Thursday, April 24, 2014
We’re all getting pretty excited about the upcoming shore leave. Betra called a meeting after breakfast with his group to give us the lowdown.
“For those of you who don’t know, we’ll be visiting the Xniktix Space Station in a couple of days. It’s usually a fun diversion for those who are stuck in space for extended periods of time.”
“No Tragooms, I hope?” someone nervously called.
Betra smiled and shook his head. “We’ve got a couple other ships in the area, mostly ore transports, that we’ve been in communication with. All our security sweeps have detected no sign of Tragooms in the area, even though Adraf does allow them to visit their space.”
Katrina snorted. “Adrafs aren’t that intelligent, are they?”
“If Tragooms make a nuisance of themselves, Adrafs sell them into slavery to the Bi’is and confiscate their possessions. The fact that few live long as a Bi’is slaves is a pretty good deterrent for misbehavior, even among the Tragooms.”
We nodded, but there was a sense among us that if we saw any sign of Tragooms, we would be hiding on the transport until they or we were out of here.
Betra continued. “Tragooms aside, I would like to share a few words of caution with you all about this space station. This is a major trading post, which means people of most of the known worlds come here. You will see Dantovonians, who will no doubt try to lure you into staffing their brothels. Dantovonians are not above lying about what they will give you in exchange for you signing a contract. I highly discourage you from talking to them for any reason.”
Next to me, Candy shuddered. “Eek. My lips are sealed.”
Katrina and I exchanged a glance and giggled. We got elbowed rather harshly for it.
Betra repressed a smile and continued on. “I also caution you to stay away from the Bi’isils. Completely avoid them if at all possible.”
I pointed out, “I thought the Galactic Council prohibited them from taking Earther slaves following Armageddon.”
Betra nodded. “No Earther can be taken to Bi’is against their will. However, that may not stop one of them from attempting to coerce you into coming with them. There is also the matter of Bi’isil codes of conduct. They are a highly ritualistic society, with specific ways of interaction. To them, not keeping to the correct steps of approaching, speaking, even acknowledging them, is cause for insult. Kalquor has ended up in wars with Bi’is over what anyone else would deem insignificant slights.”
“Touchy, touchy,” Katrina joked.
“Indeed. If you take anything at all away from this meeting, make it my advice to head in the opposite direction of any Bi’isil you see.”
We nodded. Betra was his usual warm self, but the warning in his expression and the tension in his voice told us this was serious stuff.
“We got it, boss,” Candy said, offering a snappy salute. “What other dangers can you warn us about?”
“If you buy from anyone, particularly the Adrafs, bargain hard. They expect it. If you don’t, they will take every credit in your possession. The traders will be looking to separate as much of your money from you as possible.”
“Sounds like every business and bank I knew on Earth,” Katrina sighed.
Betra chuckled. “If you feel like you were cheated on any transaction, let me know. We’ll do what we can in your defense, but it might not be much. Once an Adraf has your funds, he or she will not give them up easily.”
“And this shore leave is supposed to be fun?” I asked.
“You’ll find plenty of entertainment, dining options, and shopping. You just have to be smart,” Betra said. “There will be plenty of Kalquorians around from this transport and our destroyer escorts, so if you run into trouble of any sort, yell. You know we’ll come running to take care of our Mataras.”
We all smiled at Betra on that one. It’s true that these Kalquorian men are protective of us to a fault. Maybe it gets to be a bit much sometimes, but when the chips are down, we all love it.
The meeting broke up. Candy, Katrina, and I retired to my quarters to do some research on the computer about Xniktix Space Station. We wanted to figure out in advance what we would do during our visit.
First we had a look at the station itself. It looks like a big, metal bicycle wheel. There’s a large circular center bit that is the hub of the trading and entertainment. Then there are what look like the wheel spokes: long slender tubes that make up the corridors that lead from the trading center to the outer rim of spaceship docks and cargo load/offload. It’s a pretty straightforward design.
“Whatever,” Katrina said, waving her hand at the floating vid explaining all this. “Get to the good stuff. Who trades there? What kind of fun can we have?”
“You mean from a vertical position?” Candy teased.
“I can do with a change every once in awhile,” Katrina grinned, as unrepentant about her activities as ever.
We were thrilled to see all the goodies available on Xniktix. It looked like every world and kingdom were represented in its marketplace. Plasian, Joshadan, Adraf, Kalquorian ... even an Earther shop showed up.
“Fire sale,” I quipped with black humor. “Discounted slightly charred and smoke-damaged items.”
“Isn’t that how you left Earth?” Candy snickered.
“I’m also a two-for-one deal. Think I’ll get any takers?”
That got me some laughs. “I wonder how religious the vendor is,” Candy said. “If it’s a man, won’t he be irritated to see us women bound for Kalquor!”
We agreed we probably wanted to avoid the Earther shop as much as the Bi’isils. Tempting fate feels wrong.
“What about the entertainment options?” Katrina persisted. Our party gal was determined to have a good time.
We checked and found choices galore. Theater. Concerts with every kind of music imaginable. Writers of all worlds reading from their works. Comic clubs. Shuttle races. Sports venues including exhibition games from various worlds. Pleasure clubs, supposedly similar to the Kalquorian ones but open to all. I’m still not ready to check that out, and even Candy remains leery. Katrina blew a raspberry at us and kept looking.
“Who wants to dance?” she asked.
Candy frowned. “I took ballet when I was really little, but I’m hardly good enough to do something like that in public,” she said.
“This isn’t ballet,” Katrina said. “It’s apparently a club where you can go and just have fun dancing with your friends. Let’s look at the vid.”
She brought up the live feed that was transmitting from the club in question. Suddenly, my quarters appeared to be filled with aliens of every ilk, most of whom were gyrating wildly ... sometimes even in a sexual-looking manner. Our mouths dropped open at the display. It was like no dancing I’d ever seen.
“Sound up,” I said, wanting to know what kind of music encouraged such exuberance.
I half-expected something like lemanthev music with its thundering tribal sound. What came out of the transmission was kind of tribal, I suppose ... but not really.
A pulsing rhythm filled the room, with a steady beat that the dancers in the vid responded to. There was seemingly no rules to the kind of dancing they were doing, save to move their bodies to that constant thud-thud-thud that lay under all the other instruments. It sounded hectic and electric and crazy ... and fun. My foot tapped along without my realizing it at first.
“Wow,” Candy breathed, her eyes wide, her head nodding to the beat. “Wow, that’s really, really ... wow.”
“Good heavens,” Katrina said, a grin slowly spreading across her face. “It’s neat but kind of nasty too.”
Candy moved closer to the vid, watching the aliens grind and gyrate. She started copying the moves of a Plasian woman, who managed to be both seductive and energetic at the same time. Candy didn’t do half bad, I thought. She would have been slammed in an Earther prison in an instant for some of those moves though. Talk about suggestive.
“It’s a hoot!” she declared, pealing delighted laughter. “Come try it!”
So we did. I felt pretty self-conscious at first and I was awkward with hesitation ... I mean, imagine moving like that in front of all those people! Yet they were doing this crazy, hip-shaking, body shimmying version of dancing with no fear. No shame. It’s no wonder all the other species of the known universe laugh at us Earthers and call us uptight. If this was normal for them, then we are uptight.
Little by little, I loosened up. I think my dancing got better. Katrina, Candy, and I laughed and copied the dancers we thought looked the most interesting. We tried a few moves of our own. We encouraged each other to be bolder and more daring. It was a blast.
We are definitely going to that dance club when we get to Xniktix Space Station. We’ve all promised to practice so we can be as uninhibited as the others there. We’ve made a pact that these repressed Earthers are going to shake the place down, or die trying.