“What?” Lanie whispered, and then in a normal voice, “Who’s in there?”
“You promise not to kill me?”
Lanie paused a moment, “Sure.”
“Well, I don’t know what you are, or if you can hurt me!” Lanie sighed, “Look, just come out of there.” She backed up further.
After a few seconds of rustling noises, the ugliest thing she had even seen, crawled slowly forward. It looked like a rat that was a victim of lab experiments. It was making very worried noises.
“Ewww, what are you?” Lanie said softly.
“Ohhh, I’m sorry. I know I’m not very pretty. All I know is I’m a Bakta and my name is One.”
Lanie instantly felt bad she reacted with open disgust, “No I’m the one that sorry.” She reached forward to pet it, and then drew her hand back; still not sure she could touch it.
One sat still looking very apologetic for its appearance.
Trying to be hospitable she asked, “Are you hungry?”
“I’m starved! That’s what I have been doing in here, looking for something to eat!”
“Did you come from that last planet I was on? What kinds stuff do you eat? Are you a girl or a boy?” Lanie started rummaging through the food supplies.
One held its ears, “Questions! Questions! Slow down!” Then sighing heavily, “Yes I stowed away to get away from those damn lizards. I will eat anything that doesn’t eat me first!”
Lanie stopped and looked over her shoulder at him.
Holding its hand out in front of itself, palms facing her, it shook them, “But not YOU!” he paused, “And lastly I am a male.”
Lanie held a dinner she didn’t care for in her hand. “Here, this is a good one.” She injected the required amount of water and heated it before setting it on the floor. “There ya go.” One dug right in, Lanie could see he was indeed starved. He made gross little noises and occasionally wiped his mouth with his arm.
When he couldn’t force another bite down, One looked up to see Lanie staring at him, “What? I was hungry!”
Lanie smiled, “No I could see that. I was just thinking you’re kinda cute after all…in a …weird…sorta way.”
One smiled at her.
“Okay One, go take a bath in the sink and we gotta deal, I need someone to talk to.” Then it suddenly hit her, she had been talking to him. She touched the necklace, “Amazing.”
“A bath? What’s that?”
“Just as I expected.” She said under her breath, “It means you use water and soap on your body so you don’t stink!”
One looked confused, “I stink?”
“Yes you do.” Lanie left him to sort it out. Walking to the front of the ship, she sat at the control panel. Everything seemed to be running smoothly. In looking over the panel, Lanie realized they added a few things, she now had weapons. They also added a few more gauges to keep track of air quality, and the atmosphere outside the ship having to do with radiation. “Boy, it will take me forever to pay off my debts.” She said aloud. Maybe that was the intention.
Lanie was shaken from her thoughts by One, who was sitting by her ankle shaking the water off his body. He was in the midst, of some serious licking when she reached down picked him up by the scruff of his neck. Kicking and screaming, he quieted when she deposited him on her shoulder.
“Why’d you do that?” He asked.
“So I don’t step on you. I’ll be a good place for you to be so you don’t get lost when we’re outside the ship.”
One nodded, “Okay that makes sense.” He watched Lanie fiddle with a few knobs on the panel then asked, “Do you know what you’re doing?”
She sneered at him sideways, “Kind of a smart ass for a rat, aren’t cha?”
“I’m not a rat!”
“What are you then?”
“I’m a Bakta, we are scavengers, yes, but we are way more intelligent than the common Earth rats.”
Lanie picked him off her shoulder and placed him on the control panel so she could see him when she talked to him.
“I wish you’d warn me when you’re gonna do that!” He said squealing.
Lanie smiled down at him, “Sorry. How is it that everyone I run into knows all about Earth?”
“We’ve all been around for a very long time. We evolved faster than you. To be honest, Lanie, most of the species I know think of your planet as being inhabited by a people with very low intelligence.”
Studying him a minute, she felt the need to defend her race, “Well, maybe we are a little behind the rest of you, but we aren’t like wild animals.” She said, quoting Ku.
“That’s true as well; they are smarter than you, some of them anyway.”
Lanie frowned at him, “You might want to stay on my good side. Stop making me sound so inferior.”
One just stared back at her with his beady little eyes.
Over the next few days, on their way back to Tentalu, One and Lanie had many discussions. He was easy for her to talk to and he was a fountain of information. She did consider him a pet, but also a friend. One was quite entertaining. She even caught him singing to himself one morning.
“What kind of a song is that, One?” She asked.
“It’s a prayer.”
“Really? You guys believe in an afterlife and stuff?”
“See what I mean Lanie? Sometimes you say the stupidest things!”
“What? What did I say?”
One sighed, “You are so arrogant…so arrogant that you think this all happened by accident.”
Yes he is so much more than a rat.