Poor McNally

Zarquon's singing fish, I'm starved.  The most prevalent thought swarming in McNally's head right now, more than I gotta find a job, Oh swut, rent's almost due, they're gonna kick me out for sure this time, even more than Zark this whole damn Universe and everything in it.

Which is really saying something.

He's convinced little chunks of the thought break off as it slams around his brain and spawns baby thoughts identical to the proud, ravenous parent.  He spats on the cornerstone of the unemployment office, his home away from home for some time now, and shoves his hands in his coat pocket.

"Oh, brilliant," he growls, wiggling his fingers in the newly-discovered holes in his pocket.  He shudders against the sharp bite of impending destitution, and starts for home.

McNally passes pub after seedy pub, scowling at each.  As much as his heart can use a Gargleblaster or seven, his stomach and impoverished pocket begs him to take pity on their collective soul.  Exasperated he stops in the middle of the sidewalk and gazes longingly at a bar so seedy not even a Hutt would dare consider crossing its threshold.  McNally shakes his head jadedly, asking the sidewalk how the zark he got into this mess, and looks back up at the entrance.

"'Scuse me."

McNally starts, shrinking from the anthropomorphic mantis that must've decided to materialize at his shoulder. "Can I help you?" he snaps.

"Maybe I can help you," he answers with a click.  "I saw you come out of the unemployment office…"

"Come to rub it in?"

"…and I thought you might like to meet my boss.  I know he'd definitely like to at least meet you."

McNally almost can't believe his ears.  Has this been the opportunity he's been waiting on for weeks?  Have things finally turned the corner?

"Wait," he begins, stepping back, "what makes you so sure your boss'd like to meet me?"

"Trust me, kid, it's my job to know what my boss likes.  And by the looks of you I know my boss'd like you, and you're next to starving.  Now you comin' or not?"

He starts to shy from the mantis, but then he feels his empty pocket and glances across the street again.  It's not like I can actually afford to be choosy, he thinks.
Besides, he continues as he follows the mantis, what could I possibly lose?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

It occurs to McNally that it's weird to find this nice of a building in this part of the city.  And most of the lights are still on.

Funny, that.

The mantis holds the door open for McNally, eyeing him with a click.  All that clicking's starting to bug him. Once inside he notices that he's almost surrounded by cubicles.  Heads pop up as the mantis closes and latches the door behind them.  They start whispering eagerly to each other, looking or pointing at McNally.  A few wave when he catches their gaze.

Didn't think night-shift people could be this perky, McNally thinks.  There's almost a glow to them, but he can't figure out why.

The mantis leads him past row after row of similar arrangements.  Not all of the occupants are quite as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, but McNally's procession sure stirs up plenty of attention.

The mantis finally turns them into an empty hallway, and knocks at a fine, heavy door in the middle.

"It's open," calls the muffled voice within.  "Ah, Samagwi, good."

"Found a new one, sir," clicks the mantis, nudging McNally into the office.

"Good, good, thank you Samagwi.  If you'll just wait outside, thank you."

The mantis nods, closing the door quietly as he exits.  McNally turns to the creature behind the desk: in the face and bearing he's no humanoid by any stretch of the imagination, but from what McNally can see he's a fellow biped with two arms, so that certainly helps.
Still, McNally doesn't exactly like the way he's looking at him.

"Is... there something on my shirt?"  Self-consciously he glances down at his tired button-down.

"No no," the creature chuckles, "Just getting a look at you."  He rises and comes from behind his desk, not taking his eyes off McNally.  McNally offers a handshake in an attempt to bring some familiarity back to this uncanny ritual, but it's only regarded with curiosity and a droll "Hm, yes."

"Solid features," he mutters, tilting McNally's head down slightly by the nose to look square in his eyes.  "Clear eyes, good... and such an unusual color!"

"They're... just brown---"

"But I've never seen such a shade!  Excellent!"  The creature turns McNally's head by the chin, running a clammy finger along his jaw line and cheek bones.  "Very nice features, well defined.  A bit lean, maybe..."  He picks up McNally's arm, lightly squeezing it, then suddenly reaches behind McNally and pulls his shirt tight around his front.  McNally winces.  "Very lean indeed, though nothing a few good feedings can't fix."

He starts to walk behind McNally, and it takes all his self-control not to whip around so as not to let this creature out of his sight.  He's desperate for a job, any job... at least, he thought he was.

"Your parents?" the creature asks suddenly, crouching to examine McNally's legs.

He raises his foot impulsively.  "Sorry?"

"Your parents, what are they?  Where are they from?"

"Um... human.  They lived here in the city, by the river---"

"And their parents?"

"Ems from Earth."

His face lights up.  "Earth?  All of them?"

"Yeah, came out here way back when... look, why does that even---?"

"Ooh, promising lineage, worth investigating..."  More circling.  McNally shifts uncomfortably.  "And your health, how is it?"

"Er, pretty good.  I mean, there's the occasional day under the weather, course, and lately I've been hungry..."

"That'll be taken care of, I assure you."  He circles McNally once more.  "I'd say you're in."

"I'm... wait, what?"  McNally shakes his head.  "No formal interview?  No resume?  I don't even---"

"My dear boy," he laughs, "I've already seen your resume!  Of course, it'll need closer inspection, but I've seen enough for now."

McNally starts to back up.  "Listen, Mister..."

"Met-Kay"

"Yes, Mr. Met-Kay, sir.  Look, I'm keeping you far too late, I really should come back in the morning..."

"Nonsense!  You're already in!  Come, let me walk you downstairs a bit."

Met-Kay opens the door, motioning for McNally to exit first.  He half considers bolting right now, but he nearly bumps into his mantis escort.

"Right, Samagwi, if you'll follow us..."  Met-Kay places his equivalent of a hand on MaNally's shoulder, as a fond uncle does, and, acting the uncomfortable nephew, McNally promptly and vainly attempts to shrug it off.

The trio winds down some halls and through more rows of cubicles.  And as they pass the occupants eagerly---"lovingly" weirdly springs to McNally's mind---greet Met-Kay, and he acknowledges just as dotingly.

"Good rapport," McNally supposes aloud.

"But of course!" Met-Kay cries affectionately.  "They're my pets.  They work for me."

"Pets?"  He's too surprised to keep this in his head.

He's not really listening.  "Humans are such an exquisite and lively species."

McNally swallows.  His own mother---Zarquon preserve her memory---was never this affectionate, which he had previously never thought possible.  But last time he checked, "pet" was a term of affection for, say, a significant other, or a child.  But even with children McNally's always found "pet" slightly creepy.

Not unlike how as he's led further back and down, it's getting noisier.  Squawks, moans, cries...Are there animals in here, too?

No, there can't be, they sound too... familiar...

"Well, this is where I leave you. Samagwi will take good care of you."  Met-Kay starts to turn away.  "I'll be along in a few days on my usual rounds to see how his training's coming."

Training?  A few days?  This had gone too far.  McNally's a second from bolting, but Samagwi snatches his wrists. "You're gonna like it here," he hisses, then adds with a snicker, "so long as you behave."

A shock at the wrists and McNally lets out a yell.  A clawlike hand to the mouth smothers it and with another shock to the neck McNally slumps into unconscious submission.

The End

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