ROBERT ROTH

Friday Flash Fiction: The Office of Interdimensional Transport

by Jul 16, 2021Blog, Flash Fiction

“Next.”

Hulnax dropped the completed forms onto the Processed pile as a new citizen shuffled up to the window. She wished her shift would go by faster. She’d been working for seven krix’ix without a break, and she needed to check in with her broodmate about their litter. Vernik always fed them late, despite her assurances that she would remember to do it on time. But she still had another half krix’ix before she could clock out.

She looked over the citizen warily as they stopped in front of her window. “Welcome to the Office of Interdimensional Transport. Do you have a completed Request Form?”

“I do,” the citizen informed her. They reached up with a manipulator appendage and placed it on the counter in front of her.

Hulnax grabbed the form and spun it around so that she could read it properly. “Destination?”

“Aerht.”

Strangely, she hadn’t heard of that planet before. She’d worked in the OIT long enough to have a passing familiarity with most destinations, despite having never left Nix’ox herself. “One moment, please.”

Hulnax entered the planetary name into her system terminal. After a moment, the destination file appeared on her display. “Length of stay?”

“Flenty barquots.”

She waved a forelimb at them. “Standard units only, please.”

The citizen shook their upper sensory unit placatingly. “My apologies. Ten nirx.”

Hulnax entered that into the terminal. “Your name?”

“I’m sorry, but isn’t all that information on the form?”

She raised her brow ridges in warning. “Listen, citizen. I don’t come to your job and knock the gravids out of your mandibles. Just answer the question. Name?”

They lowered their upper sensory unit in deference to her. “Nuugvul of Ulnus.”

Hulnax quietly snorted as she entered their name, making a show of reading it off the form as she did so. Anxious to wrap things up with this particular citizen, she pulled the following few sets of data directly from the form. It would simply have to be their problem if they filled it out incorrectly. The OIT procedures were in place for a reason, after all. Once she’d input the remainder of the entries into her terminal, she touched the Process key. Then she sat back and waited.

Alien portal on mountain cliff with flying rocks around it

After a moment, the required disclosures filled her terminal display. Some of them were strange. The first one instructed her to verify that the citizen was symmetrical and bipedal. Bipedal? Hulnax leaned out and counted their six lower limbs. Symmetrical, yes. Definitely not bipedal. As she turned back to her display, she caught Nuugvul of Ulnus anxiously examining the timepiece they wore on one of their manipulator appendages.

She quietly snorted in amusement. If they were in such a hurry, they should’ve gotten in line sooner. The citizen was also required to have no more than two upper appendages. This one had four, although it appeared that only two of them were meant for handling objects. The other two, folded in along their upper torso, were bladed and clearer intended for combat or defense.

Nuugvul made a low, warbling sound to get her attention. “I’m sorry, but is this going to take much longer? I have an appointment.”

When she looked over at them, their dual, compound optical sensors were wide and pleading. She waved a forelimb at them. “I’m required to review these disclosures before approving your transit, citizen. Be patient.”

The citizen flexed the lower halves of their tripartite jaw in frustration, but she studiously ignored their impolite display of emotion. As she skimmed through the remainder of the checklist, she wasn’t sure this citizen had chosen a suitable planet at all. An outer hide ranging in shades of light to dark brown? No, this one was green. No more than 10 cix tall? The citizen had to be at least 40. Oxygen-based respiration? May only ingest carbon-based materials for sustenance? She clicked her mandibles together in annoyance. This citizen was obviously trying to waste her krix’ix. She started to reach for the Reject key when Nuugvul let out a high-pitched whine.

“Please! I don’t know what I did to offend you, but I’m begging you. Today is the celebration of my little Gruugul’s inception. I can’t miss another one. Please.”

Hulnax flipped her forelimbs in frustration and let out a calming growl. “Fine.” She reached down into her file receptacle and pulled out a Waiver of Liability form. “I’ll need you to sign this. Then you can go through.”

Their jaws split open wide with happiness. “Thank you!” They reached for a stylus from the little container on her counter and signed the bottom of the form.

“And the date.”

Nuugul filled that in as well and slid the form back to her. Hulnax reached for the Approve key and pressed it. Then she stamped both forms. Finally, once the transport chit had finished printing, she took it and handed it over.

“Give this to the Portal Engineer,” she instructed them. “And have a nice day.”

They snatched the chit from her gripper and waved it joyfully. “Thank you!” they called out as they shuffled away.

Hulnax snorted and waved her forelimbs. She picked up the forms to place them on the Processed pile when she again noted the citizen’s destination. Aerht? She double-checked her terminal then clicked her mandibles together several times. In either her haste or annoyance, she’d misspelled the destination when she’d entered it.

Then her shift buzzer sounded. Had it been a half krix’ix already? She hooted, then flipped the Available sign hanging above her window to Closed. She’d have to make the most of her break. When she got back, she’d have a lot of paperwork to fill out.

Story Prompt
There’s a problem with the paperwork.

Cover for Into the Lightning Gate, Book One of The Gates Saga by Robert Roth

Into the LIghtning Gate

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