A/N: Sorry about the delay – both from last week and tonight – but the major drama in my life is over, and we should be returning to normalcy. ILU all. <3
The layout of the Silver City Human district made a tremendous amount of sense, if you were the type of paranoid asshole who believed that everyone was out to get you. To the other species – all of whom had never seen human architecture up close or in person, there was nothing amiss; The partition wall was there for everyone’s safety and to stop people from wandering in and out, the mixed markets had plenty of relaxation pods, 24/7 food courts, mixed-species seating and entertainment, with creeping vines and flower arrangements sprouting out of the walls themselves!
Only a paranoid – nay, delusional sapient would notice how each building’s corners and cafe-facing walls were structurally reinforced, and how each flower arrangement could be popped out – the hole being a little larger than a machine gun’s barrel… and how those holes would allow for overlapping fields of fire. No alien looked at the shared-species plazas of the human sector and thought that they were in danger; if anything, the layout was kind of quaint.
It was the anti-aircraft missile batteries tastefully disguised as water fountains that tipped everyone off and drove away business for the first few weeks, but those were eventually removed and replaced at the city planner’s behest with the “4D Hologram Light Show Projector and Not an Underground Missile Silo” installations.
Therefore, as the misfit band of adventurers made their way down from the landing pad, they had to pass through multiple checkpoints, discrete scanning stations, a few winding corridors (blamed on the ongoing construction, you understand) and one section that Luciana was certain was based on that pre-contact “Legends of the Hidden Temple” show. What would normally and naturally have taken roughly 10 minutes of walking stretched out to roughly 45 minutes, so by the time the 6 sapients emerged from an official checkpoint hole-in-the-wall the sun sat low and fat on the horizon. What little natural orange light could be seen was washed away by the harsh, artificial blue light of the city tinging it to some unnatural shade altogether.
However, Isabella – sorry, Abuela, did not care one whit about the harsh light pollution or the extreme architecture of the city that surrounded her new home; skyscrapers lifting literal miles into the sky did not make her bat an eye. Abuela, for all intents and purposes, was on a very simple mission – albeit one that grandmothers and mothers had embarked on since time immemorial.
Luciana, her beautiful, smart, wonderful, kind, sweet and a couple-dozen other adjectives aside granddaughter was painfully single. This means no great-grandbabies, and this simply will not do – and the obvious solution was to have the older, wiser women of the family help her make some of the appropriate introductions.
“Is there a place around here to get coffee? A cafe, maybe?” Abuela asked utterly innocently, stopping her shuffling gait on the alien sidewalk.
“[I think there’s a [Human]-approved cafe about 5KM away from here – would that work?]” Wiggles asked, pointedly keeping her body ramrod-stiff.
“Beh! No moving sidewalks, no transportation – no! My feet are beginning to swell anyway- is there something closer?”
“Um, I think… that’s a cafe of some sort!” Luciana exclaimed, pointing with her thumb at a corner store not a couple-dozen yards away. “Maybe we go there? I mean, they’re all sitting outside, and it looks…comfy enough.”
“[Oh, uh. That’s a primarily [Jornissian] establishment, [Luciana].]” Persimmon said, arcing his body over to hover near her head. “[Although we can’t legally stop you, I don’t recommend you go there. They may not have approved refreshments, and we would have to test-]”
“Fah!” Abuela exclaimed, reaching out to loop each arm with that of her progeny. “What’s the use of living this long if you don’t try to get into a little bit of danger now and then! Besides, with it being this close, they’ve probably served humans before.”
And so, arm-in-arm, the three humans began a slow walk towards the cafe.
“shut up right now->”
“recording them you dull-scaled idiot->”
To say that the warmcuddles were causing a bit of a stir at The Comfy Coil was a bit of a misnomer. True, most of the Jornissians at the establishment had seen humans before, and to still be allowed to work this close to their settlement had to take some form of cultural enrichment training – their mannerisms, physiology and the like weren’t totally unknown to the patrons. There was certain surprise when the youngest warmcuddle motioned to their establishment, and some shock when they started to make their way over. Wobbly gait, unsteady spine, all these things and more were adorable.
However, all of them looping arms and crossing the street together was totally unnecessary.
“crush you if you keep yelling->”
The Comfy Coil – not it’s real name, mind you, but the name closest-enough translated – was a galactic concept made regional; You could go in after a long, tiring day, get some hot food and a nice pick-me-up drink, and if you so choose to find a booth or a divot for a power nap. This place, and places like it, basically ran themselves. This was fine when you were dealing with exhausted patrons and the occasional couple on a date, but was woefully inadequate when dealing with…
…well. Whatever this was going to turn out to be.
“<PATRONS!>” Rssesnsen thundered, using her outside voice as loudly as she dared. “”
A few of the Jornissians shrunk back into their seats somewhat chastised, and a few just… continued. With a sigh Rssensen reached under the counter and clicked off a few buttons – the heated pads of a few choice patrons began to cool, rapidly.
The Comfy Coil did have a few non-verbal ways to get straggling customers out of the shop – closing time is sacred in retail, no matter the species. With a few chilly bellies the last of the belligerents were calmed down, and the heat was turned back on – literally, not figuratively. Rssesnsen dared to look out the patio to the group approaching her, and an almost manic smile spread across her features.
This should be illegal, she thought, as she checked to make sure the shop’s security cameras were recording everything. On the monitor, slowly approaching, were three Warmcuddles with their arms looped around each other – for safety? A cultural thing? She did not know – and neither did the almost writhing with unbridled joy Jornissian behind them. They were preceeded by a stiff, almost robot-walking Spiritual-Stargazer, and directly behind them an incredibly nonplussed Clutchmate-Seeker just… watched everything unfold. She caught herself staring only when the group had made their way to the front door and were having some sort of … conversation.
It was the elder warmcuddle that seemingly had a problem-
For everyone else, Jornissian or even the rare non-Jornissian counterpart who would find themselves in The Comfy Coil, the outside entrance was something so mundane as to be wholly ignored by the conscious brain. A few entry signs, an automatic door, and the grippy entry/exit way for fast traction, and that was it. What Rssesnsen now found, much to her delight and slight horror, was that the steps installed that were of no consequence to any of her other patrons were just a bit too high for the elder warmcuddle.
She couldn’t get in.
There was some animated conversation outside, a couple interesting arm and hand gestures, and an attempt by the younger warmcuddles to climb the first step and help the elder up – this did not succeed. Eventually the clutchmate-seeker, with all the care in the world, wrapped his arms around the frail creature and hoisted her up the step.
The first step. Of Five.
By the time they finally made it into the cafe proper Rssesnsen, the patrons, and their escorts were practically vibrating with energy.
Abuela scanned the room, daring a motherfucker to say something.
She knew she – and the girls – would be of interest to the locals, but she didn’t expect the entire cafe to stop what they were doing and watch them cross the street as an almost single hydra-like entity. Granted, the left batch of heads seemed… overly enthused at their arrival, but everyone seemed to settle down before they ended up at the front door. She had been moved by men before; sometimes from a barricade, sometimes from danger, sometimes… well. That’s for a flashback that’s not rated for this website. But never for something so mundane as walking up steps – so when her feet finally touched the gritted floor of the cafe, Isabella knew she had to reassert dominance.
Hence, the steely-eyed glare. The slight frown was just an added bonus to prove that yes, she would cut you, and no, you shouldn’t try.
“Hm! Well! What’s good here?”
“[OH HI!]” An almost cherry red Jornissian cried out a little too cheerfully, rapidly rearing up from behind the counter. “[I um. Hello! Welcome to The Comfy Coil! Would you like a seat or could I get you something from our drink or food bar?]”
“Oh, hello!” Sofia said, smiling. “It’s a pleasure to meet you – um… Cheery!”
The Jornissian full-body wobbled back and forth a bit while the Translator implanted in her head worked out her new name, and Rssesnsen did a little twirl once it was done. “[Why, thank you! And what are your names?]”
“I’m Sofia, Luciana’s mother and this is Isabella, my mother.” Sofia said, patting her mother on the back gently. She was rewarded with another “Hm!” as the elder Aleman kept shifting her eyes across the cafe, continuing to establish dominance. “And we were hoping to get something to drink – caffeine is one of our safer stimulants, but I think there are a few others we can have if you don’t carry it.”
“[Oh! I’m certain we can fix something up! Ah… is there anything on the menu that you’d like to try first? I can see about substituting ingredients-]”
“Certainly. That sounds lovely.” Sofia smiled wide, walking up to the counter that… started to loom kinda high. By the time she made it up to the countertop proper, it was almost at her eye level. She looked up at the Jornissian, the predator looming over her with far too much cheer for someone who was working in the equivalent of fast food.
“Um… so… what’s uh. What’s the deal of the day?” Sofia asked, as she was soon joined by her daughter who draped her arms over the chin-height countertop.
“[We have a sea-reed slurry soup which is mostly carbohydrates and fiber, to be honest, with your choice of either synthetic protein, plant, animal, or insect-based protein-]”
“Eeh, no! No insects, please.”
“[Oh, alright! So then, if that’s not your choice for tonight, you can take a look at some of our smoothie options!]” Cheery cherry cheerfully chirped.
The two humans looked at the board behind the Jornissian, the third one using her cane to bat away a helpful pair of feathered arms each time they made ready for a lift.
“[Oh! Don’t worry about the GRC there – for you, all substitutions are free!]”
“No, it’s not that-”
“[Oh! I can assure you, all our protein is raised in cruelty-free environments! All our stock is vaccinated – takes the light right out from behind their eyes-]”
“It’s… ah. Persimmon?”
The humans’ Jornissian guide gently curved his body around the now fighting-not-fighting abuela vs. Wiggles deathmatch happening in front of the counter, lowering his head down to her eye level. “[Yes?]”
“I can’t read. I mean, I can’t read the signs. Our… implants are voice only.”
Swipressnssren – nee Persimmon – stared with an unfocused gaze for just a few seconds before raising himself up to a normal height. He made eye contact with his counterpart across the counter, and they shared a quiet conversation that basically boiled down to How can they be like this all the time.
There was a slightly meaty thap, and a tennisball-tipped cane connected with Wiggles’ snout, dissuading her from any further attempts to lift Abuela up to non-manlet heights. She scanned the room one last time with the most what did I just tell you look, before rapping her cane against the corner of the counter.
“Give me your strongest stimulant!”
“[Is – is she serious? I can’t… tell.]” Cheery murmured, staring through the serving-area to where she was almost certain the elder stood.
“[Just do it.]” Murmured the Dorarizin, sighing heavily. “[What’s the use of living so long without a little excitement, right?]”
“Ha!” the cane waved, triumphantly. “See? I like Tipo! One for him too! Tonight, we are invincible!”