Damian grimaced and screwed his eyes shut for just a few moments longer. The overhead lights blaring through his eyelids were telling him that it was time to get up, but he wanted to let his eyes adjust first. He slowly became aware that this was not his bed, in fact, it was a space ship’s life support pod. Right.

   Still squinting, he lifted onto his elbows and took a quick glance at his surroundings. It was very bright. The floors and walls were white. And so were the lines of machines along those walls. Round machines with windows in them, some were empty and others were filled with fluid.

   He had just been submerged in that fluid, ALC, he’d woken up from sleeping in it for approximately 5 years. And he was still reeling from that long, long sleep. It felt like he’d taken the worst nap in the world. His fur was damp. Various parts of his body burned from the previous presence of tubes, needles, and catheters. He felt cold and groggy and hungry and thirsty. His lungs felt thick with phlegm and his nose burned like he’d just snorted pool water. As he woke up further, he slowly realized that he was only in his underwear. He would care a lot more about this fact if he wasn’t currently feeling like he was dying.

His eyes widened as he suddenly choked on some liquid still stuck in his lungs. He lurched forward and began coughing roughly, his wheezing breaths rattling in his chest. These fucking people. They were supposed to suction all the liquid from his lungs before he even woke up.

His chest continued to burn as he pitifully lifted his head to regard the nurse that was approaching him.

“Mr. Forsythe!” They said in a tone that was way too cheery for the current mood.


“Before you get up, are you ready for your final check-up?”

Had he any choice? “Alright.” He rasped.

They proceeded to poke and prod him while prompting him with a dizzying array of questions and tasks. In his own personal opinion, of course. Any feelings of light-headedness, dizziness, or vertigo? No, none, just tired is all. Plus, the lung burning thing, which he was then told was completely normal. Damn. Now follow the bright light being blasted directly into your retinas. Not like your eyes have been damaged by lights enough, right? Lift your arms to prove that your muscles didn’t completely deteriorate during your sleep, and while you do that let’s prod your back and tail to make sure no nerves shut down all the while.

“Alright, sir, you’re good to go!” They said with a smile before turning their attention to another groggy individual.

Right. Time to get up. He groaned as he lifted himself out of his 'bed', ears pinned back at the sensation of the cold hard floor on his feet. He made sure to be quick to grab his bag from the compartment underneath the pod and to quickly slip into the changing room behind it.

   As much as Damian craved something hearty and filling, he remembered from yesterday’s briefing that the food options would be limited today. They’d told him all about it before he went to sleep. Technically, he had been on an all-liquid diet for the past 5 years. The ALC that filled his lungs had also filled his other organs and kept him sustained during all the time. Now everyone had to re-introduce their bodies to solids, thus the cafeteria’s options (for humans) were only soft plain foods.

   He glanced around the mostly empty cafeteria. There was one of those self-serve buffet tables, but it was empty. One wall had a section dedicated to empty tables and things such as spices, sauces, and even kitchen appliances so people could customize or create their own meals. It also had two soda fountains near it, the customizable kind where you could choose your flavors. One for humans, and one for hexapods. There was a paper taped to each one, but he could not read it from where he was, though he assumed it said something about how they weren’t allowed to have any stomach-destroying carbonated sugar water right now.

   One wall was surrounded by counters and had a kiosk where one could order their food. He approached it and read off the menu that hung above it. The limited options weren’t that bad. Mashed potatoes, soup, yogurt, applesauce, eggs, saltine crackers, and steamed vegetables. With gelatin or ice cream as a dessert option, no less. He wished there were more proteins available. Meat would be great right now. But there had to be a reason why none was available. He’d get some soon enough.

   After tapping his order onto a screen and watching the food be prepared by machines like this place was a factory, he glanced around for a spot to sit. He saw an appropriate area, somewhat close to where a few other people were. Close enough to hear their conversations, but far enough to not be called upon to speak. He wanted to eat, not talk. Upon sitting down he quickly realized that the chairs were not adjustable, they were attached directly to the floor. As were the tables, for that matter. Whatever. He began to eat his eggs and mashed potatoes.

   More and more people filed into the cafeteria, the wake-up and check-up process must be going quicker now. They all congregated near each other and conversed over their food. Not like there was much else to do, they were still gonna be stuck on this ship for the rest of the day even though they’d already landed. Something about slowly adding in the planet’s air to the ship’s air supply to acclimate everyone to the atmosphere, he didn’t care that much. It was annoying that they’d hired him for HVAC work when he was barely even privy to this process, but whatever.

   His carefully selected table was filling up now, but thankfully the conversations weren’t too overwhelming. Everyone was too tired and fucked up to be loud. The humans ate their soft mushy meals, and the hexapods used their straw tongues to drink from cups. He wondered if the hex had to change their diets too, or if they could go back to their regular food right away. He decided to sate his curiosity and be a little social while he was at it.

   “Hey,” he said softly to the purple hexapod across from him. “Do hex have dietary restrictions right now too? I forgot.” He lied, he knew he was never told what the diet of the other species were.

   The hex retracted its tongue from its cup and twitched its antennae nervously. He wondered if he should feel bad for putting it on the spot.

   “Um, yes, a little bit. We aren’t allowed anything too sweet or acidic, it could hurt.”

   Damian nodded, happy with the information he’d received. He resumed eating, now finishing off the rich runny yolk of his egg. He noticed the hexapod’s eyes darting between the egg and his face. The silence was probably uncomfortable. Maybe it had never seen a lunarian before, his fangs were quite surprising, he imagined. He decided a little more conversation could help.

   “What’s your name?” He asked as he scooped up more mashed potatoes.

   “Aroo Ee’eck.”

    An Eko’el name, interesting. He told it that his own name was Damian Forsythe and that it was nice to meet it. It curled the corners of its lips up into a soft imitation of a human smile. How endearing. He smiled and blinked slowly in response. This wasn’t too bad. He just had to think up random things to say, and then a conversation happened.

   “Have you ever traveled through space before, Aroo?”

   “A little bit…” It looked down at its fidgeting hands. “I grew up in a space station, so… I’ve always been in space, but… This kind of stuff is new.”

   It glanced up to meet his eyes, and he nodded. “My old job was entirely space travel, on a one-man craft that basically delivered stuff between space stations. But, yeah, I’ve never done all this stuff before. Ships that are space-only are… Very different from the kind that can launch from and land on planets.”

    “It’s scary! But at least we’re done with it now… I feel a lot better now that we’re actually here.”

   He tilted his head. “Not nervous about being here? Is being on an alien planet any scary to you?”

    “Um… A little bit. But I’d be just as scared on any other planet.”

   Damian grinned. “You’re not even a little bit afraid that a xenomorph or something could be out there?”

   Aroo scoffed at that, but its smile imitated his own. “No! Monsters like that aren’t even real!”

   Damian chuckled to himself as Aroo returned to sipping its drink. The conversations around them were steadily growing louder, causing Damian to grow tense.

   “I’m gonna go look out the windows.” He suddenly announced.

   “What windows?” It asked incredulously. “Spacecraft don’t have windows.”

   “This one does. I can prove it to you.”

   It glanced down at its empty cup, antennae twitching. It looked around the still-filling cafeteria, but stayed silent.

   He spoke again. “You can come with me.”

   “Um… Okay… It’s getting too loud in here anyways.”

    It wasn’t until they were at the door of the vehicle bay that Aroo finally asked where they were going.

   “This door here goes to the vehicle bay,” Damian began to explain. “There’s two big doors inside of it, the outer metal one, then the inner one with windows. The outer one should be open right now, so the window one will have a view of the outside.”

   “Are we… Allowed to be here?” Aroo asked nervously.

   “If they didn’t want anyone back here, they would’ve locked it.” He said confidently. “Plus, I’m here as an HVAC technician. If anyone asks, I’m checking out the vents. They already showed me around this place before we went to sleep.”

   “Okay.” Aroo responded. Damian struggled to read its expression. He had attempted to memorize hexapod expressions and what they meant, but Aroo didn’t really do anything like what he’d seen on those diagrams.

   He slowblinked at it again before he pushed the door open.

   The bay was dark, and they both slipped into it quietly. They cast curious glances around the room. They could see the dark shapes of vehicles tied to the floor.

   They split up to examine the machines on their own. Aroo gravitated towards the yellow construction equipment. They approached one of them and leaned in closely, attempting to read the text on the side of one of the machines. Their antennae were pointed forward and glowing slightly. They were lighting it up to see it better. Personally, he could read the text from over here. But he knew Lunarian eyesight was much better than that of a hexapod’s in the dark.

   Damian turned and began to look at the trucks, wondering how often people would be riding in these. They were boxy and had no doors, and there were squares missing from their tops as well. Seemed like they could be useful. The bed was big enough, he’d say. But the briefings said this planet was cold as fuck, hopefully they didn’t freeze in these things.

   He looked back to the construction equipment to find Aroo. But it wasn’t where he last saw it, it was instead near the doors gazing up and out of the windows.

   “You found them.” He called as he approached it, remembering that the windows were the reason why they came here in the first place.

   It didn’t say anything, not even when he stood next to it. He followed its eyes and looked out across the alien tundra before them. Far away, mountain ranges shaped the horizon with their silhouettes and a sparse amount of white snow lay against red plants.

   Most notably, the sky looked like it was on fire, if fire could be green, that is. An aurora flickered and shifted across the sky. His fur stood on its ends. He’d never seen one of these in real life before, he didn’t know they moved like that. It looked like a computer’s screensaver, or like a rake had been pulled down an oil painting.

   As his eyes wandered around the sky, they eventually landed on Aroo. At its fascinated face being lit up by the green light, with their orange and yellow bioluminescence shining alongside that. They were… Quite good looking. They were very, very interesting. He wanted to know more about them.

   “I didn’t know this planet had auroras.” They said without looking away, but still making him jump. “It's pretty.”

   “Yeah…” He eventually breathed. His face was burning and he took in a deep breath as he leaned away and nodded to himself. Right. Day 1 and already has a crush. Fuck. God damn it. His heart was pounding. Was he seriously that easy? He repeatedly patted his fist against his thigh to burn off the nervous energy. He hadn’t even seen all the people that were gonna live here. Was he gonna get the hots for every person who looked good and actually heard him out and joined him on his plans? This better not become a regular occurrence. He better be over this by tomorrow.

   Aroo glanced at him quizzically. But the aurora was fading now anyways. It backed away and turned to face him.

   “We’re on the equator.” It said, “I thought aurora’s were only at Earth’s north pole.”

   Damian shook his head. “I… Don’t know anything about that stuff. We should… Get back to where everyone else is.”

   They nodded and, after staring at him for one more moment, turned and began walking towards the door. Damian followed after them.