Venka Prime Orbital
Marco woke up to the sharp sound of the alarm beeping in his ears. "Fuck me." He fumbled around the nighstool with his arms only to find that there was no nightstool. He realized this a moment too late and he ended up falling out of bed, the alarm still beeping. Laying on the floor gave the necessary start to a morning and served as one hell of a waking call, and Marco finally came to his senses. "Augh, Sephie turn off the goddamn alarm." As the alarm died out a soft female voice took it's place. Good Day Marco. It is 16:13 according to Galactic Standard. You have 1 appointement for today, scheduled at 17:00 on this station, tagged as important. Would you like to hear the specifics?
Shit. He totally forgot about the interview. After last night's out in the bar, it was a surprise he could even wake up.
By the time he dressed up and got himself to working order it was already 16:33. Oh man, time flies by so fast. He loitered in front of the mirror for a minute, pondering on whether he should make a coffee and be late, or head straight to the interview without having his morning dose of decaf. Ultimately he decided that he didn't have time to brew a coffee, which deeply upset him. Thankfully, Spehie came in for the rescue. I've prepared some decaf coffee for you while you were sleeping. It should be on the kitchen counter.
"You're a godsend babe." The voice didn't answer, but Marco made haste to the kitchen. And then he glanced upon it, a large bowl of heavenly brown liquid sitting inside the machine, ready for consumption.
He reached into his shirt to pull out a bottle. He poured some coffee in it and then reached for a half empty bottle of tequila sitting on the counter beside him. Marco, you instructed me last time to stop you from putting giggle water into your coffee. It is not a good id-
"Ye, ye Sephie I know. But today's a special day. Today's when we're going to get hired ya know." He pured some tequila into the coffee and then pocketed the flask and grabbed a pack of cigarettes on his way out from the table in the kitchen.
Now that he was out in the corridors, he only had 18 minutes left to arrive to the interview. Which wasn't a lot of time to reach the place even when considering that he rented the closest room he could find. "Sephie I'm gonna need you to give me a quick run-down on the details I gave you earlier." Certainly Marco
the voice replied and Marco began trodding down the corridors towards the offices where his interview would take place. You're applying for the the job with the 1-24-C application, which you'll need to memorise. The position they're hiring you for is the ship Xenobiologist.
"Alright, alright skip the petty talk, Sephie. I need some useful info, we're almost at the place." While Marco made his way to the checkpoint through the busy corridors, Sephie gave him a quick briefing.
Marco took a final turn and was met with the checkpoint leading to his destination. "Any quick tips dear before I enter the wolves den?" Certainly. It is likely that most questions will aim to test your mental abilities. In lack of a military history that they can ask about, these questions will likely be of a personal nature. I advise you only tell as much as needed in order not to let yourself be drawn into trick questions. That is all the help I can give without further information.
Damn, this AI really knows her shit. Probably the best decision of his life to get these implants installed before leaving with the Apollyon. Some may question this decision since technically he wasn't hired yet, but he knew they wouldn't turn down someone like him. "Yeah, okay, thanks Sephie. I'm gonna go in so we'll talk after I finish the interview." Very well, see you later Marco
the soft voice faded away, and a small beeping sound indicating the disconnection repeated itself 3 times in his head before silence fell upon him.
He walked up to the receptionist and greeted her with a smile. The receptionist looked up at him and she smiled too as a reply. Good to see that not everyone is in a bad mood all the time. “Hello, Sir. Are you here in regards to the Section 1-24-C Application?” The receptionist asked Marco, her eyes running over his attire.What are you looking at? Something you fancy babe?
Marco had a pickup line just for her, but he opted on not wrecking his chances of getting hired by being late to the interview. "Yeah, it should Dr Rodriguez, for the 17:00 appointement." He looked around and inspected the other people waiting near him. "One of them at least."
“Great, may I please see your Citizen PassCard for confirmation.” The receptionist was in a particularly good mood it seemed. And it also seemed like the effects of her happines made Marco smile unwillingly. What an achievement! He reached into his pocket and after some wrestling with the tight fabric of the jeans, he managed to pull out his shiny plastic PassCard. "Ah, here you go."
"Thank you." As the receptionist took the card her hands moved elegantly, repeating the same action for the millionth time today as she scanned Marco's ID. After briefly checking the data on her own computer, she handed the card back to Marco. "Your interview will be in Room 14, just down the corridor on the left. Good luck." Marco nod and wanted to give snarky reply to ask the number of the receptionist, but the watch on his hand urged him to get a move on.
Finally, with only a minute left, he arrived to what he thought was the right place, a simple grey door with "Room 14" engraved into it's metal surface. This was the door then. Marco checked the number again and then reached for the handle and turned it. He wasn’t expecting much, but the room was underwhelming even by his standards. Grey walls, a simple light to illuminate the room and a set of chairs on opposite sides of a rickety table. This was about as cheap as you could get without sacrificing the ability to do interviews at all.
Either way, this was the moment. Marco pulled out the chair on what he presumed was his side of the table, and sat down on in it in wait. His fingers started silently tapping on the table without him noticing it.
After a few minutes, the door opened and a well-dressed middle-aged man appeared. The silver streaks in his hair spoke of his age and most peculiarly, he opted to wear glasses -presumably as a fashion choice in an age where corrective surgeries were readily available.
With a few quick strides, he had already assumed his position at the table and opened with a smile and nod.
“You’re early, Doctor Rodriguez! A pleasure to finally meet you in-person.” He quickly took his seat, slid his finger down the folder he carried, which caused it to neatly reveal its contents - actual printed paper. The man looked up from the frame of his glasses, right into the doctor’s eyes as he unfurled and organised the papers with what must have been a well-drilled reflex from clear routine. An old-fashioned watch caught the stray rays of light that were beaming from a point above, glinting occasionally with his wrist motions.
“Let me be the first to tell you, the committee recognises the significant work you’ve brought forth and the strides we made into better understanding our little corner of this universe thanks to your efforts, Doctor Rodriguez.”
“However” he continued “in the interest of your time and mine, shall we begin?”
“Ah yes, certainly. It would truly be a waste of time if we sat here for any more time chatting idly.” Marco straightened his back and took up a more comfortable position for the interview, one which he could hold for however long this thing would last. At least, he was confident that it would end soon if he said the right answers. Not that interviews bothered him at all, but he would rather be back in his room and drinking coffee while reading a good book. Or in a gym somewhere.
The man adjusted himself in his seat as well, prepared his pen, and set the papers up in a comfortable position to write on while leaning back into a comfortable posture to easily see the doctor’s body language with obvious confidence that he could write without even having to look at the sheet of paper. Quite an astonishing feat in an otherwise screen-oriented society where people generally don’t even learn to write when a machine can do it all for them.
“We all know about Doctor Rodriguez, the scientist.” He began and furrowed his brows. “But we know little about Doctor Rodriguez, the man. From his own perspective, at least.” A wry smile curled one corner of his mouth.
“To start with, Doctor -tell me about your early years. Your first mentor, tutor.. rival?”
Ah, it was going to be one of those questions. Well, so be it, he had nothing to hide from some paper crunching jockey. He leaned forward, his arms crossed in front of him as he began to speak. “Huh, let me tell you a funny story then. My father always wanted me to be a mechanic - not even close to a scientist like me. But mother nature, oh her beauty never eluded me like it did my father. Vekta isn’t the most beautiful place in the galaxy, but the animals and plants there have had to adapt to extremes. So in a way, nature was my first tutor. I was never ceased to be amazed while I was on Vekta.”
Marco hummed for a second as he recollected his thoughts before continuing. “My first actual mentor was Dr Gilbert, who taught us biology and biochemistry, along with some allied matters. It was my first year in the University on Albion, and I’ve only been living there for a few months. Even then, I had already ventured out into the wilderness to search for interesting flora and fauna. it was Dr Gilbert who saw that spark in me that really ignited my whole career. He would often take me with him on his trips into the unexplored wilds of Albion, and I’ve learnt a whole lot from him. Not just as a teacher to student, but as a man to another man. And oh dear, he was one hell of a man. Always so confident and proud. He never let life get in his way. In a way, he was bigger than life, than all of us. I looked up to him more than my own goddamned father.”
He frowned and stopped, and memories flooded him. Yeah, those were the good times. When he was still just an innocent student. He sighed before continuing, not keen on telling the next part. “It came as a surprise to all of us when he suffered a stroke at age 53. Dr Gilbert, god bless his soul, was never a man I imagined to be killed by a weak vein in his brain tissue.” That really was the story of his time on Albion, but he felt like something was missing from it. Whatever it was that bothered him left as quick as it arrived. “I say that’s it really. No point in talking more about a dead man. I admired him when he was alive, and I still believe that life cheated when it took him. Either way, I decided to honor his memory and become a biologist after his death.” With his thought finished, Marco leaned back, arms now crossed in front of him and his face unyielding to future emotions. He was Marco of steel, not Marco of soft plushies and tears.
The man nodded briefly once his notes were completed. “You clearly had a lot to say on that, Doctor. Some of us burn as a bright torch to light the way for others, so they say.” He mused on the thought for a moment, looking absent-minded, before snapping his gaze back onto the doctor. “Would you like anything to drink before we continue?” he made a gesture with his hand, which brought to life an emitter array from above, an arm reaching down and through a lens, projecting a three-dimensional image of a selection of drinks, presumably fitted with a replicator nozzle as well.
Marco followed the arm with his eyes as it descended from the the emitter array and displayed a choice of beverages. More mind tricks to test him probably. He was sure that the choice of drinks were tailored to fit his taste, so he skimmed over the holographic picture of the choices with his eyes, making sure to make it seem like he examined them. When his eyes reached the decaf coffee he felt a slight heartache as guilt surged through him for abandoning his favourite drink, but he didn’t let some beverage distract him. After all, he wasn’t here to chat. He was here to get hired. He smiled at the interviewer as he looked back at him. “My personal taste includes drinks with a more intoxicating effect, but thanks for the offer anyways.”
“Fair enough.” The man replied with a polite nod. “Just wanted to make sure we have adequate hydration. Don’t mind if I help myself.” He reached out and swiped until the orange juice was highlighted and tapped to confirm his selection. Moments later, a flurry of activity erupted on the table next to his hand and before you knew it, a glass of thick orange juice was sitting neatly, ready for his hand.
He raised the glass and sipped some off the top. “Unfortunately we haven’t figured out how to replicate pulp. Yet.” He smiled and looked back at the sheet to review progress so far.
“Next question, Doctor -you’ve worked on several projects by now as part of the Eden Xenobiology Institute or EXI. How do you relate to your co-workers and supervisors?”
He paused in his note-taking and actually moved the papers to one side while scanning for the doctor’s response.
Finally a question worth answering. Well, more like something that seemed to actually matter. He’s read a few books about psychology back in university, so he knew that the interviewer was probing him. Not that the whole concept was understood to him, but he knew the basics. It was time to drop the tough cookie act thought: nobody wins if he closes in at the interview.
“Yes, that’s more like it. I like your questions Mr-” Thats right, he doesn’t know the interviewers name yet. “I’m sorry I didn’t catch your name. May I ask for it again?” He leaned forward once again, but this time he didn’t cross his arms, just simply put them on the table in a comfortable position.
“Ah. That’s right.” He remarked, while taking his papers back in his possession and arranging them back into a crisp stack in an almost ritualistic fashion. “You didn’t. Catch my name, that is -nor will you.” His smile, normally friendly, had suddenly taken on a different meaning with his tone, an almost sinister one.
“If you must refer to me, you may call me the Interlocutor. For that is my role.” He placed his hand over his heart, as if reciting a vow. “To separate wheat-” He adjusted his glasses after, a glint from the lighting flashed across them as he did. The smile had not left his face. “- from chaff.”
“Let’s stay on topic, Doctor.” As abruptly as it came, the eerie aura had left, but a visible tension still lingered in its wake.
As, so that is how this interview is going be handled. Excellent. Now that the cards have been revealed on both sides, finally two can play the game. This is where the fun begins.
“Oh well. This is truly such a shame Mr Interlocutor. For I thought that I was answering your question.” A smile ran across the face of marco before disappearing without a hint. “Workplace relations are so important in any job, and they start with a simple introduction. I guess we won’t be working together, or this notion would’ve surely been offending to me.” He didn’t mention how much he didn’t care about the name of the goddamn man, but that wasn’t relevant after all. “Anyways back to the question then.”
“By the time I was hired to work at EXI I already had a few workplaces, but nothing permanent. I was used to working with teams of other people by that point, but it was so much different at EXI. In a professional environment teamwork is paramount. That is especially true when it comes to xenobiology. Even if they can teach it to you in school, or if you’ve worked somewhere before, none of those can prepare you for what this job requires of you. You’ll be spending a lot of time in labs looking at this or that, but that is all just glorified extravaganza. In the end even if you have a PhD in chemistry the goons who run the shop will take the prepared samples to some other company to make use of them. So the real place where you can bond is when on a field trip. Often times you spend months in hostile environments, so gotta make sure that the others have your back. Thought all I’ve learnt in my 7 years at EXI is that if I don’t check everyone else’s gear a dozen times then they’ll surely die.” Marco stopped and leaned in even closer, his eyes clashing with that of the Interviewer. Then he pointed at his blind eye with his right arm before explaining. “See this? That’s how you end up when you’re not careful enough and get separated from the team.” He leaned back, once more, his attitude completely laid back and gone of any previous secrecy. “Listen, I’ve been doing this shit for a while. If my Supervisor asked me to stay in for an extra day or two I’d do it, and as long as he’s there in the shit with me, I’d go and do something crazy on the field too. Same goes for my co-workers. But if you ask me whether I’d rely on them in a high stress situation, then my answer is a strict no. Last time that happened I lost an arm to a rupture in my envirosuit. It’s all fun and games when you’re drinking together, but not when a wild carnivore is about to maul your face off.” Marco ran his fingers along his face and scars to show what he means.
The man said nothing, but merely wrote down a single word on the notes and underlined if two or three times.
He nodded, then looked back up at the doctor. “I appreciate your candor, Dr Rodriguez. And no, it was never the intent for us to work together. Today is the first -and last time we will meet, regardless of the outcome of this interview.”
He paused for a moment to let it sink in.
“Final question.” He drew a breath, adjusted himself and performed his sheet arrangement ritual. “Your coming to the attention of your first mentor was a result of circumstances. However, on a long voyage -should you be successful- your apprentice may not have a similar luxury. You must realise that at some point, you too would be required to conduct an interview under very different circumstances but nevertheless -to a similar end.”
He smiled once more. “To separate wheat from chaff.”
“You’re a torch that burns bright, indeed Dr Rodriguez. But one day, your light too will set. I would like you, -in your own words- to describe to me what you would find desirable in an individual you would see fit to pass this torch onto.” Pen poised, he loosened his wrist which caused the clock on the wrist to sway around and flicker in the light as he patiently awaited the doctor’s final words.
Marco scratched the back of his head and fell silent. He never really thought about passing the torch to someone. Hah, there aren’t any good kids out there who can take after him or his mentor. But they can come pretty close. To him at least - not Gilbert. His mind drifted from memory to memory until it finally settled down, and he had the adequate answer to the question. If it truly is the last one, then he’ll give them one hell of an answer.
“You see, I’d like to quote my late mentor on this. Thought I’m sure he wasn’t quite ready to pass the torch to me when he said it, I like to think that he had already realized the extent of my brilliance by that point.” Marco cleared his throat and gestured with his hands as a philosopher would. “It’s not enough for a great man in our age to have something between his ears, he also needs to have a pair between his legs.” He smiled as he flexed with his biologic arm before returning to his previous pose. “He might not have put it so eloquently as I did, but I think you get the point.” He tapped twice with his fingers as he allowed himself a moment of silence.
“If I ever have to find someone to take after me, it will have to be a lad or lass of extraordinary talent. None of those bookworms or lab rats, I need someone with the balls to go out into the wild and endanger themselves just to get a specific sample. I’m sure there are brilliant minds out there, but that’s nothing if you can’t pair it with something else.” He tapped the side of his head with his fingers. “You need that extra bit of stupidity that makes a person brave. It makes them special.”
He smiled and gestured yet again, this time crossing only his fingers in front of him while observing the interviewer. “I like to think of myself as a highly educated fellow, and so should be my students. If you can’t recite the first 10 numbers of Pi from your head, then you don’t meet the expectations.” He pointed at the Interviewer as if he was his apprentice. “In the field you need to memorise behavioral patterns in a split second to determine whether you’re about to be lunch or not. In the lab you need to be on top of everything otherwise you’ll end up infecting every sample with a deadly virus and jeopardises months of work..” He nod in silence and closed his eyes for a second as he remembered a particular event.
“You need both the brawn and the brains for this job. But if I will mentor anyone then I’ll be sure to give them the harsh treatment. After all, I don’t want my student to receive the same botched eyes and arms as I have. Or with the excessive alcohol consumption. ‘Do as I say, not as I do!’” He smiled at the interviewer with a face full of confidence rather than joy. “I guess I expect everything I am and a bit more from my future apprentice.”
“And that’s all I needed to compile.” The man smiled triumphantly. He deposited his papers in his folder and rose from his seat, nodding once at the doctor. “Thank you for your time, Doctor Rodriguez. I wish you luck in your assessment. You may see yourself out.”
“Ah, fucking finally!” Marco roared up and he immediately reached deep into his coat to pull out the flask and a box if cigarettes. He opened the flask and took a huge sip from the light brown liquid inside. “Nothing better than decaf coffee with some liquor in it.” He stood up and nod to the interviewer. “I wish I could say it was a nice talk, but it really wasn’t. Nobody likes interviews.” He slipped a cig out of the pack, and and put it in his mouth to light it. “I guess we won’t meet again.” He hummed. “As it should be. I’ve better things to do.” With that he turned to the door, and reached into his pocket for a lighter. He passed by a few people in the corridor who he assumed were also going for an interview. But they weren’t his problem anymore. With that though Marco lit the cig in his mouth and went to leave this place once and for all, readying in mind for his job aboard Apollyon.