Javonx looked over his academic results from his home computer. Seventy-four out of eighty-one overall, enough to earn his spaceship engineering degree but not quite enough to earn honors. He sighed audibly and navigated to another page of the university, the job placement program. He wished he would have fared well enough to enter the prestigious Navant Royal Navy as a spaceship engineer apprentice but the minimum grade was seventy-nine to enter. Slightly disappointed, he looked over at the potential placements that were available to him. The university was partnered with many other civilizations to help find candidates employment and he saw there were a total of three.
The first one was an offer from the Jarn; a species of crab-like quadrupeds who tended to be more militaristic. The position was that of a junior apprentice for a scouting frigate in the Medran system. Looking over the specifics, Javonx saw that the pay was relatively good, the benefits we’re slightly lackluster but the contract length was long. A quick search for the Medran system yielded news articles about a war between the Jarn and Neru; casualties seemed to be in the hundred’s of thousands.
Javonx switched to the second offer, looking over the details. A temporary position as spaceship engineer for a short contract of 500 days aboard a Nwar cruiser. The pay was slightly lower than usual, seeing as how they were looking for a fully trained engineer but were accepting apprentices to fill in the role at reduced salary. Hmmm, not an apprentice then? This would look good when I apply for another position afterwards. It is, however, a lot more pressure.
It was certainly tempting but the Nwar scared him a little bit, truthfully. Large predators tended to have that effect on his species, Bipedal goats called Daemeads. Perhaps it stemmed from their past, long ago, when they were hunted.
Reluctantly, Javonx went and looked at the third offer. He didn’t recognize the logo of the civilization it originated from and became all the more curious because of it. The offer came from a civilization called ‘The United Terran Alliance’ and was for a spaceship engineer apprentice. The contract length is of 700 days and upon successful completion, offers a permanent position as senior spaceship engineer for another 900 days, aboard another vessel however. This was looking promising. Javonx skipped a bit of the introduction text, usually propaganda about who they are, why you should join, ect, and went to look at the salaries and benefits. Let's see here. Hmmm, annual rate of 292,000, calculated on 365 days days...daily rate of… eight hundred credits!?
Bewildered, he went up and searched the offer for any kind of fine print or reason it would be so lucrative. For comparison, senior ship engineers in the Navant Royal Navy made somewhere around 1,200 credits per day but that was based on hours worked. If one took a day off, that day wasn’t paid. Maybe they get you somewhere else then, like you have to pay for lodging or food?
Javonx went back to the benefits section and made sure to read very slowly. Benefits included three meals per day, a bit less than the five his species ate but still workable, shared bedroom with another crewmember, he liked his privacy but space is a luxury aboard a spaceship. The last benefit made him blink, rub his eyes, slap himself and laugh like a maniac. After his apprenticeship would be completed and he began his permanent position as senior spaceship engineer, he would accumulate ‘vacation days’ by a ratio of 1:10 worked. These ‘days of vacation’ would allow him to take time off his work but still remain paid. The whole premise was ridiculous! People took jobs aboard spaceships because the pay was higher, to allow them to have time off when their contract was over. If he was reading this right, he could take time off DURING his contract!
He frantically went to search more about this civilization, knowing next to nothing about them. A few links and articles later, he was more informed about these humans that made up the ‘United Terran Alliance’ but still had more questions than answers. Bipedal mammals like him but with some predator traits. Considered new among the galactic stage, first contact with them occurred nearly five decades ago.
It wasn’t hard to make a decision after this. He clicked the ‘accept’ button on the United Terran Alliance’s offer and awaited the confirmation email. A few weeks later
Javonx sat in the departures section of the spaceport, awaiting his Terran contact. The last few weeks had been rather busy, changing shuttles every few days in order to reach his employment location; the U.T.A Sparrow. Transport had been paid by the humans and Javonx was feeling a bit anxious to finally meet one of them. He looked around at the travelling xenos, seeing many different races but none that matched the description of humans. He’d already been sitting for near an hour when finally someone tapped on his shoulder from behind.
“Javonx?” called out a feminine human voice. He turned to look at a female human, wearing a light blue uniform and towering above him. She must have been a solid three heads taller than him. It was intimidating in a way, seeing those two piercing eyes stare at him and the fact that she could easily run him down with those long, muscled legs. His eyes drifted down to her large and powerful hands, imagining how easily she could lift hi-- he blinked and took his mind out of the gutter, trying not to embarrass himself, remembering she asked him a question and was looking at him expectantly.
“Uhh...oh, yes. Javonx. That’s me.” he managed to stutter out.
The human female nodded and motioned to him to follow her. Javonx grabbed his suitcase, all his meager belongings and valuables we’re in it, and followed her to the ship, enjoying the view as they walked. Javonx got his first view of the human ship as they passed on the glass bridge that separates the sections of the spaceport. It looked slightly more like an atmospheric vessel than a space one; especially considering the position of the thrusters and the wings.
Continuing inside, the female human proceeded inside a small room where small elongated metal containers were arrayed off to the side of the room and gave him a small plastic card.
“This is your ID. Don’t lose it. You’ll need it to access doors aboard the ship and it will serve to identify you. In this locker here,” she pointed at the closest one to her right side “you will find your uniform. As a civilian contractor, the requirements are less severe for you but do try to keep it in good shape. After you get changed, report to Michael in engineering, he’s the senior ship engineer and will be your mentor.”
With that said, she took her leave and closed the door behind her, leaving Javonx alone in the small room. He looked over at the uniform, a nearly identical one to hers, some adjustments had been made for his size and features however. Being alone, he decided to change right there.
First day on a job is stressful enough; doubly so when everyone else on the crew is from another species however. The dozen or so crew members that he passed on the way to engineering were all human and all very much taller than him. It appeared that the first human he had met who was three heads taller than him was on the shorter side for her species. Javonx began to wonder if he was the only xeno aboard the human spaceship.
Navigating the human ship hadn’t been too difficult, they had thankfully used symbols to indicate different sectors and on the back of his ID, a small chart detailed what the symbols meant. Javonx arrived at a panel next to a large metal door and confirmed the symbol painted above the door with his chart that it was engineering. He tapped his ID on the panel and the doors opened horizontally, revealing a large room filled with electrical and mechanical machines, parts and three humans.
He made his way inside, the doors closing after he entered and walked up to the humans. Their heads had turned to look at him, their conversation having been interrupted. The humans looked over him, their eyes darting all over his body, likely paying attention to his features. Two curved horns, white fur, small elongated ears and two hooves. “Ah, you must be Jav-honx? Am I pronouncing that right?” asked one of the humans, the one with a large black beard.
He nodded. “It’s a bit more like Jave-yonx but close enough. Is there a Miii-khel here?”
The bearded human laughed and approached him “You’re also close enough. I’m Michael, senior ship engineer. We’ve been expecting you. Glad to finally see someone take us up on one of our job postings.”
Another one of the humans who was sitting on a chair joined in the conversation. “Yeah and seeing your size too, you’ll be great to go into the small and narrow places we can’t reach.”
Michael turned and shot a brief glare at the other human, a small but short look that said ‘be polite’. He turned back to Javonx “Well, let’s go give you a tour, so you know where everything is. I need to do a bit of maintenance on one of the hydraulic pumps on the way anyways.”
Michael picked up a small suitcase, small for Michael but more than half of Javonx’s size, and headed back out the door with Javonx in tow.
“So that’s the main shop, we have most of our tools there and the engines are accessed from there too, a door further in. It’s where we mostly spend our time when we’re on call.”
Javonx had to go at a jogging pace to keep up with the walking human. “I see. I’ve not yet had the chance to work on most of those machines.”
Michael sensed that his new employee was having trouble and slowed down a bit. “We’ve got plenty of time, don’t worry. Now here is the locker room, this is where we usually get changed for work and take showers.”
“Oh, it’s here that the female human gave me my uniform.” remembered Javonx.
“Ahh, first officer Valerie. She’s a bit overly serious at times but she’s got our backs if something happens. Alright, we take a left here for the cafeteria.” Michael opened the cafeteria doors and showed the Daemead the common eating area.
“Oh, very nice. So you all eat together as well?” This brought comfort to him as his species also tended to eat in the company of others, a tradition that dated back millenia, likely for the safety of others in herds.
“We have a few different rotations, not everyone could fit in here at the same time and we can’t have everyone off their posts simultaneously as well. Oh that reminds me, are you allergic to anything?”
“Well, I can’t eat too much salt or else I’ll have some complications. Oh yes, what’s the main fare here? I tend to prefer Velgarian Munch if you have it.” Renowned for its taste and high calorie content even in a slop called munch, the vegetation from Velgarian Prime was used in a majority of herbivore species’ spaceships. Cargo space being prime luxury, food was condensed as much as possible.
Michael frowned and shook his head. “Sorry, we don’t have munch. We use 3D printers that can print food and meals. It does take some getting used to, it’s not the same as eating real food. If we didn’t have this and had to eat meat or vegetable slop, there’d be a mutiny. Here, let me show you.”
Michael walked up to one of the three large plastic machines and tapped on the panel with his fingers. The machine whirled to life, sounds coming from it and a small door opened at the bottom a few moments later, revealing a green and red vegetable.
“Here, try this. It’s an apple. Michael picked it up and handed it to Javonx.
He looked at it and bit a small piece off. Immediately, the juices flowed from the apple and Javonx marveled at the texture of it. It was crunchy but moist, sweet as well. Javonx’s eyes closed a bit as he enjoyed the apple. He would have food like this every day while working here? Things were looking pretty good.
“It’s really just simulated flavoring and the printer can kind of match the texture but it’s not like the real deal. Same thing for meat, it’s all just protein and then flavouring is added.” Michael explained, ordering himself something else while they were there. A hot black liquid poured out from the machine and into a flask that Michael had taken out of his clothing. “Now this though, is the real deal. This whole ship wouldn’t function without coffee. We’re only allowed a cup a day though. If you want extra credits, you can sell your share to someone else.”
Javonx recoiled from the smell of the black liquid and went back to finish his apple. “So humans will buy my allotted share of this...coffee?”
Michael began walking out of the cafeteria, Javonx following after him. “Out of all of us on this ship, only five don’t drink coffee. Last I saw, the running price was 220 credits a day when David sold me a cup last week.”
More than a quarter of a day’s pay! Javonx made a mental note to try and find some human to sell his share to.
“Alright now, so if we took a right instead, this is the sleeping quarters. Everyone except officers have a shared room. If you look at your ID, you’ll find the number and letter combination to your room.” Michel pointed to the corridor and rows of doors to each side.
Michael picked up the pace now, backtracking and going in another direction. This was a bit further than they’d walked before and Javonx jogged alongside the human, his hooves making distinct tapping noises on the steel flooring.
“This is the hangar. We’re just a destroyer so it’s not really big but we have a total of eight fighters in here. Four in active service and four in maintenance or reserve.”
Javonx looked over the fighters and felt something was off. “Can we go a bit closer? If we have time.”
“Sure, let’s make it quick though, I really ought to fix that pump.” They walked over to the reserve fighters and Javonx examined them closely, finding out what he felt was off. “These lasers don’t look very standard.”
The human laughed again but a deeper laugh this time, one that resonated throughout the large and mostly empty hangar like an echo. “You’re right, that’s because they aren’t. These are projectile weapons. I think there’s quite a bit of extra reading you’re going to have to do before you’re up to human standard equipment. Like I said though, we have a lot of time. I’m a bit short on time now so we need to catch up. Do you want to run or should I carry you?”
Javonx blinked a few times and was trying to find an answer. Part of him felt it would be humiliating but the other part was curious and didn’t want his new boss to get into trouble for being late to fix something. Reluctantly, he agreed by nodding his head.
The human lifted him up and put him on his shoulders and started jogging. Javonx held on tight to the human’s head and ducked, trying to stay low. A mere two minutes later, they arrived at a section of the ship where one of the wall panels was marked with a red ‘x’.
“Alright, here we are.” Michael proceeded to open his tool case, revealing a large and varied arsenal of wrenches, keys and other contraptions. He took one that looked like a drill and changed the fitting at the end before beginning to unscrew bolts from the panel.
Javonx watched with interest what Michael was doing and at what the tools did. Once the panel was unbolted, Michael put it to the side and reached inside with a small wrench. With his head now inside the panel and looking at the pump, Michael spoke to him. “Alright, can you give me the 10mm socket?”
Javonx looked over at the case and began reading the inscriptions on every piece in it, finally finding the 10mm and giving it to Michael. With it, he began undoing the bracket holding down the pump and then called out once again. “Alright now I need a 5/16th socket.”
Javonx searched the case for the tool and found it after a few moments, handing it to Michael’s outstretched hand. With the new socket, Michael undid the pump’s panel, granting him access to the insides of it. Michael reached in his pockets and took out a small part, exchanging it with an older one inside the pump. Finally, he put everything back together and put back his tools inside his case.
“Great, thanks. Now we just need to head back to the shop and I can turn it back on from there. We can go check out the bridge right before that though.” Michael rubbed his hands together with a rag to get the grease off.
“I have to ask; why did you need so many tools? Also, I don’t quite understand the system behind the numbering and labelling of these.” Javonx looked with confusion at the tool suitcase.
“Ahh, well that’s to be expected. We have two measurement systems, main ones at least, for tools back home; Imperial and Metric. We can’t get everyone to agree on just one so we have to use both. It’s because this panel was made in China, the pump bracket was made in Germany and the pump itself was made in America. There’s a few things you’re going to learn, like telling the captain it takes five hours to do something instead of just one. Percussive maintenance is another too.” Michael shrugged as he spoke.
Javonx couldn’t believe his ears. “What? But that’d be lying to a superior officer!”
“It’s better to under-promise and over-deliver. We’re going to get situations where time will be an issue and the captain will ask us for an estimate. Look, it's more psychological than anything. it helps if he thinks he's getting more out of us. If we were in a combat scenario, we would tell it to him straight. Let’s go check out the bridge and then head back to the shop, I’ll get you learning on the CNC machine.”
Javonx sighed and followed Michael; could things get any weirder on this human ship?
Michael tapped his ID on the panel outside of the bridge, the horizontal doors opening to reveal a group of three human female officers near the navigation computer in mid conversation.
“...so cute I tell you! Those small curved horns and that little tail, oh my gosh, I wanted to pet him so ba---” Hearing the sound of Michael clearing his throat, all three turned with horror on their faces as they saw the two guests.
Just a small short idea I had. Not thinking of making a follow up, unless there's intense interest. I've got a Patreon
now, if anyone feels like it.