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    Cia
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Ancalagon - 14. Chapter 14

Whatever I wished to know. I could ask him questions for hours. Who cared about food? I wished I had a recording device. Notes. I needed to take notes. How else could I organize my thoughts or remember everything Garjah told me?

Garjah settled a plate in front of me. It held fairly standard looking protein cubes and some feathery purple stalks. “What are these?” I asked.

“They are safe. Timok had Andulsa program in a human-safe section to the food reproducer. These are your protein cubes, and this is selari blooms from a planet in your sector.”

Not a planet I’d ever visited. “Just because it’s in our sector and humans occupy or visit doesn’t mean the food is safe. Humans adapt but we also avoid.”

“Timok did the research. It is safe.” Garjah settled in front of his own plate, easily twice the size of mine, filled with thick slabs of meat. Real meat, not protein. The seared stench reminded me of a fire I’d once rescued a queme—a small furred mammal that burrowed in woody bushes that grew in tangles on Plensen IX. The rest of its colony hadn’t made it.

“Thank you for not serving me that.” I watched in distaste as he picked up a chunk, bit off a bite and swallowed it whole.

“I am not ignorant,” Garjah mumbled. “Timok does not eat meat either.”

Huh. Another commonality with these alien people. It was hard to study animals, to learn everything about them, love them, and reconcile eating them when perfectly acceptable protein cubes were available. They could even be made to mimic meat textures and tastes, should I wish to be discreet in my avoidance of eating local delicacies. Deciding to show my trust by accepting the meal was safe, I speared a bite with the knife provided. That and a pair of tongs were the only utensils provided.

“Have you ever heard of a fork?” I asked. Not the most pressing of questions, but one that might allow me to eat without slicing the side of my mouth or stabbing my tongue.

Garjah’s tilted his smooth green head. He kept eating with one set of his hands, and the other rested on the top of the table. “What is a fork?” he asked between bites.

I explained it to him between bites as he kept encouraging me to eat, watching in fascination as I chewed the protein cubes and cut up the stalks of the selari and gingerly picked them up with the tongs. “Do you only eat meat?” I asked when he said he would try to get a fork replicated for me. He’d already eaten half the thick chunks of flesh.

“No, but when we have fresh supplies, everyone takes advantage.”

Fresh supplies. Was that why they were on Ardra? A supply run? “What supplies?”

“Food. Water. Oslium mineral.”

My eyes flared wide. “Oslium?” I must have heard him wrong. That was one of the most precious minerals in the known universe, and of course, one of the rarest. “There is no oslium on Ardra.” There was no way the planet wouldn’t have been made Priority One with an entire fleet of mining ships with a military escort surrounding it.

“Your technology is limited.” Garjah gestured with one hand, a lower arm shrug which looked strange. “You use inferior metals, which I assume is due to a lack of detection and processing ability.”

He was talking about my suit again. “We are not some backward society.”

“Of course not.” Garjah shook his head. “But we have a much longer history and have been traveling space for far longer than humans have. Most of the cultures in your Allied space are young.”

“Young?” I goggled at him. “We have been exploring space for thousands of years. The Aeneom have been for longer than humans have a recorded history.”

“And we have been exploring space for far longer.” Garjah did the shrug again. “We have learned to avoid young races, but you are quite prolific and adaptable, Timok says.”

He repeated what Timok said a lot. I narrowed my eyes. “Do you spend a lot of time with Timok?” I asked.

“As much as anyone.” Garjah tilted his head back and swallowed his last bite. He used his tongue—long and thin, pale green like the lighter stripes on his skin—to clean the juices off the hands he’d used to eat. He swiped along each finger, and his tongue literally curled around each one.

I clenched the knife in my hand, then put it down carefully.

Garjah blinked his large eyes. They seemed oversized, beautiful and liquid, set over narrow nostrils with a tiny bridged nose and thin lips that just covered his sharp teeth. He had high cheekbones and a triangular jaw that had flared wide when he opened his mouth to chomp through the meat. He’d watched my every move since he came into my room, frequently glancing at me even when he was getting us food.

“What?” I asked.

“Are you done?”

Half my plate was still full, but my stomach churned. I nodded, then remembered that might not mean anything to him. “Yes.”

He stacked my plate on his. “Come.”

It was a struggle to stand but pushing on the tabletop helped. The gravity on this ship felt even higher than Ardra’s, and the extra weight made it hard to do anything. “Are we going back to my room?” I didn’t have the energy for anything else.

“Don’t you want to go see the cerops?”

“I can see Bouncer?” My heart jumped. “Yes! I want to see him.” I took a step and my knees buckled.

Garjah jumped forward, catching me with two hands under my armpits with my knees barely an inch above the floor.

“I’m fine!” I insisted. Would he refuse to take me now?

“You are not. I will carry you.”

I could argue, or I could go see Bouncer. I didn’t argue.

Copyright © 2020 Cia; All Rights Reserved.
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Chapter Comments

I had missed the nuance of Essell being vegan. Other elements fall in place now such as only carrying the shock rod and his revulsion over carnivore's eating habits.

The most important unanswered question is why these aliens who have studiously avoided human contact for thousands of years chosen to abduct him?

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4 minutes ago, Will Hawkins said:

Once again this is an experiment in colors to see what will show up.

Forget trying to change the text color, it only makes it harder to s. Juseet refresh the page.

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Again more mystery. Garjah's race is very old, but seem to be intrigued with the human civilisation. I do hope Essell's pack is in his cabin.  He really needs to take some notes.

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