Phobe

Meanwhile, as Xander is perusing and mingling on what is the first day of his annual leave, D’nian too can now be found in Newcova’s market.

Their transport set down, as per the authorisation granted by ASA President Carter Magnulson ultimately, in a park nearby. The looks on the faces of those who watched as the stunted oblong came to rest on the stumpy flat footed trio of legs was quite the sight for the Orius to see. They had to suppress a soft chuckle as a result and barely managed it. Though, the suppression became much easier when they stepped off the transport and onto the ground, revealing themselves to those who had been eagerly watching this human-Cense amalgamation. For, perhaps unsurprisingly, the civilians skittered off, retreating from view. It saddened D’nian who had hoped to issue questions. Still, they understand the presence of an ‘alien,’ as humans term the Cense, might be shocking. D’nian themself doesn’t see it that way for other advanced life is what they and all other Cense have been searching for… for far too long. The vaguery of such terminology is entirely human and definitely not Cense, yet it suits they feel, especially being in human ‘territory.’ Following that the Cense had moved on to the market where they are now.

The sights, smells, sounds were and are inspiring. D’nian wishes all Cense could be here with him to experience it. Lamentably they cannot. The arrangement fought for and agreed upon was one Cense, the Orius D’nian in this case, be they whom would embark on this most auspicious of quests.

Recalling, D’nian is reminded that mankind had wanted armed protection to escort whomever the Cense chose. Such a thing was rejected out of hand. The Cense thought it deplorable. For they have come for learning only, so why would there be a need for armed protection?

Emptying their head so that they might be capable of gathering details from all the new sources surrounding them, D’nian drifts towards a nearby stall of particular interest. Eyes are on them. They expected as such. It would be no different if a room full of Cense had a human introduced into it. Thankfully, D’nian is not unused to attention. It comes with the territory of being an Orius. A role and title they fell into almost entirely be chance.

You see an Orius is a teacher of sorts. One that keeps thoughts and knowledge alive by ensuring young Cense are engaged on what each of them is in possession of, hardcoded into their DNA from the moment of conception. Yes, Cense reproduce organically and not through the use of technology. Though, there was the Age of Artificial Growth. A short dalliance with what was potentially a more efficient means of reproduction. Ultimately, it was deemed lacking in area beyond efficiency.

If Cense did not have Orius’ then what is passed and known to all would be little more than data and data without context offers little value, if any at all.

Having closed on the stall, draped in ragged and faded sections of cloth none of which are identical or even similar in size, D’nian turns their focus toward a curious metallic implement. They are unaware of its purpose and function. They reach for it, hesitantly. Cense are often hesitant, though not because they are afraid. Rather, it is a trait which is pressed into their natures. Its origins and reasons for inclusion are unknown, meaning that they come from the early Lost Ages of the species. Attempts at reclamation have proved fruitless, distressingly.

Those around D’nian, all of which are human, watch the alien with caution. It’s as if they suspect the lifeform might whip out a weapon and begin blasting them to atoms. Largely that is because this is the first time these humans have met, or seen in the flesh for that matter, one of the alien visitors who appeared, and destroyed the Moon which heralded their arrival, some decade and a half ago.

Grabbing hold of the object, D’nian lifts it free from the stalls tiered surface. The object itself, a hand operated can opener, had been sat on the second of a four tier display nestled between an electric toothbrush and a multifunction bottle opener.

The Cense’s hand, three digited and flat at the ends, pulls the can opener close to one set of eyes clusters. Studying it diligently D’nian makes notes about everything from its composition to its design and finally potential uses. The last they find they come up lacking on, with very few potential uses discernible to them.

Eye clusters drifting from the can opener, D’nian checks on those around them. They are the focus, sole, of all whom can be seen within view. They feel discomfort, more than they expected and prepared for over the preceding months. That is until they speak; translator chip converting Cense language into human, English.

“Greetings, can you tell me what this item I hold is? I am not familiar.”

The voice from the alien is soft, quietly spoken, calm and polite in tone. Still, at first the response given is a collection of hardened stares and narrowing gazes.

D’nian feels suspicion aimed their way. Not something they understand for Cense are equal, understanding, because at a base level all Cense are the same. It seems, striking the Orius for the first time, that humans do not appear to share such a belief. Worrying, they think and take note of it for that is not what they experienced with the members of mankind they have met prior to this point. Granted, their interactions have been limited, which is why this, what they are doing right here, is so important to the extraterrestrials.

When finally an answer comes it is mumbled from between the wide lips of a man who refuses to blink nearly as often as they should. “It’s a can opener. You crank it by hand to tear through the flat metal end of a can of food.”

The knowledge provided is more in depth than D’nian had feared it might be, which leaves them overjoyed. Not that they show it. It they did it might alarm the humans, which is the last thing they would wish to do while they are cautious and suspicious.

It’s why they reply, “My thanks.” And with that lay the item back down only to point to the next along, the bottle opener equipped with a litany of options for gaining access to bottles of varying designs. “And this is a…?”

“It’s a bottle opener. Now are you here to buy or…”

The alien blinks, startled. “Buy?” They exclaim.

“Yeah, you know the idea of an exchange of goods. You want something then you hand me money so I can hand you whatever it is you’re choosing.” The guy, still blinking sparingly, mutters in a deep monotone voice with an expression which suggests his patience is running out.

“Curious. We do not buy.” A chuckle leaps from the Orius’ mouth. “New concept provided. Could I ask some questions about it?”

“No. I’m here to make moolah…” A gesture of rubbing human thumb over index and middle finger follows which D’nian cocks their head in response to.

“…which means, no sale no chat. Now get!” The sudden violent wave of the human’s hand frightens the Cense who recoils, and then finds the crowd gathered have returned to their daily rituals.

The Cense, more than a tad deflated and perplexed, finishes noting before pushing on. More analysis follows. A great deal of it in fact, and while they continue to drift from stall to stall as they wind their way through the market they find some human’s are more willing to answer queries than others. Expected, and something which was factored in prior to today. Still, all knowledge is good knowledge. And there is so much of it to boot. To the point that part of them thinks they could spend the next thousand lifetimes gathering and would still have a ways to go.

Human vernacular and use, D’nian thinks they like it. Much like they think they like this place. That is until they feel the heavy weight of damning eyes upon them.

Cense can feel emotions. It’s a part of how they converse, not a trait present in humans. Irrelevant as it doesn’t change the fact that D’nian can feel a growing mass of loathing. All of it is aimed towards them. They ignore it and carry on with their mission. However, the compliance and willing of the human’s they approach soon turns out to be severely lacking. With the more stalls they visit the more they are dismissed or ignored. That is until finally, “Fuck off alien bastard. We don’t want your kind here. We’ve got enough problems as is. And that was before you turned our moon to space dust, dickheads.”

The outburst came from a woman; it was the first but not the last. In fact, it started a torrent of bile and hatred directed D’nian’s way. To make matters worse the extraterrestrial can feel the emotions behind the words. It makes their skin crawl and a flight response fire within their head.

The Cense don’t have fight responses, only flight. It’s what comes from millennia of peace. Yet to flee would be to abandon discovery for humanity has many concepts unique to them such as religion, cans, hierarchy, bottles, and politics. That is just to name but a very small few, so why are these humans hostile? D’nian does not know as those around them exclaim things such as: Leave our world! Alien scum! Invader! Destroyers!

Try as they might, to calm things through query, the humans refuse to listen. The atmosphere is crazed, charged, angry which leaves D’nian fearful. More so than any other time in their life they believe. Still, queries are all they know and so they attempt again, “What is religion?”

“Not you space-faring fuckers, that much is for sure.”

“Yeah, you ugly alien shit.”

“Probably you’re kind who fucked our planet, and nearly killed us off. Is that why you’re back? Want to finish the job. Take our world as your own.”

“Yeah!”

“Kill, kill, kill.”

The crowd of people have turned into a mob. It is clear they hate the Cense.

Many remember the damage the Moon’s destruction wrought. Lives were lost, coastal cities were ruined, livelihoods were swept away. For that they hate and want the alien visitors to pay.

Worst of all for D’nian is they can feel it, all of it. It’s far too much for them and so begging, pleading, they make an effort to escape. It fails before it has a chance when humans begin shoving the Cense back and forth inside the loose circle shape they have formed. D’nian cries for mercy. The cry goes unanswered, unheard. The humans do not care. The alien has to pay. If there were more then more would be forced to endure this treatment. Alas, this is not the extent of the madness, it goes further still.

“String it up. Gut it!”

“Yeah, I want to see the alien bleed.”

“Bet it won’t be red.”

“Nah, it’ll be some fucking alien puke colour.”

“Bleurgh!” The crowd are disgusted but adamant, determined to enact violence.

Finally, D’nian is shoved into a corner. They haven’t a clue how they have ended up where they are. They aren’t even sure where it is they are truthfully. From observations made when they first arrived the market had no corners and yet here they are in one. Nevertheless, they make efforts to plea, to be released from this corner.

“Nah, we’re going to cut you wide.”

“Yeah, make you pay for what you did.”

“But, we apologised. We are sorry. We did not mean to…”

Someone strikes D’nian. Their head snaps violently to the right as a result of the force of the strike.

“Shut it, alien fucker!” Is the exclamation that accompanies the assault.

“You get no say here.” Someone else declares as a heavy cylindrical object is pulled back over the heads of the human’s gathered around D’nian.

Horrified, the Orius finds they are frozen in place, forced to watch what might be about to unfold, helpless. All that goes through their head is how these human’s are nothing like those they have met previously.

The pipe begins to swing toward the Cense’s head. But it never gets there. Rather, its progress is brought to a halt mid-swing by Xander, who has burst through the crowd appalled by what he’s stumbled upon.

He only ventured over this way to see what the ruckus was about. Never did he expect it would be citizens of Newcova, people who he thought were good and decent, making plans to murder. Alien or not, he’s disgusted.

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” The on leave security guard spits angrily at the crowd before wrenching the length of pipe out of the hand of the man in the crowd who dared to wield it.

“He’s an alien. How the fuck cares? Step aside.” Those are but some of the statements shot back Xander’s way. He shakes his head but keeps hold of the pipe. He might need it yet. To believe otherwise he knows would be foolish. Especially as from the looks on the faces of those gathered around him as he stands between them and the Cense, they look as though they are thirsting for blood and that they’ll tear through him too if needs be.

“You should all be sickened by what you intended to do here. This being is unarmed, harmless, and you were going to slaughter them. What makes you think you have the right?” Anger is dripping from Xander’s words as he delivers them. His eyes, green in colour, meanwhile sweep back and forth.

This is not to ensure each and every one understands they are being addressed but rather in case anyone gets any dumb idea about trying something. If they do he’ll jab them in the gut, or groin, to make them think twice. It’s all that would be needed. Though, if the mob swells all at once he’s a goner. He knows it. He hopes in their rage-addled states they do not.

“They destroyed the moon!”

“Yeah.” Is the unified exclamation from the mob. It comes alongside a quarter step forward.

Grip tightening on the length of pipe, Xander holds his ground, cursing silently under his breath as he hopes this isn’t the start of something. He doesn’t want to die. He shouldn’t have to. No one, not human, alien, should have too.

“So? You think that gives you the right to kill. On that basis are you all going to kill each other because historically your ancestors would’ve killed each other?”

“It isn’t the same?” Comes the reply not followed by a unified cheer of agreement on this occasion.

“How is it not the same?”

With the question offered, Xander waits in silence for an answer. Before long the crowd begins to exchange looks. Evidently they don’t have an answer. Not even one. Whether they realise it or not they are proving Xander’s point as a result. Though that does not mean the crowd are willing to relent, proved when someone adds, “It’s not one of us. It did this to us!”

“Did what? What do you think the Cense did?”

Again Xander waits. This time there is an answer. Spoken by a few, a small few dotted about the mob, scattered.

“They caused our five centuries of suffering.”

“No they didn’t. And here’s the reality check. That was mankind. That was us; all of us. No aliens. No Gods. Nothing but humanity and our greed obsessed hubris. And you might want to argue, but if you do you’re only lying to yourselves. Parroting back some conspiratorial bullshit you didn’t believe until you’d heard it so many times you’d been convinced it’s true. However, if you want something to kill, to hate; look in a fucking mirror!”

The crowd remain silent. No one says a word. Rather heads being to drop and hang in shame. For they might be unwilling to admit it, verbally, but they know Xander is correct. They have jumped on a bandwagon, been blinded by their own families past mistakes, hating the state their world is in and wanting someone to blame that isn’t them.

The silence continues and hangs in the air for a long while. During it no one moves a muscle until finally Xander demands, “Fuck off the lot of you.”

He doesn’t know why he says it but it works. The crowd begins to disperse, break up and drift away leaving Xander and D’nian. It is the human who reacts first. His shoulders drop, followed by him releasing his grip on the pipe. It clatters to the floor and rolls a short distance. Then Xander’s head shakes slowly from side to side. He didn’t think humanity could sink this low, not anymore, but it seems he was wrong. Sadness begins to fill his chest, weighing heavily on him, and then he remembers the Cense and turns. Yet, it is the alien who speaks first.

“My thanks for what you have done this day. I am forever in your debt.” The words are sincere, principally because Cense cannot be insincere. Much like they can only ever be honest, never deceiving. Such things are not in their nature. Or at least haven’t been for so long that the records from such a time are those which have remained lost. Perhaps that is for the best.

A shrug from Xander is followed by, “Don’t mention it. Word of advice though, be wary of people. We aren’t all good or rational.”

“You are complex beings; far more than originally anticipated.” Is the admittance from D’nian who continues to feel shaken, on-edge and fearful that the ordeal may not be over.

“That we are, without a doubt.” Suddenly the off-duty security guard feels a wave of exhaustion wash over him. He goes to leave, only for D’nian to query, “You are a good person. I am trying to learn. Would you be willing to answer queries? We can walk…”

“That’s a good idea. You don’t want to stay here, trust me. And I wouldn’t suggest coming back here either. At least not for the time being, but if you do make sure you’re not alone, or unarmed.” He isn’t aware Cense have no weapons. Very few are aware. Only the upper echelons of human society, the ones who have been fortunate enough to meet the species who travelled across the stars to meet the only other advanced life that has been located in the galaxies.

“My transport meeting point not far, is that a yes?”

“It’s a yes. But we better get moving. The longer he stand around here the more likely it becomes we won’t be getting out alive. Sorry to say.”

Unsure he should have been so honest, Xander and D’nian make haste to depart the market with the human urging, “We’ll go this way; follow me.”

The Cense offers no resistance. Instead they feel strangely at ease with the human who before long introduces themselves.

“I’m Xander by the way.”

“D’nian.” The translator chip blurts so fast that Xander has trouble understanding the single word reply which he thinks could either be a name or a greeting.

Not wanting to be rude he does not exclaim in a confused manner, though could do nothing to stop his head from cocking to one side announcing his confusion.

Mildly embarrassed by his failing, D’nian repeats, slower this time around, his name. This second go round the human gets it.

“D’nian. Cool name. Bet it means something. But you’re the one who wanted to ask questions, so ask away.”

The Cense hesitates and wonders whether they should allow this Xander to ask any question they might have noted.

An internal struggle later the alien accepts Xander’s offer and launches into his first query.

“Religion, what is it?”

“Oh wow, you want to dive into religion. That’s a big topic but I’ll see what I can do. Be warned, some of this might be wrong. I’m what they call an atheist, so I don’t believe in… Ah damn, that’s not going to work without context. Um.” There is a pause while Xander thinks. He didn’t expect this to be how his day would go and feels ill prepared as a result.

“Religion is belief, I guess at its most basic level, in something greater than yourself. Generally it’s called God. An atheist, like me, doesn’t believe in God. We don’t really believe in anything. You’re born, you live, you die. There is no after, or before.”

“There is no before, then how can generations exist?” The extraterrestrial is severely confused by such a statement, which they know to be false.

“No, sorry, that isn’t what I mean. Christ! Um. When I say there is no before I mean atheists don’t believe in living multiple lives. You get one. That’s it. When it’s over it’s over. Belief in multiple lives is what we call reincarnation.” Another pause, this time with Xander turning his eyes skyward, “I hope this is making sense.”

“It is; very useful. Please continue.”

And so Xander does; all the way back to the park. Then once they arrive he continues to answer questions for D’nian until finally his transport arrives and sets itself down, for the second time, on a strip of grass.

For whatever reason, President Carter of the ASA did not specify, the transport could not remain and wait for the Cense. They continue to not understand as to why. Though, with the transports arrival D’nian knows his time is up. Xander senses it too and offers, “Looks like your ride is here, so I guess this is farewell.” He issues a wave of goodbye only to quickly add, “Try not, if you do something like this again; get yourself in deep shit. I mean trouble. Dammit!”

The human curses under his breath for he knows he shouldn’t be teaching an advanced alien life cursing. And so as not to make anymore blunders he turns away and goes to leave when the Cense all of a sudden asks, “Would you be interested in an assignment?”

Xander stops; the wording isn’t what he thinks it should be, but it sounds like D’nian is asking if he’d like a job.

Am I dreaming? Is this real? This can’t be real. I must’ve misheard but… Ask, find out. What have you got to lose? True!

He turns back, reversing the progress he’d made previously to depart, and in such as manner it looks as though he has been put in rewind. Then he asks, “What kind of assignment?”

It felt prudent to use similar phrasing to the alien, if nothing else so there is no misunderstanding or confusion.

“Following today’s events, I feel a guide would be a sensible choice. Your presence would be beneficial, insightful, I feel.”

Never in a million years did Xander believe this is what he’d be offered. He cannot believe it, which is why he stands frozen and shocked in place for a while.

His brain whirs slowly, bringing him no thoughts he can discern. Then finally he says, “Can I think about it?”

The response is nothing. No words. Rather, it is an expression, in the form of a blank stare. Xander’s brow furrows as a result. It seems clear, to him at least, that D’nian does not understand the concept. A smile cracks across the human’s face.

“I accept.” Are the words out of Xander’s mouth.

To be honest he didn’t think he could risk the prospect of this being a onetime offer. Especially with his curiosity as severely piqued as it is by the Cense.

The Orius’ response is immediate, a fountain of delight poured into their surroundings. It is followed by an inviting wave and a quick smattering of words which sees the pair board the transport for what will be the start of a new pairing and a better understanding of each other.

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