“What the hell is taking Judo so long?”
A blue-faced Ari paced frantically, checking her watch again as we waited on the last of our group to join us. It was funny using that expression for her, especially since she was actually blue. To top that off, she was almost completely opposite of the usual calmness meter displayed by other Suphonns. The gills, stretching from her cheekbones to her neck, flared as she ran her hand down the retracted fin on her head, curving down her neck.
“Relax, I'm sure he'll be here soon,” Gem calmly asserted.
“Be here soon?” she stopped, glaring at him before starting an even more energetic walk.
“He should have been here three and a half minutes ago!”
I let out a small chuckle at the seriousness of her attitude and the high pitch of her tone.
“Oh, you think this is funny?” she scowled in my direction.
“Sorry,” I laughed.
“Sorry doesn't make up for the time we're losing. I swear, he better have a good excuse or I'm going to chuck him in the goddamn face.”
“You aren't going to chuck anyone.”
“Oh, you think I won't?”
Gem brought down the magazine he was reading to cast a glare of his own.
“You're going wave your arms around like a goddamn maniac like you always do when you argue. He's going to give you some excuse about him stopping to eat thinking he had more time, and you're going to walk off all exasperated about how you can't believe it, and then you're going blame me and say that it's my fault for being unclear on directions, and that as punishment I need to bring his crap aboard.”
“When has that ever happened?”
“The last mission we went on,” Tank broke in from his position next to Gem. He continued reading his magazine just as nonchalantly as any Kumorr. His dark, beady eyes skimmed through the pages from the eye sockets in the natural armour that covered his head, neck, spine, and tail. Despite the vast amount of species that inhabited the academy, I hadn't seen a Kumorr before him. Looking at him made all the stories and history I'd read on Kumorr's seem redundant. Whenever he walked on all fours, I couldn't help but get the urge to pet him on his white fur. Not only because he didn't look nearly as viscous as Kumorrs were when they were trying to kill something, but also because of the strange metallic feel. He must not have been as amused as I was, because he immediately stood up, flashing me a look before he started a humanoid walk.
Ari casted a look as if she was apalled at Tank's accusation.
“I did not,” she hollered.
“And the one before that,” Gem continued
They took turns, alternating back and forth, and I couldn't help but laugh as they went on. The more they argued, the more ferocious Ari's arms waved. They were so deep into their back and forth chatter that none one of them realized when the large, red Judo finally showed. He was also a Suphonn, but towered over Ari in comparison. Despite his chunky size, and intimidating look, he cowered as he saw Ari on a rampage, and turned his gaze toward me, as if to tell me not to give away his position. It was funny that he thought I would be the one to give him up and not the mountain of luggage he carried alongside him. I thought Gem was exaggerating, but the sheer amount of luggage he had with him was unbelievable.
Ari turned as he crept closer to sneak past, and the fuse hit the rocket as she laid her eyes on him.
“AND WHERE THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN!?”
“I-I got hungry. Yu's Shack had a rush hour sale, and I really wanted to try that burger since Gem and I couldn't last time.”
“We're getting ready to go on one the biggest missions of our lives and food is the first thing on your mind?”
“More importantly, what the hell are you packing in these?” Gem said, already hauling the first of Judo's bags.
“You aren't storing Borreans in these things are you?”
“He's four minutes late, and the only thing you're worried about is what's in his bags?”
“Fine. Judo, it was selfish what you did. You should have told somebody. We're a team, and glorious pep talk, you know what I'm saying?”
“That's why I got you one,” Judo replied, pulling a burger out of his bag and flashing it in the air.
“That's my man.”
“What, that's it?” Ari interjected
“Ari, the man got me a burger.”
“You can't be serious?”
“Tank, am I wrong here?”
“If that isn't considered diehard commitment, then I've completely lost faith in the universe,” Tank replied.
“Amen to that brother,” Judo commented, throwing Tank his own burger in the process.
Ari flailed her hands in the air again.
“I can't deal with either one of you right now. I'm getting on the ship.”
I looked on, trying my best to keep my laughter as quiet as possible, but the seriousness of Ari, mixed with a sarcastic Gem, the nonchalance of Tank, and the innocence of Judo made it nearly impossible for me to stop gigglesnorting at every interaction between them. I had only seen them all together for a few minutes, and I could already see why they were one of the highest ranked. The atmosphere was light between, as if this was routine for them. Being this close probably took all the pressure off during their intense missions. This was probably no different. Ari grabbed my arm with her four-fingered, jelly-like hand as she stomped past me.
“Come on, Lyles. For once I get one reasonable person on this goddamn team, and I'll be damned if you become corrupted by these jackasses.”
I had no choice but to comply as her hands were practically suction cups. She dragged me through the docking terminal, and we followed the glass-walled hallway where, just outside, ships of varying sizes floated about in orbit. I'd only been to a docking station a few times, and everytime I'd stepped through, the sight amazed me. Looking at the varied architectures between ships, each built as an individual piece of art. All unique in there own way. While most of the ships were made for small parties of up to eight people, there were a few large private trader ships docked. There size casted an immeasurable shadow and their sheer might was exasperating.
“Hey, Lyles!” Ari broke in.
“Are you even listening?”
“Oh, sorry,” I laughed, “What were you saying?”
“Can you believe those idiots? Not an ounce of care in the world. We got people to save and no time to kill, yet those bozos would sit back reading and eating burgers all day, talking about the shapes of clouds and not a goddamn thing would bother them.”
“I don't think they're that bad,” I mumbled.
“Oh, please. And Judo. Gosh, I swear, that boy just eats and eats and eats. And he carries so much stuff around, he can't even keep track of it. If it weren't for me, he'd have been lost ages ago!”
Ari continued her relentless rant, and my mind slowly faltered back to the task ahead. The sound of Gem's words still resonated within me. Each beat my heart took was a thump harder than the last. Each step I took was a step closer to the answer of a question I still wasn't quite sure of. But the anxiety built on each moment. All I knew, was the only way forward was to put one foot in front of the other, and walk until I everything came to light.