Porbxmel did not speak to Human Craig after that night. 

 Neither did Charlene.

Strangely, the Commander suddenly found the ability to convert a 2nd set of quarters to Terran standard, insulating it completely against the ammonia-dump that made the rest of the ship a death-trap to his own lifeform. An exorbitant expense and a highly unusual request, especially since it wouldn't be long before her own ship came to collect her.

At first, Craig was very glad of the solitude. Porbxmel had a strange habit of visiting him at odd hours and pranking him. But his renewed injury had made them put him on bedrest as a precaution and one he was quite happy about - until the reality of the solitude really set in. Quarters were extremely claustrophobic with nothing to distract him - the day marked only by the warnings of the ammonia systems kicking in.

After a couple of days he had tried to contact Porbxmel with no response. Normally Porbxmel would have been delighted to hear from him, but his comm requests went unanswered, which was hugely out of character. Nobody else would respond to him either, which was really starting to worry him.

His last words to Craig had been to literally call him a monster, and now Craig was starting to worry that Porbxmel really thought that of him. 

A terrible weight settled on Craig, as the days turned into a week, and it seems that he was literally being shunned by the entire crew. The only communications anyone would respond to were of a transactional and/or technical nature, and were answered as curtly and as short as possible. One slip from one technician gave him extreme pause, and turned his veins to ice water, and it was that the footage Porbxmel had gathered from that night was being reviewed based on some concerns. She had been plied with pornography and drugs, some of which were found in her system. But she had no memory of that evening apart from those vague recollections. She did remember she had been lured to the ship to be sexually harassed, at the obvious instigation of Craig.

The weight suddenly magnified. Here he was in deep space. He'd thrown in his lot with them, one of the very few humans who'd taken the aliens up on offers to spend time with them on their ships. Seeing the exciting wonders of deep space sounds awesome at first until you realize that it means a permanent removal from any aspect of human society. By the time you get back, not only has the world moved on without you, but because of temporal distortion, everyone you know and love might very well have died. It would be like heading out in the Victorian world of Jules Verne, and returning in 2017 to fidget spinners and vaping. In other words, a one-way trip.

He'd taken one last look at the mountains, the trees, the rivers. Any last vestiges of a homeworld that really didn't have any anchors. He had had no friends, his parents had died in an accident, and as a short, balding man with few prospects he wasn't exactly a hit on the dating scene. He was little more than a paper-pusher in an entry level desk job on a ship with technology too advanced for him to even understand, yet alone interact with. 

And now he had nothing. 

He raised himself painfully to his feet, clunking over to the door. He didn't particularly care who could see him. He knew full well the usual everpresent camera Porbxmel used to try and gather information on Humans for his documentary series wasn't there and wasn't going to be. He was completely alone. 

His eyes weren't even damp. He was just tired. 

He waved his hand over the open door panel, knowing full well that it would flood his room with sharp-scented death and he'd choke within minutes.

Naturally, the door didn't open. He'd never tried it in the months he'd been on board, and slept poorly the first few months in fear of leaks. He was warned not to go near the door at night, but the adrenaline tang of expecting oblivion gave way to the thudding of his heart and a lack of surprise as the door informed him that it was not going to comply. Danger to Terran lifeform. Safety concern 10A4.

"Override", said Craig, "I am wearing a breathing apparatus". And closing his eyes, waved his hand again.

"Access denied", replied the door. "Danger to Terran lifeform, Safety concern 10A4."

He dejectedly lay back down, and fell asleep.


He had a LOT of attention the following morning.

No less than the Commander himself and a couple of medical advisors had advanced on his chamber, demanding as to why he had attempted to open the door to his cabin. They weren't in any way shape or form concerned, worried or even pleasant about it. It was accusatory and almost threatening. Why had he attempted to open the door. 

He countered, at first, that the Prosperity's human crew might be able to examine him and answer that. He'd been adrift without any contact of any kind, and even some kind of psych evaluation would be preferable to solitary confinement

The Commander flipped his inner forearm in their gesture of denial. "Not possible. You cannot leave this vessel until our investigations are complete. Do not attempt to open this door again, at any time." And then it glided shut. 

As the Commander was leaving, Craig shouted at him through it. "Has Human Charlene seen the footage you speak of?"

The Commander replied back in the negative. "No. She is unaware there is any."

"Let her know there is, and show it to her."

"I would need your express permission to do so, along with your bio-print as confirmation. You do realize that this makes it admissible to her adjudicator staff if she so requests."

"I don't care. Just do it."

And with that, silence, deathly silence, on both sides of the door.



EDITOR'S NOTE: Please, enough with the complaints about Charlene being stereotypical and negative. There's a setup going on here. Be patient.





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