by C.C. Finlay
Daniyah Howard, Dani to her friends, the executive assistant to Outgrabe Corp's Senior Vice President for Alien Technology Commercialization, entered her boss's office, where she found him hunkered on the floor across from the Morytober ambassador. Face to something-like-a-face.
While Dani was permitted into the SVP's office as needed, for example to deliver the board report, which was still printed on paper like a bank statement for dinosaurs, she was also obliged to wait quietly until noticed. Sometimes that could take a while.
Dani didn't complain. It was all part of the job and she needed the job. She had student loans, rent, and an unhealthy attraction to really nice boots.
The ambassador had drooped on its large, orbicular pseudopod and unfolded its eight-lipped mouth like a lily blossom made of purple petals grooved with deep orange. The squeehole at the commissure of its lips puffed tiny bursts of tart, citrusy air. The scent accented the words. It was part of their language.
Three feet away, the senior vice president clutched a packet of lemon drops. His head wilted on his shoulders as he puckered and popped.
"Sucker," Dani said. Not quite under her breath.
"What?" The senior vice president hopped to his feet. At least he noticed her. The Morytober ambassador rolled two of its grapefruit-sized eyes in Dani's direction.
"I think it might be saying 'sucker'," Dani explained. "If you, um, follow the ambassador's eyes, no, the other eyes, you can clearly see it indicating the suction cup at the tip of its fore-ungula."
The ambassador wiggled its ungula.
"'Sucker,'" said the senior vice president. He slipped another lemon drop between his lips, tipped his head, and produced a forceful pop. The candy squirted out and caromed off the desk just inches from the ambassador. "Oh, jeez, I'm sorry."
"I'll get that," Dani said, whisking a tissue from her pocket and gathering up the tiny sugar missile, which she tucked away for later disposal. "Your pronunciation is very good. Even the scent."
The ambassador made a quivering rustle with its lips.