Just a Guy in Space
Edit: Sorry for the late chapter. I had the flu for a couple of days and took some time off writing. This is also a lengthier chapter, with more exposition. I hope you enjoy it.
Gus’ happy fun time with Sil Nubo was interrupted by the whine of the doors sliding open. The stunningly stacked green woman he’d seen before walked in followed by a dour greenman and a strange bugman who walked on two legs.
Sil deferentially stepped aside and let the bugman fiddle with the consoles. There really wasn’t much room to sit in here and the 4 aliens standing around him were starting to make him edgy. The green men weren’t saying anything, apparently waiting on bugman’s work to be done. The latter turned to the woman and started making weird clicking sounds from his mouth tentacles.
“The scanners show no signs of tampering or malfunctioning,” AI’s dispassionate voice sounded out. “The data we received is genuine. He also appears to be in much better health. Setting him up in a contained field with atmospheric conditions that mirror his homeworld did the trick.”
Gus blinked. “I can actually understand you now? Do you guys have some sort of universal translator set up?”
Bugman turned to him and clicked some more. “Quite astute of you. AI has been going into overdrive just parsing your world’s language. Compiling a proper vocabulary was also a challenge. Your people seem to have no unified language.”
“Yeah, I mean, English is pretty prevalent but what language you speak depends entirely on where you find yourself.”
“How inefficient,” dour-faced greenman replied. “Another sure sign of your lack of civilisation.”
“Civilise this,” Gus said, flipping him the bird.
All the aliens looked at him in what appeared to be polite confusion. He sighed. Can’t even insult them properly.
“Lieutenant, no need to antagonise our guest,” the woman said. Her voice wasn’t particularly melodic and had some harsh undertones in it. Her cold demeanour coupled with the deference the rest of them showed her indicated she was their superior.
“You’re the boss lady around here?”
“Boss… lady?” She quizzically tilted her head as AI translated his words.
“Yeah, the head honcho. The, you know, the captain of this ship, so to speak.”
She nodded. “I am indeed the captain of the Pride of Vanatu. My name is Echina of clan Umdyn. These are Lieutenant Lashqran of clan Takk and Lieutenant Xar’suk. My second in command and Chief Science officer respectively,” she said, gesturing to the green man and bug guy.
“Cool. Nice to meetcha. I’m Gus Martinez, from Earth. I’m human by the way.”
“Yeah, that’s the one.”
“Very well Human. On behalf of the New Intergalactic Coalition of Sonder, I extend my sincerest apologies for the situation you find yourself in. It was not our intention to transport you alongside our scout probe. We shall endeavour to make your stay here as pleasant as possible.” Her voice was still devoid of any warmth or contrition for that matter.
He scratched his head. “Thanks for the welcome. I don’t suppose you can drop me back on Earth?”
“Impossible. We have already exited your star system. Our stop here was merely a product of our chief science officer’s over-eagerness. We have continued our journey as soon as the probe was recovered.”
“Well, fuck. What do we do now?”
Echina was staring sat him, waiting for something it seemed. After a while she shrugged. “You seem to be taking this in stride. I expected more shock. You have after all been abducted by what you would consider aliens.”
He waved his hand, dismissing her claims. “Abducted, shmabducted. There isn’t much for me back on Earth to be honest.”
Everyone stared blankly at him. “Sorry, AI didn’t translate that properly. What did you say?”
“It’s just colloquialism from Earth. It means I’m not too bothered by this situation. I’m an orphan and I don’t have many friends. I just got accepted into a scholarship program and the few people I know will probably think I’m deep in research if I don’t contact them for a couple of years.”
Bug man perked up, approaching him until he was almost touching the forcefield. “Research you say? Are you a scientist?”
“Yes, though I’m not a very good one. My research paper was going to be on a common surface antigen found in red meat and crustaceans that could potentially cause a sudden onset of anaphylaxis after consumption of red meat. I guess I never got around to that first lab meeting.”
“Fascinating. Anaphylaxis? AI translated that as sudden shock reaction. Can you elaborate?”
“Sure. You see, when the immune system identifies antigens, marks them as foreign and attacks cells attached to these as soon as they encounter them after the initial inoculation. When it goes out of whack and decides that a similar antigen or the same antigen found in something you used to have a tolerance to is a foreign invader, it’ll try to destroy it – thus causing sudden onset anaphylaxis.” He couldn’t read bug man’s body language but the greenmen were suddenly very still. “This is the Cliff’s note version. The abbreviated version, I mean.”
“Are you saying… your own body… could potentially attack you?”
“Yeah, pretty much. That’s what happens in any autoimmune disease actually.”
“This immune system, it protects you from disease yes?” Gus nodded. “Do you update it regularly? How costly is it? Could you not simply remove the cells causing the harm?”
Gus chuckled. “That’s not how it works mate. The human immune system self-regulates. So it’ll encounter a disease or foreign agent and try to fight it using standard means. When that doesn’t work, it busts out the T or B cells that are “trained” let’s say, to fight that specific disease. When the infection is over and done with, the vast majority of the cells involved in the immune defence get destroyed. Only a small portion remains alive as memory cells so that the next time the body encounters the same disease, it gets eradicated much more quickly.”
“That’s preposterous. No immune system can be that complex. You must supplement it with boosters and regular updated cells, right? You go to a medical station and buy the required upgraded system to replenish your own, yes?”
“Naw man, like I said, that’s not how it works. The closest thing to what you’re saying is vaccines. We inject ourselves with dead microbes or attenuated viruses and wait for the immune system to develop resistance against it then we’re set. That’s it.”
“So you are very disease resistant then?” the captain interrupted. “Are your other physical attributes as developed?”
“What do you mean? Like, motor skills and stuff like that?”
“Yes, amongst other things. Let’s use you as an example. How do your abilities compare to an average being from Earth?”
“I’m afraid I’m below average in terms of fitness. I’m not fat by any means but I don’t have a lot of muscle mass. I’d say I’m average in terms of strength and below that in terms of stamina. Intelligence-wise I’d say I’m above average.” That seemed to cause a stir. “What’s wrong?”
“We scanned you while you were unconscious and have been studying those readings since then. You mean to say that the physical attributes you have are below average for the standard Earth being? And you said you were a scientist – how do you compare physically to the warrior caste of your species?”
“Yeah, I’m a scientist and as such I don’t focus on keeping fit all that much. I exercise regularly to keep in shape but compared to a soldier, I’m very weak. I’d say a soldier on active duty would be about 5 times stronger than me, perhaps more.”
Hmm? They don’t seem to like that. Are they assuming their military is weaker? I hope they’re not basing that on my fitness level.
The lull in conversation was a good moment to ask about his earlier malaise. “Hey guys, can you tell me what happened to me earlier? I think I’m healthy enough not to faint at the drop of a hat.” Seeing more puzzled expressions he quickly explained that expression.
“You were having difficulty breathing. The atmosphere you’re used to breathing has a different composition than the one on this ship. The oxygen content is much lower here compared to your planet. There are also some more components that could have hastened your episode.”
Gus blinked. “Altitude sickness? That’s a bummer. Does that mean I can’t go anywhere on this ship?” Lieutenant Assface and Hot Captain exchanged more glances. This didn’t look good. “You are planning on letting me roam the ship right? I’m not going to be confined to whatever room you can fit me in, right?” More silence. “Come on guys, I’m not dangerous. I told you, I’m just a scientist. I’m not even that smart! I had to suck all kinds of dick to get that scholarship! Figuratively speaking, I mean. Besides, you’ve all but admitted to kidnapping me! I think I deserve some fair compensation.”
“Letting you out of this field could be dangerous. You are the host of a surprising amount of microorganisms that could potentially cause a pandemic on this ship. You grew up in much heavier gravity, which will affect your movements and cause accidents. You are an unknown species with heightened physical attributes and we don’t not know who or what might provoke you. As Captain of this ship, I cannot allow such a risky guest freedom of movement.”
Gus’ mind reeled. That was not part of the plan. He sat down, rubbing his scraggly beard as he was wont to do when thinking. “Okay, okay. Let’s address that. First thing: aggression. Have I exhibited any signs of being angry or violent since I’ve been onboard this ship?” He didn’t wait for the answer and continued. “My behaviour has been nothing short of exemplary and I have complied with your every request. I’ve answered questions truthfully and readily. Assign a member of your security personnel to keep an eye on me if you’re not satisfied with that. If you’re worried about infection here’s a solution. Give me a vacsuit. A vacuum suit I mean. Like the kind you use whenyou have to be in a vacuum. It’ll isolate me from the rest of your crew while still allowing me to move. If you connect it with a supply of breathable air similar to my homeworld, that’s killing two birds with one stone. That means accomplishing two things at once by the way.”
He paused to catch his breath and looked at the Captain. If he guessed correctly everything hinged on her. “Look, I’ll even volunteer information about Earth. Sil told me you got a bunch of data right? That’s just information with no context. You could pad up your report with impressions from a real human. Think about it. I’m a very valuable scientific resource. All I’m asking is a bit of consideration,” he pleaded, eyes fixed on the captain.
She stood silently judging the weight of his words like some sort of stone effigy. He was starting to get really nervous when she tapped something on her collar. She turned to her crewmembers and they began arguing his fate. The AI didn’t translate anything and he struggled to make sense of what he was hearing. Sil was anxiously looking at him from the side but didn’t offer a word in his defence.
Should have expected that. I might be the shiny new toy but she doesn’t want to upset mommy.
Bugman suddenly started clicking his mandibles like crazy. The tempo suggested he was frantically making his case. He turned to Sil and clicked some more. She appeared startled but quickly recovered. They conversed for a while, the two scientists enthusiastically speaking with the dour-faced lieutenant making short and (to his Gus’ mind) snide comments. The captain turned back to him and stared at him.
It was his first time really seeing her. She looked quite youthful by his standards, with no lines on her face or visible scarring. No crow feet around her eyes or laugh lines around her mouth either. She wasn’t accustomed to laughing. She was about a head shorter than him with long, black hair. No wait, not black. He looked more closely and noticed it was actually a very deep blue. It was held in a tight bun with that thin, long braid going all the way to just above her pert butt. And her eyes! Set on a symmetrical face, her purple fox eyes seemed to bore into his soul. That could just have been a measure of how nervous he felt though. Her skin colour wasn’t a sickly green but the deep, verdant colour of fresh grass on a summer day. Her body had the proportions of a well-toned athlete, with curious bulges underneath her glorious breasts. D-cup if he was any judge of that. He still couldn’t explain those bulges though, something to do with her alien physiology, he was sure. A man could stare at her for eternity and not waste a single second.
He snapped back to attention as he noticed her mouth move and AI’s voice once again echoed in the room. “Human, my chief science officer made a good case for your release. We shall provisionally do as you said. A vacuum suit will be provided to you, along with canisters of breathable air. You will be responsible for maintaining that supply. You will be granted a low-level security clearance but will be escorted by a member of security wherever you might go, excluding your cabin. You will be set up in one of our diplomatic guest rooms, so your comfort won’t be a problem.”
He sighed in relief but she wasn’t done. “In exchange you will make yourself available for any and all tests we might have to carry out regarding your physical and mental abilities, including studying the microorganisms you host. You will not be aggressive towards any of my crew members or provoke them. At the first sign of violence, we will confine you to the brig. If you have any issues arising from your treatment by the crew members, you may bring them to me or Lieutenant Lashqran. The conditions may be revised at a later date according to your behaviour.”
She paused, waiting for Gus’ answer. He thought about it and really couldn’t come up with anything to say at the moment.