This week's story is a light one. Just a quick peek at what sworn enemies will do to get away from each other. And there's lots of fruit.
The story came from the line:
My nemesis is always there beside me.
My nemesis is always there beside me.
“Technically I’m not beside you, you’re in my pocket,” Mitch said out of the corner of his mouth. There was silence from the pocket and Mitch figured Dravor hadn’t meant to think that at him. He finished pulling on his shirt in silence, eyes carefully moving over the room to make sure no one had heard him. No one was supposed to know about the alien Commander who was sulking in his pocket. No one was paying attention to them though, just moving through the locker room like Mitch didn’t exist either. That was for the best too. This civilian gym let him get away from the stares and the comments from the guys in his unit who knew exactly what was in his pocket.
Mitch finished packing his dirty gym clothes in his bag with his shower kit. The shower kit was another lucky thing. When they first rigged him to be no more than five feet from Dravor at any time he hadn’t thought logistically about things like showering. Or how he was going to get the little bastard into the gym showers with no one noticing. It turned out he fit pretty well in one of those travel soap holders. It even had air holes built in.
I don’t know why you insist on this stupid barbarian ritual every day.
“Like you don’t have energy to burn nowadays?” Mitch replied without moving his lips. After this assignment he could leave the service and make it as a ventriloquist. He knew he didn’t really have to talk out loud for Dravor to hear him but he didn’t like thinking at him. It was just too weird.
There was a pause. Dravor couldn’t possibly disagree with that, he was just as restricted as Mitch. Both of them grounded and tied. Real torture for two pilots.
You need to find a better place to put me when you do it.
Mitch wondered if the alien thought he liked having a guy in his pocket when he was working out. He smiled slightly and swung his bag over his shoulder. Maybe he liked it a little, every time the lump in his cargo pocket hit his knee he felt like he was getting a little payback. “You’re just mad you have to be in my pants,” he said, pushing out of the musty locker room.
I don’t appreciate being in any of your pockets.
Mitch felt what he was sure was a tiny elbow or knee poke him in the chest. He preferred jacket pockets to pants pockets himself. Anything below the equator felt creepy. He took his time going down the stairs toward the front door. There was a step class in the glass room on the left. It was a fairly advanced class and there was no harm admiring their technique. That was one thing he didn’t miss about the officer’s gym, the clothes. None of the women in his unit would wear spandex to work out. He shook his head and went down the last few steps. Instead of turning through the bright purple lobby he went left to the juice bar. It wasn’t like he was in any hurry to get back to his apartment and listen to Dravor rant about human entertainment and human technology and then order Mitch to make him another fruit salad.
He dropped his bag next to a stool and leaned into the bar, the formica cool against his hands. He caught the eye of the kid behind the counter and motioned him over with his head. “Hey Vic, can I get a strawberry banana smoothie?” There was stone silence from his pocket and he smiled to himself.
Vic hurried over, his long hair flopping into his eyes. He was short and looked squared off even though he moved lightly enough. He had just the build for a pilot. “Sure thing Captain. You want pineapple in this one?” The kid was already piling strawberries into a pitcher.
Mitch thought about doing it to mess with Dravor, he liked eating pineapple when the alien couldn’t, but decided against it, shaking his head. “Just strawberries and bananas, thanks.” He watched Vic pile more fruit into the blender. “How are your classes going? Isn’t the entrance exam next week?” he asked, more out of a need to talk to someone who wasn’t four inches tall than because he cared.
The kid’s face lit up as he set the pitcher on top of the blender and turned it on. “Oh yeah, I’m studying hard. I’m hoping to get in for the fall flight training sessions,” he said loudly over the whirring fruit.
Mitch nodded with polite interest wondering if he’d been that excited when he was trying to get into flight training. He waited until Vic turned the blender off and started pouring. “I’m sure you’ll do fine. Have you thought about which corps you’re trying for?” He’d only wanted one thing when he went in, Interplanetary Missions. Of course all that had gotten him was confinement planet-side and an alien in his pocket.
“I’m hoping for Station Escort. I really want to get posted on the Alpha Centauri Station. I did my archeology thesis on the Centaurians,” Vic said excitedly, pushing his long hair out of his eyes and sliding the glass of pink smoothie across the counter.
Mitch drank half of it at once. He could feel chunks of fruit slide down his throat. He wondered if the kid had ever actually met a Centaurian. If he had he probably wouldn’t be so damn excited about a two-year stint running station escort. Flying in circles around a station that did nothing but send relays between Earth and other even farther outposts sounded almost as mind numbing at being stuck planetside. “I’m sure you’ll learn a lot,” he said noncommittally, nodding to Vic when the kid got called down the bar by another customer.
The Centuarians are almost as barbaric as humans.
After almost a year, with another year stretching out in front of him, Mitch was at about the end of his temper with Dravor. He turned sharply like he could face the little bastard.
He turned right into the blonde that had been walking past.
“Shit,” he hissed as he slopped smoothie on the woman’s arm. “Sorry, I didn’t see you.”
“It’s ok,” she said with a slight smile, taking the napkins he handed her and wiping the pink drink off her arm.
Mitch noted that while she wasn’t wearing spandex she didn’t look half bad in the loose sweats and tank top she was wearing. “Let me make it up to you,” he said, smiling back at her. Her eyes were large and dark and her nose turned up slightly at the end making her look like a pixie.
She gave him a sly look that went from his ratty sneakers to his track pants to his jacket. He could almost swear she stared at his pocket for an extra second before she met his eyes again. “How?” she asked coyly.
He blinked, realizing what he’d just done. It was like autopilot or something. Even when he knew he shouldn’t flirt he did it anyway and then he had a sweet looking blonde in front of him that he was going to have to blow off because of Dravor.
Ask her to dinner or whatever it is you humans do to start your mating rituals.
“What?” Mitch asked, forgetting not to move his lips. Hell, he was busy trying to keep his eyes from bugging out.
I am giving you leave to ‘go out’ with her. Just do it.
The blonde was looking at him with an expression that was concerned or wary and he managed a sheepish smile. “Sorry, what was I saying?”
The boyish look had never failed him before and it wasn’t failing now. The blonde was smiling again, angling toward him slightly. “You were telling me how you’d make it up to me.”
Mitch forced his eyes away from her perfect pink lips and met her eyes. “How about dinner? Have you ever been to Lemongrass Grill?” He was sure he was going to be paying for this later but he didn’t let that stop him.
Her eyes were slightly wider now. “Don’t you need reservations about a month in advance?”
He shrugged nonchalantly, hooking his thumb into the pocket Dravor was sitting in like he could keep the alien from protesting if he decided to take back his offer. “Not on a Wednesday. Is eight good for you?”
She nodded. “I’d like that. I have to get to spin class, I’ll see you at eight.” She touched his arm briefly as she walked past, back into the depth of the gym. He felt it burn through his jacket.
“Are you going to tell me what that was all about?” he asked quietly, watching her over his shoulder. He realized that he didn’t know her name but there would be time to take care of that tonight.
When we get to the apartment. We will stop at the store first and get more pineapple.
Mitch didn’t argue, he put his glass back on the counter with a ten-dollar bill under it for Vic and walked out of the gym. He felt like he was walking on air all the way to the car. He picked up two pineapples and some star fruit at the store, feeling expansive.
Once inside his door he tossed his keys on the hall table, put the grocery bag on the kitchen counter and opened his pocket. He held out one finger, dipping it into the pocket until he felt Dravor grab it. He lifted him out and set him on the counter.
Dravor stretched, his lime green skin flashing slickly in the bright kitchen lights. With his hands over his head he was almost five inches tall.
He watched with bright eyes as Mitch unpacked the pineapples and put the star fruit next to the fruit bowl. The bowl was filled to capacity with apples, pears, peaches and plums. Mitch pulled out the cutting board and sliced the star fruit first, putting small slices on a tea saucer and sliding it over to the alien.
Dravor sat on the edge of the saucer and pulled out his knife, slicing off bite sized pieces of the fruit. “I didn’t think these were still in season,” he said in his surprisingly low voice, still watching Mitch as he put the rest of the star fruit in a tupperware container and set one of the pineapples on the chopping block.
“I guess they are, probably greenhouse plants or something,” Mitch said cutting cleanly into the tough outer skin. He’d never cleaned a whole pineapple before last year. Now he did one at least once a week. For a guy who was smaller than his hand, Dravor ate a lot.
Dravor carefully wiped his knife on a dishcloth and put it back in the sheath at his waist. In his brown and gray clothes, moving fast across the counter, he could have been some huge bug. Mitch tracked him out of the corner of his eye as he continued chopping. Dravor ignored him and opened the tiny refrigerator that took up a corner of the counter next to the coffee maker. It was only meant to hold a few drinks so it was only about fifteen inches tall. Still a ridiculous size for the Commander but manageable. Dravor poured himself some juice out of a pitcher from an old toy tea set. He walked back over to the saucer and sat down. “You haven’t asked me what I want,” he said, sipping his juice almost daintily from the plastic teacup.
Mitch shrugged. “Isn’t that what got us into this mess?” he said flippantly to cover his real wariness. He’d hoped he’d learned something after Dravor picked that fight with him at Pegasus Station. Which lead to the race. As a member of the Intergalactic Missions Force he should have read up a little more on local culture. In his own defense he wasn’t the only one who’d been surprised to find out that once Dravor had out flown him it meant that he’d shown his superiority to the IMF. And since they technically held more authority than the local government he’d had complete legal right to have his own planetary coup.
The Admiral really hadn’t liked that. It had taken almost six months to find a legally binding reason to bring Dravor to trial and get him exiled to Earth with Mitch. Mitch who was technically his bodyguard and warden. Who technically hadn’t been demoted from Captain. Who technically wasn’t being punished for causing an intergalactic incident because he thought he could out maneuver a ship the size of a microwave.
Dravor was silent for so long that Mitch wondered if he had pissed him off but then he heard that weird wet sound of Dravor’s tongue moving and understood the Commander was laughing. “I’m not challenging you to a race today. I just want you to send a little message for me.” Dravor took another swig of his juice and followed Mitch’s knife with all four eyes.
Mitch put two chunks of pineapple on the plate next to the star fruit. He was frowning slightly. “I don’t think one date is enough to get me to break the exile agreement,” he said carefully. Did Dravor really think it would be?
Dravor reverently used his knife to cut a sliver off one of the chunks of pineapple. His mouth opened to its fullest extent, looking unhinged like a snake’s without the teeth, as he pulled the fruit in with his long green tongue. His eyes closed as he closed his mouth and swallowed. “We’re not talking about one date. I am willing to let you go through your whole ritual. I’ll be perfectly silent the whole time. It will be like I’m not even there,” he said once he’d opened his eyes.
Mitch blinked. The whole ritual. Dravor couldn’t mean what he thought he did. Mitch hadn’t had anything approaching privacy in almost a year. He couldn’t even get off in the shower knowing the alien was out there sitting on the counter. But if Dravor was really willing to pretend he wasn’t there? If he could really be completely silent? “You want to send something off planet?” he asked noncommittally, dumping the pineapple chunks into several small containers that Dravor could handle.
The Commander’s gleaming eyes followed this operation, watching Mitch close the containers and stack them in the tiny refrigerator. “Through the Alpha Centauri Array. Only a short message,” Dravor said casually, like he was just asking Mitch to go pick up more fruit.
Mitch rinsed his knife in the sink and dumped the inedible part of the pineapple in the trash. He leaned on the counter opposite Dravor with his head cocked to one side. “To Tralax.” It wasn’t a question. If Dravor wanted to send something through that array he wanted to send something to his home world.
Dravor cut a piece of star fruit and put it in his mouth. Even from a few feet away Mitch could hear him pulping it with his tongue. “Of course. As I said, it’s brief. Only six words. Nothing that could incriminate anyone.”
Six words, depending on what they were, wouldn’t be a problem. Mitch had to send packets to Alpha Centauri once a week anyway, keeping the Tralax government up to date on Dravor. “Doesn’t seem worth it to you. Six words could get your sentence extended. You could be stuck on Earth for the rest of your life,” Mitch reminded him, the idea making his skin crawl. If he had to baby-sit the Commander for the rest of his life he’d just go to a bar, pick a fight with six or seven Hollofarz and let the IMF try and make his dead body guard anything.
Dravor made Mitch wait through another piece of pineapple. He was perfectly calm when he opened his eyes, regarding Mitch with cool intensity. “I’m willing to take the risk. You never know, you could see the end of me sooner than you think.”
Mitch cracked his knuckles, one after the other, the faint popping noises making Dravor shift uncomfortably on his seat. He didn’t wince anymore but the sounds still bothered him. Mitch went methodically through each finger before he spoke. “You’re going to be quiet. The whole evening?”
Dravor frowned briefly, or at least his face stretched horizontally making his eyes bulge slightly. He resumed his bland expression fast. “The whole evening. And any other time you wish to, ‘go out’. Within reason,” he added quickly.
Mitch nodded, blue eyes thoughtful. “Within reason. Maybe once a week?”
“Once a week would be acceptable,” Dravor agreed.
Mitch was frowning again, a fine line appearing between his eyebrows. “You’re just going to take over your planet, right? You don’t want Earth or anything?” He’d understood Dravor’s allusion to escape. He didn’t really care where the alien went as long as he wasn’t in his pocket anymore. He wondered briefly how Dravor expected to override the rig that didn’t let them separate.
Dravor stared at him. “I don’t know what you mean,” he said carefully.
Mitch had his hands braced against the counter and used them to lift himself up so he was sitting on it, long legs dangling. “I’m not stupid. You want to get home; you want to take over the world. I just want to know if you’re after this one too.”
“Why would I want your planet?” Dravor asked, eyes bulging again.
Mitch shrugged. “Produce maybe, I don’t know.” He could see Dravor trying to annex Earth for the pineapple.
The tiny Commander stood up to his full height, walking toward the edge of the counter. “Your fruits are nothing compared to the wonders of Tralax!” he declared proudly.
Mitch nodded and slid off the counter. “Good answer. I’m going to call the restaurant. You get your message together and I’ll send it out with my report before we leave.”
Dravor walked along the counter, following Mitch’s progress to the phone. “You’re not going to ask how I’m escaping?”
Mitch shook his head, the phone between his ear and shoulder and his hand over the receiver. “As long as I’m not implicated I don’t care. Anyway, it’ll be more convincing if I don’t know what’s coming.” He dropped his hand and adjusted the phone. “Hey Greg. I need a table tonight for eight o’clock. I can get you ringside seats for the Hollofarz Wrestling match on Saturday if you can help me out.” He already had the tickets and if he was lucky he was going to have something much better to do on Saturday than watch a bunch of aliens beat the crap out of each other.