The approaching licensed UFO was supposed to be relatively new, but it looked like a junker, dirty and dented.
Ronnie grimaced. “It looks like a junker.”
Carly looked like she’d swallowed a rotten egg. “Dirty and dented.”
Carrying their janitor supply kits holding tools, chemicals, wire, duct tape, and Nilla Wafers, they squeezed through the docking port from the ship they’d spent more than a year on to the one that had taken over their contract. On the other side, they were met by one of the space-geese—or so Ronnie called them because of their long ess-shaped necks, but, other than that, they were really more like pigs.
“I’ll start your orientation,” said the goose-pig. He uttered an incomprehensible chain of syllables. “That’s my name, but you can call me ‘Bart.’”
The first part of the day was okay, mostly going over the chain of command, the rate of pay, and the alien culture. Ronnie had hoped to get settled into their cabins and start their janitorial work. From the looks of it coming in, they’d be very busy.
Unfortunately, the aliens kept them a captive audience for much longer. A Bokibubian native, basically a wet washcloth with ten legs and a banana head, was an upper-level manager. He called himself Zot. Zot escorted the earthlings to a ‘work center,’ which had a wide open space with aliens of many different shapes and sizes hanging out and taking up ‘work stations’ equipped with bio-, electro-, and chemo-equipment. Those that had eyes seemed to stare vacantly into space, and those that didn’t seemed to wilt with every second.
“Nobody’s doing anything,” said Carly.
“On the contrary,” said Zot. “They are strictly monitored and logged when they come or go. They are here getting to know the company culture. You will check in and check out here every day.”
“I don’t think so,” said Ronnie.
“You must do so,” said Zot. “We must be prepared for an audit from the conglomerate.”
Ronnie shook his head. “We aren’t stationary workers, sir. We have to move around the ship to get our work done.”
Zot scrunched his washcloth body and jiggled. “All employees need to understand the company culture, and the conglomerate will need the audit.”
Ronnie didn’t feel like repeating himself, but there was no way he was going to be treated like a punk with some micromanager following him around with a stopwatch.
He exchanged a look of relief with Carly when they announced they brought in lunch. Relief turned to irritation when they saw the food—itzsamber worms with lick mold. It was crap food by any extraterrestrial standard, and this is what they fed them on their first day?
The next meeting consisted of an upper management Gormapiper—visualize a hippo’s head with six eyes and no ears, sitting on a turtle shell with tentacles coming out the sides. The Gormapiper read down a list of charge codes, hitting every one for the entire company, almost none of which the janitors would use. About halfway through the document, Ronnie decided to take over.
“We’re going to take a fifteen minute break now,” said Ronnie. “When we come back, we’ll go over only the charge codes Carly and I will need for our job.”
The Gormapiper’s body grew tall and thinned up, then flattened into a squat disc, leaving a blue goo around him that smelled like rotten eggplant.
Ronnie got out of his seat, and they explored the ship with the time they had.
“This is horrible,” said Carly.
“My confidence in this place has plummeted.” Ronnie stopped her and turned to face her. “We’ve got to keep a united front with these guys.”
Carly pushed him. “Duh. What do you think I am?”
“I’m just saying,” said Ronnie.
“What if we quit?” asked Carly.
“I don’t know. I’m afraid of what they might do to us. My boss at Intergalactic Cleaning Services always evades that question. But at least you won’t revert back to abductee class with the new contract.”
They found their quarters, some leisure rooms, and several storage areas they’d make use of as janitors. After they figured out how humans would manage going to the toilet—no small trick on an alien ship—they returned to the meeting chamber.
Surprisingly, the Gormapiper matched their jobs to the charge codes and finished up his session, after which an even higher level manager named Tibittot—a Simkelvikser—took over. A Simkelvikser was basically a talking toilet brush, four belt-like appendages at the bottom for locomotion, no sensory organs visible. The translator, clipped to the alien’s ‘handle,’ buzzed and popped, barely audible in the rendering of what Tibittot said, so Ronnie and Carly both struggled intensely to understand him.
“… bzz… responsibility… pop pop… to cross train for coverage… bzz bzz pop bzz… every employee required… pop… perform abductions and examinations… bzz… bzz… bzzzzzzzzzz.”
Ronnie and Carly stared at each other.
Ronnie sat bolt upright. “Sir, there is no way we’ll take part in abductions or examinations of other species.”
“It’s compulsory,” said Tibittot.
“Go to hell,” said Ronnie.
“Wait a second,” said Carly. “Maybe we can work with this.”
“You’re out of your mind, Carly.”
“Hold on.” Carly grabbed Ronnie’s arm and gave it a squeeze. “Sir Tibittot, you’re telling us that as part of our job we are commanded to abduct other species and subject them to examinations. Do I understand you correctly?” She reached into her supply kit and pulled out some gold wire.
“…bzz … correct…pop.”
“Great.” She got out of her seat, knocked Mr. toilet brush to the ground, and wound the wire around the belt thingies used for walking. “We’re starting with you.”
The translator started to pop with blurted words, so she unclipped it and smashed it against the floor. It went quiet. Tibittot started to thrash.
“United front here,” said Carly.
Ronnie shook the confusion from his head. “Uh. Yeah, right.” He joined her with a roll of duct tape, and the two of them dragged the thrashing manager into a storage closet and duct taped him to the wall.
Ronnie and Carly looked at each other and uttered nervous laughs.
“Okay,” said Ronnie. “I’m starting to like this job just a little bit.”
If you enjoyed reading about Ronnie and Carly in this flash, check them out in these stories: Day 73: Space Janitor, Day 141: UFO Orientation, Day 171: Carla Ventures Out, and Day 228: Outer Space Salvage.