One of the few places four dudes lost in the universe can find comfort is in a Panspecies Accommodation Unit, which had very adjustable seats and every kind of alien food and drink you could imagine—except Earth’s, of course. Jack stumbled upon one in the luxury cruiser that the ferry company arranged for them after the wormhole fiasco, and they all settled in.
They’d become accustomed to a drink named a ‘burgidjerrew’ that originated from a species they hadn’t met yet, and as far as they could tell either it was juice of some mercifully tasteless fruit mixed with barium or the aliens were punking the earthlings by having them drink colored shaving cream. Jack felt adventurous and picked something unknown, hoping it wasn’t some kind of bug excretion, which was about a fifty-fifty chance.
“I can’t believe you never told us you were abducted,” he said to Bradley. Bradley grinned, stupidly as ever. “What did he do to you?”
Bradley raised his eyebrows and pursed his lips. “I put some Krav Maga moves on him and commandeered his spacecraft.”
Tim snickered, and Nate feigned karate moves with his hands.
“You seemed pretty scared back there for someone who knows how to put the moves on them,” said Jack.
“We were in close quarters, and I surprised him,” said Bradley. “They’re really terrifying.”
“How so?” asked Tim.
Bradley’s smile returned. “On the outside they exist in the three dimensional world, but inside they exist in extra dimensions. It’s almost like there’s a whole other world existing inside them.”
“What?” said Nate. “That doesn’t make sense.”
“Nate,” said Jack. “You’re sitting in a spaceship that runs on something called red matter, drinking silicone like its margaritas, this after spending a half hour trying to explain to a Cioi what altruism is, and we’re several galaxies away from earth. What here does make sense?”
“Not what he said,” Nate pointed to Bradley. “But, you know, I wonder if the rest of us have run into aliens one time or another. I mean, now that we know they exist, whose to say we haven’t?”
“You mean like disguised as humans?” asked Jack.
“Yeah,” said Nate.
“It’s a fair question,” said Bradley.
“What do you think, Nate,” said Jack. “Anyone in particular you might suspect?”
“Other than Bradley here?”
“Har-har,” said Bradley.
“There was that kid from Burke the Gradys used to hang out with,” said Nate. “He was a brute, his mouth sticking out with horse teeth, and I swear his hair was wire.”
“Oh, yeah,” said Jack. “I remember him. If I were to pick someone to be an alien, though, I’d probably go with Otto Klaus. That kid was a spook. He collected garden gnomes.” He shivered. “What about you, Tim?”
Tim frowned and sat forward. “There was this one… person. First I saw her in the distance in this private affair in a gymnasium. A few hundred of them stood in a row with hides of purple. They all looked pretty human at the time, but in retrospect—again, it was far away—I think they shed their skins, and went out into the world.
Later that day I recognized one of them because she was so extremely hideous looking—like wouldn’t-wish-it-on-your-worst-enemy hideous. I guess being an alien it makes sense now. She showed up at a friend’s house for food and drink in the back yard—I was totally creeped out. She danced like some kind of crab-creature and knocked over several drinks. Made a pretty good mess of things. But what really shocked us?—her freakishly alien voice during Karaoke. And then she sat in the compost heap.”
“Shut the hell up, Jackass.” Nate glared at Tim.
“Why?” asked Jack. “What’s the problem?”
“He’s talking about Larry Putkammer’s graduation party. That was Deidre—my girlfriend.”
Tim shook his head. “It was horrifying.”