The insectile alien robot called itself a string of unpronounceable phonemes, so Caleb decided to call it Max. Max did not seem disturbed by this. Max’s job appeared to be acting as personal assistant, liaison and camp counselor to Caleb through processing and orientation.
“The Spiral Hegemony has selected you as one of approximately seven thousand humans to join the compliment of one of its starships. As a new space traveler–”
“Why?” interrupted Caleb. They sat waiting in the defacto Hegemony embassy in New York near the United Nations building.
“The lottery was entirely random, I assure you. Your selection was completely by chance. Had you maintained your original position that you did not wish to–”
“No, why is the Hegemony taking one in a million people into space at all? We can’t have much to offer a starship crew, and anything they could learn from us could better be learned on Earth.”
“Oh,” said Max. The robot paused for a moment, head tilted as if in thought, then said, “Other than raw material to sustain life and provide fuel, such as the water ice of Europa for which the Hegemony is trading with Earth, the Hegemony needs very little. Its expansion is based purely on the collection of knowledge.”
“Right,” said Caleb. He did not see any other ‘new space travelers’ waiting. The office appeared staffed by robots remarkably similar to Max, along with a few stranger beings. They were all bipedal and generally humanolid in shape. “Where are all the weird aliens?” he asked.
Max did the head tilt thing again, then answered, “Most less advanced species respond with more curiosity and less violence when presented with more familiar forms.”
Caleb laughed. “You figured we would freak out and started firing nukes if a bunch of slime monsters landed.”
“Yes,” replied Max.
“So, is that body new?”
“What did you look like before? Body plan I mean?”
“Well, I am not in a position–”
At that moment a door opened and a voice called for Max and Caleb. Caleb thought he detected something like relief in Max’s posture as they stood and walked toward the office.