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Alcoraiden t1_jeg1b3b wrote

It has been two hours, and Akarashk is still lying on his back like a dead thing.

"I told you."

He doesn't reply. His grayish lids have peeled back from all four eyes, both the scaled outer shells and both nictitating membranes keeping their precious water inside. I've never seen him so stunned, barely breathing, as if the slightest flinch would wake him from the dream. The only motion I can see is his unsheathed tongue flicking at the droplets rolling into his leathery mouth.

Well, I'm used to it, and I'm wet. I wrap my arms around myself and shiver. He hasn't even checked in with the orbiting mothership, though I'm sure whatever cameras they have to watch him have the whole crew gawking and laughing in that huff-huff-huff sound I've heard so much of on the way to Earth. Or, maybe they're all shocked, too. The readings on their computers were flailing wildly about how much water Earth contained, and half of them had cracked up at how silly it seemed. The other half was trying to repair the sensor array all the way here.

There were no repairs needed, as it turned out. "Akarashk," I say with a barely restrained laugh, and I poke him with my foot. "You can get up now. I've been reading books in Khri for so long that my head is spinning, and I'm cold, and my eyes hurt from looking at my arm-comp screen." The screen is tiny, and Khri is a tough language to wrap my substantially softer mouth around, but really I just want to get some dry underwear on and show this reptilian creature what a lake is.

His upper eyes roll to look at me, and they glisten in a strange way I have never seen before. Usually, those inner membranes keep them dull and lifeless, but now they look like flowers emerging into spring. The silvery, iridescent sheen ripples in the clouded light.

"This is," and he says a word it takes a moment for me to translate as paradise. "If only it were not so inhabited. We are much too late."

"Yeah, if you guys uncloak yourselves, you'll cause worldwide chaos. But hey, you want to see Lake Michigan? It's one of the biggest lakes on this landmass." I try to speak slowly -- my Khri accent is horrible -- but he clearly gets the message: lots of water. All those sparkling eyes light up even further.

"Yes!" he says with a hurried, informal flap of his tongue. "Show me! Now!"

"Well, it's about a kilometer walk that way." I jerk my thumb off to my right, through the woods.

"Now!" He scrambles to his clawed feet and launches into a full sprint. I laugh and run behind, yelling for him to put up his human hologram before something silly happens.


He completely ignores me and leaps into the lake at maximum velocity, which for a Khrithes is a brisk human jog. Two half-drunk men fishing from a nearby boat give him a double-take, at which point I take a deep breath, whip off my shirt, and jump in after.

It takes a while to convince the two guys that Akarashk is wearing a costume, but I manage. In the end, they putter away while he scoops up armfuls of lake water as if he can hoard it all and carry it home. They'll probably tell others a crazy guy in a lizard suit went swimming, and people will pshaw at them and ignore them, so...good enough? I scan the area for any more boats as he plays like a kid at a water park.

"It's really cold."

"Look!" Completely ignoring me, he turns and splashes water over his head, looking for all the world like a toddler.

"Okay, look. You can't just go running in front of humans like this. Here." I bend down and fuss with his arm-comp, until it projects a hologram around him. Now he looks short but at least human. "You're still swimming in your clothes, but...good enough."

"This is Lake Michigan?"

"Yep. Really, it's nothing special here on Earth, except that it's big." I slop back onto shore and huddle up against the rain. "We have a whole ton of water all over. And yeah, those blue patches when you showed up? That's water, too. Except they're salty, because erosion filters a whole ton of salt into them. We can't drink them without purifying them."

Halfway through that explanation, he clearly stopped listening, as he has sat down in the lake until it reached his skinny shoulders. His scales are puffy and waterlogged, but he doesn't seem to care, leaning back and closing his eyes and spreading out his arms, his teeth all bared in glee and his tongue tasting the sky as if he has died and gone to heaven.