Skilled pilot Zirzal had time to spare before the trip to Netsrik while his friend and rider Turgid got settled in the ship before takeoff. To temper the sting of boredom, he logged into a dating application, shocked at the new alert from an exquisite creature. Zoe… he read, rubbing his tentacle over her profile picture. I am holding your tentacle, dearest. Zoe’s wide mirrored eyes, suitcase sized brain, and leathery gray skin fascinated him, similar to his own look. Pleased with the potential catch, he shared the picture proudly with Turgid.
“Don’t waste your life force on that creature,” said Turgid. “Do you recall the demise of Bozh when he logged into a similar application?”
“This creature appears different, and Bozh was careless. As a precaution, I will signal Zoe of the States United to ensure she is real.”
“You’ll regret that action.”
Midway into their journey, Turgid noticed the dull gray, polluted sky they were flying through did not resemble the cleaner skies of Netsrik. He found his friend at the controls, still preoccupied with the dating application.
“Zirzal! Explain why we are off course; we should be on Netsrik by now. I have a critical package for Controller Jana and if I don’t get it there on time, I shall not receive funding to continue my life force for next season.”
“Friend, I will get you to Controller Jana as agreed. I have made a slight deviation to,” he pushed bright buttons on the dashboard, “the Lone Star. Zoe, of the States United agreed to meet at an AirBarnaby, then we’ll be back on course. I am delighted.”
“ZIRZAL! Don’t you understand? She is of misrepresentation. Her homeland bears various names. How are they united? Do not venture into that evil place. Take me to Netsrik. I must give the package to Jana!”
“Moderate your emotions or you’ll exhaust precious life force.”
It was a smooth landing in the spacious backyard of the AirBarnaby. Invisible and no bigger than an apple to the human eye, Zirzal used this safer form for the ship while scanning the lands for potential threats. They found none.
“Hmm. She should be here, yet I don’t detect a presence in the AirBarnaby. Also, it is the human time we agreed upon.”
“Perfect. Let’s go, friend.”
Turgid settled into the seat beside Zirzal, ready for takeoff.
From the surrounding bushes, trees, the pool’s depths, and the home itself, humans drenched in tactical gear emerge from all sides. All hold dark tools pointed in the ship’s direction.
“An ambush! How can they see us? What madness have you led me to!?” yelled Turgid.
“The invisibility cloak is offline, and we’re at normal size. They have control of the ship! Zoe… how could you?”
“There is no Zoe of the States Un-United! This happened to Bozh — they took his ship and tools and are applying its power against us. That dating app is a trap and we’re the bait!” Turgid held his package close. Time was dwindling to reach Netsrik.
In the center of the controls, Zirzal’s tentacle hovers over a large, red button. “I came here for love and met with hate. I am not Bozh. I will get you and your package to the Controller.”
“HOW?!” Turgid screams as Zirzal pressed down, just as the humans open fire. A light brighter than a thousand suns engulfs them all.
Later, on Netsrik, Turgid delivers his package to Controller Jana with twenty minutes to spare.
“Ah, Turgid, thank you for making it on time. Your funding is complete. There’s extra to last you twelve seasons for the bravery you and your pilot showed today. Exemplary catch. Nothing’s better than a human. Now we’ll use their tools against them to our advantage.”
“Thank you, Controller Jana. I am most grateful.”
At the loading bay, Turgid found Zirzal watching crew members transport the sleeping bodies of the human agents seized from the Lone Star.
“Friend, your actions earned me extra funding. I won’t have to deliver packages for years now because of you. Please accept this offer to share my bounty, a token of my deepest gratitude.”
“Turgid, you’re too kind. Keep the bounty, it is yours. I have all I need now.”
“Truly? How so?”
A crew member wheels in an unmasked, sedated agent over, still in tactical gear.
“Is that the one?” asked Turgid.
Zirzal nods in agreement. He hands over the agent’s identification card to Turgid. It’s an exact match to the face, and dog tags around the agent’s neck that read: Zoe Graves.