It Doesn’t Translate is part of the Tattooed Corpse Stories – a series of short stories that have nothing in common except that the same body appears in each story.
Noir Kioko had only ever seen one human before his undercover work brought him to the diner at the Luna Terminal, and that was at a distance. Humans are rare, most of them disappear without a trace, and he hopes hanging around the restaurant will give him a lead on the smuggling ring he’s investigating. There was no way he could’ve known the human would turn out to be his mate, and no way he can let it show without putting his mate in danger and possibly jeopardising his mission.
Max Welch is the proud owner of the only restaurant within a light year’s distance. He left Earth four years ago to create a better life for himself, but he hadn’t considered the possibility of scary alien pirates making his restaurant their favourite hangout spot. As a measly human there isn’t much he can do about it, but as one of the pirates starts coming by almost every day he has to come up with something before he loses all his customers. That the giant cat man is rather nice to look at changes nothing.
When rumours of another human arriving at the space station start to circulate, Noir’s species trafficking infiltrate and observe only mission may need a revamp. But will Noir be able to protect his mate and another one of his rare species?
Bair chuckled again, and Max tasted bile at the back of his mouth. Welts were starting to form on his neck where he’d been in contact with Bair’s skin. He tried to ignore them but they itched and stung, and he was turning dizzy.
“He is mine, and everybody knows it. Why don’t you go back to your quiet corner to read your book and let me have a little fun?”
Max looked at the floor, hating the fear splashing around in his gut.
“I’ll be your server today, gentlemen.” Quam nudged Max and nodded towards the counter before turning back to the party. “If you find that unacceptable you know where the door is.”
Max waited for a second or two to see if anyone would object. When no one did—though Bair did grumble—he walked away. He liked to think his gait was relaxed but the only one he was fooling was himself.
With shaking hands, he put on another pot of coffee in case Bair had been serious about the dessert.
It didn’t take long before Quam was back by his side.
“How are you faring?”
Max frowned, sometimes the wording was a bit strange, he guessed it was a slight translation problem. All the races approved by the Allied Species Federation (ASF) had language implants to make communication possible. “I’m good.”
Well, he always was a bit queasy when Bair and his gang were here. “No, I’m fine.”
“Good, it’s illegal for Daector species to touch anyone without first making sure they don’t react to their poison or have their permission to touch them despite it.” Quam made a face Max guessed was disgusted—reading alien facial expressions was hard, but Quam he usually understood.
Max touched his neck, the welts had started to weep, and his hand came away slightly sticky. “Even humans?” Humans didn’t have much sway in the ASF—too few, too weak, too insubstantial.
“There are no specific species listed; it should be the same for everyone.”
Max snorted and took the piece of paper Quam held in his hand. They both knew that was far from reality.
“There is a law, Max. He’s not allowed to touch you.”
“Yeah, well, I’ve told him several times, and it hasn’t made any difference, has it?” Max hated that there was nothing he could do to stop Bair from doing what he wanted—he was just a measly human, after all. Looking down at the order, he started preparing seven coffees.
“Top you off,” he asked when Quam didn’t move.
“I said I’d be their server. I’ll bring them their coffee.”
“I can do it, Quam. Drink your coffee before it gets too cold. You haven’t had your three breakfast cups yet.” Max smiled, willing Quam to go back to his table.
It wasn’t Quam’s job to serve the customers and Max had to face them sooner or later. He couldn’t run a restaurant if he couldn’t take orders from all kinds of species.