“Conscripted?” Vaan asked, sitting up in bed.
“That’s right!” said the small fubari. He crawled up to the foot of the bed and smiled again to show his teeth.
“For pest control…”
“Yeup. Blackwagon Pest Control. BPC if you prefer. The boss named it after a piece of ancient lore from his homeworld. Whenever a plague came through, the bodies would be loaded onto black wagons and carted off to be burned.” The Fubari waved his hand dismissively. “I’ve always thought it was a bit ominous but I’m not going to argue with him.”
Vaan pressed his temples. “So, you kill pests?”
“Yup. Pests, rats, bugs, emerging intelligence, other invasive species.” The Fubari counted on his brown furry fingers. “Basically anything someone wants destroyed.”
“Well that explains the battle fleet.” Vaan leaned back against his pillow.
“He’s starting to get it!” The fubari slapped his knee. “And now you are the proud new member of my team.”
“Your team?” Vaan cocked his head with a skeptical look.
“Well, not exactly MY team. Our team is run by a pyra named Wan’za. She’s probably off in the officer’s lounge.”
“Let me introduce you to the rest of the team.” The Fubari motioned to a skivri sitting at a table. Nearly half of its spider-like body seemed to be covered with cybernetics. Two of its clawed appendages held a large squirming grub to its maw. Its fangs draining it like a deflating balloon while bits of green goo dribbled down its chin onto the table below.
“There’s the skivri, a bionic pet project of mine designated ‘Arachnid Biomechanical Extermination Unit.’ We just call him Abe, if you prefer.”
Vaan shuddered at the sight. Abe noticed his name being mentioned and gave a slight wave with one of the two smaller pincers that stuck out a short ways from the front of his chest, still holding the deflated grub to its face with its free arms.
“I’d say you get used to Abe’s eating habits, but…it’s still super gross.” The fubari hopped off the bed and came closer, picking up a clipboard from the end table next to Vaan’s head.
“Moving on, we’ve also got the bolmorrean in the corner. We don’t actually know his real name so we just call him Dog on account of the stuffed dog he carries everywhere.”
“I thought so too. And of course there’s me. My name is Chidori.” He stuck out his hand. “You can call me Chit.”
Vaan shook his small pawlike hand chit reached out to him. “Well it’s…nice…to meet you Chit, my name’s Vaan and I don’t remember applying for this job so if you all could just drop me off back on Earth that would be lovely.”
Chit gave a toothy grin and tisked as she shook his head. “Oh, there’s no way Earth can afford our service so we steer clear of that dust heap. You’re far better off with us anyhow.”
Beads of sweat began to form on Vaan’s brow. “Really?”
“Well, even if we did leave you at the nearest planet you wouldn’t last a day. There aren’t any humans out this far and the locals don’t take kindly to newcomers. I’m honestly surprised they let you stay on with us. Must be part of the boss’ racial diversity policy.” Vaan raised his eyebrows as Chit continued. “Anyone who is willing to work has a place at Blackwagon, despite their species.”
“How inclusive” Vaan muttered.
“If you prefer” said Chit. “Even so, we always seem shorthanded.”
“I know you said I wasn’t a prisoner, but this sounds a lot like I’m a prisoner.”
“Naaaah, far from it! Prisoners don’t get to carry around big cool guns and kill weird space things.” Chit put the clipboard back down and smiled cheerily up at him.
“I guess there’s really no way I can argue with your logic-“
“We have a great time!” Chit fired back far too quickly. “And if you survive the first mission there’s a much better chance you’ll survive the second and third and so on. I don’t know if that’s exactly how the math works out but I’ve got a good feeling about you Vaan. Don’t you worry, by the time we’re done with you you’ll be eating moon dust and crapping meteors”
Vaan smiled uneasily. “Is that, like, a saying?”
Before Chit could answer, a translucent mass behind Vaan shimmered for a moment. The form of Abe crept into existence like a droplet of ink in a pool of still water. “YoU SAid THat abOUT the LAST t-t-t-tWO REcruiTS CH-ch-chitt”. Slimy chunks from Abe’s dinner dripped out of his mouth onto Vaan’s shoulder.
Vaan was frozen in fear. “What-the- HELL?!”
“Ehh, he does that sometimes. Do try to keep an eye out.”
Vaan began gently rocking back and forth.
“Yeah! I’m calm, I’m calm. I’m trapped in a ship with a big gross spider-man, an unhinged elephant person,, and a plush toy named Chit. This is all just a bad dream. I just need to wake up on the Ascendant and everything will be fine.”
Chit chuckled in amusement. “Hoo boy, Humans can be really funny sometimes.” He gave Vaan a friendly pat on the shoulder and began walking to the door. “Well, get some sleep! Our next job is tomorrow.”
Vaan rolled onto his side to try and get comfortable, only to see Abe’s spider face approach inches from his own.
“GooOOd niiiiighT huMAN” Abe said. The skivri calmly turned, his clawed appendages clicking against the wall as he scurried into the corner of the ceiling. He nested there and seemed to relax.
Vaan pulled the sheets of the bed over his face, curled up into a ball, and tried his best to wake up from his nightmare…
Story by: Justin Miller
Edits by: Jason F. Pratley & Tim Chopourian