Stink Bug – Chapter 31

The greys were very upset. V’x was terrified. I was stuck in the middle, translating for two alien species with whom I had little in common.

“Please. We should talk. You have questions. She has questions. I have questions,” I said.

The greys grew silent. Their attention was on me.

“Why did you put the Vr’ak’l into that enclosure? Why can’t they go out at night?”

V’x looked up warily.

‘We had no choice. Their world was dying.’

“Their world was dying? How does a world die?”

‘A space body. Struck it within a week of our removal of them.’

“A space body? What, like an asteroid?” I said.

‘A comet.’

“A comet hit their planet?” I cried.

‘Yes.’

“What is a comet,” said V’x.

“A planet killer. A huge thing.” I looked into the dark eyes of the nearest grey. “Did it destroy the planet, or just wreck it?”

‘The planet is broken.’ An image of molten rocks and a planet split in two came into my head. ‘It is gone. No life could survive. They would be dead. Many things died.’

I flopped back down onto the bed. “Holy shit.”

“What is it? What is it?” said V’x.

“They saved your species,” I muttered. I scanned the blank faces of the greys. “But why the cage? Is it a zoo?”

‘We have rescued them. We provide them a habitat like their old one.’

“You haven’t fooled them. It is nothing like their home.”

Disappointment echoed among the greys.

“The food’s not right. The plants are bizarre. And why can’t they go out after dark?”

‘We make corrections after dark. We cannot be seen.’

“Why take them away then, if they’re caught beyond the trees? That seems wrong.”

‘At night we clean. We adjust the atmosphere. If they are beyond the trees, they suffocate.’

I sat up again. “What?”

‘We try to rescue them, but often they die. We are glad we found you. There were so many with you.’

“What?” cried V’x. “What is it?”

“Why do you need to adjust the atmosphere. It’s their home. At least now.”

‘We must. It is not stable.’

“They’re dying.”

‘We had little time to prepare.’

“Why didn’t you just tell them?”

‘They do not talk. We cannot communicate with them.’

“They do talk. Did you even try?”

‘They do not talk.’ Waves of agreement spread.

“Funny, because I can talk to them just fine.”

They greys became uncomfortable.

‘Yes. We see that.’

“They can’t reproduce. Their species is dead anyway if they can’t reproduce. Do you know why?”

‘We know this. We do not know why. We worry it is the foods.’

“What’s with the foods?”

‘They are synthetic.’

“Why didn’t you just bring plants and animals from their home?”

‘We tried. No time.’ The greys were getting frantic.

“All right, all right,” I said, waving my hands. “Let’s not get all worked up.”

The greys calmed, but V’x was fluttering. “What is happening?” she peeped. “What will happen? Help me.”

“I’m going to explain to Vix what you’ve just told me. Please let me know if I get something wrong.”

The greys conferred, confused. I shrugged and started telling V’x what I had just learned. She fluttered and trilled while I spoke. When I finished, she remained silent for a long time, absently grooming the feathers on her good wing.

The greys were waiting for me to tell them something, but I was waiting for V’x to speak. I was fairly certain she was mulling over what I had told her, but her behavior made it seem like she didn’t understand at all. A spark of anger made me jump. “Whoa,” I muttered. V’x stopped preening and looked up.

‘What has she told you?’

“Nothing,” I said. “She is thinking.”

“Are they talking to you?” V’x said.

“Yeah. Their a little impatient.”

V’x raised the feathers on her head. “Impatient?”

“They want to know what you think about what I just told you.”

The feathers on V’x’s neck flared. “They have made us prisoner for so many years and they won’t give me time to think?”

“Don’t you get upset now,” I said holding up my hands. “We have a serious communications problem. It’s going to take a lot of patients for everyone.” I scowled at the greys. They were embarrassed. “Maybe we should do something else? You seem to only be able to communicate with me if you touch me. Have you tried touching her?”

V’x flattened her feathers. “No.” She shook her head violently. “No, they will not touch me.”

‘She will scratch us and bite.’

‘She is too dangerous.’

“So neither of you trusts the other. Great. Remember what I said about faith?”

“They have killed our species,” cried V’x.

“They are trying to help you,” I shouted back.

V’x slumped back in her cage. “I don’t like this cage. It is too small. I want to spread my wings.”

“Ok.” I laid back again, exhausted from sitting up. “Maybe an act of good faith is what we need.”

“What is that?” asked V’x and the greys simultaneously.

“Vix wants to be able to stretch her wings. She can’t in there. What say you let her out so she can do that?”

‘But she is too dangerous.’

“What say you let her out so she can stretch her wings and she doesn’t scratch or peck at you?”

The greys buzzed. V’x trilled.

I raised my voice. “What say we all just respect each other as decent intelligent beings, and treat each other with the dignity that we all deserve. V’x shouldn’t be in a cage.” I sat up one more time. “And if you treat her like the intelligent, sensitive being that she is, she won’t attack you, either. Right, Vix?”

“They frighten me,” she trilled.

“Yes, I know they frighten you. But you can’t attack them.”

“Will they let me out?”

“They’d better let you out.”

 

Read Chapter 32.

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