Hawk and the two Rhaokins entered the elevator.
“So fifty years, eh?” Hawk said once the doors had shut.
“Fifty years,” Golf repeated. “We sent minor probes first, small enough that you wouldn’t notice. A few of our larger satellites were spotted, but so infrequently and by so few that those who had observed us were just assumed to be crazy by the rest of you.”
“What about the nuts who claim alien abduction?”
Golf and Solar exchanged a shameful look. “Yes, well, as you have criminals in your species, we have in ours as well,” Golf said. “It is highly illegal, but we have had a few, what you would call ‘poachers’, come to your planet and mess around with humans. But we have caught all of them and they are in jail. And we have used our advanced medical technology, that I don’t claim to understand, to fix up the abductees as much as possible.”
Hawk shrugged. “Well that explains a lot.”
“We’ve been there. A couple hundred years ago, I think about five hundred years, we had same as you have—UFOs, abductions, unexplainable events. But we weren’t as lucky with our first extra-terrestrial encounter as you humans are—not to sound boastful.”
The elevator stopped, but Solar and Golf didn’t move. Other Rhaokins boarded, and a female Rhaokin with a male stopped and did double takes when they saw Hawk, but they didn’t say anything and kept to themselves. The male whispered something to the female, but it was in their language. Golf and Solar saw but didn’t react.
Solar continued, “Our first encounter was with the Vruhayn Wags. Their language is extremely strange, almost telepathic. Sounds like they’re purposely mumbling. They approached us as allies, but then tried to bargain with us, our natural resources for their technology. We tried to deny them, but they kept at it. Negotiations became fierce, and what followed was a fifteen-year war, which in Earth time would be approximately thirty years or so. Their technology was far superior, but they are kind of weak, so we were able to fight back with our weaponry, although we suffered huge losses. Then, miraculously, the Woolfereens arrived.”
Hawk raised an eyebrow. “Did you say wolverines? Like the animal, superhero, and Michigan college football team?”
Solar and Golf did not smile. Their faces were grim. “It sounds similar, but it is spelled differently,” Solar continued. “We still aren’t sure how they arrived when they did—they claim it was luck, but they made contact and helped us fight off the Vruhayn Wags. Which is an extraordinary series of events, considering that our civilization and the Vruhayn Wags were the first aliens they had ever met. We’re not sure what made them decide to take our side either, although we are grateful for it. They showed us technology and went on their way. Every decade or so, they revisit our planet and we discuss technological advances. This has been going on for about five hundred years. Since then, our army has not been able to locate the Vruhayn Wag home planet. And we have not heard from them since.”
The elevator stopped again and the male and female Rhaokin couple stepped off, stealing one last glance at Hawk before they exited. The doors shut and the elevator continued its ascent.
“So then, when we gained the technology to do so, we began exploring the universe,” Golf said. “We’ve discovered five advanced civilizations before you and a few other planets with basic life forms. Earth is definitely the most similar planet of all of them to ours, but your planet is much more beautiful.”
“That’s kind of you to say,” Hawk said.
“You don’t understand how serious we are about that,” Golf said. “Your snow is white. Imagine it as literally any other color. Yellow, for instance.”
“Blue wouldn’t be too bad.” Hawk shook his head. “I don’t understand one thing, though. You are visiting Earth for the first time. Why is it as a vacation, instead of with some version of a government agency or something?”
“Space travel is incredibly expensive,” Golf said. “Our government can’t afford it. We have two great nations—as opposed to the great many you have on Earth. Our nation is more similar to the United States. The other nation is more similar to China. The other nation has tried to send their government on actual sponsored discoveries, but their equipment is so cheaply made that they never get very far.”
Solar continued, “Humanity will discover soon enough that the best way to fund an intergalactic exploration mission is to have a private company build a large, extremely safe ship and then sell rooms on that ship for a large amount of currency.”
“Intergalactic travel is expensive,” Golf said. “There comes a point when it’s a waste of government resources.”
Solar motioned all around them. “That’s when the private companies take over.”
The elevator stopped and opened up. They were in another lobby, almost identical to the others except the floor was a gold color.
“Here we go,” Golf said. “This is going to impress you.”
He stepped onto the platform and rotated in midair off the elevator, same as usual. Solar followed and then Hawk followed him. This room’s hallway placement was towards the bottom of the room instead of the left or right side, and there was a door separating the two. Hawk made towards the door, but Golf stopped him. “That’s back the way we came,” he said.
“So where do we go?”
Solar pointed at the ground and grinned. Golf pressed a button.
“I don’t get it.”
But a moment later he did. The whole lobby detached from the elevator shaft and began moving down, towards the outer wall of the jellyfish head.
Hawk gasped as they pulled further from the elevator. There was no ceiling.
Looking up, Hawk saw what could only be described as a city, lining the inner walls of the jellyfish head. Lights of all colors—reds and neon greens and blues, yellows, and violets—shined all along the inner concave wall of the ship. They marked the signs and windows and maybe even the vehicles of aliens going about their business.
“It’s like a city in here!” Hawk said.
Golf and Solar just grinned.
It must have been about one or two miles around. There were buildings and intersections, and from the elevator in the center of the room Hawk looked down at all of them, from all directions. It was dark in there as well, but floating in the center was what appeared to be a giant chandelier light bulb.
Their platform moved closer and closer to the ground, or the outside wall.
“This is amazing,” Hawk said.
“Wait until you see it during the day,” Golf said.
“Drinks first,” Solar said. “Let’s go to, well, as it’s called in English: The Space Compost.”
Hawk blinked a few times.
“It’s funnier in our language,” Golf said.
“In our language, compost means trash or garbage, but it also refers to someone who eats or drinks a lot, so the name is a pun.” Solar said.
Hawk nodded. “Got it.”
The moving platform stopped at a station, similar to the above ground stations that city shuttles use.
There were several Rhaokins waiting to get onto the moving platform, but they waited for Hawk and his two companions to step off first. The boarding Rhaokins stared at Hawk. One of them said something to Golf, and he replied back in their language.
“Asking about you,” he said to Hawk. “Asking if they’re allowed to tour Las Vegas yet. I said not yet, that you are an independent.”
Hawk nodded. “Figured it was something like that.”
They descended the stairs to leave the station and entered street level.
The ground consisted of a strange black tile, similar to marble with a similar glossy surface. It was about the width of a two-lane street. Similar to a mall, there appeared to be kiosks, although now empty, dotted along the center of the road. To his left and right were shops and buildings.
“How many rows of these streets are there? Seems like you could fit a lot,” Hawk said.
Golf looked around “In the direct center here is the shopping district. Moving that way—” he pointed in the direction of the jellyfish legs, “you have the food district, then the living district. Moving that way—” he pointed to the top of the jellyfish head, “You have more shops, then the Wall. On the other side of the Wall are the science and captain and navigation areas, strictly off limits. Then above that is the engine room, then of course you have the actual engine and the thrusters.”
Hawk scrunched his brow. “Wait, so are you telling me that that way—” he pointed to the jellyfish legs, “is the front of the ship and that way—” he pointed to the jellyfish head, “is the back of the ship?”
“Yeah that’s right,” Golf said. “Come on, let’s get those drinks.”
They began walking and Hawk followed.
“Alright now I’m even more confused,” he said. “Does this ship land on planets?”
Golf shook his head. “Definitely not. You see how this thing works? We walk on the walls. If this thing felt the effects of a gravitational pull we would be falling off the walls all over the place and dying. It would be bad.”
“Okay. So excuse my frankness, but to just conceptualize this craft I’ve been comparing it to a jellyfish.”
“A jellyfish?” Solar said.
Golf turned to him. “Ocean creatures. Pink. Bulbous heads, with tentacles. I can see it.”
Hawk nodded. “So yeah, I’ve been picturing this thing as a jellyfish.”
“I see what you’re saying,” Golf said. “Yeah, it is more like an upside-down jellyfish.”
The street looked similar to a human street except it curved upwards, which made walking feel more exhausting than normal. The shops had lights and doors and display items, although most of the display items were completely unrecognizable to Hawk.
“I think you’ll like this shop up ahead,” Golf said. He pointed at a shop a block ahead.
Hawk could barely make out the sign. It said something in the Rhaokin language, but then below that it read in English, Novelty Humanity Items.
“Novelty Humanity Items?” Hawk read.
They walked inside the store, and Hawk looked around. Immediately he saw a garden gnome and nodded. “Yep. Definitely novelty humanity items.”
He saw lawn darts and an American flag umbrella. There were novelty wine holders, such as a miniature dog in a Hawaiian shirt and a miniature wedding couple holding bottles of wine. He saw wind-up toys like cars and dogs and even grannies with walkers. There were mugs, countless mugs with phrases on them. Classics like “Worlds Best Dad,” and “Number One Boss,” but also less common ones like “Have a Nice Day”, and even one that said “Go Fuck Yourself.”
And along that line, there were tons of shirts, the same kind often seen at beachside tourist shops, filled with bad puns and euphemisms. “I’m not short. I’m just low to the ground for speed and accuracy!” one said. Golf and Solar laughed at that one, but Hawk rolled his eyes. They had the classic busty woman’s body and muscular men’s body shirts. They also had the classic “FBI: Female Body Inspector” shirt. They had a couple that Hawk had never seen, such as an “If Monday had a Face, I would Punch It” shirt. Golf asked him to explain that one.
“The work week starts on Monday,” Hawk said.
“But isn’t that a good thing? I thought humans all want jobs and work.”
“So if you have to work on a Monday you should feel happy.”
“It doesn’t work like that.”
Hawk shrugged. “An age old tradition, I guess. If you work nine to five, you have to complain about it.”
Golf exchanged a look with Solar and they both shrugged.
Hawk moved on past the shirts and kept looking around. He saw a lot of Elvis Presley gear, like tote bags and mugs and purses. He saw welcome doormats. One of the mats read, “Ask not for whom the dog barks. It barks for thee,” which Hawk really liked. There was another one with a squirrel that said, “Nuts Welcome!” that Hawk didn’t like as much.
Then, on a nearby shelf, he saw it. Beer glasses with breasts on them.
Hawk walked over and grabbed one. “Nice,” he said. He examined it further. “You guys have the G-rated version of the glasses though.”
Solar shook his head and looked at Golf. “G-rated?”
Hawk ran his thumb over the plastic breasts. “What I mean by that is that the breasts on your beer glasses don’t have nipples.”
Golf looked at the beer mug and raised an eyebrow. “And you want to purchase that?”
“Obviously. I lost my last one. Which had nipples. There’s the important distinction.” He examined the rest of the mugs. “None of the breasts on your mugs have nipples.”
Then he looked around, but there was no cashier to be found. He turned to Golf and Solar.
“How do I pay for this?”
Golf took a moment to reply. “You just scan the item by the door and insert the amount of money it asks for.”
“What happens if I just walk out with it?”
“Alarms go off, door closes, and you’re trapped inside until someone lets you out.”
Hawk shook his head. “Damn.”
He walked over to the machine they referred to. It looked like a soda dispenser. He put his glass where a glass would go if it were a soda dispenser. It scanned the items then flashed a symbol on the screen.
“That’s five units of space currency,” Solar said.
Hawk withdrew his stack of cash and looked through the cards, but he had no unit that looked like the unit on the screen. He inserted one of his cards anyway. The machine churned, and then six cards came back out. Four of them had the same symbol.
“Alright lets go,” Hawk said.
Golf and Solar followed him out, and they kept walking the same way as before, Hawk now with the beer glass with breasts on it.
A couple feet ahead, Hawk saw a Rhaokin standing outside an establishment waving his arms at them. Upon further inspection, Hawk realized it was the Rhaokin he met earlier, Omega.
“What took you guys?” Omega asked as they drew closer.
“Stopped at the novelty store,” Solar replied.
“So what happened?” Omega asked, looking at Hawk. Hawk didn’t know what he was referring to. Golf jumped in.
“She made him strip, then saw his genitals and forced him out of her apartment. We found him standing half naked in the hallway with his clothes in his arms.”
Omega burst out laughing and held out a hand to shake with Hawk again. Hawk thought that was an awkward gesture, but shook his hand anyway.
“That is great. Hopefully that doesn’t appear in humanity’s future history textbooks,” Omega said. Golf and Solar laughed with him. Hawk forced a grin. He liked these guys. It was going to be awful to have to betray them.
Omega held open the door for the other three and led them inside. “Come on, let’s get some drinks. As you human’s say, that I’ll admit we’ve started saying: first round is on me.”
They walked over to a table and sat down. The average table height was about a foot higher than tables on Earth, but the chairs were about a foot shorter. This, Hawk realized quickly, was due to the Rhaokins’ longer torsos but shorter legs. Which made sitting at the table annoying for Hawk at first. His knees bent high in the chair and the table reached his chin.
“This is ridiculous,” he said. He took a second stool from another table and stacked it on top of the first stool. This made a sort of high top chair that was a little too high for Hawk’s feet to reach the ground. But due to his superb balance, he still managed to sit comfortably, although now he sat much higher than Golf or Solar. With a look of amusement, they had watched Hawk do all of this.
“I got us some high concentrate,” said Omega. “You humans call these shots. I’m interested to see how our alcohol compares to yours on Earth.”
“Thanks,” Hawk said as Omega placed a drink in front of each of them. They were the only ones in the bar at that point, but Hawk suspected, due to how clean it was, that they were there early, as opposed to late—assuming the Rhaokins had a similar drinking schedule as humans.
Solar almost took a sip from his small glass, but Golf stopped him.
“It is common courtesy to say a toast before we drink in human culture, is it not?” Golf said.
Hawk shook his head. “We do often, but you don’t have to.”
“Well, don’t forget the insult packet we got,” Solar said. “It said to say a toast unless we are in the presence of a Jehovah’s Witness. So it might have been wise that I didn’t offer to toast.”
“Except the packet also said that there are three hundred million people in the United States and only one million of them are Jehovah’s Witnesses, which means that we had less than a one percent chance of insulting him.”
Solar turned to Hawk. “Are you a Jehovah’s Witness?”
“No.” Hawk shook his head. “You have packets about what can insult humans?”
“Yes. Everyone on the ship has read it. We wouldn’t want to accidently start an intergalactic war, now would we?”
Hawk shook his head. He was impressed. “No, I suppose not.” And then he remembered why he was here again and frowned.
“Let’s do one,” Omega said. “Lead us off, Hawk.”
Hawk was still lost in thought. “Do what?”
Hawk nodded. “Right.” He thought for a moment, then said, “To Honor. Get on her and stay on her.”
The four of them clinked their glasses together. But the three Rhaokins looked confused. Golf stopped them before they drank.
“My apologies. I don’t get it, Hawk. What does that mean?”
Hawk shook his head. “It’s a pun. Honor sounds like on her. So I say honor, and you think it is a legitimate toast, but then it is actually just about sex.”
The three didn’t reply. Hawk continued. “By sex I mean intercourse.”
Golf grinned. “I get it,” he said.
“Explain it then,” Omega said.
Golf shook his head. “If you don’t get it then you just don’t get it.”
“Forget it,” Hawk said. He raised his glass again. “Cheers!”
The others clinked their shot glasses against Hawk’s and they drank. The three Rhaokins made faces, but as Hawk swallowed the cold and sweet drink, he frowned.
“No offense, fellas. But this is pretty weak. That’s your strong stuff?”
Golf nodded, still looking as if he was in pain. “Two percent alcohol. This stuff will mess you up.”
Hawk couldn’t believe it. “Two percent? Are you joking?”
The three looked mildly insulted now. “What do you humans drink on earth?”
“Our beer is about six percent. Our liquors are like forty percent.”
Golf’s eyes widened. “Did you say forty percent?”
Hawk nodded. “That’s no problem for us either. We have a liquor called Bacardi 151 that is pretty much seventy five and a half percent alcohol.”
“Are you joking?” Golf asked.
“You can literally use your alcohol for combustion and to disinfect. You drink utility alcohol casually.”
Hawk grinned. “Yeah, easily.” He stood up and walked over to the bartender and placed his beer glass with breasts on it on the counter. The bartender had been wiping down the counter, but had also been watching them. He wore an outfit that was reminiscent of overalls. Behind him were an array of different liquors, but most of them looked creamy and strange. The higher shelf bottles had blazed neon intensely.
“I watched you drink with the others,” the bartender said. “Have you shaken hands with them yet?”
Hawk nodded. “Yeah I have.”
“Damn. Well if what you’re saying is true, that’s impressive.”
Hawk nodded his head toward his glass. “Fill me up to the brim with that stuff you gave us.” He pulled out his deck of cards. “I shouldn’t have a problem paying.”
The bartender took a bottle and began pouring it. It wasn’t meant to be poured that quickly, so the bartender twisted off the top and dumped the remainder of the bottle into his glass. “This would normally cost you one hundred units, but just give me that twenty you have there and we’ll call it even.”
Hawk grinned and gave him the card on top. “Thanks a lot,” he said. “Could I also get three more tiny ones for my pals?”
The bartender nodded and grinned, and lined up three more shots. Hawk handed him another twenty units, then took the four drinks back to his table.
“Don’t tell me you’re going to drink that,” Omega said, looking at his glass.
“That would send even a heavy drinker straight to the infirmary,” Solar said.
“The infirmary, eh?” Hawk said. He raised his glass up. “Watch this…”
He raised the glass to his lips and chugged. Golf, Solar, and Omega began whooping wildly. They leaned way back in their stools, supporting their weight with their neck trunks, and hooted at the ceiling while stomping their trunks on the ground. It was weird.
A few seconds later, Hawk finished off the glass and slammed it on the table. It shattered immediately. He was so taken aback by what the Rhaokins were doing, that he’d allowed himself to lose control and slam the glass with far too much power.
Clearly he had just blown the Rhaokins’ minds. And shattering his glass had only proven to rile them up more, because immediately after he did so they lifted their glasses and shattered them on the table as well. Then they continued doing that strange whooping and stopping. The way they were acting was the least human behavior he’d witnessed from a Rhaokin so far. Finally they sat back up.
“You humans are unbelievable,” Golf said, his eyes red. “That would literally kill most Rhaokin.”
“You mean the glass shattering or the alcohol?”
Golf gave him a confused look. “The alcohol. Obviously.”
Hawk shook his head. “I’m not even close to tipsy yet. That’s nothing.”
The three others had finished off their second shots, and Solar looked a little drunk. “You humans are so puny compared to us. That is unbelievable.”
“I sort of feel bad,” Omega said. “This is a little humiliating.”
“Let’s make some units off him,” Gold said. “Hawk, would you mind if we showed you off a bit and made some units with you?”
“I wouldn’t mind,” Hawk said. “What’s the plan?”
Golf grinned at the others. They appeared to already know what he was thinking.
“I think you’re going to like this,” he said.