Miscx took Ned to a lift a little way from where they were talking.

“Do I have to pay a fine or anything?” Ned asked.

Miscx raised something on her face that Ned took to be a bug-woman equivalent of an eyebrow. “No. Why is it that every new species that comes to civilisation thinks they are going to get billed for everything? It’s so strange!”

Ned shrugged. “Where I come from, no one has ever given me free toast, not even once.”

“Well, you’re not on monkey world now, little guy. Press the button, or we’re going to be here all day.”

Ned pressed the button to summon the elevator. He considered for the brief moment he was pressing the button. This could have been an elevator button anywhere on Earth. Then he looked around as a flying car went past and Miscx called the driver something in a bug language. He looked at her, a little unnerved at her appearance.

The elevator pinged, and the door opened. A muscular man with no shirt on stepped out. He was holding a briefcase and seemed to be wearing a formal loin cloth.

“Morning,” he said, with a wink at Miscx as he stepped out of the carriage. Miscx clicked at him and shoved Ned in.

“Friend of yours?” Ned asked as the doors closed.

Miscx gave him a sidewards glare and pressed a button on the wall. “Level two, Alien detainment.”

The elevator dinged in agreement, and there was a small rocking motion as it zipped upward.

“Fucking pricks, always trying to sleep with me. It’s like half the galaxy has the fucking horn,” she said with a grumble.

“Yeah, I mean, I don’t mean to be rude or anything, but I’m a little surprised,” Ned said. He thought for a moment. “Did you say my buddy Leon was trying to sleep with you too?” he asked.

“Ned, I know we have just met… but do you find me attractive?” Miscx asked, looking at him with an odd expression. At least, Ned thought it was an odd expression. He still couldn’t really read bug faces. To be honest, before he had arrived in space, he had never considered that bugs might have faces, not really.

“I don’t mean to be… I err… I mean, you’re an alien and I’m a monkey… apparently… and I’m not even sure how this would work and…”

Miscx started laughing loudly. “No fucking way! You can see me, can’t you?” she said, genuinely entertained.

“I mean, you’re pretty hard to miss!” Ned replied.

“Gimme a second. I’ll see if I can fix it,” she said, closing her eyes. Or at least that’s what it looked like. Ned considered that Miscx didn’t actually have any eyelids, but he knew she was closing them. He stared at her intently, trying to work out what trick was going on in his head.

She wiggled side to side and made sounds like she was reciting something. Reality shifted in a way that Ned thought was familiar, for a moment.

Miscx turned into a woman. A real, human woman, she was pretty and had short hair. She was dark-skinned and attractive. She wore baggy trousers and a crop top. She smiled at him for an instant before she morphed back into her bug-self. Though, Ned had some issues understanding if he was seeing this with his mind or his eyes. It was quite a strange feeling.

“What just happened?” He asked.

“Did it work? Can you see a hottie now?” she asked, sounding like she was straining.

Ned shook his head.

“No fucking way. I was projecting really hard then! How the fuck didn’t it take?” She asked, as if Ned was supposed to have some idea what she was talking about.

“You were a girl for a moment, then you turned back to normal.”

“And normal is?” she asked.

“Err, I mean, I don’t know if it’s rude, but normal is like… big bug.”

She grinned at him. He was aware that she was grinning, but she was still a bug. It was like there were two of her, one in his head and one in his eyes. Maybe there always had been, and he hadn’t thought about it.

“Ned, you fucking awesome monkey! You are literally only the, what, fourth person I have ever met who can see me! I mean, really see me!”

Ned felt oddly complimented.

The elevator dinged again, and the doors opened to a large and very busy room. It looked like a post office, queue and all.

“So, to everyone else, you’re the cute girl?” he asked.

“Yes, well, no… Sort of. I’m something like their species’ equivalent of the cute girl you saw, unless I don’t want to be. Or I can be, like, a fucked up daemon woman, but that’s for special occasions… and sometimes sex,” Miscx said, as if the comment were perfectly natural.

Ned stepped out of the elevator and looked around. There were people everywhere, and they all looked like they were thoroughly ‘done’ with whatever this place was. “So, where do we start?” He asked.

“Not sure. I think some people can just see through my projection is all. Not sure it actually means anything, it’s just pretty cool, and you probably won’t try to fuck me, which is a nice change,” Miscx said with a sparkle in her voice.

“No, I mean, finding Viking,” Ned said.

“Oh, right yeah. He was picked up. What, an hour ago, you said? Should check the ‘out’ room then. I think it’s down the hall, this way,” she said, almost as a ramble, beckoning Ned towards the corridor she was heading towards.

She was also doing something with her floating screen, which Ned decided was the space version of doom-scrolling social media. Ned noted that he was definitely aware of how she was supposed to look to him, but he just couldn’t reconcile it with what his eyes told him. He decided not to think about it and followed her.


After a few minutes walk they arrived in an open area, it was far less bustling. There were five rat-like people in overalls sitting suspiciously in the corner of the large, well-worn room, which was filled with seats, like a hospital waiting room, but from the eighties. The rats eyeballed Miscx as she and Ned walked in. They looked oddly hungry. At least Ned understood the looks that she was getting a little better now.

They headed to the empty reception desk and Miscx pressed a bell.

“Do they know you aren’t what you appear?” Ned asked, interested in how her disguise worked.

“It’s not like I’m lying to them. I can make the projection more alluring if I concentrate, but it’s just what happens. It’s biology. There’s no reason to point it out. I mean, it’s not really anyone’s business, is it?”

Something was bugging him. He considered if that was a pun and asked his possibly rude question. “Yeah, but how does it work? If you did sleep with someone, do the bits line up?”

Miscx rung the bell again and raised an eyebrow at him. Something Ned was realising she did a lot. “Your brain extrapolates an awful lot. Trust me, no one would notice. Well, unless I forced the demon face out mid-coitus.”

A door opened behind the counter and a large winged monster-man in an official suit stepped out. Ned almost leaped back in shock. This was the same species of monster who had attacked their car, and similar to the one who got Viking thrown into jail.

The man glared at Ned in response and a hand went to his side, presumably where he kept a weapon. The man had powder white skin and red lips. He was very similar in build to the first monster-man that Ned had seen. Miscx once again raised an eyebrow. She leaned over the desk and her tone changed.

“Well, hello officer! Excuse my friend, he’s an abductee from a planet we passed a few hours ago.”

The police beast-man relaxed and looked at Miscx with the expected interest. “Oh no, I’m sorry to hear that. Does he need help?”

Miscx grinned and played with her hair, which Ned couldn’t see. “Yes, he does. And that’s what where here for. His friend, a bigger monkey, got picked up by drones for a scuffle at the park, district twelve.”

The man flicked his wrist, and a screen appeared above a bracelet. He made some gestures like he was scrolling a long list and then did a mid air pinch zoom. He looked over at Ned and then back at the screen. “Ah, I see.”

There was another moment’s silence before he flicked his wrist again, and the screen vanished. “I know you’re new here, monkey, but you can’t judge everyone by their species.”

Ned raised his own eyebrow.

“My species is called vampire. Your buddy was causing a ruckus in the park. Yelling about the ‘monster bastard.’ Bit racist, but not a crime.”

Ned decided not to get annoyed at being called ‘monkey,’ while being told off for racism.

“Wait, you’re a fucking vampire?” Ned asked, as the realisation sunk in.

Miscx turned to face him, with her elbows on the counter behind her. She mouthed, “Shut the fuck up,” at him, though he wasn’t sure how he knew, from her pincer-like face. She leaned backwards, presumably so that the fucking vampire could see right down her top. Ned admired her weaponised flirtation.

The vampire flushed a little less white and coughed politely. Miscx grinned and turned around to face him. “So? His lil’ buddy?”

The man suddenly remembered himself and straightened his already straight uniform. “Yes, miss, if you would care to take a seat, I’ll have him released to you now. No charges. The camera feed confirms that it was a minor incident.”

“Thanks,” Miscx said, strolling to the closest seat and sitting down with a predator’s intent.

Ned sat next to her. “That was awesome. You’re amazing!” he complimented. The moment the police-vampire was out of earshot.

“Yep, it’s like having a super-power,” she chuckled. “You know, what’s funny is that my species evolved to seduce and murder other races.”

“That’s fucked up, Miscx!” Ned said, feeling oddly unthreatened by the revelation.

“Yeah, don’t worry. Mostly we just work in sales now, which is sort of the same thing.”

Chapter 13