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Rated: E · Book · Sci-fi · #2267123
A thousand+ words a day of the pulpiest science fiction in the universe!
#1026444 added February 11, 2022 at 12:41am
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Day 22169, Feb 11, 2022
The four Shaleeni sat at the four compass points of the little square table, belted in but not speaking or even looking up at each other. One had his trunk draped over the table; its end hung over the opposite edge. The others’ trunks were held passively in their laps.

The door opened and a man in the uniform of a regional brigadier entered; the Shaleeni whose back was to the door raised his trunk and turned it around to get a look at the man; the others gave no sign that they were aware of their environment at all.

The man sat down in one of the chairs along the wall and pulled a small notepad out of his inside jacket pocket. He folded it open and balanced it on his thigh. “Any of you creeps speak English?”

The Shaleeni across from the one that had looked at the brigadier now opened his mouth. The organ was placed above where the trunk extended from his face. “I be can speaking.”

The brigadier rolled his eyes. “Yeah, you be can speaking real nice.” He picked up the notepad and brought it to his face. “It says here that you four were picked up in the alley behind a warehouse, is that right?”

One of the Shaleeni picked up his trunk and pointed it at the one across from him as the Speaker responded. “Alley be were being I and—” he made a noise that sounded like the tsk tsk that the brigadier’s kindergarten teacher made when one of his daughters spilled her milk “—be were being alley in alsooooohhh.” The Speaker’s voice trailed off as he pronounced the final syllable.

“So what were you and tsk tsk doing there, hmm??” When the brigadier made those tsk tsk sounds, the Shaleeni whose back was to him raised his trunk and turned it around to take another look at him. The brigadier knew that tsk tsk was a word in the Shaleeni language, presumably a name of some sort. Maybe it was a collective term along the lines of colleagues. Exactly what it meant, he didn’t really care; he knew, as the Shaleeni themselves knew, that they would be convicted of theft or breaking and entering or both—or at least of trespassing—and be deported on that basis.

The Shaleeni who was looking at him spoke. “Can be I not being alley in be and being not!” it said with some insistence.

“Whatever the hell that means,” the brigadier muttered to himself as he made notes on his notepad. “All right then,” he announced. “Anyone else got anything to say?”

No one—Shaleeni or human—moved or made a sound, and then the door to the interrogation room opened and Lester Miles leaned into the room. “Frank, we’ve got a call, apparently one of these is somebody important.” Miles turned to the Shaleeni. “One of you called tsk-chee?”

The Shaleeni who had spoken with emotion turned his trunk toward the door and scanned it from side to side. “Tsk-chee can be he being at table not being but at table,” he said.

Miles looked over at the brigadier. “You got any idea what that jibber jabber means?”

“I never know what any of them are saying,” the brigadier answered back, standing up as he did so. “Look, you deal with these monsters for awhile. I was supposed to be off twenty minutes ago.”

Miles stepped into the room. “Yeah, yeah, okay. The door to the room was still open, and a figure hurried past, but Miles noticed. “Rags, get in here!” Miles yelled at the open door.

A figure appeared in the doorway—a young man in the uniform of a regional sergeant. “Yeah, Chief?” He stepped back as the brigadier stepped through the door, then took a step into the room and stared wide-eyed for a moment at the Shaleeni, who continued to sit passively.

“Take these four over to Lockup Eight. Put them all in eight, you understand?”

“Uh, yeah, Chief, okay, but—” the sergeant looked back and forth from the Shaleeni to the chief. “Do they—can they understand me?”

“Yeah, yeah, just tell them what to do, they won’t try anything. They’re about as aggressive as kittens.”

“Uh, well, okay,” the sergeant said. He didn’t look very confident, but he steeled himself. “Uh, now, you Shaleeni get up and follow me.” There was no reaction and a tense moment passed. “Please,” the sergeant added.

The Shaleeni who had answered Miles when he asked about who tsk-chee was made a moaning noise to the others, and they started shifting their massive bodies, pushing the chairs back and preparing to stand up. They stood and moved away from the table, lining up in Shaleeni fashion, and Tsk-chee, if that was his name, slowly hulked his way through the door. The others followed him. The sergeant watched as the last one, the smallest of the four, stumbled through, and then stared at Miles for a long moment.

“Well, what are you waiting for? Take them down to eight!” Miles finally said.

“Uh, yeah, sure, Chief.” The sergeant hurried through the doorway. Miles went over to the table and started pushing the chairs back, returning them to their places.

The door to the interrogation room was still open—the sergeant hadn’t closed it—and another figure popped his head into the room. “Les, we’ve had another report about Shaleeni hanging around the tourist areas.”

“More?” Miles asked incredulously. “What the hell is it tonight, some sort of Shaleeni holiday?”

“I don’t know, but there’s Shaleeni blocking entrances to businesses and standing in the middle of intersections, that sort of thing.”

“Well, send a couple of units down there,” Miles said as he moved through the doorway and closed the door on the empty room. “And can we ask the embassy about it? That one Shaleeni there, the whatcha-call-it, he can speak English pretty good, and—”

“The Figurehead, that’s what the others call him.”

“Yeah, yeah, the Figurehead or whatever. Get him on the line, will you, and let’s get him to tell the damn Shaleeni to knock it off.”

“Okay, Chief.”

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