365 Writing · Stories

Defenders (Part 28)

He was about to say more when to his surprise the other three recruits from Earth walked in followed by Fin. “It seems they prefer to group people who know each other together.” She stated in the general direction of Arthur, making it clear that she had no personal investment to be grouped together with them. Arthur began to formulate a response but instead gritted his teeth and said nothing. He would have honestly preferred anyone but her to be in the same squad.

After a moment the offers in the middle of the room snapped to attention and look towards the door. The short gray alien from before marched into the room, turned and faced the recruits. “Welcome recruits. While you have all gone through the initial assessment to join the Defenders, it is now time to test your aptitude across a variety of skills. Here we will further classify your roles and direct your training. The alien gestured to the pod. “This is the neural dive.” You’ll each be hooked up and subjected to testing. The rest you’ll find out for yourself.” He looked around the room with his unreadable eyes. “Who wants to go first?”

Of course, Lindsey stepped forward. “I will.” She said with pure confidence that made Arthur’s skin crawl. The alien nodded and she walked over to the pod.

Arthur and the other recruits watched as she lay down inside the now opened pod and the other officers attached electrodes or scanners or something to her face, hands, and chest threading them underneath her clothes. “Are you ready recruit?” The alien asked.

“Yes sir.” She responded and he closed the pod.

It was only several seconds until a light started to blink on the top of the pod. The offers moved back to the pod and opened it revealing Lindsey now covered in sweat and breathing heavily.

The alien looked at a data-pad he seemed to take from thin air much like Helos had done and looked it over. “It seems your initial scores did not lie Mrs. Brach is it? You have broken the previous records concerning tactics and ship to ship, and scored higher than any other Sol recruit in science. You’ll be assigned to the fleet command tactical specialization.”

Normally Lindsey would have said something humble that came across to Arthur as a brag, but she was still catching her breath as the officers removed the electrodes and got out of the pod. Finally she managed to mumble thanks and walked over to some bench chairs that ringed the wall.

“Okay, who’s next?” The alien asked looking over the recruits again. Arthur thought about jumping in to show her up but instead elected to wait. Given her strong reaction, Arthur was beginning to feel wary of this testing. He wanted to see more of the rest go first.

He didn’t have long to wait. “I will.” Fin said raising a massive hand. He entered the pod in much the same way as Lindsey had and just like before it was only a moment before the blinking light flashed and they once again opened the pod.

“Interesting… Mr. Fignglbolaugagalatis?” The alien said it like a question but he pronounced the name perfectly to Arthur’s ear. “It seems that you have an aptitude with navigation and science. You’ll be assigned the engineering specialization with additional co-pilot training.” Fin’s reaction, seemed to be much the same as Lindsey’s had been if not more so. He almost seemed disoriented as he got out of the pod and made his way slowly to the benches.

This time Arthur was about to go for it when a thin tentacle like alien to the one who had announced their data-pads raised a tentacle and made its way over to the pod for its turn. The same thing repeated itself only when the pod was opened it wasn’t moving. The officers quickly rushed over and began to do some sort of revival which Arthur could only surmise was it’s species’ version of CPR… eventually it started to move and the alien narrowed its eyes at the recruit.

“Unfortunately Mr. Slib you have failed. According to protocol your memories will be erased and you will be returned to your home world.” The alien said dispassionately. Two of the officers scoped up the failed recruit and led it—him?—out. It looked like it wanted to protest, but thought better of it. As it left, a murmur began to echo around the room from the recruits. Arthur could hear echos of “what is this? We can fail?” And “what kind of test is this?” He wasn’t sure he wanted to find out.