Ashley sat in her new room, back against the door, head in her hands, and wondered again why she’d volunteered for this. Why hadn’t she just retired after the last one, bought a farm on SRD-4, and spent the rest of her life in peace with her children? She’d more than earned it. She knew that. Her nest leader knew it too. She was fairly certain that he’d been even more shocked than she’d been when she’d volunteered for this mission. There’d just been no reason for her to do it, but she’d still hit the damn button when the call came for a volunteer.
“Stupid!” She said, smacking herself in the head. “So stupid!”
She had to stop dwelling on it, though. What was done was done. Now she just had to figure out how to handle the current situation. How could she stay here? How the hell was she gonna explain her insane behavior to her new roommate?
Most importantly, though… how many assess was she going to rip in her first report for a fuck up this big? She was just so sick of this shit. They’d always messed something up on her missions. Always. There’d been the changing eye colors of the Twirr that had slipped by them. Then the ridiculous mating rituals of the Enders. And who could forget the bathroom habits on FFP-7? At least that one was kinda funny. This, though…
There was a small knock on the door, and Ashley jerked up and rolled away, her hand instinctively reaching towards her hip for a weapon that wasn’t there. Even in her panic, though, she marveled again at the dexterity of the human hand. Despite all the trouble, she had to admit that turning herself into a human was her favorite disguise of her career. It wasn’t great, of course. Nothing beat her natural form. But this body wasn’t too bad.
Another knock. She froze, then slowly kneeled down in an attack pose and staring at the door. It couldn’t get in here, could it? Those monsters couldn’t open doors, right?
“Ashley?” A voice said on the other side of the door. “Are you okay?” The roommate, Jaydin. Such a stupid name.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” Ashley said, keeping her voice as neutral as possible.
“You sure? I, uh… I’ve never seen anyone react that way.”
Because you’re all fucking crazy, Ashley thought. “Yeah, sorry. It’s… it’s a long story. But I’m fine. Everything’s cool.”
Ashley could hear Jaydin standing outside the door, breathing softly and probably trying to think of something to say. Some way to justify living with a killer. With a demon. That she kept one of the most dangerous creatures in the universe in her apartment.
In the end, though, Jaydin said nothing. Just turned and walked away.
After taking a minute to calm her nerves, Ashley stood and began pacing the room. She smacked her head a few times. Eventually she grabbed her pack and pulled out her laptop. A few quick keystrokes and she’d exited the fake human layout and was logged into her own system. She ran a search for human pets. Pictures of people with dogs began scrolling by. Weird, but fine. She could handle that.
Then it popped up. A human holding one of the monsters. Then more pictures of humans holding and playing with them. She found websites devoted to them. Videos.
How had they missed this?
She switched to her emergency channel and called her ship. Her nest leader connected immediately.
“Zee,” he said, his nose twitching rapidly. “What’s wrong?”
“Did you know about this?” She asked. She pulled up one of the pictures and made it fill the entire screen. A human girl holding one of the monsters up to her face and smiling.
Her leader squeaked in fright, his whiskers bouncing and his pure white fur standing up on his face. More panicked squeaks behind him as others saw the picture.
“I… I didn’t know, Zee. I swear.”
“They keep them as pets here. They keep the monsters as pets, and they call them cats! They…” She shook her head and, unable to hold back any longer, began to sob. “They fucking keep them as pets.
“What the fuck have you done to me!?”