As I leave this earth and sail into the infinite cosmos of the universe, the wars, the triumphs, the beauty, and the bloodshed, the ocean of human endeavor, it all grows quiet, insignificant. I’m nothing more than recycled stardust and borrowed energy, born from a rock, spinning in the ether. I watch my life backwards and forwards and I feel free. Nothing is real, love is everything, and I know nothing.
Kesha’s outro for her new album, Rainbow. She’s a Pisces sun and moon.
Re-posting this so folks actually see the damn thing.
Please forgive the length… the plot bunny got away from me… very far away from me…
There was blood on the floor.
Avrex blinked and stared at the red droplets on the floor. More red caught xer eye. There was more just under the edge of the seat. As if someone had tried to wipe it up but hadn’t thought to get under the very edge. Only one species on board had red blood.
This had to belong to one of the humans.
But why would blood be here in waste room of all places? Granted, humans were an odd breed, and used the waste rooms for more than the elimination of waste. Some even installed mirrors and extra lights and spent an hour or more in there! But blood? Why here? And why on the waste reclaimer lid? Surely if one of the humans was injured they would go to the infirmary….
Avrex shook xer scaled head and stalked out of the waste room. Xey would get to the bottom of this.
The humans had been hired three months prior. Two at first. Then another two a month later. And a fifth one a month after that. They were extremely useful, and didn’t really take up much space.
Hunting down any of said humans was a challenge.
Three of the humans were mechanics, and could be found shimmying their slender bodies between various components of the ship to reach the part they desired to work on. Even with an extra set of large eyes, Avrex would often walk right by the little beings, missing their little oil and grease smeared bodies in amongst the equally oil and grease smeared engine components. At a hulking ten feet tall, Avrex often missed the little monsters because they were under something or other.
The massive first officer dismissed the mechanics as a viable first target for questions. Searching through the entrails of the ship for crew members that xey may or may not find was not an effective use of xer energy or time. Xey could always catch the mechanics at the designated meal time if the other two humans couldn’t answer xer questions satisfactorily.
The fourth human was no easier to find. He was a security guard, and could be anywhere on the ship at any given time. Despite the fact that he wasn’t a mechanic, he seemed to share their proclivity for climbing on things, and for crawling into spaces that were inaccessible to most of the rest of the crew.
That left Carl.
Avrex made xer ponderous way down to the metallurgy lab. The human designated as Carl was not like the others. He was much older. The kind, gentle being had been the first human the ship had taken on, and had paved the way for the four other humans that followed. The others respected him greatly, turning to him for wisdom and advice. Surely Carl would have some insight into why there was human blood in the waste room.
Carl was right where he was supposed to be.
Avrex pressed the alert button and patiently waited to be granted entry just outside the lab doors. The request was swiftly answered, the doors sliding open with a soft hiss to admit the ship’s first officer.
Carl had put his work station into a safe position, and turned in his seat to give the hulking alien from Jarrok his full and undivided attention. Avrex had always liked that about Carl. While the human ability to multi-task often came in useful, it was sometimes disconcerting to hold a conversation with a being that never once even glanced in xer general direction while they spoke.
Carl smiled as he stripped of his protective gear. “Avrex. What brings you down here?”
The first officer assumed a parade rest position. “I have a query about human behavior, and had hoped that you could explain.”
The human chuckled and ran a hand through his graying hair. “Well, I’ll do my best. Go on and fire away.”
Avrex paused, then decided to ignore the odd turn of phrase. Experience had shown that large amounts of time were wasted when human parlance was questioned. “I discovered a small amount of blood in one of the communal waste rooms. I am aware that humans use waste rooms for more than their intended purpose, but I am at a loss as to what form of task could take place in a waste room, and possessed the potential to cause injury. The blood was red, thus it can be safely assumed that such belonged to one of the humans on board. But none of the humans have sought out medical aid. If one of my crew is injured in any capacity, as first officer I am entitled to know, so that I may account for such injuries when drawing up the duty roster for the coming cycles.”
The elderly male frowned thoughtfully. “There are a couple things it might be. But I’m not going to stir up panic by picking the wrong one. Which waste room was it you found the blood?”
Feeling dread curdle in xer gut, Avrex gave him the correct room number.
Carl nodded. “Melanie was supposed to be working up near that sector. More’n likely it’s her blood you found. Come on, I’ll walk up with you and help straighten this mess out.” Avrex started to protest. Surely xey could manage without taking Carl away from his work if given the pertinent information. The elderly human shook his head in seeming amusement. “Trust me Avrex, it’s better if I go along. If this is what I think it is, you’d just end up with a very angry or hurt mechanic on your hands.”
The first officer shut xer maw, frilled ears pinned back against the sides of xer head. What could possibly be going on that would result in a human being injured or angry?
Xey walked back down to the correct deck with Carl, deciding to wait and see. If what Xey had heard from other ships was true, an angry human was something to be avoided if at all possible.
Despite the consistent trouble the rest of the crew had in locating the mechanics while about their work in the engines, Carl seemed to have no problem tracking down the correct human.
At his call, she crawled out of a space so tight Avrex wasn’t sure xey could’ve gotten a paw in.
The second human the ship had taken on, Melanie had been hired barely a week after Carl. She was by far the smallest of the humans, and the quietest. Her peers took shameless advantage of her small size, leaving work in the tightest spaces to her. She didn’t seem to mind, preferring to work alone rather than with her group as most humans were purported to do. In fact, with the exception of Carl she seemed to avoid all of her kind for the most part.
The raven haired female flashed her teeth in the odd threat gesture that humans insisted denoted welcome, amusement, or joy.
Melanie wiped her hand on a rag and stuck it out to Carl for a traditional human greeting. “Hey Carl. Did one of your do-dads break down again?”
“Not this time dear.” Carl assured. “The first officer swung by with a question, and it seemed you’d be most likely to have the answer. Seems Avrex swung by the restroom and found human blood on the floor. Any chance you’d know something about that?”
The elder human nodded and patted her shoulder, seeming to have derived his answer from her silence. “It’s alright dear, no need to worry. I was married for thirty-five years before cancer took my sweet Belle, and she and I raised six beautiful daughters. There isn’t a thing under the sun I haven’t seen, and I’ve made more trips to the store for feminine things than I could probably count! Do you need any help, or do you have everything in order?”
The young female slowly relaxed at his kindly manner. She shook her head, asserting that she had ‘it’ covered. Avrex shifted xer weight, subtly drawing the humans’ attention back to xer question.
“You’re the only woman on board, Mel. Would you like to explain? Or would you rather I did?”
Melanie’s cheeks started to change color underneath the grease. “I can do it.”
Carl seemed pleased by the answer. “Go get ‘em then. And if you need anything, you go ahead and ask me or Cal. That’s the lad over in security, in case you didn’t know. Lord knows he’s young, but he won’t give you any grief if you need something and can’t get it yourself.”
Calling a farewell, Carl patted Avrex on the shoulder and headed back to his lab, leaving the massive reptilian being towering over the tiny female.
Avrex slowly squatted down as low as xey could manage in an attempt to put her at ease. Xer experience with humans was still somewhat limited, but observation had shown that humans tended to be slightly intimidated by a difference in height.
Her cheeks were changing color again. Looking down, the human female mumbled something at the floor.
Avrex cocked xer head. “Could you repeat that more clearly please?”
Melanie seemed to gather her courage and finally looked the massive officer in the larger pair of xer four amber colored eyes.
“I’m on my period.” The admission made, she seemed to lose some of her discomfort. “It started a few hours ago while I was up in the machinery. I had to climb down and run to the rest roo-damnit, waste room to clean myself up. I’m sorry about the blood, I’ll be more careful in future.”
Avrex cocked xer head. “I do not understand. I was under the impression that ‘period’ is a form of punctuation denoting the end of a sentence. How then, can you be ‘on’ it?”
She stared at xem for a long moment, eyes widening as she slowly seemed to realize that xey genuinely had no idea what she was talking about. “Ok. Um… the word ‘period’ also means a length of time. Human females use the word as slang to talk about a specific time. It’s… God, I can’t believe I’m giving an alien the talk. Ok, so basically…”
Avrex listened in growing astonishment as the little female described a process by which one of her internal organs partially deconstructed itself once a month unless she put it to use in forming a baby. If she was to be believed, it happened once a month from approximately age eleven to age forty to fifty. Admittedly, compared to the amount of blood in the human body the amount lost during one of the episodes she described was relatively small. But, she explained that other fluids were expelled as well, along with pieces of the organ that was shredding and rebuilding itself. The entire process took place approximately every three to four weeks.
Avrex shook xer head. “Shouldn’t such a process be painful?”
Melanie shrugged. “Well yeah. I know some women who stay in bed the entire time they’re on because it hurts so bad.”
The first officer reared back in alarm. “Are you in pain?!”
Another shrug. “My uterus is shredding it’s inner lining because I’m not knocked up with a baby. Yes, I hurt.”
Avrex had to work hard not to snap xer teeth in xer anger on Melanie’s behalf. “If human females require bed-rest while experiencing one of these ‘periods’, why are you not in bed? Surely if you explained the situation to the medical officer he would have given you medical leave. We do not require a crew member to return to active duty immediately after surgery, surely an internal organ coming apart cannot be so different!”
Melanie laughed. Laughed!
The little human caught xer hand and gave it a squeeze. “I said some humans Avrex. Some. Most don’t experience severe pain. If it gets bad, it means that more than likely something else is wrong. Most of us wear special liners in our clothes or inserted into our bodies to catch the blood so we don’t get it all over the place. And we just go on with our daily routine. Grin and bear it. We’ll be alright.”
The first officer wasn’t convinced. “At least tell me that you have spoken to the medical officer about something to relieve the pain.”
She shook her head, holding up a hand to forestall xer protests. “Some women do. I don’t like using pain medication for something I can tough out. Humans have this thing, where we can slowly build up an immunity to certain drugs through prolonged use. I avoid pain medication so I don’t build up an immunity. That way, when I do need it I know it works really well. As soon as I realize my period is starting, I start drinking more water. The human body is about sixty percent water, and making sure that I’m properly hydrated speeds up the process and makes it hurt less. Instead of dealing with it for six to seven days, it only lasts three to four. Seriously Avrex, I’m fine, and I’ve got a handle on the rest of the symptoms. There’s nothing to worry about.”
Avrex felt as if xer head was spinning. “Other symptoms?”
The human bared her teeth in another smile. “Most of us get moody because our hormone level fluctuate a bit. It hits every woman a bit differently. Some women turn into a weepy mess. Me? I turn into a grouchy, irritable, cow who avoids everyone like the plague. Other women will get angry at the drop of a hat and bite the head off the nearest individual that annoys her.” She must’ve seen the look of shock and horror on xer face because she immediately backtracked. “Shit, not literally! I mean they just get overly aggressive, usually verbally.”
She waited for a second, to make sure xey understood, then went on.
“Aside from the moodiness it’s a grab bag of ways your period will affect you. Some people get cravings, some people get back pain, or their breasts”, she put her hands illustratively on the soft mounds on her chest to be sure that there wasn’t any miscommunication between them about what ‘breasts’ were, “get sore. Most of us get cramps in our lower abdomens right about here.” Again the illustrative touch, this time to a spot just below her belt. “Some of us have an increased sex drive, while others just want to roll themselves up in a blanket like a burrito, and a lot of us are fatigued. Every woman’s different.”
Avrex slowly shook xer head, completely dumbfounded by the sudden influx of information. “Is…is there anything you currently require? I know that Carl already asked, and you informed him that you were sufficiently prepared, but…”
Her face softened. “I’m fine Avrex. Really. I just…”
“Hey! Melanie! You gonna keep up with the men today, or are you gonna have a tea party with the dinosaur all day?”
Avrex almost responded.
Instead, xey remained stationary, watching as a strange change came over the female before xem. Where before she had been timid and shy, at the sudden derogatory call from the newest of the five humans, a male named Dave, her face suddenly became calm and smooth as granite.
She slowly turned and cast a threatening, and yes Avrex was sure that this smile was definitely a threat, at Dave and the other male mechanic Josh. Josh had been the fourth human taken on, hired within days of Cal the security guard.
As Dave was the one who’d spoken, Melanie seemed to focus most of her attention on him. “Care to run that by me again smart mouth?”
Josh, older and more mature than Dave, seemed to understand the unspoken warning. “Dave…”
The younger human ignored him. “Ooh, someone woke up on the bitchy side of the bed this morning. What’s a matter sweet cheeks?” He made an expression that Avrex would later learn was called a leer. The male grabbed her by the arm. “Maybe you just need a little action to settle you down, yeah? How ‘bout it babe? I bet I can get that stick out of your ass. Hm? Maybe put something better…”
A large wrench whistled through the air and stopped within a micron’s breadth of the young human’s nose. It was easily the length of the male’s forearm, and had previously been occupying a loop on Melanie’s belt. He stared at it, cross eyed and pale, then looked at the diminutive little female who could’ve easily broken his nose if she’d had less control.
“What’s a matter?” She parroted the question back, voice tight and dark. “What’s a matter is that I started my day in a fountain of my own blood, and that’s how you’re going to end yours if you ever call me ‘sweet cheeks’, ‘babe’, or any other cutesy nickname again. And as for keeping up with you ‘men’, I’m already three days ahead of schedule. You’ve barely been on this ship a month and you’re already two weeks behind. So I’d say it’s you who aught to be keeping up with me, because it seems anything you can do I can do better and faster while bleeding.” Her dark eyes narrowed. “And lastly? If you ever lay hands on me again? I promise you, they will never find your body.”
She slid the wrench back into her belt, cast a respectful nod to Avrex, and calmly crawled back up into the machinery.
Dave stared after her for a long moment, then pointed. “Josh! Did you see what that bitch just…”
The older male cuffed him over the back of the head. “You’re an idiot. Never piss off something that bleeds for seven days a month and doesn’t die. I haven’t got to know her all that well yet, but Mel is worth ten of you. That woman works her ass off. If you ever go after her again, and she doesn’t kill you, you can bet that I will happily beat you black and blue!”
Avrex bared xer teeth, allowing a tiny warning growl to rumble deep inside xer barrel chest. The reptilian first officer slowly stood to xer full ten foot height, looming over the miscreant. “Consider yourself warned.”
An additional talk with Carl yielded a few ‘pearls of wisdom’ concerning ‘feminine’ needs.
With the thunderstruck captain’s blessing, Avrex ordered small metal receptacles installed in each of the public waste rooms on board at their next stop. Carl had suggested small boxes, but given the frequency of meteor showers and pirate attacks, evasive maneuvers were engaged fairly often. Avrex thought it better to have the receptacles affixed to the wall and a basic bolt lock placed on the lid so that the ‘feminine’ supplies wouldn’t be thrown around the waste rooms when the ship had to duck or roll suddenly.
Upon having the situation explained, the other alien members of the crew who hadn’t been released for shore leave were more than happy to help. They liked Melanie, and the discovery that she spent a week in pain each month and gave no outward sign was disconcerting to say the least.
Other changes included stain proof bedding, a heating pad, a new fluffy blanket, and a few earth sweets being slipped into her room.
Dave, the human who had harassed her, was not invited back to the ship.
Instead he was replaced with a male creylight from the Andromeda system. While not as small as the humans, he was still flexible enough to reach most of the components without taking a piece of the engine apart, and he was much stronger. The humans wouldn’t have to drag the lifting equipment out as often.
He was also made aware of how his predecessor had been fired for his disrespectful, inappropriate, and frankly downright threatening behavior towards Melanie.
The crew was not going to tolerate such treatment towards their favorite human.
Melanie nearly burst xer ear drums with her grateful calls upon returning from shore leave and discovering what xey had done.
She had been dreading coming back to work and having to deal with Dave. And then to find out he’d been fired, and to see what ‘sweethearts’ the rest of the crew had been…
As xey crouched down to receive the strongest ‘hug’ the little human could muster, Avrex couldn’t help but marvel at the change in her attitude. While she still treated Josh a little coolly, Melanie seemed much less guarded than she had before. She made friends with Cal, and Carl, and slowly started to get to know Josh. She was more outgoing while socializing with the rest of the crew. The timidity faded, an air of preparedness that the crew hadn’t even realized was there fell away. Leaving her relaxed and free. For the first time since she’d boarded the ship, she seemed truly happy.
She felt safe.
And Avrex couldn’t help but feel both saddened and enraged at how surprised she seemed that they would go out of their way to make her feel safe and comfortable. That she was so used to relying on no one but herself. So used to being stepped on and living in fear of the male half of her species taking advantage of her.