Inside the cockpit, despite the perfect air conditioning, a bead of sweat rolled down Orion’s back. He knew he had just one shot at this. “Pull out of the warp maneuver in 3…2…1…NOW!” Shouted Lieutenant Lestrange.
Orion pulled back on the lever, engaged rear thrusters, and tried to hold himself still as the extreme forces battled towards equilibrium. When he was able to open his eyes again, the sight was beyond what he could ever have hoped.
Life. Advanced life! There was what must have been a space port teeming with activity, life forms coming and going, in orbit around a lush green planet. “This isn’t going to be Earth 2.0, crew!” Orion announced to everyone on the ship. “Expect contact with alien lifeforms imminently!”
Orion was much more excited than he was scared. Perhaps he ought to have been more worried than he was, but there was no way the alien lifeforms were this advanced and still barbarically hostile, right?
Cautiously, Orion guided the ship closer to their airspace. He had his comms engineer reaching out through every method he could think of, but there wasn’t any kind of response yet. Once Orion had pulled close enough in that he could begin to make out details on the space port, a trio of small ships departed and began their approach to his ship.
While he waited, he tried to learn what he could. The space port used the vacuum of space to initialize the launch of everyone departing, but only let out a few ships at a time, despite there being a long lineup. They would close the doors, passengers would load, the ships would engage their thrusters, and the door would open. Anything loose left in the bay would be sucked into space. Perhaps the reason there were only two or three ships departing at a time was to minimize the potential for impact, even though the bay could easily fit 10-15 of the standard ships Orion had noticed.
Orion pulled himself out of his thoughts as the trio of what appeared to be single-occupancy ships drew close. “Are we getting anything?” Orion called out to his comms engineer.
“Nothing I can make out.” He responded. “Various forms of short-wave, but I don’t even think it’s communication. Just noise.”
Eventually, the trio of ships pulled in front of Orion’s viewing window and slowly glided forward. Orion knew enough to figure out that they intended for him to follow.
“Lieutenant Lestrange, please get together with your choice of four of our crewmembers. Seems like we’re going to go on a tour soon. Bring me the multi-purpose suit as well. I’ll be coming of course.”
As the excited crew began to trade favors, argue, flip coins and engage in mostly-friendly horseplay surrounding the issue of who was to touch down first, Orion laid eyes on one of the new lifeforms for the first time. He set down in a bay that looked just like the departure bay he had been observing, and the door sealed behind them. From the small ships, out hopped one very tall, very lanky being whose personhood moreso resembled a spider than a human, though there were no facial characteristics visible. The second departed their cockpit, and they were sturdily built, and short. Orion would’ve likened them to a Tolkenien dwarf. They removed their helmet and their face was more akin to a Eewok from Starwars…if George Lucas was right about space after all this time, Orion was going to flip. He hadn’t attended ten years of studies and another five leading and training this crew to have been beaten to the punch in the freaking 1990’s!
Finally, Orion, Lieutenant Lestrange and five others (all of whom Orion would know by name, but their faces were covered by helmets) departed their ship.
They were greeted by the tall alien. As it approached, it vocalized a wide variety of tones and syllables. It was trying to establish language.
Orion responded. “Our warm and humble greetings! I am from a planet we designate as Earth from the galaxy we designate as The Milky Way–”
“Ah, humanoid.” The tall alien responded. “Mmm, Marcus, could you?”
“Aye.” Called out a distinctly human voice from the third ship.
“What in the…?” The crew began to murmur.
“Welcome to the Intergalactic Community, Captain..?” Came the human voice again as he was released from the bottom of his cockpit, dropping to the deck.
“Orion. Sorry, you’re human, like us? How are we not the first to make contact?”
“You are, sort of.” The man approached as he removed his helmet. Pale blonde hair and gray eyes accented his oddly perfect features. By his aesthetics alone he could have climbed to fame back on Earth. His build and looks were like if Jason Mamoa had impregnated an angel and he was the result. His accent was somewhat strange, nothing Orion had ever heard before, but he spoke with intention and clarity. “You are the first humans to reach us. As for myself and the others, we were…or, in my case, our great-grandparents were simply taken as samples from our original planet.”
Orion’s mouth went dry. “You’re kidnapping victims.”
The human, Marcus, arched an eyebrow, and a vein pulsed in his forehead. “That isn’t the terminology I would use. Perhaps from your perspective that sounds correct, but it paints us– the intergalactic community– in a certain light I wouldn’t prescribe us. Let’s take a tour and I can explain everything. But first, allow me to walk you through our decontamination cycle.”
“Y-yes, of course. How many humans are there here, Marcus?”
“Samples are maintained at a maximum of 100 per species until they are ready to join as full-fledged members of the community. We are currently at our maximum.”
“What happens if one of you has a child and the cap is broken?”
“Let’s focus on one thing at a time.”
Orion began to get a bit of a knot building in his stomach. The crew behind him was no longer quietly chattering, they stood at attention. They were subtly scanning their surroundings.
“The decontamination process can take place just over there.” Marcus pointed to the farther end of the bay, where what looked like two sets of tents were set up.
Orion led his crew inside. “Please strip off all your things and grab a new set of clothes. You won’t need your helmets and whatnot until you depart later, if you choose to do so.” Marcus continued. He now had the short, furry alien and tall, spider-like one at his side. While the crew stripped, they spoke quietly to one another.
“You two are the ones in charge, correct?” Marcus asked of Orion and Lestrange.
“Correct.” Orion responded neutrally.
“In the next tent, there is another set of jump suits you two should wear. It will distinguish you for our other members.”
Lestrange looked at Orion with the question in her eyes. What are we doing? Is this safe?
It seemed as though they would give them the option to leave if they chose to. Orion ground his teeth and moved over to the next tent. Lestrange followed.
Quietly, she whispered to him as they donned their new jump suits. “I don’t like how he referred to himself as a sample. Are we heading into some kind of evil scientists rule the galaxy bullshit?”
“Let’s not draw any conclusions this early, Lestrange.” Orion looked around the tent, showing that even if Marcus couldn’t hear them, there was no way to know that they weren’t unmonitored. Lestrange nodded. “Zip me up, please, Captain.”
Orion pulled Lestrange’s long red hair out of the way of the back of her jump suit and obliged her. As soon as they were both ready, Marcus and his two partners joined them in their tent.
“As I mentioned, we do have a population cap. I’ve been conferring with my colleagues, and we believe the best course of action isn’t to take your whole crew with you for the tour. Typically, the people who stay are the people who get the tour, you see.”
Orion swallowed, trying to measure his response. “I believe, in that instance, it may be better for us all to withdraw. What are the requirements to join as full members of the community, without the population cap? Perhaps we can return once we’ve reached that requirement.”
“Mmm. No, the community wants you to join the sample group, as you are clearly the most accomplished member to ever grace us, you and the Leiutenant. Your crew, however–” Marcus’s words were cut short by the loud *clang* of the doors being closed. The same kind of doors that they used to separate the safe zones from the ones leading out to the vacuum of space.
It all happened in an instant. Marcus swept out Orion’s legs, and the spider-like alien lunged at the Lieutenant. The bay doors opened, and Orion’s ship, along with every member of his crew who had come along with him, were sucked into space.
Marcus was on top of Orion before he even registered the pain from his fall.
“Welcome to the community, brother.” He grinned, pinning Orion’s arms. Orion tried his best to resist from his disadvantaged position, but he was winded. Rage boiled deep within his chest, even as he struggled to breathe.
Lestrange, however, did not have Orion’s limitation. She wrestled free from the lanky alien’s grasp and snatched what appeared to be some kind of short blade from his belt. The furry alien barked orders into his communications device while Lestrange kept the lanky alien at bay.
Marcus was not to be distracted. He kept his infuriatingly perfect gaze on Orion, the grin on his face very self-satisfied.
**Well, no such thing as fair in a fight…’* Orion thought, and spat into Marcus’s eye.
“What the fuck?!” Marcus roared, rearing back. Orion bucked him from his seat on Orion’s stomach, and he tore Marcus’s entire toolbelt off of his jump suit. He tossed it to the side and began pelting Marcus with vicious blows.
Finally, the furry one finished speaking, and the tent-like structure they had been in lifted. They were once again surrounded by the silver-and-steel aesthetic of the inside of the space port…and surrounded by over a dozen soldier types, all armed with rifles.
“There is no resisting the community, Captain.” Marcus said, once again grinning, though his teeth were now stained with his own blood.
“Aah…hell. Ideas, Lieutenant?”
“Awaiting your orders, Captain.” She sounded breathless, but furious.
“I spy with my little eye…” Orion said, then held his hand open. The Lieutenant tossed him her blade, and Orion struck out at a large canister that was sealed against a nearby wall. As he had hoped, it was a fire-suppression canister, and the area filled with white foam. Orion used this to grab Lestrange’s hand and kick away a nearby grate that led into something of an air tunnel. “This air tunnel is still susceptible to the vacuum, so find somewhere to hide, and re-establish communications with our ship! If they sealed the doors after letting us off, they should all still be alive!”
“And what will you be doing?” Lestrange asked.
“Ugh, you always take the fun jobs.”
“Finish your job early and you can join me on mine.” Orion used his best sarcastic parent-like voice.
“Asshole.” Lestrange jettisoned herself down the air tunnel.
Orion knew the aliens were drawing close on him again. He groped through the foam for Marcus’s toolkit, and sprinted towards where he thought he saw some doors. The foam was beginning to dissipate, so with a little luck–
There. A keycard was on Marcus’s belt. “God bless my lucky stars!” Orion shouted as he stepped through. All he had to do was stay hidden, stay alive, and enact a little revenge while Lestrange got back into communication with his crew.
Orion swallowed hard again and began wondering what death was really going to be like as he sprinted down the unexplored alien hallways.