Flash Friday 15/01/2016: Probing For Information
Samson didn’t know he was bound to a table until he tried to move his arms. As he peered as his bindings, however, he began to realise that what he was strapped to was very futuristic, to the point of being inhuman.
He looked around. The highly intricate machinery around its edges would have tipped him off that he wasn’t on Earth. So, too, would the gentle hum that surrounded the room, as if Samson was inside a giant cat. Probably the most telling feature, however, was the leathery green-skinned alien hunched over a computer terminal, muttering to itself as the screen’s light illuminated its face.
“Oh my god,” Samson breathed. “You’re an alien.”
The alien turned, getting up from its chair. “Yes, I’m an alien. Well observed.”
“No, but…” Samson said, raising his head off of the table for a better look. “You’re an alien. You exist.”
A green hand like a gecko’s forced Samson’s head back onto the table. “Yes, so you’ve said. I have already stated my stance on the topic. Now be quiet.” It grabbed a strong light, shining it into Samson’s eyes. “Now that you’ve come to, I can take a look into your optical capabilities. Hm. Cones and rods. Very rudimentary.” The alien shuffled back to the terminal. “Very basic. Neanderthal, even. Not sure why I should even bother with such specimen.”
Samson frowned. Even though he had no control over the makeup of his eye, being called ‘basic’ rubbed him the wrong way. “What do you mean?”
“I wanted to study better,” the alien hissed over his shoulder. “Enlisted in the Study of Foreign Beings to explore the universe. To get my hands on a rare drakker from the ice planets. Explore the complex and phenomenal biology of the jelly-like ghola. Instead, I’m stuck here raking through mud and picking out…” The alien flailed a hand toward Samson’s body. “Whatever the hell this garbage is. But I have to study it. I gotta study it. And then I need a five-thousand word essay on it by tomorrow, or else I have to retake Crop Circles 101 with stupid Ms. Goblot. ‘They’re not perfectly round, Juzan,'” Juzan said, in a mocking tone. “‘I’m going to have to deduct marks from you’. Go to hell, Goblot.”
“So you’re a student, then?”
“Yes, I am.” Juzan stood from the chair once again. “I am also a student who is very short on time. So, I’m going to need you to answer some questions.”
“But this is perfect!” Samson said. “Humans back home don’t even know aliens like you exist. We can trade information, make each other richer with knowledge.”
“Yeah, great, whatever. You’re going to tell me about your biology, and then I dump you back home, and then I’ll be done. First question: how many kidneys do you have?”
“Give me a book, or something. Maybe a way to translate your words into English. That’ll be the proof that I was abducted. I’m serious, this would be the find of the century.”
“I’m pretty sure if your race found a rock in the ground, you’d call it ‘the find of the century’. You’ve got this real great thing called ‘fire’ coming up on the horizon, by the way. You should be excited for it. Kidneys. Now.”
“What about an intergalactic map of your homeworld in relation to ours? We can plug in the coordinates into telescopes back home, and then we’d–”
“Alright then.” Juzan took hold of a device from a table. It looked like a long, spiked probe, with various terrifying appendages coming off of it. With a press of a button, it began to spin. “I’ll just figure out where I’m going to shove this.”
“Two,” Samson said quickly. “Two kidneys.”
With this new knowledge, Juzan sat back in the chair, typing away at a keyboard. “It’s a disgrace, you know. I could be doing something much more worthy of my time, and here I am writing an essay about the mundane. I hate essays, I really do.”
Samson was turning his current situation over in his mind. Despite the fact he was neither drunk nor clinically insane (at least, the last time he checked, he wasn’t), it was going to be very hard for him to convince the science community of his abduction, and denying Juzan would only mean he’d had to sit on cushions for weeks. Was there anything else he could barter with?
The sound of fingers rattling against a keyboard turned a light bulb on within Samson’s mind.
“Hey, Juzan,” Samson called out. “What’s that you’re typing on?”
Juzan held it up. It looked like a boomerang that had grown teeth all over its body. “It’s a keyboard. You probably won’t have these for a millennia or two. It can adapt to any language.”
“So, if I were to sit behind it…”
“Yes, it’d be in English. Yes, you could, technically, type on it. But this isn’t about your biology, now, is it? How many hearts do you have?”
“If I were to type in English, would you be able to translate it into your own language?”
Juzan snorted. “Of course I would, idiot. Why do you think we’re talking right now? We nailed text-based translation aeons ago.”
“So, technically, that would mean that I could type an essay about myself for you.”
Juzan froze mid-type.
“All I ask,” Samson continued, “is a book to take home with me.”
Juzan rested his arms for a moment, thinking. He rose from his chair, unbuckled Samson from the table, and threw a book at him before he had the time to stand. “There,” Juzan said, with a snap. “Documentation of every planet we’ve discovered yet, including yours. Now, will you please make yourself useful?”
“Absolutely,” Samson said, with a smirk. He sat down by the terminal, the alien letters on the keyboard morphing into English ones. “Grab me a mug of alien-style coffee, and it’ll be just like my own college days.”