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Sharpening; a science fiction story
#1
I met my guide on the steps of the Kardur Aerospace Terminal on the Zilnoran planet Deruvi. He was a garling—shorter than myself, but his reptilian body possessed far more strength than mine, I knew. Muscular arms, legs and a tail proved it to me. He had a lizard-like head; dark red scales; and thick spines that, at the moment, folded down against the back of his head and body. His clothing was simple: a brown vest and baggy, cream-colored pants. He went barefoot, and so his clawed feet were plainly visible. He shook my hand when I reached him.

Noveth`ekoth,” he said to me. “I am Daril Karith, and you must be Felicia Ariss.” I nodded simply to him, and we made our way into the greater city on foot. “You come at a bad time,” he told me. “Sympathy is not high.”

“Sympathy will never be high,” I replied. “There is no good time to come here.”

“Very true, mequil.” Native phrases and mannerisms bled constantly into his speech. I could not tell if it was accidental, or if he was trying to impress me. As we walked, many garlings gave me stares.

“A human must stand out here,” I remarked. Daril looked to me with a faint smirk.

“But we are all humans, are we not, mequil Ariss?” His grin widened before he returned to walking, shaking his head. “But, yes, a terran stands out. You must know, there is not much love for terrans.”

“I have come across that before.” I tried not to stare back.

Daril led me to a small restaurant downtown in Kardur. For a garling establishment, it was surprisingly quaint. The menu was printed on several boards behind the counter. We ordered our food and sat down at a counter to wait. Daril told me a little bit about himself. He said that he worked as a tour guide, but that times were hard. “No one wants to visit a war zone.” He scowled and took a sip of his water. “They are all afraid that they will get shot, even though most of the world is safe from fighting.”

Daril was young, and his family had moved to Deruvi before he was born. His mother was a diplomat that had come out due to the conflict. Daril grew up with the fighting around him, but he didn’t agree with it. When he grew old enough, he left his family behind. “Now I live with my mate, though we are not bonded yet.” He grinned, but soon took on a more somber expression.

“Are you certain that you want to do this?” he asked. I frowned. I hadn’t expected him to try to stop me. “If you are caught, you will be arrested. But, you may also die.”

“I understand the risks,” I insisted, but he shook his head.

“I do not think you do, mequil Ariss. There is no safety once you leave this city. You will have no allies that you can depend on. I will not be reachable. There will be no one to turn to in a crisis.”

“You don’t mean to say that kheilani would turn down offered aid, do you?”

Daril sighed. He took a contemplative bite of his meal. “You must understand, many kheilani have never see a terran before. Those that know what terrans are will have heard it through the mouth of Zilnor—terrible things. Zithis va krakiret.” He did not see fit to elaborate any further.

“I came here to fulfill a purpose. These people need aid, don’t they?” He could not deny that. “I will not have come out here for nothing.”

“There is no convincing you.” Daril seemed disappointed, though his alien visage was difficult to read. “I had hoped perhaps, but no. We will leave tomorrow morning.”

I spent the night in a hotel in downtown Kardur, a sleek silver skyscraper of lights, windows and metal. The outside walls were polished to a shine, almost like a mirror. According to a receptionist in the lobby, ambassadors from Zilnor that came to Deruvi stayed in the hotel. I thought of Daril’s parents, and hoped he wouldn’t hold it against me. The vogue of the garling upper class reflected their architecture, with women in shimmering metallic gowns and men with intricate mesh designs hanging from sashes over bare chests. Once again, I garnered looks, but they were relegated to aside glances when they thought I was not looking.

The night passed uneventfully, and early the next morning I met with Daril again. His residence lay on the outskirts of Kardur, on a quiet street well away from the main traffic of the city. The house lay cramped between two others with no space between them, longer than it was wide. As Daril walked down from the front door, I noticed another figure behind him. She was more slight of builder than Daril, and had a rounder face. She wrung her hands as she watched on. Daril noticed the direction of my gaze.

“She doesn’t speak Thelsen,” he said, “but she wishes you luck.” He tried to smile.
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