Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer
The tennis-court sized office is lit like a summer afternoon. Everything within is red, but each item is a different shade.
“You must tell me who makes those soft ownership collars for you. I’ve only seen that shade of purple once before.”
Rooney turns to meet the six-eyed gaze of Tokok. Courtesies taken care of, the grey and mauve spider-mantis noble unwinds its five-metre body from the undoubtedly painful crouch necessary to be at eye level with a human.
“We call them ties, Tokok. Would you like some?”
He’d got fifty, part of a bulk salvage acquisition.
“Could you get me twenty? Laktik will be in a frightful rage over my staff wearing her bridal colours as ownership apparel.”
“I’ll send thirty. Her rage might damage some.”
“Thoughtful of you. Would a kilo of green rocks be acceptable?”
Rooney keeps his expression neutral. The Doktup come from a gem world: ‘coloured rocks’ like emeralds mean nothing to them.
“This trade is completed.”
He sits in the only piece of human-sized furniture in the office.
“I presume you called about something a little more serious than ties, Tokok?”
The monster waves it’s fighting pincers about: an expression of great mirth.
“Dressing ones staff correctly is terribly serious, dear Rooney. But, in this case, your insight is correct… I have received a complaint.”
“How did that happen?”
“The human female,” Tokok checks a nearby screen, “Wendie Smith, identifier NKH22492, insisted the problem be escalated to the highest level. My staff understand humans assigned here are to be treated on par with full-fledged Notaries of Doktup like myself. Each passed the complaint to their senior, who spoke to this Wendie, then passed the complaint to their senior. I wished to talk with you before speaking to her.”
Rooney pulls out a datapad and looks her up, then does a double-take. 27 complaints against retail staff this year? It’s only the 23rd February!
“When will you be calling her?”
“I couldn’t treat her with such disrespect. She is in reception.”
“Tokok, would it be acceptable if I accompanied you, and handled the opening discussion?”
The flesh-eating predator sags back into its chair in relief.
“Thank you, Rooney. She is apparently quite strident.”
Funny how the screams of captives being dismembered doesn’t disturb them, but being shouted at stresses them out.
“One thing, Tokok? Please come down without holographic disguise. I think the situation will be swiftly resolved when Wendie realises she faces a Notary of Doktup.”
“I will accept your guidance.”
Rooney smiles. Doktup look like upright-walking cartoonish locusts with their disguise fields on. Plus, the ones who serve are smaller: they don’t have the dietary advantages of Notaries.
“I’ve been waiting over an hour! The rudeness of these Dock Tops! Call this service? Hah! This really isn’t good enough! These aliens don’t understand when you order a triple-syrup mocha with marshmallows and sprinkles it has to come in a jumbo cup or the froth leaks out! They ruined my skirt! I expect the insect who served me to be – Sweet Barnabus! It’s a monster! Who let it in? Get it away from me! Help! Help!”
The outside door swings wildly in the wake of her exit.
Tokok looks down at me.
“Does a screaming retreat mean the same on your worlds as it does on ours?”
“You can’t chase her home and eat the whole clan.”
“Absolutely. But, it wouldn’t be right to ask any Doktup to engage with one so blatantly defeated. Instruct your staff to forward any further calls to me.”
“Thoughtful of you, again. Many thanks.”
If you enjoy my stories on here, you might like to try some of my books.
They’re available as ebooks for all devices, paperbacks, hardbacks, and OpenDyslexic font paperbacks. You can find details of the ones currently available on my website – https://lothp.org (each book page has universal links for all available editions).
Very nice! Its hard to pull off humour in SF as is well known but this does it very well, transposing a familiar situation into alien territory with wit & just the right attention to detail.