Hailey knocked on the store's door, “Anyone awake in there?” she teased. “7-11 is supposed to always be open you know.”
“Sorry, we don’t serve crabs,” Vanessa said from the other side of the locked door. Ella gave a small twitch of her arm, causing her gauntlet to spark. To her surprise, the crab spread one pincer and gave a little spark right back at her. Then started to wander back to the beach with its friend.
“... O-kay,” Ella said. “I’m not the only one that found that weird, right?”
“That must be how they stun their prey,” Brie said. “Bioelectrical generation. I should bring a specimen back for further study.”
“Right,” Vanessa said as she unlocked the door. Like Candy had said, she was covered in tattoos and piercings, with long black hair, and wearing a black tank top with thin lace for straps. “Just keep it away from me, or it’ll be gumbo.”
“We should bring a few back,” Tricia nodded.
A girl wearing a white top that could best be described as a sports bra, and a silver skirt that could be called a mini mini skirt, came around the corner sipping a red slurpee from a large cup. She didn’t seem to have much need for modesty though because her entire body was covered in neon pink fur, as well as a long tuft of pink hair on her head, pulled into a ponytail.
“We wear clothes as a sign of courtesy to other races.” Candy said, taking note that Hailey was staring.
“Sorry,” Hailey said sheepishly. “Didn’t mean to stare. It’s just... Wow.”
Candy giggled. “I get that a lot, and don’t take this wrong, but for a hairless girl you are cute, yourself.”
“Ah, young love,” Tricia said as Rebecca made a beeline for the tall cup of steaming coffee sitting on the counter, waiting for her.
“I’m in heaven. Hell it could have been cowboy coffee and I’d have kissed you.” Rebecca laughed.
“Promises, promises,” Vanessa teased back. “We just got a new shipment in too. The back room’s got enough coffee to keep Los Angeles awake for a week.”
Ella grinned, “Good thing I lifted the cart off the ship and dragged it up here.”
Hailey walked over to the fridge and grabbed a cold Doctor Pepper, and opened it. She handed it to Brie to taste. “Try that, and tell me it’s not the best thing you ever drank.”
Brie sniffed it, tilted the bottle up for a sip, and then shook her head quickly, blinking, before taking a big gulp. “It’s like... I don’t even know how to describe it.”
“I know right? I’m stocking up a bunch of these for my fridge in my hut.” Hailey laughed.
Ella gave them a surprised glance. “Wait, you mean Brie is speechless? Is that even physically possible?”
Tricia looked behind the counter, “Hey shopkeep, can I get a 20 finger of Old Gold?”
Vanessa stared at Tricia for a moment. “Uh... A what now?”
“A Box of old gold.” Tricia shook her head.
“Oh!” Vanessa laughed. “Sorry. Sure hang on,” she said as she raced back behind the counter and grabbed a box for Tricia.
Tricia reached into her pocket and placed a 1954 british five pound note on the counter. ”That atta cover it?” she grinned.
“Sorry, we only take American currency,” Vanessa teased her as she took the note carefully and held it up to inspect it.
“Then yer up shit creak without paddles, dear.” Tricia laughed. “I’ve been holding onto that since I got here.” she grabbed a lighter from the rack and lit up the smoke, “And i’ve been dying for one of these since I got here too.”
“Wow. I can’t believe it’s in such great shape,” Vanessa said as she handed it back to Tricia.
“These will definitely be worth a lot for trade.” Tricia said as she leaned on the counter and sighed happily.
Candy hopped up on the counter, plopping down and opening one of the dessert cases. “Can I?” she asked. Vanessa nodded.
“Go for it.” Vanessa laughed, “Don’t think my boss is going to care.”
“Sorry for hitting you asleep earlier,” Candy giggled.
“Sorry for pulling your tail,” Vanessa laughed. “It was the only thing convenient, and I was kind of panicking.”
Candy giggled. “It’s okay. I kind of liked it,” she teased as she bit into a jelly filled donut.
“You know I love Catgirl anime.” Hailey laughed. “My friends in my bugout group tease me because I have a pair of cat ear headphones back home too. I even convinced my friend Wendy to buy a pair.”
Candy looked at Hailey, “Anime? What does that mean?”
“Cartoon, or Animation.” Hailey answered. “It’s a popular art style in Japan, an island nation in the east.”
Brie spoke up, “Do you mind if I looked at your comm device?”
“Oh!” Candy said. “Sure!” She reached up and pulled a small earpiece from somewhere within her well-groomed, if thick hair, and offered it to Brie. “Here you go. It’s a universal fit.”
“Hey,” Tricia said, glancing at Hailey now. “This planet does weird things to people. Were you thinking about these Catgirls when you landed in the water?”
“Kind of,” Hailey laughed. “See, my friend Wendy had her headphones with her, and when I was pulled from Earth I was thinking about mine, thinking I should’ve brought them with me.”
“We’ll keep an eye on you.” Tricia nodded. “Sometimes changes in people take a week, sometimes it can take a month.”
“... Changes?” Hailey asked.
Rebecca nodded, “I was a guy when I got here,” she said bluntly. “Almost two months for my change.”
Hailey let out an excited squeal that got everyone’s attention. She blushed. “Sorry,” she said sheepishly. The second she had the chance to check herself out, she was taking it, but right now they had a mission to finish.
Brie nodded, “I had a shorter tail and it was green. White and long tails are signs of power on my planet.”
“Don’t look at me,” Ella laughed. “I’m the same Ella I’ve always been.”
“Actually.” Tricia laughed, “I think you may have gotten a bit stronger.”
“I have been working out,” Ella teased.
“Kris isn't even near as strong as you, and he’s Ilonian too,” Tricia reminded Ella.
“So uh,” Vanessa said, “These aliens like strong women huh? I think I’m going to like it here.”
“We’re thinking they’re a female dominated species yes.” Brie spoke up, “The ones that brought us here that is, but they also value male strength and intelligence, so there’s no real emergent pattern that we’ve found yet.”
“They do seem to tend to prefer people who are naturally curious in their preferred field - doctors who push the boundaries of medicine, artists who seek to push themselves, explorers like Rebecca.”
“Ah, that’s why I was chose then.” Candy nodded. “Back home, I’m a psychiatrist and physician. I created a new method of helping people with anxiety.”
“By knocking them out?” Vanessa teased her.
“Combat yes.” Candy winked, “No. I have a small device that I use that emits a soothing audio frequency, triggering a neural response that releases low...” She paused. Vanessa stared. “It makes people relax.” She giggled.
“This comm unit is incredible, speaking of small devices,” Brie said as she offered it back to Candy. “My scanner can barely penetrate the inner shell.”
“It’s borrowed technology from the Traxians,” Candy said. “The Traxians were once our overlords, but now they serve us, in a manner of speaking. As a world, they pay us restitution for their past crimes.”
“Ah, like the woman from the bar,” Hailey nodded.
“There’s a Traxian here?” Candy asked. “I’ve only met a few. The Traxian war was so long ago, I don’t feel that they don’t owe us anything anymore, though. We’re trying to help them get into the Galactic Trade Confederate.”
“Who knew that an entire race of beings with naturally high agility and built-in razor sharp weapons could be such capable fighters,” Ella said half-sarcastically.
“There’s a plant that grows on their homeworld that makes us docile.” Candy sighed. “Even today some abuse it as a recreational drug, even though it’s highly illegal.”
“Is it called Catnip?” Hailey giggled. “My cat Esper, when she gets on that stuff, goes all crazy for like 15 minutes and then passes out for hours.”
Candy laughed. “Okay, so we do get intoxicated from that stuff, but that’s one of the few exceptions.”
“When we get back to the base camp do you mind if I take a blood sample?” Brie asked Candy.
Candy nodded. “Not at all. Just don’t take too much,” she teased. “I need some for later.”
“Your species is new to the planet, and we’re trying to keep record of all of the species that come here, to catalogue how the planet affects them.”
“You said you were here sixty years?” Candy asked. “Assuming that’s approximately similar to a galactic standard year... It sounds like we’re all stuck here.” She paused to laugh a little. “But I can think of worse places to be stuck than among friendly people.”
“Yeah, there’s no way off.” Tricia laughed. “Most of us share the same attitude; it grows on you.”
“As long as there’s sunblock,” Vanessa said. “Goth skin and beaches don’t go well together.”
“Just the stuff on the shelves.” Rebecca sighed. “I burned so bad my first summer here. You're lucky we’re just about to hit the springtime. You’ll have some time to adjust.” They were loading what they could into what Ella called a cart, but the thing was huge.
Brie sighed, “Looks like the sun's about to go down, which means we might have to take the long way back.”
“What’s the long way back?” Hailey asked, still adjusting to life on this planet, herself.
“Oh it takes us by the Ocean Lip.” Rebecca said. “There's a 50 foot drop to another layer of ocean and more islands. It’s kind of weird. No one’s explored it fully yet due to Tricia’s rules.”
“Specifically,” Tricia said, “That until now we had no long range communications, so we couldn’t let ships stay out very long. Something in the atmosphere interfered with our attempts at radio communication, but it seems we’ve found a way around it now.”
“Jesus Christ,” Vanessa said. “This place really is my nightmares. I swear to God if there’s a giant spider within a hundred yards of where you guys call home I’m noping the fuck out, locking the doors, and hiding in the break room.”
“Nope, no giant spiders as far as we know.” Rebecca laughed. “Just regular sized ones.”
Candy reached up, pretending to be carefully reaching for something on Vanessa’s shoulder. Vanessa let out a terrified scream and ducked, looking around. Candy giggled. “Sorry. I couldn’t resist.”
Hailey laughed. “Oh, I hate snakes myself. One of my buddies from my survival group stepped on a copperhead while playing an augmented reality game on his phone last week.”
Candy pouted cutely. “Well, if we’re being honest, I’m terrified of sorrals.”
Ella laughed, “Really? Those things are so harmless.”
“But they’re soo icky,” Candy whined. “And they’re fearless. They won’t think twice about scampering over your feet, with their little icky paws and,” she shuddered. Hailey was beginning to get the picture.
“Rats.. that's what we call them.” Hailey laughed. “Rats and Mice are cute actually. My friend Wendy has a pet Rat named Oscar.”
Candy stuck out her tongue. “They’re devious. Nothing with beady little eyes like that can’t not be up to something.”
“Your people are still superstitious about some things,” Brie nodded.
“Outsiders call it superstitious,” Candy said. “We call it good sense.” She giggled, showing there were no hard feelings for the comment.
“You might know my species as Ionian.” Ella spoke, “Peace keepers by others.”
“Oh sure,” Candy nodded. “We’ve been in the GTC awhile, remember. We’re actually sponsoring the Traxians’ admission, with your people’s help as mediators to sort out the restitution nonsense.”
“Yeah, when I was taken, we were in talks about the situation with both sides.” Ella nodded.
“It’s just a shame they couldn’t have brought your whole ship like they did with Vanessa’s shop,” Candy said, paused, then giggled. “Ship... Shop... Ship shop...”
That caused Hailey to giggle as if she got the joke . “That was a good one.”
It took Brie a moment to catch on. They could almost see the gears turning in her head. “Oh, wordplay,” she said finally. “That’s clever.”
“Ut oh.” Ella laughed. “You got the brain to start working. In a second she’s going to start rambling about 600 words a second.”
“And wait.. Did you pick up on that faster than everyone else?” Brie looked right at Hailey. “Furran humor is very um... unique and sometimes a little subtle. Most people just groan and roll their eyes when they finally catch it.”
“A lot of times really dirty as well.” Candy nodded. “I’ve been trying really, really hard to behave because standing in a literal penis forest was joke enough.”
Hailey giggled, “A pussy in a penis forest.”
Candy grinned broadly. “THANK you!” She started giggling.
“Ugh.” Vanessa groaned. “I got that.”
Hailey laughed so hard she had to stop what she was doing and wipe the tears from her eyes, just so she could see where she was going. “Did I really just blurt that out?” she asked. “Back home, I’d have died if I said that out loud.”
“Don’t worry, on Furra Prime, those kind of jokes are mild.” Candy laughed. “There’s even the more subtle joke at poor Vanessa’s expense that I caught onto after she calmed down. A pussy in a penis forest is bad enough, but she’s a clam diver in a sausage forest.” She winked at Hailey.
That was it, Hailey fell down giggling and rolling around on the floor, she even let out a meowish laugh. “Oh my God! That’s so funny.”
“Like I said,” Vanessa giggled out after a moment, “My own personal hell.”
Brie spoke up again, “Did Hailey just meow?”
“Yes,” Candy giggled. “It would appear you’re about to have two of us to contend with,” she teased. She wasn’t nearly as dumb as she seemed on the radio before, picking up early on what Tricia and Rebecca meant by ‘changes’. Then again, she was a doctor.
Her species was pretty intelligent. They even had intergalactic space travel without borrowing technology. Just because they were playful didn’t mean they were dumb.
“Well that will make things more interesting.” Tricia laughed.
“Maybe I’m contagious,” Hailey giggled as she got to her feet. “One of us! One of us!”
“On of us!” Candy chanted too.
“Oh Goddess no,” Vanessa laughed. “I will shave every strand of hair off my body before I turn into a pink catgirl.”
“Oh we’re not all pink.” Candy giggled. “We come in variety of colors. We used to go to war with other colored species of our kind, and we even wiped out the stardust blue colored species.” she sighed at that. “Those were dark times, and how we were subdued by the Traxians. In a way... We owe them our survival as a species.” She giggled a bit. “But don’t tell them I said that.”
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