One month ago — August 2016
After three earth years of trying to get me to come to the village with her, I finally agreed to follow Sikara into town. Everything in the human’s settlement was different from ours; the roads went as they pleased with no logical organization, the buildings were also haphazard with service establishment mixed among the housing, there was no central square or clear delimitation of districts. How humans could live in such chaos, I didn’t know.
“Come on, we’re almost there.” Sikara declared as we walked through the town. Somehow she’d made sense of the chaos.
I was keenly aware of the stares of the humans as we moved around, Sikara and I’s hands laced together. One of the thing I’d learned about them was that they did not tolerate mates of the same gender.
“Here we are!” She declared as we stopped in front of a building. The sign above said ‘La republicana tapas.’
At Sikara’s insistence, I had learned some of the humans’ languages, it had helped delay having to go out as I learned, but now that I spoke Spanish well, she had not taken no for an answer anymore.
“A mess hall?”
“Un restaurante.” She corrected me in Spanish. “Mi favorito en el pueblo.” Her favorite restaurant in the village.
“I thought we were meeting some humans.”
“Si, pero más tarde.”
“Later, fine. Now you can drop the spanish, I don’t need more practice.”
“If you say so.”
We went inside and a human female servant guided us to a table before taking our order. I let Sikara pick the food, not being familiar with human dishes or ingredients. I couldn’t stop myself staring at the human’s chest and the way its breast poked from under its clothes.
“Shekaree?” Sikara asked once the servant turned away.
“How do humans babies even drink milk?” I asked in a whisper. “Their teats are so big…”
She burst out laughing at my comment. “They don’t have massive teats, Shekaree, they’re just like ours. They just have fatty tissue underneath.”
“Are you sure?”
“Very sure. You could say I’ve verified it myself with the help of a friend.”
My ears folded back at the thought of her having been with a human… The food we’d ordered came only a moment later, composed of many small plates which the human servant placed down on our table along with utensils.
Although the other patrons tried to be quiet, I could hear them talking about us. I let out a growl at one of their word. “Damn space pigs shouldn’t be allowed here.” it said in Spanish.
“Ignore them.” Sikara ordered, putting a hand on mine. “They’re not worth our time.”
I did my best to do it, focusing on the food. Some preparations were akin to our foods, such as sausages, fritters or stuffed pastries, but the tastes weren’t what I expected, being different ingredients. Once our meal was done, I thanked the servant who’d brought it to us and began walking for the door only for Sikara to take my hand and stop me.
“Shekaree, wait.” She said.
“What is it?”
“We haven’t paid yet.”
“Compensated them for the meal.”
“We have to do that?” I blinked.
“Lo siento señora, mi amiga es nuevo.” She said, apologizing to the human. She opened her bag and took out some thin but long polymer strips, counting a few and giving them to the human. “Gracias.”
She came back to me and took my hand, leaving the establishment.
“In the human world, you need to compensate establishments for their service. Humans receive money in exchange for their work and they trade it for services.”
“That seems very complicated for nothing.” I frowned. In our culture, we didn’t use money, services like mess halls or clothing were provided for free with the understanding that people contributed to society in exchange. “Where did you get that money?”
“I traded for it.” Was all she said.
We walked out of the restaurant and she guided us out of town, but in a different direction from our camp. Instead we found our way into a small valley in the hills where a few humans were waiting for us. They got up and greeted Sikara who introduced me, I stayed back, only listening to their conversation.
One of them, Migel, was late and supposed to bring the equipment, whatever that meant…
A few minutes later an old beaten truck drove down the path and stopped a few feet from us. A few more humans got out of it.
“Hola Kara!” One of them shouted. I turned around and saw it was in full armor, a weapon in its hand. It raised the weapon, aiming for Sikara.
My heart stopped, it was as I’d feared. I didn’t think and rushing in. Before he could fire, I was on top of it savaging with my fists.
“Karee!” Sikara screamed.
“Migel!” The other screamed.
Someone tried to pull me off and I roared at them, ready to fight until I saw who it was; Sikara herself.
“Stop it!” She begged and I did. “Why…”
“It had a weapon.”
She leaned down and grabbed the human’s weapon, levelling it at me and firing. The projectile that had hit my belly lightly pinched but that was it. A few splotches of blue paint now stained my outfit.
“It’s a toy! He was going to show me how to play with them.”
“I…” I muttered frozen. “I didn’t know…”
Her lips parted about to say something but I didn’t listen, instead running away. She called out for me but I kept running. I didn’t stop until I reached our camp and was back in our room. I crumbled down on the ground, shaking…
What had I done? My claws were still stained red with the alien’s blood.
I don’t know how long I stayed there, but eventually the door opened, Sikara coming through.
“Miguel will be okay.” She said. “He will need surgery and will have scars but he’ll be well.”
“I’m sorry.” I answered, tears dripping down my face.
She offered me a hand and I took it. The dried blood caked on my claws contrasting with the pristine ivory tone of hers. The moment I was back on my feet, she wrapped her arms tightly around my torso.
“I’ve told master Kiorga what happened and we both agree you need help.”
She put a claw on my mouth.
“Shekaree, you’re afraid of them. You constantly think the worst will happen, but humans aren’t our enemies anymore, the war is long over and this is our world now… I can’t count the number of times I knew you snuck out at night to stand watch on the wall, you think I don’t know, but I’ve known about the knife you keep hidden in our bed… I’ve heard you speaking in your nightmares.”
I didn’t answer her.
“I’ve been trying to help you, but it’s not working.” She said her ears folding in shame.
There was a knock at the door and I looked up. Master Kiorga stood in the doorway. I got up and she came toward me, giving me a tight hug.
“I’m sorry, I did wrong and as your apprentice, I stained your honor.” I removed her emblem pin from my collar and handed it to her. She however closed my hand tightly around it with her own.
“Shekaree, stop. What you did was wrong, but it’s because you’re still hurt.” There was a pause and I stared at the ground. “I talked with the head chaplain and we both agree you need help we can’t provide.” The chaplains were responsible for the mental and spiritual well being of the empire’s citizen.
“What does that mean?”
“You’ll be leaving, there is a place I believe could help you. You’ll be among powered humans, you’ll live with them, study with them and train with them.”
She was getting rid of me, I knew it… Sending me away like those who had contested her rule and challenged the order of the camp.
“I—” I began but the interrupted me.
“It’s for the best. This is not an exile, we are not abandoning you, you will still be my apprentice. You will be free to come back when you can. ”
“When do I leave?”
“At the start of the next human month.”