"Engage multi-phase, omni-directional accelerators!"
"Roger!" At the command I form the most awesome pose I can think of, tighten by blue space-suit spandex-ed butt cheeks glistening in the starlight, and promptly forget half of my training. "What?"
"That means take off, newbie!" Master Ambassador Puretide smacks the back of my helmet, giving me a helpful 'head start' away from the ship towards my first real negotiate-ee. Fingering my palm engages the rocket pod on my back, and I fly V-visor first towards the...
"Whoa." A Xen'dellian mind wyrm flays about against the black and white polka-dot skirt of space, it's ten primary bloom heads poofing acidic spores against the hull, its mega-womps grating and pusstulating against the emergency hatch.
"You forgot the javis hoiks." My team mate is right on time, orange butt-cheeks settling behind me as we soar towards the creature/plant.
"Pff, no one cares about those- acid!" I finger my palm and shift to the left, my team mate shifting right. The corrosive blob soars past us straight at-
"Thank you, sir!" I hear the Ambassador's melting voice, as the acid sears and melts through his suit, helmet, and body. "I greet you in kind, in peaaglrb."
"Looks like you just got promoted!" My teammate takes a quick pic of the oozing Ambassador with his thumb-cam. "Should I post the casualty report on flinder, or space-book?
"Put that phone away nerd!" I flip and spin, dodging a hoik. "Mark the ship! I'm going in!" Boosting hard, I close straight towards the wyrm's face/beak. The G-force pushes my face back, but I tense up to stay sorta-conscious. I reach for my negotiator prompts-cards, trying to judge the optimal way past the mass of strange appendages towards the eye of the creature.
Too late. A bloom head thwacks me hard, my flight interrupted, my legs, waist, and arms soaking into the ooze, my shoulders and head sticking out stupidly. Shortest mission ever.
"Hey, dude!" The mega-eye turns towards the hull. The motion whips me upside down, as the creature's huge body turns towards... my teammate...
"You know..." I rip my hand out and point, ooze flopping from my hand into space. "... I don't even know your name."
"I'll tell you if we live." He steps boldly towards the creature, hands on hips, and points at one of the numerous holes burnt into the hull. "No!"
"Er..." I don't remember this being on any of the prompt-cards.
"Bad!" He points at the wyrm. "No!" He points at the ship. "Look at this mess."
Just when I consider sending two more casualty reports, the head releases me and begins to shrivel. I boost away and turn, just in time to see the massive wyrm retract all it's feelers and spores, the segmented body withdrawing into a small coil.
I watch teammate as he demonstrates the first rule of the Para-negotiator: Control how the negotiation starts, and you control how it ends.
"This is horrible, horrible damage to the ship..." He points at the creature. "Sir!" As I land the creature begins to slink away. I follow my teammate's lead.
"Sir, ma'am!" I beckon the creature over. "Would you please come look at this damage!?" The wyrm looks away. "Sir, this is some horrible damage!?" The wyrm looks guilty, slinking sideways towards us, but refusing to look.
"Oh yes, horrible damage." My teammate shakes his head. "I don't know if we can talk now."
"No!" The voice rips my mind in half. I now have two personalities. "We can still talk." Oh good, my mind is back- "I didn't know meat creatures were living here." Crap, three I think.
"Well sir, me and my three butt-cheeks are living very happily in the currents the river styx-"
"Personality split." I mumble... I think.
"Oh, that makes sense- shut up! Er, me and..." With my teammate's mind still split, I quickly take over.
"Sir, these damages might be overlooked, IF we can set a time at a neutral location to discuss communication methods that don't rip apart our minds." I pull up my thumb phone. "Are you free on..." I flick my oozy, thumb phone shut and pull out a piece of plastic paper. "Are you free on..." I snap my fingers in front of teamey's face. "You got a pen?"
"Dave Razer, but my friends call me John."
"I didn't ask your name, gimme a pen, dork!"
It's clear, as soon as the muscular pair of biceps with a screaming head between them faces me-
"Put that wrench down, you're gonna cause a WAARR!!" -That I am in the wrong place. "What's your name, scumbag!?
"Betty Baxter. Er... Mr... I think I'm in the wrong-"
"From this moment on any words from your disgusting, warlike mouths will begin and end with Sir!" The knot of muscles in the muscle-shirt and muscle-hat turns to the line of cowering, doe-eye people. "Do you hear me!?"
"Sir, yes sir!" The response is loud and militaristic, the voices of the tight bodied women and men echoing off the low white ceiling and rattling the metal bunk beds. Definitely the wrong place. My thoughts are interrupted as a muscular 'knife-hand' jabs into my temple.
"Oooww-" And a muscular face closes within a centimeter from mine
"Did you hear me, war-monger!"
"Sir, Ow, sir!" I yell.
"Miss Backer, why did you join my beloved Para-Negotiator Corps?!" Finally, a chance to voice my concerns.
"Sir, I think I might have stood in the wrong line for taco tuesda-"
"Wrong!" His knife-hand pokes me harder. "You joined to save lives!" He jerks the hand away, and walks away down the line of people. "Human lives!" His back is towards me. "Alien lives!" He is walking away. "Interdenominational lives." I leave the line of victims. "All creatures deserve peace!" And begin to tiptoe towards the hatch. "And peace is what we will give them!" I am a meter from the door, freedom so close. "In the Para-Negotiator Corps!" His voice is right behind me.
I spin around just in time for muscle man to press his nose into my nose. "Hey." His breath is hot against my mouth, although minty fresh. "Where you going?" His tone has totally changed. He is not yelling. His voice is calm. Deadly calm.
"I-I, sir, I..." There is nothing in my brain right now. I did not know that a simple glare could destroy one's ability to form coherent thoughts. "I'm not sure-... there's... there were tacos."
"Do you hate aliens?
"Do you hate peace?"
"Your persuasion skills are sloppy, Miss Buttster."
"I am sooo sorry, Mr. Sir-" My collar is in my throat, as the muscular monster pulls me up from the floor.
"CONVINCE ME PEACE IS THE ANSWER, MAGGOT!!!!"
"AAAHHH!!!" I feel my argument is valid. I hope he thinks so.
"AAAHHH!!!" His response is hard to read, but I think he is pleased. "You've just gotten your entire race killed!" Darn it. "But that's just FIIINE!" The volume he manages to put into the word 'fine' might have chipped one of my teeth. "We'll fix you." My heart freezes at the word we'll.
"Oh space Jesus." The hatch opens behind me. "There's more of youOUGH." Another fist, a massive knot of bone muscle, bashes into my back and shatters my spine.
"What the PEACE, recruit!?" The new, muscular-er voice is already heaping on the failure. "You call that a spine!?" The new muscle-wad grabs my face and pulls my head back to look at his knot-face. "Convince me to accept the need for all five prime genders to have equal opportunities in the workforce, while simultaneously communicating the need for children to stop working and stay at home with parental figures serving as strong custodians of oral and kinetic tradition NOOWW!!"
I slam my shoulder into the door, hop into the zero gravity, and pull my med kit up to my face. The plasma wad smacks into the kit as I float into the room. My two team mates take the corners of the room, med kits up, knees tight to the body. I discard the kit before it melts through my gloves, again, and float towards the back of the room. A naked peace-instructor, wearing a giant fish helmet with ten eyes, is aiming a rifle at my exposed form, his muscular muscularity tight and threatening.
"Hello, friend!" I declare quickly. He fires the rifle, and I roll backwards in flight, careful to maintain my forward momentum. The plasma passes between my legs. "Congratulations on making contact with humans!" I spin back up to face him and stomp down, planting myself a meter away. "Please accept this gift as a token of peace!" I reach into my breast pocket and whip out the 'Aquatic card', a postcard with a lovely ocean and swimming aquatic creatures depicted in gentle, peaceful-
"I am enticed!" The 'Fishman' rips the card from my hand and throws it at my face, the corner bouncing off of my helmet visor. "However! I find your clothes offensive to my culture and people!" Using my emergency shoulder loops, I rip off the neutral colored jumpsuit and toss it aside. Boots, helmet, and air tank are all that remain, my pale form exposed to the radiation pouring into the room.
"Sir, I regret to inform you that your atmosphere is hostile to my organic type-"
"I wish to discuss trade possibilities."
"Aw, Jesus Chris-" My Faux Pas is instantly punished by a muscular muscle flying across the room, her knife-hand chopping against my neck in punishment.
"Introducing foreign, dogmatic religions to alien cultures. WRONG!"
Later, in another-
I burst into the room and smack the muscle in the giant bird-face. "Wron- DUR!" I engage in a powerful, non-aggressive, slouch shouldered, double handed 'stop' signal
"Stay calm, friend!" I whip out the avian card and slap it across the avian's eye holes. "TWEET tweet, and welcome to the best day of your life!" I dodge the claw and grab the wing, facing the second avian as it attempts to interrupt negotiations. "Support up!" My team mate flies in and 'negotiates' the first avian right in the face.
"Stay calm!" I scream into the beak of the second avian, the two of us floating towards the ceiling. "I understand that your people-" I kick off of the ceiling, making sure to push us away from the other negotiation rolling and punching in the corner. "-Are having trouble achieving deep space flight sustainability-" I tether myself to a wall, pinning the avian's arms with my legs. "-Due to governmental differences wherein the two prime planetary nations-" The avian tries to peck me, but I slap the mask head hard. The helmet turns completely around, the beak and eyes facing away from me. "-continue to oppose each other's overall political climates."
"Sexual appeasement commencing." Damn it, my partner's dropped the ball, ew, and can only delay at this point.
"I wish for sexual-" I slap the international, multi-party, political card across 'front-back' of my avian's backwards face.
"Sex is only a short term solution to a long term problem! I extend an invitation to afternoon, pleasurably thermally-altered, caffeinated beverages, for your two parties to discuss grievances, so a lasting peace can be achieved on your planet, and your race can spread your wings in the glory of holy flight-" I grab the bird head and scream at the scalp, my very soul pressed into my words. "-not just in your atmosphere, but in the beautiful, limitless winds of SPACE!"
A slow, careful, muscular clap extends from above us. Looking up, my heart races, as a muscular peace-instructor smiles down at me. "Well done, Miss Baxter."
Graduation is a sea of dark military uniforms surrounded by colorful civilian attire. I have seen so many of these graduations, but this time, I am in the center. Tears stain my face, as my favorite muscle stops in front of me. He turns to face me. I close my eyes, bearing shattered, palm open and quivering. A small, metallic weight falls into my hand. From this moment onward...
"Say it now, PN."
"Show no fear in the face of the warlike. Remain brave and upright that my message remains above reproach. Spread peace, always, even if it leads to my death. Safeguard the helpless, and do no wrong."
...Everything will be different
Nothing makes me happier than food. Except repairing things... or guns. No...
"Betty." Let me start over. There are three things I can't stand. "Betty." One is- "Betty."
"Augh." I glare at Jethro, the second thing I can't stand. "What?!"
"I'm..." Jethro looks uncomfortable. His hands wring in front of his waist, and he is avoiding eye contact. His tool belt is catty-wompus, and he has missed a button on his jumpsuit. "I'm gonna go repair something... for my self-education bonus points."
"... Okay, so?" My comment about not standing Jethro was mean. He's my best friend, although sometimes he can be a little slow.
"Well... I don't want to mess the repair up."
"... That would be bad, yes." What is he trying to say? What does he want?
"It's a robot." I shut the computer sandwich and put it in the fridge. I don my cleanest looking coveralls and a pair of blacked-out goggles. As I grab my wrench he raises his hands defensively. "If you're not comfortable in this kind of situation-" I slap his forehead gently.
"Bro, don't you say another word." I shoulder my massive wrench. "I'm here for you."
I glare down at the mechanical masochist masterfully. It doesn't look damaged. Typical robot.
"Greeting's hu-mons." The robot rotates on it's wheels to face me and beeps towards my waist. "I did not know this was a two per-son job."
"Uh oh." Jethro is already uncomfortable. Time for me to step up. I aim my wrench at the robot.
"Mr. 1010110010 tac Bot Ver. 8.1, please explain your damage immediately."
"Yes, of course." The robot pops open the hatch on the front of it's torso, a patchwork of gears and doodads revealed. "As you can see, the dam-age is real, and not fake." I still see no damage, suspicions growing in my chest-
"I don't see any damage, Betty-"
"I know, Jethro! Jeeze!" I turn back to the robot. "I said 'explain' the damage."
"I am not sure exactly- Oh the pain." The robot sputters and jerks. "Such horr-i-ble dam-age to my..." A small arm raises in front of the robot's speaker/face, a little prompt card held aloft. "... Parts."
"Are those 'lines'?" I cut straight through this charade.
"Not at all." The robot lowers the card. "Space English is not my first lan-guage, I am..." A long, slow, arduous pause fills the space air. "... Al-ban-i-an."
"Okay, let's see what's wrong." I do a double take as Jethro steps towards the liar and kneels next to it's small form. "Where does it hurt?"
"Jethro!" I watch the robot as it leans back a little, presenting it's torso to Jethro.
"Thank you sir!" The robot sounds grateful. Maybe it is hurt. "As you can see, the damage is right there."
"Okay." Jethro reaches into the torso.
"Right there." The robot's voice sounds strange.
"Hm, I'm not feeling any-"
"Along the shaft."
"Augh!" Jethro recoils.
"All right, pervert!" I charge the robot and Jethro leaps back. I stand between them, wrench held like a space-baseball bat. "Stay back!"
"No, please!" The robot thrusts at me, it's innards twisting and vibrating. Ew. "I truly am damaged!"
"Keep your shaft to yourself!" I yell.
"No please, I am sorry." The robot stops moving and backs away a few step... er... wheel-rolls. "I am ashamed."
"You should be!" I scold the sicko.
"Watch 'him', Betty!" Jethro is safe behind me, his massive form ducking behind my wide stance, cocked-wrench presence... Ew.
"I could not cont-rol my robot lust, but please believe me when I say..." The robot turns around, revealing a loose wire and protruding panel. "... That I am damaged."
"Oh gosh." Jethro steps forward just a little. "That's a loose thermometric transmitter."
"Why didn't you just show us what was actually wrong!" Anger and concern mix in my voice. The robot does not respond right away.
"I'm sorry..." It drones. "... I am a sex addict." Aw man, I think I made a pun with the drone thing. Also, ew.
"Look come here, little guy." Jethro walks up to the robot and begins to reattach the wire and straighten the plate. "Next time just be honest."
"Thank you sir." The robot rolls back and forth on its wheels happily. "I am lucky you came to help me."
"Crazy robots." I shoulder my wrench again. This is going to make one strange repor-
"Now call be Mr. Rolls while you shove it up inside nice and tight."
"Safeword!" Jethro leaps away and I descend with my wrench.
"Back off!" I smash the head/speaker, ew, oil spraying, ew, all over me. Robots are perverts.
Betty: This is an on the spot, emergency audio- hey! Corner that one-...audio log. No, wait wait!
Jethro: Heya, uhm. Hey. Jethro here. We... Betty, how do I do this?
Betty: Just talk into the mic, ding-a-ling! We have to record this!
Jethro: I just don't-
Betty: This is unprecedented! It warps all notions of time and reality! We have to documen- Hey! You drop that giant ladybug right now!
Jethro: Right. So, we were trying to realign solar array fifteen, listening to some Lil'kim, when a whole batch of space cupies just appeared out of nowhere!"
Betty: It's kewpie, Jethro, no cupie- Get off of that, you freaky little nudists!
Jethro: It's a nightmare! They're hopping around, touching everything, rubbing their little, flat crotches all over the array- wait, ah ah AH!
*Loud smack sound*
Kewpie#43: Yaaayy! Hello, Mr. Space man. Would you like a song?!
Betty: Don't listen! Their bubbly, childish voices will melt your brain!
Kewpie#163: Loud mouth, big-butt lady is meeeaan!
Jethro: They're so pink!
Kewpie#98: Saltwater taffy for everyone!
Betty: Reader 6-4, this is Rep 7!
Marine: This is Reader 6-4, send your traffic.
Betty: Mayday mayday! We're under attack! Requesting rescue!
Marine: Roger that, Rep 7. Do you have a description of the enemy force-
Betty: Some have taffy and insects, they stole my wrench, others appear to be, like, mermaids or somethi-... Oh my space Jesus, one has a garden!
Jethro: *moan* Radish and lilac... *cough* little, tiny little... white fence.
Marine: The Corps. is on the way. We'll get you outta there, just stay calm and just hold on. Please.
All Kewpies: Oh, one sunny day in May, when the world was feeling gray-
Betty: They won't stop singing! Augh, the singing!
Marine: I said survive, dammit! No, send the Raiders! Call back the fighters. Call back everyone! Broken arrow! Broken arrow!
1331: Work is going slow today. Which is good, I guess. My job is to repair catastrophic damage to the ship. Still, success is boring in my line of work. I have decided a wonderful donut would help the time pass. I have a dollar left over from ladies night at the Zip Club. I should be able to uncrinkle it well enough.
1345: Unsuspected complication in my donut acquisition plan. The snack machine, once the true source of all hope in the break room, has been relocated to the outside of the space ship, right next to thermal exhaust port 281558 tac 881271. I will ask the Boss about this odd change.
1346: I have been tasked with relocating the snack machine to the inside of the ship. Alone... for efficiency. Personal note: The Boss still doesn't like me.
1459: Having risked the cold, bleak, yet beautiful void of space, I have arrived at the snack machine. Just as suspected, my heart rises and my soul glows in anticipation of a chocolate frosted, chocolate covered, chocolate donut. Although I know I should probably bring the machine in first, I am not certain I will be able to resist the siren call of-
1459:30: Nope. Donut acquired.
1515: Madness and ruination have reared their ugly, unshaven, neckbeard-ed heads. While trying to enjoy my treat, I am being accosted by a massive, blue, blue-green, tentacled creature, it's body adorned with multiple beaks and feelers, it's mind possessed with just the worst attitude. He says he's an ambassador, or something stupid, and is asking to meet our leader or something dumb. Donut acquisition occurred less than fifteen minutes ago, and I don't appreciate donut-time interruptions, his blabby voice disrupting the lovely taste and feel of chocolate fluff in my mouth. I have no choice. I key my wrench radio. Initiating protocol 0311.
1530: Marine Enforcers, along with elements of the 750th Ranger Battalion, have reduced the invader to a pulpy mess. A whole kilometer of the ship is now a black, bloody, smoking crater of freedom. I have been offered a 'contract marriage' and a 'cold one' for finding such a juicy target for the jarbrains and tantops. I'll decline the marriage, but a beer sounds like a good chase to this donut.
1531: Not beer. Much harder. Dang Marines.
1535: Unex-shpected damage to the sshhip. Break over. Time to friggn' fix shump'ting.
Separate names with a comma.