After about half an hour at high speed, they came to a stop. For a few minutes all they could hear was things bumping gently into the outside. Finally, a door slid open with a hiss. Most of the poids went through a water lock on the left of the docking tunnel and swam away. Three of them remained to usher them into an air-filled chamber, then stood off to the side.
The room was astoundingly beautiful. It was a well-lit transparent dome, with all colours of creatures, some shimmering with iridescence, swimming by in the water outside. A coral tower twisted around the whole dome, perhaps intentionally framing the thick translucent wall. Crude chairs had been assembled out of what looked like giant seashells. A high heap of stones was topped with flat, textured platters that looked like they’d come off of very large crustaceans. On them was laid out shells filled with food. There were many seaweed dishes and what looked like fish fillets, rounded out by things that looked like eyeballs. On closer inspection, there was a large seed in the centre of each gelatinous fruit.
Assuming that if the plan was to kill them. they would have simply been shot already, Karen ate one. It was delicious. “Everyone, come eat. Get your energy up.”
Her party complied. After timid samples, they dug in and ate a fair bit.
“This cutlet that looks like tuna sure isn’t, but it really grows on you,” Panther said, taking another piece.”
“I’m glad you’re enjoying it,” Karen said. She refrained from adding, who knows what lies ahead?
A poid spoke up. “Get some sleep after your meal. Tomorrow we’ll talk.” All three poids disappeared, leaving no chance to object. With a nod from the Ambassador, they unfolded blankets woven of soft seaweed and lay on bladders filled with water or perhaps a thick liquid. They were firm, forming to the body in a very comfortable way.
“All right, let’s get that sleep they ordered, everyone,” Karen said. Everyone but Woon chose a bed and settled. The S6 head remained watchful by the door. “Woon, you too. No wild animals can get us here.”
He hesitated, but moved when her eyes threatened to shoot darts. “Yes, ma’am,” he said dutifully, choosing the bed nearest the door.
Karen’s water bed and blanket were so cozy she went to sleep quickly despite her anxiety. She was refreshed when the door opened with trays of food. Breakfast was a different kind of meal. There was a long, braided rope for each of them to chew on. One strand was an almost blue grey, one golden ochre, one deep ebony. Karen expected a bread texture, but it was a mixture of crisp like a cracker for the ebony, flaky for the ochre, and chewy for the bluey.
“This is a lot more delicious than I expected,” Unice Dunch said. “Much better than seaweed and fish.”
“I love seafood, but you’re right, this is really tasty. I wish I could get the recipe,” Ike Kendrick said.
“I’ll put in on my list for language bank data,” Panther said. “For now, I’ll call this blueberry liquorice twist.”
They finished in silence, all wondering what would happen next.
What happened was an explosion.
Poid bodies thudded against the dome, squashed flat. A horror show wash of spasmic tentacles with no bodies streamed by as the flat faces faded to blank from pained. Karen figured this real live movie was one she’d never get out of her head. The door banged open. Poids in water suits beckoned.
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