Shpressnrek hummed to herself as she strolled along the mostly-empty corridor, which really meant she sounded like an overenthusiastic didgeridoo impression by an idling V8 engine traveling towards you at a (relative) dead sprint. The New Years party proper was most definitely in the top 3 in her mind, and a pleasant soreness that extended throughout most of her body was testament to that – the fact that there were so many warm-cuddles that were double-jointed was… nothing short of incredible-
“[Oh!]” Shpressnrek murmured as she rounded the corner almost into Tr’Grakz, the Karnakian humming along himself with a slight bounce in his step – the same bounce that almost made them smack into each other.
“[Ah! Good morning, [Shpressnrek]! Pleasure to see you …again.]” Tr’Grakz said, giving a little bow of his head. With a sarcastic flourish Shpressnrek copied him, and met his gaze… and promptly burst out in laughter.
“[Oh my goodness really? Like the Red King?]” Shpressnrek said, grinning knowingly.
“[Ah, you caught that part of the play? Lost Carcosa was very well done, but the jello-monster wrestling pit-]”
“[That didn’t need to be done nude, did it-]”
“[That didn’t need you to join in, did it?]” Tr’Grakz chuckled, eyeing his friend knowingly. “[Though, I think you absolutely added to the performance, if I do say so myself.]”
Shpressnrek hummed softly in thought before shrugging. “[Well. It was an amateur performance, but I’m impressed you were even able to see anything since you were, yanno. Preoccupied.]”
“[Ah.]” Tr’Grakz said, fluffing his chest crest slightly. “[Well, being suspended from the ceiling was an issue, but if you just squeeze your thighs together when-]”
The door catty-corner to the conversation slid open, immediately halting the conversation of the (arguably #2 best) New Years party that was so incredible, it’ll never be written down – just kept in the hearts, minds, and video recordings of everyone who was there. Out poured a – if Shpressnrek was counting correctly – an entire concern of warm-cuddles, dressed in… interesting clothing.
The two aliens shared a look with each other, and began their approach.
= = = = =
“And so I’m like, Yeah, I might be doing that thing with my tongue but this is the New Years Party and that doesn’t mean I want to be the alpha of an entire pack of fema-”
“[Greetings, [Jessica]!]” Shpressnrek said, cheerfully hiding as much of her concern as she could while approaching the entire concern of humans. “[What’s… this?]”
“Oh! Hey Starburst!” Jessica said, bouncing slightly in place as she flailed her arms infront of her in a co-ordinated w-
Oh. Punches. Those were punches.
“What’s up?” Jessica beamed, smiling wide. “You coming to join us at the Gym?”
“[The Gym? You have to move boxes out of storage in that?]” Tr’Grakz said, tilting his head in confusion at the skin-tight color-coordinated clothing the warm-cuddles were sporting.
“What? No. The Gym is where you go to, yanno, work out?” Jessica said, playfully tapping the Karnakian with a taped-up hand.
“[No… no. That’s not what the translator is saying – we are talking about the same place, right? The one with all the storage boxes-]”
“Those were temporary!”
“[They’ve been there for years, though.]” Shpressnrek murmured, checking her own implant for a hot-fix updated translation but finding none. “[Are you sure we’re talking about the storage unit at-]”
“Ugh.” Jessica sighed, placing her hands on her hips. “Ok, look, yeah, it was a bit of a … multi-purpose room, but that’s different now! Me and the girls-” At this the rest of the concern of female warm-cuddles stopped their conversation amongst themselves and waved – and a few of them gave Tr’Grakz a very pointed look – “-were going to go to the gym to start our Resolutions.”
“[Your. I’m sorry, your determination? What?]” Tr’Grakz said, tapping his temple in the decidedly human mannerism of percussive maintenance. “[I don’t think I understand-]”
Jessica waved along her friends, the concern of warm-cuddles dwindling down to just the one. When they were outside of earshot Jessica explained.
“Look, every year around New Years we – I mean, people in general – make New Years Resolutions to be better people, reach for goals, the like – so, some of us want to lose a few pounds, some want to eat better, others to pick up a new skill they’ve been meaning to. There’s no rhyme or reason or set method to it, it’s just everyone trying to be better at stuff!”
“[So precious]” Tr’Grakz whispered, earning a light jab from Shpressnrek’s elbow. “[Well, that sounds wonderful! Self-improvement is an extremely important thing to work on, and I’m glad that you as a species have adopted it as a holiday tradition in and of itself!]” Shpressnrek beamed, leaning down slightly to get on eye level with Jessica. “[Would it be appropriate for us to follow you and observe?]”
“Sure! But we might ask you to help!” Jessica said, playfully punching Shpressnrek’s arm. “Cause everyone’s gotta pray at the iron church!”
Tr’Grakz perked up immediately. “[Oh! It’s a new Relig-]”
= = = = =
Shpressnrek hummed to herself, again, but not as loudly as before – the warm-cuddles were concentrating, after all, and it’s important not to distract them from their tasks. Distractions lead to accidents, or …incidents, and both of those are bad things to have when on a space station.
Didn’t stop any of them from happening, mind you, but still. A good mental practice to have.
But, regardless, Storage Room A-45 had been cleared of all the emergency flares, capsules and hugboxes, and the machinery inside had been, for the lack of a better word, excavated from their cardboard tombs. Said equipment seemed to be exercise and physical training machinery that ranged from metal bars hanging from the ceiling (which the warm-cuddles spent time jumping at, grabbing, and immediately falling from), metal bars that they lifted up and down (with additional plates that weren’t yet used), metal bars that were attached by cords to machines (which may or may not have been appropriately connected to begin with), smaller metal bars that they waved around in a free-range area before putting them back (in the wrong place, apparently, as every warm-cuddle put them back in a different configuration) and, because their species did nothing without water, a big ol’ pool for water that had been filled up which they were happily bobbing up and down in.
At what point this was supposed to be directed “exercise” was not clear to Shpressnrek; there were personal trainers, sure, but they weren’t directing classes, setting up machinery, or even really helping anyone who didn’t approach their desk that didn’t flirt with them shamelessly. The warm-cuddles did their… thing, and once they were red-faced, sweating and absolutely radiating heat, they’d stop, proud of what they accomplished.
And then they would swing by the juice bar on their way out for a congratulatory health-shake.
“[I don’t get this at all.]” Shpressnrek murmured, taking copious mental notes.
“What – haah – don’t you – hoo – get?” Jessica panted, working on a machine that seemed to be nothing more than an endless staircase, her legs forcing her up – but her body mainly held up by her shaking arms.
“[None… none of you did this at all last year-]”
“Cause it’s NEW YEARS RESOLUTION BABY-” Jessica crowed, getting a response hoot from a stranger across the gym, an “air high five” occurring between them. “And – hnnnhgh, fuck, I’m too thicc – we gotta git gud! Uuugh-” Jessica continued, dying on the inside and the outside as she tried to talk and conquer the stairmaster at the same time over the rhythmic clapping of what Shpressnrek assumed was an un-oiled and non-maintained machine. With a final gasp of effort she climed her last stair, letting the momentum of the machine deposit her back on the floor. Shpressnrek gave Jessica a few moments of panting, swearing and just generally being warm enough to pleasantly heat the air around her before she spoke again.
“[So… now what?]”
“Well! I’ve been at that for long enough-”
“[It’s been 5 of your minutes-]”
“Right! And it’s important not to overdo it on your first day back in the gym.” Jessica nodded sagely, taking her sweat towel and resting it on her shoulders. “So we should take a break – a juice break!” she beamed, and Shpressnrek nodded.
“[S-sure.]” After all, who was she to judge? Maybe their bodies just needed that little exercise to accomplish physical fitness – again, alien physiologies and whatnot. Shpressnrek pondered these mysteries as she carefully followed Jessica over to the juice bar, lost in thought. Would this explain why they never used the Gym for the entire year… or the year before, or the one before that – they only needed just a few minutes of physical activity to-
“One Quintenta-sized Triple-Green Apple Smoothie, Extra Protein, Extra Power Cleanse, TriBerry Shot, EnergyBean Shot and an extra scoop of powdered honey.”
Shpressnrek blinked – which is impressive for a species not really known for the action – and slowly turned to face Eagle-screm, who was happily bouncing in place as the Smoothie Bar worker picked up what looked like a cleaning bucket and began to fill it with-
“[Forgive me, [Jessica], but, I thought the goal of working out was to burn more calories than you took in, building muscle to increase your base metabolic rate and thereby losing weight.]” ‘Yanno, like everyone else in the universe’ Shpressnrek mentally added.
“Oh! Yeah, that’s correct!”
“[But this looks to be… 50 or more ounces of smoothie.]”
“Yah! Worked up a big sweat, gotta have a big cleanse after!”
Shpressnrek thought, again, super hard.
“[But this… has to be at least 8,000 calories.]”
“No!” Jessica said, spinning on her heel and away from the accurate calorie count. “It doesn’t count!”
“[Calories… don’t count.]”
“Nuh! Cause it’s got protein in it. And protein slows down the calories.”
“[But.]” Shpressnrek said, slowly, trying to follow the logic of a human on a new diet fad. “[Aren’t you… still consuming them, even if they’re slow?]”
“But it’s a cleanse.” The Smoothieguy helpfully said as he held the bucket under a syrup pump and began to piston the sugary concoction into the tub. “It’s totally filled with phytonutrients and beta-tocotrenols and sucrose solids and antioxidants and-”
Shpressnrek leaned over the counter to better study everything that was happening, The Smoothieguy not missing a beat as he ducked under the inquisitive snake. “[But. But none of those words mean anything-]”
Jessica scrunched up her nose. “Look, you just don’t understand nutrition, ok? This – this stuff works, trust me.”
“[Trust- I mean, fine, fine.]” Shpressnrek leaned back, slowly coiling into herself to shrink her height. “[It’s just. You’ve never done this before-]”
“I read a comment chain on Twitumblook that totally explained all of this.”
“[So, they were doctors having a debate?]”
“I mean. Maybe, I don’t know, you’re not a doctor either shutup-” Jessica huffed, crossing her arms as the sound of an industrial blender broke the awkward conversation, turning away from the far-too-inquisitive Jornissian. Said Jornissian looked away as well – best to break eye contact and let things calm down for a bit – and surveyed the post-workout juice bar. Various warm-cuddles were excitedly talking with one another, flexing in… some attempt to do something, and were trading what looked like jars of powders, cosmetics, and in a few cases shaped quartz crystals.
Then there was the table Tr’Grakz was at.
At what point he slipped away Shpressnrek couldn’t say, but there he was, full-body bobbing up and down and chanting in time with the rest of the male warm-cuddles as one of them upturned a bucket and drank heavily – and continuously – from it, in an attempt to drink it’s contents down in a single go.
Shpressnrek felt the wiggling tendrils of concern grow up the back of her mind, and frowned.
= = = = =
This was, as Eagle-screm-from-a-year-ago would say, ‘bullshit.’ Shpressnrek thought as she worked at her station. Her clean, uncluttered workstation. Her clean, uncluttered, professional and scientifically-backed workstation. She glanced over at her colleague, Eagle-Screm, who was currently adding in another few drops of ‘get hype’ to a water evaporator, which she assured Shpressnrek would “increase her vitality, concentration and energy flow” throughout the work day.
The evaporator made an annoying, droning sound as it kicked on, a bitter-smelling cool mist beginning to disperse into the shared room.
“[Are you sure that’s going to work?]” Shpressnrek said, frowning.
“Eyup! This, combined with my standing chi-focus mat and the harmonic resonance crystals will absolutely make a difference!” Jessica beamed proudly, the bumped and textured mat that she now stood on squeaking in protest.
“[…so all this will help you file those spectrographic reports?]”
“Mmhmm.” Jessica said, reaching for her handy bottle of neem oil, applying a dab on each side of her head. “Gotta cleanse out all the toxins to clear the mind!”
“[I just want to point out – and don’t take this the wrong way – but, you could have finished your workload for the day in the time it took you to setup your new… interesting workstation.]” Shpressnrek said, attempting to choose her words carefully as the bitter-smelling (and now rancid-tasting) mist permeated the workspace.
“Yeah, but this sets me up for future success! Besides, once I work on the energy chi lines in the office, we’ll both be more productive!”
Shpressnrek calmed her inner self for a moment at the news, before responding carefully and evenly. “[The… entire office.]”
“Mmhmm! I’ve got some supplies being fabbed right now – we’re gonna fix the energy of everything-”
Shpressnrek rolled her jaw in thought and locked her station. “[I’m… going to take a quick break.]”
“Oh, good idea! Getting a walk in absolutely gets the lymph nodes flowing-”
“[Y-yeah. Yeah. I’ll be back.]” Shpressnrek half-answered, sliding under her bench and wordlessly making her way out of the room.
There was a warm-cuddle she needed to see.
= = = = =
Glenn “Sir Not Appearing in This Film” Abramson was doing just that up until this paragraph. The knowledge of this made him frown, but not as hard as he was when he was awoken in the middle of his staggered sleep cycle by the incessant dinging of his door chime. After attempting to wait out the noise for a good 15 minutes he eventually got up, racked his shotgun, and made his way to the door. He did this because
(1) It’s an intern that needs to learn a lesson
(2) It’s a xenos that needs to learn a lesson
(3) It’s that troupe of busty-thicc barely-legal ventriloquist Jornissians from the New Year’s Eve party trying to get him out of his “cave”, again, and for all intents and purposes he was still severely dehydrated from helping out in their last “act”.
Either way, CASTLE LAW.
“What do you want.” Glenn growled through the door, re-racking his shotgun for intimidation factor. “Because I gave at the office, and I’m all out of holiday cheer.”
“[Stationmaster Glenn.]” Growl-clicked the Dorarizin on the other side. “[We need your help.]”
“Th’fuck do you mean, we?” Glenn said, reaching up to tap a button on his door. The frame infront of him became transparent, micro-cameras on the outside blinking on to show him what was on the other side of his door. By his count, it was at least…
…at least a third of the station’s xenos population.
“Goddamnit.” Glenn said, opening the door, greeting his work colleagues in week-old boxers, a half-opened bathrobe and a disheveled aura of a man who lost a rug that tied his whole life together.
“[Greetings, Stationmaster.]” Said Dorarizin – Dave, was it? – said, bowing slightly. Glenn held his shotgun in his hands, still not entirely sure the problem before him couldn’t be solved by just blastin’. “[We need help.]”
“I charge group rates for psychotherapy, but you have to bring your own shrooms.”
“[N-no, not that.]” a Karnakian female said, smoothing out her crest as she approached. “[It’s the rest of the [Humans].]”
“What? Are they dead?”
“So this isn’t my problem.” Glenn said, taking a pointed step back and resting his hand on the door-close mechanism. “Now if you’ll excuse me-”
All at once a chorus of voices began to bubble forth, a dozen hundred issues raised together.
“[[Susan] Won’t stop playing bass-boosted binaural beats-]”
“[I keep trying to clean the rec area but there are so many standing mats-]”
“[-1500 Mineral Crystals shaped like orbs-]”
“[-teen minutes tries to lead us all into a stretch that he can’t even do. We don’t have legs, [Glenn]. I can’t-]”
“[-not working because the ‘energy of the room is black ichor’ and that doesn’t even mean anything-]”
“[-won’t stop tweaking his nipples to power up-]”
Glenn let the screeching barnyard of nightmare horror voices wash over him, his commbead temporarily shutting down due to just the sheer volume of complaints. Usually such suffering would sustain him for quite some time, especially if he was smart about rationing it, but this. This was different.
This was suffering he wasn’t responsible for, and as such, he couldn’t enjoy any of it.
With a helpful beep his beads came back online, and he raised a hand to calm down the mob. “Alright. Start from the beginning. You.”
Glenn pointed at random into the mob, and Shpressnrek came forward.
And so she told her story.
= = = = =
“[Stationmaster, I do not think this is going to work.]”
“[But we’re going to be seen.]”
Glenn “I’m too Robust for this shit” Abramson had listened to a few of the Xenos’ stories before he realized what was going on, and ended a few more enthusiastic storytellers’ tales short with a beanbag shot to the torso. Eventually running out of ammo forced him to think about how best to calm down his murderbeast coworkers, and after a few seconds of deliberation he figured a hands-on visual demo would be enough to calm the tide.
This is why he was crouched down behind a TruFeel Plastic Plant pot in the breakroom. Well. Him and roughly 50 other xenos who would not accept his word for it and demanded proof.
“[We’re not even behind this fake plant, Stationmaster. Some of us are just… here.]”
Glenn turned and ferally hissed at the Karnakian, turning back around to peer through the fake palm leaves. “Trust me. No one even looks over here; plastic plants are invisible to the human eye.”
“[I. That doesn’t sound corre-]”
The karnakian was interrupted by another animalistic hiss from Glenn as the door to the breakroom slid open, a thigh-high legwarmer wearing Mike running in place. Well. “Running”. It was more swaying back and forth vigorously, which honestly counted for something in this perpetual hellhole of the space backrooms.
Rgrezneh-of-Hrzgaren began to full-body shake, murmuring something about “Couples Jazzercize classes” – Glenn reached up and clamped his hands around her muzzle, pulling her down. “Look.”
The xenos crouched, doing their best to hide behind the plant – or behind each other – as they watched the wobbling Mike make his way over to the Vending machine. It had been recently restocked, filled with new and healthy options such as Sunbutt Chips, Luna Crunches, Horsereference Fries and a bunch of other “calorie smart” selections. Of course, as this was still a vending machine manned by human beings, the items that hadn’t sold yet remained, a tempting if outdated choice.
And that was key.
“The human male Michaeus Slobbicus Horribilus scans his larder, making the first meal decision for the day.” Glenn began to narrate in an extraordinarily british voice. “As he is useless in almost every facet of life-”
“[H-hey!]” Rgrezneh-of-Hrzgaren said, her interjection popping her muzzle free from Glenn’s grip.
“-He must get his food like all other pests; by scavenging.” Glenn continued, unabated as he creeped through the singular bush. “Now, the Michaeus Horribilus, commonly known as the ‘Fucking wake up’ or ‘jackass’, has a peculiar evolutionary trait; he has a fixed amount of willpower daily.”
At this, every xeno stopped their murmuring and began to listen to Glenn “David Attenborough” Abramson.
“This can be increased through training, but the common jackass would do no such thing over the course of his life. No, spurts like these almost always die out sooner rather than later.”
Mike stopped his wobbling back and forth and studied the choices, eyes glazing over the healthier, fresher options.
“And so now we watch nature take it’s course.”
Mike’s head scanned row after row, hot food, cold food, drinks of all sorts and sizes, all healthy, all tasteless. But a bright orange bag caught his eye, and steadying himself against the machine he crouched down, face breaking out into a soft grin. For there, alone, a single row of a forgotten era; Dodino’s brand DUST LUST, now with 33% more lard.
Mike looked to his left, then to his right, scanning over the potted plant. No one was here to witness him…
Mike pressed his selection into the vending machine, the DUST LUST dropping down to the collection bin. With another quick look around he grabbed the bag and ripped it open.
“The common jackass is influenced by the thots around him; he won’t show his true nature unless it’s the popular opinion, since he’s of the Basic Bitch genus-”
“[Ok I think this is getting a bit too harsh, Stationmaster.]” Rgrezneh-of-Hrzgaren said, furrowing her brow. “[He’s not that bad-]”
“MMNNOOFFFF~” The group watched in silence as Mike moaned through the bag of Dodinos dust that he upturned into his mouth, his body shaking with the ecstasy of 500% of his daily sodium intake, 4g of pure MSG and all those delicious, delicious parabens hitting his bloodstream at once.
“[It’s… Stationmaster [Glenn], what does it mean?]”
The door slid open again, a red-faced Jessica wandering into the breakroom. The two looked at each other for a moment, before-
“Oh fuck yeah, there’s still DUST LUST in here?” Jessica chirped, wandering over to the vending machine.
“It means there is a Santa Claus, Virginia.” Glenn said, nodding and smiling to himself over the soft sobbing relief of the aliens behind him.
Truly, it was the one last Holidaysmas Miracle for the year.
Cause, let’s face it. It’s not like you’re keeping your resolutions, right?