Author: K. A. Williams

“You’ve got to try this new restaurant called Next,” my first mate Tim had said to me this morning. “I went there last night after we docked, while you were at that corporate captains’ dinner. I’ll meet you there for lunch.”

I read the menu in the transparent glass surface of the table while I waited. When Tim never showed up I called him on my wrist communicator. “Where are you?”

A tiny image of his face appeared. “Loading supplies onto the ship. Almost done. Try their sushi. I had it last night. It’s great. Order me the sushi and iced green tea.”

“All right.”

Four identical blue-skinned humanoids with red hair spikes entered. The one in front turned to the others, said “Duf blist eck gor rak shast sed ach kak sku krig cre tonk riv sca tik,” and clicked its teeth together.

The device in my ear translated, “That human was stupid. He traded me a new translator for one of my hair spikes.”

They saw me, raised their eyebrows in unison and bowed their heads.

Must be a greeting. I did the same and they sat at the table next to mine.

The waiter finally came. No expression on his face or in his eyes. Android.

A buzzing circled my head, then stopped.

The waiter opened his mouth and something slapped the top of my head. He closed his mouth and swallowed. Alien.

“Can’t have bugs in a restaurant.”

The blue-skinned aliens clicked their teeth.

I gave him Tim’s order and asked, “What’s sushi?”

“Rice and raw seafood. It’s very popular.”

“Okay, double the order.”

The waiter returned before Tim arrived and I was hungry. He had brought our tea and a covered silver platter. I lifted the lid and something leaped onto my face. I pulled it off and waved the tiny octopus at the waiter. “Hey! I’ve changed my mind, I want this cooked.”

The waiter was heading toward me but almost got run over by a huge octopus that rushed out of the kitchen area on two tentacles, gesturing with the other six. He gargled something my translator didn’t understand.

“What’s he saying?” I asked.

“Give me back my daughter, human,” the waiter translated.

“Daughter?!” I tossed the small octopus at him and she landed on his chef hat. “What was she doing on the platter?”

“Eating. She’s supposed to stay in her nursery behind the kitchen but won’t. She must have gotten inside the platter when I wasn’t watching and someone put the lid on.”

Tim arrived then. He passed the aliens at the next table who were clicking their teeth. “Why are they doing that?”

I shrugged.

He sat down and regarded the empty silver platter with a frown. “Couldn’t you have left me some?”

“I didn’t eat it, she did.” I pointed at the baby octopus sitting on top of her father’s chef hat.

The father gargled.

Tim nodded and the octopi went into the kitchen.

“You understood that?”

“Sure. Something wrong with your translator?”

“It doesn’t work on marine languages.” I planned to buy a new one at this space station.

“He said that since his daughter had eaten our sushi, he would fix us another platter and our meal was on the house, and he also thanked you for not eating her.”

“He’s lucky I didn’t want live seafood.”