One in a Million: Chapter 15

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.”

“Yes.”

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.”

Chapter 14

Chapter 16

One in a Million: Chapter 14

Faith looked at him. Caleb tried to read her expression but it was jumbled. She looked like she was going to laugh, cry, scream and joke all at once. When she said, “Are you fucking kidding me?” he got it.

“I just thought it might be fun,” he said, knowing even as he did, no matter how honest he was being, that it was probably the wrong response.

“You are,” she said loudly enough that people at nearby tables in the cafe looked up. “Because there is no way in Hell that you would have seriously just said to me that you thought I, your girlfriend, would find it fun to have a threesome with you and the alien girl that you just fucked — and apparently fucked you.” By the end of it she was yelling and standing and pointing at him. Her face was flushed and her skin was shiny with sweat and her eyes were wide, wet pools.

“Girlfriend?” he said quietly.

Faith threw her plate at him and stormed off. Caleb sat there with something meant to be curry dripping down his face and arms. Other people, humans and otherwise, looked at him until his eyes met theirs and then they went immediately back to their meals and hushed conversations.

He was still tracing the conversation in his mind, trying to figure out where it had gone wrong, when Obligolkulat tromped up to him in his frame. “Whoa, it’s worse than I thought,” said the alien.

Caleb blinked. “What? Did someone call you?”

“Caleb, buddy, half the crew called me.” He gestured with a few tentacles and for the first time Caleb realized that many of his coworkers were also in the cafe. Of course. They were on lunch break, too.

“I should get back to work,” said Caleb.

“You should get a shower and then take the rest of the shift off,” said Obligolkulat.

“Okay,” said Caleb. He was still wrestling with the conversation in his head as he got up and left for his quarters.

Chapter 13

Chapter 15