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Bonus Story

Sonny Zae

Who would have thought that aliens couldn't hold their liquor? Well,Sonny Zae did. The result is Tales from Alien AA. Can Aarn and his menagerie of fellow aliens thwart the legal system and get their way? Keep reading and found out.

Aarn is an alien trapped on Earth, and is being compelled to conduct Alcoholics Anonymous meetings for other non-humans who have been detained for alcohol problems.  He sees no possibility of satisfying humans, so he plans to act up until he and his fellow alien alcoholics get deported.                 
                                                                                                                                --Sonny Zae

 Sonny Zae's short story The Belladonna was published for the Kindle September 2, 2016 by the Society of Misfit Stories, Warren Pace, CIA was published in December 2016 by Mystery Weekly, and Family Spirit was published in the October 2017 Ghost Story anthology by Zimbell House Publishing.

Tales from Alien AA

By Sonny Zae

Tonight was my last time moderating an AA meeting.  The new alien ordered to attend tonight's meeting was a Warreth spaceship pilot, Smirek, arrested for exceeding the speed of light while intoxicated.  Warreth were snobby, temperamental as bog planet warthogs with hemorrhoids, and famously unable to hold their liquor.  Nudging Smirek out of control would kick off the evening.

All members of our group were from alien races.  Humans could technically join, but became confused and upset by how we operated.  It wasn't our fault we'd modified AA practice.  Take Soss-soss the Fungusacian.  How do you explain a twelve-step program to a mushroom creature with one leg?

"Ssssssshouldn't we get ssstarted?" Soss-soss asked, always the eager one.  He burbled in delight, his support stalk and ripple-foot twitching.  One would think that a monopedal space-slug wouldn't have a drinking problem, but Soss-soss was a long-standing member.  Marooned on Earth, the only thing we aliens enjoyed on this miserable out-of-the-way planet was getting free-fall drunk.

"Hold your water," I admonished.  "We can't start until the new guy gets here."

"I'm thirssssty!" came Soss-soss' complaint, whistling like a teapot.  It wasn't speech in the Earth sense, composed of sibilances of various pitch and length, like his name.

A knock echoed from the door.  I waved for Galabus to let our guest in, then realized my mistake as Galabus shuffled to the door on his bottom tentacles.  Did Warreth spacefarers get along with Stronian land sharks?  Too late now.  One belly tentacle reached up to twist the doorknob as Galabus' shark tail waved like a cat spying a bird.

The door opened to reveal a towering, tri-pedal alien.  A small, round head looked down at us from a seven-foot height, its three-faceted eyes spaced across its face.

"Alcoholics Anonymous for non-Earth aliens?" Smirek rumbled in a deep voice.

"Come in," I said, standing.  "I'm Aarn, the moderator.  Find a seat and we'll begin."  I waited until Smirek found an open chair and draped his three legs awkwardly over the sitting appliance.  "We're here for the same reason, Smirek.  I was a technical freight specialist in an Aackt-class Doulaag merchant ship, arriving on Earth after a three-year journey from the Blaatch system.  I came down with five other crew members and got very drunk.  When a human astronaut lectured me about how many particles could be found in open space and still be considered vacuum, I corrected him.  The discussion turned into an argument, which turned into a fight."

"Tell him your sentence."  Druon the Malation smiled impishly, always ready to start trouble.  He was always amused by my story about being saddled with being the AA monitor/leader, including all my past failed attempts to get out of the unpleasant duty.

I wasn't going to fall for Druon's tricks.  "Tell us your story, Smirek."

It was a familiar one, coming down on leave to indulge in the legendary delights of Earth's brewing excellence and ending up in the clutches of the human legal system, then abandoned by his ship.  Space freight companies had strict schedules and couldn't afford to delay departure to deal with Earth's bureaucracy -- also legendary among spacefarers.

"Have a soda."  I handed Smirek a fast-food cola in a cup with a straw.  I could smell the alcohol through my long and sensitive nose.

Smirek's tri-eyes blinked in surprise at his first sip.  "Hey, this's whiskey!"

I'd hoped he'd be more discrete.  The others clamored for a drink.  I held up a forepaw.  "Only the new guy gets a special cup."  I hoped the listening devices hadn't picked up his surprised utterance.  After all, punishment for running the group badly was to continue running the group.

Jolep the Asturish, sitting on my left, seized my cup and sucked on the straw, hoping my drink was also alcoholic.  He made a face of disgust.

"What do you call this delightful concoction?" Smirek asked, his straw sucking air.

"Coke on ice."  I gestured toward the video cameras, hoping he'd get the hint.

"Can I have another?"  His tri-eyes glinted with greed.

"No."  Had I misjudged his alcohol tolerance?

"When will we begin?" Soss-soss warbled, impatient.

"Start the introductions," I replied.

I watched Smirek as the others introduced themselves.  When it was his turn, Smirek's voice had a drunken tinge.  "I shouldn' be harrrr," he slurred.  "Stupid Earth offish-shuls coss me my job!"

"When does our outing begin?" Soss-soss asked, prudently directing his voice port toward me.  Caution was rare in a Fungusacian -- even rarer in Soss-soss.  "I'm getting thirsssty," he complained.  "You know what they sssay on my planet."

"Yes, I know," I said wearily.  "'Drying is dying.'  Be patient."

While Soss-soss and I had been talking, Smirek had succeeded in getting into an argument with Galabus.  No surprise there, as Stronian land sharks were as short-tempered as they were ill-informed.  It didn't matter what the argument was about, as long as it created a distraction.

Galabus leaped to his tentacles, his mouth wide open as he rebutted some statement by Smirek.  The three-legged alien stood in response, his voice also loud.

"Be ready to move," I warned Jolep.

"Right," Jolep replied.  "I'll pass the word."

No reaction from the proctors.  Had I picked the wrong meeting night?

Galabus vomited on Smirek's feet and the Warreth roared.  Did Smirek understand the effect of Stronian vomit, that the venom would be drawn into his torso, leading to partial paralysis?

I handed my drink cup to Jolep.  "Now."

Jolep switched my cup with Smirek's.  I pulled the lid off Smirek's cup and poured the ice next to Soss-soss large, single foot.  His foot rippled, absorbing the melting ice.

Smirek fired a barb from his head fringe.  It struck Galabus' pointy nose.  Galabus thrashed his tail and gnashed his fearsome teeth.

The door flew open and proctors burst in, carrying stun guns and a sticky-net.  They fired and sticky webbing wrapped around Smirek, tightening until he toppled over.

"What happened?" a proctor demanded.

"I don't know."  I did my best approximation of a sheepish human smile.  "Must have been drunk when he arrived."

"You gave him a drink."  The proctor picked up Smirek's fast-food cup and sniffed.  "You didn't give him booze?"  He motioned for the other two proctors to move out.  They picked up Smirek's bound form as he snarled and thrashed.

I waited until they had left.  "Go down the back hall to the parking lot.  Get on the green shuttle bus."

As soon as I arrived, the driver put the bus in motion.  Everyone cheered.

We pulled up to the Escape Velocity Brewery, home of Freefall lager.  The group crowded around as I signed us in.

"Quite a group you have here," the receptionist said.

"We're part of an interplanetary small business tour, curious about entrepreneurial opportunities.  The boys want to open breweries of their own."

"No pictures!" she snapped as she shoved plastic badges at us.

"Thank you, earth woman."  I scooped up the visitor badges with my claws.

Inside, the fermentation aroma made us giddy with delight.  Kortang hummed with anticipation, even though the beer tasting room was the last stop.

Our guide, Doug, a human young enough to deserve a warning label of teenager, led us around the brewery's interior.  The group's excitement peaked when Doug led us up onto a catwalk over brewing vats.  Below us, golden liquid swirled and gave off magical odors.  Soss-soss leaned forward, his olfactory feelers fully extended, his bulk squeezing through the bars of the catwalk railing.

"Careful," I warned.

Soss-soss eased farther out to sample the beery updrafts.  His foot rippled with excitement, then pulled loose.  He squirted through the railing, falling into the brewing vat with a plopping sound like a mushroom landing in a stewpot.

"Man overboard!" Doug yelled.  He glanced wildly around, as if looking for a life preserver -- or help from senior brewery staff.  "Everyone back from the railing!"

But Jolep was already jumping over, followed by Dontele-meekan, then Slouwcoo and Firjik the Fronin.  Soon, I was the only one left on the catwalk.  Below, members of my group floated, swam, and spouted golden ale, like a pod of alcoholic whales.  Moos and groans of pleasure floated up, along with splashing sounds.

"What … what are they doing?" Doug asked, eyes wide.

"Enjoying the fruits of the brewer's wonderful craft," I replied.  "Don't worry, they're in no danger of drowning … though we might need to net a couple of them out."

"I'm not worried about them," Doug replied.  "They're contaminating a vat of ale.  You know how much trouble I'm in, anteater dude?"

"Don't worry, I'll claim you had no warning and we outsmarted you."

"You don't have to say that!" Doug snarled.  A puzzled look crossed his face.  "Why aren't you down there?"

I laughed.  "I'm a Doulaag.  Like your Earth anteater, I'm a land animal.  I'd drown in absolute beer heaven, but I'd drown."

That wasn't the entire story, of course.  I had to stay out of the vat to signal the others and avoid capture.  And to tell Doug what we were doing, so when Earth authorities reviewed the incident, they would decide we're too much trouble and deport us.

"Hey," I shouted.  "Anyone like India pale ale?"

My group scrambled out.  Soss-soss tried to ooze over the vat's top edge, plopping back several times.  Finally he managed to ease over the top edge of the vat, falling onto Firjik.

I waited on the catwalk as they frolicked in the India Pale Ale.  Soss-soss rolled over repeatedly, his foot stalk pointing straight up, blowing bubbles while waiting to be rolled back upright.

"Sampling room time!" I shouted.  This time, they were slower to evacuate the vat, though only from a lack of coordination.  All of them had discussed the wonders of the sampling room, where a visitor could imbibe in every type of ambrosia produced by the Escape Velocity Brewery.

The sampling room crew must have been alerted.  A newly lettered sign at the door said, "Only one sample per visitor – thank you for your cooperation."

Dontele-meekan stumbled into the sign, knocking it over.  Soss-soss glided over it, leaving it shiny with slime.

Inside the sampling room, I stopped at the Warp Drive witbier station, gulping two cups before Slouwcoo and Firjik crowded me.  Next, I tried a Big Bang Belgian dubbel, then a Dark Matter stout.

Somewhere, an alarm went off.  Authorities would be arriving soon.

"Last call!" I cried.  "Time to get back on the bus."

This was greeted with grumbles of disappointment.  I overflowed a cup with Flaming Reentry malt liquor, waiting for the group to fall into line.  Soss-soss gurgled contentedly as the others struggled to push him up the bus steps.  Everyone was in a good mood, despite leaving before they'd had too much.

"Here's the deal," I cried, rearing up on my hind limbs as the bus lurched forward.  Tentacles reached out to keep me from falling.  "I'm tired of Earthlings using our alcohol consumption to imprison us.  I don't have a drinking problem.  When I've had enough to drink, I stop!"

It was something humans couldn't comprehend, and made the AA requirement ridiculous.

I hooked the digging claws of one foreleg through a hand loop.  "Humans think they can't let us go until they've cured us.  It's time we take matters into our own paws and grapplers.  Today, we'll become such a nuisance they'll abandon their laws, say to hell with the cost, and deport us off this uncivilized, out-of-the-way world."

"How long until the ATF comes after us?" Dontele-meekan asked.

I waved a forepaw dismissively, slopping malt liquor.  "I'm sure the Alien Temperance Force is already speeding toward the brewery.  But they won't catch us!"

They cheered, inflated crests, and rattled bony plates.

"What next?" Jolep asked, tail plates turning luminous green with anticipation.

"Glad you asked."  I gulped my drink.  "We indulge in an escapade of bad behavior, but not crossing over into lawlessness.  We'll annoy and frustrate Earth authorities so much they'll loath us, but without reason to subject us to their criminal justice system."

"We're with you," Jolep said, thrusting a manipulator limb in the air.  "Right, guys?"

Soss-soss made a low sound like a babbling brook.

"Thank you for your agreement."

"Oh, that wasn't agreement."  Kortang motioned at Soss-soss.  "He lost control of his bladder."

"Eww!"  I lifted a paw to block out the sight.  Soss-soss was sliding over the front edge of his seat like a molasses waterfall.  "Make sure he doesn't fall on the floor.  We don't know who used this bus before."

Galabus' tail thrashed.  "I say we burn down the AA meeting hall."

"Stop that talk!  You remember Dagmish the Dorsaap, don't you?  He ran an AA group on the other side of the city.  Dagmish became frustrated and smashed up a bar.  He was jailed.  So we have to be careful to not make the humans angry, only disgusted."

Firjik chirped in agreement.

"Then how do we cause trouble?" Galabus demanded.

"We're going to places where they won't like us, won't want non-humans around.  But we must let humans start trouble.  That's the key.  We annoy humans until they start the fight.  I'm talking to you, Galabus," I said pointedly.

"Will these places have alcohol?" Dontele-meekan asked, his voice whiny.

"They will," I replied as the bus lurched to a stop in front of the only cowboy bar in the spaceport area.  A faux-neon sign advertised the coldest beer in the region, along with a mechanical bull.

"Cold beer, here I come!" Galabus shouted, lurching to his bottom tentacles.

Jolep followed him up the aisle.  "I'll have a mechanical bull -- whatever that is."

We stormed into the Cow Palace Saloon like cowpunchers on spring break, elbowing between the men at the bar so successfully one would have thought we had elbows.

Jolep made a show of hooking his rudimentary thumb claws through an imaginary belt, and tipping back an imaginary cowboy hat.

"What'll you be havin'?" asked the bored-looking bartender.

"Gimme a red-eye!" Jolep demanded.

The bartender's eyes narrowed as he met Jolep's gaze.  "You know what that is, stranger?"

"Nope," Jolep replied, looking around the bar with three of his six eyes.  "Aincha' got any dancin' girls?"

"No dancing girls on Wednesday nights.  Red-eye is whiskey.  Cheap, nasty whiskey, really low-class stuff.  You sure you want that?"

Jolep puffed out his chest plates.  "Bring me the whole damn bottle."

The bartender shrugged, then rummaged under the bar.  He retrieved a dusty bottle and unscrewed the cap, holding the bottle at arms length and peering at the label.  "Brewed in Singapore?  What the hell's wrong with this world?"

Jolep tilted up the red eye and glugged noisily, his breath blasting out in spurts from his aft nostrils.  He thunked the bottle on the bar top, swaying on his bar stool and uttering a raspy sound.  Milky liquid leaked from his six eyes and his short, wide snout quivered.  "Good stuff," he muttered, voice hoarse.

Kortang ordered five of the coldest beers, wrapping a grappler around them and inverting the group, the fleshly lips of his catfish-like mouth sealing the bottles in place.  Golden beer was replaced with bursts of air bubbles at each momentary opening of Kortang's earflaps.

A human standing next to Kortang frowned.

"Don't forget our mission," I reminded Kortang.

Kortang opened his mouth and let the empties fall.  Three rolled around on the bar top, two fell to the floor and shattered.  The bartender scowled, then went to fetch cleaning implements, muttering under his breath.

Kortang turned to the man next to him.  "How you doing, pardner?"  Kortang's nostril slits contracted and he sidled closer.  "Buy me a beer?  Just don't get any ideas, okay?  I don't give free anal probes anymore.  We've found out all we need to know, right?"

The man left without finishing his beer.  Kortang gulped it down.

Where was the escalating war of words, leading to the eventual and unavoidable fight?  Had we missed some important part when watching old Earth westerns?

I looked around at my crew, all earnestly engaged in absorbing alcohol in maximum quantities.  Who else would be good at starting an incident?  And where was Druon?  The Malation was a natural trouble causer, with or without alcohol.  I looked toward the door, in case he had been moving slower than the rest of us.  No Druon. 

"Hey, bar saver, over here," Kortang called.

"That's barkeep," Galabus corrected him.

"Barkeep!" Kortang waved a grappler for attention.  "Bring me a bottle of red-eye!"

Had we left Druon behind at the brewery?  I couldn't remember seeing him after the second vat of beer.  We'd have to get along without him.

My thoughts were interrupted by a cry of delight.  Jolep was climbing up onto a large seat on a rectangular-cubic base.  The structure was in an open area, with padding distributed around it.  Jolep hooked a forelimb lobe through a sturdy handle and waved a free limb.  The bartender grunted and turned a control knob.  The seat began to rotate.  Then it lurched upwards.  The seat abruptly changed direction, causing Jolep to sway.  He hooted in amusement.  "It's like a human children ride in an amusement park."

The bartender muttered under his breath, turning up his dial.  The seat's movements grew more abrupt.  Jolep howled with glee.  The bartender turned the dial farther.  With a violent spasm, the seat threw Jolep.  He flew through the air to land on a nearby table, smashing it.  He got up, picking off splinters.  "Whoa!" he exclaimed, looking over to the seat where his missing limb hung from the handle.  Purplish-blue blood trickled down the side.

"No bother," Jolep proclaimed, returning to the bar.  "I'll grow a new one."

"It is a bother," the bartender snarled.  "Who do you think's going to clean up that mess?"

Jolep didn't have an opportunity to answer before Kortang vomited red-eye.

"Out!" the bartender shouted.  "We don't need your type in here!"

"But … but I haven' finissssh my red-eye," Kortang complained, trying to take a drink while clinging to the bartop like a mountain climber pulling himself onto a cliff ledge.

The bartender pointed to the door.  "Leave, or I'm calling the police."

I put my foreclaws on the bar.  "Cowhand, we ain't leavin' here until we're good and ready!" I said this with as much bluster as I could summon.

He scowled.  "When police arrive, I'm pressing charges, understand?"

"Oh, I understand just fine," I replied, giving the others a look signifying we weren't about to leave until we'd stirred up a heap of trouble.  "We're already wanted … uh, men, or some analog to your Earth outlaw.  We're what you humans call Desper-ay-dos.  You call the police, and we'll trash this place, understood?"

He pressed an alarm button.  A high-pitched warbling filled the saloon, along with a recorded voice instructing where exits could be found, then declaring that no one could leave, as authorities were on their way.

I led the crew out of the Cow Palace Saloon.  We'd achieved our goal.

Jolep helped me into the bus, then joined the others to lift Soss-soss, depositing him behind the driver.  Even where I sat the fumes from Soss-soss interfered with my vision.  They must have affected the bus driver, too, as he clipped a metal post and sent the saloon sign toppling into the building.  The bus turned onto a street leading away from the club.

I looked around.  "Where's Firjik?"

"Probably still in that place."  Slouwcoo shook his scaly head.

"Oh, great, we lost another member."  Things weren't going quite as planned.

A siren wailed behind us, flashing lights strobing the interior of the bus.

"Cops!" the bus driver shouted.  Fortunately, the two vehicles weren't ATF.

"I'll lose them!"  The bus driver whipped the steering wheel.

"No!"  I moved up behind the bus driver.  "Stop and comply!"

But he ignored me, driving faster.  Our alcohol fumes were affecting him.  Another police vehicle caught up to us, and it wasn't long before a helicopter joined in pursuit.  I sank down in my seat.  Things were not going to end well.

The bus driver uttered a cry of alarm as police vehicles barricaded the street ahead.  The bus careened over the curb and through the parking lot of a convenience store, weaving between gas pumps.  He lost control and the bus skidded sideways, slamming into the building.

Kortang coughed as dust swirled around the interior.

"What now?" Galabus asked as a bullhorn ordered us to come out with hands raised.

"Follow me," I said, resigned to failure.  I opened the rear emergency door and hopped to the ground, my forelegs as high as they could go.


The wrecked bus shrank in the rear window as the police transport departed the scene of our capture.  Like Dagmish before, I'd gone too far.

Soss-soss made a sound like rain falling gently into a pool of water.

"What's he laughing about?" Galabus demanded.

Slouwcoo leaned closer.  "He says when they tried to test his exhalations for alcohol content, they held the test instrument to his sphincter."

"Look!"  Jolep pointed ahead.  Spaceport towers and gantries rose above the skyline.  Had we succeeded?

The transport went through the spaceport's front gates, then down a main avenue.  The officer riding along received a phone call.  "New orders, turn right," he instructed.  "They're still arguing about what to do with this bunch."  He gave us the look one gives a Parmizziar bladder leech.

The police transport backed up to a loading dock of a large building.  The two policemen unlocked the rear door and waved us toward an entrance.

"Where are we going?" I asked.

"Get inside," the guard ordered.

We went down a hall to a door labelled rocket lab.  We entered a large room. 

I blocked the door when the guard tried to close it.  "What happens now?"

The officer gestured to enter.  "Get in."

"What are the charges?"

The officer sighed.  "How about destruction of property?  And driving under the influence."

"The driver was sober!" I protested.  "And he wasn't part of our group."

"Tell that to the judge."  He shoved me in and locked the door.

Jolep opened a crate of plastic bottles and took a drink, then spat it out.  He glanced at the label.  "That's the poorest kerosene I've tasted."

He opened another crate and repeated the process.  "Ugh, nitric acid."  He tipped up another container, then smiled after wiping his mouth.  "Excellent hydrazine, though."

The door swung open with a bang.  Druon the Malation and Firjik the Fronin were propelled into the room.

"Hey!" Galabus exclaimed.  "You guys okay?"

I was almost as surprised by Galabus' enthusiastic greeting as I was at seeing our two missing members.

"What's happened?" Druon asked.

"Nothing yet," I admitted.  "We thought the humans were going to deport us, but they locked us in here instead."

"That's it?"  Firjik looked dejected.

"I can't imagine it'll be long," I replied.  "There's no place to sleep, no bathroom facilities, and no food."

"I could use a drink," Galabus remarked.

Soss-soss made a glugging sound of agreement, swaying on his foot stalk.  "You know what they say on my planet.  'Drying is dying', right?"

Firjik looked at me.  "Maybe we should have a meeting?"

I sighed.  "Sure.  Why not?  Form a circle."  I waited for them to take positions.  "Hello, I'm Aarn, and I love alcohol in every form -- which humans view as a weakness."

"Hello, Aarn!" they chorused.

"I'll never drink again," Soss-soss trilled, making the others laugh.  "It already seems like years and years."

"Let's recite the serenity prayer."  I led it, with the others joining in.  "Gorg, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change…."

"I still think we should be praying to Lonits, not Gorg," Firjik interrupted.  "Gorg's only a minor deity."

"Don't start with Lonits again!" Galabus growled.  "He's only a god of special occasions."

"No," Firjik protested.  "You've got Lonits all wrong."

Jolep squealed in disgust, getting to his feet.  "I don't have time for this higher power foolishness."

Soss-soss whistled his distress at the meeting devolving into deity arguments.  It was a problem humans didn't have to worry about, content with a single deity, reflective of their limited imaginations.

"Let's move on," I said, wondering why I thought today might be different, that with the stress of recent events and our current incarceration the serenity prayer might not be worth fighting about.  "Jolep, come back and join us."

"No."  He shook himself, a sign of Asturish stubbornness.  "You can waste time if you want.  I'm going to escape."


"Don't know yet."  By the way his shoulder plates stood out, I wouldn't change his mind.

I turned back to the others.  "Let's talk about step eight, making a list of all humans we've harmed, so we can make amends."  I looked around.  "Who wants to go first?  Soss-soss?  Galabus?"

No one volunteered.  I sighed again.  "Druon, why did you join AA?"

Druon grinned, chin whiskers curling as his neck frill rose.  "I thought I was joining Alcoholics Associated."

Firjik snorted.  "You wouldn't have liked that group."

Druon's face turned yellow.  "Don't tell me what I wouldn't like!"

"Guys!"  I raised my forelimbs.  "I joined AA because of the humans I'd harmed."

"Name them!" Slouwcoo demanded.  "Or are you just reading from their manual?"

"Fine!  I harmed my landlord when I spent rent money in a futile attempt to catch a buzz on Zero-G light beer."

"Ooh, you awful creature!" Firjik cackled.

"Quiet," I growled.  "Slouwcoo, why do you drink?"

Slouwcoo rippled his chest fringes.  "Because I love alcohol!"

I crossed my forelegs, suppressing an urge to shred something with my digging claws.  "Tell us about an incident where alcohol got you into trouble."

Slouwcoo's fringes turned deep red.  "When the spaceship I was crewing on landed on Beeriest Four.  It's a planet with seas of two percent alcohol.  Despite that, the seawater is nasty tasting, with salt and manganese overshadowing the alcohol.  But it's free, and that's what counts."

"Wow."  Jolep straightened up, interested.  "You could drink until you were wasted?"

"Sure could," Slouwcoo replied, a note of pride in his voice.  "And I did.  It was drink, pass out, float, repeat.  The high salt content keeps you thirsty."

"Stop."  I raised my voice.  "Step eight is not about trading stories to see who went on the most epic bender!"

"It should be," Jolep retorted.

Galabus thrashed his tail for attention.  "I can top that!"

Jolep was examining materials at the far wall of the room.  He uttered a cry.

"What did you find?"

Jolep gestured toward tanks arrayed along the wall.  "Fuel components.  The pumps and tanks can be configured to distill liquids.  Humans were using this facility to experiment with different rocket fuels."

"Any alcohol?"  I studied Jolep's frontal sensory region for a suggestion of hope.

"Not a drop."


We uncurled ourselves from various sleeping niches when a key turned in the lock.  A Komconeran dressed in plush robes stepped into our prison.  "I am ambassador Ron-toennin, here to represent you in legal actions.  How are you?"

"I could go for a dark beer," Galabus suggested.

"That's not possible given your alcohol history."  He stared at the distillation apparatus constructed on the other side of the room.

"What legal actions are we facing?" I asked.

"You'll be charged with public drunkenness, property damage, fleeing to avoid arrest—"

Soss-soss bumped me.  I turned to chastise him.  A beaker rode on top of the Fungusacian.  Jolep stood behind Soss-soss, his chest plates buzzing with excitement.

"What is that?"  The ambassador waved his gripping appendages.

"Thanks, pal!"  I seized the transported beaker, extending my tube-tongue for a sip.  It was a bouquet of flavors, with most of them being alcohol, including one I had never tasted.  I gripped the beaker in both front claws and poured some into my mouth.  The liquid seared my throat and made my head swim.  "Sweet, life-giving spirits!" I declared, trying to maintain my balance.

Galabus snagged the beaker and gulped twice before the others wrestled it away.

"What are you fighting about?" Ambassador Ron-toennin demanded.

"We made homebrew," I explained.

Ambassador Ron-toennin shook his head.  "You shouldn't be drinking."

I held the beaker out to the ambassador.

"You just brewed this?"  Ambassador Ron-toennin took a sip, closing his eyes and swishing it around.  "Surprisingly complex.  What do you call it?"

"Call it?"  Jolep responded, surprised by the question.

"Rocket Fuel," I decided.  "It's dual-purpose, after all."

Realization crossed the ambassador's face.  "That explains the hint of hydrazine."


The guard came for us less than an hour later.

"Are we being taken to a court hearing?" I asked.

"You're being released."

"We are?  Why?"

The guard turned.  "We don't know what you said to the ambassador, but he paid your fines and covered the damage.  You're leaving on his personal ship, never to return."

I smiled.  The guard gave me a pitying look.  "You won't be happy about your release conditions.  He claimed he'll subject you to hard labor, putting you trouble-causers to work making rocket fuel."

I flicked my tongue with delight.  "You poor humans will never understand.  Alcohol is our higher power."



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