"McGee, this may be my best chance to find out more about what's happening."
"Geek, listen to her for once. Get back!"
"Approaching the event horizon. Someone make sure my telemetry is recorded. I want to analyze this when I get back."
Chapter 11 - Piece of the Action
Victoria's head threatened to detach from her shoulders. Nausea plagued her stomach. Victoria opened her eyes and regretted it. Bright light pierced her eyes, adding to her headaches. She shielded her eyes with her hands. "Hello?" Her voice returned as a shallow echo. Victoria reached out and felt a plastic shell enclosing her bed. "Hello?" she repeated as she pounded her enclosure. "Is there anyone there?"
Hearing no answer, Victoria laid back down. The bed was comfortable enough, though she felt stiff. She stretched her legs, working out the kinks, then flexed her toes. Glancing down, she saw that she had a thin sheet covering her underwear clad body. Just wonderful. Meeting aliens for the first time and I'm not dressed for the occasion. She giggled at the idea.
A door opened, out of Victoria's sight. She heard several sets of footsteps appraoching and pushed herself up so she could see. In the glare of the light, she saw three figures. As they got closer, the brunette could start making out details of their clothes and their skin. The aliens had a blue tinge to their complexion, though that ranged from an almost black dark blue to a light sky blue. Two wore what looked to Victoria like green lab coats while the third wore well pressed black overalls with gold tassling. All three spoke, though Victoria couldn't make heads nor tails of what they said. She pounded on the plastic shell again. "Hey, hi! Over here! There's been a mistake!"
One of the aliens in a lab coat stopped walking. The other two turned to see why. All three approached Victoria's bed. From her vantage point, Victoria picked out more details. If the aliens were related to humans, they'd definitely would be women. Victoria filed the thought away for future musing. She waved to the aliens as the stopped beside the bed. "Hi. I don't suppose any of you speak English?" She drew out the word. "English? What about French? Parlez-vous français? Actually, that just used up all the French I know. Never mind." She smiled. "My name is Tori. To-ri."
The three aliens talked among themselves. One of the aliens in a lab coat turned back to Victoria. "I speak English," she said, slowly. "You are Tori?"
"Yes! My name is Tori! What's your name?"
"That's not important. Commander Inesti has questions for you."
"Great!" Victoria beamed. "I have questions, too."
The alien in the coveralls spoke to the translator, who then asked, "Why did you follow?"
"You mean through the wormhole? To see what was on this side."
The translator relayed Victoria's answer, stumbling over the word "wormhole". The alien in the coveralls scowled and asked another question. "Commander Inesti wants to know what a 'wormhole' is."
Victoria watched the commander as she answered. "It's a hole through space that lets objects pass through at faster than the speed of light. Normally, we're stuck to sublight, thanks to the Theory of Relativity, but if you found a way to leave or even bend the universe, then technically, you're not travelling faster, just taking a short cut. Wormholes are named after the tunnels worms make through the ground. Um, I hope you know what a worm is."
The translator blinked at the explanation. She turned to the commander and tried to explain, stumbling over several words before giving up with frustration. "Why are you here?"
Victoria sighed. "I followed you, or whoever the pilots were."
The commander pushed the translator away. "Are you playing dumb?" she demanded.
"Hey, you speak English, too!"
The commander slammed the palm of her hand on the plastic enclosure. Victoria winced at the noise. "Who are you with?"
"Ah, I remember this from training. I think the answer I'm supposed to give is, 'My name is Victoria Grieg, Lieutenant, and,' well, damn, I forgot my serial number." She flashed an apologetic smile. "Sorry."
"How many of you are there?"
"There's just one of me. Victoria Grieg. You can, well, wait, maybe you can't do a web search for my name. But, if you did on Earth, you'd find just one of me. Well, I think there's another woman with my name in Britain, but she looks nothing like me. I'm the one that comes up first in the hits."
The commander slammed her hand again before walking away at a brisk pace. The two green coated aliens exchanged looks. One ran after the commander. The other, the translator, remained, looking down on Victoria. "You should not have angered her."
"I didn't mean to." Victoria tapped the plastic shell. "I don't suppose I can get out? I really have to go."
"I can't let you leave. You're a prisoner."
"Oh, no, not leave. Go. You know, use the little girls' room. Take a leak. Pee. Urinate."
Dawning crossed the alien's expression. "Oh. Wait." She spoke in her own language into a wrist radio.
"Tell them it'll get messy in here if they say no."
The alien rolled her eyes as she waited for the response. The answer was a simple syllable. The alien woman unlocked the plastic shell, opening it up. "I will take you to the toilet."
"Thanks." Victoria wrapped her sheet around her as she jumped down from the bed. The floor felt cold underneath her bare feet. "I don't suppose I can get my clothes back?"
"No." The alien put on a pair of gloves, then pulled on Victoria's shoulder. "This way."
"Are you sure? It's going to get cold in just my underwear. Are you sure you don't have my clothes around? Even my socks."
"What about new clothes? I'm a medium, if that helps."
"No? To which, the clothes or the size?"
The alien woman stopped in front of a door marked in a stylistic script Victoria couldn't decipher. "Here. Go in, use. Do not take long."
Victoria handed her sheet to the alien. "Here. And if I had known that I'd be parading around in my bra and panties, I would've worn my Hello Kitty set. Screw what Renée thinks." She entered the washroom, closing and locking the door behind her. As she sat on the toilet, Victoria's mind raced through what she had seen. The doors worked like she expected doors to work, down to the latch on the washroom door. The toilet was an odd design, but seemed to follow the same principles as on Earth. The aliens seemed to be mammalian, unless what Victoria thought were breasts were something else altogether. The only difference she saw was skin colouring; the blue tinge.
The alien pounded at the door. "You can't stay there forever."
"Coming, coming." Victoria finished up, taking the opportunity to clean up a bit. "I don't suppose you know what today's date is."
The translator paused, trying to think of the words. "The sixth day of the fourth month of the year."
"Oh." Victoria exited the washroom and took back her sheet. "That really didn't help."
"How about this – how long have I been here, in this room?"
The alien woman stared at Victoria. "You are persistant."
Victoria beamed. "That's a good word. Doesn't answer my question."
"Your question is irrelevant."
"Does that mean I'll be assimilated? Because I don't think I'm dressed for that. Speaking of, can I at least have a night shirt?"
The alien prodded Victoria to get her to start walking. "You do not seem to realize that you are in our custody. Commander Inesti asks the questions. You do not."
"You're not going to put me into that plastic thing again, are you?"
Victoria turned to face her alleged captor. "Can I at least get some music? Or maybe pen and paper? You can't just lock me away without giving me something to do. That's inhumane!"
The alien made a strange sound, then covered her mouth. "You have an interesting choice of word."
"'Inhumane'. If I understand the definition, I am innately inhumane. I am not 'human'."
Victoria waved a hand to dismiss the notion. "Okay, try 'cruel'. Really, leaving someone who needs space to move around while she thinks inside a plastic tomb is torture. I'm sure your people are an enlightened bunch that looks down on torturing prisoners."
Under her sheet, Victoria crossed her arms. "No."
"I am sorry?"
"Good, you should be."
The alien tried to nudge her prisoner into moving. "You need to return to your bed."
"Do not make this difficult for yourself." The alien woman used more of her strength to budge Victoria. "Return to your bed."
Victoria resisted the best she could despite her bare feet on the metal floor. "Why should I? I didn't ask to be here. You could've invited me. Instead, I get kidnapped, stripped, and pushed around. You're not a very good host."
"We are not hosts!" The alien stopped trying to move the stubborn brunette. "You are a prisoner. Try to behave like one."
"I am. I am resisting arrest." Victoria stuck her tongue out at the alien woman.
"Put that away."
"Wha--?" Victoria let her tongue remain out.
The alien woman stepped away. "That is disgusting."
Victoria took a step towards her captor. She licked her lips. "So, this bothers you?"
"Are all your people like you?"
"I'm one of a kind."
"That is good to hear." The alien woman picked up a small cylinder from a lab table. She held it out to show Victoria. "If you do not cooperate, I will sedate you."
Victoria brought her tongue back into her mouth. "And carry me all by yourself? Who knows what germs I have?"
"Please return to your bed."
"Can I at least know your name? You do have one, yes?"
The alien released a long breath. "I do, yes. You may call me Jie."
"No. Put a breath after the first sound. Jie."
Victoria nodded. "Jie."
"Look, Jie, can we talk? There's no need to treat me like a prisoner. I could be useful as a diplomat. You could tell me why you're kidnapping our men and I could help you get what you need. It's not like you need to take men against their will back home. Some are willing to do anything for a good looking woman, no matter where they're from."
"It is not up to me to make that decision. Please, back to your bed, Victoria Grieg."
"You can call me Tori." Victoria offered her hand.
Jie looked down at the proffered appendage. "What is that gesture for?"
"I take it you don't shake hands where you're from? It's a sign of greeting and of trust." Victoria pulled her hand back. "It's nothing, really."
"You are stalling."
Victoria sighed. "Really, do I have to go back to bed? I'm on a spaceship! An alien one! Wouldn't you want to look around if you had this chance?"
"The Commander will be upset."
"You're avoiding the question. If you were on our base, wouldn't you want a tour?"
Jie put a hand on her hip. "That would not happen."
"Not if you came in shooting and kidnapping."
"We have our reasons."
Victoria leaned against a lab table. "Yes? Tell me what they are."
"You are infuriating!" Jie reached out and grabbed Victoria's sheet. "Come! Now!" She pulled hard.
Victoria let the sheet fall off her. "Why? Why do I have to be in that bed? Look, at least tell me if you're planning on probing my anus or dissecting me."
Jie muttered under her breath. "Why do your people have such a fixation on being probed?"
Victoria shrugged. "That method of entry was generally taboo. So, aliens probing us there tended to be a scary aspect of alien abduction."
"I am not planning on probing or disecting you. That's not my field."
"What is your field?"
"I should send you back without your vehicle." Jie slumped against the wall. "I study planets and stars. I was the one who discovered your world, its sun, and the other worlds orbiting."
"Oh, good, then you can settled a debate that's been going on for over a century. There's a world just beyond the outermost gas giant of our solar system. We call it Pluto. Is it or is it not a planet?"
Jie rubbed her forehead. "It doesn't matter."
"It does to us!" Victoria hopped down from the table and looked around. "Do you have smart boards or white boards or even blackboards in here. At least something to write on."
With what appeared to be a resigned expression, Jie passed an electronic tablet over to Victoria. "Just use your finger."
"Thanks." Victoria traced out the solar system on the tablet, the drawing coming out in blue on the electronic paper. "Okay, this is, roughly, our solar system. Not to scale." The brunette marked Earth on the diagram. "That's home. You probably know that, having attacked our moon base." She continued adding the names of the other planets. "So, from the sun going out, you have Mercury, Venus, Earth – my home – and her moon, Mars with two moons, an asteroid belt that's nowhere near as interesting as movies make it out to be, Jupiter – a big gas giant – and its many moons, Saturn with its rings, Uranus," Victoria paused to see if Jie reacted, "Neptune, and this little speck that crosses into Neptune's orbit is Pluto. With me so far?"
"Yes." Jie's tone was laced with exasperation.
"So, this speck here, would you call it a planet? I say it is, others say it isn't, and even others call it a Plutinite planet, which is just messing around with everyone. What do you think?"
"I think that we should have sent you back instead of taking you in."
Victoria laughed. "Can you at least think on it?"
"I will give it all due thought."
Victoria erased her drawing. "Your turn." She held out the tablet to Jie. "Show me your home system."
"To be friendly?" Victoria shrugged. "Look, just because we've shot each other doesn't mean we can't be friends."
"One does not shoot friends."
"My point exactly!"
"Maybe I should get Commander Inesti back if you want to talk to someone."
"Do you have to? Jie, she's military. She won't understand me like you do."
"I do not understand you at all."
Victoria giggled. "You've got a great sense of humour. No, really, Jie, think about everything we've learned about each other so far."
"What I have learned is that you like to talk."
"And talking leads to understanding. Once we understand each other, we start getting along better and no one has to shoot anyone ever again. Can you imagine going out in low lunar orbit and being welcomed instead of being shot at? Think of it, you could land there or even on Earth! There's air on Earth, real air, nothing recycled. And water! Trees! Birds! Flowers! Movie theatres!"
"Did your people send you to us on purpose?"
"Jie, we could be great friends."
"If I can get you a room, would you go back into the bed?" Jie asked.
"How long would I be there?"
"I have no idea how to convert our time to yours. Less than one of your homeworld's full rotations."
Victoria shrugged. "I suppose. You'll come back to talk to me, yes?"
"Once I have secured you your room."
"Lieutenant Kincaid, Doctor Nielsen requires your presence in Sickbay."
"Lieutenant, someone needs to be here in case the aliens return."
"I'm a geologist. I don't know anything about aliens, fictional or real."
"Welcome back to the moon."