Sam's First Day
The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of
Adventure is worthwhile in itself.-Amelia Earhart
Sam leans over the sink in the bathroom while he
scratches at the skin beneath one wheat-colored eyebrow with the neatly-trimmed
nail on his index finger.
He squints into the mirror, trying to make the blurry image of his face clearer. He scratches at the bump on his eyebrow a little harder. What he first took to be a pimple flakes off and falls into the sink like a scab. Except a scab would not be grey, nor would it suddenly flip over onto its back and start wiggling about a thousand tiny legs into the air. The thing’s belly is furry purple like clown hair; it has some little sticks poking out at one end of it that might be antennae. Oh god, he thinks to himself before moving two steps towards the toilet and losing his breakfast completely. Once the horrendous muscle-pulling retching abates, he staggers back to the sink to wash his face and re-brush his teeth. Great way to start the first day, Sam; he imagines all the bad things that could happen from screwing up this one little thing: he could be stuck in the kitchen or the engine room or….
With a little bit of self-control, he pulls his thoughts back into the present. Some strangely echoing voice in the back of his mind reminds him to turn his attention back to the basin.
The weird little bug thing is still there. It’s still lying on its grey back waving its thousand micro legs in the air. It is quite revolting, really; he manages to fight off the second wave of nausea by steadying himself against the sink. Gripping the porcelain basin tight enough his fingertips blanche, he closes his eyes and tries to convince himself the disgusting parasitic space thing is gone. When he looks down at his hands a strange whispering grunt is the only thing that comes out of his mouth.
“Urk,” he mumbles plaintively as he spits toothpaste onto the strange creature. Even more disgusting, the thing begins to smoke and suddenly there’s an even stranger blue glob of something in the bottom of the sink.
Sam reaches to the shelf on the wall behind him and pulls his glasses onto his face. The blue glob comes into focus and proves to be just a blue glob that’s still slightly smoking. Like any other civilized person he frowns at it and flips on the tap and rinses the blue goo down the drain, then mutters to himself to promptly stop thinking about it. He is sure that will certainly not be the oddest thing he is going to see in the next few years.
Sam turns away from the sink, adjusting the black leather belt he has already threaded through the loops on his black trousers and snaps the shiny copper-colored buckle together. He grabs his sapphire blue shirt from the hook on the back of the door and pulls it over his head. Sam gives one last glance into the mirror while ruffling fingers that are no longer trembling through his militarily short dirty-dishwater blond locks. Determining that he’s as ready as he is ever going to be, he stands in front of the door and lays his palm against the translucent glass where a white-yellow corona quickly appears.
With a soft sighing sound, the door slides open and he steps into his bunkroom. His bed is made neatly with a precision that he is quite proud of. Reaching underneath the bunk to pull out a box Sam lifts out a pair of calf-length black leather boots and slides his bare feet into them. The inside is wonderful, made like a sock, the material even going so far as to wick away any sweat. Like all new cadets, he fell in love with them the first time he put them on. He has worn no other footwear since.
With avid interest, Sam watches his schedule flash over the cream-colored walls in bright red digital letters six inches high. So far he only has one training class this evening. Maybe he can catch a little R&R, but he won’t hold his breath until he gets past the very next thing. Which, in retrospect, is actually quite a huge thing but there’s no sense in seeing it that way because what’s the point in blowing something like this all out of proportion?
Sam makes a grand mental attempt to shut down his anxiety, then starts in on a little internal pep talk. He feels that it is really stupid to be this nervous about something as mundane as meeting new people; however, this is altogether not just new people, but the people he’s going to live and work with for the next five to seven years. In the back of his mind, he can hear his last instructor reminding him that these people will be your family, you have their back and they have yours… and a whole bunch of other bullshit that is not helping in the nerves department at this moment. How can he ever expect that anyone would consider him part of anything? All the females around always want the tall, brave ones: not the short, smart ones; and that was just back on Earth. Surely here in space it’s going to be even worse.
Back at the Academy he could count his friends on one hand, and really only one close one. Jacob was a great guy, but just couldn’t cut it and left at the end of Third Year. They had written to each other a few times; Jacob had moved on with his life and was now married with children and working in a hover-car machine shop while Sam is here, aboard the IA Neo-Tethys.
Sam pulls himself out of his reveries by pushing the empty box back under his bunk. He straightens up and pushes down the single wrinkle that has formed across his chest. He is going to have to go and see the ship’s tailor, as all the extra exercise has actually given him a layer of muscle that he’s never had before now.
Taking a deep breath, Sam walks up to his door and opens it quickly before he can think too much and give this whole thing up before he really gets started. He walks along the grey but well-lit corridor, his boot heels ringing against the tiled floor. As he walks, the lights behind him shut off and lights farther down the corridor blink on. He reaches the lift and in no time at all it whisks him to the command center of the massive space vessel.
The lift doors purr as they open, advising everyone on the bridge in a nasally tone of the newcomer’s arrival. He moves in front of the closing doors and waits to be noticed, standing at a calm parade rest. The captain sits in his chair with his back turned towards Sam; from this angle, all he can see is the back of a head of neatly styled, wavy coal-black hair, and part of a neck peeking out of the high red collar of the Interplanetary Alliance uniform.
When the captain finally turns in Sam’s direction he is completely broadsided. He’s never thought of himself as sexist before this very moment when he realizes that the captain that he has been referring to as he in his mind all this time is in reality a woman; naturally, a really good-looking woman at that.
So of course the first thing that Sam Trenton does as a hello to his new boss is offer a sickly grin, pitch forward and pass out cold on the floor of the first command bridge he’s ever had the fortune to step onto.
Sam fights his way back to consciousness through a fog of disbelief. His head is buzzing and all the sounds around him are muffled as if his ears are filled with cotton batting. Opening his eyes a little bit causes instant regret. Grinding his teeth only barely takes away the pain of everything being too bright, too loud and entirely too much. He has to look, though, so he sneaks a peak through narrowed eyelids. He appears to be lying on his back on a cot in the medical bay. Not dead, then.
“Ah, our little newbie is awake, I take it,” says a rather masculine voice just over his left shoulder. Sam turns his head in that direction, still keeping his eyes partially closed. The low thrumming that was taking place in the back of his head has now become a full-fledged military drum corps. Fairly certain that if this is what dying feels like he wants to hurry up and get to the just being dead part of it all and bypass this agony. It is worse than the morning after the time he and Jacob decided they’d make a trip to the interstellar pub on Darius Seven and chug a bunch of an unnamed bubbling, acid green cocktails. He carefully lowers his aching cranium back to the head rest, thinking that maybe sleep is his best option.
“Not yet, Private Trenton. Open your eyes, I have some questions to ask you.”
The man Sam assumes to be the doctor in charge walks around the side of the cot. Well, Sam considers, “walk” is really a relative term. What the doctor actually does is a sort of glide across the tiles on several pairs of tentacles. Maybe he’s hallucinating; perhaps he never got off the floor of his lavatory, that’s it…lights out. He screws his eyelids tightly closed. The pounding drum beat actually gets louder.
“Private Trenton, open your eyes this second and sit up here like a reasonable male human and behave.”
The oddly melodic voice is strong and like all military personnel, Sam has had it ingrained that he best better follow a direct order. He sits up a bit too quickly and the medical bay starts to spin. Instinctively, Sam stretches both arms out wide to catch himself. The doctor stretches out yet another tentacle to gently hold Sam in place. “Close your eyes, Samuel.”
“Alright, I need to know if there were any bugs or other vermin in your quarters since you came aboard,” he asks when Sam complies.
With oddly reassuring weight of the medico’s tentacle resting against his upper arm, Sam is feeling the pressure of inertia a lot less intently. He has learned his lesson about opening his eyes so he weakly nods his head to the affirmative.
“Purple thing,” he manages to squeak out while holding his tongue between his teeth. The memory of the ghastly little thing hissing in his sink is almost enough to make him give up on being conscious. Being out cold truly seems the much better option at the moment. Easier to deal with anyhow.
“Ah,” the so-far-unnamed medico states with authority. “Was it a big slimy yellow thing that smells like the officers’ mess after a party or little purple thing?”
Just the description of something that possibly would smell like vomit after a night binging on what is surely the best alcohol in the galaxy makes Sam’s stomach start into cartwheels. It is decidedly not pleasant. He tries to be a man and hold in the groan that threatens to escape his lips except for the two things that happen to him simultaneously. He burps at the same time a big green bowl appears under his bowed head; there is also the sting of a needle in his right thigh. “Ow!” he shouts as he proceeds to vomit into the bowl.
When it is all said and done the doctor again gently pushes him back down on the cot. “Rest, Sam, I gave you some medicine that will counteract the effects of what you inhaled, but you may still feel dizzy.” There is the soft pat of a sucker on his shoulder. Only then does Sam realize he is only wearing his uniform trousers. Well, he thinks, if this is how my first day starts…wonder what the next five years are going to bring?
He only is barely aware of the doctor sliding across to the doors which open up on a shushing sound and then a click when they close behind him. Sam doesn’t remember anything else for a while.
Several hours later, Sam is sitting up on his cot, legs hanging over the side. He is feeling considerably better; actually he is feeling the best he has ever felt in his twenty one years of life. He stretches and yawns, his curiosity piqued as the doors open and the medico slides in accompanied by the Captain. Oh god. Instantly, Sam decides that his bare feet are the most interesting things in the entire universe.
“Private Trenton, how are you feeling?” asks the Captain. She is dressed in her scarlet uniform shirt, the pearl buttons clasped neatly in a line from her belt buckle up to form a high collar on her neck.
“Much better, captain…uh.” Of course, there just has to be one more undignified thing coming out of his mouth. He sighs and tells himself to get it under control. Sam rests one hand against his forehead then straightens his spine, giving her a nice crisp salute. “Private Trenton ready to report for duty aboard the Neo-Tethys, Captain Jules, ma’am.”
“Well, now, that is more like it. I was starting to believe they had sent me the wrong analyst.” Captain Jules returns the salute then turns towards the doctor. “Doctor Viago, release the private to his quarters. He appears to have no outstanding issues.” The doctor snaps a salute with one sucker, then raises a couple of his tentacles to his forehead in the motion that if he were human would have been his heels clicking together. He leaves the room smoothly with a promise to be right back.
“Private Trenton, your quarters have been fumigated and you should have no more problems with the purnogs. Before you ask how that one came to be in your quarters in the first place, I will tell you only that a few of them escaped from the lab on the lower deck. From this point on, that is not your concern. See you in eight hours.” She does not wait for his reply, instead turning on her shined-beyond-their-lives boot heels and striding out through the door that opens smoothly as she approaches it.
He shakes his head a little as Dr. Viago returns with an electronic clipboard that he asks Sam to sign. He gives Sam some last-minute advice and sends him on his way.
Now that he’s been dismissed, Sam finally gets a closer look at his attending physician: an Odal male with dinner-plate sized brown eyes and skin that has a faint mint-green tint. He possesses an unknown number of tentacles that seem to be useful for all the things that human hands and feet can accomplish. Sam tries hard not to stare, but he can’t help it. He has only read about the Odal race.
The doctor seems completely oblivious to Sam’s rude staring, or perhaps all too used to it being one of the first of his kind among the humans.
Sam signs, nods his agreement to the words he will completely forget in the next five minutes and pulls his boots back on. They were returned while the doctor was talking by a decidedly more human looking nurse. He gave her a smile though she never even acknowledged him.
Sam shrugs, hops off the cot and leaves the medical bay in a much better state than he entered it. The corridor is virtually deserted. His boot heels echo against the plain grey floor, the sound bouncing back to him off of the grey walls. He makes it to the lift and presses his thumb against the pad hanging in front of him. A bell dings and the doors slide open to permit him entry into the small space filled with a soft azure light. The walls are decorated with beige padding woven into a complicated pattern. He leans against them as the lift lurches towards the level where his quarters are located.
Now, he thinks, he can finally start admiring the ship the way he intended in the beginning. Reading about a space vessel the size of the Neo-Tethys is one thing, but actually seeing it all? The comparison isn’t even close.
The sound of hydraulics fills the interior of the lift before the machine stops moving and the door opens with a whoosh. He moves down yet another grey corridor to his quarters. Using the thumb pad to enter his rather unremarkable door, Sam steps across the threshold, pulling it shut behind himself.
Sam sits down in one of the two armchairs in the small living area and leans back, crossing one leg over the other. He decides that he will just sit and think for a bit and maybe get a few hours’ sleep. His thoughts are much calmer than they were a few hours ago and he is hopeful that things may be looking up.