“Whack! Banks goes for an uppercut and OH— Lieutenant Jackson can’t dodge it!” Commander Banks twisted his body and put all his weight into his uppercut. He felt his fist connect with a hard jaw before he grabbed Jackson and put him in a headlock.
“Fine! I give. You’ve won this spar, Banks. But mark my words, you will not best me in the next match!” Lieutenant Jackson grumbled at Banks and shrugged the Commander off. “And Sergeant Micheals! Stop narrating our matches, or else I’ll put you on bathroom duty!” Commander Banks chuckled as Micheals began to sulk.
“Now, now, Lieutenant Jackson. Don’t be so harsh on Micheals. He was just having some fun.” Commander Banks commented with a slap on the back for added effect. “Anyways, we need to head to the ship's control room, Jackson,” Jackson grumbled at Banks’ command. The pair hurried out of the gym and past a group of laughing women. They barely made it into the hallway before a young man in uniform ran up to them.
“Commander! Lieutenant! We’ve detected an unknown entity nearing the ship. Come quickly!” The man explained with worry wrinkled on his face before he rushed down the hallway and towards the ship's control room. Banks and Jackson shared a look before they, too, were doing the same. When they entered the room, filled to the brim with electronics and weapons, they noticed something was out of place. A very large something— and it was hurtling right at them.
“KRAKEN!” A man shouted and ran from the room. This isn’t good… Banks thought to himself, This isn’t good at all. He ran up to the manual controls and pushed down on the silver lever. The ship tilted in a downward motion at his attempt to direct them away from the massive beast. The blue-spotted Kraken opened its beak-shaped mouth and roared. The noise wasn’t audible to the people inside, but it shook the entirety of the ship. Commander Banks glanced behind him. His men were bustling about— some trying to gather weapons, others putting on protective gear. Jackson soon came to his side and started dressing Banks in protective attire while he continued to fly the ship.
Lieutenant Jackson had just finished securing a hard hat to Bank’s head when the Kraken threw one of his large, tentacled arms at the ship and knocked it off course. “FUCK!” Banks yelled when the ship began to spin. He steadied himself on a chair that was screwed to the floor and pressed a variety of buttons to stabilize the ship.
“Commander!” Jackson yelled to him, “Go to the panic room! I’ll keep the ship steady. Don’t worry about the crew, I’ll look after them too.” Banks scowled at his friend.
“You just expect me to leave you all behind?!” Commander Banks yelled at him as he dodged one of the Kraken's flailing arms. “You’re my crew—”
“No, Kuepper!” Banks stilled for a moment. Lieutenant Jackson had never called him by his first name. “I need you to go to the panic room! You’re far too valuable for this troop to lose! Not only are you the Commander, but you’re also the head of the research department! You’re the one who has every report memorized!” Banks hesitated for a moment before giving in to his friend's request. Maybe he was being selfish, dishonoring the oath he took to protect his crew, but Jackson had a point. Nobody else knew every report by heart—that is, the reports of sentient alien species. Banks ran down the halls while he swore under his breath.
“Shit, Jackson. If you die, I’ll kill you!” Banks whispered harshly and weaved his way through the winding halls, panicked crew, and metal doors until he found the panic room. He paused for a moment and stared at the numbered keypad. He roughly punched in the correct numbers —889069— and waited impatiently for the sliding doors to completely open. Right when the Commander stepped past the rattling doors the ship tilted heavily. He flew to the right, with the ship, and hit his head on the open sliding doors. Banks let out a grunt at the impact and steadied himself using the frame of the door. Unfortunately, far too late did he notice the doors had begun to close. Caught in the moment of trying to pull himself up before the metal doors could reach his dazed body, Banks tripped.
The world seemed to slow. A deep, loud gasp rang in his ears when he felt his body slowly begin to fall to the floor. He glanced back at the door to see it was nearly closed and his right arm was still between it. Before he could make a move to pull his arm away, he felt a sharp pain penetrate his limb, soon followed by a sickening crack.
That’s when Banks knew. He knew he’d lost his arm. The world caught back up to regular time and he screamed angrily. His now stumpy arm was numb from the shock, but he knew he would soon be in a world of pain. Banks pulled his stub of an arm against his chest and put pressure on the fresh amputation. He gagged when he felt leftover pieces of bone fragment leave the open wound. He propped his body up against the now-closed doors and fought to stay positive. The crew will be fine. Jackson is watching them. Jackson is a great Lieutenant, nothing will happen to them. Bank’s thoughts were running at a mile a minute, My arm...it’s gone. Maybe I can still get it back? It’s just on...the other side...of the door. Banks felt himself get woozy and his thoughts become slower. He was sure the amount of blood he'd lost would kill him. Well, so much for Jackson’s plan. A humorless, gasping chuckle left Bank’s battered body before his mind and body went numb.
Kuepper Banks grumbled when he sat up. The morning rays of sunlight shone on his sleep-filled face. He rubbed his tired eyes with a soft sigh, when was the last time he’d even dreamt about the sun? Of feeling it’s warm rays on his skin? That’s when something clicked in his hazy mind; he could feel the sun. He was sure he wasn’t dreaming...or was he?
The Commander's eyes opened wide with fear and he took in his surroundings. He was in an unfamiliar room. The room had a large, open doorway and a heavy wind billowed inside. He shuddered and wrapped the light yellow blanket around his shoulders that had fallen off when he woke up. Then he saw movement. A purple blur ran past the archway. Kuepper squinted and, upon further inspection, the archway was actually the mouth of a cave. “Where the hell am I?” He mumbled under his breath and stared at the yellow blanket. He was desperate to recall how he got there as he shifted through his memories.
“Oh, great! You’re awake!” A melodic voice said in a strange accent. Kuepper’s head whipped around to stare at the owner of the voice. Their skin was a pretty shade of purple— perhaps lilac? They had the biggest, palest eyes he had ever seen. The person standing before him had their stunning white hair braided in twos along the back of their head. But the most startling things about their appearance were their hands and feet. Well, scratch that, hooves. This person– could he even call them that? Had claws on their hands and hooves instead of feet.
“T-This is not real. It can’t be,” Kuepper mumbled to himself and glanced back over his shoulder at the tall creature. “Who...what are you?” He asked. The creature gave him an amused look.
“I am Tsumaki, the Alale Mahteve who saved your life,” The creature's lush, lavender lips spoke.
“Saved my– what? Alale? Mahteve?” Kuepper rambled and went to run his right hand through his tight red curls. The motion made him freeze when he realized his hand had not touched his hair. “W-What? My arm??” He sputtered and raised the amputated limb at the creature– the Mahteve.
The large alien chuckled, “Yeah, you lost your arm during that battle with the Kraken. I did my best to heal it, but I can’t make your skin heal over the wound if you want to get your arm back.”
“Get my arm back? How?! It’s gone!” Kuepper yelled at the Mahteve. The creature just gave him an amused smile and tossed him a bundle of clothes.
“Here, put these on. I think I may know someone who can help us.” With that, the creature left the cave. Kuepper was shocked. His arm was gone. There’s a weird creature telling him to do things. He'd lost to the Kraken. Was his crew alive? Did Jackson survive? Was the ship okay? While he was going through his internal dilemma he must’ve put the given clothes on without a thought. Kuepper sighed. What was he doing here? Was he dead? Was this the afterlife?
Kuepper left the room through the rocky mouth of the cave. He looked to his left and spotted the creature from before. “Purple dude!” He called out to the creature. The creature whipped their head around, and an annoyed scowl adorned their unblemished skin.
“First of all, I am not a dude. I am an x-gendered Alale. Do you know anything about alien culture?” The Mahteve scoffed, “And secondly, my name’s Tsumaki. I already told you that.” Kuepper's mouth gaped in shock. Had he just been reprimanded by an alien?
“Come along now human, a long trip awaits,” Tsumaki spoke. Kuepper nodded his head absently and followed the beautiful Mahteve. Was this purple person really an alien? Or were they just tricking him? If...if this alien is real...does that mean I am the first person to discover a humanoid alien?! Kuepper’s thrilled thoughts rippled through his head, I can’t wait to report this to HQ! They’ll be so—
Kuepper was startled out of his thoughts when a clawed hand grabbed him by the nape of his neck. “Watch where you’re going,” Tsumaki mumbled and released his neck. Kuepper said nothing and stared downward. He was on the edge of a cliff?! How did he end up here? Wasn’t he behind the alien? Now he’s somehow a couple of feet ahead of them, and on the edge of a cliff, no less.
“W-Where are we going?” He asked the alien hesitantly. The alien just shrugged then grabbed Kuepper and threw him over their shoulder in a playful manner. “What the hell, Tsumaki? Put me down!” Kuepper yelled at the alien and pounded his fists on their back.
“Calm down, we’re going to visit the Grand Council. And I can’t put you down. We still need to climb down the mountain.” The alien replied and started their descent. Suddenly it clicked for Kuepper what those claws and hooves were for; climbing.
Kuepper stilled immediately when he glanced down. Was now a bad time to mention he was afraid of heights?
After a long, excruciating climb, Tsumaki placed Kuepper back on his feet. Only one problem, the human was so terrified he could barely move, let alone comprehend what had just happened. Tsumaki sighed then hefted Kuepper back over their shoulder and took off through the forest that surrounded the mountain they were on along with many others.
When Kuepper finally came out of his initial shock he was surprised to find that Tsumaki still had him draped over their shoulder, but even more surprised by the speed they were moving. Kuepper glanced around. From what he could tell, they were in a forest. The alien was moving so fast all Kuepper could see was the brown blur of tree trucks, their blotchy green leaves, and the pristine white snow.
Tsumaki must’ve noticed Kuepper was okay now, and commented, “You’re afraid of heights, huh?” Tsumaki had an adorable accent, but one Kuepper couldn’t place. It must be from his native tongue, Kuepper thought. Instead of asking about the alien's native language, Kuepper responded.
“Yeah. Heights kind of freak me out.” His voice was somewhat drowned by the rushing of wind as they ran through the dense forest.
“But you were on a spaceship? In space? High above Earth’s ground?” Tsumaki chuckled and wore a grin.
“It’s different,” Kuepper defended.
“How so? I don’t get it,” they questioned jokingly.
“It just is. Get over it,” Kuepper huffed and attempted to cross his arms, before reality hit and he realized he was still missing one. He sighed.
“Oh, yeah, I should tell you about the aliens we are going to meet. They hold an even higher position than I do here, so be on your best behavior.” Tsumaki informed him and narrowly evaded running them into a tree.
“More aliens? Why?” Kuepper asked.
“Well, don’t you want your arm back? Or to return to Earth?” Tsumaki asked curiously. Hearing the Mahteve mention Earth brought a question to Kuepper's lips.
“Did– did my crew survive?” He asked with a soft voice— as if he’d already known the answer. Tsumaki was quiet for a long time, long enough for Kuepper to assume he wouldn’t receive an answer before the alien finally responded.
“No. When I got to the crash site you were the only survivor,” Tsumaki spoke. They tried to keep up a stoic face, but upon seeing Kuepper’s reaction to those haunting words, tears welled up in their eyes. Tears clouded Kuepper's vision as well, but he refused to cry. He wouldn’t let a near-stranger watch him cry. But Jackson… Kuepper thought and a stray tear rolled down his cheek, only to be swept away by the wind.
“SO! I guess I should tell you about the Mahteve’s, you uneducated human,” Tsumaki said in an attempt to distract them both. The alien was trying to make him feel better, how sweet. “We are warmblooded creatures, like humans. So, to survive in this harsh environment, we infuse our clothes with a special flower called Arenover. It has the highest resistance to the cold and helps keep us warm.”
“Is that why you gave me new clothes?” Kuepper asked and began to examine his flower embroidered coat sleeve.
“Yes. Also, the aliens we are going to meet are part of the Grand Council. They hold the highest position of all the Mahteve.” Tsumaki informed, “I am part of the High Council in Arnaud, so I know them pretty well. But you should know that when you greet them it is customary to touch the back of each other's hand with your own, instead of shaking hands like you humans do. We also tend to introduce ourselves with our pronouns because sometimes it’s not obvious with us aliens, especially to outsiders…”
Kuepper sighed and nodded. This was going to be tough to remember, but at least Tsumaki’s rambling voice is distracting him from depressive thoughts.
“We’re almost there,” Tsumaki concluded.
“Wait, what? I missed the last part of your lecture,” Kuepper said and frowned.
Tsumaki sighed, “I just said to be careful. You’re a stranger to us, and while you will be treated with respect, we still don’t completely trust you. Well, I do, but I’m an exception.”
“Why do you trust me?” Kuepper asked incredulously.
Tsumaki glanced back at him, seemingly debating whether or not, to tell the truth. Giving up, Tsumaki sighed and told him, “Well, Alale tend to trust others very easily. It’s instinctual for us.”
“Alale? What does that mean? You mentioned it earlier, too.” Kuepper asked. He was eager to learn more about this alien's culture.