Now that Ronnie Donahue had managed to get Carly hired on with the UFO cleaning crew, it was his job to give her orientation and train her. That was great, except he didn’t have much of a clue himself what to do. He didn’t really care. He’d tell her anything if she’d just keep looking at him with those sparkling green eyes and that sassy smirk.
He felt pretty confident around her. Girls liked him well enough with his his red hair, freckled face, and mischievous smile. He was a cross between Howdy Doody and George Clooney—all the good parts.
Ronnie led Carly down a rounded corridor.
“We mostly just mop floors and take out the trash,” he said. “There are receptacles everywhere, but you’ve gotta be careful. I once threw out a basket full of fleshy bits—looked like chewed up steak—blech! It turned out they were some kind of decorative service awards for most humans abducted.”
“Wow,” said Carly. “We get blue ribbons, they get brown goo.”
“Pretty much, but I think I’ve been here too long. I didn’t find it weird at all.” He shrugged. “It was just a mistake. Anyway, they hate it when we don’t look busy, so just keep emptying receptacles if you’ve got nothing else.”
“What if they’re all empty?”
“Then mop floors. These guys continuously ooze all over the place, so it’s not really worth it, but it always gives you a way to look busy.”
Ronnie led her into a large room with rows and rows of cages. “This is the place I wanted to show you.” There were many kinds of alien creatures. Big round ones with several eyes and a trailing foot sort of like a snail’s. Spinning sea urchin things with tongues sliding out of each spine. One creature looked like a quilt that curled up on its self, then spread wide, feeling every corner of the cage and receding again.
“These are creepy,” she said. “Were they abducted from other worlds?”
The quilty thing made flatulent noises.
“Oh, no.” Ronnie stuck a finger in to scratch at one of the big, round, snail-footed things. “Well, in a way, I guess. These are the things they eat.”
“Oh, no,” said Carly. “These poor things. Why’d you bring me in here?”
“I just thought they were cool,” said Ronnie. “Plus, we’ve got to clean the cages.”
As if on cue, one of the urchin’s noisily excreted a blob of red slime in the corner of its cage.
“Ick. That’s disgusting.” Carly feigned gagging. “You know what’s weird.” She sniffed. “There’s not much smell here at all.”
“Yes. That’s the other thing. We can’t smell them, but the aliens sure can. I think they have a completely different biochemistry than us, so our noses just haven’t learned to sense them. So if you’re looking for a place to get away from the ETs—this is it.”
“That’s good to know, but they’re still pretty disgusting. You trying to gross me out?”
“If I wanted to gross you out, I could do much better than this.”
“I doubt it,” Carly said.
“Challenge accepted,” said Ronnie. “Come with me.”
He took her back into the corridor and zig-zagged through a few conduits.
“Where are we going?” asked Carly.
“The gym. You ever see an alien work out?”