Space Madness: Episode IV
Paps flew across the bridge to grab the translator. When he got up close, he was almost startled at its appearance. He would have actually been startled, but there were too many startling things going on right now to be thrown off stride by minor surprises. The translator was a modified video game controller. “Hal, how does this thing work?”
“Press the x button and point it at them when they get through the door. Try to avoid using proper nouns and human related cultural references. They won’t translate.”
The Remotes were slowly making their way up to the bridge. “They’re sure taking their sweet time getting up here. I suppose I should try to make a good impression on behalf of humanity. How do I look, Hal?”
“Like a sweaty ape who hasn’t showered in a month. But don’t worry, that won’t matter much to them.”
Paps wished he hadn’t asked. He stood tall, facing the door, bracing himself for the menace that was about to barge in. Then they barged in.
There were three of them. They looked like some kind of bug-dinosaur combination. Huge eyes dominated what were presumably their faces, eyes with a honeycomb pattern of colors that filled the entire visible spectrum. If they had mouths, Paps couldn’t see them. It was difficult to tell whether they were wearing armor or if that was what their skin, or possibly exoskeleton, looked like. For that matter, Paps couldn’t tell whether they were carrying weapons, or if that was what their hands, or maybe claws, or tentacles looked like. The Remotes looked like they meant business, and their business looked like it was killing.
Instead of flinching, gasping, or screaming, Paps opted to sweat all over the place. He really hoped this translator worked. “My name is Captain Anton Konstantinos Pappas. I come in peace.”
Hal had to butt in. “Anton? How do you spell that? No, that’s not what I wanted to say. I meant your name isn’t going to translate. It will sound like static, or possibly words that vaguely resemble the sound of your name.”
The Remotes closed in on Paps. They were more focused on the translator. They didn’t react to it for a solid three seconds after Paps had finished talking. Finally, the device seemed to be registering their speech. It started vibrating. “How many pieces do you come in?”
Paps would have been surprised by the fact that the voice coming out of the translator was that of a sensual sounding woman, but again, there were much more surprising things going on at the moment. For instance, the Remotes’ response to Paps was higher on the list of surprising things.
Paps looked at Hal, bewildered. “Oh, translators have a hard time with homonyms. Or is that homophones? Which is the one where the two words sound the same? You humans use such imprecise language. No wonder it’s so hard for…”
“Shut up, Hal!” Paps had not anticipated just how difficult talking to an alien through a translator while his imaginary friend keeps yammering on about homonyms was going to be. Yet another thing that wasn’t in the First Contact Manual. “Uh-oh, I hope that didn’t translate. Let me give it another go. I wish to talk to your people so we may exchange ideas.”
Hal nodded in approval. One of the Remotes was standing in front of Paps pointing something at him. It was either a gun or a finger. The other two were examining the bridge.
They waited for what seemed like a couple of days to respond. The sultry voice of the translator spoke. “This unit is defective, speech incoherent. Analysis. Catalogued species 57408. Primitive intelligence. Group mind not self-aware. Specimen to be processed for further study.”
If Paps had a plan before, which he didn’t, it would have been at this point when he realized it had gone horribly wrong. As it was, things were going only slightly worse than expected, which was a relief. Not enough of a relief to stop Paps from freaking out, however. “No! Give me a chance! I don’t want to be processed!”
The two Remotes that were examining the bridge controls leaped across the bridge and grabbed Paps before he could even think about dodging them. These creatures could move very quickly when they needed to, it seemed. One of the Remotes squeezed his arm tight enough to draw blood. All three turned around and looked at the gash on the arm.
Whenever two species that have evolved on different planets in different parts of the galaxy meet, they always have trouble identifying each other’s emotions. One species’ fear can look like another species’ insane laughter, for instance. The one exception to this rule is annoyance. For some reason, every race can tell when another is annoyed. The Remotes were very clearly annoyed right now.
The seductive voice of the translator began to speak again. “This unit will not survive outside the confines of its transport device. We must bring the whole thing to the station. Analysis. Specific atmospheric conditions will take…”
Static started blaring out of the translator. “… to set up. Immobilize and tow.”
If ever there was a time for Paps to demonstrate his full ability to panic, this was it. “No! Please! Let me go! I just want to go home and have a nice retirement with a dog and a garden and a wife and a swimming pool and a bar and an entertainment center and…”
Paps’ squirming amounted to nothing. The Remote that seemed to be in charge unspooled a length of wire from its hand/claw/tentacle/gun. It tied Paps’ ankles together. One of the others tied his hands together behind his back. Paps was left squirming on the floor, screaming. The three Remotes glided off the bridge, still looking very annoyed. The last one turned around just before it left and clubbed Paps on the back of the head.
Paps collapsed and fell to the floor. The last thing he heard before he blacked out was the translator speaking softly. “Do not damage the unit further, we may have to transport it to the homeworld zoo.”
IS THIS THE END FOR CAPTAIN PAPS? WILL HE SPEND THE REST OF HIS DAYS IN AN ALIEN ZOO BEING LAUGHED AT BY ALIEN CHILDREN? FIND OUT NEXT TIME ON…