Edit: Apologies for the delay, I got swamped with work.
Just a Guy in Space
“Confirmation. The human Gustavo Martinez has made contact with Ensign First Class Art’ah.”
Captain Echina, clan Umdyn, nodded absent-mindedly. “Continue monitoring his activities and report back in case of anomalies.”
She leaned back into the captain’s chair. Ensign Art’ah was a Coxizu, a very social creature who had nevertheless suffered from a muted discrimination from some of the Vanatu’s crew. This was mostly due to the stigma of Coxizu sexuality but also from a certain refusal to engage with others from Ensign Art’ah herself.
Or was it himself? He should stop changing his gender all the time, damn him.
Lieutenant Lashqran fingers’ were dancing on the console in front of him, filing fuel consumption reports and doing other miscellaneous tasks. He had strongly advised against exposing the rest of the crew to the human. While most of his arguments were valid – such as exposure to unknown microorganisms, danger from the human himself or even disruption of normal ship activities – the main reason he objected was xenophobia.
Lashqran had been up for promotion before but had suffered two consecutive reprimands due to xenophobia. They were massive red marks on his otherwise pristine file. She mused that maybe exposure to an unknown xenos would trigger curiosity that might be reflected in a change of attitude towards beings not of his own race, however that was wishful thinking.
She thought back to Lieutenant Xar’usk and his now constant requests to fight or dissect the human. A ping from her chair comms brought her back to the now.
“Captain, the human Gustavo Martinez and Ensign First Class Art’ah are heading to the Ensign’s cabin. A request to change the cabin’s atmosphere has been made by the human. Should it be acquiesced?”
“What kind of change are we talking about?”
“Gustavo Martinez has requested that the atmosphere be changed to one that can support both his and Ensign Art’ah’s normal breathing pattern. Sending you the report now.”
She brought the report up and quickly scanned it. Hmmm… did the human think of this? That’s surprisingly astute, removing the unnecessary components and finding a middle ground. I suppose he got lucky this time, other species might not have compatible requirements.
“I approve the change. Keep me updated.”
AI lapsed back into silence. Echina remembered that the human had said he was a scientist. Maybe she should let him and the science department hash things out and do a better job of parsing through the data the scout probe had brought back. Nine Gods knew she needed to have a flawless report to explain this to her superiors.
“Captain, Ensign First Class Art’ah and the human Gustavo Martinez have engaged in coitus.”
She felt the beginnings of a headache. She was glad that AI was speaking directly to her ear comms and not through the overhead PA system. Of course they have. Because we don’t already have enough problems. Did they even think about the consequences? Who brought this on? Was it Art’ah or the human himself? Are they even compatible? Well that tells us a few things about humans already. “AI, monitor them and report back if any of them present adverse reactions to contact with each other.”
She went back to the various ship housekeeping duties she had but her mind was clearly wandering. Her crew did not notice anything, each absorbed in their own tasks. Thinking about it, having the human interact with Art’ah could be a blessing in disguise. Through her – or him- they’d be able to tell if the human was safe to interact with. Granted, the Coxizu had a much stronger defence system than other species but these defences could be adapted to the needs of the many through their nanites. If push came to shove, she could request administration of a nanite booster to each crewmember or go the easy road and simply quarantine the human.
“Captain, the human Gustavo Martinez has requested a meeting with a member of the science department. He nominated either Lieutenant Sil Nubo or Lieutenant Xar’suk.”
“Hmmm… Tell him I’ll get back to him regarding that.” She turned to Lashqran. Noticing her movement, he turned and waited. Lashqran was the very example of an old Agaraxian mentality that espoused the superiority of their race and the inadequacy of others. While this movement had quickly lost ground amongst her people due to the various exchanges they’d have with other species, it still had a few adherents. Lashqran would definitely not volunteer an Agaraxian for this.
“Lieutenant Lashqran, it would be wise to have a member of the science department take a look at the long-lasting effects of space travel on our latest… guest. I’m thinking of having Lieutenant Xar’usk assigned to that.”
Lashqran immediately frowned. “Hasn’t the dear lieutenant expressed a desire to dissect, kill or eat the guest?”
Ah yes, I forgot that. I didn’t think he was serious.
“Furthermore, we don’t know what exposure to the human will do,” Lashqran continued.
“It’s because we don’t know that we must investigate. I don’t want to have an Agaraxian do it without having taken the proper safety measures. A species with a high degree of resistance to disease would be a better fit.”
Lashqran nodded in approval. “A Kmigar certainly is resistant but they’re also very aggressive towards what they deem to be challenging prey. Maybe a Dintph? If I’m not mistaken, they’ve recently taken their cyclic immunity booster. Lieutenant Sil Nubo has also expressed her interest in the new xenos. Several times.”
Echina slowly nodded. “I’ll tell AI to contact them both. Notify Lieutenant Xar’usk that they’ll need a sterile room with the proper set-up.”
* * *
Gus tiredly made his way to his cabin. The suit was starting to weight on him. He’d have to ask the captain for something more practical. The door swooshed open after he hit the panel and minutes later the stale air he was breathing was replaced by sweet atmosphere. He tossed the suit in corner and made his way to the shower.
Stepping inside, he realised he didn’t know how to use it. There were several panels, all of them a different size and colour. In the end he gave up and asked AI to shower him as it saw fit. He put on oversized sleepwear and fell to the bed. In seconds, his mind blacked out.
His eyes opened to a muted light on the ceiling of the cabin. His mouth was dry and his shirt was damp with sweat. He propped himself on an elbow and rubbed his face.
“AI, how long was I sleeping?”
“You have been sleeping for six hundred and fifty one units Standard Galactic Time.”
“How much is that in Earth Time? To the nearest hour?”
“Calculating. The equivalent is 5 Earth hours.”
He hopped in the sonic shower and had AI take care of him again. It wasn’t as refreshing as a nice water shower and didn’t wake him up either but at least he was clean. God, I need some coffee. “AI, how do I get food or drinks in my cabin? If I understand correctly I don’t have a standard crew cabin right?”
“Affirmation. You have been granted a diplomatic guest room. It is larger compared to an ordinary crew cabin and has several features not available to the common crew. These include a larger private sonic shower, a viewscreen and holostation, a larger cloth cabinet, access to several decorations and a dispenser. The decorations must be requisitioned from a quartermaster and are subject to approval from the captain.”
“What’s this dispenser business?”
“A dispenser is a tool that can synthetise food and various materials. They are used more heavily in the engineering and medical departments. Yours has been locked to provide only food. The selection of dishes you may order is available on your personal datapad. You will find it on your desk.”
He turned, really eying his room for the first time. It was bigger than anything he’s ever been in back on Earth. He had been lucky with his foster family and hadn’t encountered any of the horror stories from the system you hear about so often however his foster parents weren’t well-off. He’d had to make do with what he had and while he was grateful to them, he’d never really enjoyed a fulfilling life back on Earth.
His desk was quite large, about 2 meters at its longest, molded in an L shape. There was meter wide bluish ball instead of a chair behind the desk and he saw an assortment of tools on top. He grabbed what looked like a pad. It blinked on as his finger brushed the screen.
“Biometrics scan initiated. Please wait. Confirmed. Datapad keyed to user biometrics.”
“AI, does that mean only I can use this? Can you explain how to use it?”
“Correction. While common crewmembers will not be able to access this datapad, officers will be able to. It is also possible for the ship AI and the captain to remotely access this datapad. After parsing and compiling the data from the scout probe, a working translation of all non-classified materials available on the Pride of Vanatu has been made available to you. Pressing a finger to the handle will activate it. You can input manual or vocal commands to use it. Should there be something you do not understand or are unsure how to do, you may ask AI to help you.”
“Nice. I guess I’ve got a lot of reading to do. Where’s that food dispenser?”
An overhead light activated in response, highlighting the dispenser. It was a gunmetal-coloured, blocky contraption the size of a fridge. It had a thirty centimetre wide panel at chest height with a blinking green light at the bottom right corner. He experimentally pressed a finger to the screen and saw it light up much like the data pad. He tried to explore the choices he had before giving up.
“AI, can you link the data you have from the probe to this terminal here? I want to eat and drink stuff but I can’t be bothered manually looking everything up on this thing. Can I just say ‘I want coffee’ and voila?”
“Calculating. Cross-linking the database and dispenser menu is feasible. Warning. AI is not familiar with the term ‘voila’. Clarification is needed.”
Gus tiredly rubbed his eyes. “It’s a term used to express the sudden appearance of something or someone. So, can you get me some coffee?” he asked, a not inconsiderable amount of hope in his voice.
“Calculating. Accessing central database. Several instances of ‘coffee’ detected. Clarification is needed.”
“Uh… I want a chai latte. Single origin, South American coffee beans used for the espresso. Choose any at random for the coffee beans. Pasteurised cow milk for the milk. An even mixture of cloves, cinnamon, ginger and black peppercorns for the spices. Use proportions written down in chai latte coffee recipes from Earth.”
“Calculating. Recipes found. Ingredients isolated. Analysing composition. Warning. Chai latte has been classified as a category one restricted beverage.”
“What? What does that mean?”
“Clarification. The presence of compounds detrimental to physiology detected in beverage. Active ingredient is caffeine. Re-classified as moderate potency drug. Beverage is not fit for consumption.”
“See now, it’s perfectly healthy and fit for consumption. Human consumption, that is. I don’t care what happens to other species when they drink this but humans are practically immune to its effects. The most that can happen to me is that I’ll skip a nap for a few hours.”
“Warning. AI must contact the captain to receive approval for initiating chai latte procedure.”
“Great. Just patch me through to her please.”
“Patching. You are now in comms with Captain Echina of clan Umdyn.”
“Uh… Captain Echina? This is Gus Martinez, the human. Can I have a moment of your time?”
“I’m busy. Make it quick.” Well, this wasn’t a good start. Her voice was colder than Martina Chavez’ after he told her he wanted to motorboat her tits.
“I’m trying to get some earth food via the dispenser in my room but it turned out to be a category one restricted something or the other. While I appreciate that this kind of food may be detrimental to xenoi species, it has minimal effects on human physiology. Can you give AI permission to make that for me please?”
There was silence on the other end of the line. This isn’t good at all. Come on captain, I just want food.
“You’re saying that category one restricted materials have no effect on humans?”
“No, I’m not saying that at all,” Gus said in his best student tutor voice. “I’m just saying that this drink in particular has no or minimal effects on human physiology. It’s considered a delicacy on Earth actually.”
More silence. He decided to take a gamble.
“Look captain, how about this? You can have AI monitor me for a while after I drink my coffee. If there are any adverse effects, you’ll hear of them straight from AI. As a gesture of good will, I am even willing to work with your science department to see the effects of human food on other xenos species. If no problems are found, you’ll potentially have access to an entire undiscovered civilisation’s food culture. Think of the cultural and diplomatic repercussions that would have. I bet that would look really good in your, uh, your report.”
Come on, come on. I just want the goddamn coffee.
“AI will monitor your biometrics. This beverage will be restricted to humans only until further notice. I am giving AI permission to synthetise any foodstuffs up to the category one classification. Additionally, your presence will be required at the science department once you’re ready. A science officer will work with you to investigate human physiology and what effects it has on our crew. AI will guide you to the required room.”
“Thanks a lot captain. I really appreciate it.”
The communication abruptly got cut off and Gus was left staring at the wall. “AI, I’d like to get that chai latte now please.”
The dispenser’s screen lit up and a status update window appeared. Within seconds, a panel opened in the blocky contraption and a white mug containing a steaming liquid could be seen in the crevice. Gus grabbed it and smelled it. Smells like home.
“Thanks a lot AI. I really, really appreciate it.”