Just a Guy in Space
“The probe’s data was corrupted Captain. There’s no other explanation.”
Captain Echina stared at the Kmigar officer playing with his console. “You mean to tell me that the near indestructible data packets from the scout probes, engineered to record and transmit data at near-total fidelity after eons of research, have somehow ceased to function?”
Her already fraying nerves were dangerously close to sparking an interspecies conflict on her ship. “Explain that to me please,” she said, mentally praising her restraint.
“The data itself is fine as in we can actually read it. It’s just completely garbled. None of it makes sense. According to gossip you caught a sapiant in the packet’s transfer, yes?” He continued after seeing her nod. “A sapiant species could not possibly have evolved on that planet if the data packet is accurate.”
“Well Captain… If I’m reading this right – and I am – then this planet is a category thirteen.”
Category thirteen. That’s…
“That’s not possible.”
Lieutenant Xar’usk clicked his mandibles. The transmitter translated that as an amused chuckle. “As I was saying, the data was corrupted.”
Echina turned to the viewscreen on the wall and stared at the blue planet. “You said there were many large settlements on the planet’s surface? And there is a thriving flora and fauna?”
Xar’usk clicked his mandibles in agreement. Lieutenant Lashqran was frowning, probably thinking about the same thing she was. “I guess the bug is right. Sapiant species don’t pop up on category thirteen planets.”
The bug in question bristled his mandibles at the slur but Echina beat him to the punch. “Lieutenant Lashqran! That kind of xeno-slurring is punishable by a reprimand!”
“Apologies Captain. I didn’t mean to say that,” Lashqran said without the faintest trace of contrition.
Echina returned to her musing, all the while staring at the planet. After a few minutes of silence she frowned.
“Xar’usk, what if the data is right?”
“As I said, it’s impossible.”
He sighed. “Captain, even in a hypothetical situation, life on a category thirteen planet is impossible.” He turned to the viewscreen. “They don’t call them death worlds for nothing.”
* * *
Gus was lying down on what he assumed was a galactic standard bunk in what passed for a galactic standard jail in these parts of space. And it was clearly space he was in. A quick peek through those TVs confirmed it. He had been escorted by three of the green men to his present abode but they’d left him alone after that.
He got up and started pacing in his cell. The aliens were as clearly flummoxed by the situation as he was because no one had shown up to speak to him at all since he’d been … teleported? The most important thing to do now was to figure out how to communicate. He wouldn’t mind seeing more of that green chick though. He grinned, thinking of her delicious figure then instantly frowned. He lifted his shirt and inspected his smooth stomach, courtesy of a very strict student diet: instant ramen and orange juice. He wasn’t winning any bodybuilding prizes anytime soon.
He kept pacing. They clearly had a spoken language and there were other species of aliens on board. He’d caught more than a few utterly shocked eyes as he made his way down here. There were a few … bugs for lack of a better word and he’d even seen a huge rock-shaped thing trudging along in the hallways. Since they all seemed to speak a different language (the bugs mostly clicked their mandibles and the rock sounded like the crunch of gravel), there had to be some sort of translator in play. He’d read enough space opera books to know this much. The greenmen were the vast majority though. Perhaps they were to more predominant species in space?
He started feeling light-headed. And man, he was hungry as well. He sat down and the feeling got worst. The light-headedness was coming faster now and he started panting, like he was out of breath.
Great, I’m drowning on land. In space, I mean. I mean… You know what I mean.
“Can I get some help in here!” he screamed.
He started banging on the forcefield keeping him in the cell. It did him no good, the sounds was dampened to a very low thud. “I need some help!” he whizzed. All of a sudden the rough plastic look-alike surface he found himself kneeling on was looking mighty attractive.
So tired… I’ll just… rest my eyes… for a bit…
The plastic rushed to him. The impact knocked him out.
* * *
He woke up to the gentle prodding of a cold finger on his side. He slowly cracked an eye open. He was no longer in his cell and on some sort of bed. He slowly got up and looked around. The cold finger was in fact a metal needle that was repeatedly trying to poke him in the ribs.
He swatted it away and rubbed at his sore ribs. What were they trying to do? Around him a pinkish field shimmered into view. Great, more forcefields. He got off the bed and noticed that he was breathing much more easily than in his cell. He took a deep breath and stretched.
He examined the bed. It was as big a king-sized single bed, with protrusions at the top and bottom. One of them held a screen and a keyboard. He randomly poked them and heard a harsh chime when he touched a button. It didn’t seem to like that so he left it alone.
He looked around some more, trying to see beyond the pink field. There were some vague, shadowy figures moving around him, so he definitely had an audience.
He waved and saw one of the shadows stop.
“Hello friends,” he cheerfully said. “I come in peace!”
* * *
“Captain, it’s speaking.”
“Yes Xar’usk. I have ears.”
The alien was… not so strange, now that she looked at it more closely. It was a quadriform and bipedal just like an Agaraxian. Its skin was brownish however, with light fur on its forearms and what appeared to be hair on its head. There was more hair (or fur?) on its face, around the lips and jaw. Inquisitive, black eyes darted around the room, trying to see through the containment field. It was taller than a female Agaraxian but shorter than a male one.
She turned to lieutenant Xar’usk. “Any luck with the translator?”
He clicked his mandibles in negation. “AI is parsing the data collected by the probe in an effort to collate a large enough vocabulary to be of use. It may take some time but I expect it shouldn’t take more than a few hours or so.”
“Well, in the meantime call Lieutenant Nubo. Have her run a basic check on the xenos. We got lucky it didn’t die in its cell and I don’t want any more surprises.”
Lashqran nodded and within minutes a dainty Dinpth scientist joined them. Her prehensile tail was lashing left and right in excitement and her green eyes were practically glowing as she stared at the xenos in the containment field. She stood ramrod-straight and snapped a smart salute, right fist banging on the left breast.
“Lieutenant Sil Nubo reporting in, captain! I am ready to dissect, analyse and dissect at a moment’s notice!”
Echina sighed. “There’s no need for dissection Lieutenant. We can simply perform a deep tissue scan.”
Sil frowned and clicked her tongue. “Science is all about dissection captain! How can I call myself a scientist if I don’t cut something up?!”
Echina felt the familiar headache associated with dealing with lieutenant Sil Nubo coming on. “Just do a general check and contact us as soon as AI has finished tweaking the translator. Don’t approach it and don’t lower the field at any cost. Remember, it comes from what appears to be a category thirteen planet. So far it looks harmless but we’re not taking any chances.”
“Roger, Captain!” Sil snapped to attention once more then began to fiddle with the scanner.
I hope she doesn’t really end up dissecting him.