Prompt: Photo of Raphidia mediterranea (a grasshopper looking bug) by andrea hallgass, copywrited photo seen on Flickr Photo Sharing for a writing prompt challenge on Chuck Wendig’s blog, TerribleMinds.com.
First Officer Bergid Svensdotter studied her reflection. This was her first official function on her new ship, the Federation of Sentient Species diplomatic ship Asimov and she wanted to appear perfect. Ribbons were aligned on her dress white jacket; no stray hair out of place.
There would be twenty different sentient species at the cocktail party in the ship’s ballroom. All oxygen breathers, thank goodness, Bergid thought. The problems with communicating with methane breathers would be left to another day.
In the ballroom she found Chief Engineer, Rob Busey, a scotch in hand. “Bergid.” He held up his glass. “You ready?”
“A glass of water with lemon, please,” she told the crewwoman behind the bar. “I guess I am.”
“Water! You don’t want something stronger?”
“I do,” Bergid admitted. “But if I drank anything now I’d vomit all over the guest’s shoes.”
“Oh, yeah, you’ve been on battleships your whole career. Not used to the diplomatic thing.” He sipped his scotch. “You’ll get used to it. You had aliens on your ships.”
“We did, but not the more,” she groped for the right word, “exotic ones.”
“You’ll be fine.”
Bergid sipped the water. She didn’t want to screw up.
As the guests arrived, escorted from the teleporter by FSS Asimov crew members, the Captain greeted each one. Then they moved into the room, some for the bar, others greeting guests they knew. Bergid’s job was to mingle. She’d been briefed on the hot button topics for each species and had been supplied with appropriate responses. She was expected to deal with hard line questions and belligerence in a way that maintained the peace.
The first aliens she greeted were from the Koa system. Humanoid in appearance, they were covered in a fine blue fur. She’d served with Koans on her previous ships and found them to be easy to work with.
She placed her empty glass on a passing drinks tray; they hovered all around the room for the convenience of the guests, and moved on to the next group feeling more confident. These were the Einess, humanoid with a definite porcine cast. They were half again the size of a human, aggressive and quick to anger. Incredible fighters, Einess served on FSS battleships but they had a hard time getting along. She spoke a greeting in their language and was treated to what passed for a smile. The Showan, their ambassador, asked her opinion of Einess being granted sole rights to the Aamaz system. This was one of the touchy topics. “I’m sure the FSS council will consider all sides of the proposal, Showan.”
He snorted. “That’s what your Captain said.”
Bergid bowed a fraction. “It is a decision considerably above my rank, Sir.” She knew the Einess were sticklers for rank.
“Fair enough.” He moved with his entourage to the next group.
She breathed a sigh of relief. At least she wasn’t causing a planetary incident. Thinking she’d get a glass of wine, Bergid turned to her left. A foot from her face was the delicate form of a basil iridescent green insectoid species, the Raphidia ambassador.
Bergid flashed back to her childhood. She was outside in the middle of a locust swarm screaming, arms waving as the locusts flew into her hair, ears, eyes, mouth. Shaking, she pulled herself out of that memory and back into the ballroom, stumbling backward two steps. She could feel the sweat start on her forehead. “Um, I beg your pardon, Ambassador.”
She could hear the Ambassador’s chitters but her implanted translator gave her, “My apologies.” It used it’s forelegs to wipe its eyes, all eighteen inches of each of them, from top to bottom in a sign of apology.
“My fault entirely, Ambassador.” She cast around in her panicked brain for a new topic. “Your trip has been productive?”
He signaled to one of his followers. It was a small bronze Raphidia, a quarter the size of the ambassador. “We have secured several trading contracts. One with your own Earth.”
The small creature moved in front of the ambassador. Bergid wondered if the ambassador thought she was a threat. “I’m pleased our two species have found mutual points of agreement, Sir.”
That’s when the ambassador ripped the head from the smaller creature. Ichor spurt from the bronze neck. The ambassador turned the head neck up and with a thin tongue, sucked up the inside as two other bronze Raphidia took the remains away.
Bergid swallowed as her stomach rolled. She could feel her blood pressure drop and she began feel dizzy. “Ah,” she wasn’t going to make it. She vomited on the ambassador’s tiny middle feet.
She could hear the guests gasp. Two crewmen rushed over, grabbed her by the arms and hurried her out of the ballroom. The Captain came into the med bay half an hour later. Bergid leapt to attention. “I’m so sorry, Captain.” She focused on the bulkhead behind him.
Hands on his hips, he scowled. “Damn, Svensdotter, you made quite the show.”
A blush started at her neck and raced up her face.
“What do you have to say?”
“I was traumatized by locusts as a child. When the Ambassador ripped the head off of that little one and started sucking the brains out,” she began to gag again.
The Captain stepped back. When she recovered, he nodded. “Well, that must have been a trial. You knew they eat that sub-species live, right.”
“Yes, Sir. But to actually see it.” She struggled not to gag.
“Yeah, the old bastard does it to all of the new human crew. Thinks it’s funny.”
Relief flooded through her. “I didn’t cause an incident?”
He laughed. “No, but you’re going to have to live with that story.”
The Captain clapped her on the shoulder. “Go back to your cabin. You’ve had enough excitement for the night.”
“Thank you, Sir.”
“Wish I’d seen it,” he opened the door. “I would have loved to see his feet covered in vomit.”
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