Kris sat at a small booth in a dim corner of Club Andromeda sipping a tart cocktail and puffing on an alien hookah that sent her sky high for a fleeting few seconds each time she hit it. She really didn’t like it here. Wasn’t her scene. But that’s why she chose it; she was here to wallow.
Humans were still something of a curiosity on Pax Xeno—it had a thousand names in hundreds of languages belonging to dozens of species, but it was the unofficial galactic capital—and Club Andromeda was pretty far from the embassy. Kris had wanted to get away, but now she just felt isolated. She kept puffing. Ordered another drink. She was spiraling.
She looked around the club, observing it like she was invisible. Somewhat surprisingly, the Xenos—the collective term for all life originating from somewhere other than Earth, and usually, as in this instance, meaning just the intelligent forms—were nearly all humanoid in appearance as a rule. The few exceptions seemed to hold a second-class status, isolated from society due to the practicalities of the shape of a doorway or the configuration of a chair. The Xenos—the humanoid ones—were all bigger than humans, louder, stronger, faster. Smarter? That was the fear. Sitting in her corner, surrounded by titanic Xenos and swimming in the sensory overload of the club’s flashing lights and five-beat music and unidentifiable fragrances, Kris felt very small.
She’d pictured the life of an ambassador’s aide as something very different. She’d thought it might launch her career. But instead it only illustrated the impossible size of the galactic stage. What difference could she ever hope to make? She’d left her Earth life behind, and for what?
She puffed again, and it was like her body was made of sparklers and every synapse in her brain was an ice-cold geyser. The feeling faded quickly, and when it did there was someone else in her booth. A Xeno. Tall, of course, bald, covered in blue-green scales like a fish. Red cat’s eyes. Hydran? She was pretty sure. Hadn’t dealt with any before.
“Human?” it asked.
“Thought you were pack animals.”
She shrugged, finished her drink.
“Let me buy you another. I have a job offer for you. That is, if you’d be comfortable with the responsibility. Big job, great import. Very secret. And it really has to be an Earthling.”