Oil patterns shined off the faceless black head of the thing holding my leash. I struggled with my dog collar, but my captor's bulky black spacesuit concealed strong muscles. I grabbed at the collar clip, pulling down to get more air.
I stumbled through rows of bright multicolored vendor tents. The whiff of stale onions and Zevo bug spray assaulted my nostrils. Extraterrestrial food smells.
I yelled for help, but the ones within earshot only stared and laughed. A hairy termite monster pointed at me.
My leather harness creaked noisily on my otherwise nude body. A chill breeze raised goosepimples on my exposed flesh.
Moron. Voluntarily dressing as a human `pet!' No amount of money is worth this! "Where are you taking me?"
The black thing stopped. Its wrist computer beeped as gloved fingers punched buttons.
No answer. I got dragged further through the market.
Uncaring alien patrons, unfamiliar vendors, many with naked human beings chained up, dog-like, within their stalls. The mouth on a large thistle shaped building opened, No Face forcefully dragging me inside.
A mouse monster next to a bar table crossed its tentacles as it regarded us with its single eye. "This is the Relseba you're selling? It looks scrawny."
A bird thing next to it craned its long feathery neck. "Hmm. What's it good for?"
Sounds emerged from a human mouth on the otherwise featureless visage. "Its test results were interesting. Above average health and nutrition, evidence of dental repair, yet a curious lack of exercise. Intelligence and motor skills on level with a school child, abnormally advanced language apprehension, though it owes a great deal to the symbiote somebody decided to install in the auditory canal."
The yellow alien's beak pointed downwards, in the direction of my immodest leather thong. I flushed red with shame.
The creature's bug claws moved to the hips of its negligee. "What's its breeding statistics?"
"I hesitate to mention it, but that's another thing that sets it apart. The genitals don't split like a normal male. It's doubtful we can get this one to breed with any of our stock, so I'm willing to cut you a discount."
"Hmm." Without even asking, the bird thing looked inside my thong. "Are they located somewhere else, or is this wrinkly thing it?"
No longer could my girlfriend's green hands slide beneath my hip straps, sending electrifying signals down there. My face reddened in anger. "It's usually larger, but you're not that beautiful."
A claw slapped me across the face, resulting in a burning cut like you'd get shaving. "You disrespecful xizheda!"
But then a smirk appeared around the corner of the creature's beak. "You said that in Neepra!"
"He's bright, but not that bright."
Uneasy looks crossed both monsters' faces.
"I call Mabnin," the mouse creature growled.
Bird thing nodded, retreating a few steps. "Mabnin."
No Face allowed slack into my leash. "According to the rite of Mabnin, the slave belongs to the one it chooses."
I glared at the place where its eyes should have been. "Then I choose none."
A gloved fist struck me in the side of the head. "Choose one!"
"Fine," I groaned. "This is bullshit, just like selecting a civic judge. I don't know a thing about any of them!"
I marched up to the yellow feathery alien. "Okay, kinky Big Bird, let's go to Sesame Street."
The creature just stared at me.
"Aw, I knew you were no fun."
Big Bird dragged me back outside, through the market stalls. I kept glancing back to see if I had a chance to fight him and run, but a black shadow lurked behind me the whole time.
As it had neared lunch, the napthalene and citronella scents of alien food caused rumbling in my stomach. Instead of pausing to eat or look at the contents of shops, I could only stumble after the yellow thing until we arrived at a sort of pontoon boat with laser propulsion lifts.
No Face watched as Birdie pulled me into a secure compartment, clamping my leash to the fencing with a hook that required a special tool to remove.
He typed on a little computer and patted my head like a dog. "You're a smart little Relseba, aren't you? You do really well on those games. Mogjixi is going to take you home to show you off to my friends!"
I stared. "Games? Huh. That doesn't sound too bad."
He closed the door, climbing into a control chair.
Our vehicle rose into the sky, zooming over candy colored trees shaped like something out of a Dr. Suess book. Although fast, the vehicle still took so long that I fell asleep and found bug claws shaking me awake some time afterwards.
We'd docked at the edge of a swamp, where domed house boats bobbed in algae choked waters. Birdy opened his beak, sucking in a biting insect.
He unhooked me.
The dock boards creaked as we stepped out, sludgy water lapping corroding wood. "You don't seem like the usual pet. Even without that strange looking wumloq, your manner of speech and level of intelligence is a step above what's usually brought into Wayriwi." The chains jingled as he gently tugged my lead.
I closed the gap a little. "Thank you. I'm not from around here. I'm a DOGOS collections agent."
He laughed, but I didn't.
"We thought it'd be a clever disguise to catch someone with, but it was too clever."
The feathery body whirled to face me, the leather band pressing on my windpipe with a sudden jerk. "You were working undercover on a collections sting? Which company?"
I shrugged. "DOGOS."
"No, no. Which lender?"
I rolled my eyes. "Technically I'm not supposed to say it, but DOGOS can go to hell if they let this shit happen to me. Arimidex Inceyho loans."
Mogjixi grabbed the collar loop below my neck, further restricting my air. "An undercover agent would never say that! Who sent you to spy on me!"
"Nobody!" I gasped. "If I wanted to collect on you, I'd have my girlfriend with me, and wouldn't be standing here being handled like a dog!"
He made me explain what a dog was, then laughed, letting go. "You really have no idea what is going on here, do you?"
I slowly shook my head.
"Why did you choose me?"
"Um...because I like Sesame Street?"
I had to explain that one too. Although amused, he did frown at his pot belly after I described the character.
Mogjixi placed the leash in my hands. "If you value your freedom, don't run away."
Our foosteps creaked the old boards. Ahead, gray clouds swirled across a domed floating house, festooned with intricate gold leaf designs.
We passed between pink avian statues, entering an immense gray room where divans of an alien design stood in rose petal formation.
A pair of humanoid rodent creatures came forward to greet us, their silky alien lingerie whispering with each step.
Mogjixi waved a claw. "Paqnorb and Roobsok. Like myself, they abhor animal cruelty."
They wagged their stubby dinosaur tails.
"You slapped me and tried to choke me."
He sighed. "Believe me, there are so many worse things one can do to a Relseba, and I didn't want to give away my freedom operations."
His claw patted a swollen Ottoman thing in front of a Qusnadac computer. "Sit."
The cushion sent an obscene tingle through my naked skin. "What now? More tests? Another game?"
Bug claws tapped floating tiles in midair above a box of magnetic sand, causing crackling and flashes of blue light. Familiar holographic menus appeared. Messaging, search, my company logo.
He asked me my operator ID number, some other stuff I didn't memorize but had stored on the badge my girlfriend presumably carried.
Mogjixi sighed. "This is your first collections sting, isn't it?"
"Yeah. And if I can get my freedom, I'll try to make it my last."
"Roobsok, get the serial number from his symbiote."
Silky alien fabric and soft animal fur settled against my semi-nude back, chemical scented breath warming my neck. Fuzzy hands turned my head her way, pulled at my ear canal. "It's in there deep. I'm going to need my tool."
"That's fine, just don't damage it."
Something squirmed against me from below. She reached between her legs, drawing out a pair of metallic tractors.
I screamed when the objects entered my ear.
"I said careful!"
"His symbiote doesn't like being moved." A sticky frog tongue wiggled into my ear, warm saliva oozing in like swimming pool water on a summer day. The symbiote relaxed, allowing itself to be handled by the chrome tongs.
The frog tongue snapped back. "B012546011075," my symbiote translated.
Claws sent crackling signals through the computer system. "I'll let them know. Roobsok, make our guest comfortable."
She grabbed my leash. "Gladly...Did you say he was good with the Kinadji?"
"Yes. I've heard he's quite adept with his hands."
Roobsok chuckled. "Just his hands?"
"Well, he's only been tested on some older versions of the system. Testing centers never give them the good ones, as they tend to get...defaced."
I reddened in anger. "That's only because you lock us in cages and deprive us of education!"
"Dear, don't get upset." Roobsok gave my leash a slight tug. "We're on your side. You're lucky you're not being sent to the mines."
"Uh..." My eyes traveled down the rodent's backside, admiring how her silken purple teddy framed her shapely brown rear. "I...guess there's that."
Her scaly tail ruffled her little skirt as she showed me to a divan, tugging me toward a cushion.
A beach ball sized chrome thing glowed in the center pad. She straddled the cushion behind it, gesturing for me to sit facing her.
I tried to distance myself, but a tug of my leash prompted me to scoot up so our knees touched. She started the game.
Earlier, No Face had dragged me to a dodecahedron shaped building roughly the size of a U-Haul truck. The color drained from my face when I saw the door monitor: Simple alien caricature alien with question mark over its head shoves human into the building, machine catalogs human as healthy, general laborer, butler, baby maker, or (judging by the skull and crossbones) worthy of death, alien receives `money plus.'
Human Coin Star.
My captor opened the door, revealing walls of monitors, a few padded chairs and machine resembling a gatling gun. I cried in protest, but Spacesuit Man just beat me and pushed me in, locking me inside.
Glowing arrows on the screens directed me to a losenge shaped pod, speakers addressing me in Niljuwi, a common language for that planet. "Remove your leathers and step into the machine."
I glared at the monitors, refusing to move.
...Well, until the gatling gun turned to face me. "You bastards."
Cameras and sensors in the pod performed medical scans, taking pictures of every single part of my naked body. The gun thing turned away, arrows directing me to the next station.
I pulled my harness on fast, rushing to the indicated screen before the weapon could move again.
"Sit down," the voice said in Niljuwi.
It didn't let me get comfortable. "Stand up."
I did that too. A Niljuwi version of Simon Says followed, the voice telling me things like "Sit down, sit down, don't stand up, stand up," and so forth.
Since the gun had turned my way, I did everything, the voice said, touching my nose, my feet, head and shoulders knees and toes. It changed languages about five times, but I kept up with the instructions.
A loud screeching sound brought me to my knees. I clutched my ear, wincing as the symbiote dug into the meat of my ear canal.
The screeching stopped, fiery red image of the creature appearing on the medical monitor.
"Please move to the next station."
The grinding gun machinery prompted me to shakily pick myself up off the floor, staggering to another chair, this one fitted with buttons and sticks greatly resembling video game equipment.
"Sit down and follow the instructions."
It actually operated like a video game. And I thought my prowess at Zelda games and Tetris would never have a practical application.
A few button presses and joystick movements on Roobsok's device, and I had a digital bug creature navigating a holographic maze, basketball shooting cubes and spheroids into the orifices of giant sea anemones. I arranged blocks into patterns. From time to time, another monster would hurl glowing fireballs at me, but I dispatched them with the baseball technique I used on Ocarina of Time.
I won't bore you with more details, except to say I got very far at it, mastering several complicated puzzles, rhythm and action modules and fight sequences. An hour or so passed.
My digital monster entered a cavern. Roobsok pushed a button, and a panel lowered on the side of the machine facing me, exposing a mouth. Rubbery padding covered the up facing interior of the panel, a rounded joystick poking up from the middle. "Wow. That's a lot of controls."
"Indeed. But I think you can handle it. You see, not all of them are operated by your hands."
I scrunched my face up in disgust, hoping she didn't just imply what I thought she did. "I...don't understand."
Roobsok laughed. "I think you do. It's hands free. You need to operate the device with other things. You'll need to open your harness for this."
Paqnorb's slender furry hands undid my loin strap.
Seconds later, a green shape jumped out from nowhere, tackling me to the floor. A knife came out, pressing against my throat. "I went through all this trouble to rescue you from the slavers, and this is how you repay me?"