“For the last time,” said Tim Rockwell. “Leave those things alone and lets get going.” He pulled Jack away from a silvery furball that looked like a giant sea urchin. They made musical tingly sounds every time Jack toyed with one.
“These are cool,” said Jack. “And I think we’re supposed to play with them—look how they’re arranged.” They were lined up like kiosks in an airport.
“Shut up, and come on.”
Nate and Bradley followed, Bradley pulling the translator behind on a cord. They approached a gate behind an alien that looked like an upright sausage, toothpicks coming out the top, flags around the bottom, and all kinds of unrecognizable appendages. “Let us through, please,” said Tim.
The translator, an amorphous contraption tangled in lighted filaments coursing through metallic gadgets and shivering bladders, crackled and squeaked. “Entrance denied.”
“Shit!” Tim put his face up close to the alien’s sputtering lips surrounded by spindly antennas. Jack and Nate each grabbed an arm to hold him back. Bradley MacGoohan stood back, hands in pockets with a stupid grin. “I’ll kick your ass.” said Tim. “I’ve gone three days without a cigarette, I’ve been eating cultured mildew to survive, and we’ve got six more gates out of thirteen to get through to get back to earth. I’m not going to be stopped by an overgrown mole rat”
“Knock it off, Tim,” said Nate, who thought it looked more like a sea cucumber than a mole rat. “We’ve got to talk him into it. We barge through, they’ll put us in alien jail.”
“And how do you expect to do that? Pretend to be Mormons? We’ve only got three minutes to make it through and catch the next one.”
“Well,” said Jack. “For one thing, you should probably talk to it properly. I’m pretty sure that’s his ass you have your nose in.”
Tim grimaced and shook them off. “Shit. Fine. Talk to it.”
Jack stepped back and addressed the translating machine. “Please, kind alien sir. Why won’t you let us into the transport gate?”
The translator quaked and popped. A moment later the alien turned several colors in succession and burbled. The translator snapped and groaned. “Weight excess.”
“We’re too heavy?” asked Nate. “How much?”
They looked at each other. “What’s a Plarton?” asked Nate.
Bradley put two fingers across his lips. “That’s the equivalent weight of twenty-six Sentaurian plasma worms.”
Tim shook his head. “You’re full of shit, Bradley.”
“It doesn’t sound like much,” said Nate. “Everyone empty your pockets.”
“I need my shit,” said Tim.
Nate scoffed. “If we get home, we won’t need any of it. Empty ‘em.” Nate turned his pockets out, dropping his wallet, knife and Pokemon yoyo. Jack and Bradley followed suit.
Jack glared at Tim.
“All right.” Tim turned his pockets out, spilling his things on the ground. “Let’s go.” He started toward the door, but the alien did not move.
Tim growled his frustration.
“So…” said Bradley. “Off with our clothes.” He started stripping.
“Oh, Come on,” said Tim.
“No, he’s right,” said Jack. “You want to get home, don’t you?”
Four naked humans went for the door. The alien flattened itself against it, sealing it’s body to the metallic surface.
“Dammit,” said Nate. “How much?”
“Still a Plarton?” asked Jack.
“What the hell?” said Nate.
Bradley’s alarm went off. “Guess what, guys,” he said. “I’m afraid we’re too late. We’re going to have to find a whole new sequence of stargates to get back.”
“Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit!” said Tim. “I knew this would happen. You guys are too damn fat to be scrambling all over the universe.”
They dressed and walked back toward the commerce section, towing the translator along. Snippets of conversation spilled out of it.
“Stop.” said Nate. “Listen.”
“Plarton the Xeepoonarpock for weight excess.” They looked around to see two seven-legged blobs plucking a silvery sea urchin, which expelled a brick of fatty tissue. They whistled and grabbed the brick, then skittered toward the gate handing it off to the mole rat who ate it and let them in.
“See!” Jack blurted, glaring at Tim.