“Oh light oh light oh light this is bad…” Gath panicked as he rushed into the office. Everyone around had been on high alert ever since… IT had appeared in the courtyard. No one knew what to do, it had just stood there, patiently waiting for someone to come out and greet it.
“What is wrong, my dear?” Retvik asked, watching Gath panic and walk around all flustered. “What is going on? It is unlike you to be like this.”
Gath chewed on his claw as he paced up and down. “I do not know how to explain this to you but…”
Retvik sighed as he got up and wrapped his arms around his partner in an effort to calm him down. “It cannot be that horrible, Gath! Unless some xenon threat has invaded, or somevok has declared war or…”
Gath’s fears only got worse. “It could be here to enslave us all! Or choke us all to death with its pollution! Have you not see those Cassid movies?”
Retvik tutted and let go of Gath. “Tell me what the problem is.”
“There is a… a THROPE out there!”
The former general’s face dropped.
“Yes, a Thrope.”
“Are you sure?”
Again, Retvik tutted. He grabbed Gath by the arm and pulled him out of the office, down several flights of stairs and into the courtyard, which was now empty aside from the lone being. No one around wanted to mess with this stranger, wearing what looked like an armoured but skintight suit. They wore some sort of horned helmet that covered their face. Extra, thicker padding covered their chest, shoulders and knees. They were very small, the height of a Threan-type Rethan. Not even 2m tall.
Retvik patted Gath, told him to stay put, then cautiously walked over to the being. They did not appear to be armed. Actually, they seemed really small and pretty weak. But Retvik knew to be careful.
“Hello, stranger!” Retvik waved awkwardly. “What brings you to the city of Palaestra?”
The Thrope didn’t answer at first. They reached round and tapped something on the back of their neck, which caused their helmet to fold away.
“Hello, strange being. Are you friendly?” the Thrope asked.
“Well, yes…” Retvik shrugged. “My name is Retvik Rethianos, acting leader of the city of Palaestra. What brings a…” Retvik paused, looking for the right word. “What brings a human to our fair territories?”
The Thrope threw their hair back, out of their face, then walked over to Retvik, arm outstretched. Retvik cautiously took it and shook the Thrope’s hand gently. That was what they did, right?
“I’m afraid I happen to be lost, mister Retvik. You can call me Pandora.”
“That is a nice name,” Retvik smiled. But his smile caused the human to step back. He realise that maybe the Rethan smile – the bearing of his sharp teeth – was threatening to them. “Sorry, please do not be frightened. This is how many species show joy around here. Please, come inside with me, where we can talk in private.”
Retvik turned around and nodded at Pandora to follow. The Thrope hesitated then followed. Gath tiptoed behind her.
“Is this your friend?” Pandora asked as they climbed the stairs.
“That is my dear partner Gath.”
“He seems more scared of me than I am of you. And you are both huge. What species are you?”
Retvik smiled as they reached the top of the stairs and stepped into their office. “We are Rethans, I am a Standard-Type and Gath is an Ethran-Type. But the majority of the locals here are Thanatians and Vrekans. We very rarely see Thro- uh, humans around here.”
Retvik pulled a chair out for Pandora, then sat behind his desk. Gath brought his stool over and sat next to Retvik.
“Why are you so…”
“Scared?” Gath butted in. “You Thropes have a reputation. One that terrifies any civilized race!”
“What Gath means is that we tend to leave humans alone, because some humans can be very aggressive. We prefer that humans come to us rather than the other way around…” Retvik tried to explain.
Pandora sighed, then stared at the ground. “That’s totally understandable…”
Retvik decided to change the conversation. “So where abouts in our little universe are you from?”
“I’m from Earth. It’s a small planet orbiting a star that many call Sol.”
Gath glanced at Retvik, then at Pandora. “But there are like… FIFTY planets called Earth that we know of!”
“What?” Pandora blinked. “How?”
Retvik shrugged. “I do not know. That is what Cassid scientists say. Us Rethans rarely venture out past the Maza systems. Most species around here do not travel at all. But we can arrange travel to a space port. From there you can safely get to more familiar territories.”
Pandora smiled. “I would be very grateful. But I wonder if destiny brought me here? To this world of friendly beings. Perhaps I might find answers to some of my other questions and to my studies?”
Retvik pondered the human’s question, but came up short. “I… I do not follow… Are you studying something?”
“I am. I am studying life after death, and the circles of reincarnation. The circle of life, some might call it.
The two Rethans both grunted. Retvik reached for his keyboard, tapped a few keys, then hit a last key. Behind them, a printer perked up then printed out a map to the Portalia City space port and a map of the Maza systems.
“Unfortunately there is little we can do to assist you,” Retvik explained as he handed the Thrope her map. “Perhaps those at the main space port can help you, or at least get you to someone who can help you in your studies. Do you require fuel or anything like that?”
Pandora seemed satisfied. “No, no need. I have my ship. Thank you for your help!”
The Thrope got up from her chair and waved.
“Thank you, Retvik. Thank you, Gath.”
“Thank you too, Pandora, and safe travels.”
Pandora nodded, then left. Retvik waited until she had gone, then turned to Gath.
“See? That wasn’t so bad, was it?”