Max escorted Caleb down the hall. Caleb did not see as much of the alien robot as he had during the initial period of integration into life on the ship. He felt anxious given Max’s sudden attention.
“You are being reassigned,” said Max.
Caleb bristled. “That seems a little excessive. There was nothing in the ridiculously long handbook about interpersonal relationships.”
Max stopped and considered Caleb. “Fascinating. Your intelligence and perceptive capabilities are inversely proportional to the degree of intimate contact you desire or have had with another individual.”
Caleb considered Max right back. “Well, yes. But this isn’t about Faith? Or Nel?”
If Max was capable of laughter, the robot surely would have chuckled. “No. This is not about your indiscretions or infidelities.”
“I didn’t know we were exclusive.”
“Nonetheless,” said Max, “this is about your inherent capabilities. You are being reassigned to the Exploratory Unit. The Hegemony has determined you would be an asset when encountering novel phenomena.”
Caleb allowed himself to relax and said, “So I am getting a promotion?”
“If you perceive it that way,” said Max. “It is significantly more arduous than maintenance, and potentially more dangerous. The galaxy is very large and full of uncertainty.”
Caleb thought for a moment as they waited for a lift between decks. “There must be some sort of vetting process,” he said after as they entered the lift. “Like when you guys came here, you did reconnaissance and studied us before you made overtures.”
“Of course,” said Max.
“If we had turned out to be dangerous or incompatible with the Hegemony way or whatever, you would have just mined ice and went on your way.”
The lift stopped and opened and they started down another hallway at Max’s direction. Caleb’s mind swam with possibilities and pitfalls. Finally, he said, “It isn’t that I am any smarter than anyone else. There are aliens on this ship that make humans look like chimpanzees.”
“True,” said Max. “For biological entities, intelligence is mostly based on neural density. Humans inhabit the 66th percentile of known lifeforms in this regard.”
Caleb smiled. “So it is about perspective. Humans are new, so the way they see things is new, and might provide a different perspective.” He suddenly laughed loudly. “We’re going somewhere you have been before! Somewhere you failed.”
“Well,” said Max, “That’s not entirely–”
“Never mind,” said Caleb. “I’m in.”