Author's Note

First, a few notes on pronunciation. Arclesh (ARK-lesh), Deais (DAY-yis). Second, this story deals with several different alien races, which, as you would expect, speak in their own dialects. Therefore, I have written this with the best "translation" possible, the common, galactic language translated in English. This means that if some dialect is spoken that you, the reader, are not supposed to recognize, it will appear in its original form as best fits our alphabet. Also, I hope no one was expecting to follow Harold on an interstellar journey. This story is not about Harold; if it was, it would be a very short story. Finally, this took a long time to write for some reason. I'll probably have more action in the next chapter.

Fun Fact: Units of measure are very different in UG (the Unified Galactic system), so that an "hour" in UG is closer to 1.37 Earth hours. These measurements are used relatively, so the exact conversion will never be necessary.

Chapter 2: A High-Energy Life

His eyes open one by one…by one. Still groggy, his vision blurry, he checks his hand to see what color it is today. Blue: stress level low, meaning he's had a good night's sleep. Not confident about reaching the floor just yet, he picks up his headset; also lacking confidence in his voice, he switches it on manually.

"Good morning, Arclesh. Do you wish to know the time?"

"Yes, Deais," Arclesh mumbles as he begins to adjust to the feel of his jaw.

"The time is: 20:87:05."

"Good, that gives me about an hour before work."

Arclesh is sitting up in his bed, on the ceiling. He had the localized gravity generator to thank for that; the mysteries behind gravity, that still boggle the best human minds, had been uncovered about a century ago, and devices to make use of it have since been perfected. The localized gravity generator allows for an adjusted gravity level in a room, such that the room can be recognized as being comprised of six pyramidal segments, each with its own gravitational field, in which a mass is subject to gravity pulling them toward the base of the most encompassing pyramid.

This means that, in a room equipped with a localized gravity generator, one can walk along the floor, up one wall, across the ceiling, and then back down the opposite wall to return to the floor with no more effort than it would take to cross the same distance along a flat surface. It certainly opened up more space in a room, although it nearly put shelf-builders out of business.

What all this means for Arclesh, is that he has to be fully awake to tackle the journey to the bathroom. He looks up and to the right, the soft glow of the walls illuminating the circular bathroom door. He turns and drops to the floor on the right side of his bed, and proceeds to the wall. Deais materializes his scruffy, grey bathrobe perfectly over his four arms and legs.

"Will it make any difference today, if I suggest you get a new bathrobe?" Deais asks expecting an answer in the negative.

"No," says Arclesh, "You know it's a perfectly good bathrobe; I won't toss it out after a little wear and tear."

"Very well," she replies with a sigh.

Arclesh reaches the door, "Bathroom door, open."

The soft green lights flicker as the door segments slide away, revealing the yellow and white color scheme of the bathroom. Arclesh makes a maneuver that would give most humans a headache, and lands on the opposite side of the wall, in the bathroom. He walks over to the sink, and opens the cabinet. Inside is a vast expanse of extra-dimensional space, virtually limitless, allowing for a great amount of matter to be stored within.

Extra-dimensional space must have been so troublesome before objects had voice commands, he thinks, it would explain why so many scientists got lost in the early prototypes; they were probably trying to get their toothpaste. There must be a reason for why infinity is that shade of dark blue…

"Paste, brush," he says, holding out his two left hands. A pneumatic tube of Algenib brand toothpaste, "Made in Alpha Persei since TE 12000," and Arclesh's mechanical toothbrush are propelled toward his hands. He applies the toothpaste, and begins to make circular motions on a wheel on the brush, moving the bristles back and forth. Arclesh's toothbrush is one of several things of which he's proud; most citizens are so lazy as to use electric brushes, and automatic paste dispensers. Arclesh finds pride in doing anything he can by his own power; the way he sees it, there's too much complacency in this society.

"The weather forecast for Eltanin is good today," says Deais.

"What?" says Arclesh, "You mean the whole planet, or just our region?"

"The whole planet, as a matter of fact," says Deais, "The way the air flows, in addition to the magnetic field and tectonic shifting-"

"Yeah, I know."

He goes on to finish brushing, and rinses his mouth with ammonia. Water is less chemically active than ammonia, and it tastes better, but it's more expensive because of its scarcity and difficulty to produce. For whatever reason, Earth, that backwards, primitive planet, is the only inhabitable planet with naturally-occurring water. That's one reason why there's a bovinom crisis.

Arclesh takes a look at himself in the mirror. Arclesh is a Chelicer, much like a spider in appearance; however, four of his limbs are specifically adapted to walking, whereas the other four end in four-fingered hands, each with two thumbs. His head has three eyes with large pupils, that nevertheless allow for a wide range of expressions. His jaw is much like that of a mammalian predator: he has virtually no cheeks and a short snout, though the overall shape of his head is that of an ellipsoid, again like that of a spider. His skin changes color depending on his stress level, as a result of changes in the various fluids that flow just beneath the surface of his exoskeleton.

Arclesh is short for a Chelicer, and his fingers are thinner than average. He doesn't think about this for long, as he returns his toothbrush and paste to the cabinet. That extra-dimensional space never fails to astonish him; every time he opens the cabinet, the vastness of it is always greater than he remembered. And to think that Earth, on which the galaxy relies so much, is still in its infancy; they still cannot reliably detect black holes, much less make use of them. The technology is as old as Algenib toothpaste, but somewhat more obsolete. Bovinom is the latest form of energy, and although it may be troublesome to get, it isn't nearly as dangerous as black holes and antimatter are, neither is it as polluting as the burning of fossil fuels: a technology only in use in primitive cultures, most of which exist beyond the jurisdiction of the Conglomerate of Legal Enforcement (CLE).

Those humans have no idea how rare their planet is; the only planets that can support life practically are those with either a polar liquid and a temperature-pressure balance to cause it to remain a liquid, or those with an unusual balance of other chemicals. Planets of the former type are not uncommon, but those with life on them typically have harsh environments and radical climate changes, hindering most evolutionary growth. The latter type of planet is even more rare, and only three are known to exist in the galaxy.

Chelicers originate from Eltanin in the Gamma Draconis star system. Eltanin is the only planet in the system that isn't a gas giant, and ammonia is its most abundant resource. There's little need to go too far into the chemistry of the matter, but it is sufficed to say that the planet's climate is stable and allows ammonia to remain a liquid most of the time. The result is that ammonia takes on the role of water for the inhabitants of the planet, the major differences being that it allows for taller trees and, because ammonia raindrops are heavier than water raindrops, the rare occurrence of hail is a substantially more dangerous one.

Earth is a very easy environment to live in, but not entirely unique. The Asellus system has two planets in a very similar condition that share an orbit, and if it weren't for the fact that a giant, carnivorous, venomous species of plant, the drosera, took over both planets a few hundred years ago, they would both be wonderful places to live. Despite being located in a ternary star system, the fourth planet of Dubhe was once nearly identical to Earth; in fact, before the desolation of the planet's surface due to extensive exposure to intense heat preceding its consumption by a black hole, a human could have stood in one of its vast, green fields and would not have known the difference.

Neither would a cow, but they aren't very intelligent anyway. If they were smarter, it would be more difficult to power the galaxy; bovinom is a power source extracted from Earth-based animals belonging to the Bos genus. Despite its name, bovinom, being derived from the family, bovinae, cannot be found in most bovines, which can range from bison to antelope. The Bos genus is primarily domesticated cattle, and all of its members carry, for one reason or another, bovinom. However, some varieties produce more bovinom than others; for example, the average domesticated American cow typically shows a high yield, whereas a bison's, also a member of Bos, is always very low.

Much controversy and trouble has been made over bovinom extraction; the cows themselves often survive the extraction process, though they leave slightly dehydrated, but the process is risky in and of itself. For one thing, cows can't survive on any planet aside from Earth, Asellus Prime, and Asellus Secundus, and the latter two planets are not suitable, as the drosera plants would consume any cows brought there. Also, for whatever reason, cows can't even be maintained in synthetic environments that mimic Earth down to the last speck of dirt. Finally, Earth is protected under the Primitive Species Provision, which prevents all contact between galactic citizens and members of any society that is considered primitive by the Primitive Societies Schedule.

Ultimately, the only way to get bovinom is to temporarily abduct cows.

Lately, it's become more difficult to get enough bovinom to run the galaxy from just one planet, and recently, news stations have been focusing on energy-shortage projections. There haven't been any blackouts, and rationing won't happen for a long time yet, but the problem remains.

It's said that the Rarricks have discovered a better energy source, Arclesh thinks, but they're keeping it to themselves. The Rarricks are a beautiful race, and four out of five Rarricks can communicate telepathically with little to no effort. However, in their enlightenment, they tend to look down on the rest of us. They must know something we don't.