A MINOR INCONVENIENCE
By Curtis C. Chen
Brradox hated actually entering any spaceport, but he needed to store his cargo while the station shop repaired his ship's aging power plant. He studiously avoided making eye contact with any hawkers on the promenade, but looked up reflexively when he heard someone call his name with the proper pronunciation. That meant someone from the homeworld—
Brradox cursed when he saw who it was, then walked in the other direction. He wasn't fast enough.
A slender claw clacked down on his carapace. "Brradox! I thought that was you! What are you doing in this wretched hive?"
Brradox turned around. "Hello, Pirluut. Good to see you, I have to go, safe travels."
Pirluut smacked her antennae against Brradox's thorax. He hated it when she did that. "Now is that any way to talk to your favorite aunt?"
"You're my only aunt."
"It's been months! Come on, I'll buy you a grub shake—"
"Sorry," Brradox said, "don't have time. Live cargo. Need to arrange holding—"
"Animals?" Pirluut parted her mandibles in surprise.
"Humans. Noisy little larvas—"
"You're transporting human children?" Pirluut grabbed Brradox's abdomen with her two middle limbs. "In your ship?"
Brradox's leg-hairs bristled. "What's wrong with my ship?"
"Well, it's not exactly childproof."
"They're caged up. I really need to go—"
She closed both claws around his forelimbs. "I'm coming with you. No arguments," she added when he raised a pincer to protest. "You want me to call your mother? Tell her what kind of trouble you've been getting into out here?"
Brradox grumbled. "This way."
"You're lucky these humans aren't dead already," Pirluut said as she adjusted the climate controls on the transparent cube. The humans inside, an immature male and female, were just regaining consciousness. "Too much carbon dioxide. They don't respirate like we do; they're very sensitive to atmosphere changes. Also, what have you been feeding them?"
This was exactly what Brradox hadn't wanted to happen. He rifled through one of his supply crates and produced a bag of feed. "I know that's right; it's pre-formulated. Just add water. They don't like it much, but they like it better than starving."
Pirluut read over the feed ingredients and handed it back. "Well, they seem healthy. Where are they going, anyway?" Pirluut asked, looking over the children. The male had regained consciousness and was yelling and banging his fists against the cube wall.
"Some kind of ranch out in the Crescent."
Pirluut wiggled her antennae. "Really."
"I'm just making a delivery," Brradox said. "They're not inviting me to dinner."
"Still, it's definitely a step up," Pirluut said. "So are you going to make a habit of this now, Brradox? Live transport? It's a big responsibility."
"I can handle it. Thanks for your help," he said, grinding his jaws.
"Don't mention it. You're family." Pirluut looked over the rest of his cargo and waved at a stack of old-fashioned, hard-bound books. "So what are these? Antiques?"
"Part of the same shipment." Brradox picked up one of the books and blew some dust off its cover. "It's a cookbook."
Image: Reddish-brown Stag Beetle by Patrick Coin (via GIMPressionist filter), July, 2011