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The Antarian Chronicles, Chapter 10: Eating Antarian Style? Don't Ask, Don't Tell!

Reply to Alex Parrish

Posted to the RoswellSlash mailing list June 26, 2004

      This flagship was considerably larger than the ship which rescued us from Earth. There were compartments and hallways and at the very least two levels, probably more, because we had used an elevator from the cargo deck. I planned to see if I could find the elevator again and explore from there. The moment I rounded the first corner, I faced two crewmembers who immediately hit the floor kneeling. It took me a moment to remember that I spoke Antarian.

      "Please rise." They complied. "What are your names?"

      The shorter of the two spoke. "If it please my Lord Avatar, I am named Jaffier, and this is Roktar. We are at your service."

      I smiled and said, "It pleases me. Could you please show me where I can get something to eat?"

      "With your permission, my Lord Avatar, I will take you there."

      I nodded, still hoping that nodding was not some kind of insult in Antarian. Apparently it wasn't, because Roktar led the way and Jaffier fell in behind me.

      'OK,' I said in English almost under my breath, 'we got ourselves a convoy!' I thought it amusing. As our little convoy moved through the ship, each time we encountered crew, they hit the floor and I had to stop and ask them to rise before moving on. After the third or fourth time, I asked Jaffier to walk beside me and he stepped beside me, keeping pace.

      "Jaffier, is there any way -- without being rude or insulting to anyone -- that we could dispense with all the kneeling?"

      He thought for a few moments and then flashed a smile. "My Lord Avatar, if the ship were on highest alert, such obeisance would not be permitted, as it could interfere with duties."

      "Would that disrupt everything -- put people on double-duty, or cancel meals or anything like that?"

      "Not unless you called for battle-stations, my Lord Avatar"

      I desperately wanted to say, 'Make it so' but thought better of it. It would have been wasted on these guyz, anyway. "Is there some way we can make that happen?"

      "It would be my honor to convey your wishes to the bridge, my Lord Avatar."

      I nodded again and he was gone. That left me alone with Roktar. I motioned, and he meekly began to walk beside me. Nervousness and fear almost radiated from him. I tried some small talk, asking him about his duties on the ship, but his answers were monosyllabic and talking to me seemed to make him even more anxious, so I just shut up and followed him to the food. Just before we arrived, I heard a signal, and asked him if that was the security alert. He said it was.

      When we entered the common area of the Mess a few steps later, two or three crew attempted kneeling, but were signaled back into their seats by their comrades. One woman rose and approached me. I guessed she was an officer because Roktar snapped to attention.

      "As you were, crewman." She turned to me and, thankfully, looked me right in the face, smiling while addressing me. "I would be honored to bring a selection of foods to your table for you to choose from, my Lord Avatar."

      I thought fast. "Yes, yes that would be good. I'm completely ignorant about your food. If you could bring me a tiny amount -- just enough to get the flavor -- of a few items, then I can get an idea of what I might like to eat." I really wanted to ask, 'Is there an Antarian word for cheeseburger?" but I was on my best behavior. I was already a little self-conscious. I hadn't been in a large room full of people eating since Theapola McKelsky's funeral, back in Vegas, and that had been an embarrassing disaster which resulted in ongoing ridicule from my so-called friends. I didn't want to risk taking a mouthful of something and then hurling right in front of seventy-five crewmembers.

      I had hoped to sit with some crew-type folk and 'shoot the breeze' with some new faces, but the officer led me to a table in the front, obviously for officers, and seated me there. So much for repartee' with the common-folk. After seating me she introduced herself as sub-commander Vingh, Weapons Officer. In short order she returned with a sample of about ten items, and a male crewman in light-blue coveralls whom I guessed to be the cook. I guessed right. Great! Now I had a likely opportunity to offend the cook if there was something on the plate I didn't like, which I was sure there would be.

      The eating utensils were, at least, familiar. I was dreading the possibility of chopsticks or something even more exotic. There was: a spearing device, like a two-tined fork with tines of unequal length, a miniscule but deep bowl on a stick that I took to be a spoon, and a knife, which is apparently universal to all species with hand-like appendages. I saw nothing resembling a napkin, and apparently neither did Vingh. She barked a sharp command and three crew members jumped and ran to the serving area and brought me a bath-towel-sized cloth that had an opening near one end. It was -- I looked around at the others to be sure how they were using theirs -- it was a bib. Now that was practical! I've always thought that real men should be able to wear bibs. Keeps the clothes clean and gives you something to wipe hands and mouth on at the same time. I was smiling.

      Then I had to taste everything while the chef and half the crew watched me. I silently prayed 'Buddha, please don't let me wretch or hurl.' The first two items both seemed like they were drenched with tabasco, but the third item was edible. It was kind-of like hot and spicy carmel-corn. I smiled and had another taste of that and then I made a mistake.

      "This... this is good. What is it?"

      The cook beamed. "A simple dish, my Lord Avatar. We take the finest farm-raised roaches and remove the wings, legs and heads, and then we toast them. Then before they are served, they are sautéed very quickly in special spices and a liquor made from the blood of the Prota'ar Mountain Lizard. It is a very popular dish, and I am so very glad it pleases you."

      I had to force myself to continue chewing, and swallowing was pure hell. I tried to keep the smile on my face throughout the ordeal. I moved on to the next dish, and the next. I chose this one and carefully avoided giving the cook any opportunity to tell me what it was. He presented an ample plate-full which I ate silently, but with a smile, and drank some bland 'tea.'

      When I finished I thanked my audience, and lied, telling them it was delicious, (it was tolerable,) and asked Vingh if Roktar could lead me through the warren of passageways back to my quarters. She explained that Roktar had returned to his duties on another deck, but she would, herself, lead me back. I held back a moment, quietly mentioning that I needed the, uh... sanitary facilities. Without batting an eye, she volunteered to show me those as well.(Damn!) I still hesitated and she looked quizzically at me and then, I think, sensed my embarrassment.

      "Aha!, Here comes Jaffier. Perhaps you would permit him to show you while I return to the bridge?"

      "Yes, thank you." I think my relief showed. My relief also showed when we arrived at the 'sanitary facility' which was located just down the hall from our quarters. Without being indelicate, I think I can ease your curiosity by stating that the most necessary appliances look and behave pretty much just like those in North America and Europe. The differences are merely in some details and are insignificant. Having taken care of that, I needed to shower, but there is no such Antarian word for shower. There is a word for rain shower, but not for people-shower. I ended up just telling Jaffier that I needed to 'cleanse' my body and my clothes. He stepped to a communication panel at the wall and ordered up a uniform, extra-large.

      The voice at the other end of the conversation demanded, "What rank?"

      Jaffier puzzled for a moment then asked, "What is the highest rank you have?"

      There was a pause, and the voice came back more as a question than an answer, "High Commander of the Fleet?"

      "That will have to do." Jaffier instructed that it be brought immediately to the officers guest-quarters cleansing-chamber.

      "What rank are you Jaffier?" I was curious as I assumed he was of low rank, but he had clearly ordered the uniform delivered.

      "My Lord Avatar, I am only an Assistant Dynamic-Propulsion Engineer Second-Class, but since I was fortunate enough to encounter you in the hall and guide you, the Commander has appointed me as your personal aide for the duration of the trip, that is, if it pleases you. I would consider it a great honor to serve you."

      "It pleases me. So I take it you don't usually get to order people around?"

      "Until now, every single crew member ranked higher than I, and the only one I could give orders to is my pet fish, and he doesn't follow orders."

      I laughed out loud. I think this was actually the very first time I laughed since we left Earth. I had taken an instant liking to this Kid. Kid? Where the hell did that come from? Here am I, all of 20, and I'm calling somebody a 'kid?'

      "By your leave, my Lord Avatar, I will take your clothes to be cleansed in our facility on Deck sub-2."

      "OK, Jaffier, that takes care of clothes. Now, what about me? How do I get 'cleansed?"

      He started removing his uniform as he spoke. "I will show you how our equipment is operated. Shall I help you remove your garments?"

      "Uh...No, thank you. I can manage." He seemed to have no sense of modesty hindering him. He was naked in a flash, and I couldn't help noticing that he was well-proportioned. He had a nice build, but at three-quarters size of most human men. Well, I had been in locker rooms all my life and I can't imagine why I was suddenly feeling shy, but I did. I stripped, but with my back to him."

      He stepped into a cubicle about the size of a double shower and I was about to object when he explained, "These units are built for two and always we cleanse together, you know, to cleanse each others unreachable parts."

      I wasn't moving. He stuck his head back out. "You do not do it this way on your planet of origin?"

      "Ahhh... No. We usually shower alone, or in large groups. Two guys showering together is... well, it wouldn't happen unless the guys are like, bonded to each other."

      "Oh, I see. It is a sexual thing. It sounds like it would be entertaining."

      That was definitely the last thing I needed to hear from him. I froze. I think he suddenly began to realize that what he was saying was making me very uncomfortable.

      "Oh no! Please forgive me, my Lord Avatar. There was no hidden meaning to my words. I would never ever presume... ," He stopped short and then started over. "I know that you are bonded to the King himself, and I would rather disembowel myself than give offense to you or to the King. I was speaking only in the abstract."

      I took a moment or two to consider his words, but then I answered. "Well, that's pretty clear. I guess if this is the way it's done here, "When in Rome..." I stepped into the cubicle.

      Jaffier was a perfect gentleman, and a good back scrubber too! Here's how it works. You push a button, and jets all over the cubicle spray you with a kind-of a gooey gel-like substance. It's a little sour smelling, but not too bad. Antarians can't smell much of anything, so they probably don't even know that it smells icky. Anyway, you get covered with this goop, and you push the same button to turn it off, and then there are these sponge-like thingys, and you scrub down, and then you scrub your partner down. Then there are two hoses in the corner and you push another button and they start a vacuum and you vacuum all the goop off, and off your partner too. That's it, you're clean! You get out and dress.

      "That was interesting. Now, Jaffier, let's talk about shaving..."

      After shaving and dressing in the uniform Jaffier had procured, I was headed back to my quarters when I encountered Jesse on the way to the Mess and noticed that Isabel had returned his hair to its original dark color. Too bad. I thought he looked hot as a blonde.

      "Hey! Look! It's "Little Lord Kyle-le-Roi!" Jesse chuckled at his own imagined cleverness.

      "Watch what you say, "Prince Not-So-Charming," these people respect me."

      He chuckled at that too. "Maybe so, but don't expect to see me down on my knees in front of you any time soon."

      I think the unintended, but obvious, erotic possibilities of that image struck Jesse at the same moment it hit me (or maybe I was just becoming obnoxiously horny). He blushed a little, I think. I thought it best to let it pass.

      He wanted to tell me that they had just received word that Ardaenias, the turncoat council member who had arranged Max's kidnapping, had been found dead in his prison cell. It was suspected that someone on the prison staff had smuggled him a poisoned pill, probably thinking (incorrectly) that death by poison would be more merciful than the King was going to be. I tried to act appropriately concerned, but thought to myself that this was a 'gift.' We had "dodged the bullet" this time. Our "Kobiashi Maru" had solved itself.

      After delivering the good/bad news Jesse moved on towards the Mess, and once he was out of earshot, I snickered quietly at my little erotic aside. Gonna have to do something about this rampant horniness!

Continue to Chapter 11

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