Seeing as no one seems to want my attempts at serious literary fiction. I am resigned to the fact that I probably won’t make millions out of the written word. So, here’s something I started for my own entertainment. Enjoy. Or don’t. I can’t tell you what to do. I would if I could, trust me.
‘I’m just saying, turn left at Gorulon Four isn’t overly helpful when you’re traversing the depths of space,’ Roran complained, his green gelatinous form shuddering and pulsating. He didn’t so much as speak rather than emitted a wave of telepathic signals.
‘What you mean, not helpful? Of course it’s helpful, we arrive at Gorulon Four, we go left,’ Maybeck replied. He hadn’t slept well the past few days. He stared at the wavering contents of his metallic mug. It wasn’t quite coffee. It was the best synthetic coffee this side of the Sta’Mollk Nath nebula. It looked like coffee, tasted bitter enough to be a close approximation to it and gave a caffeine hit, but it wasn’t coffee. The fact that he knew it made him enjoy it less than he might had he been entirely ignorant. It was like the anti-placebo effect, in a way.
He could see the vague outline of his own face in the rippling liquid. Really, he should have a lid on it, health and safety and all that, but he was the captain and if he wanted to drink out of a lidless mug he would damn it. The one eye visible in the reflection had a dark shadow underneath it. His face looked thinner than he remembered.
‘Left? Left? Half of the known galaxy is technically left!’ said Roran.
‘Left, maybe left and down a little bit I think she said,’ said Maybeck dipping his nose into the mug. The steam felt good against his face. The bitter synth coffee slid down his throat, spreading its warmth into his chest and eventually his rumbling stomach.
‘Down! Objectively speaking there is no down out here!’ It was amazing how telepathic rays could splutter. Roran’s green tentacles made some adjustments on the pads and dials around him.
‘How you humans managed to become an FTL civilisation I’ll never know.’ He grumbled. Maybeck rolled his eyes.
‘Opposable thumbs,’ he said.
‘Beg your pardon?’
‘That’s how we managed. Opposable thumbs. If the Laggorians hadn’t discovered your planet and realised your intellectual potential and built ships and tools that you could actually use, you’d still be sliding around in swamps. That’s how we became a FTL civilisation, because we can hold a spanner.’ Said Maybeck before taking another gulp.
Beyond the view screen he could see nothing, just weird blue waves of energy sliding across the hull and a few streaks of warped light. When beyond the gravitational grips of a celestial object, there was a great deal of nothing. The whole universe was filled with an immense vacuum of nothing with a few pockets of something. Often that something was not particularly interesting.
‘Your earth monkeys can hold spanners,’ Roran commented, his shape became somewhat softer.
‘Yeah, and had your species ever been confronted by a mob of angry monkeys, my money would have been on the monkeys. The great race of Slorrth would have never been.’ Said Maybeck effectively putting an end to the discussion. Roran literally deflated. Maybeck should have felt at least a little guilty for continually ridiculing Roran’s race. They were oddly proud for a species that were little more than a number of green blobs.
He liked Roran really. He had a good heart. Figuratively speaking. As it was he had three sphincters that helped squeeze nutrients around his… or her body.
That was the problem with making alien contact. On the whole, it was close to impossible for cultures to maintain a conversation. Not just due to the lack of experiential overlapping, but often due to the fact that they conceived reality in completely different ways. Humans had spent their entire existence fighting one another due to a lack of understanding or because they simply couldn’t adequately talk through their differences. It was a miracle they survived long enough to break the light barrier. Then they met the Thrurnak Empire and the shit really hit the fan.
A lengthy war later they were able to put aside their differences thanks to the intervention of the Anal (pronounced An-hal, but Earthlings are immature beings). The Anal – The An-hal – had spent decades studying both races and once they had enough knowledge of how they operated, stepped in to mediate. The Anal Treaty was signed, bringing about a frigid peace and much giggling.
The treaty was lengthy, Maybeck had read it in its entirety at one point, though summed up the conditions of peace were very much – You go over there, and you go over there.
Anyway, Maybeck liked Roran despite his tendency to be an annoying shit. The problem was, Maybeck should never have left Earth. It was his belief that humanity should have died out long ago. They never should have become the dominant species of their own planet, let alone try and get involved with others. As in all things organic, humanity had come about completely by accident. One day an ape got sick of being hunched over and stood up right and passed this habit along to its children.
In the early days, humanity must have been having sex every moment they could spare. On average, humans tend to have one child (if we’re taking the mode) at a time. It was common for women to die in child birth and even more common for the child to die before it was five. It was as if nature had recoiled in disgust at this freak of evolution and was doing its best to wipe out all trace of it. However, the humans were stubborn. Stubborn and horny, and just look where that got them.
Maybeck had excelled at biology and galactic cultural studies. Earth was now an overcrowded city smothered in smog and the government was keen on flinging as many people as they could off the planet for good. The economy wasn’t great, so Maybeck had to take whatever job was dangled in front of him, or at least that’s what his father said.
He got a job with an online retailer aboard one of their many delivery vessels. Soon after he was headhunted by a private Furuvian vessel, by which of course I mean the delivery vessel was shot to pieces by pirates and he was given the choice to work in a communications capacity for them or be blasted out into the cold abyss of space.
This vessel was in turn shot to pieces by the Galactic Alliance, which led to a job with them. It felt very similar to being a slave for pirates just with marginally better pay. There was plenty of room for progression in the Galactic Alliance. It did after all have the collective wealth of a dozen or more civilisations.
Maybeck applied for a research role, was given one and eventually had control of his own small vessel. It was when scanning the composition of his thirty-forth asteroid that he realised he had no idea what it was he was supposed to be researching. When he questioned Chief Science Officer Admiral Ballycrux Calalahalalam he received the following communication.
Dear Captain R. Maybeck
Thank you for your email, in regard to your question “what are we doing?” I would say that this is a quandary that has plagued every sentient creature in the galaxy since we gained the capacity to think. However, if you were posing the question in a more literal sense, the truth is your vessel (which you aptly named) G.A Darwin is one of many that we refer to as ‘cash sponges’. The Galactic Alliance (long may it last) grants its science and research arm a certain budget to be reviewed every three Gorynth years (that is two point two Earth years). If it is found that we are not using said budget, it will be reduced accordingly. Science is a never-ending search for truth, a ceaseless endeavour to learn and expand our knowledge. However, as it stands we don’t have a lot going on.
Whilst we do have a few projects on the go, they do not require all our resources. In order to see our budget is reached, we have employed the use of approximately ninety-five cash sponges to be recalled as and when more research and development opportunities arise. So, in short, do whatever you like. Scan some asteroids, collect some plants, maybe check Boryon Nine to see if any new fish have evolved. Keep yourself busy, everyone gets paid and who knows, maybe you’ll accidentally make a discovery like they did in the old old days.
Forgive any errors in my communication, I’ve only learned one-hundred and thirty-two Earth languages so far. I’ve found English to be one of the most bizarre. Perhaps if you’ve a spare moment you can tell me why “through” has an O a G and an H.
Admiral Ballycrux Calalahalalam III
Since then Maybeck had had very little drive. Being stuck in space had been bad before, but at least it had some vague sense of purpose. Now… he was just stuck. No, not stuck. The opposite. He was flailing about in a vast openness. There was nothing to cling onto. He was drowning in nothingness.