A new job on a new planet (Contest Entry)
Her vintage Converse shoes were first off the ramp, engines powering down as other passengers disembarked. Emily Watson dropped her old rucksack onto the tarmac and took a deep breath. It smelled different, looked different. It was different. And it was exciting.
Rose petal clouds drifted across a lavender sky and paired suns were barely rising over Zellim’s crystalline city skyline. Emily paused, just to let it all soak in – her first day on another planet.
A shuffling from behind and she was suddenly tossed aside, another passenger stumbling over her as he found solid ground. “Hey!” the man said, brushing down his wrinkled suit and not even bothering to help her up. “You better watch it!”
“Watch it?” she objected, pulling herself up from the ground. “You ran over me!”
“Yeah, well, I’m in a bit of a hurry,” he frantically backed away. “Places to be and things to do, you know,” then he nervously disappeared into the crowds without apology.
“Hmph,” Emily grumbled, straightening her own sundress as it drifted on the gentle breeze. Collecting her bag and her dignity, she tied her hair back and fixed her glasses, joining the rest of the travelers headed for Interplanetary Customs.
Of course, she tried not to stare, but everything was just so alien, including the actual aliens pretty much everywhere. There were short ones, tall ones, some had fur, and others feathers, but all of them were marvelous. Sure, she’d seen non-terrestrials before – some back in New York, and on the vids, of course, but this was all so amazingly strange.
The immigration line was long but moved swiftly and Emily quickly found herself across the counter from a little yellow bureaucrat with large obsidian eyes. “Nitzok vol,” it said and Emily couldn’t mistake the hint of tedium in its statement. When she didn’t respond, it repeated, “Nitzok vol.”
“I…I’m sorry, I don’t understand.”
The little alien smirked, its miniature fist punching a sizeable red button in the center of the desk. Instantly, a small drone appeared and, before Emily could react, stabbed her in the neck with a too large syringe. “Ouch!” She reflexively guarded the injection site.
“Honestly, why they let you Earthers leave without a translator,” the yellow alien shook its head. “Documents, please.”
Emily pressed the right spot on her wrist and it glowed green.
“Welcome to the Capital,” it droned. “Next!”
Just past the exit, a shimmering automaton was there to meet her, Emily’s name scrolling across the robot’s chest. “Um, that’s me!” she said.
“A pleasure. This way,” the machine answered, parts flickering orange with every syllable. “I am your assistant, Exa.”
“Assistant?” Emily had never had one before.
“Were your travels satisfactory?” it asked, leading her away.
“I suppose. I’ve never been interplanetary before. Are the transports always that crowded?”
“Unfortunately. The Firm has lobbied for private passage, but the Port Authority insists on approved transports only. Old fashioned, really. A Zellim work visa is over seventy-three paper pages, if you can believe it. Here we are.”
They climbed inside a sleek, black conveyance, hovering quietly, and it lifted away into the city.
“We’d like you to begin immediately,” the bot continued.
“Immediately, as in now?”
“Sorry for the short notice. Both delegations have already arrived. You’ve read the brief?”
“And the Cora-Lem Treatise.”
“Excellent. We’d like to resolve this primitive triviality with the Lem before the end of business today.” Exa paused, summing Emily up. “Is that your best?”
Emily reviewed her summer dress. She considered it good for traveling but hadn’t realized she’d be called to work so suddenly. “Well, I…”
“No matter,” the robot clipped a small device to her strap and Emily’s casual attire became a neatly pressed, tight fitting dress which seemed a bit more flattering than it ought to be. “Perfect. You can leave your bag. We’ll take you to your apartment in Mid-Town later.”
Drifting up to a lofty catwalk, they both disembarked. “The Firm has big plans for you, Ms. Watson,” Exa said, then swung the doors wide. "Make us proud."
Inside, a long table extended away from her and she was greeted first by two wispy pearlescent beings, the Coralon. At the far end were a more hulking pair of creatures, the Lem, looming over their overly nervous attorney with whom Emily was very familiar – the rude, disheveled man from the spaceport.
“Before you begin, do you need anything?” Exa asked.
Emily grinned confidently. “Nothing. This is gonna be fun.”