.” There was that odd rolling 'h' sound again.
“Uh... Roo-gan sect?” I asked.
“Never mind that,” he said sounding exasperated. “For the love of stars, please tell me you didn’t give them the statue.”
“It’s just a statue,” I said, again mentally congratulating myself on my excellent communications skills. Because that's the salient point here, never mind the dead aliens and gunfire everywhere.
“It’s not just a statue, it’s something much, much more. Please, tell me you still have it.”
I stared into his eyes for a long moment. He didn’t flinch. I took a deep breath and made another instinctive decision, hoping to the universe that it was the right one.
“Okay,” I said, and gently pried his iron grip off my arm. The fabric was seriously wrinkled and distorted from his firm grip. I frowned at it but moved quickly to the table, trying to avoid the ever-spreading muck of the dead Paridians on the floor. Deftly tapping away at the table and activating the light screens I re-opened the table and the statue emerged like a birthed flower. I looked over at Nexan and the look of pure relief on his face was somehow comforting.
“Maruuka!” he called. It only took the Paridian a blink to reach the table. He brought out a strange looking brownish-red device, in the same general style of everything else Paridian, and tapped it to the statue. A ringing sound echoed throughout the room, a note so excruciatingly pure it almost hurt.
“It is done,” Maruuka said.
“Thank the bloody stars,” Nexan exhaled with a hint of relieved laughter in his voice. He looked over at me and joy lit up his face. “Youuuuu,” he said almost playfully and began to take steps towards me.
I backed up uncertainly, a little confused at his sudden shift in mood and intention. But before he could reach me an explosion sounded right outside the door. It shattered inwards scattering shrapnel into the room. I heard Nexan grunt and his body hit me hard. We fell to the floor in a tangled heap.
“GO!” Maruuka growled in his unique voice.
Somehow we were up and running and Nexan was yelling at me. “Back door! Is there a back door!?”
My fight or flee reflex firmly fixed to the flee position, and I yanked him past some decorative paneling that shielded a side hallway. We burst into a small kitchen before dashing through another door and down a hallway. I think Maruuka was behind us. I couldn’t be sure, he had turned blurry again. All I knew is there were more explosions and gunfire behind me.
“We need to get to Bay 50!” Nexan called over the noise.
I only nodded in answer and pulled him sharply to the left down another corridor. Suddenly in front of us there was a blur of shapes. Nexan whipped me to the side and I hit the wall hard. He pulled out a weapon and shot it, after a resounding blast a net like substance seemed to shimmer out of it and hit the indistinct shapes near the end of the hallway. Light flashed and the suddenly visible shapes of dead Paridians hit the floor, already oozing their clay exteriors.
“Stars,” I swore.
“Lets go,” a voice sounded in my ear. I practically jumped out of my skin. Maruuka was right beside me.
I ran again, leading them towards the Bay terminals. Occasionally more Paridians tried to stop us but the weapon Nexan used was formidable against them. And if anyone came at us from behind, Maruuka got them with the strange projectiles I’d see the original Paridians use. It didn’t seem to kill the Paridians but it did slow them down substantially with the same muscle-stiffening effect.
“It stops the heart of humans,” Maruuka explained quietly, despite the frantic escape. He seemed a bit unrufflable. “Paridians are stronger.”
“You mean they don’t have hearts,” I responded.
Maruuka made a strange noise. I think he was laughing.
It was the longest run of my life but somehow we made it to the Bay terminals. Quickly we made our way to Bay 50. The area seemed to be deserted here. Apparently much of the fighting was centralized at the main offices.
Nexan ran ahead of me and bolted for the ship I’d seen earlier in the holographic imaging - the smaller more decorative one. Up close it was actually rather beautiful in a shimmering brown with flecks of red. The construction of the ship was based in smooth lines and gentle curves that the eye felt pleased to follow. It was supremely graceful looking.
Maruuka called something out that I couldn’t understand and I felt a tingling sensation rush through my body. I looked down at my fingers and they were shimmering incandescently. Oh, stars, panic seized my body, not transport. And then I was in the ship, flailing headlong into a wall that hadn’t been there a moment before. I slammed into it heavily and plopped backwards onto the floor, landing with a pretty decent crack on my tailbone. I groaned.
“If you’d had a plumper ass,” Nexan commented with a grin, “that probably wouldn’t have hurt so much.”
My jaw dropped as I looked up at him. He started laughing and then strolled casually out of the room. The ship was already moving, and before I could speak two words, I felt the telltale surge of a ship reaching jump.
“What in the stars...” I said lamely.