Goodbye and Good Luck
I spotted the gray, slightly twisted frame of the reptilian Wreanth from across the bar. His black, beady eyes locked with mine, and the upper mouth on his spiked head curved into a smirk.
He ambled toward me, his bony legs propelling him forward with the speed of a wildebeest and his bent frame allowing him to weave in-between other beings, some reeling in surprise. In less than five seconds, the fiend had reached my table, and stood inches from my face.
"Hello, Food," he rasped from his upper mouth. He straightened his body so that he became a few inches taller than me, his gaze never wavering. I kept my eyes to his, standing as still as possible.
"Dase of the Wreanth species," I replied.
Dase took a loud breath, letting the air out noisily as he continued, "You have something for me, I assume?"
"Yes," I said, nodding once.
He cocked his head to peer behind me, presumably to look at the plate of replicated chunks of raw meat I had previously set on the table. His bottom mouth opened just enough to smack its lips, the resulting squishy sound resembling a predator already feasting on his prized catch.
After a few seconds, his eyes began to dart between the plate and myself while he pondered, from his upper mouth, "Dead food or alive food?"
A third voice from behind us interjected, "You could just eat Andrew for once and save us all from having to endure this embarrassing ritual again. It is unbecoming of Trion University graduate students."
From my peripheral vision, I spotted the six-and-a-half foot speaker of that critical request approach our table. A member of the Ato species, he possessed a head closely resembling a cobra and a body shaped like an overgrown lizard. Unlike Dase, this reptilian had an elongated pointy tail, sticking out of his nearly all-blue, two-piece uniform, adorned with a half-circle insignia that designated his graduate student status. Atos enjoyed displaying their status in life with pins, while their tails displayed their current emotions. This Ato's tail oscillated at a slow, steady pace, indicating its owner's annoyance.
"Yes, I could, Squil," Dase answered, not bothering to look over at the new arrival, "but then, speaking of behaviors unbecoming of Trion University graduate students, you'd have no one to cheat off of."
I smirked, making Dase break into a slight upper-mouthed smile himself.
"I do not cheat off Andrew, Dase!" Squil hissed, stretching out his neck towards the Wreanth and stopping his tail dead center to his body. The bright light from the ceiling reflected off his scaly, green skin, its pale hue signifying his youth.
Dase suggested in an unfazed tone, "You really might want to keep your neck away from my face if you desire it to remain attached to your shoulders."
He followed up with a sideways glance towards the Ato, who retracted his neck, but kept his glare for a few seconds before slumping down on a stool across from me.
"Why do you agree to participate in this offering ritual, Andrew?" Squil asked, staring at the meat. "You are not going to his planet, so you do not need to practice his customs."
"He's not going to your planet either, Squil," Dase interjected, "but he still practices your customs and lets you cheat off him."
Although that was a gross misrepresentation of Atos in general, it still made me burst out laughing, which, in turn, made Dase laugh as well.
"I do not cheat!" Squil reiterated, poking a claw in Dase's general direction. "I merely used…"
Squil paused for a brief moment, and Dase and I waited for whatever word or phrase that would come out of his mouth to deny any wrongdoing or self-indictment.
"…samples of Andrew's prior work in order to further comprehend the material."
Both Dase and myself cackled at that understatement, making Squil's eyes narrow. Dase shook his head, then put a claw on my head and squeezed it. Although normally a Wreanth way of sizing up one's food, with me, it was his one physical sign of affection.
We both sat down, with Dase covering his bottom mouth with a numar, a small, square metallic shield that prevented civilized beings from having to watch his bottom mouth digest his food. Unfortunately, it only muffled the sound, leaving little to the imagination on how the acid in that bottom mouth did its work.
After stuffing half the meat into his bottom mouth, Dase glanced at the other reptilian and continued his banter with his upper orifice. "If you count copying his entire paper on Soul Memory Mapping sampling, then yes, I suppose you're right, Squil."
Squil growled, and he rapped on the table as he said, "I did not copy the entire paper, Dase! I put my own work into my version!"
"Yes, you wrote your name," I responded without hesitation.
Dase pounded the table and chortled, briefly muffling the sound of the digestion in his bottom mouth.
"You know that is not true!" Squil spat, his neck now outstretched towards me.
He made this too easy.
"You didn't put your name on the paper?" I asked, my head titled in an inquisitive pose.
"I mean I did more than that!"
I responded with innocence. "I never said you didn't."
Squil kept his neck out for a few seconds, trying to figure out if I was putting him on, but Dase chuckled again, giving the taller reptile the obvious answer.
He followed with a choice Ato insult before retracting his neck again. "You two are such renrars."
"Really?" Dase said as Squil ordered a Gorko Lime from our table's replicator. "We're worthless stains on society while you can't do your own research for your own thesis?"
A tall, thin glass with a spouted lip and filled with a green, gooey liquid appeared on a circular spot on the table in front of Squil. As he picked it up, he spat, "I came here to learn about Andrew's internship, Dase, and not to be insulted! You know damn well Andrew let me look at it solely as a basis!"
"Well, to your first point, if you would have shown up at the going away party Andrew's foster parents gave him last week, you would have learned everything already and not had to come here and make him repeat it again."
"I told you I had family obligations!"
"Squil excuse number eighty-five," the Wreanth said and put the rest of his meat in his bottom mouth, behind the numar.
Squil grunted at that remark. "Andrew, I do not know why you stay friends with this being. He calls you Food. He threatens to eat you."
"Yes he does, Squil," I admitted, making Dase grin. "Yes he does."
Squil then gulped his Gorko Lime down and looked back over at me. "Whereas I treat you with respect, when you are not insulting me."
"That's true," I said, giving him some credit to lighten his mood. It worked, as his tail began to move again.
Teasing Squil made for a fun pastime, but the time had come to move on to more important things, like drinking. Watching the Ato finish his made me realize just how dry my own lips were.
"And I see you eyeing that," the Wreanth observed. "Your parents asked you not to drink tonight."
I looked over at Dase.
"How do you know that?"
"They asked me to keep an eye on you, just in case," he explained.
I grumbled, the thought of not being able to get buzzed bringing on a sour mood.
"Apparently, your parents do not trust you," Squil surmised and promptly ordered another Gorko Lime, most definitely to spite me.
"They trust me," I said, then adding, more truthfully, "Somewhat."
"Yes, well, you don't need to end up hung-over on your first day of your internship," Dase said. "Like you did for our undergraduate commencement."
"I don't remember being that hung-over."
"Yes, I know."
When Squil's drink appeared before him, I avoided looking at his probable smug expression and, instead, glanced longingly at his glass for a few seconds before I pressed the Order button on the table.
"Iced tea please," I said with a sigh. "And a chicken sandwich."
"You and your frackin' tea, Food."
"Tea is soothing," I explained, "at least when alcohol isn't available."
My order appeared in front of me, the smell of which made me realize just how hungry I was. It must have wet Squil's appetite as well because he promptly ordered a plate of pork poppers. Dase, apparently not wanting any more food at the moment, ordered a Zorquon Zinger, a flavorless alcoholic drink highly poisonous to humans. Although a Wreanth ate with its bottom mouth, it drank from the upper. Evolution, for whatever reason, neglected to provide that tongue any taste buds, so a flavor, or lack of, didn't matter.
"I'm drinking for both of us tonight, my friend," he said as his right eye temporarily changed color to red, indicating a wink.
A wide, circular glass with a milky white substance materialized, and Dase opened his budless-tongued upper mouth wide enough to down the whole thing in about two gulps.
"I could never drink something so bland," Squil shared while taking two small, rounded pieces of pork from his newly materialized plate.
Before he could put them in his mouth, however, Dase smacked Squil's claw and exclaimed, "Come on, Ato! Do it!"
Squil turned his head towards the Wreanth. "No."
He knew what Dase wanted. As did I. Earlier in the semester, Squil showed us a trick his fellow Atos would perform in contests, which required small pieces of food. Dase found it highly amusing and couldn't get enough of it, which meant Squil now had the upper hand.
Dase pointed a claw at him. "You ordered poppers!"
"I like them!"
"Come on!" Dase repeated and made a quick gesture with his head towards the other reptile's plate. "Why else would you order them? I bet you can't do all ten!"
"After giving me all that grief over my thesis, you want me to entertain you?" Squil said, fully knowing the answer already.
"Yes, and Andrew, too! He's going far away tomorrow and won't be back for two years!"
"Hey, I'm not spending all that time on Earth without coming back here for a vacation," I interjected with a mouth full of chicken sandwich.
Dase shushed me. "Quiet, you."
His bottom mouth now having finished breaking down his food, Dase removed the numar and said to Squil, "Do it for Andrew. Remember, the guy's going back to his home planet, a place made up of humans, all of which firmly believe their species is the only intelligent one in the universe and completely isolated to their own rock."
"Well, not all of them," I corrected, thinking of my mentor and a few others.
"I said 'Quiet'," Dase reminded me, then he continued, "What excitement is Andrew going to be able to have with millions of clueless sentient pieces of food?"
I quickly thought of an example and defied Dase's request for my silence. "Running for my life if they found out that I've lived the past twenty years on other planets?"
Squil's eyes widened. "I thought the people of your Earth already knew about extraterrestrial civilizations, but I must have been thinking of another planet named Earth."
"Probably," I concurred. "There's like a billion of them."
"So why do your Masters project there? Why risk getting caught?"
"They need my help, Squil. If I backed out now, North would kill me."
"What's a 'North'?" the Ato asked.
"The name of my mentor on Earth," I replied. "He's an officer, a major, in the Humanity."
Squil's quizzical expression remained, most likely because he had never heard of the Humanity.
However, I didn't get the chance to explain as Dase shouted, "Never mind that!"
Putting a claw on the younger student's shoulder, he prodded, "Do it!"
Squil glanced back. "Apologize to me and I will think about it."
"Okay, then," our fellow graduate student said and opened his mouth to pop the food in.
Dase grumbled, and stringing the words of his apology together, he said, "Fine-I'm-Sorry-You're-Obviously-A-Misunderstood-Genius-Who-Just-Copies-Ideas-Now-Shut-Up-And-Do-That-Thing!"
Squil's lips curled into a grin, and he put the poppers down on the plate as he lifted it in the air.
"He's going for it!" Dase shouted, attempting to get the attention of every other being in the bar. "The Ato is going to show us how a real snake-head eats!"
A few of our fellow students looked over just as Squil threw the plate of food in the air above and slightly out from his head, the round pieces of meat flying in different directions. Quicker than a cobra, his neck shot out, and he caught one in his mouth. As he swallowed it, he retracted his neck and shot it out again, catching another popper that was heading towards me. Seeing a giant snake-mouth heading in my direction made me lurch backwards, an instinct that I was happy kicked in. I could have sworn I saw him wink at me, but he moved his neck so fast like a whip that I had no time to really notice.
As he swallowed that one, he went for another. Then another. In about three seconds, he had caught all ten of them and began to swallow.
Dase and a few onlookers cheered, making Squil swish his tail back and forth in delight. The alcohol sure improved the mood of my two companions. However, the realization that I'd soon be away from the safety of my friends and surroundings began to lower my own disposition.
I felt a Wreanth claw poke me in the ribs, and Dase shook his head as I looked over at him.
"What's gotten into you all of a sudden? Didn't you like seeing Mr. Copycat do his tricks for you?"
Squil glared, the food going down this throat preventing him from hissing.
"Sorry," I replied. "Just a bit pensive."
"Well, get over it. I actually had to apologize to Squil so that you could be entertained. I feel dirty now."
Having finished devouring his meal, the Ato said, "Good."
"So what are you so pensive about, Food?" Dase asked after he ordered another Zorquon Zinger.
I looked down at my empty glass of tea and ordered another, watching the first one disappear.
"Starting my internship," I said. "Being away from you guys. Ending up on an examining table being dissected for alien parts."
Squil ordered another drink as well, this time a Half-Half, half fermented soy extract and half sugar cane liquor. It tasted as horrible to me as it sounded.
"But you are human just like they are, are you not?" he then said as our new glasses appeared. "That scenario does not seem likely to me."
"Since when are Andrew's fears ever rational?" Dase questioned and downed his second drink.
He then held his head, moaning, "Oh, that's strong stuff."
"I can tell them I'm human all I want," I said, giving Dase a grin, "but that doesn't mean they'd take my word for it. Hence, the reason for the secrecy. At least, part of it."
Squil asked, "So what are you going to be doing that the people of your home planet need so badly?"
"It's not all of the people on Earth, Squil. Just those of the Humanity."
"Yes, what is that?"
I explained that the Humanity was a militaristic society in the midst of a forty-year war to free its land from its oppressive former rulers, a conglomerate of territories known as the Provincial Empire. The Humanity now stood to win back complete control of the entire western portion of their continent, and all they needed was a slight push to give them the advantage.
"Enter Andrew and his soon-to-be-created prototype," Dase said.
Knowing Squil would press for more details, I continued, "It's a pair of visors, omniscient in a way, that will give Humanity soldiers the ability to detect all terrain, hazards, and locations of enemy soldiers in a five-mile radius."
The Ato said in a sarcastic tone, "Yes, that does not sound complicated at all. "
Dase, who had another drink to his upper mouth's lips, added, "If anyone can pull it off, it's you, Food."
"Thanks," I said, "but it won't be a cake-walk, considering I'm the only one that will be working on it. But, I'll at least have access to some Trion technology that's been pre-approved by Dean Martin and the Peace Council. That should speed things up."
Squil drank his Half-Half before asking, "I can understand needing our dean's approval, but should not that be enough? Why require that of the Peace Council?"
Apparently, Squil didn't pay much attention to Trion Alliance politics or the Peace Council in general.
"Because almost every planet the Trion Alliance involves itself in falls under their jurisdiction," Dase answered. "You should know that."
"Only if it has intelligent life," I corrected.
Squil looked at Dase. "Ah, so then Verrok did not need the Council's jurisdiction."
That insult about Dase's home planet made me laugh, not only because it was funny, but also because Squil actually got one on the Wreanth.
Dase smiled and replied, "If it hadn't been for me, then, no, it wouldn't."
Squil shot back, "If you are the bar for Wreanth intelligence, Dase, I weep for your species."
Unfortunately, I had been drinking my tea when he said this, and I had to spit it back in my glass because I couldn't contain my laughter.
"Damn, Squil, a few drinks and you're quick with the insults," I observed through a cough.
"Yes," Dase agreed, "who knew it took alcohol to make Squil intelligent?"
Squil shrugged. "Yes, well, I do not think anything will help you."
"Oh, you are so lucky I'm not allowed to eat my fellow students," Dase said through a light-hearted snarl.
The Ato must have wanted to quit while he was ahead in the insult game, because he turned his attention to me and continued asking about my project.
"So, the Peace Council has not established a footprint on Earth?"
"No, it has," I answered, "over twenty-five years ago, even if none of its governments are aware of it. They're in the midst of gradual disclosure-"
"And even once that's completed, there's no guarantee the leaders of your planet will accept it and join the Alliance," Dase interjected, using what happened on Verrok as an example.
"It took only two years on Kaljar," Squil said of the Atos of his home planet, "and we're full fledged Alliance members."
"Congratulations," Dase uttered, his flat tone betraying any sincerity.
I noticed Squil sipping on his third drink, which looked like hot chocolate, but I knew better and prayed I was wrong.
"Please don't tell me that's Kaljarian style."
"Yes it is!" he answered with a wink.
"Oh, that is so disgusting," I said with a shudder, thinking of the cocoa being mixed with irradiated mice bladder and barley. The combination might have made the drink more alcoholic than absinthe, but no being except for an Ato would even consider tasting it.
"Oh, I'll take one of those, too!" Dase said, obviously having read my thoughts and wanting to prove me wrong.
I folded my arms. "You don't have taste buds in that mouth, Dase, so that doesn't impress me."
When Dase got his drink, both he and Squil began slurping them at the same time while looking directly at me, big grins forming on their faces.
"You guys suck," I stated, which only made them laugh.
I forced my mind to believe the mugs were filled with normal chocolate, and that forced denial allowed me to continue.
"Anyway, like I was saying, because the council is in the midst of gradual disclosure on Earth, any projects there have to have its approval and steps have to be taken to not only ensure the safety of the workers, such as myself, but also minimize the likelihood of exposure."
I then said that, in my case, at least two people in the Humanity knew everything about my past and had ensured the dean and my parents of my safety. One, assigned to me as my mentor, was a middle-aged officer named Major Glever North, and the other, North’s own mentor and the first contactee of the Peace Council, was an older gentleman named Humanitarian Traquel Kocci.
As for the other officials at the Humanity, they were only told, truthfully, that I was originally from Dales, a village in the Southern Province that later became under Humanity control, but I had moved at around two years old after my parents died. Now, I would be coming from Racanda, the Humanity’s allied country located on the neighboring continent of Crescent.
"What about where you lived since then, Andrew?" Squil asked. "What do you tell everybody?"
"Well, I just tell them that that's classified," I said, "even to Commander Alex Rocke, the leader of the Humanity. He approved that part of my contract himself."
"Trusting soul," Dase said.
"Well, I come under the recommendation of Humanitarian Kocci, whom he trusts implicitly, and Kocci's recommendation comes from that of Dean Martin. Plus, North said that no one in the Humanity or its allies is technically competent enough to do it themselves, especially in such a short time frame."
Squil said, "Kocci and Martin know each other?"
"Yes," I replied. "North came to Kocci with the project idea, and then Kocci went to the Council for assistance, and then they introduced him to the dean."
"Anyway, North said that most people will probably think I was whisked away to Racanda to avoid the war in the Southern Province. To them, I'll just be another Racandan contract engineer.”
A big grin formed on the Wreanth's upper mouth, and he said, “If they do find out, just tell them that at least you aren’t some bug-eyed, slime-filled tentacle beast thing disguised as one of them.”
I chuckled, but Squil must not have got the reference because he squinted his beady eyes at Dase and slowed the pace of his tail, indicating his confusion.
"What are you talking about?"
The two-mouthed creature's smile grew even wider as he answered. He loved this story, at least embellishing it.
"Back in the very early days of the Council, they had actually tried that stunt on the planet Trevous, and the being wouldn’t have been discovered if he could have curbed his appetite for other people’s pets."
Dase glanced at Squil to gauge his reaction, but the Ato frowned, folding his arms.
"You are lying, Dase. That never happened."
He then turned to me. "Did it?"
I nodded through some gulps of my second tea. "Maybe a bit exaggerated, but yes, he was caught eating some pet birds."
“I wouldn’t have even hid it,” Dase went on to say. “All flesh is fair game to me.”
Squil extended a claw in my direction. "Except for his, yes?"
"For now," my food-loving companion said, winking at me again.
Squil wiped his mouth and asked, "What would really be worst thing that could happen if they found out?"
I blinked. "You mean other than my being hunted or tortured, or killed, out of fear or ransom or some such? That has happened before on other planets."
Squil shrugged. "Okay, so assuming you escaped unharmed, then?"
Dase rolled his eyes. "Do they not teach Peace Council history in secondary schools on Kaljar, Squil?"
"They do, but my course work was too…"
Another Squil pause, which he followed with, "…busy to allow for such frivolous education."
I leaned closer to Dase and cupped my hand around the left side of my mouth to make it look like I didn't want Squil to hear me.
In a not-so-subtle volume, I asked, "Hey, Dase, isn't that a Squilism for 'I failed it because I never showed up for class'?
Dase snorted, and Squil's tail slowed to a crawl.
"Renrars," the Ato grumbled, keeping his arms folded, which made Dase laugh even harder.
I chuckled and continued our younger companion's education.
"Squil, part of the council’s function is to oversee alien contact of a planet’s inhabitants, usually first through the mutual trust of a few natives."
"Yes, I know that."
"Good. Well, when sudden, unplanned disclosure happens, the natives, if they’re more primitive, end up seeing the aliens as gods, such as what happened on the planet Piyor. Those people worshipped them and created all sorts of crazy religions based on stuff they didn't understand."
"Or the natives see them as monsters, as what happened on Trevous," Dase reminded us. "That didn't end well for the aliens there."
"Exactly. But, if the people happen to be a relatively advanced civilization, like what would be the case on Earth, they try to forcibly extract technology for their own purposes, namely conquest of their neighbors, usually with catastrophic results."
Squil's eyes lit up. "Like on Coth?"
So, Squil knew some Peace Council history after all. I wasn't surprised he knew about that tragedy, though, as most advanced civilizations did. A warring faction blew their whole planet to smithereens trying to perfect a weapon from plans they stole.
"Exactly like on Coth, Squil," I replied. "Either way, a relationship with the aliens built on respect and trust becomes pretty much a lost cause, resulting in a complete upheaval of their society. In my case, the Council would have no choice but to scrap my project for my safety, and I’d have to scrounge around to find a new one to earn my Mastership."
"Yes, because your graduation woes would obviously be the worst thing to come of something like that."
I couldn't tell the seriousness of Squil's statement, either by the tone of his voice or the slow movements of his tail. He did have a point, but I decided to shrug it off regardless.
"Damn right it would be. That would follow me around the rest of my life."
Squil added, "And then some."
He then held up a claw, pointed to a small communicator pin attached to his uniform, and stood up. "My girlfriend is calling me," he informed us. "Just a second."
After touching the pin, he lowered his head, facing away from us, and said, "Hello, Seria."
Dase and I listened in.
"Yes, I am afraid I will not be able to go with you to Mulvona tonight to get herbs, as much as I looked forward to the trip."
Yeah, right. Squil hated to travel, especially to a farming planet with hardly any modern conveniences.
"I am on Trion, talking with a human friend who is leaving tomorrow and will not be back for a few rotations."
Then, after a pause, "Yes, I know that I told you I would go, but…"
Dase and I waited with bated breath for the inevitable Squilism.
"…his parents passed away, and he is going back to his home world."
Wow. I had to respect someone who could tell the truth, yet mislead at the same time. I looked at Dase, his awed expression mirroring mine.
"Yes, it is sad," Squil said.
We then heard a faint female voice, from a few yards away. "Where are you, then, Squil?"
"We are on Trion, at an eating establishment."
The voice got louder, seemingly getting closer to us. "Oh, not at a bar?"
Dase and I turned our heads in the direction of the voice, and spotted a slim female Ato walking towards us, her scarlet skin blending perfectly with the turquoise uniform she wore. She focused her eyes solely on Squil as she spoke into her communicator, indifferent to the awareness his two tablemates had of her presence.
"A bar is not an appropriate place to console someone, Seria," Squil said.
The female's tail began to slow down, and she grunted before she agreed. "No, it is not. It must be a somber occasion, then."
Both of us put two-and-two together after that, and again we shook our heads at each other, observing the impending doom descend upon our hapless Ato friend.
Dase began to laugh in hysterics, but I decided to be more helpful and attempted to get Squil's attention by mumbling his name under my breath. "Squil! Squil!"
Squil didn't listen, and instead, dug himself deeper by continuing the charade. "Losing ones parents is always a cause for distress, Seria."
"Yes, and so is breaking up with someone for lying."
That statement made Squil tilt his head and narrow his eyes in confusion. "What? I am not lying, Seria."
His girlfriend had reached our table, but I yelled out to Squil anyway. The Ato looked up in irritation, but his face fell as he spotted her, his eyes widening and his tail slowing down to a crawl. Dase covered his mouths to hide the sound of laughing, but it didn't help too much.
"What…what are you doing here, Seria? I thought you were leaving for Mulvona from Kaljar."
"Oh, I was, but then this afternoon I ran into your Mother Elder, who told me you had missed a friend's going away party and were meeting him here to make up for that."
She pointed to a table a few yards from us.
"So, I have been sitting over there for ten minutes, watching you…console?...your friend, with food tricks and lots of drinking and laughing."
"To be fair, Seria," Dase said, pointing at me and pretending to come to Squil's rescue, "Food's parents did die, although admittedly it was when he was two."
Squil growled. "Dase-"
"And to your other points, Food wasn't drinking anything alcoholic, and Squil didn't do a lot of laughing."
The male Ato's tail stopped dead center. "Dase!"
Seria said, "He is not going to be doing a lot of dating, either, it appears. Enjoy the evening."
With that, she began to walk away.
"Oh, by my Elders!" Squil shouted. "Seria, wait! Give me just a minute to say goodbye."
She ignored him, and Sqiul stood in perplexed silence for a few seconds before he cussed and looked at me.
"Well, looks like I need to cut this night short, Andrew," he said. "I doubt I will be able to see you tomorrow, either."
He then bowed to me as a sign of respect. "Goodbye and good luck. Just stay safe, and I hope to see you soon."
"Thanks," I told him. "Hope your girlfriend forgives you."
He sighed at that remark and turned to Dase. Instead of bowing to him, though, Squil just said, "Wreanth."
"Suddenly Single Squil," Dase replied back, making me laugh as he added, "Although unsurprisingly."
"I hate you," Squil informed him and then chased after Seria. Luckily for him, he hardly touched that last drink, or else he'd probably be too wasted to run at all.
Dase watched the Ato sprint away, he said, "See, that's why I told my mate the truth and said, in no uncertain terms, that I'm going to be here tonight and go with you to the Peace Center tomorrow to see you off."
I tilted my head and raised my eyebrows, knowing the actual truth.
"No you didn't. You asked her for permission, Dase."
My friend didn't hesitate to admit his lying. "Yes, but my version sounded better."
The two of us hung out for a little while longer, spending most of the time laughing about Squil and his antics. Dase got drunk enough to warrant my assistance accompanying him to the dorms, mostly to prevent him from winding up at the wrong one again, scaring some poor female out of her life. With my friend safely home, I went back to my own dorm and stayed up as late as I could, spending my final evening on Trion gazing out my window at the numerous spaceships flying in and out of the nearby spaceport. As I thought of all the different alien species in them, I couldn't help but feel sorry for the people of my home planet, missing out on the extraordinary diversity that existed a few hundred million light years away.