Author : Desmond Hussey, featured writer
“You the new guy?” A massive Velorian Lobster asks me, a clawed hand over his head mic as I stand in the doorway of the busy office. There’s a muffled squawking coming from his headphones. I catch the hawkish profile of an elderly human female in his video globe.
He gestures toward a vacant desk with a crimson pincher. I silently take my seat.
“Yes, maam,” he speaks casually into his mic, “Still here. Yes, maam. No, maam. Did you read the brochure? You didn’t?”
His beady eyes wobble momentarily. His antanae are laughing, but his voice is all business. “Well, maam, there’s your problem right there. The brochure states very clearly that the Dem-Lok eat dogs. Especially fond of poodles.”
The squawking escalates.
“Sorry, Maam. PGTA takes no responsibility for the actions of indiginous populations. No, Maam. Your insurance doesn’t cover pet loss.” He winces. “Let’s not get personal. A word of advice, maam. Next time, read the bloody brochure.”
He flicks a button silencing an indignant squawk as his globe darkens. The large tub of briny water serving as his office chair swivels to face me.
“Welcome to PGTA.” He says, thrusting a pincher at me. I shake it amiably. “Name’s Jammarl. Your first day on the job?”
“Don’t talk much, eh?”
I grin and nod.
“Well, you’ll get to do your share of talking here, let me tell ya.” Jamarl’s mucus slick antennas gesticulate as he speaks. “The first thing I tell every newbie is, ‘Make sure clients read the brochure’. Our job would be so much simpler if the bloody gorbies just took the time to read the damn thing. I mean, if you’re going to visit an alien planet, wouldn’t it be a good idea to do a little research first?” He pauses.
I nod. It seems appropriate.
“Do they bother?” he queries.
“Not a single one of ‘em. But, who do these cosmic jet-setters blame when they ignorantly blunder into an embarrassing, if not deadly cultural faux pas? Us. ‘You sold us the travel package!’ they whine. ‘You shoulda warned us!’, they simper. To which, I always respond, ‘did you read the – ” He looks at me meaningfully.
“Brochure?” I finish.
“You catch on quick.” He winks, I think. “It’s all in there. What not to wear. What not to say. Who not to look at sideways. Everything you need to know about visiting the home world of a species is in the brochure. If you don’t read it, you’re an idiot. Plain and simple.”
“I had these client’s once,” he says, stifling a laugh. “Her husband shnerd-ed in a room full of Sliggargathians. I mean, he really cut one loose. A real zinger. Didn’t cover his gloopus expeller or anything. If he’d read the brochure, he would’ve known that you never shnerd around a Sliggargathian. He might as well have Fthulu-ed in their Kol-tuth-pak. I mean, these guys take their skeeking seriously.” Dramatic pause.
I take my cue.
“What happened?” I ask, forcing curiosity into my voice.
“They gorthed his Chuth-vetch.”
“You should know this stuff, kid. You could save a life.” I’m not sure if he’s joking. “Of course, it’s all in the brochure.” He taps a massive tomb on his desk with a claw.
“Is that –“
“Does it cover all the planets?”
He chuckles. “Heck no. This is just the brochure for Xelios III.” His antennas gesture toward the wall; a vast library of brochures. One for each race and their customs.
My globe lights up with a call.
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