« ContaminationConflict Resolution »



  12:00:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 1465 words  
Categories: Nexus


And so we whomped together. It was like old times. And like old times, she dropped her guard, and got hit in the face. And when I tried to get her to head straight off to MedDiv, she refused, until the last of the partiers had been subdued. Then I took her there myself.


While we were waiting for a free nurse, I couldn?t stop staring at her in profile. Even ruffled, it was hard not to notice the effort she?d put in. ?You looked nice tonight.?


?I bet you say that to all the girls who?ve been hit in the face.?


?Admittedly, you looked better before the punch in the face. But I?d still hit it.?


?You have; unless you meant my nose, but I guess you?ve hit that, too.? She smiled, then grimaced. Then hit me in the arm. ?Ah. Don?t make me smile. It hurts.?


?You do know you punching me also hurts.?


?Yeah, but you deserve it.?


?I probably do, at that.?


?Ah, SecDiv, my arch nemesis.?


?Oh, shit,? she said. It was MedDiv, and he was dramatically snapping a pair of exam gloves as he walked over to us.


?You?ve owed me an exam for months now. And every time you come in, you snake oil my physicians into giving you a pass on the physical and just treating whatever new contusion you?ve brought to them- despite repeated notations I?ve made in your records. But when I heard there was another fight in the crew deck I knew you?d end up here. Because you always do. She?s going to be a while, captain.?


?Oh, I?m happy to stick around,? I said, getting up.


?Not in the exam room, you won?t,? she said, glaring.


?You?re no fun,? I replied. Though I honestly had no interest; medical nudity isn?t nearly as much fun as recreational nudity. I half expected to get another booty call from Elle; I wonder if things would have gone differently if I had.


But the next time I saw her was during the mission brief. HR was running it, because he enjoyed that kind of thing. The rest of us already knew our roles, and our background information, but something about going through those motions soothed his savage beast- or at least made him a bit less of a prick on the trip down. He was pleasant enough I hardly realized we?d touched down until the door on our shuttle unlocked.


Abhijñ was arid. Like Arizona. Only saltier. ?You?re supposed to be wearing a mask,? the MedOff who had traveled in our shuttle scolded. I gave her a raspberry, and took in a gigantic lungful of air. The Nexus had the best filtration system man had ever devised- and it still had that canned locker-room heaviness to it (though only occasionally the smell).


This was air. Clean air. Dry air. You could have told me there was anthrax in that air and I still wouldn?t have put on a mask.


?Stop, wait, don?t,? SecDiv said in a disinterested monotone as I ran off the shuttle. The SecOff team was having trouble doing their work. The telepathic mellow that had affected us on the ship was much stronger here. They were wandering around in a malaise, like sheep in a pen.


?This is the crappiest LZ I?ve ever seen,? I said, grinning like an idiot. ?Tighten things up.? They couldn?t tell if they wanted to listen to me, until SecDiv stepped out of the shuttle. Apparently whatever mood altering was going on, the fear she instilled was stronger. They trotted out into an octagon perimeter, and watched their zones.


?Got locals at eight o?clock.? Caulerpa?s king had been all pomp and circumstance, but this was different. A column of the Abhijñā were flooding down the street towards us. And as I played over the cautionary morals of Bradbury?s Martian Chronicles I wondered if that was the moment we should have run. The blue wave wasn?t just marching at us from one direction, but from everywhere. They were flooding out of gently curving spires and towers that were beautiful but violent slashes across the sky. Then they stopped. HR stood in the center of our cordon, clinging to our commbox.


I stepped forward, even with the edge of our perimeter. A female, a little taller than the rest, spoke, but it reverberated with the sound of a thousand voices. ?We are of one mind.? I heard it in my head; I couldn?t tell if she was speaking with her lipless mouth as well, or if I imagined that as I tried to make sense of it. It felt like my brain having a runny shit all over itself- in a pleasant sort of way.


?Groovy,? I said.


There was a pause, her skin flashed blue, then purple. Scanning the crowd I saw many different colors flash across their faces, like a chameleon?s camouflage, only with a light glow. Then the procession turned towards the tallest and most impressive building in the city; it looked like one of the more intricate musical notes, but drawn in a puffy yet slippery Cyrillic script.


Walking along the procession I noticed the Abhijñā kept looking at us with large, dewey eyes. I wondered how much moisture they lost from them in this heated clime. The building that looked like a clef was farther than I?d realized, and the walk there took over an hour. The base was a stadium, and we were funneled through tunnels onto the floor. There were tens of thousands in the arena around us.


Apparently they?d been nosy. They?d gleaned what our purpose was. Hell, they?d even picked up our minimum and maximum offers, so they knew our parameters. They agreed to a third of the way between the min and max, which they said was being generous. After that, their translator ?spoke? to HR alone. I gathered from the crowd they could hear the exchange, but we couldn?t. He nodded, and said aloud, ?we have an accord.?     


Then he turned and whispered in my ear. ?As it?s been explained to me, they don?t have signatures. Written documents don?t have any legal standing here. They have something called imprinting- putting the meaning of the agreement directly onto someone?s mind. And luckily for my virgin brain, they want you. Specifically, she wants you. Requested, was the word I think they were reaching for, but it came across as she ?craves? you.?


?You did explain I?m not a turkey sandwich.?


?Not in so many words; we?re trying to avoid a diplomatic incident, here. But after the imprinting, you?ll have the legal authority, as her vassal, to sign the contracts on her and her planet?s behalf.? I hesitated. ?What? The big bad war hero captain afraid of a supple blue girl??


?She?s easily eighteen by human equivalence; girl makes it sound sordid- so did supple.?


?I know, that?s why I chose it. Now stop being such a sissy.?


She leaned over the table; there was lots of blue cleavage. ?I can take it from here, negotiator.? Then it was like the room was dark, and everyone except her was in the shadows, and there was light, a soft glow, framing her in a halo. ?Do I have permission to imprint you?? There was a light tremble to her voice, and I wondered then what the cultural significance of this was; was she asking me to dance or was it something more intimate. Then there was a sharp sensation at the back of my head, no, in my head, near the back. But not a pain, exactly, just intensity, to the point of it being uncomfortable.


I picked up a pen, but it was more like we picked up the pen together, like the way a man uses teaching a woman to golf as a pretense to getting his arms around her. And we pushed it around, and I realized I was writing an alien name I?d never seen in a script I didn?t recognize. 


Then I set the pen down, and it was over, and she was staring at me, blushing. Like the first time somebody sticks a finger in you, it was awkward. Hurt a little, and tickled, and afterwards I was left a little frisky. I don?t recall exactly what all happened afterwards, with the ceremony, with the woman, but I woke up sticky, with a smile on my face. I had no idea how much time had passed, and found it difficult to care- even if it meant I was going to be stuck on this planet.

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