art by Tais Teng
Wrath of the Porcelain Gods
by Nicky Drayden
Being a little curious doesn't make you a deviant. On Vero-Avalon Station, with its hundred and fifteen sapient species, it'd be weirder not to wonder about the alien biology of your cohabitants. You see them in the mess hall, slurping up trans-dimensional slugs, gnawing on Yuvvian bark, sipping pink clouds from see-through thermoses, and dining on the finest spiced lava rock this galaxy has to offer. You don't blink an eye when a proboscis appears from a rift in space-time and oozes purple acid onto freshly killed Frall. And when an Undulite consumes its still living mate right in front of you, you don't judge.
You're something of an amateur anthropologist, after all, and a curious one at that. Curious enough to enter through that doorway, the one with the symbol on the front that you can't quite decipher. Not the symbol of the humanoid man, nor the humanoid woman. Not the generic fish symbol for the aquatics. Not the avians, nor the giant blue placard for the restroom designed especially for the spatially challenged.
What goes up, must come down. What goes in, must come out. No better way to know a species than to observe how it rids itself of its undigestables. You've documented almost all of them--one hundred fourteen species, leaving you with just one left.
You wouldn't have thought twice about the Asiphants if Nadia hadn't warned you. Probably would have gone and got yourself killed, thinking it was another routine piss-and-shit... sneak in with your personal cloaking device, take a couple of stealth holographs, jot down some notes, onto the next. But Nadia had inside information, vague as it was. Who knows how she'd gotten it, but she'd told you to go in prepared for battle.