“I believe we should have talked things through before you blurted out a name. If we’re supposed to be a team, then we need to work together as a unit.”
Takahashi Hiroto couldn’t seem to get past that I’d named the ship without asking. It’s not like I’d done it on purpose, there had literally been a ticking clock, and he and Laura hadn’t been jumping in with any suggestions, but I’d already explained that and didn’t feel like saying it again, so I proceeded to ignore him and look around the command center.
There were five chairs scattered throughout, which I found odd since there were only three of us, but maybe two Maree would be joining us. If that was the case, we had a better chance of fighting back. I was pretty sure I could take two on my own. At the very least, Laura and Hiroto could slow one down until I got there.
Picking up on the fact that I wasn’t listening, Hiroto let out a little sigh before moving to the side of the room farthest from me, where he began looking at the computer there. Fine with me, it would suck if we were on this ship and didn’t get along, but I could deal with it. Hopefully, he could too.
“So, how are you feeling, Laura?”
“Um, I’m fine, uh, do you still think…”
She trailed off, but I didn’t need her to say it. She wanted to know if my opinion had changed on the Maree, and it most certainly hadn’t, so I nodded my head, and her shoulders sagged. She didn’t even bother to look around the room before plopping down into a chair by a large console with all kinds of touch controls.
I decided to leave her alone for now and went to the center chair. It was the only one not in front of a complicated-looking computer system and was aimed at the viewer. I assumed it was the captain’s chair, though it might have just been the chair to sit in if you didn’t feel like doing something. Since I was kind of afraid to touch anything, I decided that was the best place for me.
Hiroto had ignored my exchange with Laura and pulled out a pair of glasses before plopping down in front of the most complicated screen around. It had graphs and squiggly lines everywhere and streams of data just going by constantly, not to mention tons of flashing lights. Just looking at it was enough to give me a headache.
As soon as my butt hit the captain’s chair, a rumble came from somewhere deep in the ship. I looked around. “What’s that?”
The metallic voice from earlier said, “The engines have been activated, and the ship is preparing to take off. Your liaison will be joining you shortly.”
Gripping the arms of my chair tightly, I glanced to where Laura was sitting. She was desperately trying to find a seatbelt, which had my hands searching for one as well. I could feel the ship moving underneath me, it was a subtle movement, but my stomach felt like it was bottoming out. I had no idea how much time we had but assumed the ship wouldn’t have all the fancy comforts of The Emissary.
“Push the round button on the inside of the right side of your seat,” Hiroto called out instructions, and Laura and I quickly found the button he was talking about. A thin strap slipped over my lap and pinned me into place. I didn’t like it.
Frowning at the strap, I quickly pushed the button again, and it retracted. Well, that was something, at least. As the rumble picked up, I decided it was probably better to be strapped in. It would suck if this were how the science experiments started, and I strapped myself down, but it would also suck if I went flying through the room and broke my neck because I didn’t put my seatbelt on.
Gritting my teeth, I waited for what I wasn’t sure. A great surge of power, to be thrown back in my seat, a loud blast of sound, but none of that happened. The rumble we’d heard died down.
I had just retracted my seatbelt again when a hologram sprung to life in front of us. A male Maree stood there. He was very tall with white hair, though I don’t think that had anything to do with age. He had pale skin and large black eyes. I got a very modelesque vibe from him, and he seemed to be looking down his thin, small nose at us.
“Hello. My name is Juini Careplic of the Diamond Map Corporation. I will be your liaison for the duration of your time with the corporation. Let’s get started.”
Wait, what? A mapping company?
I could have just been quiet and listened and counted on him to answer my questions, but that’s never been my style.
“What are you talking about? I thought we were with the Alien Diplomatic Corp.” I thought no such thing, but he didn’t need to know that.
Juini gave me a very put-upon look, and he shifted his stance before saying, “As I was about to explain, the Diamond Map Corporation has purchased your contract to help us in the noble pursuit of documenting and mapping the entire galaxy. Our task is impossible, which is why whenever we come across a new race of aliens, we evaluate whether or not they are worth recruiting. Earth barely passed initial tests, which is why the sampling size is so small. However, if you succeed, we will add more of your kind to work towards our goal.”
As I processed what he’d just said, Hiroto raised his hand and then quickly dropped it before asking, “Are any of the groups going to be diplomats?”
Smirking, Juini said, “No. I see I’m going to have to spell it out for you. My people, the Maree, travel through space. When we’ve deemed a race worthy of recruitment, we decide the best way to approach. In the case of Earth, with your numerous planetary issues, it was reasonably straightforward. Using our advanced technology, we solved the global warming problem that would have devastated your planet.
“Once that was done, we spoke with your leaders and told them we were looking for diplomats. They wanted to send their most experienced candidates, of course, but if we’re truly to know how good a workforce you will be, we need a sampling of your most average citizens. That would be you. So now you get to travel through space, making all kinds of discoveries, and help expand our data collection.”
I leaned back in my chair and looked at him dumbfounded. None of my scenarios, nothing I had thought of, had even come close to what he’d just said. Yes, they’d lied to us, though I’m sure they could have pawned it off on a translation error. Diplomat, explorer, they were similar enough and had overlapping job duties. I wasn’t even sure it wasn’t a translation mistake. How could I have been so wrong?
Explorers? Flying through space mapping shit? Weren’t we going to be cannon fodder? Weren’t we going to be experimented on?
We were taken from our planet under false pretenses, and now we were supposed to make discoveries for no pay. So it was slavery, but nothing like the kind I had imagined.
As if sensing where my mind was, Juini crossed his arms, cocked his hip to the side, and said, “You’ve got a nice deal. Not only are you being paid by your home country in your own currency, but we’re also paying you as well. You can also potentially unlock new technology and benefits for your country and planet for every discovery you make. It’s all in your employment paperwork.”
We looked at him confused, and if he’d been human, I’m sure he would have rolled his eyes. A tablet appeared in his hands, and he typed on it for a bit before looking back up and saying. “It seems as though someone skipped a step with your orientation. All of this should have already been explained to you and your packets gone over. Typical, always cutting corners. The Emissary thinks that they don’t have to do the administrative side of things just because they recruit. You can’t trust the government to do their job these days.
“I’ve forwarded the packets to you. Read over them when you can, and if you have any questions, we can talk about them later. For now, we need to continue with more important things.” I had so many questions running through my head. Everything that I’d assumed seemed to be wrong. Weren’t we even going to be slaves? How could this have happened? What the fuck was I going to do for the next ten years if I wasn’t going to be leading a revolt?