They are Smol: Chapter 2

Caroline was intrigued, in a detached kind of way, in how someone could be both paranoid and bored at the same time. 

By Galactic Union Mandate, any human serving on an all-xenos ship needed to spend at least 4 hours a day immersed in human media. This wasn’t necessarily because human media was somehow better than anything else anyone produced, merely that humans are very social creatures when it comes to themselves and things they understand. Although you can be friendly to a 350kg cold-blooded snake-person, there’s still some things that are off, and the cheapest cure-all to that is just being reminded of home.

‘It’s the small things’, Caroline mused, ‘that drive you insane.’

And indeed, it was. Even if you ignored the obvious biological differences, living in a ship for months or years at a time where your footfalls are a constant reminder that you’re the only biped on board, that the halls and doors and chairs and beds and bathrooms are all the wrong size and proportion, that there are racial and cultural in-jokes that you’ll just never get, that even the food they give you – delicious, sure, but…

As if to illustrate that point, Caroline takes a namptha ball the size of her fist and gnaws at it – the dense-but-not-solid jawbreaker slowly giving way, rewarding her with the closest thing to licorice-mint that the galaxy has to offer. 

Oddly enough, macro-wise it counts as a protein.

“….it’s still not right.” She hummed to herself, minimizing the Harry Potter movie she was watching for the umpteenth time. Idly, she pulls up the ship’s schedule and manifesto, and begins to browse. “…up until literally last week, I had a 6 hour shift with an hour break halfway through. Now, I’m on a 3 hour shift with nothing else to do…”

Spinning in her oversized chair, she tosses the namptha ball into the sink, the hearty thunk echoing through the room proving her throwing arm is still good. 

“But why? Nobody’s asked me for more human-culture lessons, nobody invites me to meal time, nobody asks me to do anything – it’s either I sit here and waste away, or lay about on one of the heat rocks on observation deck. I mean, at least then somebody will share the rock with me, but… nobody says I’m in trouble. So….why do I feel like I did something wrong?”

So she sat, and she worried. Humans, as a whole, weren’t nearly as terrifying as their galactic neighbors. Jornissians were snake-people who could actually crush cars with their bodies, and some still had very potent if vestigial venom sacs. A ‘short’ Dorarizin would still be at least 2.8m tall with teeth and claws that could peel aluminum bars with ease, and a Karnak, well. Think “roided-up monitor lizard with frills and no sense of personal space” and you’ll be pretty close. 

All of them fine sapients, all of them could turn a human to paste with enough motivation. The question on Caroline’s mind was: was she giving her hosts the first steps towards that motivation?

She sat and mused, the stark silence of the corridor outside her door doing nothing to ease her fears. 

—————————————-

Warp travel was, all things considered, the least exciting type of travel you could do in a spaceship. 

Seriously. If you’re in a major shipping lane, you have to worry about other vessels, space junk, independent merchant tugs trying to dock with you to get a better deal before stationdock and the general insanity that comes from space traffic control giving directions not only in a 3-coordinate plane but also in time. If you’re out ‘in the boonies’ of real space, you still have to deal with interstellar dust, micrometeorites, gravity wells, rogue planet/oid/s and sometimes raiders. If you find yourself in atmosphere, well – your trip will be exciting, hot and short with a permanent conclusion at the end.

But when you clear out the local space around you – and just a few millimeters will do – and then fold that space around your ship and move, you’re in nothing but a glorified impervious clear bubble. Granted, that bubble moves a couple exponential places above c, but still. The fact of the matter is, a majority of ship captains didn’t travel above the galactic disc because of uncharted hazards, or some ancient enemy, or fear of running out of power.

They traveled amongst the stars and planets of the galactic plane at hyperspeed because if you didn’t, there was fuck-all nothing to look at.

The recently-promoted Ssharnak, Junior Technician II, and his trusty-but-grouchy older ward Ashhs’ssk (still a simple Junior Engineer) were not having the problem of having fuck-all nothing to look at. Quite the opposite, really. Their room had become the de-facto ‘[Human] Cinema’, complete with comfortable seats, a snack bar, a rotation list and even a couple drinking games. After Hsan saw the [Resevoir Dogs] movie, getting [Caroline]’s schedule changed was a done deal. With the extended cinema hours, there was less crowding and – Ssharnak wouldn’t believe it unless it was happening to him – more females coming up to talk to him during off hours.

“<wait… wa- SKITTERS IN THE BACK! TAKE A SHOT!>”

There was a groan from one of the back-tables as Eshhsan pounded another molok, a grimace on his face. “<That’s not fair – they’re in EVERY fucking scene in this one!>”

“<Yeah, well. That’s what you get for not being here during the previous fantasy night. Considering [Humans] can’t see in the infrared…>” 

“<Yeah, yeah.>” growled Eshhsan, pointing a finger at his red-and-yellow comrade. “<It’s not fair, though. They can’t help that they’re half-blind! The humans in those skin-suits are invisible to their people!>”

“<No, but you should’ve figured that in when you took me up on this game. Ready for another round?>”

“<Ugh. No. No, I quit. And from the looks of it, so does she.>” Eshhsan pushed away a mountain of crushed drink-pearls, drawing Ssharnak’s attention back to the screen. [Caroline] had minimized the movie, and was instead looking at ships’ logs.

“<Hey, Eshhsan? You think she’s onto us yet?>” Ashhs’ssk muses at the bar, his tail coiled lightly around a cute engineers’ in the back corner of the room.

 “<I don’t know. Maybe? Is 3 hours of work not enough time? What if we put her on 5?>”

“<5 is…. problematic with our schedule. The gems will keep their seats due to ranks, but the gemless and other junior members…>”  Ashhs’ssk trails off, sighing. “<We probably should do it – but that didn’t come from me.>”

“<Mmmh. What’s… what’s she typing? I’m… having some trouble focusing.>”

“<Uuuh….I don’t know. It’s not [Netflix] or [Hulu]. Looks like a private, off-books program to me…>”

Unbidden, Ssharnak pipes up. “<What does meme-edited Jarnissian even mean?>”

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