Duty

“No thank you. I don’t want a drink.” I said. I was on Earth for business, not for pleasure. Even on my planet I didn’t drink. I liked to keep my mind clear. I didn’t like to participate in activities that would present me as anything other than stoic.

“Water, then?” the bartender asked.

I looked around at the rest of the patrons, all nursing a glass in their hands. “I’ll take something that’s easy to drink.”

The bartender shrugged. “Have it your way.” He pulled out a bottle and removed the cap, then set it in front of me. He must have seen me give it a disapproving look. “It’s a beer. Bud Light. That okay?”

“Sure, sure,” I said, pulling the cold bottle towards me. I took a swig and swallowed, then gave a sour look. “Are you sure this isn’t just runoff water?”

The bartender laughed, slapping the bar. “Funny guy, over here,” he said, pointing to me and talking to no one in particular. He walked away, leaving me to my own thoughts and observations.

I wasn’t the first Intinnag to come to Earth, and I likely wouldn’t be the last. I was here to observe the humans. Some Intinnag were sent here to gather intellect, some to gather allies. I certainly wasn’t about to gather these people as my allies. But I had a job to do.

The only problem was that I had to get to know the humans to properly observe their behavior, and I’d never been one for talking. I didn’t like listening much, either. But, I had to make sure I kept my distance. I wasn’t going to be like the ones sent on assignment that didn’t come back. They forgot it was a job. It was shameful. A gave my head a small shake.

“What’s going on over here?” I turned to see a petite brunette with a spunky short hair coming my way. I looked around, but I was the only one in my vicinity.

“Can I help you?” I asked.

She sat down on the stool next to me with a little bounce. “I’m Claire,” she said. “You looked like you could use some company.”

“No thanks,” I said flatly.

“Come on, handsome. Don’t you just want to talk for a bit? I’m here alone, too.”

“I’m not here to make friends.”

“Then what are you here for? Brad! Bring over some of your finest brandy, please, for this gentleman. On me.” Claire signaled to the bartender.

He brought me a glass that looked like a fishbowl on a short stem. I cradled it in a hand, feeling the warm liquid. I took a sip. “Now this is easy drinking. This is good.”

“See, I knew I could break you out of your shell.”

My brightened mood faded. What did I have to do to make her go away?

“I’ll just sit here a while watching you drink that brandy. You’ll want to talk to me eventually.” She seemed very certain of herself.

The drink slipped through my veins like a warm breeze. It was better than anything we’d had on Intinnag. It also was far more intense than anything I’d ever drank.

I still kept to myself, so I kept drinking. If the drink did anything to me, it made me even more quiet.

I laughed to myself, and I saw Claire turn to me out of the corner of my eye. Depsite my distaste for conversation, Intinnag were given the gift of speech. The ability to persuade.

When I spoke, I was able to speak twice. One voice dominated, while another subaudible speech went unnoticed. It was hard to use it with another Intinnag, but it had always worked quite well with other species.

“What do you want from me?” I asked Claire.

“I just thought you could use a friend.” She shrugged.

“Are you looking to bed me?”

“To what? Bed you?”

“Yes,” I said, stumbling over my words, trying to think of something less formal. “Sex. I’m asking if you want sex.”

She laughed. “You’re blunt. And presumptuous.” Claire crossed her arms.

I said nothing. She got up and started to walk away. “Wait,” I said. “I’m sorry. I’m not good at this.”

“What is this?”

“Talking.” It was my turn to shrug.

“Well okay, but I’m not having sex with you. I can’t believe that’s why you thought I came over here. I just wanted to talk.”

Brad, the bartender, came over. “Is everything okay here?”

“Everything’s fine.” I smiled. I let my voice become soft, assuring. My vocal chords generated two voices as I spoke. “I was just talking to Claire, here. We’re friends.”

“Of course, of course,” Brad said. “I didn’t mean to disturb you.”

“What was that?” Claire asked. “Usually Brad isn’t so compliant with strangers.”

“I’d like to sit and talk with you. I’d like to find out more about your life. What it’s like being – “ I almost said ‘human’. “Being you.” My voice sent her underlying messages of trust, lowering her defenses and appeasing her emotions.

“Um, sure. Okay.” She sat next to me and began to talk. The alcohol made it hard to keep focused on what she was saying. I had to stay alert. I was here to learn. I wasn’t here to make friends. I had to stick to the job.

I sat upright as much as I could and distanced myself from the remainder of the brandy in my glass. I couldn’t remember how many I’d had. I inhaled sharply, trying to rouse myself.

“It wasn’t that big of a deal,” Claire said, interpreting my breathing as a response to what she was saying. I didn’t know what she was saying. But she didn’t notice, she just kept talking.

Even though I stopped drinking, the booze continued to course through me, and the world became spotty. Time passed with pieces missing.

I didn’t know what I was saying to her anymore. I couldn’t remember what I was supposed to be doing. All I knew was that I felt a sense of power when using my innate skills of persuasion. It simmered in me, like something waiting to be unleashed.

Then my body went ridged as I felt her body press up against mine. I put my hands up defensively, trying to push her away. She pulled me in as I tried to pull away. I certainly didn’t want to get physical with humans, but I couldn’t control what messages I was sending to her anymore when I spoke.

Her lips were on mine, her mouth open, moist and soft. My lips moved mechanically. I didn’t know what the appropriate response was. I didn’t involve myself with female Intinnag. They were too much of a distraction.

Somehow we ended up outside of the bar in a cab, and Claire led me up to her apartment. As soon as we were behind closed doors, her hands started exploring all the places on my body that only I had ever touched.

I jerked away at first, completely uncomfortable with what was happening. I knew I looked human to her, but Intinnag had some differences, which hid under my perception cloak. She saw me the way I projected myself.

But, for the purposes of sexual function, I could still pass as human if the situation arose. I didn’t expect or intend for the situation to arise, but it did. And it seemed that I was rising to the occasion.

She fumbled with my clothes, and I picked at her shirt, unsure of where to start on getting it off. It wasn’t a regular thing for me to be undressing someone other than myself. She helped and took it off herself, then pushed me onto the bed.

Everything was blurry and spinning, but I could feel everything that was happening to me, even if it didn’t make sense. It didn’t make sense at all. I didn’t give into pleasurable experiences. They weren’t moral. I tried to push Claire off me, but my limbs weren’t responding like they usually did.

She moved on me and I moved inside her. My breaths quickened and my limbs suddenly became alive with an urge, and my hands groped her body hungrily. I flipped her over on her back and took over, and I took pleasure in the fact that she took pleasure in it.

The night fizzled into blackness, and I slept.

I awoke the following morning in Claire’s bed. She saw me wake up and handed me a glass of water and a couple of white pills. “What are these?” I held up the pills in my palm.

“Aspirin. I’m sure you’re hung over.”

I shook my head. “I don’t understand.”

“You don’t feel like crap? Headache? Sick stomach?”

I shook my head again. She gave me a doubtful look, then shoved the glass at me. “Drink up anyway.” I drank the water, but put the pills in my pocket when she wasn’t looking. I didn’t know how I would react to human medicines, and I didn’t want to become dependent on them. I would be going back to Intinnag soon enough.
“You’re different,” she said as I drank.

Was she onto me? Did she know I wasn’t from Earth? I simply nodded in response, letting her interpret it.

She looked at me thoughtfully for a moment. “Well, I have to get to work, so you’ll have to skedaddle.”

“Skedaddle?”

She laughed. She wasn’t as attractive as Intinnag females, but she wasn’t terrible to look at either. I particularly liked when she laughed. “Put your clothes on and I’ll walk you out.”

I didn’t know proper etiquette for such situations, being new to Earth. I felt like I had prepared with my studies, knowing how to interact with humans and their culture. But I had never prepared for something like this.

It was almost as if she read my mind. “Are you going to ask me for my number?”

“What number?”

She sighed. “My phone number. You know, if you don’t want it, just say so. Goodbye, Kevin.” With that, she pushed me out the door.

“Wait – “ I said, but then the door closed in my face. I looked down at myself, my shirt disheveled, untucked, and missing a button.

I looked at my silver-blue hands. I am an Intinnag. I came here as a representative of my people. A superior race. I didn’t come here to act like a human, as much as my superiors wanted me to act human. But, I don’t think they ever meant for me to act like this.

I sighed and shuffled down the hallway of the apartment building and called a cab. I looked at my watch while I waited. I still had a little bit of time to get to my own apartment and look presentable for my first day at my job.

It was a job I’d been assigned as a cover while I was on Earth. Another Intinnag had prepared it for me. But, I wasn’t thinking about the job. I was thinking about Claire.

I went back to the bar that night, hoping to see Claire, but she wasn’t there. I drank the same brandy she’d introduced me to, and then I began to notice there were other women.

I approached them, a smooth drink in my hand and smooth words on my lips. I’d never been much of a charmer on Intinnag, but these human women made it so easy.
I made my reports to Intinnag about my interactions at work in detail, while only giving the basics of my interactions at the bar. I left out quite a bit.
I left out the fact that since I’d been here, I’d taken home a different woman every night. I’d expanded my drink repertoire and was content to get drunk on just about anything, even Bud Light.

I didn’t know how long it had been. Weeks, maybe months. But, I saw her then. Claire. Something surged inside me when I saw her face.

I walked over to her, feeling the sense of nervousness I’d had when I first came to Earth. No one else was like Claire.

She didn’t smile when I approached her, but she was willing to talk to me.
“I’m sorry about that night we had together. I just didn’t know how to act.” I repeated her words back to her. “You’re different, aren’t you?” And she was.

She smiled, which I took as an acceptance of my apology. She held out her hand, and I took it. “Let’s go talk,” she said.

Claire and I spent many nights together after that. I left her out of my reports entirely, but my superiors were beginning to ask questions. I was with Claire so often that my reports were becoming more and more sparse.

I lay in bed with Claire one night, stroking her hair. I’d almost forgotten the job I came here to do. I was doing what I said I’d never do. I had to leave. I had to go back to Intinnag before this went too far. But I was afraid it had already gone too far.

“Claire, I have to tell you something.”

She propped herself up on her elbow. “What is it?”

I spoke as a human, with one voice, instead of as an Intinnag with two. I’d only been using one voice lately with Claire. “I’m not who you think I am. Or what you think I am.”

“Kevin, your secret is safe with me.”

“My secret?”

“That you’re a man of mystery. I get it. You want to stay mysterious. I’m not sure two people can ever truly know each other. We will stay mysteries to each other.”

“But I don’t want to be a mystery anymore. I just want to be me. I want to go home. It’s my duty.”

“Your duty is to be here with me.” Claire kissed my cheek softly. She wasn’t often serious, but when she was, I couldn’t resist her. Her intellect shone in these moments. Her wisdom. I kissed her mouth.

“So what is it you’re really trying to say?” Claire always had a way of being direct when I was trying to be obscure.

“I’m not human. I don’t belong here.”

“You seem pretty human to me. In here.” She pressed a palm against my bare chest. “It seems to me like you belong here.”

I nodded, silently agreeing. “I’ve never belonged anywhere. It’s always been about the job.” I was mumbling more to myself than to her.

“So, does that mean you’ll stay here with me?” she asked.

I stroked a thumb over her soft, flushed cheek. “Yes, it means I’ll stay.”

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